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 Flashfiction.net 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 Flashfiction.net, 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, Failbetter.com, 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.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The High of A Great Read

I think I'm starting to get something akin to that runner's high on reading something so good it can give me goosebumps. It's a rush, you know? That quickening of pulse and sitting up straight and feeling that tingle throughout and reading so fast you feel like you're devouring the work. I love that feeling. I love the stories and the kind of writing that can do that to me.

During my six years of college at Mills (BA and MFA) I couldn't get any enjoyment out of reading. I didn't fully appreciate it at the time, but looking back I see of course that I was stressed, depressed, and run ragged. I was the over-achieving straight-A student, had two complicated pregnancies spaced three years apart, and at last delivered two daughters that I breastfed, the first for a year, and the second for fifteen months.

I felt sucked dry, literally and figuratively. I'd read stories and novels and for the most part felt nothing. It was a slog to get through the pages. I wondered where all the good stories and writers had gone? What the hell was I doing writing if I couldn't even find anything I cared about reading? Desperate, I returned to Raymond Carver and Flannery O'Conner and found solace, remembered why I was in this crazy game. Although, at that time, the solace was all too fleeting.

I graduated from Mills in 2004. After graduating, I mothered and I battled depression, my demons. Both were full-time jobs. I'm in a much better place now. I'm in the best place of my life. My writing's back, and so is my love of reading. My smile comes from deep inside now, you know?

That's a long-winded way of explaining just how excited I feel having started my day with yet another terrific story from one of our very own: Roxane Gay. Read her story "Gravity at the End of the World" over at Knee-Jerk Magazine. I'm just coming down from the rush of that read. Congratulations yet again, Roxane.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Great Reads

This morning, I had the great pleasure of reading Angi Becker Steven's latest stories in Storyglossia and (So New) Necessary Fiction. These stories are oh so good. They gave me goosebumps. Read, enjoy, and let Angi know she rocks.

Congratulations also again to Steve Himmer and Steven J. McDermott. You know how to pick them! Seriously.

I also read Tai Dong Huai's story "Kisssed by Johnny Depp" in Annalemma. It's another wonderful story from this seriously talented writer, and another great issue of Annalemma that's yet again packed with excellent writing and gorgeous artwork. Congratulations, Tai Dong Huai and Chris.

Now, I gotta go write some fiction. I'm oh so inspired.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sparrows and Bears

Grey Sparrow Journal's Issue 2 is out and it's really something! Treat yourself to the read. From its photography to its state-of-the-art aesthetics to the outstanding writing it's truly setting the bar ever higher for online journals.

The issue includes Elizabeth Creith, Frank Dahai, Timothy Gager, Howie Good, Meg Pokrass, Michelle Reale, Bill Frank Robinson, and the editor's choice for this issue, Joe Young, among many others. The issue also introduced me to the work of Iris Macor. I especially enjoyed her second flash "If It's All The Same To You." Very nicely done, Iris.

Congratulations all round to the editors and contributors alike, stellar stuff.

I have a blog essay up today at PANK. You can read "Motherhood, Writing, And Wrestling Bears" here. There's also essays from Teresa Houle and Angi Becker Stevens. Thanks PANK for giving us the space to sound our voices.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Sum Greater Than Its Parts

Courtesy of PANK’s generous giveaway, I received Sean Lovelace’s HOW SOME PEOPLE LIKE THEIR EGGS. I read it in one sitting. I read it again, carefully. I read it a third time, savoring.

I am a narrative writer, and hold a preference for traditional stories and writing. They’re the biases and prejudices I bring to my reading. Yet I also have a healthy respect and admiration for writing that doesn’t make so much sense as makes art, makes meaning.

This collection holds deep meaning. It recalled for me Beckett’s work: sometimes arbitrary in construction and always threaded through with the agnostic’s rage against the arbitrary cruelty of life.

I must also admit that I don’t like eggs. I don’t think that affected my reading of the collection’s title story. Still, “how some people like their eggs” was my least favorite work here. While it left me luke-warm, I did appreciate its imagination and inventiveness.

I loved “Meteorite,” the collection’s first story. It’s a narrative about friendship, love, leukemia, and loss. It rails against the arbitrary cruelty of life. It also testifies to the strength and endurance of the human spirit.

I like how “Meteorite” opened. I like how it introduced the two main characters. I like how we see our narrator struggling to find the right words even as he knows there are no right words. I like how Lovelace uses the 10 Commandants for Cancer Survival. I like how Paige reacted to the crushing news, twisting expectations. I like the art of selection here, what’s left in and what’s left out. I love the last paragraph, its imagery and that last heartbreaking, breathtaking line.

I like how HOW SOME PEOPLE LIKE THEIR EGGS felt in my hands and played in my head. It is a sum greater than its parts. Get it here from Rose Metal Press. Enjoy.

Congratulations, Sean.