Wednesday, April 30, 2008

ah!!!! do I freaking LOVE this!!!

Shane Jones' "I Will Unfold You with my Hairy Hands"
from the notables list. (cheered up now)

they're up!

The year's notables!

First impressions, a little grumpy--James Terry gets a nod for "Weed Man," but not for "Orgasm," a much more sophisticated, less exploitative story. And by exploitative I refer to the main character's limited dramatic agency. In "Orgasm," everyone has all the critical tools they need, it's an even field. I feel the same way about "Mammals," by Nick Antosca, but in this case I'm just being a big ol' squeamish girl.

I have no horses in this race--haven't published in a couple of years since I've been working on the novels (how's that for a presumptive excuse?), but I did make the list three times before. It's a great feeling, and my congratulations go out to all the authors and eds!

oh wait--"Orgasm" was published in '08, so not eligible. note to self: remember for next years nomination . . .

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

9pm? we'll see . . .

Notable Stories list on its way?

just a sliver of good news please, I'm on a diet

Someone likes twenty four words I wrote—thirty nine with title plus “by Laura Ellen Scott.” (More on that the realer it gets.) But in the mean time I’m reminded that fiction writers can get hung up on quantity, an illusion of substance that inevitably leads to anxiety. The poets I know don’t fret about limited resources and commodity with regard to things made out of words. But with every semester I meet batches of new writers trembling under the weight of something—is it foggy careerism? So I ask them to embrace two notions, even if it’s just pretend: 1) it’s okay to be a big-letter-A “Artist,” and 2) you will never run out of stories.

They believe one of these things but not the other.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Garson, slow the f**k down

If Margueritte Duras was a sports nut in the midwest with a very short attention span she'd write
"Diversion," and publish it in FRiGG.

Also enjoyed "Young Frankenstein," but it made me weepy (just back from New Orleans which always amps up the 'mones). No heart to read "Ditched," just yet.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Research Mission (Wish me luck)

We’re going to Jazzfest this weekend, and that makes me quite happy. We go to New Orleans at least twice a year, and our favorite music spots are Snug Harbor to see anyone and The Spotted Cat to see The Jazz Vipers. My current novel project is set in New Orleans, as are two short stories that I have out for consideration. Wouldn’t it be cool if StorySouth organized link lists of their stories sorted by locale for us desk-chained tourists?

This pic was taken last August during Satchmofest. The statue is called "Old Man River." He was fully naked on Friday, but he was draped with a sheet Saturday morning. A tourist from Minnesota enlisted my help ("That's not right, that's art"), and while we attempted to disrobe him, her husband looked on. We failed, managing to yank the sheet even lower, making OMR look pretty hot.

Monday, April 21, 2008

message recieved, repairs commencing in 3, 2, 1 . . .

I could blame a number of reasons why I’ve been rough on my students lately. As we near the end of the semester I’m ready to say goodbye and they are just warming up to me. I often feel like I haven’t done enough for them or brought them far enough along to guarantee a summer of better writing, or it may all boil down to the fact that my annual review is due Wednesday and I haven’t started it yet. Whatever the reasons, I have to admit I’m being a bit sharp in my critiques, and it has taken demonstrations of both defensiveness and thank-you-sir-may-I have-another humility, along with the perfectly reasonable and humane insights of Catherine M. Wallace to make me aware. Wallace writes:

“We don’t want advice. We don’t need advice. We want and need something that will send us back to our keyboards in gladness and singleness of heart.” This is from her essay, “Care & Feeding of the Work in Progress,” The Writer’s Chronicle March/April 2008.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

1980s serial killers

I am trying to break up with irony, or at least take a little break. I really wonder/worry about the extent to which we protect ourselves from event and intimacy when irony becomes a creative habit. I spent days trying to come up with a non-ironic, yet interesting title for a story that is only 249 words long. But everything that floated up was either featureless or smug. That’s not right. I need a brain scrub.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

non-toxic paranoia, two moments

one—the very short fiction purveyors of Wigleaf are in early stage planning for a special autumn issue, and I don’t want to give the theme away, but the call for input reminded me of a mild madness that seized me during the summer of 2004: I was writing the first draft of my West Virginia based novel, Unattended and I had convinced myself that music was in competition with my creativity, and time spent listening was time spent not thinking hard enough about the book. That is, I felt that the two activities used the same mental juice.

two—My most recent novel project, Social Aid & Pleasure is based on a fantasy idea that sounds silly in summary form. I refer to it as my Post-Katrina New Orleans book, which shuts down most “what are you working on now?” inquiries. Not that I want to shut them down, but when I try to explain SA&P I sound really stupid. However, my friend J collects details, both as a hobby and a vocation, so he naturally pressed for more. When I gave him more he said, “You could totally milk a Broadway musical out of that.” Bless him.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

all fiction is fantasy, part 3

wee black sock, found in parking lot.
"don't eat the shells" DT.

double pif with R.O.B.

the ubiquitous Robert Olen Butler has finally caught my attention in two ways. One, with the delightful contribution of “Little Fuckers” (way to play to us crude rubes) in the latest issue of Narrative, and two with his brief essay on the short short form in Narrative Backstage. Let me say here that I thoroughly enjoy NB, but I’m not that “into” N, probably for piddly, unimportant reasons like the too prominent display of author photos in the TOC. Does APR still do that, as well? shudder. With so much real art out there, why are we picturing people anymore, except for sentiment? All writers should have their promo portraits done by Malcolm Bucknall.

so Butler attempts to describe the form of the short short in “A Short Short Theory” as distinct from prose poetry (keywords: temporality and yearning) and conventionally plotted fiction (in which there should be two, count em, two! epiphanies). Unfortunately you have to donate $$$ to see the full essay. also, if your ADD with writing-about-writing-speak is too severe to tolerate this two pager, you can skip to the last paragraph and have enough to pass the quiz (next post).

for those of you who want the ugly, cheat sheet version--short shorts feature human subjects and human subjects yearn. two occasions of yearning, the initial demonstrated expression and recognition of it (our double epiphanies), tend to occur simultaneously.

I may have gotten it all wrong, though. Regardless, I like what I got.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

answer key

dean found this in the copy machine at school. a draft of my novel is being used in the class. dean was unable to answer 3 of 5 questions.

Monday, April 7, 2008

this part I loooove—the importance of neglect

after taking a few months off from my latest novel project—except for cannibalistic forays for short story meat—I’m back into it and re-excited. my problem had been that all roads led to a scene in which an activist’s speech inspires the main characters to commit to attitudes they didn’t know they harbored. but what’s more boring and foregone conclusion-y than a speech? I couldn’t write it. I couldn’t write around it. I don't suffer from writer's block in that I don't ever experience the desire to write but can't. I do have stretches where I simply don't want to write. In this situation I couldn't go forward with the novel because the inevitability was too inevitable, so I detoured into short projects for a while.

And then came the Borders educators discount sale. wheee! I bought a pile of books I must read immediately, and I swear I started three of them, getting 30-50 pages into each before I felt that go-write-the-novel urge. it appears that a stack of new unread books PLUS a backlog of ungraded student writing created the critical mass of neglect I needed to get my mojo working. and the speech? I think I made it rock.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

ink & paper

I like reading and writing, but I don’t like books as objects. As a teacher, I accumulate books at an alarming rate, and to me each one is a brick that takes up precious living space in my home. However, this week is Borders’ educator discount orgy, complete with karaoke reception (no joke), and this morning the old man and I made our second trip out to the sale. We went last night, but the aforementioned karaoke drove us away before we could find anything to buy. No karaoke today, and I ended up buying some absolute crap that I can’t wait to consume and recycle. Also a couple of good things—Mieville’s Perdido Street Station (to give to a student when she returns from China), Cox’s The Meaning of Night, and The McSweeney’s Joke Book of Book Jokes, which I’ve nearly finished already, it’s so mean and funny. Dean got Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon and Shirky’s Here Comes Everyone, which marks the first time he has ever bought from the “Business/Economics” shelf. Also, he found a copy of The Associated Press Stylebook left behind in a class room. Jessie, if this is yours, he’ll return it. Everyone else, back off.

Friday, April 4, 2008

accumulated damage

my conditioner knows how to grab my attention

all fiction is fantasy, part 2

the majority of my students want to write science fiction, fantasy, horror, alt history, children’s stories, rom com and satire. some of them will take a stab at surreality or themes of contemporary alienation. some will attempt complex, paranoid thrillers. very few are interested in domestic realism or political/cultural subjects unless the stories feature some moment of extreme violence or are set in the past. I rarely see regional writing unless that region is part of a coming of age story. they all write at least one coming of age story, as we all do, eventually.

the coming of age story is often as close as they come to writing conventional literary stories, and even then they don’t like the term literary, preferring market terms that describe content over labels that describe . . . oof.

the bad news is that these students, even the ones who are technically sophisticated, are still finding it tough to get into grad writing programs. the good news is that it’s not as rough as it used to be. eighties minimalism is loosening its grip, and the “workshop story” is fading into myth, as elves and mages grab their seats at the seminar table. an influx of pop writers, along with the usual suspects, will be great for programs. I hope.

we talk a lot about what a real writer is, and we say impossible things like, "a writer writes every day." Ugh. a writer, given the chance, will eventually come to write every day. may I amend that threat to something more honest? a writer reads every day, and with luck, she'll do so fearlessly.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

loooooong stories

in addition to finishing or at least putting nails into the coffin lids of about six short fictions last month, I’m still trudging along with my latest novel project, a fantasy based in a near-future-post-bush New Orleans that I’m calling Social Aid & Pleasure. I’m also trying to find representation for my West Virginia novel, Unattended, which may be tricky, considering that there’s no sexual content in the book and the main character is a 50 year old woman. A coursepak edition of Unattended has been read by about 20 college students, whose instructor thought my book presented an un-theorized approach to insider-outsider conflicts in contemporary Appalachia. no one from the class has told me to my face that the book sucked, so I feel good about that.

what scott has linked

is probably not as dramatic as what god hath wrought, but by and large I'm happier with the results. Scott Garson's blog, Patterns of Silver Light and So Forth features links to several of his most recent pieces published in some really great forums. Finding these stories is great for me because 1) Scott's an old pal, 2) I'm competitive, and 5) his embrace and mastery of the very short form is pretty much breathtaking. So here I have pledged to "blurb" the work. The first three:

Reengineering, at Barrelhouse
In which Edwin J. Tier is completely full of it, but he’s right. Better than right. I want to work for this company, is that wrong? Featured -fu: Lavender bath towels.

Acknowledgements,at elimae
a garson classic with imbedded, muted anger

Captions, elimae
most worried for: Annabelle

if you like daddy, mountains and gold, this one's for you

More soon, but an added note: I don't recall SG writing or even tolerating so much brief mystery. The humor is forever, though.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

cat drama

is dramatic as heck, but completely circumstantial.