About Me

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My work can be found in REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Jabberwock Review, The Emerson Review, Storyglossia, The MacGuffin, Confrontation, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, elimae, wigleaf, Pank, New Delta Review, and Gargoyle #57, among others. One of my stories has been translated into Farsi by Asadollah Amraee, and many others by Jalil Jafari, two of which have been published in the Iranian journal, Golestaneh Magazine. Currently, I'm an Associate editor for Narrative Magazine. In 2011, I was awarded the Carol Houck Smith Contributor Scholarship for the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Novel, Story, Novel, Story...

I sat down with my rough draft this morning and read and took notes on the first five chapters. At first, I panicked at the amount of work there was to be done after looking at the thing in the harsh morning-after light. But there's definitely something there that still excites me and that's really all I can ask of a first draft.

Oddly, in the last day or two, I've been getting flashes of inspiration for a story/excerpt of my other novel and am now desperate to revise that piece. Go figure.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rough Draft of My Novel is Done

Ah. I never thought I'd get to write those words. I'm both excited and relieved. And today I'm going to take a day off from writing.!!!

In other news, I've been put on a waitlist for Bread Loaf. Which means if someone who was invited decides not to go, I may have a chance to get in. On the postive side, going to the mountain in 2006 was one of the most validating experiences I've had and on the negative side it's a lot of money to go as a contributor. I'm not going to worry about it now. If it's meant to be, it will.

I hope to dive into a couple of short story collections for Dan Wickett's May is Short Story Month, and soon I'll be scouring the internet for interviews and advice on revising the novel and who knows what else...

Friday, May 08, 2009

Question on Process

Okay, so I have these three chapters that have just been sketched in as place markers. I'm going in now to fill them in, but I'm considering (but not decided) a major change to the book, a main character getting banished to back story. Do I fill in the chapters with new change in mind, or with same character and make the changes in revision?

What would you do?

Here's what I'm going to do...postpone killing the character until I have the full draft done.

Oh boy. Can't wait to see what kind of mess I have when I'm finished.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Wigleaf's Top Fifty

Here is this year's amazing group of short-shorts, wigleaf's top fifty. I see many writers I admire on that list. I can't wait to dig in!!!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Read This: "Dear Everybody" and "Lawnboy"

With apologies to Dan Wickett at Emerging Writers Network I want to take a moment out of short story month to talk about two novels I've read recently that blew me away. They're quite different, and yet there are enough similarities to inspire me to write about them both in one post. Both are coming of age stories, both deal with strained relationships between brothers, and both are written with an uncommon level of emotional vibrancy.

The first is "Dear Everybody" by Michael Kimball, which has already been nicely summed up at the offical website:

"A Novel Written in the Form of Letters, Diary Entries, Encyclopedia Entries, Conversations with Various People, Notes Sent Home from Teachers, Newspaper Articles, Psychological Evaluations, Weather Reports, a Missing Person Flyer, a Eulogy, a Last Will and Testament, and Other Fragments, Which Taken Together Tell the Story of the Short Life of Jonathon Bender, Weatherman."

In this brilliantly designed novel, we learn right up front that the main character of the story, Jonathon Bender, commits suicide. Kimball then takes us through bits of archeological evidence to show us what is too often left unknown after a suicide: why. And we gradually learn that in this broken, dysfunctional family, the young man who kills himself was actually the sanest one of all. What I loved most about this book, aside from its beautiful structure, is the depth of character and emotion. It left me feeling as if the author left a huge chunk of his heart on the page and it is this generosity and depth that left me stunned when I finished and grateful I had read it.

Here's a small excerpt from Bender's crushingly innocent point of view:

"Dear Mom and Dad,

I know that I must have looked strange after I pulled most of my eyelashes out of my eyelids. It must have looked as if there were something wrong with me. But I want you to know why I did it: this girl at school told me that if you blow on your eyelashes and they fly away it's good luck."


I found this same level of depth and emotion in Paul Lisicky's "Lawnboy." A beautiful coming of age story set in south Florida. The reader finds dysfunction in this family as well, if a bit quieter, still a dispiriting dysfunction all the same. And our main character must navigate his teen years under the blanket-like unhappiness of his parents and without the guidance of his adored and elusive older brother. The narrator eventually breaks away from his stifling parents and grows into himself. I found his embrace of his true self, his reconnection with his brother, and his finding "the one" when he was least expecting it, beautiful and affecting. Lisicky writes with the attention of a poet. His ability to go deep into experiences gives us passages such as this one:

"Hector and I floated in the pool one night. No talk. My suit floated off on the surface, an empty bag. Our mouths fastened. We were circling, hands pushing at each other, muscles tensing. I wanted him closer. I studied his face: that scar beneath his ear, those fleshy pink lips. How to get him closer? How to get deeper inside the body? Our bodies. I tried hard as I could to inhabit it, us, closing my eyes frenetic."

And Lisicky isn't afraid of shocking us with startling images such as this one on the first page:

"They didn't know that I spent hours inside a concrete pipe, a cool, cramped cylinder in the middle of a field, whenever I needed to get away. They didn't know about the morning in my thirteenth year when out of sheer boredom, I stitched my fingertips together with needle and thread, making an intricate basket of my hand and giving myself a tremendous infection."

But for me the most amazing part of the novel is the moment in which the narrator sees for the first time his lover, really sees him, in all ages, future and past, in his vulnerability and strength, and it is this seeing that is the eventual undoing of our narrator's protective armour, and he has made the leap to living life fully.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Read This: Women Up On Blocks by Mary Akers

What better way to kick off Dan Wickett's designated short story month then a riveting, unique collection of stories by my talented friend, Mary Akers. I'd read most of these stories prior to reading them in the collection and it's a testament to Akers' talent that I was just as dazzled by them this time as I was then--even more so, actually.

Mary writes about motherhood, marriage and desire with a fierce honesty. Fierce! "Medusa Song," the opener, is an affecting story of a harried, exhausted mother with little support and we follow her through her afternoon, breath held from the fear of what will happen next, and then Akers ends it in the most desperately beautiful way. "Wild, Wild Horses" offers a look at the strength of a woman, both literally and figuratively. "Mooncalf" blew me away with its raw, emotional power. Who would dare to write about motherhood from the perspective of a woman with cerebral palsy? Mary Akers did and she does it with veracity and heart and this story will slay you. And then there's "The Rashomon Tree," a story of two women with very different views, each mired in their own brand of righteousness, discovering the middle ground, learning what it means to love "the other". Mary Akers has a gift for empathy, for getting inside the heads of all kinds of women, and giving them a voice full of bravery, honesty, strength, humor and love.
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