About Me

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Originally from Vermont, I now live in North Carolina. My work can be found in recent issues of REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Jabberwock Review, The Emerson Review, Storyglossia, The MacGuffin, Confrontation, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, elimae, wigleaf, Pank, 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 assistant editor for Narrative Magazine. I'm also working on two novels and a short story collection. In 2011, I was awarded the Carol Houck Smith Contributor Scholarship for the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Congratulations to Myfanwy Collins!

for winning Flatmancrooked's Fiction Prize!

I love that Benjamin Percy says she's the real deal. Yes she is!!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Kenyon Review

Kenyon Review Online has a new, interesting feature called "Why We Chose It." I am always interested in analysis of what makes a story not only work, but stand out.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Prime Number

The latest issue is live and it looks fantastic!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

June

is the month in which I entered my last blog post. The end of June but still...JUNE! A little over three months and during that time, I've been playing with my son while he was on summer vacation (and delivering him to his swim team practices), reading submissions for Narrative, away at Bread Loaf for eleven days and then away again to Rome for a week. I'm back from Italy, at least in body, and I'm slowly slipping back into my writing self but I've been out of it so long the slipping feels clumsy.

However, until I become fully engaged again, here are a couple of links to must-have books:

Cut Through the Bone

Up From the Blue

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Aryn Kyle: Interview


Aryn Kyle's latest book, "Boys and Girls Like You and Me," is an extraordinary read. After I read her debut novel, God of Animals," I was a fan and I awaited her collection of stories with great anticipation and excitement. I know wise-beyond-her-years is an overused phrase, but I'm going to stubbornly insist it fits Aryn Kyle's distinctive voice. Her characters are vulnerable and wonderful and flawed but it's also clear they are loved by the author and it is this lens of love through which they reveal themselves that makes them so special.

I asked Aryn if I could interview her about her writing process and her short story collection and she graciously agreed:

Hi, Aryn,

Let me start off by saying I enjoyed reading these stories very much. Thank you for writing them!

Q: Your characters are rich with depth, and as I’ve said before, they’re messed up in all the best ways. Do you have any tricks for creating such vulnerable, imperfect yet empathetic characters?

One of the things I find most frustrating about life is that we’re all just stuck with ourselves. No matter how rich our imagination is, how deep our empathy, none of us can ever truly know what it’s like to be inside someone else’s skin. At times, I find this confinement, this limitation, almost too much to bear.

I think that’s how my love affair with books began. I’ve always felt kind of weird, kind of different, kind of uneasy in the world (though I suppose that most people feel like this sometimes). As a child, books gave me an escape from myself, a chance to experience the world through someone else’s eyes. I suppose it was a pretty natural progression for me to begin writing. I’m fascinated by the details of other people’s lives—their childhoods and friendships and marriages, the ways they describe their wants and needs and failures, their secrets. At parties, I’m much more content to linger on the perimeter, watching other people interact than I am to interact with them myself. This probably indicates some sort of major social dysfunction on my part, but it tends to be good for my writing.

First and foremost, I write for character. Plot, setting, etc.—they all come later, after I have the characters, after I’ve spent some time living with them in my head and carrying them around with me. By the time I sit down to write, I know them as well as I know my friends and family, better than I know my friends and family. And while I don’t always share my characters’ life experiences, I can usually access them emotionally. I wasn’t abandoned by my mother as a child, I didn’t sleep with my high school drama teacher, I’ve never gone to a therapist and pretended to be someone I’m not. But I know what it’s like to feel lost, to feel lonely, to feel longing. And that’s my point of entrance.

Q: In “Nine” a young girl is left basically left on her own to grieve the loss of her mother. Her father tells her simply that her “mother’s moved forward.” Her mother leaves a red raincoat in the hall closet and I saw this coat as a brilliant symbol for the silence between Tess and her father. When she puts the coat on and wears it, it becomes the emotional burden she takes on herself—an apt metaphor for children in similar situations in which important things are left unsaid. Was the red coat an intentional symbol or was its appearance a surprise even for you?

The red raincoat was one of those things that just appeared out of nowhere. While I was writing the story, I pictured Tess’s world in grays and blues—all that rain, all that sadness—and so I think I was subconsciously looking for something that would stand out against the color pallet, something bright and unavoidable. This is my favorite part of writing, when you enter a character so entirely that you just let them escort you through the story. Tess opened the closet and there it was: her mother’s raincoat.

Of course, at some point, the writer has to separate from the character, or at least be able to see beyond what the character can see, in order to make choices for the story as a whole. Once something like the red raincoat pops up, you have to use it. It has to show up again. It has to be important. You can’t just close the closet door and forget about it. For me, that’s almost always how I find the plot of whatever I’m writing. Early in the process, I’m just letting myself type, trying to keep up with my characters, trying to give them enough space to wander around and make discoveries. Eventually, though, I have to make decisions about those discoveries, put them to work, make them contribute to the overall arc of the story.

Once the raincoat showed up, it became the physical presence of her mother’s absence—if that makes sense—and I knew that Tess would have to wear it at some point, that she would have to pull the past into the present. And I knew there would have to be some sort of consequence for that, that Tess’s choices would, inevitably, alter her world by the end of the story.


Q: In “Sex Scenes from a Chain Bookstore,” the appearance of Angry Man made me laugh out loud because in my brief experience working in that environment, I’m fairly certain I’ve met him. You did a fantastic job offering the reader satisfaction as the narrator gets her revenge. Did you ever work in a bookstore?

All four years of college I was employed by the Fort Collins Barnes and Noble—store 2611, if you want to get specific. It’s funny because when I think back on college, I remember very little about the campus or my classes. Mostly, what I remember is the book store. I wouldn’t have said so at the time, especially while I was cleaning vomit off the floor or dealing with some irate bully of a customer, but it was an awesome job. I loved the people I worked with. Loved. We spent our time schlepping books around and smoking cigarettes by the Dumpster and prank calling each other from the safe room. I never made too many “college friends.” All my friends were booksellers.

There seems to be a certain type of person who’s attracted to working at a bookstore. A fairly twisted sense of humor seems to be key. And, obviously, a love of books. I remember a roommate saying at one point of my B&N crowd, “You guys are the only people I know who get drunk and talk about what you’re reading.”
I should probably clarify that while I worked at Barnes and Noble, my manager was a married mother of two—so it ought to go without saying that we never had sex with each other in the store or anywhere else. But I did date one of my supervisors for awhile, and we sometimes made out in the stacks during slow shifts. It was pretty hot.


Q: I loved “Captain’s Club.” Loved, loved, loved it, particularly the relationship that develops between Tommy and Tree. Such lovely empathy between them which, by contrast, emphasizes how cavalier and self-absorbed C.J. and his father are. For me, the most beautiful moment in the story was when Tommy sees the red moon:

“He felt that he should be afraid, because this was something he had never seen, never heard of, because it was larger than anything he had ever imagined, because it was the sun or a star or a planet full of blood.
But the beauty, bright and full and red as a human heart, made his body ring inside, and he could not be afraid.”

This is such an amazing moment/feeling you’ve captured here that it led me to wonder if the image came before the story and you wrote the story around it.


The moon came before the story. I went on a Mediterranean cruise years ago (with my parents and my grandparents) and one night my parents and I were walking the deck of the ship late at night—it was nearly deserted—and we saw the moon I tried to describe at the end of the story. Though it was, truly, beyond the description of words. I have never seen anything like it in my life and don’t expect to ever see anything like it again. It was terrifying and electrifying and it filled me with a combination of awe and euphoria and deep, deep sorrow. I remember feeling frantic almost, like I needed to take pictures of it or wake up everyone on the ship so that they could all see it too.

Big moments are always hard for me—I’m trying to figure out how I will retell them even while they’re still happening, panicking that people I love aren’t there to share them with me, aware that all too soon, they’ll be over and maybe never happen again, at least, not to me.

Years after that cruise, when my novel sold, I was very far away from almost everyone I loved. I was living at a writers’ colony in New Hampshire and there was no cell phone reception and very limited Internet. The sale of my book happened quite quickly, days after I’d finished writing it, and though it was the most fantastic thing that had ever happened to me, I remember feeling these giant waves of grief. It felt so big and so important and there was no one there to share it with, no one to validate it or witness it or remember it.

For some reason, those two experiences, the moon over Mykonos and the sale of my novel are inexplicably linked in my memory, though they happened years apart and on different sides of the planet. For a long time, I tried to find the story that would let me work out some of my feelings about both of those things. “Captain’s Club” is one of the newest stories in the collection—I wrote it a little over a year ago. Tommy, the main character, appeared in my head one day, entirely out of the blue. It was like I’d known him forever. And once I figured out that he and that moon belonged in the same story, everything else came very quickly.


Q: In “Femme” you executed the second plural pov so very well. From where did the inspiration for this story originate?

I wrote “Femme” as an exercise for a techniques class in graduate school. There was some sort of assignment, but I can’t for the life of me remember what the assignment was. I think it had something to do with irony, though the story isn’t at all ironic, so maybe I’ve got that wrong.

I remember too that I was annoyed with a girl in my class who I felt had befriended me and coaxed my secrets out of me only to turn on me after I’d given them up to her. It wasn’t the first time I’d fallen for such tricks—I’m easy prey for a woman who strokes my vanity while seducing her way into my privacy. I wrote the exercise, in part, to release my frustration at having been such a willing victim to such a familiar ploy, and also, I think, because it was the closest thing to a confrontation I was capable of mustering. More than anything, I remember being tremendously disappointed that the girl for whom the story was intended didn’t come to class that day and never even knew I wrote it.
Probably just as well.

Q: Speaking of points of view…in “Boys and Girls Like You and Me,” you slip into second person twice, and it’s this decision that, for me, took the story to even deeper emotional level. The end was devastating in a good way. Did you have anyone telling you not to switch povs?

“Boys and Girls” is another story where I had the ending long before I had the beginning. I knew that it would end in second person. The other spot where it slips into second person was completely accidental, or rather, unplanned. For awhile I went back and forth about whether to cut that bit out—I think that the story would work fine without it. My problem with it, still, is that it isn’t exactly the same second person that shows up at the end. The second person at the end is, more or less, direct address. But the second person that shows up earlier is basically the narrator referring to herself.

In the end, I left it in because I felt that it was important for the narrator to, in some way, claim responsibility for her situation, to own her mistakes. Something about doing that in first person just felt a little melodramatic. I’m still not sure I made the right decision leaving it in, but since the book has been bound and published, I suppose I might as well stop worrying about it.


Q: I’m always curious about process. Your stories are clear and polished and rich with developed characters and situations. How long do you work on a story? Do you revise often? Do you ever get sick of working on a story?


Every story is different. I wrote “Brides” in a single sitting and the draft that appears in the book is very close to the original draft—there were only a few edits. “Allegiance,” on the other hand, took nearly two years for me to finish; I went through at least twenty drafts of that sucker. The others fall somewhere in-between.

I’ve never written anything that I didn’t hate at some point during the process. Starting a story is a ton of fun, and finishing a story is truly the most amazing experience in the world—at least for me. It’s like being on the most fantastic, perfect drugs. I feel like I can fly. Literally. Everything I’ve ever written has been finished around 3:00 in the morning—probably because I write at night—and when I’m done, I’m filled with so much adrenaline, I can hardly contain myself. I want to go running or dancing or find a trampoline. The night I finished my short story collection, I woke my then-boyfriend by jumping up and down on our bed and shrieking, “I finished! I finished! Let’s go swimming!” Of course, this was February in Montana and it was in the middle of the night, so he wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about the idea. But we did drink champagne for breakfast.

I think it’s pretty lucky that it feels so fantastic to finish, otherwise I might not have the impetus to get through the mucky middle. Inevitably, at some point, every story feels impossible, like a giant, messy waste of time. The excitement of starting something new burns off and you’re suddenly adrift in threads that don’t tie together and arcs that go nowhere. And when you reach that point, there really is nothing to do but just clench your jaw and power through. It can feel like digging through concrete with a salad fork, but that’s just the nature of the beast. I’ve never written anything that didn’t, at some point, feel like a mistake, like it wasn’t meant to be and I should just give up on it. Usually, though, I think the voice that tells us we’re wasting our time is the voice of laziness, the part of the brain that’s bored and tired and would rather be watching TV. When that voice starts talking, I know it’s time to brew some coffee and settle in. Because I’m going to be there for awhile.

Q: You’ve written and published both a novel and a collection. Do you have a preference for one form over the other? How are they different for you?


I prefer them each at different times for different reasons. As a reader, I think that some of the best work in contemporary fiction is happening in short stories. It’s very rare that I finish reading a novel and think, “That piece of writing was perfect.” But I read short stories that I think are perfect all the time. Of course, I expect different things of stories than I do of novels. With a story, I want to be left feeling like I’ve been punched in the stomach, like the wind has been knocked out of me. The stories I remember and admire and force my friends to read are all stories that hurt me in some way, that showed me something I wasn’t expecting to see and made me feel something I wasn’t expecting to feel. With novels, I want to lose myself, to disappear into the lives of the characters and come back out in a different place, with a different view of the world than I had when I began.

Technique-wise, I feel more freedom writing a story than a novel, and I’m more willing to let myself take risks, to write something simply because I want to, even if it’s dark or troubling, even if I suspect it might alienate some readers, even if it breaks rules about form or structure.

With a novel, I’m primarily concerned with character, with giving the characters enough space to be real on the page, to form their own decisions and make their own mistakes, while still trying to wrangle them together and keep their various plotlines moving in the same direction. Of course, I’ve written many more stories than I have novels, so perhaps my feelings will change as I get more experience.

Q: What was the first thing you ever wrote?

It’s hard for me to recall a time when I wasn’t writing. I’ve kept a journal for as long as I can remember, and even when I was really little—first or second grade—I wrote poems. But my first real writing endeavor started in the fourth grade. I spent the whole school year working on a novel about a magic puppy. All I wanted in the world was a puppy and since I couldn’t have one, I spent my time writing about one, which, I suppose, soothed me. In the fifth grade, I got a real dog and promptly stopped caring about my novel. And, as I’m writing this anecdote, I suddenly realize that it’s revealing quite a bit about who I am and why I write, and it’s creeping me out, so I’m going to stop.

Q: What does your typical writing day look like? Are you a write-when-inspired writer, or are you in the chair every day whether your muse joins you or not?

I’m an all-or-nothing writer; it goes in waves. Months pass in which I don’t work at all. But when I am writing, that’s all I do. I hardly sleep, hardly eat, hardly have any contact with the outside world. I stop answering my phone, I don’t respond to emails, I forget to pay my bills. This is neither terribly healthy nor terribly good for my social life, but I try to remind myself that Emily Dickinson lived in an attic, which makes me feel well adjusted by comparison.

Q: What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new novel, which, for superstitious reasons, I don’t talk about at all. It’s been a bit slow-going lately, but it’s difficult to write one book while in the midst of promoting another. I have some travels coming up this summer, but am hoping to disappear into my writing cave afterwards and get a draft cranked out by late fall or early winter. Fingers crossed, anyway.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. You’re a hugely talented writer and I’m looking forward to the next book from you.

Author photo by Miriam Berkley

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Summer Break, Writing and Gargoyle


My youngest has a half day of school tomorrow and then he's on break for five weeks. He'll be going into third grade. An unsettling fact, since it seems as if he was in preschool only a hour ago. He was fortunate to have an amazing teacher (all bright, inspiring teachers, but particularly his second grade teacher), in an equally amazing environment.
In these last weeks while he was in shool, I wrote six new story drafts and sketched out another and I received inspiration for my two novels. I feel best when I'm creating, so this productive time was a gift.

I'm also excited to have a story accepted for Gargoyle #57!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg


is an amazing book. In his memoir, Bill Clegg shares his story of trying to hide his addiction to crack while maintaining his success as a New York Literary Agent and his relationship with his boyfriend. He brings us along into his descent into paranoia and tunnel vision and eventual fall, with uncommon honesty and courage. The writing is compelling and I particularly liked the decision he made to forgo a linear narrative, because I found the dips into his past a relief from the building tension and also very illuminating.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Jen Michalski Interviews Dawn Raffel

Here.

I have Dawn's book and am looking forward to reading it. I love the cover!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Interview: Becky Hagenston



Recently, I read Becky Hagenston's "Strange Weather," published by Press 53 (a press from North Carolina that's been enjoying much success lately) and was wowed by both the quality of the writing and by the emotional depth. Clearly, Hagenston is that kind of large-hearted writer I admire. One who writes realistic fiction, but also one who isn't afraid to depart from the expected. I so loved this collection, I immediately read her earlier collection "A Gram of Mars," and found it equally as moving and strong. Both collections were award-winners: "A Gram of Mars" won the 1997 Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction (judged by A.M. Holmes) and "Strange Weather" won the 2009 Spokane Prize for Short Fiction before Press 53 published it.

I had a few questions for Becky and she generously agreed to answer them:

Q: The stories in each of your collections impressed me with their surprising details, honesty, and range of character. I was also impressed by your obvious love of character, even when these people have been very, very, bad. What amazed me as well was the consistency of quality. In a collection I’m fairly satisfied if I like most of the stories but I found in each of your collections there wasn’t one story I didn’t admire. They all seemed to pull their weight. Were there any stories you’d written you decided not to include?

Becky: Thanks so much for saying that. I always have a hard time deciding what to put in and what to take out. I have a huge backlog of stories—and each of my collections went through several variations in terms of their content. In fact, I almost included the story “Poison”, which appears in my latest collection, in A Gram of Mars. That’s how old that story is! I think I didn’t include it because there was already one depressed-father story, and one per collection is plenty. So when I leave things out, even if they’re publishable, it’s usually because there’s already a story that’s too similar in some way. Of course, I also have a huge backlog of failed stories. I’ll send them out again and again, revise and revise, but sometimes I just have to accept that a story isn’t working, and set it aside, or use it for parts.

Q: In your collection “A Gram of Mars” it struck me that the many of the characters within have a difficult time moving on, of letting go. The title story is particularly poignant. An older man, unhappily divorced, clings tightly to unrealistic fantasies of getting back together with his wife and this manifests itself in his impractical, impulsive need to have a piece of Mars. Where did the inspiration for this story originate?

Becky: This story is the most autobiographical story I’ve ever written (though much of it is entirely made up), and it came about when my family—like all families at some point—was going through a really crappy time. My father actually does have a very small piece of Mars rock, but he has a friend with a bigger, more expensive piece, the three thousand dollar an ounce kind, and that-- mixed in with what my family was going through—was the catalyst for the story.

I wasn’t sure how my parents would react to me mining their troubles for fiction, but they were wonderfully supportive. When my father read the story he said it upset him a little, but he understood that this was what I had to do, and he was proud of me. My sister was the one who was kind of annoyed, but she got over it!

Q: In your collection, “Strange Weather,” though I admired all the stories, my absolute favorite was “Anthony.” I think, perhaps, because of the risks you took and the departure from complete realism which was executed so well. In the story, which begins: “The ghost had gotten inside her daughter like a tapeworm and refused to come out,” the ghost sort of takes over and as everyone around becomes more dependent on the ghost’s “wisdom” the girl gradually recedes into the background. She, essentially, becomes the ghost. Where did you find the inspiration for this highly imaginative story, and why a young black male for the voice of Anthony? Also, I admire your use of multiple povs in this piece. Was this a decision you made early on or was it one you arrived at after revision?

Becky: I love this story too, because it was such an utter surprise for me. I had been reading Aimee Bender and Robert Olen Butler and Kelly Link, and so I was ready for something kooky to happen—but when the first sentence came to me, I just wrote it down and thought: Now what? I had no idea. I knew I didn’t want a cliché ghost story, so I was casting about for something unexpected, but I really didn’t know who the ghost would be until he spoke: “It’s time to party!” and that’s when I knew what a joyful and full of life (though he’s dead) character Anthony was.
I don’t know why he’s black, but a friend of mine who grew up in the south pointed out that this was a way for this white southern family to deal with race without having to really deal with it—seeing as how Anthony has no physical presence--so I liked that. But really, that was just the voice that came to me, and I went with it.

I had intended for the story to be entirely in Cindy’s mother’s point of view, but as soon as Anthony appeared, I realized he was going to affect everyone, and that the story had to accommodate him by moving into other points of view. I had also originally figured that Anthony would bring the family together and then move on, (although I don’t know why, considering I don’t really go for happy endings!) but along the way I realized I didn’t want him to leave. And neither did anyone else, even though he’s a kind of parasite sapping poor Cindy’s strength. I really like what you said about her turning into a ghost—I hadn’t even thought of that, but that’s totally true!

Q: Speaking of revision…how often do you revise a story usually? Do you follow a set plan or is the revision organic to each story?

Becky: I never have a plan for anything, and I’ve revised stories as little as three times (though I also revise as I’m writing) and as many as . . . countless times. And as I’ve already mentioned, there’s that stack of stories that just aren’t ever going to work. It once took me fifteen years to go from a first draft to a publishable draft—not that I was working on it every day, or even every year. But I always have several stories going, in various stages: from the polish-it-up and give it to my husband to read stage (I can’t give him anything until it’s almost finished) to the scribbles-on-scraps-of-paper stage. And everywhere in between. Right now I’m revising a story I started two years ago but also finding ways to avoid it (because I’m still stuck) by writing a brand-new story. And I may finish the new story first, who knows?

Q: What does your writing day typically look like? How do you balance the demands of family, teaching, and your own writing?

Becky: When I was in grad school, I was a full-time secretary and part-time coffee shop worker, and I would get up early and write for a half hour before work and then write during my half hour lunch, so I’ve trained myself to work like that, and I still do. I couldn’t write for 6 hours, even if I had 6 hours. I ask for 8:00 classes so I have to get up early, and if I manage to write from 6-6:30 a.m., I’m pretty happy. I also take notes throughout the day, in between classes and grading and student conferences. I’m sure it would be much more difficult if I had kids, but I haven’t really had problems carving out small blocks of time to write.
On weekends, I do more time-consuming stuff, like revision or the ever-tedious submitting to journals and contests. And weekends are when I get most of my reading done—I never feel like I have enough time to read. Of course, there are plenty of days when I don’t get anything productive done at all, and I’ve learned that’s okay, too.

Q: Your stories have emotional depth and a great range of character. In one story you write from an upper-middle class perspective (“Trafalgar”) and in another you write from a working-class point of view (“All the Happiness in the World”). You accomplish both with respect and veracity. Did you intend to broaden your range in this way or do the characters arrive to you already formed and you listen?

Becky: I think for the most part the characters are just there—or there’s a particular voice I have in mind. I wrote “Trafalgar” because I spent a lot of time in England, but could not manage to write an England story no matter how hard I tried. They all turned out like Notes About My Fun Study Abroad Trip. So I invented this mother-daughter team to see the sights instead, with a little naughty secret thrown in. I had also just read Gay Daly’s fantastic book, Pre-Raphaelites in Love, so that’s where the art stuff came from.

The character Gina in “All the Happiness in the World” is inspired by one of my best friends from college, who is one of the funniest people I know. I would take notes as we talked on the phone, because I wanted to get her voice just right. So most of the events of the story aren’t real, but a lot of her dialogue is. When I told her I was writing the story, she was tickled—and she put up with a lot of “Can you say that again so I can write it down?”

Q: I’d love to read more from you. What’s in your future? A Novel? Another collection?

Becky: I’m sending out a new collection to contests, and I have an almost-finished 4th collection that I’m going to finish this fall when I’m on sabbatical in the south of France. (I’m thinking there must be a lot to write about in the south of France!). I’m also always, always working on a novel. I think I’m currently working on number four, or maybe number five. They’ve all been pretty bad, and my attempt at chick lit (How hard could it be?) was a disaster (It’s hard!), but now I’m working on a mystery and I’m really just entertaining myself. Maybe I’ll never publish a novel, but I still enjoy writing them.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights and for writing such beautiful books.

Becky: Thank you for wanting to interview me, and for your great questions!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Myfanwy Collins at Dark Sky

The lovely and talented Ethel Rohan interviews one of my favorite writers, who also happens to be very talented and my good friend, Myfanwy Collins, at Dark Sky Magazine.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Easy for You" Stories by Shannan Rouss

I found this gem of a collection in my local bookstore and LOVED it. The voice in these stories is assured and controlled and clear. I think my favorite story might be "Belief in Italy" in which the narrator, a woman with an eating disorder, goes to Italy with her chef boyfriend. I enjoyed all of these stories and will be looking out for more work by Rouss.

Here's a video of Rouss discussing the inspiration and process behind the book:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bread Loaf 2010

I'm grateful to have been awarded a spot as a contributor at Bread Loaf Writers' Conference this year. Now must convince my family it would be okay to live on peanut butter and jelly for the next three months...

Wigleaf Top 50

Congratulations to the many talented writers who made both this list of 50 and the long shortlist posted underneath. There are some beautiful innovative things being done with very short fiction these days and this list serves as evidence of that fact.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Apologies? Again?

Anyone looking at this blog lately will notice that every other post seems to be an apology for not posting so I'm not going to apologize this time in order to avoid redundancy.

In any case, I'm happy to report that along with a full and happy family life, I've been writing! A lot!

And I've also been reading many wonderful short story collections, all of which I'll be naming in a coming post.

I'll also be posting an interview with a writer of two of those much admired collections soon...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How to Write in 700 Easy Lessons...

an essay by Richard Bausch in The Atlantic Monthly online's special fiction issue.

And in the same issue, be sure to read Joyce Carol Oates' heartbreaking essay "I Am Sorry to Inform You."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Pretty" by Kim Chinquee


This is a book you simply must get. "Pretty" is a masterclass in writing.
I'm reading one piece a morning because to read them all at once, for me, would deny the immense power of each one. Chinquee's fictions are weighty with meaning, clear and concise, filled with unusual imagery, but at the same time, familiar. They are examples of controlled language so fine they even look pretty on the page. "Pretty" has made me fall in love with Flash Fiction all over again.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Kyle Minor

has a story in Fifty-Two Stories:

The Truth and All Its Ugly

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Everyday Genius: March

I'll be looking forward to reading this issue since it's guest-edited by Laura Ellen Scott. Laura Ellen's own work is highly original and rich. I can only imagine what she has in store for us.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010

Have Your Characters Do Something

Mary Akers offered this link to an article by Laura Miller: A Reader's Advice to Writers. It's a great article but the one thing that resonated most with me was: Make your main character do something.

Oh. Yeah.

You see, I have a hard time with this one. Probably because I'm not much of an outrageous, interesting, doer in my own life. I do things, of course, but I don't protest naked, I don't punch people, I don't spy on my ex-wife, and I don't set fires. So I notice, usually between my first and fifth draft, my character is thinking about things and usually taking the high road. SNORE.
Now I thought I'd learned this point already, but it wasn't until I read this article and I looked at the story I'm working on that I realized, Oops, I've done it again. So now I'm off to give my character a kick in the butt--or maybe not, since he packs a mean punch.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Congrats to Sue Williams!

Congratulations to fellow Narrative editor, Sue Williams, for winning an honorable mention in Glimmertrain's Fiction Open for her novella, "The Winged Hendersons of Welton-on-Sea"!!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow


I've been quiet here on my blog lately and this time it's for a good reason: I've cut back on socializing--virtual and real--and have been writing and reading. I miss the interaction but there are many gifts I've found in the silence.
We've also had unusually, horribly, cold weather here in NC but there's a gift in that too: this beautiful snow.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mississippi Review: Flash Issue


Read this brilliant issue full of wonderful talent all displayed in the very short form.

The whole issue is solid with pieces from Mary Akers, Randall Brown, Kathy Fish, Avital Gad-Cykman, Scott Garson , Peter Grandbois, Tiff Holland, Paul Lisicky, among others.

Guest-edited by Kim Chinquee a master of flash-fiction in her own right.

Monday, January 11, 2010

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