Monday, August 31, 2009

Getting Genuine

Randall Brown over at kindly invited me to write a post for his Monday Guest Blogger spot. It went live this morning. Thanks, Randall, for the opportunity, and more importantly for providing, an excellent and ever expanding resource for our flash community.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Third Eye

The Editors at Foundling Review kindly asked me to be the first contributor to their "Third Eye" feature."Third Eye" offers commentary on the current issue (Issue 4). I felt thrilled to be asked, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Thank you, Ajay and Anupama. I hope you enjoy my commentary and the entire issue, and just hope that no one thinks I wrote that glowing introduction myself!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Necessary Fiction

I'm thrilled to have my short "Rocket Into A Pocket" go live on (So New) Necessary Fiction today. I so enjoy and admire this first-class magazine. Steve Himmer, Editor, is TTT: tireless, talented, and terrific. He gets my standing ovation and virtual hug. Thanks, Steve.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

All Hail

All Hail To All Things PANKish
How exciting is this: PANK’s first Chapbook contest. Need I say more? Check it out here, and enter. Good luck everyone.

All Hail to Randall Brown
Another exciting and ambitious venture that’s of enormous benefit to our flash community is Randall Brown’s website Congratulations, Randall, and thank you.

All Hail to Duotrope Digest

Staying with incredible, generous, and diligent people Duotrope Digest are in the red. Please help them out by donating NOW.

All Hail to Art that Makes us Pause, Think, and Feel

Through Adam Robinson’s latest blog post I discovered the stunning sculptures of Heather Jansch. Enjoy, and thanks, Adam, for sharing.

There’s also something to hail here:

And here:

And here:

The Dixie Chicks

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saying What I Need To Say

Fear is such a small word, and such an awful emotion. I feel frightened right now, bordering on panicked. I’ve just finished writing a short short that’s left me trembling. My jaw and stomach are clenched, and I have that sickening sensation that something is scraping the back of my throat.

I want to submit this short short because I think it’s good and genuine, but it’s scandalous. I think Pindeldyboz for one would accept it. I’ve long wanted to publish with Pindeldyboz. But do I have the courage to allow this piece into the world?

Much like my piece “Snatches” in Storyglossia 33, I think this one would scandalize many. I’m afraid of that type of exposure, judgment, and criticism. I thought I’d die after publishing “Snatches.” Seriously. Because of the explicit nature of much of my work I’m afraid people will think less of me, and most terrifying of all, of my young daughters.

Sometimes I feel frightened and ashamed of my work because so much of it is around sex, sexuality, and abuse. The writer in me is so much braver and fiercer than the rest of me. There’s so many I can’t share my writing with. This makes me feel sad and confused.

On Monday, Monkeybicycle (online) will publish my short “Under Water.” After “Snatches” produced gasps and fingerpointing from some, I felt mortified and withdrew “Under Water” from consideration at three magazines.

Once I recovered from that wound, I felt compelled to resubmit “Under Water” and am thrilled that Jessa Marsh at Monkeybicycle accepted it. Yet the fear is also there. That “can I really publish that?” terror.

I could use a pseudonym, I know, but that seems self-defeating. Throughout my childhood, I kept secrets and felt that no one, least of all my parents, truly knew or understood me. It’s damaging. I’m still trying to come out of hiding. What, though, will writing what I need to write cost me and my family? And why do I need to write about all that anyway?

Some of my favorite writers in this community are fierce and fearless, and some of their best work centers on these very themes. Is it at all frightening for you? Do you feel comfortable with your subject matters? Proud? Defiant? Or is there a part of you that also quakes? I'd love to know.

For me, exposure and the why and what of my writing is an ongoing battle. Meanwhile, I’m saying what I need to say and hoping I’m doing the right thing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mid-August Marvels

There's an incredible amount of great writing about at the moment, what with the launch of The Collagist, and new issues from kill author, DecomP, PANK, NOO Journal, DOGZPLOT (Flash), and more. Another excellent online literary magazine to watch is Staccato Fiction. Check out their fine aesthetics and even finer fiction.

There's the usual stellar work in these issues that we've come to expect from such writers as Lauren Becker, Matt Bell, Mel Bosworth, Jimmy Chen, Kim Chinquee, Kathy Fish, Erin Fitzgerald, Heather Fowler, Roxane Gay, Steven J. McDermott, Laura Ellen Scott, Beth Thomas, William Walsh, Kevin Wilson, and Bonnie ZoBell, and many, many more. Wow!

What's more, kill author Issue 2 introduced me to Emma J. Lannie. I so enjoyed her short "Proxy." It reads fresh and inventive and is thoroughly satisfying. Here's snippets: "The corridor is long and full of too many chances to turn back." "I wear all grey, like skin when the heart stops." "He kisses me and it feels like a car crash. Something you know you shouldn't enjoy, but you can't help it." There are so many more lines I could quote, but out of context they lose their power. Congratulations, Emma. I look forward to reading more of your work.

What a line-up of writers and great works! Please read these wonderful magazines, and let their editors know how much you appreciate their extraordinary efforts and the gifted writers they are publishing.

I'm proud to be a part of this terrific community. Thank you.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Trio of Things

Stopped Cold

Yesterday, my seven-year-old daughter invited a friend over to play at ours. I made ice-cream cones, and we sat outside on the deck, the wood hot under our bare feet, sun broiling the backs of our necks.

My daughter's friend licked her double-scoop of mint-chip and rolled her eyes: "This is to die for."

My daughter stopped mid-lick, and also rolled her eyes: "You mean to live for?"

Thatta girl.

The Floodgates

To Facebook or not to Facebook? I'm leaning toward the former. I'm tempted by the networking opportunities, but wary of the distraction and exposure. SO many would be SO appalled.

Permanent Ink

There seems to be a lot of talk about tattoos lately. The fabulous Jimmy Chen has called them "permanent bumper stickers." The equally fabulous Roxane Gay has "six or eight depending on how you look at it."

Here's mine, on my back, copyrighted :-)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Beauty And The Wonder

Tai Dong Huai keeps a low profile, and has no blog or website that I could find. Her work stands alone, and it’s really something. I’m a long-time fan of her writing, and enjoy returning to her stories again and again. Read one of my favorites here.

There seems to be some affinity between Irish and Chinese writers and their diaspora? I’m also thinking of Yiyun Li, a formidable woman and writer. She often credits Irish writers, William Trevor in particular, as being major influences on her work.

Country and family are central to Irish and Chinese stories. Our stories try to force answers and demand accountability from both. The Irish and Chinese also share haunted histories and reticent cultures. We try to unlock all of that too in our work.

The Irish reticent? We’re largely known for our hospitality, merry-making, smooth-talking, and wicked sense of humor, but that’s a persona. At heart, we’re a reticent culture. I point to my recent attempt to hug my dad on first seeing him in Ireland last month. He met me at his front door, and as I reached for him, he turned away and continued down the hall. I’d have felt hurt, only I knew his reaction had nothing to do with me and everything to do with his inability to show affection. And he’s the norm versus the exception, at least of his generation. A garrulous generation, but never about matters of the heart.

Years ago, at the end of another visit, I summoned the courage to tell my dad that I loved him. He said: “you’re living in America too long.” Now that delivered a sting, but again I knew not to take it personally. He loves me (as best he can). Yet I will never hear him tell me as much. That’s just the way it is.

Not sure how I got from Tai Dong Huai to my dad, but isn’t that the beauty and the wonder of writing?

Speaking of beauty and wonder, PANK just announced their Best of Net 2009 nominations, a list that is delightfully poet-heavy, and which also includes the rocking writers Tania Hershman and Tim Jones-Yelvington. Fantastic. Congratulations one and all.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Random, And The Need For A New Pillow

I’ve only pages left to read in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I don’t want it to end, and wouldn’t let myself finish it last night, wanting to draw it out for as long as I can. The little games we play …

I just received in the mail Short Story Month: A Collection of Essays and Reviews on the Art of the Story from Dzanc Books. Get your copy here. The first post directed me to Aaron Gwyn’s story “The Gray” in Esquire’s online fiction. I loved the story, its much lauded fight scene is indeed skillfully drawn, but I felt especially moved by the protagonist’s torment post-fight, such a refreshing shift from (my personal peeve) the “becoming-a-man” through violence narrative. Bravo.

Dzanc’s Best of the Web series are now accepting nominations for inclusion in Best of the Web 2010, with the fabulous Kathy Fish serving as Guest Editor. How exciting! Get nominating, editors, and good luck everyone.

I’ve fast become a fan of Jessa Marsh’s writing. Jessa is Monkeybicyle’s new Web Editor. Congratulations, Jessa. Check out her stories here.

I also loved PANK’s interview with Jensen Whelan, Hobart’s Web Editor. Read it here.

Now, I’m off to buy myself a new pillow. Last night, my old one offered as much comfort as a deflated pool toy.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

In The Ring

I’m back in the ring, throwing punches. Shortly after writing my last post, I returned to the book I’m currently reading: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows. It’s a surprisingly wonderful read (a book in letters?) and my mood immediately lightened.

Later, I returned to my emails, rereading all the mail I’d received while in Ireland, and updated my submissions log (rejected, rejected, rejected). However, there was heartening mail also: a email from a writer and editor I greatly admire and respect inviting me to submit to a journal she’s guest-editing; a rewrite request from an excellent magazine I’d love to place work with; and the excellent and encouraging edits and feedback from Matt Bell (via Dzanc Creative Writing Sessions) on a story that I know has the potential to be great. Okay, I thought, there’s something, there’s light.

I returned to my blog, thrilled to receive a comment from Tanita Davis. Tanita always seems to know just what to say to put me back on my feet, dusting myself off and getting going again. Next I decided to update my list of published works on my blog, citing what went live during my absence. My latest work is in PANK, Bound-Off, Up The Staircase, The Northville Review, The Shine Journal, Southpaw Journal, Ocho # 25, Cantaraville Magazine, & LitNImage. And there’s more coming. Not too shabby, I thought, brightening more.

Then, surprise, surpise, Eric Beeny also commented on my latest post, words and a sense of solidarity that I deeply appreciated. It hit me then that, really, I’ve no idea who reads my blog and my work, no real sense of how much my words impact others. But the possibilities are endless, and that’s deeply humbling and gratifying. So bolstered, I returned to my work and started revising first one story, then another, and finally a third. I felt the load lifting.

Word by word, I thought. That’s all I have to do. Go word by word, and try to do my best each and every time. I am a writer. I should never have allowed any person, place, or circumstance to interfere with that. I need to write, otherwise I’m miserable. I also need to embrace the writer’s life, there’s a lot to celebrate and feel grateful for, and just suck-up its perils and pitfalls.

So I’m back in the ring, realizing that my opponent, the one in blue, is my internal critic, that voice that torments me with “you’ll never make it, you’ll never be good enough, you don’t have what it takes,” and rather than following my first instinct and slugging the bitch, I hold her in a bear hug until she quiets down and then I tell her in a firm, but calm, voice, to step aside and get out of my way, because I’m coming through. She’s not holding me back any longer. Watch out, folks.

And thanks, friends. You all know who you are.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I Blue It

After a thirty day stay, we returned home from Ireland yesterday. In Ireland, it showered every day. Yes, every day. We moved constantly amongst my and my husband’s family, staying a couple of nights here, a few nights there, packing and unpacking suitcases, sharing beds, skipping showers, and cleaning-up after ourselves. It was a mixed bag of fun, laughter, love, tension, and grief, the kind that only family can bring.

I ate and drank too much, and was around other people constantly. I neglected to get time alone and to exercise enough. I need both. Hence I’m wearing a virtual “I survived” tee-shirt. I’m also tired. It’s not just the “jet-lag” kind of tired, it’s a defeated kind of tired. I’m feeling the need to cry. Yet the tears won’t come.

I didn’t write in Ireland. Not a word. Thirty days without writing. Maybe that’s why I’m hurting so much? Yet I’m not sure I have the energy to pick up where I left off, to revise all my stories that need saving; write the new stories that peck at me; log onto Zoetrope Virtual; check out Duotrope; catch-up with all the blogs and writers I follow. What of the novel(s) and story collections I want to write and publish? The energy required feels overwhelming.

I received an unprecedented number of rejections during the past thirty days, a battering amount and not a single acceptance. I tried to go a different direction in my latest stories. I tried to deliver what Randall Brown calls the “emergent precious thing.” Obviously, it’s not working.

I feel angry and frustrated. You know that physical feeling where something inside you just wants to get out, to move up through your stomach and throat and wrench out of you? I feel like I’m banging my head off the wall, like I’m trying to force something into existence that’s just not there, like I’m going to run myself ragged trying. Like I need to stop. Just stop. Like I blue it.