Saturday, June 28, 2008


I’m not sure I want to write about this because I’m feeling both insecure and excited about the Louisiana novel, but I don’t want to be superstitious and I don’t want to forget this moment. Earlier this week I was overcome when I realized several parallels between my plot and that of Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven. I had to do the inventory a few different ways before I convinced myself that the similarities were not so substantial—after all I’ve never even read LoH. What followed then was a rush of new ideas, all of which are careening into the absurd, and as far from serious science fiction as I can scramble. What am I talking about? Well, for starters I’m bringing back Elvis and I’m giving women a third eye. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

stuffed animus

my paid duties are light these days but when something needs doing it announces its urgency like a ghost slap to the face—think poltergeist administration. you’d think the down time would be good for writing, but the randomness of work-work has me on edge, distracted. And more than a little dull. Still, I have it together enough to mix vice with virtue—I added at least three miles to my walking routine by looping out to the bookstore to buy a new noir before going out to the second nearest liquor store instead of the one that’s pretty damned close to the bookstore. On the hike home I was kinda hoping that if I was destined to be hit by a car that today was the day. Imagine the paramedics opening my backpack to find murder book and bottle of Bacardi. Any other day, I’d be carrying student papers.

Friday, June 20, 2008

New Writer: Jody Madala

I just fell for "I HAVE CANCER! I HAVE CANCER!" Hard. The story is by Jody Madala, featured at and while it covers familiar territory and familiar materials, it seems to do so in a completely energetic, irresistible way. Plus, the story is followed by Madala's long bio which reads like an essay for match dot com. "IHC " is her first short story publication, apparently (way to hit one out of the park), so she probably has no idea what an author's note typically contains. Or, and I like this idea better, she is treating the author's bio as a form worthy of interrogation.

Okay, this question is for the world's workshop: That title?!?! What does it do to your reading?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

early summer action

just when i think everybody is shutting down for the season, Smokelong Quarterly comes out with a double issue whopper to celebrate their fifth birthday. All the kool kids are featured, and if you want to know what fiction is right now, read these stories and chase down the writers' links. I have a lovely virtual scrapbook of rejections from SQ, by the way.

Also, two trade paper copies of Anthony Neil Smith's novel, Yellow Medicine, showed up on the Mystery/Crime shelves at my local. I'm going to buy one today. Pretty book, and being named Smith places it in very close prox to Martin Cruz Smith, which has to be a plus. Plot summary on the jacket is almost unintelligible. Cool. Maybe it's a Joe R. Lansdale kinda thing?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Story South Top Ten

they're up and ready fer votin'! I'm a little bummed that Shane Jones' "I Will Unfold You with My Hairy Hands" didn't make the cut, but congratulations to all the fine writers on the list. Nice range of journals, too.

Also, just finished reading Tana French's In The Woods. Dang, it's good, even if . . . sorry, no spoilers here. But I will say that the narrator is a flirty, charming Irish detective who enjoys giving foot rubs to his partner.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Pura Vida

I think I like the idea of being a “regional’ writer, even though my native region—Northeastern Ohio—lacks the detail required for fiction. I have one very long Ohio story that queases me out so much I identify the setting as Indiana. I strongly prefer to write about places I’ve visited, from the point of view of permanent visitors (moved there, or are returning after a long absence)—characters with the privilege of critical margin. I have to admit though, that I favor characters who can vacate their regions without losing identity, and I am keenly aware that my drama is limited by the escape hatches I install.

I learned this week that Hobart online has accepted one of my stories. Don’t know when it’ll go up, but I’m thrilled. The story is about Belize, Guatemala, and the perilous romance of travel. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Bad Brain

These feel like related issues in that they flirt with superstition and mystic irrationality but really speak to the fact that my psychology hates me—

1) I dreamed about the West Virginia novel being published and immediately turned into an indie film, and conditions I thought were crucial had been altered with no loss of effect—main character male not female, the setting was a village in northern England not rural West Virginia, things like that. The dream bugs me because I’m always harassing my students to make sure, even in their so called genre or pop writing, that their choices are always essential, in-extractable and un-swappable.

2) I’m going back through the first 100 pages of the Louisiana novel and I’m really surprised and pleased at how naturally it writes itself. Even when I don’t want to write, I know that I can open up the file and it will change my disposition.

Check out youtube clips of Derren Brown’s stuff. It helps.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sort by . . . or the Anxiety of Anthology

The myth of theme as anything other than an open container for intelligence has always interested me. I love arbitrary organization as long as it remains permeable and aware, and the best literary collections tend to be the ones that play with their own assumptions of content or push the extremity of formal restriction. The theme is interrogated from page 1.

At the same time, I’m deeply attracted to narrower venues that promise certain emotional outcomes, as in permanently dedicated horror or crime collections. I wish I could claim to be a reliably “Noir Writer,” but my dark fiction is more opportunistic than it is seriously crafted for excitement.

I have earned other labels though, as I’ll have a story in an anthology for Washington Area+Women Writers. Delightful, but these are two identities I don’t really inhabit or understand from an aesthetic point of view. I know what DC means in terms of food and interior decorating, but beyond that I’m clueless/curious.

I am reminded of my colleague's experience with a library assistant who refused to copy several essays and place them on reserve for students to check out. The librarian wrote that he could not execute the request as the collection "would make an anthropology."