I received a rejection from Prairie Schooner that was personal-ish in a formal way. They were interested in my work, want me to send more. I also received yet another form rejection from Subtropics, during AWP no less. I admire the
efficiency there. Not even a major writer’s conference will keep them from destroying writers’ dreams, nor should it. Destruction knows not of mercy. I received a form rejection from The Cincinnati Review wherin I was addressed as “Dear Writer,” which always cracks me up because it is so easy to edit the form to address the writer by name. (I learned that the hard way as an editor but quickly fixed the problem.) I also received a very detailed, personal rejection from West Branch with an invitation to revise and resubmit I am pondering. The suggestions were all great. I just need to think about it a little because I am quite fond of the story in its current incarnation.
In other writing news…
I have a short story in the new issue of Cobalt Review:
Candy had always been a sweet girl. In high school, boys would line up to lick her arm or the back of her knee or the inside of her ankle. They would say, “Candy, you are as sweet as sweet can be,” and she would smile brightly. She would say thank you because she was also polite.
When she was a little girl, Candy’s mama Lurene loved to tell Candy she was the best gift God had ever given her. Candy was born the night before Christmas and Lurene liked to say it was because God knew she needed a little something sweet to hold on to before yet another holiday dinner with her inlaws and her own kin. Lurene died young like all the women in her family but on her deathbed, she kissed Candy on the forehead and said, “Whatever happens to you in life, always be something sweet for someone good to hold on to.” Candy cried sugary tears that fell on her mother’s dry, cracked lips and her Lurene whispered, “See, you’ve started already.”
I am the featured writer this month at Atticus Review where you’ll find some short stories, an interview and a very kind introduction from Jamie Iredell.
I interviewed Dawn Tripp for Bookslut, and I love what she had to say about her process, which is pretty meticulous and absolutely reflected by her gorgeous book Game of Secrets.
One of the more exciting things in recent months was having a story accepted for NOON 2012. Diane Williams was an extraordinary editor and her editorial guidance really made my story into something I couldn’t be prouder of. It’s called, “A Pat,” and you should get thee a copy of NOON and check it out with some really great work from writers like Lauren Spohrer, Lincoln Michel, Anya Yurchyshyn, Dylan Nice, Brandon Hobson, Lydia Davis, and others. Here’s a little taste:
I saw a man eating alone in one of those hard plastic booths.
He opened the paper wrapping for his burrito and carefully smoothed it into a perfect square. The whole scene broke my heart. He squeezed a small dollop of sauce in one corner from an orange foil packet and before every bite of his burrito he dipped the open end into the sauce. He ate slowly.
I also have a story in the new issue of Anobium, called Handsome Men Who Love Ugly Women. Anobium is a new magazine but I was really impressed by the issue as well as how it was produced. This is one to keep an eye on. You can buy the issue here. Peek:
It is a troubling matter to witness Adonis besotted by Medusa, to see him flourish in her presence when he should be turned to stone.
If beatification requires proof of an exemplary life, surely it is one who sacrifices who may be extolled as such an exemplar. It is a sacrifice on the part of the handsome man or what is understood as sacrifice by those who would most value his beauty—an offering of something precious (beauty), the killing of something precious (beauty), the destruction or surrender of something (possibility) for the sake of something else (love, where love is a strong affection, an enthusiasm and devotion, an inescapable, inexplicable pull).
Last but not least, I have a short story in the Stripped anthology, a collection of flash fiction by anonymous writers. Can you guess which story is mine? The first person to email me which story is mine will get a prize! Free books will be involved.
If you’re going to be in the Cleveland area, I am reading on Wednesday, March 14th at John Carroll University at 7 pm. in Rodman Hall.
I learned about this Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy over the weekend (WHAT IS GOING ON HERE LOL). I’m going to read the books and probably write an essay about them but it might not be the essay you’re expecting unless you really know me. I just need to figure out how to get through all the bad writing to get to the sexy times which is all I really care about. That said, there are really interesting conversations to be had about these books, about gender, sexuality, the buying power of women, and how this book is being touted as the holy grail of sexual desire for desperate housewives. Some people are reacting to the bad writing, which is fair but some people are reacting to the S/m angle which is not fair because all kinds of people are into that lifestyle who you may not even suspect. Don’t worry about/judge what turns other people. The problem is not that this is a book about a guy who wants to dominate a younger, inexperienced naif though yes, this dynamic is one we’ve seen far too much of, culturally speaking. The problem is that a very badly written series is going to probably be the biggest seller of the year while a lot of really great books struggle for any kind of attention.
Speaking of great books–I am reading Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman. I read the first story, “Housewifely Arts,” in One Story last year and at the time, the story didn’t wow me, though I knew it was good. That story really clicked for me in this collection. The last line! I don’t know what was different upon the second reading but man, this story was so much better upon second reading. I noticed a lot of reviews talking about the nature angle in this book but that isn’t what I have focused on, probably because I’m not a nature person. I read these stories as love stories–deeply felt, complex, sometimes awkward love stories. I love love stories, I do. I think my favorite is “The Cow Who Milked Herself,” again because of the ending. It’s a story about a couple expecting a baby. The husband is a veterinarian who gives his wife ultrasounds in his clinic and at the end, he’s explaining how a jaguar mother will chase her cubs down for hours if they are taken from her in the wild, roaring all the while and the narrator says, “I would do that too. I promise.” I mean! The moment is so quiet but there is so much fierceness in it. I’m looking forward to finishing this book this week but I recommend it wholeheartedly. There’s something remarkable going on in this book.
Two weeks ago I reluctantly went to see that two hour commercial for the U.S. Navy–Acts of Valor. This is one of the most perplexing movies I have ever seen. I kept thinking, “How did this movie happen?”When I first saw previews for this movie, I thought it was part of the commercial-y twaddle they show before the previews. After a few more viewings I realized oh no, they are dead seriously making a trailer for this movie and then I saw the movie and realized the trailer basically summarizes things.
I very much wanted to sit down with the production team and ask, “What was your thinking here?” This movie should have been called, “FUCK YEAH, AMERICA!” The patriotic rhetoric was overwhelming. By the end of the movie, I was ready to put some greasepaint under my eyes, carry a big weapon, and blow shit up.
More than once during the movie, I literally saw something like this on the screen:
This movie was a first person shooter video game. When the screen would go into First Person Shooter Mode, I just died laughing. It was just all so unbelievable and heavy handed and sort of equally inspiring and appalling. And oh hey, did you know that this movie starred actual, active duty Navy Seals? Because it did!
When Acts of Valor opens, there’s a voice over and it is very ponderous and lets us know that some guy is talking to another guy’s child and it’s all very blah blah blah hero, blah blah blah country, blah blah blah valor. You get the distinct impression someone has died and by the end of the movie you learn that indeed, someone has died. If you’d rather not see this movie, just watch a few sequences from any first person shooter video game. Acts of Valor is exactly what you think it is.
There are a lot of troubling messages in this movie about manhood, heroism, patriotism, and racism/xenophobia. If you want to take the movie seriously, there’s a great deal to unpack. At the end of the movie, the heavy-handed voice over returns and you realize it’s one of the SEALS talking to the child of a fallen soldier, a man who threw himself, INEXPLICABLY, on a grenade when there seemed to be many other solutions to the dilemma, and then died. The guy says something like, never be afraid, don’t show emotion, pack it down, somewhere deep, and it’s the most distressing message, this idea that men, that soldiers, should not shoulder their emotions. We’ve seen how that ends, haven’t we?
I also saw John Carter, and everyone keeps talking about some guy named Tim Riggins, but I don’t watch Friday Night Lights (summer project, don’t worry), so I was not familiar with the reference until I consulted Dr. Google. All I know is that he looks regular great in a skirt. I am very appreciative of his thighs and his abdominals.
Pretty sure he’s looking soulfully at me in this movie.
I don’t know why people are calling John Carter a flop–this is an awesome, awesome movie and I am baffled as to why it did not win the box office. I loved John Carter. It’s plenty flawed, don’t get me wrong, but the movie is also a whole lot of fun. I will definitely be seeing it in theaters again.
Let’s get the problems out of the way. First of all–the racism–the great white savior lands on Mars, is awesome at everything, and saves the world. This narrative is tired, tired, tired. The natives can save themselves, truly, if you would just let them. Also, gender trouble–it sucks to be
a woman on Mars, too, married off to the marauding villain, ignored, marginalized, etc. Now, they try to do a little twist on the subjected woman trope by giving her a sassy mouth and letting her hold a sword, but she does so while scantily clad so there’s some canceling going on. The “science” is ludicrous. If you’ve taken like fourth grade science, the holes in this movie are gaping but you haven’t lived until you see John Carter skipping across the deserts of Mars because of his bone density.
John Carter (the movie) steals so much from Star Wars it is almost hilarious. There are straight up sequences lifted directly from the mothership and also, a lot of the set design and spacecraft design comes by way of Star Wars but its cool, art is a conversation and John Carter is talking DIRECTLY to Star Wars and also doing a little whispering with Avatar and Gladiator. There’s a scene in a coliseum when John Carter has to fight for his life but it makes very little sense as to why and I kept thinking of Russell Crowe, throwing his arms in the air, looking sexy in his leather skirt, shouting, “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?’
Yes, goddamnit. I am entertained.
Michael Chabon is one of the screenwriters for John Carter and it shows. There’s not much of a script here–as with most movies, there’s ample time for face acting and other such shenanigans, but there are occasional moments of verve and overall, the plot, such as it were, intrigued me. I love me some Chabon so I am going to attribute all the great parts to him and all the shit to the other two screenwriters.
When this movie dragged, it dragggggggged and I started daydreaming and my companion (the extent of our relationship being movies and drinking wine, etc in my apartment aprés movies), who knows when I am tuning out, poked me in the ribs and said, “Pay attention, it’s getting good again.” I appreciated that. This is
the first movie in forever that we both enjoyed. The draggy parts were just the director totally in love with his endless expository sequences. A good editor could have gotten that shit under control.
Your boy Tim Riggins does a decent job though he brings quite a bit of face acting to the role to show us he is angsty and tormented but my favorite part of the movie is when, after mourning a wife and child we only get glimpses of, and being closed off to humanity in general, he falls in love with the princess after like twelve minutes of tension. It is just so ridiculous, the way Hollywood insists on making us believe that two people, in intense circumstances, will fall madly in love for lyf in less time than it takes to bake a frozen pizza. As usual, Hollywood wants you to know they think you are very stupid. There’s an impromptu wedding toward the end of the movie that really just defies credulity. I was agog.
See? They’re in love now because they are standing in proximity to one another wearing not very much clothing. That’s really all it takes to fall in love.
There were also these inconsistent details in terms of terminology, and a lot of stuff that went unexplained that kind of needed explanation, like this magical light and why the guy from the one city was trying to dominate all the other cities. The core tension is NEVER REALLY EXPLAINED. I love seeing stuff like that where the movie is all, IDGAF about explaining things to you, audience member. It’s so delightfully arrogant and reckless. I’m down with that.
What makes John Carter work is that the movie is not afraid of its ridiculousness. This is a fun, big, messy movie. It has swashbuckling interplanetary adventure, intrigue, a little romance (though not nearly enough thanks to the ultimate cockblocker, DISNEY), and it also has a happy ending, or so we’re lead to believe, with potential for a sequel. I had a blast and sometimes, that’s exactly what should happen at the movies.
I WAS ENTERTAINED!
AWP happened. I was wracked with nerves but I had a great time, despite being sick with a stomach thing and then losing my voice completely. You know, whatevs.
On Wednesday, I visited Suzanne Scanlon’s class at Columbia College and read with Kate Zambreno. I read my The Help essay from The Rumpus, and Kate read her awesome essay, “Slapping Clark Gable,” and then we had a great conversation with the students about these essays and my essay, “The Careless Language of Sexual Violence.” One of the young women, at the very end, opened up about something really personal and it was so brave of her and it compelled me to share something personal because she was so vulnerable and she had clearly waited so long to speak her mind and I didn’t want her to feel alone and exposed and unheard. It was a great group of young people who asked smart questions and were clearly engaged. Good times.
I checked into the Hilton and registered and went to pick up xTx from the airport and we returned to the hotel and I felt like crap so I stayed in while she went to her reading at The Empty Bottle where, by all accounts, she killed it. She’s the best. I wish I could explain our connection, how whole and at peace I feel when I am around her. I wish we didn’t have to go months and months between seeing each other in real life. Suffice it to say, spending time with her was the highlight, however grand everything else was.
AWP for me, this year, was a marathon. I was slated to do three panels and two readings and the bookfair and with no voice, it was going to be a challenge. I did the best I could and hopefully said smart things when I needed to say smart things. I had way more to say during my panels but I was working with some fucked up vocal cords. Alas. During my panels on Friday, I was literally whispering into the microphone. It was… so awkward it became funny. I was completely freaking out after my panels because I had to do a reading at 5 and then Literary Death Match at 8:15. When I say I had no voice, I mean there was nothing there so I hid in my room and xTx got me some Singer’s Saving Grace and I kept spraying the shit out of my throat and drinking tea. For the record, I hate tea. Absolute swill, that stuff.
I worked the PANK table most of the day Thursday and Saturday and only a little on Friday but holy hell, we were busy every single minute which was awesome. The magazine had a great AWP, for sure. It was gratifying to see people responding to this thing we work really hard on. Tiny Hardcore also did really well–we sold out of everything I brought to the conference.
On Friday, I had to withdraw from my 5 o’clock reading, which I felt terrible about. Of course I hear that later that evening, someone went around saying, to my friends no less, that I “pulled a stunt.” That made me really angry because I have many flaws but my work ethic is not one of them. I work my ass off and show up when I say I’m going to show up. I had no voice and so I chose to save what I could for the later reading and for yes, I saved my non-voice for the reading with JANE SMILEY. I love A Thousand Acres so hard. I did the best I could and was sorry to miss everyone at the Happy Hour reading.
So yes, guys, I WON Literary Death Match and it was crazy and epic or crepic. I was the only non-famous person involved so I kept feeling like my participation was a mistake and then I decided to go with the flow and it was a really great reading. I had never been to a LDM but I love the format–lots of fun.
A bunch of people from my job came and cheered me on and it was just so wonderful to have their support. I had no voice and I was freaking out (clearly this a theme with me). I went to the bathroom, puked, and tried to talk. Nothing was coming out. I wondered if I should have someone get on stage and read for me or if I should drop out at the last minute. I went back to my table and sat silently, losing my shit on the inside. There was some gin and tonic involved.
The pairings were determined–me versus Jane Smiley and Darrin Strauss versus Major Jackson. I deferred to Jane Smiley so she went first and as she read I prayed to Baby Jesus to give me enough voice to make it through. When I stepped to the microphone, I truly had no idea what would come out. A delightful froggy sound came out–the hoarsest damn sound–and fortunately, it was enough. I read my Zombi story that originally appeared in Guernica, and it went over pretty well I think. Then the judges talked about us, awesomely and flatteringly, and then they conferred and I won the first round. Major Jackson won the second round so it was a black off!
The final round was a spelling bee. I got a little cocky with Michel Houellebecq and forgot about the first “e” so I fell behind. It came to Dostoevsky. I could phone a friend. I actually know how to spell the name but I also know there are two spellings and I couldn’t be sure which was right within the context of LDM so I called on my friend Terri from work, who had organized the field trip among my colleagues. She speaks Russian. She started spelling Dostoevsky and when she got to the “e” (what is it with that letter?) and Todd Zuniga said she was wrong and put the medal around Major’s neck and I was sad but happy to just be there and someone in the audience shouted, “She’s right,” and it was crazy but they checked it on their phone to verify that Dostoevsky was spelled with an “e” and so we re-spelled Dostoyevsky with a “y” which is what they had on their card, to tie the game, and then it went to sudden death where we had to spell Jefrey Eugenides’s name one letter at a time going back and forth.
Major started with J and we got through Jeffrey and then we were doing the last name and Major said “i” when he should have said, “e’ and I won, and got the medal and it was epic and I thought, “take that fancy, famous writers.” It was just an honor to be on that stage. It was a pleasure to win. I’m still a little giddy about it. I also made friends with the bathroom attendant lady because I saw she was reading a book and asked her about it during the break.
After that, we all went to Literature Party. I wore my medal. I surely did. I got quite tipsy, shall we say. People kept giving me drinks. Who am I to say no? (This happened at the PANK reading too. By the end of the weekend, my liver was all, “GO TO HELL.”) There was dancing and hanging out.
AWP is an overwhelming experience. I go to see my friends who are so far flung, and to work the bookfair and to just be around writers for a few days. I hated my first AWP but it has gotten progressively more interesting (though still a very, very white conference). This year it was crazy how many people wanted my autograph (?!) and who said the kindest, most flattering things to me about my work. It really meant a lot and I wish I could have talked more to many of you. One thing AWP does not offer is much in the way of quality time. I don’t want to do too much name soup but it was a particular pleasure to meet and/or reconnect with Caitlin Horrocks, Laura van den Berg, Danielle Evans, Reese Kwon, Cathy Chung, Kirsten Chen, Karissa Chen, DeWitt Brinson, Dottie Lasky, Patricia Lockwood, Micah Ling, Chris, “Arms” Newgent, Tyler Gobble, Abby Koski, Erin Fitzgerald, Casey Hannan, Mensah Demary, Scott McClanahan, Elliot Holt, Tasha Matsumoto, Bekah Otto, Stephen Elliott, Kyle Minor, Isaac Fitzgerald, Andi Mudd, Jen Gann, Morgan Frank, Ashley Farmer, Megan Garr, Emma Straub,Sarah Rose Etter, Alan Stewart Carl, Seth Fischer, Thomas Patrick Levy, Brian Spears, Amy Letter, Molly Gaudry, Lily Hoang, Devan Goldstein, Heather Luby, Cathy Day, Ashley Ford, Layne Ransom, Laura Straub, Joel Patton, Ruben Quesada, and I am forgetting so so many people but I will see you all in Boston!
Basically, I talked to a lot of people. I kept the awkward to a minimum, though one writer, I blurted out, you’re so pretty haha, like a champ.
I am still recovering my voice.
Tomorrow, I head to Cleveland, kicking off two months of pretty intense travel. I am excited to go to new places, meet new people and bring the awkward to a podium near you. It’s all about the good times.
(Guys, also, Hunger Games. I’m so ready to see this movie, I can hardly stay inside my skin. Also, Mirror Mirror. This spring is killer for movies.)