Friday, December 31, 2010

Writing in public, 2010

I've been trying to write this post for days but threw out my drafts. We're in the French Quarter for the holiday weekend, and I just received the contract for my New Orleans novel by email. Haven't had a drink but I feel pretty drunk right now. Not joking, I'm woozy.

so, details. The publisher is IG Publishing, and we've been working back and forth since last new year's eve. There will be a few more edits and we have yet to settle on a title, so suggestions are welcome. Here was/is the query:

If you had one wish to change the world, what would it be? Now what if it had to be your dying wish?

In post-Katrina New Orleans, final words can cure cancer, wreck economies, and eliminate house cats. Divorced and disgraced up north, Victor hopes to re-invent himself in the French Quarter where he lives with and works for his son in a vintage shop making corsets and capes. All he wants is a quiet, drunken, carefree life,but after a series of eccentric deathbed wishes come true — including the return of the 1967 Elvis, clouds turned orange, and mothers growing third eyes — Death Wish hysteria forces Vic into action. Along with his entrepreneurial son Val, and his libertine friend Martine, Victor must battle the apocalyptics who have seduced his lovely neighbor Pebbles away from her true vocation of singing the blues (very badly). But Victor must also confront his mortal identity: just what would he wish for the world, especially the world without him in it?

Some stories adapted from the novel have appeared in Juked, Barrelhouse, Pank, killlauthor, and Storyglossia. the Juked one probably captures the spirit of the book in the briefest space, but the Barrelhouse story (in print, issue 7) comes closest plot and style-wise.

My students say the book falls into the genre of urban fantasy, whatever the heck that is.

I love you all. Going out for lunch. Going to try not to hug random New Orleans bums and aristocrats. Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dear Recycling Team,

Yes, that's an empty champagne bottle on the top of all those cat food tins. No, I don't think I'm Zsa Zsa Gabor or even Edina Monsoon. I had/have something to celebrate ahead of the official holidays, but as it's still an unofficial occasion for joy, I'll keep my yap shut-or full of $25 fizzy wine from the Korean grocery. (Back channel gossip welcome, though).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thumbnail Re-posts

When I saw that the purveyors of brief literary art at Thumbnail Magazine were looking for blog content, I volunteered material from the VIPs on vsf site--pending original author approval of course. Today, they've reposted Tara Masih's sweet little essay "How to String Together a Story Collection," an article I re-read frequently.

Enjoy! again.

In other no-news-yet-news, I will spend these days leading to Christmas peering up at the virtual skies.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What we were doing

One of the least well kept secrets of the summer was that Cami Park and I had put together a group of five women (Cami, me, Erin Fitzgerald, Andrea Kneeland, and Donora Hillard) to collaborate on a dark-themed flash collection that was going to feature a lot of art, graphic novel style. The project was Cami's baby, but she had dubbed me her co-editor, the marvelous benefit being that she and I were in frequent contact. Sadly, we did not get very far in the project before she became ill--as a group we spent the first 6 weeks or so joking and gossiping more than we wrote, time I consider very well spent, regardless. When Cami dropped out of sight, even from our private group board, we didn't question that for some time. Cami was a private person, one of the few people whose "privacy" did not strike me as perversely narcissistic.

But I don't think I have a right to make any sweeping memorial-type statements about Cami; like a lot of folks who loved her, I didn't know much about her, not even what she looked like. We only discussed writing and writers, but we did it a lot. I can say that Cami's fiction did for me what music and poetry is supposed to do--it carved new pathways in my brain.

So what I have to say is fragmented, it's all I know. She gave me fantastic advice on fictionaut. She wrote an amazing mini essay on titles for my very short fiction blog. Sometimes she'd IM me with the latest on one of her dust-ups--she stepped into a few messes at Zoe. She had a fat dog. She was not averse to a bit of priest bothering. Doing all those poetry-book-a-day reviews in September almost drowned her.

Tomorrow her memorial service will be at Circus Circus in Reno. I'm guessing it will take place in a normal, non-clown festooned space, and those of you fortunate enough to go--please send my love. However, I must point out that there will be performances on the midway by JR Johns and his dogs at 12:50 and 2:30. Do what you know is right, and bring back a slanted report.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


We bought our cabin in the WV panhandle in late 1997, closing the weekend after Michael Hutchence died. Not a lot has changed in the area since then, but goats are getting more popular. I'm guessing that's because they are cheaper than alpacas.

Less than one mile from our cabin there is an extraordinary sight on Route 9: an excavation contractor has a couple of medium-small duty machines parked in his driveway, along with hand lettered signs advertising skilled labor. Then in the lawn area:

a genuine beardy, horned billy goat (used to be tethered to a barcalounger, but is now allowed to roam)
a trampoline
two large red dogs, free range with itchy butts
a plastic, castle style kid's playhouse
spiderman, hanging by the neck from a tree (he goes up at halloween, doesn't come down for months)

I can't get a picture because there is no room--this is all happening on a sharp, narrow mountain road. So to confirm to each other and remember, Dean and I speak the inventory out loud every time we pass: goat, trampoline, dogs, castle, spiderman. It's like a Meg Pokrass prompt, but I will never be able to write a story that will do it justice.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Premature announcement

I shouldn't say anything yet, but I'm too excited not to. And yet, I don't have anything to say--except that the kind folks behing not-even-fledgeling-yet Uncanny Valley dig Curio, the ghost/goth story collection that I've been pushing since March. Details are still floating about (I only found out yesterday [best thanksgiving ever, or at least better than last year's ulcer party]), but I can confirm that we are not talking conventional chapbook.

so excited.
too excited. too too.
stoopid happy. got up at 4 this morning for no good reason, that kinda thing.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Old TG story: "The Cool Aunt"

I'm passive/aggressively pretending Blip doesn't exist until they get the Mississippi Review online archive posted. For me, getting published in MR was really important to my progress. Here's a Thanksgiving story that appeared in a politics themed issue from 2004, edited by Gary Percesepe. Al Gore was in that issue, too.

"The Cool Aunt" is about a middle class teenager from PA who decides to wear a burqa to a family gthering. It's a conventional, domestic kinda story, one of the last I ever wrote of that type. The Thanksgiving story I'm working on now is a series of flash sections with crows, ministers, and a dead kid in the attic. And yes, Donna, there is a pie.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

idea for a national park

My husband has an Ipad, so one of his jobs is to tell me what's really happening in the world while CNN's John Roberts struggles to curb his impulse to say "you go girlfriend" every 15 minutes during the morning news. But there is coffee involved, and Dean sometimes flits through several stories, so I usually go out into the world armed with a jumbled sense of current events.

For a few minutes yesterday I was seized by the incorrect notion that coyotes were roaming the streets of Detroit, apparently with the blessing of that city's wildlife management agency. But that was wrong--the city in question is actually Chicago.

And I was disappointed. I've been to Detroit exactly one time, under stressful conditions, and I recall that there was an eerie yellow fog hovering over a cracked highway leading into a gray city that was quiet and edgy. In the years since (about 20 now), the Detroit of my imagination is post-apocalyptic. I apologize to the real Detroit, but the Detroit in my mind is a perfect place to encounter a coyote loping down the middle of an abandoned city street.

Not that it's possible, but if we did put aside some stretch of a failed, post-industrial city watched over by the NPS, I'd go.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Time is hard to predict

This two day work week will be jam packed with things that need to get done, food that must be eaten, and stress that WILL float to the top. I'm going to walk as much as I can so that I can argue with my imaginary friends--

I just noticed we haven't changed the calendar page from October.

The collaborative project seems to have stalled, except that I just blooped out a new, horrible story last night.

I am expecting news, which means I'm as emotionally stable as a 14 year old.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

JMWW Anthology V--I want to believe

I'm listed as a contributor to the JMWW V Anthology, which, if it is like their previous anthologies, is a best-of collection from their 2010 issues. There is a horrible possibility that my name appears on this list in error, but if that is the case I'll just be pitiful and entitled until Jen gives in.

The all star line up--

Lindsay Ahl
Matt Bell
George Blecher
Andrew Borgstrom
Callista Buchen
Alan Stewart Carl
Alexandra Chasin
Kim Chinquee
Robert Coover
SL Corsua
Patrick Dacey
Jeremy M. Davies
Nicelle Davis
Andy Devine
Spencer Dew
Brian Evenson
Jon-Michael Frank
Timothy Gager
Scott Garson
Katrina Gray
Justin Hamm
Jane Hammons
James Hannaham
Clarinda Harriss
Lily Hoang
Tim Horvath
Joanna Howard
Jamie Iredell
Kevin Killian
Brian Kiteley
Norman Lock
Ben Loory
Robert Lopez
Sean Lovelace
Miguel Morales
David Peak
Emily Peterson
Nate Pritts
Timothy Raymond
Ethel Rohan
Davis Schneiderman
Savannah Schroll Guz
Laura Ellen Scott
Amber Sparks
Ken Sparling
Terese Svoboda
J.A. Tyler

Monday, November 8, 2010

let the ass kicking contest begin!

Even though I am way too busy, I just set a bunch of projects in motion, several related to my duties at Prick of the Spindle, a job that gets more interesting with each issue.

But it's also my favorite part of the semester--we're lurching into round 3 submissions for my advanced workshop. I LOVE round 3 because that's when everyone panics, having run out of polished work. Give me something sloppy, inspired, and volatile, kids.

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNaNuNu: Day 1

They got me again. We're coordinating NaNoWriMo events at Mason again, but this time with a BUDGET. No more passing out leftover Halloween candy at write-ins.

Come here to watch us suffer.

BTW nano-haters, I care not one crap about your cynicism. Hope it keeps you warm at night. Oh, and shut up anyway.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Just learned that Smokelong Quarterly has nominated my story, "Last Seen Leaving" for Dzanc Books' Best of the Web 2011 collection. Yes yes yes yes.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sophie Hannah Interview

Thanks to Art Taylor for letting me throw a few questions at British crime fiction writer Sophie Hannah for his blog. This was fun.

If you don't know Hannah's work, but you like Tana French, give her a shot. Penguin has released a bunch of her Charlie Zailer/Simon Waterhouse books in lovely trade paper editions--all with different titles than the UK eds, so be careful. The US order is

Little Face
The Wrong Mother
The Truth-Teller's Lie
The Dead Lie down

That should tide you over.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Read silently to yourself, please

Oof. We held a reading yesterday, and though a ton of folks said they were coming, only two people who was not one of the coordinators, readers, or readers' companions showed. So we conducted the reading salon-style, and that would have been a treat if I could have quelled my embarrassment. And I swear this is true: one of two non-affiliated attendees took a wee nap during the third reading.

I don't think there's anything to blame except for the fact that we were competing with a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in a volatile season--

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Making Vips on vsf more useful

I'm thinking updating the Vips on vsf blog in a few ways and then putting out a call for new contributions. One thing I need to do to make it more useful is create an easy and thorough index--for example, I gotta be able to find Cami's essay on titles, Joe & Kathy's collaborations, or Lauren's Granta pestering argument a lot more quickly. But also, I think there's room to expand the discussion to include notes on publishing experiences, interviews, etc. I even think the "vsf" focus no longer needs to be as central . . .

If you use it or want to, let me know what you or your students would like to see.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"The Brewsters" at Moon Milk Review

Rae Bryant gets me. I'm really thrilled to see my story in Moon Milk Review # 9, an especially creepy issue, with my new buddy John Minichilo and my old buddy Eddie Poe.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dark Sky Interview!

I know, I know, Brad Green is supposed to have taken over the "Spotlight" author interview series over at the beautifully redesigned Dark Sky Magazine, but Ethel Rohan still has a few interviews in her back pocket, including this one with ME. Really happy about this because it's been a quiet season for me, and I really want to get back in the conversation.

Btw, Ethel's collection, Cut Through the Bone, is available for pre-order by Oct 15. Rexi says, "Buy on it!"

And a serious plea for assistance--where should I submit my little ghostie book? my email is in my profile.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gang Related

Not the best kept secret in the world, but I'm collaborating on a slash project with Lana Turner, Claudine Longet, and Jean Harris. Possible drafty by AWP time, so look out world. Sliterature!

(actually we're still only in the gossip stage)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Well hello there

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Prick of the Spindle 4.3 is live

Go here for this season's gallery of fun. 4.3 marks my second full issue as Fiction Editor, and I'm getting into the groove now. The biggest challenge had been how to deal with "friend" submissions, but now I'm over that. The sheer volume of subs + having a life makes it impossible to treat every special baby like a special baby, and luckily our reading process leaves plenty of room for me to deny influence.

I did struggle with the reviews I wrote for this issue, and I think it shows. I wasn't crazy about the books, and I kept having to re-define my purpose. I think my deal is to try to reveal enough about the writing that my opinion can be tossed if it gets in the way.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Storytime! for cats and tots

The party boys of Barrelhouse hosted a reading of Moon Milk Review writers last night in DC, and it was great fun.Very well attended and I finally picked up Molly Gaudry's verse novella We Take Me Apart, as well as the latest issue of Barrelhouse (#8, "Office Life"), which I'd been resisting out of petulance. I failed to convince Dan Brady that they should use the cover art for issue 7 as their permanent profile image.

I'm not sure if this was her first reading, but my 2 & 1/2 year old gosh daughter (fave quote from dinner: "Oh yeah, remind me to get you a copy of the will") squirmed quietly and charmingly during the first set of readers which included Randall Brown. She really likes the clapping part. After she and her folks cut out at half-time, several people commented on how good she was--and she was very good--but just minutes earlier we were chasing her through a restaurant, trying to stop her from running out into the street with about four twenty dollar bills she managed to snatch from the cash machine.

This morning I woke up to find that the gorgeous card that Rae Bryant distributed to promote the latest MMR issue had been mauled by Harriet. She loves Ben Loory, is my guess.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Can we write off our booze to Smokelong and Prick of the Spindle?

This reading is at the Black Squirrel tomorrow night, same location as the Smokelong/Corium/Prick of the Spindle AWP offsite reading in Feb 2011. Tara Laskowski and I feel duty bound to check it out. Thoroughly. We even lined up drivers so we can get ripped.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Howling in the Wires: An Anthology of Writing from Postdiluvian New Orleans

This afternoon I just received my copy of A Howling in the Wires a collection mostly just-after-or around-Katrina writings edited by Sam Jasper and Mark Folse, published Gallatin & Toulouse Press. As of this posting I'm about a quarter of the way through, and I'm buzzing with the awful vitality of the volume. I learned about the collection from a facebook posting by an old friend, Greg Peters (frenemy? the man can wear the hell out of a leather kilt, but he once told me he hated me when I was funnier than he was, which had to be a tough way for him to live). Greg's got the first two entries, and entries is the right term for the pieces range wildly from literary to journalistic to emergency bulletin style, deliberately unpolished to retain the immediacy of their original expression--that decision was GENIUS, btw. Anyway, the book has my neck hairs rising. I'm serious. So far Howling is both rough and sentimental, sitting somewhere between Robert Smallwood's ragged, good, but is-it-completely-honest? The Five People You Meet in Hell:Surviving Katrina and David Eggars' mournful and smoothly crafted Zeitoun.

Shit, I even like the poetry.

More soon.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

the dog ate my book report. the dog will starve

So writing reviews is pretty damn hard. Not quite as hard as writing a query letter, but still. My eyes actually go blurry as I try to craft the simplest phrasing, which strikes me as a symptom. Someone I respect said, somewhere, that the content of reviews is unimportant to the sale of the book. But who was it,and where did they say this? Did I dream it? I hope not, because I just told my class that it was the truth.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

High class AWP off site readings!

Your Thursday and Friday nights are spoken for

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Top 10 typos & recommended corrections

Culled from Dean's notes--he read my draft on his new ipad.

P.12: Why "boom, boom,boom"?
P. 27: "whale tale" --whale tail
P.135: "acetic? Do you mean ascetic?
P. 190: Paula's gun & badge?
P. 277: "Rose" should be Rosé
P. 279: big concert?
P. 316: no comma between "dozen large"
P. 317: Change "Boy Dum Dum" to Dum Dum Boy
P. 318: When the doors open slowly, it seems someone is sneaking on the snoozing Elvis. Maybe "the doors slowly opened outward"? Or something?
P. 324: Qua's his wrists-- cut "his"

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Post revision paranoia

Almost a week out from having "finished" the revision of Wisher, my New Orleans novel (formerly called Social aid & Pleasure),I am waiting to hear from my readers and reflecting on my choices. I've already heard from an editor-friend who had many lovely, positive things to say and was undeterred by the bewildering dregs of a subplot I had failed to delete completely (I got rid of a major character, but I recycled her sex scenes). I'm waiting to hear from my husband, who is re-reading, and a close friend seeing the work for the first time. The earlier draft has been read by about a half dozen folks ranging from friends, agents, and publishers. So far no one has called me out on what I think is a glaring issue--none of my main characters are African American. My out, of course, is that I usually write about characters who have traveled to the place of the novel to re-invent and restore themselves, and in Wisher my main characters, Victor and Val Swaim, are white folks from up north who have fled the suburban life they we born into. Another point--none of my main characters are Louisiana natives, either. While I have no qualms about appropriating and messing with "male" experience, I don't think I could ever cross the color/culture line in a meaningful way. Having been raised in a casually racist environment probably means that my creativity will always be subject to my guilt and desire to correct for my family, 50% of whom feel no shame while the other 50% us waddle around changing the damned subject.

Thinking about this today as I encountered a student who complained that her Government Ethics text book was "heavier than a dead minister"--is that a saying? Because I laughed my ass off. But then I was catapulted back into embarrassed child mode when she told me she did not want to go to a particular admin office to complete her paperwork because "that black gal down there is bossy."

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I think I got through the revision at about noon today, so I did a find/replace to change all the Teeters to Colliers, called Dean (visiting his mom, possibly buying a 1950s microscope), FB chatted with Ethel (we usually talk about the vicissitudes), and called my mom (she's done with meanies).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010



Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Pick: John Minichillo's "Working Halloween for Christmas Money"

I was away last week (in Jamaica!!!) when my pick for Smokelong Weekly went live: John Minichillo's "Working Halloween for Christmas Money" so I did not get a chance to promote it, and now everyone has read it already (except for the Malaysian googler who seeks "foot rub fiction" and visits my blog every two months or so). Anyway, isn't it a great story, and totally messed up from a writing teacher point of view?-- which is one of the things John and I talk about in the interview that will probably accompany his story when the next SLQ appears.

mini chillo

Monday, July 26, 2010

New Story at Smokelong! (look at me using only one exclamation pt)

SLQ lives! and my ghost story "Last Seen Leaving" is in it, accompanied by a marvelous photo by an old friend, Jason Ellison. Be sure to click on the image for the full deal, so good. My Bio talks about the story as coming from my collection-in-progress, which was true then, but Curio made Pank's Little Books shortlist this year and is now out at a couple of publishers for consideration. There's also an interview where I try to pick a fight with the usual suspects.

Big thank you to Tara Laskowski who encouraged me to submit "Last Seen Leaving" to Smokelong. I wouldn't have thought to do so. & then shortly after, she took on an editorial role at SLQ, so that meant she helped me get the story into the shape you see now, including the title.

The Chronicler is a figure in a few of the stories from the collection.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mason Alumni Appreciation Workshop & Reading

So this Saturday I'm running this thing--I'm always hearing from graduates that now they are out of school, they feel untethered to a writing community. Even though there are plenty of readings and workshops locally, I think a good portion of our former students would like a little more help entering a scene, and I totally get that. I cooked up this idea after the Dzanc workshops in March, although our thing is not so much a fundraiser simply because all the money we've raised is going toward paying the small group facilitators, and maybe some lunch for me, Tara Laskowski, and Art Taylor.

Our thing will go like this:

10am--Poet Wade Fletcher will talk about Metro area opportunities and resources, like readings series, workshops, festivals, etc. He's very good at this, having helped run the Cheryl's Gone series as well as Mason's Fall for the Book festival.

103am -12 Workshop session one

12-1pm Lunch discussion with me, Art Taylor, and Tara Laskowski. The topic is writing after Mason, or as we more delicately put it on the flyer, "Writing After Graduation." You know Art from his mystery & crime fiction, his blog interviews, and his reviews in the Washington Post. Tara's got a ton of great stories out there and is now an editorial force at Smokelong Quartery.

1-2:30pm Workshop Session two

2:30-4pm Free & Open to the Public
Readings by Joe Hall, Mel Nichols, and Kyle Semmel. They'll each read about 10-15 minutes, so we will use the rest of the time for an "open mic," prioritizing the workshop participants. Of course I have no mic set up at this time, so it may just be a shouting event.

If you want to come out, the reading will be in the Johnson Center Bistro (lowest floor in the JC). Parking is free on the green areas of this map: files/parkingmap09.pdf

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

dear cosmos

message received.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Econ 101: Tales of Mystery & Gloom

My completely unscientific survey of attitudes among newly minted teens (total of three interviewed) suggests that Micheal Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story" is as important to young thinkers now as Rand's novels have been to the same demographic for the last fifty years.

I guess I'm impressed that Moore's fairly predictable essay on financial oppression seems to resonate so powerfully with the junior high set. I don't recall "Bowling for Columbine" as being anything other than darkly amusing to the same population.(But maybe I didn't know enough teens then. Ye gods, did I really write that sentence?)

Wish I had one of those Live Journal thingies. Mood: Hopeful

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What it's all about

I currently have two books "out" for consideration by publishers. One is the Louisiana novel, and the other is the ghosty-gothic vsf collection. I may have gotten my little toe in the door with one publisher, so if I'm not very social lately it's because I'm attempting a re-write based on some excellent notes. I was doing this last year at this time, too, but in that case I was trying to inject a project with more commercial elements to please an agent. THAT did not work out. This time, I'm trying to recover the heart of the concept, and in the process my soul as well. It's way easier than you think. As if that weren't motivation enough, years back my old man and I made a deal. If I get a book accepted by an agent or publisher, I get a SECOND pinball machine. This is not the sort of info I can comfortably include in a query letter.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

my brain turned over

If writing is the exercise of thinking, then I'm just getting my heart rate up.

This is about revision.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Things I wish I had the energy to do this weekend

I wish I had it together to put on a pig mask and a snow suit and dance around the webcam at night. I'd send the photos to the cell phones of my friend's kids who were just busted for prank calls.

On a gentler note, I'd like to drive into DC and look for parking this holiday weekend with a dried pine tree tied to the top of the car. If we could get it to be a little bit on fire, that would be extra neat.

Happy 4th, everyone.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Project idea

I'm busy with my novel revision this summer, but I did have a great idea for a novella in flash or verse: the story of a smiley-fiction-writer-family-man who drops off the indie-lit radar for months on end to get caught up on his serial killing (once a passion, now a tedious duty). He seizes the chance to combine both vocations when the AWP Conference comes to his home town one frosty February in the future.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Some days are too much

Here's a blurry pic of me at the 510 reading in Baltimore yesterday. Do I look insane enough? The GIANT HEAD in the foreground is one of Timothy Gager's relatives, I believe.

I'm up at 4 this morning, freaking blogging. Yesterday was too full, kicking off with news (not good/not bad) that made it near impossible to focus and enjoy the riches of the day. Here's hoping today brings a bit of perspective. I won't go into detail about the news except to say that I received some amazing notes about my novel, but moving forward means serious revision, and even then the future is iffy. This kind of situation usually energizes the hell out of me, but the wave hasn't struck yet.

Prick of the Spindle
4.2 went live yesterday, and the issue is the first that I have been fully involved in as the newly minted Fiction Editor. For Father's Day, I recommend Carmen Lau's "Taking Care," one of my favorite pieces in the issue. Also, DO NOT MISS Art Taylor's "Mrs. Marple and the Hit-and-Run," a story that does something completely new and lovely with sleuth narrative. In the poetry section, Lucy Jilka has three featured pieces that will knock you flat, and over in interviews I'm talking to Danny Collier about his web poetry project, An Abbreviated Family Dictionary. This issue also marks my official debut as a reviewer. Erin McKnight and I dogpile Michelle Reale's chap, Natural Habitat, with two reviews, and I've also reviewed Jacob Paul's novel Sarah/Sara.

Late in the day we headed off to Baltimore, to the fantastic Minas Gallery for the last 510 reading before summer break. Thank you Jen Michalski for inviting me out to read with Timothy Gager, Bill Black, and Curtis Smith, and I apologize for our group ADHD. I do regret not joining the crowd for dinner after, but my head was swimming with too much weird to do any socializing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Just putting this pic up to provoke Jason J. Harriet is doing well in her second week of broke-leg boredom and has been upgraded from the pink to yellow bandage (not really an upgrade, but don't tell her that). She has at least 3 more weeks of this crap. The vet told us to keep her "still". Oh yeah? she's a 10 month old kitten, with an 11 month old kitten soul mate. She is still an expert climber, but not such a good getting-down-er.

In other news, it looks like I'm going to be in the year end Moon Milk Review anthology, which is thrilling. I met MMR editor Rae Bryant at the Dzanc National Workshop Day fund raiser workshop sponsored by Barrelhouse back in March, where we discovered we shared a lot of common ideas about new fiction. I LOVE MMR, and I'm really stoked about this.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

510 Reading Series, June 19--Me and some real writers

I'll be in Baltimore this Saturday for a 510 Reading along with Curtis Smith, Timothy Gager, and Bill Black. I'm pretty sure that I'm the weak sister in this line-up, seeing as I don't have a book. So I went out and bought an outrageous witch-style blouse. Imagine this in drippy font: You Will Remember Meeeeee . . .

Geographically, Baltimore is not that far away, but psychically? Holy crap, the things they do with words.

Hope to see you there--I'll be the crazy lady in the silly tunic.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pank Little Books: ETHEL!!!!!

It's already shaping up to be an interesting week. Not only am I reading for SLQ, last night I found out that I made the shortlist of finalists for the second year of Pank's Little Books series. Last year they published Aaron Burch’s HOW TO TAKE YOURSELF APART, HOW TO MAKE YOURSELF ANEW, a sweet book gorgeously produced. Like a lot of writers lately, I'm a wee bit frustrated by the crickety silence out there--making the finals is more than I hoped for.

This year they are publishing three books by these fine writers: Matt Salesses, Nicolle Elizabeth, and (drum-roll): ETHEL ROHAN. That Ethel is getting Hard to Say published has Crabtree & Evelyn-reeking fists pumping in the air all over indie-ana. Really, it means a lot to us.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I AM This Week's Reader @ Smokelong Quarterly!!

So excited to be the guest editor reading submissions that come in Monday, June 7 to Sunday, June 13 for the Smokelong Weekly feature at SLQ. I think these come in blind, but I'm not sure. I hope I pick someone totally insane.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Write me this?

I can't find anything at Borders that tickles my fancy, so maybe someone will do up a custom job for me? An evolving list of what bits I want in a novel right now:

-220 pages. 178 even better. 178 pages is my favorite length.

-Gothic mouth feel

-Black comedy

-GREEN and shadowy. Belize? Ireland?

-Discovery in a box of photographs YES, in a box of documents NO

-Characters who make decisions

-Characters who are smarter than me

-Characters with physical features that could either bug you or turn you on, depending on your mood (broken nose, wonky eye, ape torso, etc)

-3rd person narrator fluent in wit and steam

-PIE. I don’t like pie in real life, but in novels I love pies

-Wrath, pride, lust, envy, gluttony. Greed and sloth not so much.

-Accidental interrogations

-Woman against nature

-Philadelphia Story with middle class psychopaths

-“Say something once, why say it again!?”

-Adult siblings with intense relationships YES, Dynasties with fearsome blank-riarchs NO

-Water—a lake or an ocean. Not a river.

-Beverages, patio living

-A long held secret that is not be about child abuse. geez

-Fortune, not fate

-A broad view, narrow focus

-Disorganized crime

-Unusual hobbies, explained quite a bit

-Jolly godlessness

-A genuine finish. There Will Be Blood, yeah?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Genuine Question: about novels

I know the obvious answer must be that I'm reading the wrong stuff, but why are novels so repetitive? It seems to me that a significant chunk of the long form is given over to stating and restating conditions and rationalizations that have already been decently established. The repetitive habit almost seems like etiquette, not immediately meaningful.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

This week's to-do list, plus a time-waster

First week of vacay is over, and now begins week two, in which I have to Get Shit Done. Here are a bunch of to-do items beginning with "-ing" words:

--hoping to craft my review of Jacob Paul's novel, Sarah/Sara, for possible inclusion in the next issue of Prick of the Spindle. It's a fascinating book that builds its themes carefully and finishes with a genuinely nerve-wracking final act. My main anxiety approaching the book is my ignorance of Jewish orthodoxy, but I feel confident I have something to say about how this book deals with youth and tragedy. (the narrator is journaling as she kayaks the Alaskan coast solo after her parents are killed in a cafe bombing in Israel)

--trying to put together an interview/profile thingie to showcase Danny Collier's An Abbreviated Family Dictionary. (Danny will be playing the part of himself in this production)

--finishing up reading fiction submissions for PotS. Only just realized there are leftover subs from the last issue adrift in the transition among processes and editorial staff.

--trimming down the manuscript of my creepy vsf collection Curio, for possible submission to the Black Lawrence chapbook contest.

--buying new Keen sandals. (my feet hurt)

--straightening up spare room--Molly might be camping out with us in early June, and Mom is definitely coming late June. Nephew Jake a possible for mid-summer.

Time waster: put these in order--

buffet pizza
mountain pizza
beach pizza
grocery "deli" pizza

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Listed! (long short this time)

One of the best things about the Wigleaf Top 50 is that it comes at a time of year when I'm usually on vacation, so I never expect it. I'm so thrilled to have made this year's Long Shortlist with "The Temple Dog," a story that Adam Robinson took for Everyday Genius. BTW, 5 of the top 50 came from EG. Thanks Scott, Ravi, and Adam. No one works harder for the art.

This year's Top 50 is stellar, take your breath way stuff.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Valerie Sherwood, Author

So I did some slight research on the author of Rich, Radiant Love, featured in the post previous. Valerie Sherwood, born Jeanne Hines of WV, wrote 4 novels in the series:
1. Bold Breathless Love, August 1981
2. Rash Reckless love, June 1982
3. Wild Willful Love, October 1982
4. Rich Radiant Love, June 1983

And this comes from a romance writer profile page (I think for a book of photos):

"I write in great creative bursts-not every day," trills Sherwood, author of five chunky bestselling historicals, including Bold Breathless Love, Her Shining Splendor and This Loving Torment (six weeks on the New York Times paperback best-seller list). Inspiration strikes "in short bursts of ten or twenty pages or through the night till the dawn comes up"-with such formidable force that she is forever wearing through her typewriter keys. Furthermore, says Sherwood, she doesn't believe writers who boast in public that they toil daily in disciplined routines: "I think it has something to do with their taxes." Sherwood (a.k.a. Jeanne Hines) and her husband bounce among their five East Coast homes but spend most of their time in a fusty Charlotte. N.C., ranch-style house, surrounded by 11,000 research volumes (among them a sizable collection on witchcraft), "oodles" of never-worn dress-up clothes and six cats, who have a suite all to themselves ("To Fuzzy," reads one book dedication to a passed-away pet, "who smiled at adversity"). Born to West Virginia "landed gentry," Sherwood worked as a reporter and fashion magazine illustrator as well as a writer of gothics before turning to the more lucrative romance business five years ago. "My family thought I'd be just like everybody else, get married and stop," says she. "I'm a real character. I'm not really like anybody I know."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The beach house book shelf

oh my.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

trying to make the sun shine

I'm getting ready to go to the outer banks next week in hopes of getting in some kayaking and sleep, but I'm a little on edge, waiting for news about two book projects. I am happy to report that I finally started on something new--well, to be honest, it's another cabin thriller, so not new at all, except that I'm trying to write it as a novella. So far it's coming out in 1 page segments with few transitions, and any exposition is deliberately brusque and graceless. Some of the newer pieces in my ghosty-vsf collection are like that as well, with my story in the next Smokelong Quarterly being a good example.

The novella is about middle aged siblings taking post-rehab refuge in their family bay house near Port Aransas, Texas. I've been there only once many years ago, but it was an unforgettable trip, full of drama, beer, and apocalyptic jellyfish.
Lotta interesting stuff out there to read this week, but I keep going back to this interview by Art Taylor where he's talking to Alex Heard about his book The Eyes of Willie McGee. Also, you should check out 'Other' soon. They can't keep this up forever.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Michelle Reale's Natural Habitat, a review

Natural Habitat
By Michelle Reale
Burning River, 2010

Friday nights we all went out to dinner as a family. The Pike Family Restaurant had “homestyle” cooking, dull wood paneling and accepted cash only. . . The five of us squeezed into a booth and held the large sticky menus in front of us like we were reading for pleasure.

--From “Bonding”

As very short fiction moved from its boutique, periphery status towards the center of literary action, did anyone anticipate the rescue and recovery of the domestic story? Probably not, otherwise we wouldn’t be struggling against labels like flash or sudden that promise breathless tricks and mind bending facility, but do nothing to prepare us for the soulful narratives of family, class, and place that come to us from writers like Michelle Reale. The twelve brief stories in Reale’s new collection called Natural Habitat, from Burning River Press, have all been published previously. You might have come across two or three, recognized their intersections and thought, Oh, Michelle is worrying a theme. Deliberately, each of these stories is like a house in a dream-faded neighborhood where only children and dogs are happy, and even then just briefly.

As an object, Natural Habitat is irresistible. The cover of the 5x5 inch paperback features a tinted image of a wretched building, providing the first glimpse into the fictive neighborhood that Reale builds for us, story by story. The community is inspired by her childhood memories as she explains in the introduction: “That house, that neighborhood and the blocks surrounding it which included most of my relatives, the few friends I had, our parish and our school, were my entire life.” And so we might brace for nostalgia, but instead we get something gothic, the darkness of the lost and losing:

The older son swats at the bat with the broom, but the bat flies with ease, high and then low. Jesus hangs on his cross and watches. One by one the children leave the room. Dinner will be set for them somewhere.

--From “And She Flew”

Reale gives us emotional images, free of pretense and excuse. Her children are worried children. Her adults have moved past worry into a world with only one mystery left. Food binds and divides. Cigarettes are desperate flags. Sexuality and cancer are equal specters, hovering over every conversation. From the claustrophobia of the first story to the uncertain release of the final, moments accumulate across these very short narratives to create the feel of a novelistic world while shaking off the mannered dreams of conventional forms.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

home schooling

Trying to teach myself how to write reviews, but I've run into a few complications. Turns out I'm full of shit. Plus once I take a really close look at a book, I either like it too much or hate it like poison. That's not rational.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

still rankled

Hey, look what I got you!

--a certificate verifying that a star has been named after you because you like space and stuff
--a hand painted Walking Liberty Dollar because you collect coins
--a "blank book" and a lovely pen for your birthday because you "like writing so much."
--the latest copy of Novel & Short story Writer's Market

You know what, that's all I'm going to say on the subject right now. Because I respect you, Mystery person. You get WiFi in that cave, right?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

rank odor

organizing piles and lists reeks of desperation. I'm not saying I don't do it, but I'm not going to pretend it's useful.

Update: except when Ravi does it or Roxane does it

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Debut of "An Abbreviated Family Dictionary"

Here it is, released to the wild: Danny Collier's thoroughly enjoyable web lit object, An Abbreviated Family Dictionary

What is it? What do we call it?

It's like Joe Young and Crispin Best had a baby . . .

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Secrets, shhhh

My delightful friend/colicky colleague Danny Collier--he of the chicken poems and the urban folk singing and smart-aleck ways, is working on something truly, truly cool and awesome. It'll be ready soon, so watch this space.

He let me take a peek, but I've been warned and sworn to secrecy. Damn. I said, "I'm just gonna show erin," but he said no, no, no. That said, he has granted me "first leakage" rights. So here I am, leaking.

Btw, Adam Robinson still hasn't shut off my access to the Everyday Genius site, which means I can see the future there, as well.

I think I know secrets about Tara Laskowski too, or is that out of the bag yet?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

That corner looks bare. Nice place to park an elephant

I'm doing my annual activities report for the salary committee, and this year they are using a new faculty designed rubric for evaluation that rewards excellence and innovation in teaching almost exclusively. As a Term Associate Professor (as opposed to Tenured or Tenure line), research, publication, and service, are not supposed to enter into my rating unless I can draw a direct connection to success in teaching. However, in the past, these activities were recognized in an "above and beyond" kind of spirit. And I agree that sort of thing can get out of hand quickly.

So I just updated my cv. I won't go into the numbers, but I've had a pretty awesome year in publications and recognitions. My best ever. But as I put my report together, it looks like it will be my students' publications that will make the difference, not mine. I'm not complaining, it's just a different way to think about things.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Michelle Reale's Very Leeeetle Book

Just got Michelle Reale's chapbook, Natural Habitat in the mail--12 wee stories in a pretty little book, published by Burning River. My 2 yr old gosh-daughter would advise you to "buy on it!"

To prove it is a little book, these photos for scale. In the first photo, I compare the book to a string bean and an orange. In the second you can see that the book is barely big enough to cover a chihuahua's ass. Click the photos if you care that much.

I deeply love little books. More soon.

Monday, April 12, 2010

AWP in DC 2011

AWP will be in early Feb next year. I live in a suburb of DC, on the bus line that goes straight to the metro.

Should I raffle off my spare room?

Saturday, April 10, 2010


April feels weird and echo-y so far. Everyone's gone off to AWP and blog and FB traffic is sluggish. To fill the void I'm reading subs for Prick of the Spindle, which is fascinating. Most of the stories are long ones from writers I've not read before, so I have this sense of returning a familiar territory inhabited by interesting strangers. Like Las Vegas.

No writing coming out of me, lately. But I'm thinking. I'm pretty distracted by the projects I have already finished, hoping to hear about them soon.

Last night I dreamed that I got a form letter rejection and three sets of handwritten editor comments from Bunion Press (which I don't think is real). The comments were illegible except for exclamation points and the words "so sorry." I also received two clown type blouses from Web Del Sol.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Friday, April 2, 2010

Storysouth's 2009 Notables list has my attention

I must admit I've not been into the StorySouth thing for a couple of years running, for a number of reasons I won't go into here, but this year's list of notables is especially reluhvant to mah innerests:

>killauthor made best new journal
Prick of the Spindle made runner up as best novella publisher

And these fine writers made the list:

Mel Bosworth
Tara Laskowski
Scott Garson
Richard Santos
Genevieve Valentine
Roxane Gay (with like, eleventy stories on the list)
Kim Chinquee
Matt Bell

I'm thrilled about how this shook out, and even if there are some sad omissions, this is the most exciting notables list in a long while.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

diminished capacity

got slammed with a FAST cold that has slowed me down over the past couple of days, but I can't let March 31 slip by without noting that it's the final day of my selections for Everyday Genius, and I chose to end the month with Steve Himmer's novel excerpt for what I think are obvious reasons. For a couple of hours there this morning, the post was up as being from Steve Zimmer, which may have been Adam's subconscious desire to solicit a sub from either Carl Zimmer or Steve Zahn.

I was going to do a March parade of all the work we featured, but Adam beat me to it. NICE.

In other news, I have a piece called "Seckle" in the latest issue of Double Shiny, alongside work by Kyle Hemmings, Jac Jemc (kept dreaming that name in my Nyquil visions), Neila Mezynski, Brian Oliu, Matthew Savoca, and Chris Taylor.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Everyday Genius:The Final Three! March 29-31

I am sad it's over but relieved, too. After Wednesday Everyday Genius is some other art-tard's baby.


The first man will do anything for the moon.

—from Cami Park’s “Night Walk” (Plus “As If to Become, as If One Actually Were” & “It Is a Wonder”)


So when Kim asks if I want to go for a ride, I say sure.

—from Robert Swartwood’s “Summer of ‘84”


And like that my days in the garden began to go by.

—from Steve Himmer’s “Whose Hands”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fictionaut Five: La Meg i-views me

Thank you Meg Pokrass for letting me gas out at Fictionaut.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I want to kiss!

is the name of my story in the stunning debut issue of Corium Magazine. This is one of the stories from my gothic leaning collection, Curio, so to all you moneybags publishers out there--I got more like that.

Greg Gerke and Lauren Becker really worked with me on this one, but they did take away my exclamation point. I'm almost over that, especially seeing who I'm in there with--cripes!:

Stephen Elliott
Donna D. Vitucci
Sean Lovelace
Alec Niedenthal
Adam Moorad
Kim Chinquee
Scott Garson
Andrea Kneeland
Kathy Fish
Sheldon Compton
Julie Babcock
Ryan Ridge
Beth Thomas
Laura Ellen Scott
Christina Murphy
Eric Beeny
Shaindel Beers
Corey Mesler
Sam Rasnake
Rusty Barnes
Cami Park

Haven't started on the thing yet, but WOW.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Everyday Genius, March 22-26--oh wow

so there will be a lot of new things out this week, but EG will be on fire every day:


They teeter. They totter. They fall, knees pressed together, into crumpled heaps.

—from Roxane Gay’s “Boys in Drag”


He looks about to cry. His shoe comes at my face before I can close my eyes.

—from David Erlewine’s “Buried”


They told her that she was an orphan, a feral child. To repay her rescuers, she became a prisoner of science.

—from G. Walker’s “An Experiment”


Under the dog’s old quilt they listened to the voices inside the butter-light windows, Aunt Louie’s laugh rising over the murmur, an unidentified man cough.

—from Jen Michalski’s “The Turn of Things”


My old buddy Asidri burned to death on a lava cavern tour and was chewed on by a goblin. Post-mortem.

—from Erin Fitzgerald’s “At Grayfield Keep”

the day after Dzanc Workshop Day/DC

I have no idea if it went well, but we filled up the time and made people write. There were about a dozen participants, most of whom could have run the workshop themselves--I was especially pleased to meet Rae Bryant of Moon Milk Review, and poet Kate Wyer, whose living book project And, Afterward is really fascinating.

It was a gorgeous day, so of course we convened in the windowless upstairs of the Wonderland Ballroom bar. The Barrelhouse lads like bar food and bar drink, but I did not see anyone taking up the waitress on her offer of free waffles. Apparently they used to have bacon days.

Mike Ingram started things off with a discussion of point of view, I did my flash thing, and Reb wrapped up with a guided tour through "Moves through Contemporary Poetry," an essay by Elisa Gabbert & Mike Young that appeared on HTMLGIANT.

For my segment I tried to talk about how tension occurs in vsf, and I shared Katrina Denza's "Soap," Scott Garson's "Captions," Joseph Young's "10 Point" & "Lethe," and Matt Bell's "How To Watch Paint Dry." After a quick browse of the readings I had the attendees write in response to one of the following exercises, all of which I adapted from Behn & Twichell's Practice of Poetry--my rationale being that the compositional mood for writing very short fiction is more akin to that of writing poetry than it is to writing conventional fiction:

Write one or two complete sentences in response to each of these steps.
The “You” in these prompts is the narrator, who is part of the scene.

1. Think of a person you know, or invent a person. Describe the person’s hands.
2. Describe something he or she is doing with the hands.
3. Use a metaphor to describe an exotic place.
4. Mention what you would want to ask this person in context of numbers 2 and 3.
5. The person notices you and gives a response that indicates a misunderstanding of your question.

Build or dismantle, piece by piece, an object, being, or phenomena that we don’t naturally think of as being constructed.

1. Write a paragraph to describe an intriguing event or object—avoid using comparisons, stick with the image.
2. Do the same to describe a powerful character.
3. Combine the paragraphs into one, alternating between the object and the person. Use transitional language to make the paragraph sound right, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense. Make the flow take priority over reason. (new reason will create itself)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

March 15-19 @ Everyday Genius

This week at Everyday Genius!


“What the hell,” the pickpocket lady said, peeking into the stroller while the boys shoved their sticky hands into her pockets, pulling various small toys, all made of plastic.

—from Michelle Reale’s “At the Fair”


He begins to play solitaire! Is this strange behavior? Should I shoot him now?

—from Dawn Corrigan’s “The Assignment”


That fucking spotted hyena working behind the counter—he was probably, at this very moment, laughing his anal pouch off.

—from Tamm Walters’ “The Hyena and the Gnus”


It had a child it didn’t know; blessed that fruit with silver hands.

—from Joseph Young’s “Stories Around People” & “More from Stories Around People”


SHE LEFT HIM WITH THE TALLOW OF THEIR LOVE GONE FLABBY. It was the first line from her mystery novel-in-progress
--Augurs Under My Bed

—from Kyle Hemmings’ “Amazing Animal Facts #4” & “Amazing Animal Facts #2”

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chapbook done or close to it? & Prick of the Spindle & Dzanc Day

That's what it looks like. For several months now I've been worrying a dark theme to death in the very short form, and what with breakthroughs achieved in the past week, I think I've written all I care to on the subjects of death, eternity, or the lack thereof--for the time being. So what do I have?

A folder called "Curio" containing 26 short stories, 3 of which may get tossed. 7 have been/are scheduled to be published (the final 3 coming out this month, yikes). A few of the pieces are multi-part, so with each part sitting on its own page, I probably have about 50 pages. I know that's damn brief, but I think it's the right length for something like this. Plus I'm all WWSJD? I want people to read it like they might have read Weird Tales comics once upon a time.

Now what? I don't know. But it's a good thing I'm wrapping it up because beginning in April I should start reading submissions for my new gig as Fiction Editor at Prick of the Spindle. I'm stupid-happy-excited to join the PotS staff, and to work for Cynthia Reeser who strikes me as a very sharp, particularly forward thinking artist.

Also want to remind everyone out there that Next Saturday is DZANC DAY, and along with Reb Livingston and the lads from Barrelhouse, I'll be helping conduct workshops as part of DC's "Dzanc National Workshop Day," a fundraising event to support the DZANC's "charitable programs which, in part, bring creative writing programs to students who could not otherwise afford the opportunity." Should be a hoot. I'm doing the flash workshop.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Everyday Genius Line-Up, March 8-12 2010

Gonna be a weird week at


You are less attractive than I am. If panties are to be wetted for this, then I will be the master of the waterworks

—from Ben White's "Milestones"


an unending landscape of glue and glue and glue

—from Tara Laskowski's "Day 72"


Those were some muscles he had and Sally Potawatomi wanted to eat them

—from Gabriel Orgease's "For Three Days They Were Not Able to Identify a Body That Had No Arm"


They measure her body for the sake of the artists, then they build a barge and sail her corpse east

—from Danny Collier's "Ouch" & "His fortune gone . . ."


You may find her grunting on the floor, in the manner of a goat, to find what she let fall and roll under the table

—from Donna D. Vitucci's "The Woman"

Friday, March 5, 2010

March has ADHD

We will all need personal assistants to keep March organized.

Very pleased that Short Story Reader has noticed "Rot." Thank for the heads up, E.

The vsf blog has been quiet for a while, but today Tara L. Masih, editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction and author of Where the Dog Star Never Glows: Stories, talks about formal variety within collections with the great Jayne Anne Phillips (Black Tickets changed your life, didn't it?) and Press 53 publisher, Kevin Watson.

Oh and one other thing--Barry Graham rocks Everyday Genius with "!3 Ways of Looking at a Roadtrip"

Thursday, March 4, 2010

New "story"????? up at The Northville Review

My "Annotation of 'Who Killed Lord Darnley'" is up at the March issue of The Northville Review, as guest edited by the inspired/inspiring Lauren Becker.

I don't know what to tell you about this piece, and seeing it on-line I'm not sure what I could have been thinking.

I think the piece I have coming out in the next Double Shiny comes from the same strange mood.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

March 1-5 Everyday Genius line-up

Monday through Friday at Everyday Genius


I watched Thomas Pynchon lather himself with cologne samples from magazine ads

from Ravi Mangla’s “Visiting Writers”


Attention now count the damns/ Of remonstration the damn

from David Kaufmann’s “You’ll Poke Your Eye Out”


She developed a dappled scarlet rash and used it as a passport

from Kathryn Scanlan’s “Victorian Wedding Portrait”


a book you will never write can only be read by people fluent in the English language

from Jimmy Chen’s “Potential Prologue”


I thought about stalking her children. Finding her daughter and learning of her dreams

from Barry Graham’s “13 Ways of Looking at a Road Trip”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Get out of that slushpile, what are you crazy?!?!?

Sure, these tips are gold, but they don't cover everything.

I give you

My 21 tips (apologies if I stole any)

1. Have you considered writing a sex scene or giving your protagonist large breasts?
2. Try adding Literary Ambiguity to your short story. If you are successful, your reader will always come away from your fiction with the ability to compare it to a film they once rented.
3. If your plot is too exciting or moving too fast, enhance realism by making your characters stop for a meal at an ethnic restaurant. Describe each course and allow your characters to re-cap the plot so far.
4. A well built character is one who refuses to change, regardless of the trauma he or she endures. Think: Rifleman or Mannix.
5. Do not write a single word unless you know how your story will end. You are the dungeon master.
6. Apply Epiphany directly to the forehead.
7. Trust your workshop peers. They aren’t in competition with you or anything, nor are they attempting to hijack your story to make it their own. Use all of their advice. Also, keep work-shopping a recalcitrant story for years.
8. Rashomon an insignificant event.
9. Heighten the emotional impact by making sure a kitten/puppy/baby is injured or killed by a Very Bad Person.
10. Leave it open-ended as to whether your point of view character is Insane.
11. Perhaps your story could use an erotic dimension involving a character with a very large penis.
12. Writing successful fiction is all about reinforcing separation between the classes: Definitely think in terms of Main Plot and Subplots. Organization is the key.
13. Write what you know, especially you white people out there.
14. Very Bad People are inherently interesting.
15. Last line=punch line. Seal that sucker off. Lock that story down.
16. Subtext means writing in code. Readers love to work hard at detecting what you really meant to say.
17. Italics, italics, italics. Especially for flashbacks.
18. Depression hurts everyone, so a story that is completely non-stop depressing—say a faithful chronicle of a terminal patient’s decline and death—is emotionally successful.
19. Children lead interesting lives and make wonderful point of view characters, mainly because they don’t know anything!
20. Make sure your readers know if your characters aren’t white.
21. Try writing a story from the point of view of an impossible object, like Dick Cheney’s hospital gown.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How the reading went

Coming off the high of participating in the Cheryl's Gone reading series last Thursday at DC's Big Bear Cafe, I got a great start on three new stories this weekend. Thanks to Wade Fletcher and Joe Hall for inviting me, and special thanks to Adam, Mike, Tara, Emily, and Art for coming out. The place was packed, and I ready two pubbed pieces ("Dusty Bastards" and "Do you know what it means to miss") along with two in progress pieces from the ghost-y vsf collection I'm putting together. Very positive response to the the collection concept, which has got me juiced.

The Cafe is lovely, serving excellent hot chocolate which took the edge off of having to scale mini glaciers to get there.

I read with poets James Belflower, who runs the Potlach Poetry exchange project, and Maureen Thorson of the In Your Ear reading series. Maureen was a riot, and James (who traveled from Albany) is an amazing fit in the DC Poetry scene. His book is Commuter, from Instance Press.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Retort Magazine

Brentley Frazer is a Fictionaut chum, and he's republished my story "Rot" at Retort Magazine, which I never really explored before even though it's been around since 2001.

But I gotta tell you this thing is a toy box of lit and art. Very few of the usual suspects here, I imagine owing to the fact that it's an Australian operation. Go there now.

"Rot" has had a fine run, and anyone reading my blog has probably already encountered it. It originally ran in Identity Theory, also a fine venue when you can get a reply.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Everyday Genius for March: My 23


Monday, February 15, 2010

Not Catholic

I'm reading some fiction for the "Cheryl's Gone" series this Thursday at the Big Bear Cafe in DC. I'll be reading with poets Maureen Thorson and James Bellflower.(Some guilt about this, as I was asked back in October, but for various health and weather reasons I have yet to attend any of the other Cheryl's Gone events.)

Brentley Frazer has suggested reprinting my short little "Rot" in Retort, which is lovely.

Got an acceptance from a journal that I forgot about. Feel weird.

Going back to the WORKPLACE today, after having been snowed in (out?) for the past week. My guilt there is that the week of inactivity is probably not going to make a big difference in what I do and when I get it done.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Progress and a Blind Item

So my selections for the March "edition" of Everyday Genius are just about complete, and I'm especially excited by the fresh work--that is, the stuff people have offered me from brand new projects. There's going to be a lot of funny and/or brain-folding prose and a little poetry, punctuated by a few moments of loss and despair.

I'm really happy that everyone I asked to contribute coughed something up, or tried to--that is, everyone except


--This writer who wrote the TWO best flashes of 2009.
--Both flashes appeared at premier venues that have rejected you multiple times (once on Christmas day!)
--This writer loves EG, appreciates being asked, but must decline. Because those two flashes were the only ones this writer has produced.

There's only one word for this: CRIPES-OH-JEEZ-YER-KILLING-ME

Monday, February 8, 2010

Adventures in editing

I'm in the process of making my selections for Everyday Genius--I'm the guest editor for March, and I've probably got around 1/2 of my picks. Keep 'em coming folks, but sooner than later--I want to be able to spend time on the arrangement before I hand over the files to Adam Robinson.

I haven't done this kind of thing before (well, we all experimented in college, right?), so I wanted to take a mo to make note of a few unexpected surprises.

1) my normally slacker friends, in their paranoia, are giving me super-awesome stuff.

2) I don't really "get" some of the submissions. And I'm not talking about understanding what they mean. I'm saying I don't know how I'm supposed to feel about them.

not so unexpected surprises:

1) My tastes in poetry are obscenely narrow

2) lotta snow imagery. Hey you guys, please ease up on the snow. I'm genuinely concerned about turning off readers who, by March, will have no more tolerance for or sense of humor about effing snow.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Warmest Congratulations and Thanks

Congratulations to all those marvelous writers whose writing was selected for Dzanc Books' Best of the Web 2010 production! And another congratulations to editors Kathy Fish and Matt Bell for being who they are. As far as I can tell from the chatter, the selections are magnificent. (Is there a master list yet?)

My sincere thanks to Adam Robinson and Cooper Renner for nominating my work (mind still blown by that)--the stories didn't make the cut for the anthology, but I'm still high from the recognition.

2009 was a sweet year for our kinda fiction, and I continue to be moved by the generosity of spirit that pervades the scene.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I-viewed by Erlewine at the JMWW blog

Thank you David Erlewine and Jen Michalski for letting me go on like I do. Wow, am I needy. And DE is an excellent enabler.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Everyday Genius! I'm the March editor

I am blown away by the fact that Adam Robinson is going to let me select everyday genii for the March 2010 issue of Everyday Genius! Seriously, I'm over-excited.

You know my tastes in fiction--I like the weird common and the common weird, well under 500 words, but I'm a sucker for anything with a killer first line. As for poetry, I'm a fan of the DC poetry scene and Language poets in general, and not really into straight narrative poetry. I like poetry that forges new paths in my brain. But you never know.

Official guidelines here.

Friday, January 29, 2010


This is a test post coming at you from the tech resistant mountains of the WV panhandle. After several weeks of disappointing attempts to get some kind of better internet access at the cabin in Great Cacapon, we discovered that an ATT laptop connect card works pretty well for my purposes, without the installation costs/destruction.

While I played online this afternoon, Dean went out in the freezing woods to try out the metal detector he got for xmas. He found another hunting knife. He's always finding knives, which makes me wonder just how many knives are out there. We may put up our wildcam tomorrow . . .

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wigleaf: "Bog Redaction"

So very proud to have my story "Bog Redaction" at Wigleaf. It is, so far, the major story of the collection of creepy vsf that I'm working on. It's also the best thing I ever wrote.

It's an interesting thing when the bar is set and you know it.

Thank you, SG.

The Graveyard

My several times removed cousin Ned Bennett Crislip put together the 600+ page book entitled, Ancestors and Descendants of Norris and Elizabeth Bennett, published in 2001. As you can guess it is a genealogy + anecdotes about one zig-zagging branch of our family, beginning in the 1590s.

There is so much to love about this book, especially the fact that the illustrations for the first third are all photographs of tombstones and snow covered farmhouses.

Let me just flip to a page--

p. 275: Concerning John Doane, ordered to "get a pair of stocks and whipping-post made for use of the town." Further down the page it says "In 1701 and 1702, he was one of the Negative Men." I'll look up what that means later, but for now I am content to savor the possibilities.

ps--my rough understanding of "The Negative Men"--a council with the power to veto/limit the sale or gift of communal land offered by popular decision.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dzanc National Workshop Day: March 20

I'm very excited to be helping out with the DC Dzanc event for Dzanc National Workshop Day, March 20, 2010. So far it looks like there are 25 cities involved, running lectures, workshops, etc, with the proceeds going to support all those awesome Dzanc charities and initiatives. I'll be there as "flash fiction writer Laura Ellen Scott," with Reb Livingston, Dave Housley, Mike Ingram, and Dan Brady.

Strangely enough, flash fiction writer Laura Ellen Scott's only Barrelhouse pub is a 15 pager.

More news as we get closer to the event.

Hey Danny, isn't Wonderland Ballroom close to your house? Can we have a party there? Lucy won't mind . . .

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rambling through Mississippi Review 16.1

I'm reading through the Kim Chinquee edited volume of the Mississippi Review, entirely dedicated to Flash Fiction. There are two pieces I don't get yet--Carol Novack's "Quantum Physics" and Diane Williams' "Wrigglework"--and by "don't get" I mean I don't know why they wind up the way they do, but I'll give them another go tomorrow when my head isn't swimming with the words of everyone else.

My hope is that the volume will work as a reader for the flash unit of my junior level fiction workshop. Our first class meeting is Tuesday 9am, and I have yet to write the syllabus. But the first quarter of the issue has got me a little worried--most of the stories, while brilliant, are devoted to domestic and relationship subjects, sorting out into Mom, Dad, and lovers categories. While achingly beautiful and unflinching, the set is starting to make me--a writer of surreal, glib trifles--nervous. So when I get to Greg Gerke's "I Want to Write Flash Fiction" I get pretty paranoid and take his satire personally. However, relief comes quick from the marvelous weirdness of the Grandbois bothers, Daniel and Peter. I never read their work before, but already I wanna buy their books and watch their family on Thanksgiving-cam. But it isn't until I reach the stories by Holland, Landon, and Lisicky that the organization opens up to me--here are three stories about individuals attempting to escape life . . . So part one is about families and lovers, part two transitions into weirdness, part three is existential, and--

wait. Holland, Landon, Lisicky? Well, crap. It's alphabetical. I'm an idiot. I must give up reading for purposes.

An hour later, I can now attest to the excellence and variety of this collection, as well as its appropriateness for my students. I hope they plagiarize "Mr. Cat," "Interstate," "Rodney and Chelsea," and "Save Me or I'll Kill You." That would be fun.

I can see how hard Kim worked to represent the state of the art while putting together the strongest possible issue. That said, there aren't any pieces in the "shock first-story later" punk mode. I wonder it that was that on purpose or did she not get those kinds of subs? I'm curious, because some days it seems that self-obsessed rumination on blood/sex/feces is to flash what "my wife doesn't understand me after twenty-five years" is to conventional fiction--overdone and rarely original.

Friday, January 15, 2010

the eyes have lasers in them!

My husband made a wooden mallet today. He also disassembled a remote control dinosaur. But not with the mallet.

In other places we have discussed the bullshit of “process,” but as I’m coming off a successful revision—if our mallet wielding dino dissector is credible— the how of it is very fresh in my mind, and I kinda want to nail it down.

The problem was intention. The original idea came from a scene in my WV novel where the main character is in her remote cabin, and she’s freaked out by a late night trespasser. From there I was shaping something fairly conventional—a story of transformation that to fit into my spooky vsf project. The draft, having outgrown flash, teetered into Poe-like Gothicism. On those terms it needed more rational development.

Like a mercenary I started writing the linkage, which was easy-peasy. When I write fast without breaking an emotional sweat, I always think I’m phoning it in. But very often that writing turns out to be my best. And sure enough, one day later I reread the work to discover that the craven linkage was more clear-eyed and dramatic than any of the original work.

So I threw out most of the old draft and re-built from the linkages (now free from plot servitude). I think I ended up with something much cooler than I planed for. Editors? Start your bidding now. (I always make that joke).

RIP Duke

Duke belonged to my in-laws, and he was a hunting dog, crazy for rabbits. Yesterday he had a fatal encounter with an illegal trap, but at least he never knew what hit him. I wasn't close to him, but he was a decent, simple bloke. When he was a puppy he took a HUGE dump in the middle of all the presents we were unwrapping on Christmas morning. I don't think he ever did anything else that interesting again, but he was sweet. Career beagle, 100%.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

From Laura's Pocket Guide to Eastern Europe: Poland and the Ukraine

First of all, Writer's Bloc (Rutgers), with its ever-changing format and constant wit, is one of the most engaging lit venues around. I'm super pleased that my "Pocket Guide" has found a home in the latest issue alongside the work of rock stars like Jimmy Chen and Ben White.

Another Pocket Guide was published over at Hobart a long while back--to Belize City & Beyond, and for a while there I thought I'd do a collection of pocket guides, but then three things stopped me-1) they're super hard to write. 2) the EasternEuro guide enjoyed double digit rejections. 3)Kuzhali Manickavel did it better.