Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Red Shoes

writing stuff I got done this year:

Finished my New Orleans novel.
Outlined smart revision for the WV novel.
Learned how to write a query (thx Steve Himmer).
Made the Wigleaf top 50.
Got 10 stories published, 3 forthcoming (11 online, 2 print)
Pimped new fiction at 2 conferences.
2 stories nommed for Dzanc's Best of the Web
Helped/encouraged/midwived 5 students get published in very cool places.
Reviewed for Short Story Month by Steven J. McDermott
VIPs on vsf blog.
Started a collection of spooky/creepy vsf.
Forced poetry friends to start publishing again.
Listened while a lot of lit scholars confided in me about their basement novels.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Monday, December 28, 2009

The Year in Smuction (tm Cami Park)

So I just thought this up, slapped it together. If you aren't here, it's because I'm too lazy to find you!

Also, someone help me with July, please? I'm stumped, and Erlewine (tho I love him) strikes the wrong note--

Fear NoBody (scroll down to 2nd piece)
Tracey Rose

Three Mississippi Fictions

Alan Rossi

Her Parents' Bed
Jared Ward

Ethel Rohan

No Means Water Balloon
Mel Bosworth

What Long Legs Mean
Roxane Gay

July-can't find anything that isn't totally gross.
UPDATE!!! Cami Park's July choice:
I'll Book That Therapy Appointment Soon
Roberta Lawson
Zygote in my Coffee

Lauren Becker

Drink & EBay: Bore Butter, $7 ($2.50 shipping and handling), Tuscaloosa, AL

Sean lovelace
Everyday Genius

Advice for Locating the Whirl
Tim Jones-Yelvington

The Man from Australia or New Zealand


Meg Pokrass

Saturday, December 26, 2009

day after xmas treats

Matt Bell's note about compiling a short fiction collection.

High capacity wine glass sets:23 oz for reds, 19 oz for whites, 7 oz for fizzy lifting drinks.

Doctor Who on tonight at 9, plus the Boosh dvd set.

The December Smokelong Quarterly, which I'm only a third through.

A pile of draft scraps.

Rain to wash away the ice.

Heavy kittens, light dogs.

Neapolitan Klondike bars.

Beatles on my ipod (finally!)

Friday, December 25, 2009

What's an arduino?

Morning! An arduino is a wad of electro-crap that can help you make things do other things.

Here is my version of "The Gift of the Magi": Dean ordered an arduino for Danny, and when we gave it to Danny on Christmas Eve-Eve, he accepted it graciously, but really you could see that we might as well have asked him to carve us up some wooden shoes, pronto. Dean was also put off by the item, and all the way home said things like "Good thing you didn't get me one of those!"

But of course I had ordered one for Dean. It just hadn't arrived yet. And in the mean time I'd also ordered Dean a Mandobird (seriously endorsed by Danny), an item that put me way over budget.

So I attempt to cancel the arduino order for partial correction of the budget, but the seller tells me the order was delivered already. But of course he was referring to Dean's order, as I discovered from the tracking info he sent.

It's 2pm December 24, and Dean gets up from his nap. I tell him we need to check the card to make sure we weren't charged for a thing that won't get delivered. I explain the order mix-up, and we agree that it's okay because arduinos are too tricky for Christmas. I unwrap the arduino book, and we decide to give it to Danny when he gets back from Tennessee.

At 3pm, the mailman delivers the ardino.

At 4pm, I walk through the slushy streets to buy some wine gifts at the Korean grocery near our house. Some jerk speeds right by me in a car, spraying slush and gravel up, despite the fact that I was yelling, "Hey Asshole!"

But then we went to friends for a marvelous X-eve dinner, and Dean has been trying to spin his "glad I don't have an arduino" remarks ever since.

Moral? no arduino book for Danny.

As I write this on Christmas morning, Dean is still in bed. He doesn't know about the Mando (well he probably does), so don't tell him. He doesn't know about the budget yet, either. (he probably does)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Explaining myself, Explaining my Elvis

Anne Valente interviewed me about "Karaoke People are Happy People" for the Storyglossia blog. It felt pretty good.

Monday, December 14, 2009

"37 lbs" on Staccato Fiction

"37 lbs" is one of the creepy little stories from my collection in progress. I'm so happy to have it in Staccato Fiction--the aesthetic match is spot on.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Karaoke People are Happy People" --new story at Storyglossia

So after a 4 month dry spell, I have a new story out! "Karaoke" is another Elvis thing from my novel, Social Aid & Pleasure. I'd submitted it for the Music Obsession issue (#36), but Steven didn't think it quite fit, so he held on to it for #37.

I'm very excited. Thanks Steven and Anne!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Molly Malone is independent, a back of the classroom genius who does weird and sentimental in equal measure. Here's her first pub, "Seal," in Able Muse.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cough Syrup Thought

The Collagist and >killauthor will always be linked in my mind for the obvious reasons--they emerged simultaneously and powerfully, but with very different attitudes.

I don't want to go further than that except to say that The Collagist is to >killauthor as Tiger Beat is to 16 Magazine. Both are necessary. If you don't know the difference, then I don't want to know you.

A couple of close (not just facebook) friends have poems in the latest >killauthor, so go read them:Lucy Jilka and Danny Collier. I don't think the >killauthor eds were aware that Jilka and Collier have contributed to another issue together.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Workshop: micros by Adam Martson and G. Walker

Heart's Desire, by G. Walker
G was a student from forever ago, now a very dear friend and an instructor at VCU. She has no time to write, but still manages to do so with amazing emotion and precision.

These People, by Adam Marston
Adam is from my current class. He just learned he's going to be in elimae. Cooper Renner's last issue as fiction editor, I believe. Kim Chinquee takes over January 2010 and beyond.


Friday, November 27, 2009

2nd worst Thanksgiving

Yesterday was bad--trying to cope with a bad cold without meds or caffeine because of the ulcers they found Wednesday. I missed out on a hot meal, and I was EVIL, but my friends sent a care package--thank you! Today is better, and I'm even thinking of getting dressed.

So crummy but boring , especially compared to my WORST thanksgiving. That was when I was an adolescent, and my older sister, Leslie, was fresh out of the mental hospital. In the middle of the meal, she stood on her chair and announced that God was going to come down in a space ship to marry her. I was appalled, but took my cue from the dozen or so other relatives around the table who didn't even pause in their chewing and otherwise pleasant conversations. Except for my brother Sam, who could never ignore anything. He just said, "No he isn't." Like it was a normal argument. But that was Sam. It may sound like he took folks on their own terms, but in fact he took everyone on his terms--one was responsible for what one said, and being addled or compromised was irrelevant.

Guess that's pretty classic.

Monday, November 23, 2009

wow. narcissism

so this weekend I read Joe Young's magnificent Easter Rabbit (a review later), wrote a few creepy vsfs, then was seized by overly dramatic side effects of my cold that required a trip to Urgent Care and scared the living crap outta Dean (think allotriophagy if you're in a Cotton Mather frame of mind).

My symptoms were really easy to misinterpret, and my grasp on consciousness was not always steady, so there was a moment there of me thinking, as I dizzily tried to clean up, "Hmm. Might die. I liked the drafts I wrote this weekend. Dean could finish them easy."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The workshop

Several of the contributors to the VIPs on vsf blog are curious about how my students are responding to the posts--the blog started two months ago as a friendly educational aid, and I received many generous, thoughtful mini essays and ruminations on various topics concerning the writing of very short fiction.

As we lurch into the last month of the semester, some of my students are eager to respond with product, so if all goes well, I'll be posting a new feature called "The Workshop," wherein I'll publish some of my students' micros, along with brief notes about how they came about.

I think the first one or set will come from Adam Marston, who will be burning up the scene quite soon. His story "Somebody Is Excited" appears in the current Dogzplot flash fiction blog and he's just had a piece accepted by The Northville Review.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Easter Rabbit is here!!

yay!!! can't wait to read it. but I will wait for the weekend.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


hmmm. so far I have seven creepy vsfs, a few in better shape than the others, but I'm happy with the cross chatter amongst them, and I'm not bored yet, either. The piece that may or may not be coming out in Wigleaf (if technical challenges can be resolved) is currently acting as the control personality against which alters react or cope.

It's good to have several of these pieces not really nailed before I move onto other ideas in the series. That way I can resist sending them out. If these stories accumulate into a collection, I want them to depend on each other, and I think I want most of the material to be "new."

Frame of mind: very Nick Antosca, but not as juicy

Friday, November 13, 2009

not safe for facebook

The episode of "Friends" that never aired.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

blogging the so-far short life of the mind

I haven't posted much lately--we're gearing up to re-kitten our lives, so I'm obsessing about that.

But there is a new subject for the writing class to mull, introduced last week after one of my students got a flash accepted at Dogzplot and another got an acceptance at Able Muse.  The Writer's blog. Barry asked for a blog link for the DP bio line.

We always take a little time to talk about how to present oneself in a cover letter/message, or more fully in a goals statement, but those are closed forms. The writer's blog is a whole nuther animal.

and speaking of animals, we're getting maybe two kittens soon. I think.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ghost Stories

I've been writing very short ghost stories lately. I have about four in the 200-300 word range, and I am really loving the experience as well as the product. Not re-inventing the wheel here, I'm just recognizing that the reason I love scary stories most of all has less to do with event sequence than it does with the raw material. I'm afraid of/disturbed by objects, not circumstance: toys, old paper, storage buildings, small Ohio towns, overheard questions.

Vsf seems ideal for me to showcase that sort of thing, and showcase is possibly an apt term. If I'm fortunate enough to produce a collection, it'll be like a little curio cabinet of American bother.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

xTx's "Nobody Trusts a Black Magician"

I’ve just finished reading xTx’s chapbook “Nobody Trusts a Black Magician”--a jarring experience because “Nobody” is quite edgy, and I’ve just begun a project that feels very antique in comparison. There are no pieces in the xTx book about which I am ambivalent: half the book is hysterical, the other half disturbing. My faves: “Argentina Sunday,” “Saving the Meat,” “Scrambled Egg House,” “Christmas Eve,” “Black Friend,” “Wiffle Ball,” and “And You Can Wear Your Mirrored Sunglasses When You Are Scared.” I know xTx's fiction is known for its raw management of sex and desperate intimacy, but after reading this collection I’m most impressed by those stories that talk about 1) white anxiety or 2) long range partnerships.  I know, I'm old. 

Friday, October 23, 2009

giggle, snort

Just found out that one of my students has had a piece accepted at Dogzplot. No details yet, but I hope it was a flash. (update: yeah a flash, a durned good one)

Mel Bosworth says I'm "super nice" for having him talk about chickens at the vsf blog. I'd rather be super fine, but I'll take what I can get. Related to being ordained super-nice, my friend Danny forced me to choose a super power, so I'm going with "indifference to fragility and rarity of antique objects."

Finally, Tara Laskowski, Scott Garson, and I are newsletter famous together as we hog up 1/3 of the Fall 2009 "Between the Lines" Mason MFA alumni thingie with blather about how very short fiction is coming to your house to break your heart. I don't know if it goes online, but if I find it I'll post a link. You know how to find us, but did you also know that Tara is one of the hungry minds behind The Recipe Resolution?

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wrist pain

I just wrote the best story I've ever written, and it was accepted for publication at my absolute favorite fiction venue. My wrist became inflamed as soon as I read the message. Perhaps I'm done then.

Luckily, Erin Fitzgerald was available for IM based diagnosis. You can cram your public option, I got lit editors on call.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

the lost story

Years ago I got it into my head that I wanted to write a Thurberesque story about a man who accidentally and unknowingly appeared in the DC-based stock footage of a free speech PSA that appeared at the beginning of pornographic videos along with the trailers for other productions. My idea was that he would arouse fear, lust, shame, happiness, etc, among many of the folks he encountered in his daily, routine life, and no one really understood why.

I tried that story dozens of times and never got beyond page 1 before it got too oogy. Finally I was able to incorporate it into a novel draft (as the deep, dark secret of the quirky neighbor), but the next draft won't have room for it. Or patience.

So I release it to the world. If you can write the story, have at it with my blessing. I'd like to see it, in fact.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

shirts vs skins

Just posted Ravi Mangla's note, and after I post Barry Graham's entry to the vsf blog this weekend, I think the count will be 11 1/2 men to 6 women (counting joe young as 1 and 1/2 given his double appearance so far). This is meaningless, but I'm trying to goad those women whom I've already invited into action.

I'm more interested in the difference between the invitees who have made a priority of tending to their lives vs. those who are all too happy to drop everything to write for my blog.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Seriously, I thought this was a hoax when I first heard about it

But MSNBC actually interviewed David Erlewine, Robert Swartwood, and J.S. Graustein about the shortest of short fictions.

Of course this is wonderful for all of us in the vsf biz, and I have complete faith in Swartwood and Graustein to represent the form, but Erlewine may go power mad if we don't watch him closely.

Also, Nanoism is running a neato contest that has my brain smoking.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

mess with me, very short fiction update

I had to go to Ohio for family business this past week. I hadn't been back for 12 years. Someone who has known me my whole life said he'd been reading my stories, that they were pretty good, but "kinda familiar." After which he said, "write what you know, huh?" I can't for the life of me figure out what he meant.

new, exciting stuff on the VIPs on vsf blog from Jason Jordan and Andrew Roe.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

country life

First, I want to repeat the obvious: as soon as you think of fiction as a commodity, that's when the writing and innovation will slow down. That's when you will get scared.

Thinking of this as I read and re-read the 20 fictions given to me by Joseph Young and Kathy Fish for the vsf blog. These are two writers who have no fear that they will run out of stories, so it's no big deal to donate content to my teaching experiment. A writer who loves writing won't run out of stories. Or how about this? Maybe we've only got one story, and we just keep telling it over and over. Either way, there's nothing to protect. That said, as I prepare agent queries for my novels, I feel that fear. Big time. I would love to be brave enough to look into alternative models, but I'm not ready yet.

Not sure how this is related, but last week as I counted the sixth dead fox on the way back from our cabin in WV to our house in VA, I remembered last Autumn when we got caught in a long line of traffic outside Middleburg. Leaf peepers moving like molasses through horse country, and even though no one was going more than 15 mph, some jackass managed to hit a deer right in front of a farm mansion or winery. A man in LL Bean "work" clothes and a tweed cap was standing over it, disgusted. Just as we drove by, he pulled out a handgun and shot the deer in the head. Everybody was a phony that day, and then for one second we weren't.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kathy Fish & Joseph Young Collaboration--Coming Soon to an Educational blog near you

Tomorrow morning in a very special VIPSonvsf blog entry: Kathy Fish and Joseph Young collaborated on an amazing project where by they each wrote 5 micros, busted 'em in half, then sent the halves to each other to finish.

The result is 10 micros plus 10 hybrids. And they are stunning.

And then they offered them to me for my vsf blog. I am so thrilled. Let me be clear, I never solicited this work. Kathy and Joe offered me the material, plus notes on the process, so my class could see how this kind of adventure can work.

I love writers.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

38 minutes of my life

So happy to see Reb Livingston and Dave Housley at Mason today, paneling for a session about local lit journals. They did a fine job, despite the lack of structure and a shy crowd--20+ of us in a venue that seats 100+. Well, they were shy as a crowd, but swarmed Dave and Reb after, which was kinda weird. Wonder what they wanted?

A friend said to me about Dave: "He's good looking."
A different friend said to me about Reb: "Oh wow, she publishes non-linear poems? I'm home."

Up top on the plaza, Richard Peabody was selling Gargoyle and Paycock Press publications from a table. He always recognizes me, but never knows who I am. That must bug him. Especially when I wave and smile like a nutjob.

When Dave's "Ryan Secrest is Famous" story made the top 10 of StorySouth's Million Writers list, I taught it to my class. But it was months after I connected with Dave and the Barrelhouse editorial pod (at their conference they traveled together, I assume so they could sing barbershop songs when needed), that I realized he'd written that very cool story. Similar experience with Paula Bomer--we were net friends for a while before we realized that we had been reading each other's stuff for years. Paula's great, she still reads print. She's Amish. Her specialty is Amish erotica.

So the Barrelhouse Mixtape podcast marks my first willing listen to a podcast. I'd been ignoring the announcements fairly successfully until today when Dave described what was covered, and I suddenly thought, oh hey--THIS IS RELEVANT TO MY INTERESTS. It's quite good, and as promised, in the style of This American Life, right down to the swallowing sounds from the host. Adam Robinson sounds exactly as I thought he would. Michael Kimball does not (I thought he'd sound more like a cartoon bear). And Mike Ingram? He just sounds troubled. Dave.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fall For the Book

So here at George Mason we’re in the midst of Fall for the Book, a free festival with too many events, most of which take place on campus, with the others hosted elsewhere in the community. This year’s lineup is the hippest and the best.

Last night Sherman Alexie kicked ass, and yesterday afternoon I listened to Staceyann Chin give a thrilling performance in the plaza just below my office window. Hoping to go to the Rae Armantrout/ Ron Silliman reading tonight, and for sure I’m dropping into the Dave Housley/Reb Livingston panel on local literary magazines tomorrow. I’m gutted that I have to miss D. Harlan Wilson on Friday, but I’m sure he’ll get a crowd.

The Festival is in its 10th year, and is run by my colleagues Bill Miller, Art Taylor, Ruth Goodwin, and Wade Fletcher. With easily 130 panelists, readers, and performers to wrangle, and writers being what they are, the FFTB team deals with behind the scenes drama like you wouldn’t believe. But you also have happy accidents, like learning that Nathan Leslie lives in your own back yard (he introduced a speaker at an FFTB event hosted by Northern Virginia Community College).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Freshly Read Jello Horse

Ooo, just finished consuming Matthew Simmons’ A Jello Horse, and I really liked it. I saw a review that went gaga for the quirkiness of the novella, but I think the real power comes from the way Simmons uses "familiarity"--that sounds boring, so yeah the book is quirky as hell. It’s not a scary book, but it’s loaded with uncanny imagery. Oddly, the best parts are when the narrator is least interactive with the characters who know him, who have prior history with him. It’s when he is alone, or encountering new characters, that the book hits its highest notes. If that's too vague, how about this: there are BIG ANIMALS in it. I hear it’s going into a 2nd printing.

So a lot of interest in the Vips on very short fiction blog, and I’m delighted to say that new entries are forthcoming from Tim Jones-Yelvington, Michele Reale, Lauren Becker, Tiff Holland, and Molly Gaudry (if she doesn’t implode). Other contributors are more tentative—turns out real editors don’t stalk/pounce on people via Facebook chat. I think would have a tough time being a real editor, simply because I want to post EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW. As opposed to delivering new content in a measured, sane fashion.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Push the button, Frank

I will, I will push the button!

My VIPs on very short fiction blog is now open to the public. I'm so thrilled by the generosity of the writers who have helped out so far: David Erlewine, Robert Swartwood, Gabriel Orgrease, Erin Fitzgerald, Roxane Gay, Joseph Young, Ryan Bradley, and Scott Garson. New entries coming soon by Ethel Rohan and Lauren Becker.

No design to speak of, just an oppressive blue blogger template, but the essays are fantastic. And the most remarkable part is that the writers generated all this amazing content in just 6 days.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Head Tilt

Best of luck to Galleys: Online Journal of Literature as they prepare to launch their first issue. Heroic "about" page where they pledge all kindsa things.

An unexpected twist in the submissions page: under each category, including Poetry, Flash Fiction, they request an abstract of the sub.

I can imagine flash abstracts, I guess (and I'd love to see them), but an abstract of a poem? Is that even a thing?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

By invitation only: VIPs on vsf

okay, so I threw my little bloggy thing together, and already I've posted mini-thingies* about creating very short fiction from David Erlewine and Robert Swartwood. This is private for now, targeted to my students, but if you are a vsf-eer and you want to contribute, let me know. The concept is simple:

send me very short writing about very short fiction (any subject, technical, personal, recommended reading, etc)
+links to 2 o3 of your pubbed stories to help the argument

compensation: a bit of fun, distraction from grading, writing code, or serving your constituency, job satisfaction, promotion of your own projects (the usual)

over and out. the blog is blue for now. lotsa blue. with a picture of nuns

*I've been referring to the entries inconsistently as 'lectures' which causes confusion, but I know what I mean.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Exploiting my friends makes my job easier

Enjoying Justin Taylor's notes about the intro creative writing class he's teaching at Rutgers--sometimes you get a group of students who are magical. Although my husband, who lives for teaching and teaches everything from poetry to tech writing, has pronounced that if you treat all your students like honors students, they'll act like honors students.

With that in mind, I'm trying to cook up a VIP guest lecture/reading series for my undergraduate advanced fiction writers--I'm going to try to get some of my flashy friends to write flash-length notes/essays on writing very short fiction that I can post on Blackboard (the evil gated community of social networks), along with links to two or three of their stories.

Anyone want to help out? Anyone have a better idea?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Suspicious person on Finch Drive"

. . . would be a great title for a story, but I can't be arsing arsed to write it. You can have it if you want. Comes from the Sheriff's report as printed in the Morgan Messenger, a genuine independent small town newspaper that comes out of the lovely spa and antique tourist destination of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. Our cabin is the next "town" over, in Great Cacapon. One of the things about this newspaper that makes it so great is that the letters to the editor section shows a real community discussion, whether it be about health care, zoning, or anti-chaining legislation. You can't get the letters online, but you can get a taste of an uneasy pastoral by monitoring the editorials and police reports: drugs, uttering, lock-outs, and roaming livestock.

Too many great things to read out there, especially over the past few days. I haven''t even scratched the surface, but already I recommend Ravi Mangla's "Arrgh Luxury Cruises: An Authentic Pirate Adventure" from the current Storyglossia. Like Berkely Springs, Ravi's story is all about the dangerous romance of nostalgia.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Feast AND Famine

It happened again, you know. I just stepped out of another rough agent adventure--this time the agent contacted me, out of the blue, because she'd read a snippet of my novel on a private site. So I sent her the book, but it didn't do what she thought it would. Then I sent her the other, but even though she loves the writing, the characters, etc, it wasn't what she wanted either. So that was hard news, but quickly followed by notice from Cooper Renner that he was going to nominate "Render, or to Transmit to Another" for the Dzanc 2010 Best of the Web anthology. He published the story in elimae in December, and that was thrilling enough, but to have the story make Wigleaf's Top 50 and be nominated by CR--I'm over the moon.

Yes you are a good little story, mommy loves you very much.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Free Online Fiction Writing Course (Part 3? 4?)

Howdy! Taking a break from writing my syllabus to take a break from writing my syllabus, so I have a couple of minutes to Tell You The Good News About Indie Lit! Seriously, I've only been a consistently active participant in the scene for about a year and a half, and already the questions--online vs. print, micro vs. macro--seem old and non-productive sometimes, like going to a big family picnic where they find out you're an English professor and you get all those loud question-attacks from Uncles who are proud to be ignorant. Crimey/Noiry/Southerny fiction writer and reviewer Art Taylor gets it (for reasons a light cyber-stalking will reveal), and he is enthusiastically in the business of explaining it to diverse and curious populations, reminding me that my presence at the picnic might be useful after all. Art is in the process of putting together a brief piece for the George Mason community about new fiction, for which he has interviewed Mason alums (Me, Scott Garson, and Tara Laskowski).

Of course, these days I don't need to explain much to my advanced fiction writing students about what's going on, and the unit descriptions in my syllabus are really for the salary committee more than anyone else.

Here's an inappropriate answer I gave to one of Art's questions about writing big and small (I'm pretty sure I stole the image, but from where? And DE, did I use this gag at the conf panel?): Think about seeing a clown in an emergency room with a BBQ fork in his thigh. That's one narrative experience, about the observer's immediacy. Now think about that clown as an abused child who grew up to flunk out of the police academy and has just discovered he has "feelings" for his best friend. That's an entirely different narrative experience, using the exact same base material. Oh, and neither one is poetry.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

too much something, no doubt

I'm pretty much out of stories. I'm working on/up another wee elvis thing, but it's not revealing itself to me in any hunka-burning love kind of way. I'm not worried, though. I wrote HARD April through July, so a dry August seems right.

At the cabin Friday night my dogs had me pinned on either side, and they fidgeted a lot, traveling up and down especially before dawn. I dreamed they were Facebook status updates for Pank and Barrelhouse. Newton (pictured) was Barrelhouse.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Let God sort 'em out: tired and pale, or tan and naughty

Read Erin Fitzgerald's stories in Pank. Now.

Like FRiGG, Pank posts sets of stories by a single author from time to time. I like that? Sometimes not. Erin's set rocks, leaving you with that feeling that you have finally read an effective ghost story. (They aren't ghost stories)

And in other news, Dean points out that the poetry in >killauthor is pretty oogie stuff. Lotta vomit and surgery.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

New story up at >killauthor # 2

The Pinter issue, which is awesome. I know everyone else is drooling over the debut of The Collagist, and they should, but when you're done there
check out "The Elvis"

That's right. Elvis. This Elvis comes from my Louisiana novel. This thing was brilliantly edited by Meg Pokrass, whom I LUFF.

In the issue with amazing folks:

Ben Spivey | Donald Illich | Emma J. Lannie
George Anderson | J. Bradley | Jesse Tangen-Mills
Jimmy Chen | K. Walker Graves | Lauren Becker | Laurie E. White | Luke Drotar
Nate Innomi | Peter Schwartz | Roxane Gay
Sam Pink | Sarah Layden | Stephen Daniel Lewis
Steven J. McDermott | Vaughan Simons
William Walsh

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

No need for me to be cool

Adam Robinson nominated my story "The Temple Dog" (from Everyday Genius)for Dzanc's 2010 Best of the Web anthology. I was gonna keep my bloggy mouth shut about it, but he just posted his noms and alts on the Publishing Genius blog.Congrats also to Joseph Young, Cindy Loehr, Jamie GP, and Theresa Columbus.

Adam is so cool.

Way cooler than this guy. I dare you to listen to all the clips and and retain your sense of self.

Monday, August 10, 2009

it's always like this, exciting

checked my email. got a "sorry I'm not the right agent for you" message (I knew it, this was a wild ass query), followed by "I've nominated your story for Dzanc's Best of the Web 2010 anthology" message.

I won't say what or by whom out here out loud (seems tacky). my life is weird/fun/slap n tickle.


Dean came up with this one, a reality show called Slushpile! where desperate novelists try to pitch their manuscripts to agents. Funny and depressing!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

New stuff at The Northville Review . . .

. . . knocked my work off the front page. That's okay though, because my good friend Danny Collier is there explaining an inside musical joke

Also I hear Tara Laskowski will have work at TNR soon. Tara, Danny, and I all work at the same Uni, so it's kinda neat that we're all messing in Erin Fitzgerald's sandbox.

Aside from excellently bent work featured in TNR, this is one of the few lit sites that I can reasonably access on dial-up, which is my weekend situation.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Just sent off the revised Louisiana novel to an agent who is way too cool. I hope she likes it, but at this point I am pretty realistic about how this stuff goes, so no heart pumping anxiety here.

And I'm a bit bored of writing about writing for the moment, and I'm thinking about adventures. My friend is stranded on Fogo Island due to a recent ferry fire, and another friend's comment reminded me that real life adventures, at least the ones I've had or witnessed, tend to come from being stranded. Take this monkey, for example. He's from Cahuita, Costa Rica, and he's from a colony of monkeys who are delightful, even when 'batin' overhead, as long as you are with friends and a tour guide.

But imagine if you are LEFT BEHIND because your sea sickness prevents you from taking a quick boat back to town, and you have to wait at the end of a jungly, yellow-snaky trail, for a guide to bring you back the long way. Now imagine that you have opened a cookie bar and suddenly the trees are full of hungry monkey bastards. THAT's adventure.

And that's what we did to Lucy. Left her with the monkeys.

What's that quote about adventure belonging to the unprepared?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Announced, Winners of The 2009 Canteen Awards in Poetry and Fiction

Big Congratulations to Paul Byall, who placed second in the Canteen fiction contest, with a story that I was privileged to read in its early stages.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

back to the potboiler?

so that's two agents who have read the entirety of my WV novel. Both said the same things--love the writing and the characters, but there isn't enough conventional tension. I am convinced by the professional consensus, and I already have a detailed plan. I'd be more bummed if the WV novel was the only thing I had going. But the New Orleans novel is revised and ready (I think!), and I'll start the query process asap.

Despite the fact that I couldn't win these agents over, I'm pleased by the honesty and advice they've offered. And both left the door open for me to send again. This summer I've learned a lot about writing.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Next steps

Dean just finished reading the whole draft of Social Aid & Pleasure, my New Orleans sort-of-fantasy novel, and he's given me brilliant suggestions. He's a poet and he hates novels, but he's always right about my work. Erin Fitzgerald (I love name dropping) read the first four chapters and gave me great notes. I think that I can make the fixes in short time (by early august?), after which I'll start the query process. Query One being, What kinda book is this? Sections of it have already appeared as short stories in Juked, Barrelhouse, Pank, and a forthcoming Killauthor.

Writing the synopsis for this project has been easy and straightforward. I think that's a good sign.

I just got done reading a damp gothic about conjoined twins. I don't want to talk about it. Am now reading Eggars' Zeitoun, which is riveting. I'm only 50 pages in, but the idea of a professional and responsive contractor is deeply romantic.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Games to play in the car

1) "Imaginary (probably abysmal)Literary Collections from the Tenured" --must take one of these two forms: a) A something of somethings, or b)Something-ing the something
2) "That'd be a great name for a Blog" (formerly band/album)
3) "Dumbest Who lyric"

Street adderesses I know by heart, except my own

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
10 Downing Street
221 Baker Street
1313 Mockingbird Lane

I think that's it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Page 139

As you can see Newton gives not one damn about my dizzying fame. Just got this in the mail today and it's way cool, featuring blogged reviews/considerations of short stories posted throughout May 2009 by Aaron Burch, Sean Carman, Matt bell, Steven McDermott, Dan Wicket and the "guests" of the Emerging Writers Network.

It has, um, pages. Let me explain.

56:Kathy Fish, 150:Ravi Mangla, 192:Barry Graham, 140:Jimmy Chen, 184:Matt Bell, 224:Blake Butler, 307:Steven J. McDermott, 119:Meg Pokrass, 117:Brandi Wells, 98:Scott Garson, 182: Gordon Lish, 163: Roxane Gay, 154: Sean Lovelace, 315: Michael Kimball, 304: Jason Jordan, 286: Dave Housley, 130:Sam Pink, 206: Corey Mesler, 247: Mike Young, 113: Ryan Call, and seriously, a gazillion others. 24: John Updike. And there's 'sposed to be an Atwood appreciation in there but I haven't found it yet.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


The launch event was PACKED. Enthusiastically emceed by Michelle Brafman, who wrangled eight contributors who read brief excerpts from their work and answered questions from the crowd. Dean said it was fun, but if it were 8 men, we’d still be there.
The readers included

Maud Casey
Ellen Herbert
Kyi May Kaung
Raima Larter
Molly Woods Murchie
Judith Turner-Yamamoto
Paula Whyman
Joyce Madelon Winslow
Laura Zam

But my favorite thing was meeting up with a former student, Eugenia Tsutsumi. She took an undergrad workshop with me years ago, then went on to complete our MFA program at Mason. She told me that I showed the class how to write short-shorts (not likely. Best I can do is show someone that they exist), and she claims that experience has led to her getting a story accepted by Caketrain. I am hugely excited by this. Another former student, Sam X. Brase, just placed a piece in The Foundling Review. I’m unjustly proud of his accomplishment, especially since he credits Handsome! Dave! Erlewine! ™ with editing help on that story.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Gravity Dancers, Ready to Drop

Gravity Dancers:Even More Fiction by Washington Area Women

Politics & Prose will host a launch for Gravity Dancers, the 4th volume of fiction by DC area women writers, on Sunday, July 19, 5pm.

I'll be there to get my contributor's copy and one for mom I guess. My story in the anthology is "Moon Walk." It's a ghost story set in West Virginia.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rocking Monday, New stories in PANK

Just got back for a hedonistic weekend in New Orleans, which makes the publication of two new stories in Pank even sweeter. Ethel Rohan has a great one in the same issue as well.

Friday, July 10, 2009

is it breathing?

someone just poked my west virginia novel with a stick. good timing, too, because next weekend is the launch party for Gravity Dancers, at Politics & Prose. My story in that collection is called "Moon Walk," and it has zero Micheal Jackson content, but it is derived from the novel.

Going to a different Moon Walk this weekend though. We're headed to the French Quarter where the river walk is named after Moon Landrieu, a politician and businessman credited with revitalizing New Orleans in the 60s-70s.

Then I need to spruce up my synopsis.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Reliable Wife, some thoughts

Just finished reading Goolrick’s A Reliable Wife. I liked the darn thing, but I'm not sure why anyone is taking it seriously. Maybe they aren't. It is in no way “complex,” as the cover blurb suggests, or “darkly nuanced,” as cited in the Washington Post review. In fact it is a predictable and simple book about three existential characters who derive transcendence through lust to escape the miseries of the past and present. There’s Truitt, the rich, haunted widower. Caroline, the scheming party girl who will never go hungry again. And Antonio, the dissipated prodigal who lives on oysters and champagne. You do the math.

In other words, A Reliable Wife is a smutty romance novel, albeit one that is oddly and brilliantly informed by the world represented in Michael Lesy’s Wisconsin Death Trip. By the end, I felt a real Taylor Caldwell vibe, especially as the novel strenuously attempts to rationalize its horny violence.

In between scenes of damp consuming passion, we learn where the characters came form and how they got to where they are, locally and psychically, but the particulars don’t really add up to anything that matters. For example, early on Caroline sews jewels into her hem only to lose them in the snow after an accident. She spends her free time looking for the jewels. Eventually, the caretaker finds them, but by that time she no longer cares about the jewels. This works as a symbol of her willingness to give over her autonomy, but the literal loss of the jewels has no bearing on the events of the book. I think that’s a problem. Like Alton Brown, I don’t like single use tools.

That said, I recommend it, especially as a super fun companion to the Lesy work.

***reading this post 2 hours later, man it's nasty. But I really enjoyed the book. I guess that, as I work on my own novel and worry about its future, I really grind on what disappoints me in published, well sold books.

Monday, July 6, 2009

revision status

well alrightey, I'm "through" revision 1 in that I've gone through the draft and managed to whittle it down to 330 better pages. I got some great advice about the first 40, which I'm still applying, and now I think I may be at the stage of re-writing the chapter by chapter summary to see what this tighter version looks like, bird's eye view.

one of my worries is that I never really answer the questions of the supernatural phenomenon that drives the plot. all I do is write about the affect on my main character. hope I can get away with that.

next weekend we go to new orleans. whee! research! gonna eat and drink myself stoopid.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Does Travel Writing not mean what I think it means?

J. W. Wang sent me the link to "10 Online Literary Magazines that Publish Great Travel Writing" in Matador magazine. Juked is number 10, and my story "Do you know what it means to miss" is excerpted as a sample.

I'm not sure how Juked or my story--in which the mayor shoots down orange clouds in New Orleans, crushing Victor the fat corset maker to death--contributes to travel writing, but Matador likes indie lit scene writers, that's for sure. Check out "Brandon Scott Gorrell Goes to Oakland."

Friday, June 26, 2009


Sean Lovelace has the very best imagination, ever, so I'm thrilled that he posted a nacho-trippy-inspired reading of my story from elimae, "Render, or to transmit to another," which was selected for the Wigleaf Top 50. He nails it of course. I write from the 19th century.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

this is SO GOOD

"Unbecoming a Librarian (In Nine Steps)" by Michelle Reale. It's dedicated to me, you know. Heeee!

Michelle owns the season, I tell you.

I've submitted to eyeshot twice. the rejections notes said "strike one," and "strike two" respectively. never worked up the nerve to strike out.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The time I was entombed

I made a comment elsewhere that makes it sound as if I don’t appreciate my publication in the venerable Ploughshares several years ago, and I think I should walk that back, because the experience was invaluable even if the story itself was/is pretty meaningless.

I had rough times in my MFA program, mainly because I prioritized smug lyricism over story, and early on Richard Bausch called me out on that, sort of memorably. So when Al Young conducted a visiting writer’s workshop, beginning with a grave speech about how essential it is for the main character to change by the end of the story, I was nervous. See, he had my manuscript in hand, a story in which a guy sits at a bar in front of a big painting of Dolly Parton, thinks about his life, leaves the bar. That’s freaking it. 20+ pages.

And then he said my character never changed. I braced for another MFA beat down. But no, he said it was a good story any way. I think he used the word ‘ineluctable.’

Several months later, Young called the dept asking for that “woman with the brown curly hair” who had written a story he liked. He wanted me to make the revisions and send it to him for an issue of Ploughshares he was editing with the theme of “Believers.”

So that happened. A pub in Ploughshares, graduation and immediate employment, and I didn’t write for years. When I did write, I played with novel projects and had no interest in literary short stories—too much cancer and divorce amongst the middle class—and journals made me sad because I was convinced that the only reason someone would crack Ploughshares to read my story was to see if they could do better than me.

Then years later, Ploughshares offered authors the opportunity to join their digital archive. I opted in, and the rush I felt from seeing my work online was powerful, which in turn sent me into the world of online lit where what I read was so exciting that my love of short story was re-ignited.

I don’t have an ending for this. Oh, almost forgot. When Young called the dept, the receptionist got over excited for me and kept saying it was Andrew Young who needed to speak with me asap. That was confusing.

Friday, June 19, 2009

revision update (snore)

I'm revising my draft, Social Aid & Pleasure, and that's coming along, but my goal was to shed 70-80 pages of the 386 I ended up with. I'm at about 140 pages now, and I've only managed to dump 20 pages so far. Maybe I'll run into some digressive chapters about knot tying soon, but I don't remember writing any of those.

The main job in the first 40 pages was to make them more active and focused, less expository and discursive. This required me to wrestle with my narrator, who is a naturally loquacious, sometimes affected, dude. Dean read the pages, liked them, but he knows the concept too well to determine whether I'm delivering enough information at a decent pace, so I have two readers on the job (thanks E & D).

I also put a section of dialogue up on fictionaut, sans context, and the folks there are treating me very well indeed. I'm feeling pretty good about how this is going, with the only barrier being the fact that people keep expecting me to work for a living.

The pic is my WV cabin undergoing renovation. If you click on it, you'll see the toilet is outside in the yard, next to the entrance. This is not our preference.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Go back to J-school

John Roberts (mtv correspondent turned CNN morning anchor) made me mad today, and it was just a little thing, but cripes. After an otherwise sane exchange between Kiran Chetry and a senior editor from WIRED, JR gets all harumphy before he chimes in with something along the lines of, 'I don't get why some bloggers won't blog under their real names.'

Unrelated, but still pseudo journo bashy: when I started college I was a journalism major. When I switched to English, I thought my mom would be mad, seeing as there weren't clear professional options with a BA. But she surprised me. Said, "Oh thank God. I thought we were paying for you to learn how to become a pickpocket."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

New story up at Northville Review

"This American Death" is up today at the always fun Northville Review. It has zombies and public radio in it, and it was written specifically for NR, which is just about my favorite of the newer venues. It's a journal where you can really see the eccentricity of the editor shining through. Plus, Erin Fitzgerald is a great American.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Possibilities are Endless

This is a feminine products vending machine, located in the restroom outside my office. Check out the options for the gal on the go who won't be held down by a bit of monthly bother:

boot scooter
tag wearer
tennis player

The woman in the foreground is not wearing a snuggie. That's a cowl neck dress, kids, accessorized with a lion 'do and a thoughtful expression. I have never felt the way that woman seems to feel. I think I'm glad of that.

At the bottom three possibilities promised, but each selection dispenses the same generic pad.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Not since Free Pancake Day

. . . have so many writers gotten soooo excited. And for good reason. Matt Bell has just announced his new venture, a new online journal called The Collagist, set to debut in August. It's sponsored by Dzanc Books, so it's already awesome.

Once it comes out, readers will be just as excited, but at the moment I'm thinking Matt's inbox looks pretty scary.

Monday, June 8, 2009

I want to have a michelle reale weekend

I'm doing this because it doesn't look like she has a stinkin' blog. These were her pubs last weekend. Guess she took Saturday off.

Thursday: "Forbidden Fruits"
Friday: "Manipulation"
Sunday: "Natal"


Friday, June 5, 2009

Glorious run

Paul Toth's deliriously satisfying Hit and Run has suspended publication due to "lack of readership," which seems insane--who did not check this site daily?

I'd join the crowd of folks clamoring for its return, but H&R must have been difficult to sustain, given the concept. It was/is an idea that is almost too good. Perhaps someone will take it over, but I'm okay thinking of it as a gallery that has filled to capacity.

Thanks, Paul!!!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Wow, my little 750 word story got a real work out in May. A fragment of it in this this gorgeous collage thingy (press both buttons for an interesting mix) from the mysterious and riveting bedepressed blog. Looks like it's on a hiatus. Hope it comes back. Got a couple Nancy Drew types working on this.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

While I wasn't looking

The amazing Steven J. McDermott posted this about my story, "Do you know what it means to miss" from Juked. I'm a happy writer, he totally gets what I'm going for emotionally, even if doesn't think I have a plot.

rock. rock. rock.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Light & Air

Finished Shane Jones' Light Boxes, which was both fun and frantic, like Arcade Fire songs. So much of the book is about the fragility of despair and how it will always be weaker than magic, which means that no matter what happens, humanity is recoverable. The book is very accessible, concrete, matter-of-fact, and startling.

Then I got my mac air. Try reading an apple manual after reading Shane Jones. There's a certain shared friendliness that weirds me out.

Today was all about test driving the computer, looking at my novel manuscript. Dean's advice, revision-wise: "please put chapters in."

Then we did danger gardening. There has been a huge broken branch caught in other branches swinging over our house for some time now. So we tied a shoe to a rope, tossed the rope over the supporting branch and shook the bugger loose. Spiked a deep divot in the ground near the porch, but missed the cardinal's nest (which has a lone cowbird egg in it).

oh, almost forgot--the pic in the previous post has naughty bits in it. I didn't know that.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Reading Light Boxes, waiting for Fed Ex

"I don't want to die, said February." page 92.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Story at decomP!

The June issue of decomP has gone live, with my story: "Ava Gardner was born in Grabtown" . I'm very excited, of course. The story comes from an idea that was too-too to fly: what would happen if you dropped Infinite Jest in the bathtub? Of course there's none of the original idea left.

My bio is a little off. I claim that I have a recent publication in the Northville Review. So far this is untrue, but Erin will crack any day now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Completed the draft of the Louisiana Novel

it's a mess, but a completely workable one. think I'll take the rest of the afternoon off. the thing is called Social Aid & Pleasure. what dean has read so far, he says is like cory doctorow. my story in Barrelhouse 7 "Wishtank" comes from the novel.

I will celebrate the same way I grieve, with food and alcohol.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

so hows youalls novelses goings?

katrina finished her draft, gary hit 200pp, david seems to have gone underground with his. I'm 4 complicated scenes away from my planned ending, having taken a surprise detour into a sex scene that's sorta didactic. it's the last good time in the book, the last time everone's a winnah! now for the collapse of all we know and love.

just finished reading Gillian Flynn's Dark Places, a great book that should be called Grotty Places. I swear each time the locale changes, it gets grosser and grosser.

I'm going to try write all weekend, but if I have to stop, I plan to start reading Light Boxes. hope it doesn't mess me up by being too good. And the thing is so attractive that Dean says he wants to read it. Keeps eyeballing the book like it's some fascinating new pet in the house, but not a kitten or puppy. More like a gecko.

Monday, May 18, 2009

This is a riot

I'm pretty sure I'm not jealous. One of my students made the top 20 cut for Robert Swartwood's Hint fiction contest. Actually, I'm thrilled.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

news and goodies

It's my ol' man's birthday, but I'm the one who got the prezzies. I know I'm the last person to order Light Boxes, and I received it today (interestingly, the day Shane returned to the life) along with a lagniappe: Rupert Wondolowski's The Origin of Paranoia as a Heated Mole Suit. Plus, a hand scrawled note, from Adam I presume, with just enough personality to bug the birthday boy. Next time, do a heart instead of a smiley face.

Also, I picked up the Spring 2009 issue of Mystery Scene which features two delightful articles by my pal and fellow db enthusiast, Art Taylor. One of the articles (about romantic crime films) is the 'centerfold' feature, so it's on shny slick paper. If you're gonna go print, slick and shiny is aces.

Just finished Ken Bruen's Cross, and I gotta say that was a dark, dark finish. I may need counseling.


heh. have the ending of the novel m.a.p.p.e.d. o.u.t., but I'm only slogging along and have written two back to back scenes of characters having conversations in the dark. That's not fiction, that's radio.

lotta smoke up my skirt lately, that could be the prob. but also, knowing.

I'm only posting for the superstition.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gravity Dancers close to becoming real

The Paycock Press anthology, Gravity Dancers: Even More fiction by Washington Area Women, edited by Richard Peabody is on the verge. I just got the galleys for my contribution, a story called "Moon Walk" that comes from the WV novel.

The launch party is scheduled for Sunday July 19th at Politics & Prose at 5pm.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Molly's thanksgiving

I wish someone would say what happened with Shane Jones. I guess it's a game? There's so much I am the last to learn, like Twitter Walken isn't real. Shane's last FB status was "Oh no" and on Goodreads the date of his death is listed as May 9, 2009. That's spooky. I know, I'm a sucker.

Mean time, Molly Gaudry ain't going to stand for that. No one else goes without permission. Not even Molly, as she fails in her own attempt at an internet vacay. She made it what? 0 days? Thanks Molly, really.

Monday, May 11, 2009

NEVER pass up an opportunity to be clever

Robert Swartwood's 'hint fiction' lark has turned into something very real--he now has a deal to produce a Norton anthology of H-fics which will include the top twenty from his blog contest where he asked for submissions of fiction less than or equal to 25 words. The prizes, when the contest was posted ranged from amazon gift certificates to indie books. Now the prize for participation may well be eternal freaking fame.

Here's the fun part for me: I told my students in my junior level fiction writing class they'd get extra credit for entering the contest. I think 4 did.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Everyday Genius

And as if my day weren't awesome enough, Adam Robinson has given my "Temple Dog" a home in his new online thing: Everyday Genius.

Dedicated to Michelle(there's 2 Ls in that) Reale, in a gesture of sisterhood and typecasting.

So honored to make Wigleaf's Top 50

That's right, the list is UP, and I'm blown away to have made it with "Render, or to transmit to another" from December's elimae. The whole list, including the long shortlist, is stunning, and Scott Garson and Darlin' Neal should receive significant CASH PRIZES and other honors for the work they do in the advancement of short fiction. I'm dead serious about that.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

dark side of pinball

Pinball is bad for you.

madness, 3rd book project?

so after my brush with near-success, which was more like a 5 week scrape on a gravel road, the logical thing is to return to the Louisiana book and finish the draft asap. But I keep thinking about putting together a short collection of 'pocket guides' like the one I have up at Hobart online, and when I floated the notion by Dean (he's supposed to say no), he shocked the hell out of me by saying yeah, do the collection, take a break from the novels. Thinking about it is fun, that's for sure.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Novella and Pinball, naturally

Matthew Simmons' novella, A Jello Horse, is about to be released by Publishing Genius Press, and while this news is exciting on its own merits, there is a contest to win a hardback copy of the book. Simmons' call is simple: "SEND ME IMAGES OF YOURSELF PLAYING PINBALL. Or someone playing pinball. A pinball image of some sort. Just one of your own."

Finally, a pinball contest I have a shot at winning!

I own a Williams Earthshaker!, and I will submit a pic of that, but in the meantime this is a pic of a weirdie from the White Rose show a couple of years ago.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

no whining

so the detour with my West Virginia novel did not pan out--the interested party is no longer interested. I'm disappointed and not feeling motivated to continue with the proposed revision right now, even though I think the plan is a good one.

I really want to find the end of the Louisiana book, which has a stronger concept and voice. It's certainly funnier.

But it has only been 12 hours since the rejection. This time tomorrow, I could take up karaoke. the karaoke people are happy people.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Free online writing course

Dialogue Tutorial #2



"I need a new monkey."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Too Fun: Hint Fiction Contest

Robert Swartwood makes Garson look extravagant. Write a story of 25 words or less and post it here

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Free online writing course

Dialogue Tutorial # 1

"Why don't you shut the fuck up already?"
"Why don't you shut the fuck up already?"

Friday, April 17, 2009

a week of not existing

I've been down with a head cold since the conference last week, unable to think, read, write, etc. Plus I broke my glasses. It's feast or famine (yo Dave Bragg, where ever you are!).

Got a flash accepted for the June issue of decomP, which is totally unexpected. I send to decomP for the swift and human rejection--my way of checking in with the universe. Now what?

Read Art Taylor in Fiction Weekly. Read Erin Fitzgerald in Wigleaf and elimae. Read the whole damned issue of FRiGG, but then you're already doing so, right?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Conversations and Connections Part 3

I paneled at the flash session, and I think that went well. Room was packed and we kept people laughing. Erin Fitzgerald and I then went to the Digital Literary Landscape session, which was genuinely introductory, pitched for the trad lit crowd and not for us filthy flash hippies.Highlight: snide comments about Dana Gioia. Also went to the agent session, which was very well run and loaded with good information for beginners. Highlight: Folio lit agent comparing the current publishing moment, as dire as it seems, to the advent of Gutenberg--change is cool. One thing we noticed was that the agents seemed really weird: as if they'd been trans-beamed to the session without notice.

Conversations and Connections Part 2

Can you name these indie lit giants?

Conversations & Connections Part 1

The Board at the Flash panel
(marker work by Joseph Young).
Room was PACKED, people sitting on floor.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sold out! Conversations and Connections

So while I am doing my darndest to try to sell out by turning my west virginia novel into a potboiler, I find myself one day away from paneling at a writer's conference that has sold out. Conversations and Connections sold out last year as well. It's a one day, to the freaking point, affordable event. Wow, what a concept. I'll take pics if I can.

I'm the least flashy writer on a flash panel moderated by Molly Gaudry, so I'm pretty sure my job is to reiterate my "theme" of the last 8+ months: flash is the flagship form of indie/online publishing, and as a result short fiction is evolving again.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Archer

The postcards featuring the cover art for Gravity Dancers: Even More Fiction by Washington Women just showed up in the mail today. The image is "The Archer," by Sheep Jones. Gorgeous.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Wine and Cereal: Rad Poetry

Here's "A Giant Realm," poem, written and read by Jack Christian, FOR ME, because I donated to the NOO Journal RAD Poetry drive. You should too. I don't think Jack and I have met, but this poem is about lots of things I'm into, including dogs and wire. Way cooler than a PBS tote bag, and far less useful.

I also learned that the galleys for Gravity Dancers: Even More Fiction by Washington Area Women are forthcoming as are postcards with the cover art by the amazing Sheep Jones. Can't wait to see!

There will be a promotional event at Politics and Prose when the volume comes out, probably June or July.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

grown up week

We filed for the deed, so the land is pretty much ours.

I re-wrote the first 50+ pages of the West Virginia novel to seriously up the suspense.

Am working on the summary, and I feel I have another really hard day to go on that. I can't remember being this stupid.

Have totally neglected my students, family, friends, etc. I don't remember what I do for a living.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Land Acquisition is Dramatic

The deadline for redemption has passed. Or is this better? The period of redemption has expired.

Now we must prepare the deed.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

the quest

Tomorrow we learn whether we have successfully acquired the land next to our cabin in WV, which would give us a total of about 4.5+ acres. So that's one thing.

The other thing is that someone has expressed enough interest in my WV novel that I have definitely mounted a re-write to increase the suspense. But harder than that is writing the full length summary. I don't know how this effort will pan out in terms of representation and publication, but I do know my new draft will be the lean, dark animal I always intended it to be. Wish me luck.

I've shared the details of the process with a few people, and I'm grateful for all the offers of help. I'll need readers soon, but right now I'm getting help from Jeanette Winterson's The Passion and three or four powerful Lucinda Williams' tracks.

Friday, March 27, 2009

oh, and

my novel board was posted at Paul Toth's super neat Hit and Run Magazine yesterday. timing's a little sad, as I have set the project aside to do a re-write of Unattended, my West Virgina novel.

You knew it would come to this

Just when we were getting along--

The NEA just came out with one of their doom and gloom reports about reading habits, only this time they assert that poetry readership is on the decline while fiction readership is on the rise. NEA reports are like the DOW—too narrow to be meaningful, but we still respond to them anyway.

So this is a good time for me to skim the report. Research, research, research. Going to Molly’s facebook, ah! there it is. Oh thank god, not the report itself, but a journalist’s summary. Skim, skim, skim—holy crap! Dan Gioia acknowledged online readership as a factor in fiction’s increased popularity?

Okay, so here’s my thing. Poetry has lost my readership because it stopped doing things that no other form could do—it let go of word tension and retreated into sense, which is the equivalent of “selling out” in fiction. In the mean time, new fiction reclaimed the narcissistic moment (otherwise known as ‘lyric’) and did something a lot more satisfying with it. I’m not sure what, but I think it has something to do with humility and fearless sloppiness.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

139 words kicked my ass today

. . . more about that if things develop. sorry to be cryptic, but it looks like I may suspend work on the Louisiana book to mount a re-write of the West Virginia book. that's if things go well. I'm not afraid of re-writes; I take editorial direction very well, and I work quickly under those circumstances.

so. marriage. in your partnership, do you have a permanently designated broken glass picker-upper? or are you like us, where the glass breaker stands in shock (usually barefoot) over the glass they've just broken, while the person who did not break the glass rushes in to take care of the mess?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Listen, speak

My friend reports that his 14 month old daughter is “recovering her words.” She did a little word-work at 8 months, but then stopped. There’s a neat video of her mimicking the yowling of their deaf cat (not mine to share). I have no idea what this all means, but the information forms a set.

Noo Journal, edited by Mike Young and Ryan Call, are doing an irresistible fund drive. I liked the vid poem Mike did for Barry Graham so much that I donated (surprise Dean!). There’s a line in the Barry poem about a broken shot glass in the kitchen sink, which really hits me—I let a shot glass slip into the sink where it got stuck, invisibly, until I tried to get rid of some greasy water via the disposer. So then the shot glass was invisible and greasy. We tried tongs and a Leatherman before smashing the glass with a hammer and screwdriver and picking out the pieces by hand. You use the right shot glasses, the shards are thick and easy to manage, the way you imagine Fred Flinstone’s shot glasses must be.

Think I'll try to friend Mike. I gave him money.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Get over the new facebook design, check this out

Storysouth, all shiny and new. I'm glad to see this. They seemed to be fading away there for a while . . .

Good luck to the new team!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

no problem

From the classifieds of the March/April 2009 AWP Chronicle: "Great Western Fiction is seeking submissions of Western fiction set in the American Old West before 1914. . . No language. No Sex."

Not everyone misses Al Swearengen.

The ad is more complete than this, with a promise of fuller guidelines at the website, but it looks like this venture has already folded. They offered $50 for short stories, $500 for novels.

Friday, March 13, 2009

vaction ending

It has grown cold and dark at the beach, which means I feel most like myself and can write instead of do healthy stuff like bike and kayak. I think I figured out how to finish my novel (I know I've said that before). we will dine on snacks and alcohol tonight, must empty the fridge.

art taylor's interview with me is quoted at the fictionaut blog(I'm at the end of the post). I also got a mention at Steve Himmer's curious blog. Both things are super neato.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

lumpy dog

blocking our driveway, creeping out our guests

Monday, March 9, 2009

post has nothing to do with writing, except that I'm fixing to do some

Morning 2 of our spring break trip to Ocracoke, NC, a place that is not ready for tourists, especially in this economy. Plus the weather is threatening to go all pear shaped. But the cottage we’ve rented is glorious and weird—lovely view of marsh and wildlife from the front porch, kayak launch on the canal, and a tiny cemetery in the back yard. They don’t put that kinda thing in the brochure, but it is typical Ocracoke. Thanks to Jen, who stayed over Saturday night and took us on a wind whipped jeep ride to South Point at night, which was awesome and moon-scapey. There’s a tumory big dog across the way, and he walks like every one of his legs have been broken in the past. I think I love him. I’ll try to get a pic.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

eh, what do I know?

After the AIW/Mason Fiction Seminar last Sunday, Art Taylor interviewed me about some of the stuff I had to say about net publishing and the evolution of short fiction. It was fun.

Flash Panel-Conversations and Connections

So I have been asked to join the flash panel for the Conversations and Connections
conference, which should come as a huge disappointment to my students who are planning to attend. As Laurie Anderson said, "You already paid for this."

The panel will include David Erlewine, Joe Young, and Molly Gaudry (who has rejected my stuff a couple times, so really looking forward to meeting her!)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The storySouth 2009 Million Writers Award for Fiction

It's that time of year again, deadline March 31 to get your nominations in.

I have some thinking to do . . .

after 5 minutes of thinking, and if I had to nom now, I'd go with Scott Wrobel again--"The Absence or Addition of Fish"

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Debrief: AIW/Mason Fiction Writing Seminar, Feb 28

The program was offered in an unusual (for me) format: a day long series of talks and panel discussions with no overlapping sessions. The continuity of audience allowed for a certain continuity of discussion, which was special. Though there were a few students in attendance, most of the participants were non- or post- academics, very like the participants I encountered when I attended the New York Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore a couple of years back: serious folks who love reading and writing but who don’t always have a stable writing community

I was committed to 10 minutes duty, so I can’t explain why I gave over my whole Saturday to this thing, but I’m glad I did. Art Taylor has posted his “highlights,” so here are mine:

9:07 am: Jeffrey Deaver presents a charming speech where he very clearly negates the necessity of the panel that follows him by offering a succinct consideration of literary and commercial fiction and neatly dispenses with the mythical opposition between the two.

9:30am. Deaver goes into the audience to gently heckle the next panel “Literary Snobs and Commercial Sellouts,” an anecdote filled discussion featuring Alan Cheuse (as “The Snob”) taking jabs from commercial writers John Gilstrap, Donna Andrews, and James Grady. No real blood here, and one thing all the writers agree on: TAKE DA MONEY. About half way through I become agitated. Aren’t we really just giving in to unimaginative marketing labels that don’t really mean anything to a real reader, let alone artist? And why do I have to run all over the bookstore to put together my Walter Mosely collection? I happen to be sitting next to a former student I know has a particular interest in writing rape/bondage fiction. What would the panel have to say about that genre?

10:45am. “Novelists who write reviews” —Nandini Lal, Sudlip Bose, Art Taylor, Louis Bayard. Far and away the smartest, most cohesive panel, plus Art is a riot as he tries to explain the difficulties that arise when he befriends an author he has reviewed. Wish Tara had been there to see him fumble-recover, Daryl Monroe-style. We all turn on him. He prevails. Big fun.

1:30—“New Media and Publishing Creative Writing”—Reb Livingston, Mark Athitakis, Bernadette Geyer, and ME. Moderator Reb does a brill intro, covering issues of commodification and new publishing models, which leaves the panelists free to get right to our issues. Mark and Bernadette talk about the publishing industry and emerging promotional tools. All of my prepped material is about the “workshop story” stagnation of the 80s/90s and how new publishing has re-ignited evolution in the form, but I know from being here all day that the crowd is mainly interested in novel writing, so I feel I need to come up with something new—my first instruction to the crowd is “Write down these names so you can google them when you get home: Shane Jones and Nick Antosca.” Reb nods emphatically, and adds “And Blake Butler.” (I could kick myself for forgetting Blake, but I haven’t followed his writing as closely as Nick’s and Shane’s.) I told the folks that these are writers with novel pubs whose publishing activities illustrate what new careers in writing can look like. The Audience. Took. Notes. I had to repeat and spell names.

3pm—Second novels—William Miller, Andrew W. M. Beierle, Katharine Davis, Dallas Hudgens, and Alex MacLennan. This panel turned out to be surprisingly Relevant To My Interests. Two of the panelists didn’t publish their first novels until they were over 50. Still two others no longer use an agent. Much frank discussion of agents, editing, etc, and while I already knew a lot of what they had to say, I didn’t necessarily know that I knew what I knew. Talked a little to Katharine Davis after—she is my new hero. Did you know that the author has to write those “book discussion questions” you see in trade paperbacks?