Back when I was slogging through the first draft of my first novel, I looked to visual art every morning as a prompt. I had a big stack of Dover art stickers that I would randomly choose from, and stick in my journal, and over time, I found that Kandinsky helped me write my protagonist. I have no idea why. But when you’re focusing on just getting words on the page, you do whatever works, right? Now I’m working on a couple projects dealing with art more deliberately, one of which I’ve written a bit about in these posts; the other is a bit too embryonic, but I’m excited about it and look forward to telling you more here when the time is right.
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!
I’m excited to be offering a six-week fiction workshop at Richard Hugo House this fall. The class meets Wednesday nights 7-9 pm, October 29-December 10 (with no class November 26). Here’s the course description:
Many students of fiction say they learn more by workshopping others than when their own work is up for critique. If you have some drafts you don’t know what to do with and want to learn by giving others helpful feedback, this class is for you. We’ll touch on forming neutral questions and focus on helping the writer achieve his or her intentions. All students will workshop one story up to 5,000 words, getting feedback from their peers and the instructor. Time permitting, students may workshop a second story.
Scholarships are available and applications are due August 19. Member registration opens August 12 and general registration opens August 19. Hope to see you there!
I’m so honored to receive a 2014 Art Project grant from 4Culture for my novel Paralegal. Thank you, 4Culture, for all that you do in King County!
Stay tuned for more news on this / upcoming events. In the meantime, here is a short snippet about the novel from an interview I did on the Hugo House blog in March (skip down to “What are you currently working on?”). Hooray!
My sixth set of writing prompts for the Ploughshares blog dives into the vast territory of creative writing involving music, with wisdom from E.M. Forester, Milan Kundera, and Maya Sonenberg, and a short list of reading suggestions from Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” to a forthcoming novel on the inventor of the theremin.
My student Jenelle Birnbaum’s lovely story “The Bodhisattva of the Sea,” inspired by Katinka Bock’s abstract sculptures, is up on the Henry Art Gallery’s blog. The exhibit runs until May 4, and I think I need to squeeze in another visit before then, as there was a “Profane Fireplace” that surely had a fairy tale in it.
My fourth set of writing prompts for the Ploughshares blog takes inspiration from objects, with wisdom from Italo Calvino, Elizabeth Kostova, Cynthia Ozick, Charles Baxter, Kate Bernheimer, RT Smith, and more.
In other news, an excerpt from my student Amber Murray’s intriguing essay “Thoughts on Abstract Thought and the Practice of Moving Things Around Until They Sit Just Right,” from this winter’s Visual Inspiration class, is up on the Henry Art Gallery’s blog! Exciting!
My story “More Like Home Than Home” is in the Emerald Issue of Fairy Tale Review. It is their 10th anniversary issue and Wizard of Oz-themed, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of Oz. I’m really excited to be a part of this issue. Over the years, FTR sent me two of the nicest, most encouraging rejections ever, and I know each issue is put together with a lot of love and care. I literally cried with joy when I saw the acceptance email, which is also probably the nicest acceptance email I’ve ever gotten. Every time I felt cold or down this winter, I just whispered to myself “Fairy Tale Review” and all was better. Many thanks to Kate Bernheimer and Timothy Schaffert and the editorial staff of MFA students at University of Arizona. You can order a copy here or pick one up at AWP at booth K26 in the North Hall.