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, October 29, 2009

StoryGlossia Issue 36

The new issue is out! It's all about music and obsession.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Leveling Appalachia"

thanks to Mary Akers for this link.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

On Planning a Novel: Amy Tan in Conversation with Roger Rosenblatt

To hear what she says about planning a novel, click on "Watch Full Program" then scroll down to the appropriate section. You have to pause the original link or the introduction will keep going...

Read This: Bad Monkey by Curtis Smith

Curtis Smith has a gift for conjuring any kind of character imaginable, so much so, that I suspect he walks around with whole worlds in his mind, as varied and intriguing as they are familiar.

The first story in "Bad Monkey" is fiercely detailed and will likely haunt you. With chilling subtlety, Smith reveals, or more accurately, hints at, what happened to the smiling girl in the video. "The Girl in the Halo" is one of the few stories I've read in which the second person POV is so well done and fitting, I didn't notice it until the end. In "Think on Thy Sins" a son grows up quickly and takes on his father's businesses, both legal and illegal, after his father has an accident. In "What About Meg?" a widower, recovering from heart trouble, wants to down-size and sell the family home, but first he must decide whether or not to place his adult special needs daughter in a permanent care facility.

Smith's shorter stories are as richly layered and weighty as his longer pieces. In "In the Jukebox Light," a town looks at a promising local couple with a kind of loving awe which later turns to a wistful sadness after tragedy strikes. The piece "Caravan," reveals how the kind of unquestioning faith that lures people into the cult life can be as ominous and deadly to the spirit as the worst kind of evil. And in "Fever," one of my favorites of the collection, a mother cares for her feverish son as an ice storm snaps branches and makes a trip to the emergency room as treacherous as the fever itself. Smith creates atmosphere and suspense with concise precision. As the mother scolds herself for an affair that drove her husband away, she considers her son's future:

"She stroked her boy's flushed cheek, tasted the salty residue on her fingertips, and wondered how many nights he would spend trapped in a fever of one sort or another, his bearings undone by a fire within, a flame he could no more explain than he could resist."

Just as Parker has to deal with his troublesome monkey in the title story, the characters in this exquisitely crafted collection are forced to contend with their own bad monkeys.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Read This: Normal People Don't Live Like This

by Dylan Landis. This is an incredible collection. Landis has delivered with precision, honesty and art, the adolescent female mind. Her sentences, vivid and daring, are honed to the clarity of a mountain stream. The details in her prose will surprise as will her characters even as their actions seem inevitable. I enjoyed the science threaded through the stories as well.

It's difficult to pick a favorite story in this even collection but the title story captures so well the precise moment in which a well-intentioned but disillusioned mother realizes she no longer has a handle on her daughter.

'It will hold, Helen thought. She was not lost. She was merely trying all sorts of stunts. Leah Sophia, one name from each grandmother. The cigarette was nothing. It was only smoke. It was only a moment: daughter, fifteen.'

The first story, "Jazz," is also striking in its raw honesty and head-on look at how a young girl rationalizes allowing a much older man to have sex with her. This passage shows so well how limited a thirteen year-old girl's understanding of herself and her place in the world is:

'She has known Richard since she was a toddler. She doesn’t have to be polite.
“Five minutes,” says Richard. He has freed a breast with his teeth. Rainey, propped on her elbows, sees how her breast lights up in the dark. It pumps out its resplendence like the sun. When Richard sucks on the nipple, the water rolls up through the pipes in Bethesda Fountain and rains on the heads of angels.
Rainey punches him in the head.
“Five minutes,” he says. “In five minutes you’ll be thirty-nine and I’ll be fourteen and then we can go.”
Rainey says, “Goddamit, Richard,” and she is half-crying. She is not getting raped but he won’t get up. She still wants to go too far but she is not sure how far is far.
“You think I just want one thing,” says Richard. “You think there’s only one part of you that’s special.” He kisses her mouth again, and she lets him, even though he has a beard and his mouth does not have that boy-sweetness; it tastes of tobacco and steak.
“Thirteen,” Rainey says, but there is clay in her mouth.'

For anyone wishing to understand those defining, and yet often lost moments, of a girl trying to leap into womanhood, this is a must read.

Monday, October 12, 2009

TED: Isabelle Allende

This woman is amazing. Her talk is filled with humor and of course, passion.

Wabi-Sabi, Slowing Down, and Acceptance

Right now, I'm reading a book I orginally bought for my husband and after he read it, he told me he thought I would enjoy it. I put it down in my stack, months went by, and then, as is usually the case, I picked it up at just the right time. It's a book called The Wabi-Sabi House: the Japanese Art of Imperfect Beeauty.

I've recently returned from a trip to Paris. That trip could be labeled a trip of imperfect beauty. I felt right at home in Paris. I've always loved the language and found when I was there I could speak enough to get by very well. I loved the food, the architecture, the people, the fact that there are flower markets on nearly every street corner in some parts and that grapes hang in bunches in the sunlight. I love that the women there, of all ages, take the time to present themselves with imperfect beauty. I loved seeing the joy in my son's eyes at the city life he loves so much: the metros, the glittering, magnificent lights of the Eiffel Tower, the hustle and bustle of transportation of all kinds, and I loved seeing my world-traveler husband adapt, take charge, as he does so well in any country. My trip was marred only by the fact that what I thought was a sinus infection turned out to be an abscess, so for the whole week, I lived on Advils and an antibiotic I'd never seen before. That could have ruined it for me, but it didn't. I still went out, pain and swelling be damned. I still enjoyed. I still soaked in all the beauty that was around me. After all, I could have had the abscess anywhere, much better that it was Paris!

When I returned, I started to take stock of my own life, its balance or lack of, and my priorities. I've not written a word since August--or maybe even July. I've stopped counting. I'm not blocked. I'm letting some air in. I'm taking notes, letting the novel stew, working out some issues. (I did manage to write two outlines of stories while I was in Paris, one sketchier than the other, so I guess that counts as writing, but barely). I haven't sent out a story to a magazine in almost a year though I have a couple of stories almost ready, and three others ready to be drafted. This is a departure from my determined, driven manner of the past few years of writing and sending stories out for the end result: publication. At this point, when I think about my novels and stories there's a kind of freedom I feel, the freedom of taking my time with them, of letting them be what they will, imperfect as they are. Of protecting their imperfection against the judment of others, of myself.

Wabi-Sabi is defined in the book as: "...the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow, and uncluttered--and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores, aged wood, not Pergo, rice paper not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, water, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet--that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came."

For the moment I've removed myself from the race. I'm accepting this is where I need to be. I'm enjoying the quiet. I'm taking note of the things for which I'm grateful. I'm drinking tea with reverence and I'm enjoying the beauty of imperfection.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

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