Friday, December 23, 2011

Curio the creeper

Unexpectedly, Curio is getting some year end attention. I hope you enjoy this interview in jmww. Beth Buchannan is the Writer-in-Residence at St. Alban's school in DC, and we talked at length after she invited me out to speak to her creative writing students in October.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

heart sick

Wednesday was a a bad one. Thursday wasn't so hot, either. We learned that the cause of our little Einstein's loss of appetite over the past 10 days was an inoperable mass constricting her small intestine. The oncologist detected several types of "bizarre" cancerous cells(her words, and she's a big deal researcher), none of which was reasonable to treat. She also said Einie's level of discomfort at the moment was like having the flu, but that it was going to get worse very fast. So we made the hard decision, made harder because Einie, although tired, seemed in good spirits. She was only seven. We only had her with us for four and a half years. She never stopped looking and acting like a puppy.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Top secrets of 2011

A very literary baby boy is due today, but then so are final projects for my class, and I bet those are gonna be late, too. Thinking good thoughts about little no-name-yet.

Speaking of the final project, this year I'm a genius. Instead of requiring a revision, portfolio or self-evaluative essay, I made my students interview each other--Smokelong style. The results, so far, have been amazing. NEVER have I enjoyed grading so much.

I'm also finishing up my reading my reading for my Wigleaf long list picks. In a year when I did not publish individual short pieces, I've felt a little untethered, but going through the year's output for these amazing online journals (I'm responsible for about 67?) reminds me how good and vital the art of vsf really is.

Let's see . . . 12 more days left in 2011. Still time to suck up, you know?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Big Deal Round Up, Florida edition

I'm writing this in the Palm Beach International Terminal after a great visit with mom.

This morning my notes on "Being Indie" went up at the TNBBC blog.

Yesterday, The Orlando Sentinel recommended Death Wishing as a Holiday gift pick for hipsters.

The always-wonderful Jen Michalski also recommended DW as holiday pick at Karen Lillis' blog, Karen the Small Press Librarian.

And on Tuesday I read at the 8th installment of Jesse Bradley's fabulous Orlando prose series, There Will Be Words. Place was packed!And there were three other great readers: Leslie Salas, R.W. Graham, and Jesse reading for Ben Lowenkron, who came down with a sudden illness.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Lurvely New Reviews

About Death Wishing

In the intro to my Book Notes Death Wishing Playlist largehearted boy says DW is a "charming and unforgettable comic fantasy that begs to be adapted into a feature film."

About Curio

Jack Kaulfus thinks my shorts are disturbing, in a good way.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Is this for real?

According to the tickets/pass site for the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, I'll be on this panel:

Women to Watch: Bright new talents Jesmyn Ward (Salvage the Bones), Ellen Baker (I Gave My Heart to Know This), Laura Ellen Scott (Death Wishing), and Jessica Maria Tuccelli (Glow) will discuss their latest works and their rise in the literary world.

That's right. Jesmyn Ward. Salvage the Bones. National Book Award.

Wonder if this will hold?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giveaway at Goodreads--in time for for Solstice Day!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Death Wishing by Laura Ellen Scott

Death Wishing

by Laura Ellen Scott

Giveaway ends December 15, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Monday, November 21, 2011

Taking a breather

The Barrelhouse party at The Black Squirrel was terrific, and Amber Sparks was amazing. The room was nice and full, the beer flowed, etc etc. Rather than read the intro again, I read three very short stories that came from the novel: "Do you know what it means to miss"/Juked, "Karaoke People are Happy People"/Storyglossia, and "The Dusty Bastards"/JMWW.

But now no more travel until mid December. What to do, what to do? Perhaps I should so some of that "grading" I hear everyone buzzing about. Sounds fun. Oh, and I could get caught up on the wigleaf reading.

On the Weather search page my auto-fill spits out Brooklyn, Seattle, San Francisco, Baton Rouge, Baltimore, New Orleans. Sweet. It's almost like I had a life for a couple of weeks there.

 me, robin, batman

second guessing

Saturday, November 19, 2011

BIG Week

So this week was/continues to be a whopper, starting off with a packed reading at Brooklyn's Greenlight Books, which was a semi-sloshy hoot with my publisher providing home-made hurricanes and Zapp's potato chips. Erin Fitzgerald trekked out to provide moral support and logistics, but I was reading on my own, no matter what this chalk and slate promised:

I stayed on the 19th floor of a Holiday Inn in Times Square. Check out the enchanting view:

Then last night was another jam-packed event at One More Page Books & More, a shop that sells books, wine & chocolate. Most of the people at the event were folks I know, but that didn't stop them from buying bags full of stuff.  Here's what happened when I asked how many of them were at the store for the first time. The manager was pleased:
Tonight, it's a Barrelhouse hosted "Evening of Death with Laura Ellen Scott and Amber Sparks" at the fabulous Black Squirrel in Adams Morgan. Really looking forward to it.

After tonight, nothing booked until December 13. I'm really okay with that.

Monday, November 14, 2011

3 fab things

1) The provost has approved my promotion to Term Full Professor and the reappointment of my contract for five more years, effective August 2012. So I'm booked until 2017.

2) An amazing, a wee-bit spoiler-y review of Death Wishing  at David Allen Barker's excellent blog.

3) My contribution to The Story, So Far feature at The Northville Review.  (Yeah, I don't know what I'm talking about there, either)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Writing Tip

When writing fiction, try to make it up.

Book tour adjustments, drama

Back from readings in San Francisco (City Lights)  and Seattle (Elliott Bay), only to learn that the author with whom I had been partnered is unable to continue with our schedule and will not be attending any of this week's events (Brooklyn, Providence, Arlington VA, & DC).  As the Providence stop was something he had arranged with friends, that won't be happening now. However, we're hoping that the other readings go forward with modifications. So it hasn't gone off the rails or all pear-shaped--at least not yet.

While the Elliott Bay reading was not nearly as well attended as the one at City Lights, both events were really positive experiences. In addition to meeting up with old friends at both readings, I also hooked up with writers Ethel Rohan, Lauren Becker, and Matthew Simmons (who has a pinball finder app on his smart phone). 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

West Coast Beckons, plus mentions and reviews

Off to San Francisco's City Lights for a reading Wednesday the 9th, and then to Seattle's Elliot Bay Book Company for a reading on Friday, the 11th. Both with start at 7pm. Love this mention about the Seattle reading: "Scott's Death Wishing is about a world in which wishing actually does something for a frickin' change." I've never been out to these parts of the country, so forgive my ignorance, but I have two questions: 1) They don't really call it "Frisco," right? And 2) Will Seattle folk get upset because I can't stop humming the opening theme to Here Come the Brides? I was a huge Bobby Sherman fan, thought David Cassidy was sleazy.

Jen Michalski wrote some gorgeous thoughts about Death Wishing over at her blog last week:  "With the commercial fiction market often saturated with sameness, I'm always excited when I read something so completely bizarre and engrossing."

I stumbled over a very nice review by Diane Pinckley over at wasn't completely convinced by the ending, but she did dub Death wishing a "fun fantasy captures the feel of this unique city."

Finally, the relentless Tara Laskowski interviewed me at Art and Literature. It was big fun.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Other Kind of Promotion

A week ago I was in a room in what has been called the most haunted hotel in New Orleans, getting ready to out to a restaurant where later we'd disagree about the steak I'd ordered; it was either carved from God's back or merely "cooked in fuck" (Dean's theory). But before that, I got a call from one of my colleagues telling me that the department had met that day and unanimously voted to recommend me for promotion from Associate to Full Professor status. The decision is in the Dean's hands now, and I'll let you know what happens. I've been in my job since 1993, ineligible for tenure-line at Mason because I got my MFA there. So yeah, looks like I'm about to hit a plexi-glass ceiling, and I'm pretty happy about that. My department has always been pretty noisy about respecting my publishing activities along with all the other things I do. I know not everyone is as fortunate.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

More from the Louisiana Book Festival

We are back from New Orleans and Baton Rouge, where I did three events--readings with Mark Yakich at The Garden District Bookstore and Antenna Gallery, and a panel on post-Katrina novels at the Louisiana Book Festival, which was a terrrific, inspiring event. I presented with the amazing Rosalyn Story, author of Wading Home, a novel that you need. right. now. Gorgeous prose and a riveting story.

Here's me, happy:

Not enough data, surely

At the Louisiana Book Festival, a woman came up to the table, picked up the book and gestured at me with it--as if I might not know what book she was talking about otherwise.

She asked, "Is this good for a book club?" She never even bothered to read the back.

"I think so," I said. "I'm speaking to a book club about it this weekend, in fact."

"Oh what book club? I belong to Amy's book club."

"I don't think it has a name."

"Oh, okay." And she was gone, sort of careening towards the next brightly colored book. Her companion stood in the middle of the tent, as if he wanted to be an equal distance away from all the author signing tables. He seemed to be laughing to himself.

I didn't expect the woman to return but she did. "All right I'm gonna buy this," and she proceeded to unpack her Nook. She picked up my book and not finding what she wanted, asked, "What's your name!?!?"

"Laura Ellen Scott."

"Okay I found it. " Thumbs device roughly. "There, I bought your book! I don't like carrying a bunch of books around."

"Thank you very much."

"Now sign a piece of paper?"

I grabbed a post-it, scribbled my name on it.

"Yeah," she said, taking it from me. She zoomed over to her chuckling friend, gave him the post-it and said, "Here I got you this."

He seemed satisfied.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Spotted in the wild, Plus the Poets & Writers Page One

A friend sent these along. They're from the Barnes & Noble out at Tyson's Center:

Very cool. I'm also told I need to make a much bigger deal out of making Poet's & Writers Page One: Where New & Noteworthy Books Begin column.

Friday, October 21, 2011

nice things and an update

update first--the sun is setting on the giveaway of the kindle version of Death Wishing, but on terms that everyone can live with. Not sure when the Amazonians will flip the switch to OFF, so make sure your friends get their freebie before it's gone.

Many more positive reviews now than stinkers, and among the latest is a lovely capsule review on Shelf Awareness. The reviewer, Natalie Papailiou, suggests that my narrator is "creepy," and I do not disagree, but it's the first time someone has mentioned it.

Natalie, if you are out there, "This Woman's Work" is playing on the internet radio as I write this. Shivers. All the best.

Also, a mention at Page One, a Poets & Writers "New & Noteworthy" books column.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I want to believe!

First up, a big thanks to Robert Swartwood, who let me blabber on about a particular kind of murder book. Rob's latest is a collection of short fiction called, Phantom Energy, which looks like a winner.

Second, I just received my formal invitation to panel at The 26th Annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival in March of 2012. Yes, this is the festival with the Stella/Stanley shouting contest. I am not overstating things when I say that being asked to participate is a dream com true.

But to darker matters. The free kindle version of Death Wishing has been available since  Friday, but the early ratings on Amazon are disappointing enough that the publisher has suggested we pull the offer early. I'm opposed to that, at least right now, mainly because I don't want to let negative reviews chase me off the experiment, especially now that the freebie is available internationally (except UK and Europe, looks like).  My attitude towards the one star ninjas is that their points of view amount to rejections, and I've got plenty of those that I don't think twice about.  If, however, it looks like I'm dropping off the Top 100, I'll reconsider my martyrdom.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Another weird week, yeah

Most of the week has been slow-no sales, but I've been feeling the love. Three people close to me are in mid-read of Death Wishing, and they chose to gush at me about it yesterday, which, along with the posting of my Recommended Reading list at Ravi Mangla's excellent site, took the edge off my anxiety about the unexplained delay in launching the free Kindle version.

And then there is/was today. Death Wishing is FREE for the time being, which is a huge relief. Right now I'm number 6 in in free kindle amazon lit fic. Gotta love those algorithms.

Tomorrow, Baltimore, and the excellent 5ten Reading series.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Maybe you can fill up on appetizers?

I'm getting very distressed about the delay in offering the kindle version of Death Wishing for free. I know the publishers are doing what they can, and today I even talked to a human at Amazon (an amazonian?).

In the mean time other good things are happening, like the fact that Necessary Fiction posted an excerpt today, and Curio is attracting readers again.

So I will not whine. Not here. Not yet. I will continue to pour my frustration into Jewel Quest III, which strikes me as pretty colonial, but I'm addicted. And I suck, which is good--means the game will last longer.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No Free Lunch--Yet

Complications on the free kindle version. Publishers are looking into it. Sigh.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Freedom: Death Wishing Giveaway

So I am here at the cabin in WV, up a 3:30ish in the morning because my husband's cell phone went into beeping battery cardiac arrest. My cats are stalking & murdering moths, the dogs and man are snoring contentedly. I am effing blogging. Why?

Tomorrow, the 11th, would have been the official release date for Death Wishing, but in fact the physical book has been available for a couple of weeks now. What tomorrow has become then, is the official release date for the electronic versions, and here's where things get pretty exciting:

From October 11 through October 25, the Kindle version of Death Wishing will be available for FREE.

Things my lovely but dusty friends need to know--

Kindle versions don't have to be read on Kindle devices. The reading app is free. Even for PCs I'm pretty sure.

I think it's pronounced KIN-dul, not KEN-doll. You've been saying "kindling" all your life, so what's the problem now?

I really don't need your $$ as much as I need you to click. You have to trust me on this. Things beget and all.

VERY IMPORTANT: If the general public notices the free download option, I may get some bad reviews. It's natural--the demographic that loves FREEDOM & FREE STUFF contains an opinionated subset. Please do not be concerned or defensive by one star reviews. Right now I have no stars, so any attention is good attention.

I'll post about the book party soon. It was a blast, but we found evidence that someone was in Dean's office tampering with his computer. There was a sippy cup next to his keyboard. The suspect list is pretty short. So is the suspect.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A selected guide for new writers

As part of my presentation for Pages & Places, I put together a handout designed to help writers ease into the lively world of literary writing culture. I've heard from some folks who wanted a digital copy, which is the reason for this post. Last night I showed this list to my class, and one of my students had a great question for me after--are there similar resources, pathways in other countries? He's particularly interested in Japanese writing culture.

For my regular readers (all two of you), these are no-brainers. You'll also see some glaring omissions, but my point was to offer places to start for writers who don't feel like they have a community. To give a sense of my Pages & Places crowd, more than half of the audience (perhaps 15-20 folks?) were aware of Goodreads, but only one seemed aware of Zoe or Fictionaut. To talk "platform" at these folks seems cruel and distracting. If I can save just one soul from blowing her money on a Writer's Market guide, I've done my job.
Check the temperature: What’s the buzz in contemporary writing/reading culture?
The Millions
The Nervous Breakdown
Mark Athitakis’ American Fiction Notes
Identity Theory
Galley Cat
The Rumpus

Who are the tastemakers?
Three Guys One Book
The Next Best Book Blog

What’s new in short fiction?
The storySouth Million Writers Award
The Wigleaf Top 50

General Resources
Poets & Writers

Find a writing conference
Writers Conferences & Centers
Poets & Writers Database

Find readers for your drafts
Zoetrope’s Virtual Studio

Find and Agent or Publisher
Agent Query
Association of Authors Representatives
Predators & Editors

NOTE: Most writers should avoid: ANY-ANY-ANY Publisher, Agent, Contest, or Publication that charges a fee for reading, editing, etc.
Of course I'm also reacting to another presenter's not very clear call for writers to make sure they have "platform" built on a strong "internet presence." This advice strikes me as a little sure-fire tips!-y in that it seems to suggest that such a platform can be built to serve the book in formal, well-planned deployment-style. I'm sure that's possible, especially if we are talking about a major release with a team of publicists on deck, but on the indie level, calculated campaigns often smell like what they are. I think it's a bad idea to try to backwards engineer the fact that you care, and there is no reason to wait until you are published or about to be published before entering the conversation. I mean, one hopes that being a reader is more than sufficient credential to weigh in on contemporary writing.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Scranton Report: Pages & Places Book Festival

The Pages & Places Book Festival in Scranton, PA provided my first opportunity to take my Death Wishing on the road. I met the festival's coordinator, writer Bill Black, a couple of years ago when we both read at the 510 series in Baltimore, at which time he'd invited me to read at the fest. I begged off, explaining that I did not have a book to festivate. But this year I do, as does my dear friend Debra Lattanzi-Shutika, and not only were we invited to participate as authors, we were also asked to conduct writing practice/culture "workshops"--Deb did the nonfiction presentation, I did the one for fiction.

We hemmed and hawed for weeks, but finally decided to splurge for an extra night's lodging so we could attend The Prologue Party on Sept 30, which was great. There were very high profile guests, including futurist/physicist Michio Kaku, who was scheduled to give a lecture directly after the party. We did not get to meet him, but we did meet Richard Stallman and spent a good deal of party-time chatting with cartoonist and free culture activist, Nina Paley, whose latest kick is free motion quilting. We also went on a back stairs tour of the Masonic lodge, courtesy of Meeshka? Neshka? It was hard to hear. Whatever your name is, THAT was fun. As was the open bar and tiny pirogies. I'm sorry i did not get a pic of the pirogies.
Nina, Deb, and secret tour guide

The next day were the panels and workshops. We went to the Coal Region Writers panel featuring Sunbury Press authors Thomas Malafarina, Joseph Tarone, & Mike Breslin, all of whom were tremendously charming gents. But after that we were anxious to see the book sale tent--Deb's books were there but not mine, so we headed off to the workshop venue--the The Vintage Theater and Cafe, to see if they were there, instead. But no, and this made me a bit nervous. The Publication workshop was about to begin, so while the venue volunteer tracked down my missing books, we sat in on the session. I wasn't crazy about the presentation--the publisher who was speaking tended towards negativity, complaining about clueless authors the way my teaching colleagues complain about their students, but I do understand how, when you start down that line of discussion, it can get out of hand. And she was egged on by some cynical audience members. I think her presentation was mostly alienating, sad to say. However, I was happy to see Bill Black stride in during the middle with an armload of my books to be displayed in the back for sale.

At that point, the day just got better and better. Lori Hettler of TNBBC drove 30 mins with her mom and son to meet me for coffee, and that was great fun. Deb's session was well attended, and there were great questions, followed by my session, during which Rob Swartwood and his wife showed up. I didn't get many questions, except for a softball lobbed by Rob, but I did sell all the books in the back (like, 6 copies?). Rob & Holly had driven 2hrs, so we all had lunch at some spooky mafia-style steak and seafood joint. Though we were in the middle of downtown, for some reason nothing else was open. By 3 the weather had turned very nasty, and the outdoor portion of the book festival shut down, as well.

Lori Hettler & me

The last event for me was a Barrelhouse hosted reading that night, but the rain kept a lot of folks away. Nevertheless, I got to meet Amye Archer in the flesh (she's a riot), as well as make new friends with poets Dawn Leas and Alexis Czenz Belluzzi. There was an interesting confluence of themes, especially with Amye's, Dawn's and my work, which made the reading seem very special.

In general, a positive, exhausting experience, with an odd but workable mix of high profile and low profile events. If I'm invited to the festival again, I'd probably not use the event hotel but try to get something walking distance. Though there was a shuttle, we always missed it, which meant we were reliant on Deb's nav system, voiced by a lady we named "Recalculating Ruth."

UPDATE: Festival goer D. B. Echo does a wonderful recap of Deb's and my presentations here. Thank you D. B.!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

and it's only tuesday

So people are starting to get their copies of Death Wishing from Amazon, and oddly enough some folks have reported getting two copies. Shrug.

A fantastic review + giveaway went live at Erin Reads, and so far it looks like folks are responding very positively.

One thing seems clear--I sort of have to put the book in people's faces, BUT that's working. I did the Last Rites reading in Baltimore on Sunday. The crowd was small, as the event was scheduled at the tail end of the Baltimore Book fest, but my book went over very well. I have officially joined the ranks of indie writers who hoard 5s and 10s to make change. There's a story problem there: If three hipsters each have a 20 dollar bill, the barista has three 5s, and the guy who came for the warm canned beer has two 10s, how many books can two writers sell if their book are going for 10 bucks a pop? (hint: the second writer has a cold, so she's been sipping on a red plastic cup of whiskey) There were three readers and a country singer named Happy Haines. One guy who bought my book sat down in front of me and immediately read the last page.

Next weekend is Scranton, and the Pages & Places Book Festival where I'm scheduled to offer a workshop session on fiction and writing culture.

I promise to try for more variety in these reading pics. Enjoy the blur:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Versions & Releases

So everyone I know who pre-ordered Death Wishing via amazon has recieved notice that the book has shipped and should arrive by September 28, well ahead of the publisher's release date of October 1. The release date is still listed as Oct 11 elsewhere, but I'm not sure if that means anything at all.

A friend of mine noticed that the iBook version just popped up for pre-order along with a 23 page sample from the beginning of the book. And today, the Kindle version appeared for pre-order as well. both ebook versions are listing for $9.99 so far.

I just had a mini-freak out in the post office having gone there to send out a few copies to VIPs. Glad no one was there, but it was weird. I don't have anxiety attacks. Those are for OTHER PEOPLE.

Tomorrow I'll be at the Last RITES reading in Baltimore. This is a lovely series held every last Sunday of the month in a hostel set up in a 1850s mansion across from the Baltimore Basilica. Check out the room:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A very good day

My reading at Fall for the Book went very well. I saw a lot of familiar faces in the crowd, tons of alumz, and I signed many books. The tent was about half to two thirds full when I started, but by the wrap up it was SRO. I guess hearing some crazy lady reference butcher block table sex will make your average busy sophomore pause for a listen.

While I was reading, Amye Archer's review of Death Wishing went live at Necessary Fiction. It's a great review, plus anyone googling for Jerry O'Connell is going to check it out. THAT's marketing genius.

It was a terrific pleasure to have fellow Ig-mate Jacob Paul at the festival. You can see him at far left of the audience pic below. I introduced his reading later in the evening, and he read a bit from Sarah/Sara but also from a fascinating new manuscript he's calling Chelm Dreaming. Later he visited my class, where they wore him to a nub.

Monday, September 19, 2011

skip your classes, I'll write you a note.

Today I do my first reading from Death Wishing. Noon. The copy from the Fall for the Book festival Page:

Laura Ellen Scott, author of the novel Death Wishing, teaches fiction writing at George Mason University. Her work has been selected for The Wigleaf Top Fifty and Barrelhouse magazine's "Futures" issue. She has twice been nominated for Dzanc's Best of the Web 2010 anthology.

Novelist and Short Story Writer Laura Ellen Scott

Mason professor of English Laura Ellen Scott reads from her debut novel, Death Wishing, a self-described “comic fantasy” set in post-Katrina New Orleans, where one’s dying wishes come true.

Where: Sandy Spring Bank Tent, Johnson Center Plaza,4400 University Dr, Fairfax, VA
When: Monday, Sep 19, 2011, 12:00pm-1:15pm

Not sure why "comic fantasy" is in quotes. Dean asks, "Is that a font?"

Friday, September 16, 2011

Obligatory Box O' Books Pic

So the publisher made sure I got my books asap, and they are gorgeous. No French flap or author photo but I figured that wouldn't happen in this economy, and given that the book was rushed into production to meet the Fall for the Book and Pages and Places deadlines. It's been a great 15 hours so far, with eggplant ravioli, sazeracs, mst3k, and a 4 star rating snuck in by a book blogger on goodreads (she gave the same rating to Little Women). Oh, and somehow I still managed to lose a pound and a half this week, bringing my summer loss to 24 pounds. That's two thirds of a couch beagle, folks. The guitar, drum, and hydrodome belong to Dean. We're keeping the books in his office to avoid shredding (cats) or soiling (boy dog). If you saw my book pics on FB, the Guatemalan skull is mine.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Not Just Letters

Hope you didn't stop by for 9/11 memories. Ours are only interesting to ourselves, and other people have much more important things to say. I hope they get a chance to do so. This newsletter went out to faculty and alums last week. Written by my Art Taylor. My mom made the necklace. And yeah, I always look like I'm about to snort koolaid out my nose.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Official Coming Out of my new Blog: Wish Tank

To promote my novel, Death Wishing, and to create a little fun cross promotion as well, I've launched Wish Tank as a place to collect Death Wishes--as I've redefined the term, a Death Wish is a wish uttered before dying in hopes that it comes true. PLEASE send me a wish--submission details are on the About page. My publishers have pledged to donate copies of my book for a possible wish contest. Coincidentally, the Department newsletter was put in everyone's boxes today and it features a profile of me and the book on the front page, so I've been receiving questions and congratulations from my colleagues all day, which has been gratifying. Also, Barrelhouse (they published my short story called "Wish Tank" a while back--see how this all fits together?) sent out a message to their online subscribers announcing that they are hosting a reading by me and Mark Yakich November 19. If it's in writing it has to be true right?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


novel shipping from printers next week. oh shit

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Spidey Senses . . .

. . .are tingling. can't sleep much.

Also, my hearing impaired student told me I didn't really need to LECTURE THAT LOUDLY for his sake. To be honest, I'd forgotten he was hearing impaired.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It's the little things

I have a "One Note" entry up at Small Doggies today. That was really fun.

You probably heard we had a bit of a geological event here yesterday. Some nick-nacks and picture frames got broken. One of the aftershocks tinkled the hanging wine glasses. But at the time of the quake we were in a thai restaurant. I'm glad the manager laughed when I told him it was because the food was too spicy. After lunch Dean & I walked home and found a check for $25,000 blowing around the sidewalk. Don't worry, we returned it to the Pay To law firm.

Oh, and my first Louisianan reader reports to me that Death Wishing is a "terrific book; really funny." Which is something of a relief, as I've been terrified of the LA response. But the reader did tell me that something I thought I made up--a gothic-y cape shop in the quarter--is real, or at least it was a few years ago.

I get away with stuff. Except for my parody bad review. I guess it wasn't funny/obvious enough? A lot of people got irritated on my behalf. I may be a jackass.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My First Bad Review

Well, it was bound to happen. Found this in a grocery cart tipped over outside the Lutheran church. Apologies for the poor scan, I'm a little too upset to put much effort into this. Click for bigger images. Sigh.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Change

This will be a boring post. Fair warning.

Today is the due date for my promotion packet. I am currently a Term (non-tenure track) Associate Professor, with the opportunity to go up up for Term Full status. I have no idea what that means, but I do know it won't come with money because there is no money. But this is irrelevant to my post. Part of my packet includes a Teaching Statement, as it did 5 years ago when I went up from Assistant to Associate. I wanted to share excerpts from both, if only to show you how things have changed. Keep in mind my argument, if there is any, is light in both instances, because I'm limited to 1000 words and the promotion committee is comprised of literature faculty. Explaining what goes on in a successful creative writing workshop would be a little like describing by phone how to fix a pocket watch.

December 2006:

"From that earliest class in developmental English, which was populated by twenty-four low scoring high school graduates and one mentally challenged adult who had taken and failed the course seven times, to my current classes which are full of students who have self-identified as gifted writers, I find myself returning to the same challenges over and over again; each class I teach, whether it is beginning or advanced, writing or literature, seems to be about overcoming or controlling one’s personal responses for the sake of influencing the personal responses of others. I understand why in composition and literature classes we may encourage entire assignments and projects to remain personally driven (as with journals, response writing, and certain essays), but as my composition and literature students make the transition from personal to critical writing I notice hiccups in proficiency. I have always been worried about the relationship between success in personal writing and competence in other kinds of writing, especially that which requires argumentation and synthesis. And I often think of short fiction as being shaped as an argument, culminating in the fusion of imagery, symbols, action, and character transformations to make an unexpected point. So no matter what kind of class I teach, critical management of the subject is my priority."

August 2011:

"In the past I emphasized the importance of the writer’s critical management of the subject, but to a certain extent that attitude was a response to the fact that the primary form taught in fiction workshops is the conventional ironic/epihanic short story. However, as students and the active reading world become much more interested in very short fiction or very long fiction, I’ve looked for ways to adapt the workshop to accommodate all forms. My thinking mirrors that of writer/BSU professor Cathy Day’s in her essay, 'The Story Problem: 10 Thoughts on Academia’s Novel Crisis.' . . . Initial drafts are produced under highly emotional circumstances, compounded by deadlines. Craft (and often form) is discovered in revision, and understanding that order of development is crucial to effective instruction . . . With technical advances and the reshaping of the publishing industry, we’re starting to see some fascinating development in contemporary fiction, and I want my students to participate—as artists, sure, but also as voices in the public discussion of emerging literature. Along with workshops, craft lectures, exercises, I’ve made a special effort to invite published writers into my classes, at least virtually, to discuss writing culture."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Good things come

The reading tour is taking shape, especially with Elliott Bay and a really cool Writer's Center event added to the list. In feb I'll be doing a Writer's Center Open Door reading or something with fellow Mason alum, Matt Norman, whose debut novel, Domestic Violets, CAME OUT TODAY.

Dean and I are only just talking about the travel plans, logistics. He wants to be with me at these things but he teaches tues-thurs hybrid courses, which means missing the f2f portion is a big deal. I'm thinking of firing up Facetime on my macbook pro for that Weds Oct 26 reading in New Orleans at The Garden District Book shop so he can watch or be by my side. Like a head in a jar on Futurama. Maybe we can do a little comedy routine.

The updated confirmed list of events is here. Not nailed down yet, but looking good for 2012: a 510 reading, a Pank offsite for AWP, and the Tennessee Wiliams/New Orleans Literary Festival.

General question: Book Launch Party? I want one, but is there a point?

Off topic. My response to The Chen-Venn has been a series of immature one-liners that, on my hour long walks into work, coalesce into a brilliant, one-woman show that no one will ever see.

Domestically--Dean is taking his teenaged neice and neph to Universal Studios theme park this weekend. I'll stay home to work on my promotion packet. I'm going up for full prof. I've said this before, but it is probably the least important thing I do career-wise this year.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Ig's website has been beautifully reconditioned, and my page there is awesome.

Gonna head off to WV for a few days this week, so I expect some catastrophe at work.

I've made a very modest contribution to the "On Reading" series at The Laughing Yeti.

My unnecessary review of John Minichillo's The Snow Whale is up at Plumb today.

It's my brother Doug's birthday. I'd do something netty about it, but he doesn't like computers.

Why is PH Madore friending people on Facebook? Guess I should ask him.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dead Mouse Mysteries Presents: Why I was allowed to sleep in this morning

Warning, this post contains images of death.

For most of the summer my animals, two cats and two dogs, have not allowed me to sleep past 7 am, so why was I able to snooze until 9 this morning--trash pick up morning, of all days? I am quite a light sleeper under normal circumstances, but Dean is away and my thoughts are naturally full of serial killers--I should have been up at the crack of dawn. And why was I humming "She's Leaving Home" immediately upon waking? I hate that song.

At first I didn't notice too much that was unusual: a bit of cat puke, the bottom shelf of the book case cleared out and scattered. Newton, my elderly chihuahua was looking paranoid. I assumed he pooped in my office again, to mourn Dean's absence.

And then I found him. Mr. Mousie. Actually, I kinda stepped on him, but he was already dead.

Poor Fella. But Who Dunnit?

The only documented killer in our house is Einstein. She offed two baby bunnies in the first summer we had her. But her alibi was solid; she was with me all night.

So, was it Newton? Not likely, he's got weak legs and cloudy eyes, but he sure looked shifty. And after two weeks of "I can't get down from the bed without help," suddenly he's able to sneak out to the couch on his own? He knows something.

Perhaps it was the alluring and aloof Harriet? She seemed uninterested in breakfast. And she's been doing a lot of internet research lately . . .



Oh Charli, I guess you're not a kitten anymore.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Research Topics

Starting work on the new novel, and already I realize I don't know enough about the following:

Sysco operations
towns/routes adjacent to Death Valley
caramel corn promotional stunts
desert marathon runners
how to pour beer
auto part delivery
wildflower bloom of 2005
Timbisha Shoshone
treasure hunting
80s culture for kids
ephemeral lakes
jobs in the DNR
Welsh guys

In other news, yesterday I was offered the chance to do a reading with Steve Almond in DC, but it turns out I'm going to be in New Orleans when Almond is coming into town. It's probably for the best, seeing as he'd blow me off the stage. He's really amazing, and it's fun to watch an audience full of ladies-of-a-certain-age (my age) fall all over themselves for a chance to chat with him. He's big with the HRT demographic.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Shopping News

We have a Borders store just a couple of blocks from our home, but we stopped shopping there a long time ago when the place was overrun with vampire books and Glenn Beck memoirs. I feel very badly for the folks losing their jobs, though; they work hard. We stopped into the store yesterday, and it was a madhouse of activity, mainly kids running wild. But the discounts weren't worth the trouble--only 10% for the stuff I like. 40% off magazines, though, so we bought Oxford American, Twisted South, Q, Carving, and Lost Treasure. The last two are probably not familiar to you, but they are what they seem: a wood working magazine and a treasure hunting magazine. Whole pile for $20.

My advice, if you are doing any book or other shopping this week, is to do it online. The folks at the Scranton based Pages & Places book festival are running a fundraiser for Equality PA, an organization that supports LGBT causes in Pennsylvania, and this is the final week. If you shop amazon through this portal, a portion of the proceeds goes to Equality PA.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Learning Smarts

Last weekend I attended the inaugural Indie Lit Summit in DC, sponsored by the moguls and mavens of Barrelhouse and The Lit Pub, and facilitated—with charm and efficiency—by B’s poetry editor Dan Brady. The summit is a regional thing where literary editors and publishers convene to discuss the problems and opportunities of the day; in our case, the breakout sessions we decided on were marketing, readings venues, and community building. I should stop writing “we,” though. I’m pretty sure I was the only non-publisher/editor in the room, and I tried very hard not to wade into discussions with ideas like, “Let’s all buy a beach house together and smoke opium and have barbecue party-readings!”

It was an eye-opening, full day of discussions, kicked off with a keynote from Andy Hunter of Electric Literature—and here I should confess that I have ignored EL ever since I first heard about them and that they paid writers $1000 per short story. I’m either a bolshie asshole or I think boutique short fiction is a whitefolks concern (those positions might be the same), but Hunter was pretty convincing about the commercial possibilities of new fiction + innovation. I should also remind you that I believe everything that anyone tells me at the time they are telling me it. One of the points he made was that Rick Moody’s twitter based story for Electric Literature in 2009 was a huge success, despite the immediate backlash from mainstream concerns. You can read the argument here, but the upshot was 1) the story was good, and 2) the delivery resulted in a dramatic (like 10X) increase in followers and subscriptions for EL.

By the end of the day the Indie Lit Summit came up with some very exciting ideas that I probably shouldn’t go into right now, but in general it felt like the smartest-guy-in-the-room from several rooms all ended up in the same one at once: 826DC, appropriately enough.

Several things became really clear as we attempted to build a list of reading spaces that already exist in the DC/Baltimore area:

1) There are lots of places to read. Yay!
2) If you write poetry and nonfiction. Oh.
3) Not many are bookstores. Dang.

So let’s say your debut novel is coming out in October, and your publisher is counting on your hometown events to be big draws. You may be screwed, lady.

Learning highlight: If you skip out on the last minutes of the Marketing & Publicity session to have frozen yogurt with gummi bear mix-ins with your fairy-princess costumed gosh-daughter you’ll miss out on something important about Smashwords.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Big Secret

Right now my new computer is being shipped from Shanghai, which means that by July 21 or thereabouts I will begin writing my next novel. It's all rolling around in my head--set in Death Valley 2005 during the big bloom and there was enough water in Lake Manley to float a kayak. It's going to be a treasure hunt story with a quirky heroine who inherits a mystery house from a cowboy actor.I can't wait to get started.

I don't do MFA bashing; I have one myself, and I'm a firm believer in the fact that you need to work hard and develop to make those 2-3 years mean something. There are too many folks going into programs expecting to have The Big Secret revealed to them at last, and they slip into a passive mode, almost a regression. Well here it is, this is what nobody is willing to tell you but me: writing novels is a blast. writing short stories is kind of a pain. In MFA programs you'll be writing lots of short stories, and it's gonna hurt.

I found out from my publisher that he was nervous about asking me to do so many significant revisions to Death Wishing because he was sure I couldn't do them. Every other time they'd asked a writer to re-write significantly, it had ended in failure. In fact, it's Ig's unofficial policy to reject any book that needs revisions. But they really wanted this book to be what it is now. End of inspirational story

But here's the pervy part. When they said "change all this, but we might not like how you do it anyway" I was delighted. I got to write the book again.

Writing books is fun. I've known that since I was a kiddo.

Not sure what I'm getting at here. I wish my computer would hurry itself up and get here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Let's seeeeee. Just sent back galley corrections to the publisher. Working on website. Got my picture taken. All these have bw versions as well, but so far my 3 yr old publicity manager says, "I like the pink one!" The pics with the meerkats statuette are in my office (hence the FROM HELL graphic novel in the back). The Dylan/bird/shadowbox pics were taken in poets Eric Pankey's/Jennifer Atkinson's office. I'm pretty sure the shadowbox was made by my dear friend Tara, the inspiration behind this very short story. My beautiful mother made the necklaces. The photos were taken by artist Jennifer Stone, who remains the only person able to take a non-freakish looking picture of me.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Uncanny Valley's developing catalogue of the strange

So Mike Meginnis' and Tracy Bowling's Uncanny Valley Press now has three web releases, and I think we can see a bit of a pattern developing.

Curio, my 21 little ghost stories

Sutherland Douglass' Peeping Tom 'Rockefeller', an excerpt from a fictional psycho-sexual memoir of 'Clark Rockefeller'

Gabriel Blackwell's Neverland, a satirical exhibition from the infamous Discovery Institute, those champions of intelligent design.

I don't know what's happening with the proposed print version of Uncanny Valley Magazine, but as curators of online weird, I think Mike and Tracy are doing a thrilling job. I am incredibly pleased to be a part of whatever their vision seems to entail.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Creative Response

So we're sort of going nuts here on Planet Lala, preparing mentally for a book tour that's gonna have us zig-zagging the nation. I say mentally, because nothing concrete is being achieved, except on Mom's end. She's making necklaces for me to read at all the events. She made everything on this table, more than half of which were strung specifically for the tour, and there's another 5 or so coming. Her designs are growing more dramatic all the time.

I have no clothes, though. I'll have to wait until near the end of summer, when I hope I'll be a size smaller.

The second pic I call "Charli's Choice," and yes, that is a Snug Harbor Souvenir Typhoon go-cup near the bottom.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Advance Uncorrected Proofs arrived today!

280 pages--40 more than expected. Can't wait to read it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

But surely not in this order . . .

New Orleans
San Francisco
Baton Rouge

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Having a great couple of days here with a new novel idea sort of developing geometrically--a kooky desert romance + treasure hunt, maybe sorta like a 60s movie--and Dean says the concept is a winner, but I have to get my notes on the dry-erase board asap.

Thing is, I don't want to erase the board because it has my Death-Wishing notes on it (once showcased at the defunct Hit and Run blog). I'm so un-sentimental about physical stuff, but this board--I can't do it. And Dean says it's a sign of profligate madness to buy a second board. Sigh.

In other news, Death-Wishing just popped up on a British distribution site with a slightly different and spoiler-y plot description. The more I look at book jacket summaries, the less I understand them.

Friday, June 10, 2011

How to, by Charli

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Louisiana Stories

My review of Sara Gran's Claire DeWitt and The City of The Dead went live late last night on Art Taylor's blog, Art & Literature: the Literary Blog of Raleigh's Metro Magazine, and today he interviewed me about Death Wishing for our department newsletter. I just finished a writing up a Q&A to go out with review copies, and I guess I'm relieved that the questions Art asked me were pretty close to the ones I asked myself. Like, "Why New Orleans?"Because that's where I want to be.

Of course the reason Art gave me the Gran book to review was because of the NO connection, and Claire is a wonderful, original book, and I hope there will be a Claire DeWitt series. Gran's New Orleans is a scarier place than my new Orleans, but we both ended up with major characters named Vic. Weird.

Here's an ad we threw together--might appear in the latest issue of Gargoyle if we got it to the editor on time: