Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last night I received yet another form rejection from Night Train. This morning brought yet another rejection from Smokelong Quarterly. I so love and admire these magazines, their editors and the great writers and memorable works they publish. I've received a long string of rejections from both mags and each one hurts a little more, feeds my insecurity.

You know what I did in the last hour? I made peace with my disappointment and insecurity, and accepted the rejections. Because these rejections, and the acceptance on Tuesday from Potomac Review, on some higher level that really matters none of it matters. It has to be about the work. I need to tattoo "the work" onto my palm.

Going forward, I am determined to take a long break from submitting my work. I work incredibly hard at my writing, but I need to be more disciplined around submitting and not allow myself get sucked into the craziness. I want to produce less and spend more time on each work. I want to live with my work longer and love it with all I've got before I even attempt to send it out into the world. I am going on record on this to further bolster my resolve. Editors, feel feel to call me out and throw me to the masses if I stray anytime soon!

We have an incredible community, and I am so honored and excited to be a part of it all. This blog began in January, 2009. I had no idea where it would take me, the writers and editors I would get to know and work with. The amount of work I would write, revise, and publish. I have always tried to dedicate this space not just to my work, but to promote other writers and their fine works. I plan to read much more and to focus on other writers' work even more in 2010 at my new home

I am reluctant to mention anyone for fear of leaving people out, but I would be remiss if I did not say a huge thank you to the following incredible, beautiful, and gifted people for the myriad of ways they've inspired me and touched my life this year: Roxane Gay, Meg Pokrass, Kathy Fish, Lauren Becker, Molly Gaudry, Laura Ellen Scott, Erin Fitzgerald, Michelle Reale, Katrina Denza, Tanita Davis, Robin Stratton, Peter Cole, Scott Garson, Randall Brown, Matt Bell, Steve Himmer, David Erlewine, Mel Bosworth, Eric Beeny, Jason Jordan, Greg Gerke, and Andrew Roe. So many others from Zoe and Fictionaut too. If I have forgotten anyone, please forgive me.

And to every other editor and reader who ever accepted or rejected my work, thank you. Thank you for taking the time and care to read my work and for the love, passion, commitment, and vision you bring to your magazines and our community.

To everyone who reads this blog, and to those who post comments regularly, thank you so much for your time and interest. I am deeply grateful.

Rock on.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Oh yeah, baby

Yesterday, I received an acceptance from Potomac Review for their "Hot Opener" feature. I am still doing the happy dance. You should see me. Okay, maybe not.

Last night, while taking a break from the happy dance, I read Laura van den Berg's short short story from Monkeybicycle 6 "Photography." Have you read it? It's a beautiful piece told with impeccable tone and pacing. It strikes such a moving and hopeful chord at its close too.

What also struck me about Laura's lovely work is that I just sent out my latest short short, a piece I feel excited and hopeful about, and there were several similarities between my work and "Photography." So much so it felt uncanny. They are very different works certainly, but still some weird sameness ... What do these coincidences mean? I'd like to think that it means my work will also find a great home, but I can't help feeling there's something more to it ... What do you make of such coincidences? I suspect it happens to us all.

The other night, too, we played poker with close friends. One player dominated the game all night. Just got incredible cards hand after hand after hand. At the end of the game his chips were a dance floor. How does that happen? Energy? Karma? Luck? Chance? Just desserts? Who knows. But I tell you, my main thought right now is to keep the work like the story just accepted by Potomac and the short short I just finished, and reading experiences like Laura's "Photography," coming. Pretty please, Universe.

Now, I want to read more Laura van den Berg, and that's just what I am going to do.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

An Eventful Couple of Days

Remember those white feathers I saw inexplicably fall outside my kitchen window two days ago? Nice things are happening:

I awoke this morning to read this from Doug Paul Case about my micro "Gold" published in Wigleaf earlier this year. Thank you, Doug!

Meg Pokrass interviewed me for the fantastic series "Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story on a Postcard." My "life story" went live today. I'm honored to be included in this series, thanks, Meg and Michael, although frankly it was a painful exercise.

My short "Parched" is up at Wilderness House Literary Review. Thank you, Tim Gager.

My short "Hanging on the Telephone" is live at Mannequin Envy. Thank you Jennifer and Jai. I wish you all every success as you move forward beyond Mannequin Envy, and am sad to see you go.

I received a personal rejection from, thank you. Surely this is concrete evidence that there's a shift in the universe?

As of January, I will host a new blog and website at

Mood gauge right now: deep gratitude.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I cried

myself to sleep last night in a way I haven't cried in a long time. My breath faltered, face warmed and tightened, and my chest hurt, as if some part was truly cracking.

As a family, we had watched an American Girl TV movie: Samantha, An American Girl Holiday. It was a typical heart-wrenching "American Classic" set in 1904: orphans, child neglect/exploitation, a dead cat, the need for a home and a sense of belonging, good triumphing over evil, and the inevitable happy-ever-after. Sentimental and unrealistic, yes, but also strangely affecting.

After the movie, my seven-year-old daughter was inconsolable. Mostly, it seems because of the reference to the beloved dead cat. Our long-haired orange tabby, Jameson, is only a year-and-a-half, but ever since we adopted him at age three months, my daughter has in equal parts obsessed over how much she loves him and how much she will not be able to bear it when he dies.

Next, my ten-year-old joined-in the tear-fall, lamenting again over how we have no family here in the U.S., no grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins. She pleaded, as she does on a regular basis, for us to move to Ireland where we could have family all around us (she thinks living there would be just as much fun (for her and her sister) as vacationing there. NOT). That's never going to happen, I tell her for the countless time. Why????? I remind them both, quoting verbatim from the movie, to focus not on what we don't have, but on what we do have.

I climbed into bed between both girls, and wrapped my arms around them. I told them how, as a girl, I would cuddle between both my sisters and we would sing ourselves to sleep. And that's just what we did. We cuddled and sang Christmas carols, and after the sixth song my daughters fell deep asleep. Still I held onto them, listened to them breathe easy. I was getting to do it all again, I realized with a start, getting to be the glue, the safe base, in the middle. Only this time in charmed circumstances. I felt a gratitude that rocked me.

Gratitude and heart-hurt too. I so want to do it better second time round. So wish it could have been different first time round.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Timing is Everything

I received a rejection yesterday, Christmas Day. It was kind and encouraging, but magic-reducing. Ouch.

I received an acceptance this morning. Much nicer, Universe, thanks.

I just went downstairs to make myself a cup of tea, and saw an inexplicable group of small white feathers, approximately ten, fall past my garden window. I'm confounded. The sighting makes me feel expectant, hopeful.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

From Me to You

Whoever you are, wherever you are, I hope these last days of the year are what you want them to be, shared with the people you want around you--even if it's only in your heart and mind. Whatever that looks like for you, live it, enjoy it.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Today's Guest: Randall Brown

In "Notes on Novel Structure" from Words Overflown By Stars:
Creative Writing Instruction and Insight from the Vermont College of Fine
Arts MFA Program
, Douglas Glover refers to the novel as "a machine
of desire," one in which "the writer generally tries to announce the desire,
goal, or need of the primary character as quickly as possible." The key,
Glover believes, "is to make this desire concrete and simple."

First off, I love the idea of fiction as a machine. The novel's
machinery--Glover "breaks down the novel into six major structures: point of
view, plot, novel thought, subplot, theme, and image patterning"--exists to
produce what one would expect it to produce--a novel. I often hear writers
say, "I am writing a novel," but rarely do I hear them say, "I am producing
a novel." Produce is chock-full of interesting meanings: manufacturing,
birthing, exhibiting, and even farming (as in the produce market).

Flash fiction, rather than the novel, has captured my time and interest, and
I wonder what it might mean to switch from "writing flash" to "producing
flash." Out of what materials does one construct such a thing? How might
these same materials be used differently by the writer producing the short
story, the novella, the novel, and so on? For example, I believe flash
arises more out of its title and first line than say the novel. While a
novel arises out of a character's desire, I think flash arises less out of
character's desire and more out of a writer's desire. Maybe that desire is
to bend words to one's will, to fill that tiny container with something too
large for its confines, to develop a story out of white space, to see how
much can be implied, and so on.

Of course, there exists that flash driven into existence by a character's
yearning, and the machinery then finds a way to turn that abstract desire
into something concrete and active. It occurred to me recently, though, that
a few hundred words isn't much time to become attached to a character, to
that moment when the character goes all in for his/her heart's desire. If I
had to fill in the blank for flash--flash is a machine of [blank]--I'd say
that it's a machine of compression. What exactly does that mean, then, for
the flash writer?

I'm not exactly sure. For me, it means manufacturing titles that work to
create an entire history, the backstory, the subtext/subplot, the first and
last line, and so on; producing words that hint at all the words I've
omitted; creating an essential action, rather than a series of ones;
fabricating characters readers can attach to in the space of a few words
(mother, father, son, lover, boss); inventing the encounter that is both
strange and archetypal; and so on.

Imagine a flash fiction piece that begins with "He entered his parents'
bedroom and discovered...." I discard the expected things: his parents'
having sex, Christmas presents, a dead body, and so on." I discard the
history of that character, the backstory. There is a title that might imply
these things. This action, his entering this bedroom on this day, must be
the essential action of his life. There is no series of thwarted actions.
There is only this.

He entered his parents' bedroom and found the contract, signed in red ink,
an Open Marriage.
He entered his parents' bedroom and found boxes of Scope, stuffed in the
space behind his mother's dresses.
He entered his parents' bedroom and found the silver dollar, the one
his grandfather sent through the air.

And so on. Hundreds of things, aren't there?, to be found. It isn't about
trying and failing, trying and failing, about the machine producing an
entire novel's worth of iterations of the same conflict, over and over,
until finally the desire is satisfied, with a yes!, no!, maybe so!

It's about this one time, this one thing. It's about the weight of things,
with so much of that flash depending upon the singularity you discover to
fill in that blank. He entered his parents' bedroom and found [?]. Imagine
if the title were "Before He Found the Contract." What would he discover
then? How might compression work to produce that flash fiction, to recreate
that moment we all had as children, that fall from innocence into
experience, the realization that the world doesn't know what to do with our
innocence except to find ways to destroy it. Unlike the novel that is read
over a period of days or weeks or months, the flash isn't a thing readers
live with for awhile; it is like a passing stranger, one of those ephemeral
encounters that make up so much of our lives. Imagine if whenever I think of
the fall from childhood, I'm drawn back to your flash, those five minutes we
had together. Imagine that flash is a machine of compression, not just of
words and action and characterization but also of emotion, not the kind that
takes forever to be realized, but a different kind, the one borne of tight
packaging, like the force put upon atoms and their desire to matter.

Randall Brown teaches at and directs Rosemont College's MFA in Creative Writing and Graduate English programs.
He is the author of the award-winning (very) short fiction collection Mad To Live
and his essay appears in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction.
He blogs at FlashFiction.Net.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More Teasers

This time from December's The Collagist.

Congratulations to Todd Cantrell on “Aren’t There People Who Take Care of this Kind of Thing,” winner of The Collagist’s 2009 Flash Fiction Contest:
My wife lives in sleep, and her lips taste like old licorice.

Congratulations, also, to the contest finalists:

Stace Budzko “Blades”
Wes went on to tell me how he was changed, how he was done with blades.
(I loved this work. The last paragraph took my breath away.)

Chella Courington “Diana loved anything orange”

Her eighth Halloween she painted her nose and toes orange and swathed herself in a sheet RIT-dyed sunshine orange that her mother soaked in white vinegar until the bleeding stopped.

Kristine Uyeda “Leaving Freiburg, 1940"
In the earliest days of what would become The War, God was a German who whispered out of earshot.

There’s more fine fiction in this December issue:

Scott Garson, “A Note on the Lyrics, Atlanta Gymnopédie, Asheville Gymnopédie, and Oklahoma City Gymnopédie”
I'll tell you this final thing: I'll have you imagine me writing the song at the bus stop, or on my front steps, with crust in my eye, with fog at the base of my skull; but my hands find their way in the strings, and now you are here: the fact, the wildness of you as a person—and me, both of us: because the moment has come undressed.

Jennifer Howard “Twenty Questions” “It’s Me” and “It’s You”
Did you tell the neighbors?

Lindsay Merbaum “A Name”
I don’t love you, I said. I told you, I can’t love someone with that name.

Jim Ruland “Antlers”
A glorious crown fused to the body, a halo you could hold on to.
(Another standout amongst standouts for me in this issue).

Invest some time in this latest issue of The Collagist. You will be well rewarded. There’s also excellent poetry, and a novel excerpt, non-fiction essays, and book reviews that I have yet to read. Enjoy!

Congratulations to Matt Bell, Kim Chinquee, and all involved in bringing us this great issue.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

So Many Magazines, So Little Time, So PANK

Let’s face it, we're all crazy-busy, overwhelmed, and some magazines are just better reads than others. The December issue of PANK is out, and IMHO it’s, as always, well worth your reading time. I’m proud to be in there with my story “Air” along with a stellar line-up of fellow writers. Some highlights from this issue include:

Eric Beeny “Living Expenses”
But Mortimer noticed pieces were missing, and he shook the empty box around, stared into it, spanking its bottom, holding it open-end down.

Sheldon Lee Compton “Drugs, Rock And Roll And Sex Or Three Things That Go Together Like Sex, Drugs And Rock And Roll”
If you crush yourself into someone else for long enough there’s nothing left to waste.

I. Fontana “Amnesia”

The red of the Coca-Cola signs is the same all over the world.

Janet Freeman “The Ugliest Drowned Man in the World Washes Ashore Lake Michigan"
But there could only be one Stanley in the world and there he was, stretched out like a vienna sausage, wearing denim overalls with no shirt beneath, that bright orange hair sticking up in the air.

Steve Himmer “Be Your Own Boss”
And he did come, I think, in the dark while I tried to remember the myriad ways in which the swirled ceiling caught light and shadows when there were light and shadows to catch.
(This story had a profound effect on me. Congratulations, Steve.)

Ben Loory “The Cigarette”
And it is then, as she lights it and raises it to her lips, that she notices the hole in her hand.

Ben Loory “The Woman and the Basement”
The only place the woman wants to go is down into the basement.

Antonios Maltezos “Chalet”
His eyes were all over the woods, searching for the ghosts of the words he’d rehearsed on the long drive up here, when he’d realized he was on a trip to becoming a man, in that dreadful silence except for her breathing and their fidgeting, the five of them packed in tight with all the fishing gear, the booze, or he was searching for game, something to eat.

Rachel Mehl “Following Todd”
If it was his mother or sister
I said wrong number but if it was his own husky voice
cracking on the other end, I just breathed.

Kevin O’Cuinn “Graphologizing”
Her final note is blank; and he knows that she is gone.
(This is compression so well done. Congratulations, Kevin.)

Fortunato Salazar “Men At Work”

I told him that if he wanted to know what I’d gone through he would have to ruin himself first.

Reynard Seifert “Mud Cakes”
In the evening I took down the plant and whispered into its stems about how easy it would be if only she and I could live together in a clay pot somewhere.

There's lots more great writing in this issue. Read. Enjoy.

Now it's time for me to tune-in to the December issue of The Collagist, another must read.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Say ...

Do animals "speak" in native tongues, with dialects and accents?

Are you reading Grant Bailie's serialized novel, NEW HOPE FOR SMALL MEN, over at Necessary Fiction?

See Jensen Whelan's list of works published. Don't you love his gift for titles?

How's this for a writer's (anybody's) name?

Where's my copy of Molly Gaudry's WE TAKE ME APART?

How many more "Last Chance" mass emails will I receive this Holiday season?

Want a recommendation for a great family/board game gift? Say Anything.

Lauren Becker's feeling very lucky. You go, Lauren.

Thanks to Andrew Roe for sharing this Beckett quote: "I can't go on, I'll go on."

There's also those two great last lines from Beckett's short story "Dante and the Lobster":

Well, thought Belacqua, it's a quick death, God help us all.

It is not.

Guess how many books Brad Green read (or attempted to read) in 2009? Can anyone top that?

I started to name all the writers and editors that I wanted to thank for so much during 2009, but the list became so long it was unmanageable and impractical. This is a great complaint. Thank you one and all, I trust you know who you are. Sincere thanks also to everyone who reads this blog, go raibh mile maith agaibh go leir.

What makes your pulse beat faster? Let us count the ways.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


It’s wet and cold here in San Francisco, 50º F. Raised in Ireland, I’m no stranger to wet and cold. It’s less than 30º F in parts of Ireland right now, and in recent weeks the country has endured devastating flash floods.

I remember as a child I would hang out the laundry in our back garden, on our red-rope line, to dry. Clothes that often grew soggier from the downpours and dirty-all-over-again from the smog and the ashes from chimneys, that weighed-down on that clothesline until they were mired in the dirt of the garden below or were whipped off by the high winds and scattered. Clothes that stiffened and cracked, spray-painted with frost. And all that was in summer :-). I have acclimated and softened, evidently, because this much gentler wet and cold of San Francisco make me miserable.

I admit the ongoing battery of rejection these days also adds to my misery. I submit little anymore, aside from a handful of older, longer stories that I have worked incredibly hard on and that I believe in. I hope I can find a handful of editors to also believe in them EVENTUALLY. Responses are sloooooow. My writer’s inbox averages two emails a day now. Time was … I can’t seem to focus on any new work these days either.

I also admit that I have stopped reporting my rejections (and my last two acceptances) to Duotrope. I have never used Duotrope to track my submissions/responses and suddenly it seems a little futile and self-indulgent to post an acceptance just to see “Congratulations! Ethel Rohan.” I also now can’t bring myself to report all my rejections because it only compounds my misery. Am I bad? I think this is me breaking-up with Duotrope. I feel more break-ups coming on.

Here’s a quote from Dave Eggers's excellent book Zeitoun, a non-fiction account of the harrowing experiences of a New Orleans contractor, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, and his family during and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The sense of transcendence in this book, and this following quote in particular, have stayed with me, protect me from the many elements, comfort me like a mother’s hug:

“If he can picture it, it can be. This has been the pattern of his life: ludicrous dreams followed by hours and days and years of work and then a reality surpassing his wildest hopes and expectation.
And so why should this be any different?”

Monday, December 7, 2009


I'm thrilled to be included in the latest issue of Monkeybicycle's one sentence gems. If you have time, enjoy the read. As always, it's stellar stuff from this magazine. Thank you, Steven Seighman, Founder/Editor.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

elimae still in my air

Meg Pokrass's LOST AND FOUND, a collection of her elimae stories from Bannock Street Books is STUNNING. Everything worked on me: Meg's dazzling work, Coop Renner's gorgeous artwork, and even the author/artist photos beg to be studied and examined.

Did I miss the parade? Why isn't anyone talking about this? Get your copy here. I can't think of a better way to spend $5, unless it is to donate to aid others, like the women and children suffering unthinkable atrocities in Darfur.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

just thinking out loud ...

If we nurture our creative “weirdness,” does it make us weird(er) in general?

If we continue to push and mold language a la Joyce/Beckett/Butler/Lovelace do we devalue or add value to the English language (as opposed to literature) as we know it?

Do we choose what to write about or does it choose us?

How much faster will my eyesight deteriorate because I read so much online?

Why would a writer submit to a magazine and tell the editor that their work probably isn’t a good fit for the magazine, but they thought they’d enjoy the read?

If I write the wish onto my vision board, will someday PANK or Keyhole or Coop Renner publish, and design/paint the cover for, my (chap)book?

Will the next generation write solely in text shorthand/tweets?

If we are what we repeatedly do (Aristotle) why aren’t we all food, or worse?

Why am I blogging more these days than writing/living?

For those of you who’ve wondered: I am real. I do dislike a LOT of writing. Why put my energy there?

If I’m a pacifist, why do I think there should be more golf club-wielding women in the world a la Elin Nordegren?

Why, oh why, can’t we touch the sky? Just once.

Anemone Sidecar

My short "Necessary" is up at Anemone Sidecar, along with Ryan W. Bradley and Greg Gerke and many more. Thank you, Kathryn Rantala, Editor.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Congratulations to Mel Bosworth on his chapbook WHEN THE CATS RAZZED THE CHICKENS & OTHER STORIES.

I received my fine-looking, hand-crafted copy from Folded Word Press, congratulations, Jessi Graustein, Managing Editor. (Thanks, Mel, for your very kind note on my copy :-)

There are twelve works in this collection, and they showcase Mel's range and talents. I liked the shifting style, tone, and mood: funny, flip, irreverent, tender, complex, honest, probing, and moving.

I liked "Sometimes Conditional," which read funny, moving, and honest.

"The Humble Origins of the Milky Way (Boys)" was another standout with a great last line.

Despite the fact that I'm not a beard fan (sorry, Mel!), I do enjoy narrative around objects, and really liked "Xyrophobic Me" -- I enjoyed the imagination here, and again the last line got me.

"Chivalry Lives" -- a fabulous micro, and one of my favorites in the collection.

"The Stumbling Conquistador," centers on issues of identity, a theme that always captures my imagination.

"Leave Me As I Lessen" is a great title, and the fine work behind it is my favorite piece from this collection.

Congratulations again, Mel, and well done. I envy you the feeling of holding this work in your hands.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December elimae

I already feel nostalgic for Cooper Renner as elimae's fiction editor, but am happy and excited for Kim Chinquee. Congratulations, Kim. Coop, I hope the change of guard opens up more doors for you into great spaces.

elimae is elimae and it's unique. I don't always enjoy everything elimae-esque, and even when I do much of the time I can't articulate just why I like what I like from this journal. That being said, there were some standouts for me in the December elimae:

David Peak's "At Home on the Riverbed, a Stream of Silt": This work is far removed from my own writing style, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Nora Nadjarian's "Gardening": This had me at the first line.

Ben Segal's "I Would Kiss Him Back All Over Again Too": Again, a kind of work I don't think I have it in me to write, and that I admired.

Meakin Armstrong's "Watching Our Reflections on TV While We Wait": The suspense and tension here are palpable, and the piece is so open to interpretation that I felt an active participant in the work. Hell, I felt I was right there on that couch. I loved this.

Kimberly Ruth's "Dare": Ditto.

Congratulations to everyone who made it into this outstanding issue, the last (in fiction at least) under Coop Renner's loving and gifted charge.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Today's Guest: Roxane Gay

Blog Entries About Infomercial Products That Somehow Did Not Yield a Book Deal

January 1
I just finished reading Julia to Julia by Julia Powell, a charming book about a woman who decides to cook her way through a Julia Child’s cookbook over the course of a year. I don’t see why I can’t do the same thing only different.

January 7
It came to me while I was watching late night television. For the next year, I’m going to buy infomercial products and write about them and how they affect my life on this blog.

January 19
It’s cold this time of year. It is only fitting that the first product I should write about is the Snuggie. I was skeptical at first—a blanket that keeps your arms warm while you change the channel or walk to the mailbox? That’s the stuff of the future. Still, I ordered my Snuggie and it arrived yesterday. I got the zebra print. It matches the carpet in my living room. As promised, the Snuggie is warm and soft and the sleeves are the cleverest things I ever did see. It is so cozy to snuggle up on the couch wearing my Snuggie, changing the channel without getting goose bumps. And because it is buy one get one free, I gave my boyfriend a matching Snuggie. The look on his face was priceless!

January 28
I’ve been eyeing the Aero Garden for quite some time. Like the Snuggie, it is so futuristic. I live in an apartment but I have a bit of a green thumb. I’ve also been reading a lot lately about eating local, organic food. The Aero Garden is the perfect solution. In a few short weeks, I’ll have fresh produce and herbs with which I’ll be able to make delicious salads. Perhaps this is the start of something greater—kitchen counter farming with an indoor gardening appliance.

February 4
Not much progress yet with my kitchen counter farm. Some green buds have sprouted in the pod but I have yet to see evidence of anything edible. In the meantime, I saw a wonderful infomercial with the Sham Wow guy. He demonstrated the Slap Chop and in the commercial he said, “You’re going to love my nuts,” so of course I had to buy it. My Slap Chop arrived yesterday and since then I’ve been chopping things and putting them into little baggies. At one point, I got so excited, I chopped the tip of my finger. It’s mixed in with some carrot bits. Hopefully, I don’t accidentally eat it. Would that make me a cannibal?

February 11
Is it indelicate of me to discuss body hair? I was in Sally’s Beauty Supply where I found the Smooth Away. I didn’t have to order it over the phone. Huzzah! When I got home, I opened the package, adhered the flex crystal pad to the large applicator and began vigorously rubbing it along my arm. After a few minutes, my arm began to tingle uncomfortably. There was a strange smell. It took quite some time, but eventually I was able to remove all the hair. The skin there has now taken on a grayish tint. I’m very worried about smoothing away more sensitive areas, particularly that place so popular in Brazil.

February 12
Had to go to the emergency room in the middle of the night. It was ill advised to attempt to use Smooth Away between my ass cheeks. I’ve been lying on my stomach all day. I’m fasting because what goes in must come out.

February 19
Still wary of eating solid food. I bought a juicer and have, for the past several days, been juicing all my meals. I don’t recommend juicing pasta with marinara sauce. It has a discomfiting consistency. The kitchen farm is not progressing. The little buds are growing, but slowly. This agrarian project of mine is taking much longer than the instructions indicated. Eating local is harder than I thought. I now understand how hipsters are able to fit in their skinny jeans.

March 1
Did you know there is an As Seen on TV store in the Mall of America? When I heard the news, I got in my car, drove all night, and when I got there, it was like I had been called to the happiest place on earth. I told the salesperson I wanted one of everything. He even helped me carry my bags to my car. It’s true what they say about Minnesota nice.

April 9
I now have a greater understanding of the dangers of opening Pandora’s Box. I bought the Silver Sonic XL, which promises to amplify sound up to 90 feet. My boyfriend, let’s call him Mr. Ex, was on the balcony on the phone while I was in the living room wearing my new toy. I have a small apartment. I’m sure you can imagine the rest. I heard him talking to some skank, saying the filthiest things you could imagine. He also made unkind statements about my mental state, which I assure you, is just fine. The infomercial didn’t warn me that some things can’t be unheard. I’ve had better days, friends.

April 21
Big day today. I decided to soothe my heartache by buying a Sleep Number bed. It was delivered today and even though I have no one with whom to share it, I invited my best friend Sally over. We poured eight or nine glasses of wine, set them on the edges of the bed and started jumping up and down in the middle. Not one of them tipped over. It was just like the commercial said. Afterwards, we drank all the wine and made out. My spirits are much improved.

May 7
I went on a blind date tonight and decided to do a little something different with my hair by using an EZ Comb. My date complimented my hairstyle but later, when he tried to remove the EZ Comb while we were making out, it got tangled in my hair and there was a whole scene. It pretty much killed the mood. The EZ Comb is a total cock blocker.

May 31
Things are looking up! There are signs of life in the Aero Garden. In the meantime, now that I’m single, I have more time to workout. I bought the Thigh Master to improve my leg tone, but as I’m squeezing the contraption, I can’t help but think about how much Mr. Ex would enjoy watching me use it. I miss him.

June 28
It is a dark day, friends. Billy Mays has died. I adored his enthusiasm, the way his signature blue shirt brought out the color of his eyes, and his perfectly trimmed beard. When I called my mom to talk about it she said, “He was probably on drugs.” Don’t worry, gentle readers. I told her, “Mom, that’s simply not possible. Billy Mays isn’t enthusiastic about the products he sells because he’s under the influence. He’s enthusiastic because he believes. He has faith.” Then I hung up on her because she’s a Godless sinner. She’s probably going to burn in hell.

July 2
After a lot of soul searching, I’ve decided to end this blog sooner than I originally planned. Although there are many products still out there for me to try and share with you all, I don’t know how to move forward with this blog in a world without Billy Mays. To be honest, my life hasn’t been so great since I started this blog. I’ve lost my boyfriend. I haven’t been able to harvest anything from my Aero Garden. The Sleep Number bed isn’t that comfortable. I’m still suffering from the effects of that unfortunate incident with the Smooth Away. I haven’t gotten a book and movie deal yet and if it hasn’t happened after seven months, I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. I know when to say when. Thanks for reading and in the immortal words of Billy Mays, “Act fast. Time is running out.”

To learn more about Roxane Gay, and read more of her work, go here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I Now Read for Hobart Print

and am struck again and again by how "easily" I can see what is, and what isn't, working in others' work, but struggle to evaluate my own stories.

I know time and distance help with objectivity, but I don't know if I'll ever be able to "see" my work the way I can others' -- Is that kind of ease of objectivity ever really possible when evaluating and revising our own work? I've been told by some very fine writers that such wisdom will come, but I don't know ...

I just got a rejection from The Collagist that hurt like a kick, despite the fact that Matt Bell is one gracious guy. I thought this last story would do it. This is my third rejection in the past hour from three excellent journals.

Right now, I could put my head down on my desk and stay there for a long, long time. Instead, I'm going for a long walk in the sunshine with my daughters. With my daughters, at least, I always know I'm in the right place, doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The World According to Ethel

BIO is a dirty, three letter word.

Obsessively/compulsively checking one's blog, twitter and email accounts, others' blogs, in particular HTMLGiant, Fictionaut, Duotrope, Google Reader, and Zoetrope Virtual Studio can drive one insane.

This is funny. Or maybe it's sad.

This is sobering. I LIKE Lee Klein.

Meg Pokrass's first ever chapbook LOST AND FOUND, a collection of her elimae stories, (with stunning artwork by Cooper Renner) is now available here.

Sending out repeated calls for guest posts to my blog and getting little response does not mean that I am unloved.

The need to write is a gift. The need to be published is an affliction.

Repeated rejection can be soul-destroying, or at the very least depressing.

A snapshot of my mind on a good day: Happiness is a choice, like ranch or thousand island.

A snapshot of my mind on a bad day: Yeah right.

This is a bad day.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Today's Guest: Caleb J Ross

A Willing Army of Readers
By Caleb J Ross

The morning my chapbook was set to print, I received multiple emails and Facebook messages from buyers saying that their preorders had been inexplicably refunded. Panicked, I checked my email. The editor of the press had suddenly—after months of editing, design work, preorder campaigns, and nights spent straddling the border between excitement and nervous breakdown—canceled the book’s production due to personal issues. This left me with one real option: take everything on myself.

As marketing becomes more and more the responsibility of the author, I was prepared to do everything in my power to help get my chapbook to readers. But when marketing suddenly becomes the responsibility solely of the author, perspectives and priorities shift.

After getting the printing issue straightened, I dove into what would ultimately become a humbling experience, one that revealed to me the importance of online networking in terms of book promotion, but more-so in terms of the personal relationships that networking allows.

Over the years, beginning well before I considered any of my words to be publishable (or even postable), through to today, when a few of my scribbles manage to impress lit zine editors, I have been weaving myself into various online literary communities in hopes of both camaraderie and commiseration. I joined and participated in book discussion forums, followed like-minded Twitter-ers, became involved with writing critique groups, and most importantly, did all I could to show my genuine interest in the literary community at-large. These were people who loved what I loved, from books to beer and all the delicious vices in between. We’ve read each other’s work. We’ve praised and shit on each other’s work. We’ve met for drinks. During these years, I wasn’t actively searching out promotional leverage; I was searching for friends.

But when the unexpected printing mishap happened, these friends suddenly became a willing force of voices to dampen what could have been a very destructive fire. They RT’d (re-Tweeted) my blog posts about the incident. They shared my Facebook messages. They even assured voyeurs who had not preordered that they could order, without worry; that all issues had been taken care of. In short, these friends became my temporary PR department, and with their help, over half of the first printing of my chapbook, Charactered Pieces: stories, was sold during the preorder period. This, all starting with a moment of fear that the book would never even happen.

Booksellers say that word-of-mouth is better advertising than any in-store campaign, any author tour, and any online banner-branding promotion. This is no coincidence. Book readers are a fairly cloistered group, where relationships, much like those multifarious, interlinked relationships of the characters we worship, are complex and serve a final end. Our end: to share a love of words. And ultimately, our relationships are stronger than those built upon passive or professional interest alone. Readers are a passionate bunch. As a writer, nothing delights me more than to see a bit of that passion focus on my project.

Thanks to everyone who helped, and continues to help, spread the word of Charactered Pieces: stories.

Caleb J Ross has been published widely, both online and in print. He graduated with a degree in English Lit and a minor in Creative Writing from Emporia State University in 2005. Charactered Pieces: stories is his first sole-author collection.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Call For Guest Blog Posts

Please submit guest blog posts to Posts can be on any subject, but ideally should be of value to readers/other writers i.e. on the writing life, writing process, road to publication, electronic versus print pubs, flash/short/novella/novels etc. etc. etc. Be interesting.

Posts received will run every Monday. I'll send the fifth writer to submit a copy of the Los Angeles Review Issue 6.

Have at it. Thanks.

ALSO: Read this from Randall Brown. It brought a lump to my throat. I WANT.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What's Up Wednesday

Issue 6 of the Los Angeles Review is now available for order. The issue is dedicated to Wanda Coleman. It's not cheap, but it is packed with great writers, poets, and reviewers, and promises to be an excellent read.

The dazzling line-up, in no particular order, includes: Michael Czyzniejewski, Lydia Davis, Barry Graham, Naseem Rakha, Deborah Ager, Alex Lemon, Jee Leong Koh, Randall Brown, Stefanie Freele, Nicole Lalime, David Erlewine, Ravi Mangla, Kyle Hemmings, Tania Hershman, Rachel Mehl, Antonios Maltezos, Jeanne Holtzman, Alicia Gifford, Tai Dong Huai, Shellie Zacharia, Steve Almond, and many, many more. Phew!

I'm honored to be included in the issue. Please support Los Angeles Review and order your copy here.

This is funny.

Yesterday I received in the mail from Keyhole Press NOW PLAYING, stories by Shellie Zacharia. I'm excited to read this collection. Read Shellie's "Maybe The Moon Fell" at Everyday Genius.

I also very much enjoyed Alan Stewart Carl's "Whatever Happened to Sue Ellen?" over at Staccato Fiction. Why did I immediately think of Sue Ellen from Dallas? This is NOT about Sue Ellen from Dallas.

My favorite line from J.R. Ewing from Dallas: "Sue Ellen, you're a drunk, a tramp, and an unfit mother."

Praise be, I can never be accused of being an unfit mother ... :-)

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Good Buoy Is Hard To Find

Last week I finished Dan Chaon's AWAIT YOUR REPLY. Nothing could have pulled me away from those last forty pages. Nothing. Okay, my daughters' needs could have, but that's it. I give AWAIT YOUR REPLY two thumbs and all my toes up.

Next, I look forward to reading Nuala Ni Chonchuir's short short story collection, NUDE. More on that soon.

In a perfect world, I could nap right now.

Mel Bosworth is RAZZ-TASTIC.

Recently, I've received four encouraging rejections from print magazines I greatly admire: hand-written notes from editors inviting me to send more work. I'm grateful. I'm encouraged. I am. I'm also disappointed and frustrated. One response was for a submission I sent over 200 days ago. It's possible I will be ninety or expired before I hit jackpot. ALMOST in this instance hurts. It's like getting five numbers in the LOTTO. It feels not like coming in second, but like coming in second LAST.

On a brighter note, PANK November is with us. I have yet to read the entire issue. Thus far Ravi Mangla's "Summit" most touched me. Ravi can write. The tenderness and delightful quirkiness in his work reminds me of Myfawny Collins's wonderful writing.

The November Collagist is also with us. Thus far I've only read Chad Benson's "Amazing Peter"--a story that feels just right for November/Thanksgiving. I LOVE the last line.

Here's my last line for this post; alas if feels most uninspired:

I need something nice to happen to me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What Do You Know ...

Barnes and Nobel caved. Well done, Lauren Becker. The planned reading will go ahead. Gulp! Now I have to figure out just what I can read to a high-school audience. I don't consider my work kid-friendly :-)

Just the other day I overheard my seven-year-old daughter tell her friend "My mom's a writer, but you won't be able to read her work. It's ADULT material." I can only imagine how that was interpreted by the little friend's parents!

I am almost finished reading Dan Chaon's novel, AWAIT YOUR REPLY. What a brilliant stroke to open with that horrific scene. As I read, I always have that palpable tension in the back of my mind, knowing that the story will come full-circle and back to the torture scene.

I just hit on that inevitable torture scene last night. I had to stop reading, afraid I wouldn't be able to sleep after. Now I can't wait to get back to the book. The urge is so bad I don't think I can wait until tonight. It's like the tired but true scenario around the car crash: where you don't want to look, but you just can't help yourself.

I love AWAIT YOUR REPLY on a number of levels. It's imaginative, gripping, and well-written. It's characters are fascinating. Issues of identity especially capture my imagination. Who are we really? What is real? What's not? Haven't we all, at some point, just wanted to walk right out of our current life and start over, become another person entirely? The idea is equally strange, frightening, and exhilarating.

I have long felt fixated on who I would be now if "X," "Y," and "Z" hadn't happened to me in the past. This is particularly true of the abuse I suffered in childhood. Who would I have been if I wasn't abused? For the longest time, I believed I would be a better, happier person. I refuse to believe that any longer. I refuse to bail on myself any more. It's not about what happens to us, it's what we do about what happens to us, right?

How about you? Ever want to be somebody else? Trade places? Start over?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Barnes & Noble Don't Want Me

and others to read as planned at their Fisherman's Wharf store here in San Francisco this coming Saturday. The event is a fundraiser for a local high school. Their objection is because we haven't yet published books. Lauren Becker invited me to read, and is fighting the good fight on our behalf. Maybe B&N will cave, but I doubt it.

Speaking of Lauren Becker, I like her article, and the comments that follow, over at VIPs on VSF.

Another interesting Monday guest blog post over at today.

The wonderfully talented Kyle Hemmings introduced me to a new and interesting lit mag: fourpaperletters. I really like their aesthetics and the great work they publish. Congratulations, Laura Issacman, Editor. Submit!

I feel like there has been a bit of an "Ethel Explosion" of late. A lot of new work just published. The latest two are a short "Killed" over at Writers' Bloc (Rutgers), with Greg Gerke, Jim Harrington, Sherri Collins, and more. Another great job on this fifth issue, Kevin Dickinson. I also have a guest blog post today over at PANK. Thanks, Roxane. I'll leave it at that.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I am thrilled

to be in wigleaf. Thank you, Scott Garson!

You can also read my wigleaf postcard here.

As always, thank you for your interest and reading time.

Friday, November 6, 2009

How Great They Art

Michael Kimball on Adam Robinson here

November Hobart here. It's another great issue that includes, among others, more rocking work from Roxane Gay. Amy Minton also has a great interview with Victor LaValle on his spectacular new novel, BIG MACHINE.

I took three classes with Victor while he was the Distinguished Visiting Writer at Mills College. He was also my thesis director for a time. He is a fantastic writer and person. He was incredibly encouraging of my work, and helped me in more ways than he'll ever know. I love his advice in this interview: "be riveting."

The fabulous Kathy Fish here

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Food Ugh! and Way To Go

I rarely watch TV, but I do love movies. Last night I rented Food Inc. There's too much government in our lives and crap in our food (literally). Watch this movie. Take back our power.

This afternoon, I did something even more out of my routine and watched a second rented DVD "Away We Go" written by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida -- funny and moving. Watch this movie, just because it's good.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lines I Can't Get Out of my Head

from stories I can't get out of my head:

At first I see everything so sharp. The white looks like gold. My eyes see little bits of gold shining all over the ground, and then it starts moving, like fishes swimming in and out of my head. Then the blurring begins. I'm dizzy, there's a pain behind my eyes, but I keep on staring. I'm not going to shut them until it's done.
Tania Hershman, "The White Road," THE WHITE ROAD AND OTHER STORIES

I stay in bed and watch as my android gets ready for his day.

Once the crows detect a human--once alarmed and on their way--you use the death call. It sounds like rippling of bones around them. It says, "I'm dying, right now, and will you help me?" As true as Wednesday, the crows reappear, and you get that final image, spiraling frame, buckling of wings and heart, the curvature of returning. But I never use the death call.
Sean Lovelace, "Crow Hunting," HOW SOME PEOPLE LIKE THEIR EGGS

She hears deeper breathing again and speaks before he can fully fall asleep. "Are you sure I'm the raisin and not the loaf?" "I am the loaf. The oaf is the loaf." This must be his apology for earlier. She lets more of her weight ease onto his chest.
Stefanie Freele, "You Are The Raisin, I Am The Loaf," FEEDING STRAYS

You stay because you realize you never really leave, no matter where you go.
Angi Becker Stevens, "Simpler Disasters," Emprise Review, Volume 11

There is dinner to prepare. But first, dishes need to be done. The name was the name of a Hindu goddess. The name meant something to me back then. Now, it is just a word―it is my daughter, with all her wonders and quirks and teenaged layers, and it will always be her, no matter what she calls herself.
Andrew Roe, "Apology," Twelve Stories, Issue 2

I want to tell my husband there is still truth between the two of us, still lips that close a circle and share a breath. In a photograph, his arms, in my sweater, lock around my waist. I’m fatter then, but happier. I have a blue scarf in my hair and black bangs. We stand on top of a mountain, wearing each other’s clothes and posing in the wind.
Lydia Copeland, "Across The River," Twelve Stories, Issue 2

At some point during these documentaries about extraordinarily fat people, there comes a time when a surgeon has to cut away chunks of belly or upper thigh and the fat person is lying on the operating table, vulnerable and spreadeagle. The surgeon uses special tools to spread and pull and dissect. Then, the surgeon triumphantly raises the bloody, excised body parts and shouts out how much they weigh. Everyone in the room gasps frenzied-like. It’s painfully obvious that they’re all really turned on and after they’re done sewing the patient back together like they’re channeling Mary Shelley, you get the impression that one of those surgeons is going to pull one or more of those nurses into a supply closet so that they too can have Thank God We’re Not Fat Sex.
Roxane Gay, "This Program Contains Actual Surgical Procedures," Twelve Stories, Issue 2

Nobody comes to the circus anymore. Hemingway, the last elephant, trumpets a sad note as his girlfriend is packed away into a truck to be sold. All us clowns line up in front of the big top to wave goodbye. My wife, Lulu, takes it hardest. She won’t even put on her make-up anymore. Last week, she crushed her rubber nose under her heel and it squeaked apart into two pieces. “What’s the point,” she said, “if no one laughs?”
Matthew Salesses, "Cirque de Recession," Twelve Stories, Issue 2

It’s the third layer that unsettles, making sleep hard to hold. The cry is that of an angry cat. A cat with its tail caught in a meat grinder. Someone is slowly but efficiently cranking, pulling the creature in, shredding flesh and fur.
No healthy baby should ever make a sound like that.
The feral shrieks jolt Arthur awake. He blinks again, turns onto his side, disentangles his legs from the top sheet. His brain merges the child’s cry into a dream—he’s riding a ferry across a choppy sea, holding to the rail at the rear of the ship, watching the baby’s crib being tugged by a heavy rope, while above her ten or twenty sea gulls glide on arched wings.

Bob Thurber, "The Baby's Name," Rumble

Monday, November 2, 2009

DZANC Best of the Web 2010 Nomination

I received one, for my micro "Circling" in BURST. Kevin kindly wrote, I selected "Circling" because you said so much in so few words, and you said it in a way that was original, captivating, powerful, and sincere. Thank you, Kevin!

The Medulla Review

I'm also thrilled to be in Issue One of The Medulla Review, alongside Eric Beeny, Heather Fowler, Adam Moorad, Karl Koweski, J.A. Tyler, and others. Congratulations, Jennifer Hollie Bowles and Gindy Elizabeth Houston, Editors.

As a girl in Dublin, we lived close to the Royal Canal. The canal flowed past Mountjoy Prison, and a group of us made the greenbelt in the shadow of the prison our stomping grounds. Swans shared that space with us also, and are a bird and image that loom large in my imagination. Maybe that's why J.A. Tyler's short made my throat tighten, or maybe it's that it's powerful writing that speaks to me. It's both:

And these swans here in this lake, they are like Susan, the opposite of dirty, just surrounded by the mud. And maybe that is how I am. Maybe at heart I am clean and pure, like my mom sometimes calls me, SNOW WHITE YOU she says. But there is just too much mud around, too many chances to get dirty.

The swans don’t blend into this lake, they stick out, and I am the same way sometimes.

J.A. Tyler, "The Swans" [excerpt], TMR, Issue One

The Emprise Review

And again, I'm excited and grateful to be included in Volume 11 of The Emprise Review, an outstanding issue packed with great work by writers I deeply admire. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Must Reads that Hurt Just Right, and One That Didn't

Twelve Stories
I followed a link on Andrew Roe's blog to his story "Apology" in the recently released second issue of Twelve Stories, edited by Molly Gaudry and Blythe Winslow. I then read the entire issue in one delicious sitting, starting with the first short "Across The River" by Lydia Copeland all the way through to "Wedding Vows" by Eric Vrooman. The stories touched me deeply, and quality blew me away. As a whole, it's one of the best magazine issues I've read in a long while. Congratulations to the contributors, and to Molly and Blythe. Take a deep bow, all.

I would also direct you to the latest issue of Rumble, and in particular to Molly Gaudry's interview with Claudia Smith and to J.A. Tyler's review of Claudia Smith's story collection PUT YOUR HEAD IN MY LAP from Future Tense Books. I recently finished reading this collection, captured from the outset by the tender, provocative title and bright, delightful cover. What lies behind that great title and between that great cover doesn't disappoint either. The collection shines light on relationships and the everyday, and its sense of transcendence despite loss, disappointment, and heartache moved me deeply.

Please also read Bob Thurber's "The Baby's Name." I just loved it. Bonnie ZoBell and xTx are also in this issue. P.H. Madore and Ellen Parker co-wrote "Headless Horsemen." I love FRiGG (who couldn't?), and have long admired Ellen Parker from afar. This piece surprised and, frankly, disappointed me. Fine they're angry and frustrated and feel they've got something important and valid to say about anonymous editors, particularly those behind >kill author, but I don't think this is the way to voice it. Go. Now. Read. I'm curious what others think.
I also highly recommend Randall Brown's latest post over at "Thursday Craft: Eleven Essentials of Writing Great Flash Fiction." The post ends with a list of recommended Flashes to read. I'm on it, Randall, thank you.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fridays Are Fine

I like Fridays. I have always liked Fridays. I guess that's called conditioning. Our school's Book Fair is over. It was a very successful and fun event. Now I need to play catch-up with all other things literary.

You have to love Google alerts (something I only recently discovered). Otherwise I wouldn't have known that Everyday Genius published my short "Rights of Passage." I didn't receive a response on this submission and feared the worst. Obviously my acceptance went astray. I'm so happy to once again contribute to this great magazine. Thank you, Adam Robinson, and EG's October's guest editor, Lee Rourke. Have you ordered Adam's poetry collection ADAM ROBISON AND OTHER POEMS from Narrow House yet? Order Here.

Here's an interesting audio interview with Jurgen Furth on Fictionaut and the Future of the Literary Journal over at Media Bistro.

Happy Halloween All!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Reading, Publishing, and Scholastic Book Fair

Co-Chairing the Scholastic Book Fair at my daughters' elementary school is taking all of my time and energy these days. I've fallen so far behind on my reading, writing, Zoetrope-ing, Fictionaut-ing, and keeping-up with all my favorite writers. It's okay, though. I think you'd all agree too if you saw the smiles on my daughters' faces whenever they walk into the school library and spot me behind the cash register in a red apron and sensible flat shoes :-)

That being said, I got to revel in my writer's hat last night at the East Bay and Friends' reading hosted by Lauren Becker. Everyone shone on the evening, including our very fun and supportive audience. Congratulations, Lauren, and thanks so much for organizing this great event. I was thrilled to be a part of it all. Here's an excellent link with lots more details thanks to Evan Karp, including photos and video. I admit I have not yet looked at the video or photos. I'm not sure I will ...

I have work live at the Linnet's Wing and Spork Journal. I'm excited to contribute to both of these fine journals. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

If Only We Were Sea Horses

I am excited and honored to have had my story collection IF ONLY WE WERE SEAHORSES named as a finalist in PANK's First Annual Chapbook Contest.

Congratulations to Aaron Burch, winner. PANK's first chapbook will be Aaron Burch’s HOW TO TAKE YOURSELF APART, HOW TO MAKE YOURSELF ANEW: notes and instructions from/for a father. PANK wrote:"While all of the manuscripts we received showed great promise (and really we mean this), Aaron’s work was particularly compelling and spoke to us deeply. We are proud to publish his fine chapbook, which will be available in January 2010."

Runners Up (in no particular order):
Tree Riesener A Kmart Kind of Suicide
Paula Bomer Baby
Tim Jones-Yelvington Evan’s House…
Erin Fitzgerald Passive Aggressive
Ethel Rohan If Only We Were Seahorses
Pedro Ponce Homeland
Laura LeHew Silence
Stephen Mills This Side Up
Jensen Beach The Dark is What
Andrew Borgstrom We Are an Accident

Congratulations one and all. Thank you, Roxane and Matt, at PANK.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

No More Up-Dos, etc. etc. etc.

for me. Yesterday, I had my hair cut short, colored dark chocolate, and highlighted with chunks of gold. I was just in that mood, you know?

Chick Lit
I hate that term. Anyone else?

About to Take Off
I feel really good about where I am as a writer right now: I've grown and worked hard. I show-up every day to write and read. I hope to get better and better.

Here, There, Everywhere
That's Eric Beeny these days. Congratulations, Eric! Check out his blog for more information here.

Keeping It Reale
Emprise Review just nominated Michelle Reale's and Steven J. McDermott's work from Volume 10 for the Dzanc Book's 2010 Best of the Web Anthology. Congratulations, Michelle and Steven :-)

Monday, October 19, 2009


I feel fried. Early last week I got hit with a stomach bug, followed by a nasty cold. I'm almost over the cold now, thankfully, but am exhausted. It's just under a week since my last post, and yet so much has happened in our community in those few days my head is in a spin. I can't possibly comment or post on it all, sorry! Here are a few highlights:

New issue of The Collagist. Check out Roxane Gay's "La Negra Blanca."
October issue of PANK which is as awesome as ever.
New DecomP!
New FriGG!
>kill author Issue 3. Yes!

Roxane Gay's, David Erlewine's, and Mel Bosworth's work seems to be everywhere these days, and deservedly so. Check out RG's blog here, DE's blog here, and MB's blog here for more details.

PANK nominated Rachel Yoder's "Letters to my First Love," and Molly Gaudry's "Beneath Mosquito Netting I Imagine" for the Pushcart Prize. Congratulations to you both.

PANK also nominated the following for Dzanc's Best of the Web 2010 Anthology: Lauren Becker, Steven J. McDermott, Brandi Wells, Erin Fitzgerald, and Ravi Mangla. Fantastic news. Well done everyone.

New Thirst For Fire is live with an impressive line-up of writers.

I'm also live at the Foundling Review alongside the wonderful Tony Maltezos, thank you Ajay and Anupama. Live too at DOGZPLOT Flash, thank you, Barry Graham.

"Do I Really Love You" is the result of an exercise I tried from Randall Brown's great site on the use of zeugma. I had fun with this one, but feel sure I'm finished with Zeugma. Its use calls too much attention to language and the author, especially in such a small piece.

Don't forget Black Lawrence Press's Chapbook Contest. Submissions for a collection of poems or short stories are due October 31.

Now I've got a LOT of rest and reading to catch-up on. Carry on!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mel's The Man

Look what Mel Bosworth did with my micro "Word Gatherer" first published in Flash Fire 500. Thanks, Mel, for bringing this one back to life, and with such pazazz!

That sky is so blue here, makes me smile. As do you, Mel.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Amen Pokrass & Gerke

I attended Pedestal's reading at Book Passage in Corte Madera Saturday night. John Amen, Pedestal's founder and Editor, lead a wonderful line-up of poets, and Flash Fiction was more than ably represented by Meg Pokrass and Greg Gerke. Meg and Greg both read excellent flashes, Meg from work published in Pindeldyboz and Annalemma, and Greg from his debut Flash collection "There's Something Wrong with Sven."

There were approximately ten readers, and the event ran almost two hours. That's long. My ass numbed and legs felt restless. The mingling afterwards is hard too. I find small-chat painful. Still, it's necessary and in this case worth it. How else do we connect? I've met Meg twice before and it was a pleasure to see her again, and to listen to her read. Greg Gerke is on a West Coast tour to promote "There's Something Wrong with Sven," and it was a real pleasure to meet him. I bought his book, and very much look forward to the full read.

Friday, October 9, 2009



Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-gumble song,
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
‘Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain't been there before.

-- Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Reconsidering Happiness

RECONSIDERING HAPPINESS, a novel by Sherrie Flick. I finished the novel last night and highly recommend it. I felt an ache on finishing it, not wanting it to end.

The novel spoke to me, resonated. As an immigrant, a woman who began my own quest years ago: traveling continents to escape heartbreak, looking in places and people for sense, meaning, answers. Happiness. Love. Home. Who even now, is still reconsidering happiness.

The novel takes place in the mid-1990s. Twenty-three-year-old Vivette moves from New England to Iowa, leaving behind her friends, her job at a bakery, and an affair with a married man. En route, Vivette stops in Nebraska, spending a week with an acquaintance, Margaret, who left the same New England bakery years earlier to also escape heartbreak.

The story largely alternates between these two women's point of view, and moves back and forth through time, revealing both women's struggles, their histories of heartbreak and betrayals, loneliness and loss, dreams and desires, and anxiety and fears. Ultimately, though, this is a story about these women's determination and unstoppable spirit.

While this novel may be sparse in plot, it is rich in character, vivid in detail, and lush in meaning. Time and time again throughout the novel I experienced that flicker of recognition, those moments of "yes, that's just how it is."

This novel made me want to eat warm donuts and croissants, to drink fresh brewed coffee and steaming hot chocolate, to smell flowers, listen to birds, take long walks. To visit New England, Nebraska, and Des Moines. To reconsider. To make footprints. To write something this good. To love more. Harder. To live bigger.

You can buy it here. Congratulations, Sherrie Flick, and thank you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Knock, Knock

Matthew 7:7 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you."

I knocked, cooed, banged, shouted, shouldered, and kicked?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Let Go

That's what the whispers tell me repeatedly of late. Let go. Whispers: my gut instinct, wise voice, the universe. Let go.

Last night, I dreamed about a family vacation we took a few years back in Club Med. The dream was just a replay of what actually happened on that trip: I tried the trapeze, because I had always wanted to, and because it terrified me. I wanted to overcome my fear. I'm an idiot.

I climbed up sixty feet, gripped the trapeze with both hands and swung out over the net, sure I'd die. I even got my legs up and over the trapeze bar, but I couldn't let my hands go and fly through the air as intended, holding onto the trapeze with only the backs of my knees. No matter how hard that instructor shouted, not he or anyone else on the ground, and there was quite a large, vocal audience staring up at me, none of them could convince me to let go my hands and hang just by my legs. I let go all right, all four limbs, and somersaulted onto the net, landing, splat, spreadeagled on my back. Not pretty. My two daughters witnessed the whole fiasco.

I returned the next day, and failed again. However, as in most good stories, I returned on the third day, and succeeded. I will never attempt the trapeze again in this lifetime. I succeeded once because I'm a hard taskmaster, and because I wanted my daughters to see me push past fear to success, however unsightly I made it look.

I also returned to the trapeze that third time because after my first failed attempt, as I waded through that large crowd that had witnessed my humiliation (I must have hung onto that trapeze with both my hands and legs for a good twenty minutes, the line of spectators and those waiting to take their turn growing by the second) a handsome man touched my arm and said "You need to do it again, sweetheart, you need to let go." The way he looked at me, the way he said it, felt profound. And, yes, his black eyes and beard screamed at my Irish Catholic sensibilities. He wasn't just talking about the trapeze.

Let go. What do I need to let go of now? It's a long list. Mostly, these days, I think I need to let go of striving so hard. To just let things be. To surrender more.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Miscellany

Body For Hire
Me ... for something ... I'm not sure what yet ...

Calling All Editors
Congratulations to Jessa Marsh, writer, and editor of Monkeybicycle Online. The good folks at DecomP nominated her Flash "My Motel Week" for Dzanc's Best of the Web 2010. Well done, Jessa, and good luck! Editors, please remember to nominate.

Jewel In Our Crown
Hobart's October Issue is live. Congratulations Molly Gaudry, Andrew Roe, Reynard Seifert, and Kevin Wilson et al.

Check out Kathy Fish's and Joseph Young's collaboration over at Laura Ellen Scott's excellent blog VIPs on VSF. Twenty microfictions that dazzle.

I don't watch TV. Never. I haven't in ten years.

After receiving several kind and encouraging recent rejections pointing to my "heavyhandedness" I've taken a machete to my work, massacring exposition, internalizations, and lots more. Just blood and guts everywhere. I thought it would be harder. I like story. I like beginnings, middles, and ends. Yet this killing rampage feels surprisingly good. Great actually.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Where To Begin With The Greatness?

Wow! There's a staggering amount of great writing just off the virtual presses:

Check out and Randall Brown's succinct and spot-on Flash notes.

Next, head on over to Issue 26 of Smokelong Quarterly. The line-up of writers is exceptional: Shaindel Beers, Myfanwy Collins, Lydia Copeland, Michael Czyzniejewski, Nadine Darling, Will Donnelly, Kathy Fish, Sherrie Flick, Alyson Foster, Foust, Steven Gullion, Tiff Holland, Jamie Iredell, Beverly A. Jackson, Jeff Landon, Tara Laskowski, Pamela Painter, Ellen Parker, Lauren M. Spencer, Angi Becker Stevens, S.A. Tranter, Kevin Wilson, and Joseph Young. Phew!

I'm still reading through the Issue and loving it so far. It's a special Issue, the last with Randall Brown as Lead Editor. He's devoting himself to, his MFA students at Rosemont College, and no doubt his own indelible writing. Congratulations, Randall.

mud luscious Issue 9 is also just out. And it's just that: LUSCIOUS. Congratulations to J.A. Tyler and all the issue's contributors: Mel Bosworth, Andrea DeAngelis, Roxane Gay, Steven J. McDermott, Cortney McLellan, Richard Osgood, David Peak, Meg Pograss, Kimberly E. Ruth, Bradley Sands, Peter Schwartz, Gregory Sherl, Zachary Tyler Vickers, and Kate Wyer. Double Phew!

JMWW is also new, and another must-read. It's got Matt Bell high-fiving stories from Everyday Genius (hear, hear), and stories from Kyle Hemmings and Corley Mesler and many more, and poetry from Amy MacLellan among others. There's also a biography and book reviews! Yes, yes, I'm biased because I'm already such a big fan, but check out Roxane Gay's "His Name Is." Congratulations go to Jen Michalski, JMWW's Editor-In-Chief, and to David Erlewine, JMWW's newly-appointed Flash editor, on this impressive Fall Issue.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Remembering Amanda Davis

In a recent and excellent interview, Dark Sky Magazine's Kevin Murphy spoke with Matt Bell about editing Dzanc's Books Best of the Web series, as well as the state of online publishing and other general topics.

Speaking on the rising reputation of quality online magazines, Matt Bell pointed to the much celebrated magazine,, where readers can go back as far as its 2001 Issue to read stellar stories by excellent writers. I was so happy Matt mentioned Amanda Davis and her wonderful story from that issue "Louisiana Loses Its Cricket Hum."

While earning my MFA at Mills College, I had the good fortune and great pleasure of taking two of Amanda's classes. She was an excellent writer and teacher, and a wonderful human being. She was so alive. On March 14th 2003, while touring to promote her first novel Wonder When You'll Miss Me a plane carrying Amanda Davis and her parents crashed into a mountain in North Carolina. There were no survivors. Amanda was thirty-two.

In a tribute to Amanda on the McSweeney's site I wrote:

The title of her novel, Wonder When You'll Miss Me, the flight motifs in her work — I'm thinking especially of the novel and the title story from her collection, Circling The Drain — in those first dark days seemed eerie, an uncanny foreshadowing, and yet now, knowing Amanda better through remembering and stretching the moments with her, re-seeing those tiny details: her pushing her curls behind her ears, the clink of her charm bracelet, the blue stars tattooed on her forearm, the "come-on" gesture she'd make with her hands and arms ....... I now see the motifs in her work not as disturbing given her tragic death, but instead as themes that attest to the short but zesty life that she led, during which she soared.

Please read Amanda's story "Louisiana Loses Its Cricket Hum." It's terrific. I can think of no better way to honor her memory than to encourage others to read her powerful work, her legacy.

We who were not there cannot possibly understand how they came like flies: swarming up all of a sudden and buzzing over the horizon, thickening the sky with their heavy shadows. We were playing poker at Jimmy's-beer sweating, fans going round and round, the sound of pool clicking the moments by. Everyone admits it: we all felt the dense Louisiana air disappear and an icy breeze slice through.

--Louisiana Loses Its Cricket Hum by Amanda Davis

Friday, September 25, 2009

Two E's

Last night I went to the Marin Center to hear Elizabeth Gilbert, most famous for her book Eat, Pray, Love, talk. She's an incredible speaker. I love her poise, humor, confidence, humility, and compassion. She's wise and intelligent, and I felt just a little besotted.

Ms. Gilbert read from her forthcoming non-fiction book, Committed, due for release in January, 2010. She is also, not surprisingly, an excellent reader. The excerpt held me rapt. Yet another book on my ever-growing list of "must-reads." Sigh. There are worse lists, though, a lot worse lists.

My short "Safe Surrender Site" is live in the Fall Issue of Boston Literary Magazine. I was persistent with my submissions to this market, and Robin Strattan, Editor-In-Chief, was incredibly patient and generous with me. Thank you, Robin. I'm delighted to be included in this Issue. It's a story that opens with a Poker game. God, I love Poker. Let's deal.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

All Things Irish and Blake Butler

I subscribe to Irish Central Newsletter and thought I'd share some highlights from its latest issue:

The Black Stuff:
Guinness stout celebrates its 250th anniversary tomorrow, September 24th. World-famous, Guinness is the biggest-selling brew in Africa and the Guinness Brewery in Dublin is one of Ireland's largest tourist attractions. I don't drink the stout myself, but I did work in Guinness Brewery in Dublin and it was one of the best employers I've ever had. I only left Guinness to return to San Francisco, and a certain man. So cheers to Guinness and Guinness-lovers everywhere.

Australia Bound:
Australia has become the latest number one destination for those fleeing the recession in Ireland. The Australian Government has issued 22,788 visas for the year to June 2009, up by 33 percent from 17,120 in the year to June 2008. New figures from the Central Statistics Office through April of this year show that about 17,000 Irish have left the country, striking out for distant, more opportune shores.

It seems the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutclife, has changed his name to Peter Coonan. Sutcliffe, whose great grandfather Edward Coonan came from Tipperary in Ireland, was jailed in 1981 for the murders of 13 women.

During the 1970s/early 80s manhunt, British police arrested and questioned several Irish men because his would-be victims who managed to escape said he had an Irish accent. Now aged 63, Sutcliffe has served 28 years of a 30-year sentence and is eligible for parole next year. Did I say ugh!?

I'd say only in Ireland, but imagine it could happen anywhere:
Workers at an Irish plant are on strike because they can’t watch porn on the job (forgive the pun). The staff at Green Isle Foods in County Kildare are out on strike after three workers were fired last month for allegedly viewing “adult material” at work. The strikers have won Union support for their protest, granting them permission to picket at the Naas factory.

Further disruptions are expected if other Union members, such as suppliers and post office employees, refuse to pass the picket line. While Green Isle Foods claims the three workers breached the company’s internet policy by viewing porn, their Union says they are being scapegoated, and that the company failed to negotiate a fair disciplinary process.

Why aren't I laughing? Maybe it's because I'm still thinking about Sutcliffe. Thirty years for thirteen lives?

On To Much Happier News:
Congratulations to Blake Butler who just announced his two-book deal with Harper Perennial for a novel and a non-fiction book. I know Blake only through his work, blog, and his acceptance of my "Keys" for OCHO # 25, but I feel really happy for him. He's a writer who remained true to his writing and his vision for his work, even though he felt none of the big publishing houses would ever sign him. I can't but feel that this isn't just Blake's victory, but a victory for all writer and artists everywhere. We all need to keep doing what we need to do, and trust that everything will fall into place for us. If nothing else, we'll have integrity.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Staccato Fiction

I'm thrilled to have my short "Vitals" go live at Staccato Fiction today. It's a great home for a work I feel very good about. Thank you, Matt.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Let Me Direct Your Attention To:

Lauren Becker's "A Boy" in Monkeybicycle
Molly Gaudry reading an excerpt from WE TAKE ME APART over at Apostrophe Cast
Roxane Gay's seven-act play in The Rumpus
Rachel Yoder's "Summer Of The Racoon" in Action, Yes
My short essay over at Laura Ellen Scott's wonderful blog VSF (Very Short Fiction) dedicated to writing Flash fiction.

Congratulations, All.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Our Depths And Our Heights

Kseniya Simonova won Ukraine's Got Talent with her sand animation recreating the 1941 German invasion of Ukraine. It's truly incredible.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Win, Win, and Win

Issue 2 of The Collagist is out. I admit I went straight to Angi Becker Steven's story "Even If You Were Here." You have got to read this story. Angi is a tremendously gifted writer, and her stories are not read so much as experienced. I had such an emotional reaction to this story and know it will stay with me for a long time. Congratulations, Angi.

I look forward to returning to The Collagist and reading the rest of what this stellar publication has to offer. Matt Bell's also running a Flash fiction contest judged by none other than Kim Chinquee. Go check it all out.

In more exciting news, PANK has a whole new and divine look. It looks so good it'll surely change all interviewees' response to that "PANK AND XXX meet at a bar" multiple choice question! They've a new issue out, too, with equally hot writers and their work.

Last night, I finished reading Stefanie Freele's short story collection FEEDING STRAYS. It's a collection told in fantastic ways about everyday people hungering for sustenance and nourishment. Fifty stories of such delightful range, imagination, and strangeness they left me itching to return to more fantastic, slipstream elements in my own work.

Stefanie Freele has an especial talent for titles, first lines, personification, inventive premises, and unflinching honesty. There's a sense reading her unique work that this brave writer will take us anywhere that the story needs to go in order to deliver its emotional truths.

Freele's characters and their reactions to their situations are always surprising and refuse to be limited to the realistic or "the rules." Her work centers on re-seeing the mundane and everyday in extraordinary ways so that we are not blind to how her characters, and indeed all of us, suffer.

Congratulations, Stefanie! You can buy your autographed copy here. Enjoy.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Isabelle Allende: A Flagbearer for Women, Passion, and Our World

Take the eighteen minutes to watch this. It's so worth it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Big Break

I'm waiting for something exciting to happen on the writing front. Something to give, you know? Something I can celebrate, toast over, and I'm thinking more champagne than bread. Universe, are you listening? Won't someone bring it on, please? I'm ready. I'm long ready.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thoughts Of A Tuesday

Another killer interview over at PANK, this time (ever more aptly) with the mysterious editors of >kill author. I just love these guys/gals. There’s an earnestness to everything about >kill author that I so appreciate and admire — it’s a total turn-on. Thanks again, mysterious editors, for allowing me to grace your first issue.

I highly recommend John Amen's poetry collection MORE OF ME DISAPPEARS. On its cover there's a gorgeous photograph of a bright yellow armchair under a cherry tree in full blossom. Reading Amen's poems I felt like I was right there in that chair, under that tree, showered in petals. More, I felt like I had disappeared into his book. I don't pretend to know much about poetry in any scholarly sense, but I do know how this collection made me feel. In MORE OF ME DISAPPEARS, John Amen's remarkable gift for rendering imagery, language, truth, and emotion becomes ever more apparent.

There's yet another exciting new magazine in our mist: matchbook journal. Editors Edward Mullany and Brian Mihok are doing great things. Check out the wonderful works and writers they've published to date. Submit!

I have a story "Lost" live now over at All Things Girl. Thank you Deb Smouse, editor.