The Jack Straw May Reading Series kicks off on May 1! I’m so excited to see my fellow fellows sharing new work and putting our voice and performance coaching into action. Each Friday evening at 7 pm, four writers (one prose writer and three poets) will perform their work. A suggested donation of $5 gets you a copy of the 2015 Jack Straw Anthology; a light reception will follow.
One of the weirdest short short stories I’ve ever written, “Cauliflower Tells You,” was published today on Monkeybicycle. It happens to be my 33rd birthday, so this is an excellent birthday present from the universe. Here’s how it begins:
Cauliflower perches behind your ear and talks to you in a tinny voice.
Elements of this story have been floating around in my head for some time, but I couldn’t figure out what to do with them. (Like “Raven in a Jar,” I had an atmosphere first, then a story.) Then one day this past fall, after immersing myself in Anne Carson and Haruki Murakami, and after eating a rainbow cookie, and after finding myself on the couch with the flu, this story poured out into a notebook, following the intensely strange logic of a fever dream.
I’m over the moon. My story “Raven in a Jar” is in CICADA’s “Tricksters & Thieves” issue. CICADA is a YA literary magazine, part of a family of children’s publications. I used to subscribe to Cricket. In fact, I think Cricket was the first place I submitted my work. I was in the fourth grade, and it was a poem about Ottawa, I think. Not that I’d been there, yet.
“Raven in a Jar” gestated slowly, starting with my first visit to Victoria, B.C., in my first winter of the Pacific Northwest. I knew I wanted to write something about that place, had a clear sense of atmosphere, but it took another year for the story to emerge, inspired in part by the Haida myths about the Raven Who Steals the Light, and several more years of expanding, cutting, expanding, cutting, focusing…you get the idea.
Here’s how the story begins:
Young mouth in a hard line, Lala bundled her wool coat tightly around herself as she crossed the narrow pebbled beach at the foot of the bluffs. Her pockets and boots were stuffed with provisions — crackers, tins of sardines — and she lugged an exceptionally large jar filled with her grandmother’s custard. She extracted her father’s pocketknife and cut a boat from the dock near the house, rowing away. Sea gulls squawked and whooped. Dive-bombed.
I worked on revising this story as a part of my Made at Hugo House project, the story collection MORE LIKE HOME THAN HOME. Happy this story found a fantastic home.
I’m very happy to have been chosen for the 2015 Jack Straw Writers Program by curator Kevin Craft. This is a great program in Seattle (though folks from Portland; Vancouver, B.C.; Olympia; Walla Walla and elsewhere in the region have participated) giving writers training and experience with recording, presentation, and author interviews as well as encouraging the development of new work and providing new venues for sharing their work with the public.
I’ll be using the program to continue developing my second novel, which I’m calling Paralegal for now, though that might change. We had a very nice orientation last night, and it was really lovely to hear snippets of poetry and fiction from each of the eleven other fellows! Stay tuned for the public readings (starting in May and continuing through the end of 2015) and a podcast featuring excerpts from my reading and author interview.
On March 21, I’m teaching a special one-day Hugo House class at the Henry Art Gallery. As I mentioned in a recent Ploughshares blog post, I’ve been helping out with the literary component of Ann Hamilton: the common S E N S E, the exhibit that has taken over all of the Henry from October to April. The show explores the sense of touch and our relationship to nature as well as being touched–emotionally, intellectually–through the private act of reading.
The exhibit has filled the galleries with scanned images of taxidermy animals from the Burke Museum of Natural History, with children’s ABC primers and bestiaries from the University of Washington’s Libraries Special Collections, and with clothing made from animal products both from the Burke and from the Henry’s collections. Throughout the galleries, at different times, chorale singers sing to the objects. And, reader/scribes read aloud to objects of their choice, like a bedtime story, from a common text that will change over the course of the show–the first is J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine, a beautiful book. These reader/scribes, when particularly moved by a passage in the text, record that passage into a log book. These log books will accumulate over time, becoming a record of a collective reading experience.
There are a number of ways to participate in this rich exhibit:
- Submit a fragment from your own reading that deals with the sense of touch (literally or intellectually) to this tumblr site; your submissions may be included in the exhibit!
- Volunteer to be a reader/scribe. I’ve done it four times so far; it’s a powerful experience, and I’m writing about it now and hope to share it with you soon. Perks: free admission, a free pass to return to the exhibit, and an invitation to participate in a discussion of the experience with other reader/scribes and facilitated by a member of the literary community (including me!).
- Take my Hugo House class Senses at the Henry on Saturday, March 21, 12-3 pm. We’ll do the reader/scribe activity, contributing to the exhibit itself (exciting!), discuss the experience, and then dive into creative writing in response to the show. Member registration begins on December 9 and general registration opens on December 16.
Hope to see you around the Henry in the coming months!
This winter, I’m teaching Intro to Fiction: Writing the Short Story, a six-week class at Hugo House laying out crucial elements of story. Here’s the course description:
This class will zero in on the three-part backbone of story: character, plot, and landscape. Who is your main character? What do they want? What keeps them from getting what they want? Readings and discussions will include canonical and contemporary stories from James Joyce, Anton Chekhov, Mavis Gallant, Jamaica Kincaid, Louise Erdrich, and others. Writing exercises will focus on crucial craft elements as well as generative exercises to get started.
I’m also teaching a special one-day class at the Henry Art Gallery in conjunction with Ann Hamilton’s show the common S E N S E, which I’ll write more about in a separate post. Registration for Hugo House members begins on December 9 and for the general public on December 16. Hope to see you there!
I’m very happy that my story “Skitter,” first published in The Massachusetts Review and previously only available in print, is now online at LitRagger. I love their project of reprinting stories, poems, and essays so that they have an online presence. Here’s how “Skitter” begins:
Another tooth plinked into the tea glass and Harush blinked at it twice.
Over on the Hugo House blog, my Classy Talk interview sheds a bit more light on my upcoming fiction workshop. Take a look, sign up, and help me spread the word about it! Class meets Wednesday nights, 7-9 pm, starting October 29. I’m already excited about the story we’ll read on the first day, a short-short by Angela Carter, which will be atmospheric and fairy tale-ish and spooky.
I normally think of August as a sleepy month for zoning out and wandering into enormous spider webs, but this year, in Seattle, there are quite a few things happening, all of which are free. Here’s where I’ll be if you’d like to join:
*Thursday, August 7, 6 pm: ekFRANTICS, a reading of literature about imaginary art, with David Lasky and Arlo Smith at the Greg Kucera Gallery. This is being put on by the local press Babel/Salvage and coincides with the Pioneer Square Art Walk, one of my favorite art events in town. I’m reading selections from my novel-in-progress, Paralegal, about a 25-year-old visual artist who takes a job as a paralegal just before the economic crisis of 2008.
*Thursday, August 14, 7 pm: My Body is a Book of Rules launch at Richard Hugo House. My dear friend Elissa Washuta launches her debut memoir, which I happily pre-ordered yesterday. I can’t wait to get my hands on it and celebrate with her.
*Thursday, August 21, 7 pm: The Furnace Presents Chelsea Werner Jatzke at Hollow Earth Radio. Corinne Manning and I are launching the third (!) season of our quarterly reading series featuring one writer, reading one entire story, “with vigor.” Chelsea‘s story is inspired by the Velvet Underground. Come see it live; it’s gonna be rad.
*Monday, August 25, 7 pm: Seattle Fiction Federation #1 at Richard Hugo House: Corinne is reading at this new series featuring fiction only. I’m excited for this new venue.
*Tuesday, August 26, 8 pm: Old Growth Northwest Reading & Opening Mic at the Jewel Box Theater: I’m a featured reader alongside Matthew Simmons and Melody Moberg. We’re all reading new work in response to the prompt “My first day on the job was much like my last,” plus something else of our choosing. Fun!
Then after a week in California for my best & oldest friend’s wedding, I’ve got one more very fun reading called Seattle Wage Slaves: Tales from the Grind, which features stories about work. I’m reading alongside Steve Barker, Sonora Jha, Michael Spence, and Wilson Diehl. That’s on Thursday, September 11 at 6:30 at Office Nomads. There will be spiked coffee and free donuts!