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What I’m Doing During #AWP14

26 Jan

This year, I get to go to AWP in my hometown for the second time. The first time was also my first time at AWP ever, in NYC. That was where I decided to apply for MFA programs because, as the nice woman I met there said, “You’re helping no one by hating your job.” Since that fateful, overwhelming experience, I went to the conference in D.C., bunking up with my MFA classmates in a fancy hotel room, and then to the one in Chicago, staying with my lovely mother-in-law and kvelling over the downtown Jewish deli she took M and I to, Manny’s.

Last spring, I went to a panel on proposing AWP panels at Richard Hugo House right after folks came back from the Boston AWP (which I skipped because a woman and her wallet needs a break). I proposed a panel that did not get accepted, but I also was fortunate enough to be on a panel that *did* (thank you, Maya Sonenberg!). So I am on my very first AWP panel. And to top it all off, I put together an off-site event to celebrate the release of my friend Andrew Ladd‘s debut novel, What Ends.

WITHOUT FURTHER ADO: WHAT I’M DOING DURING AWP

Artwork by Rikki Ducornet http://rikkiducornet.com/work/

Artwork by Rikki Ducornet
http://rikkiducornet.com/work/

Official panel description on AWP site

Facebook Invite (why not?)

AWP FB invite4Facebook Invite

Of course, there’s so much more I’m doing, but these events are what I’m directly involved in. If you’re curious about what other Hugo House instructors are up to, I compiled a list of panels for Hugo House’s blog.

And here’s a few panels I’m most definitely excited to attend:

Like Sand to the Beach: Bringing Your Book to Market

Magic and the Intellect

 A Reading and Conversation with Chris Abani and Chang-rae Le

Are you going to AWP this year? What are you most excited to see and do?

Stay tuned for my highly idiosyncratic gustatory guide to Seattle, for all your cheap food and drink needs.

“Sugar” in Gastronomica

15 Jan

GFC1304loI’m honored to have my short-short story “Sugar” included in the winter 2013 issue of Gastronomica, the “brainiest” of food magazines, also called “the New Yorker of food magazines”. The fairy tale-ish story is set in Pike Place Market and begins thus:

“He couldn’t stomach currants in his salad. She couldn’t stomach his not stomaching her currants.”

You can subscribe to the magazine here; if you have access to JSTOR, you can read individual articles here; you can also read my two-page story right over here:

“Sugar” in Gastronomica: Journal of Food and Culture, Vol. 13, No. 4, Winter 2013, Published by University of California Press.

“Old Boyfriends” in Propeller Magazine

2 Dec

My short story “Old Boyfriends” is in Propeller Magazine this week. Here’s how it starts:

It’s four p.m.: the sun is gone.

Sandra, a graduate student in archaeology, lurches forward with the bus along Avenue du Parc.

“This roof’s all bone,” Sandra says, rapping her knuckles to her skull.

continue reading

Back in my MFA program at the University of Washington, I took two “creative writer as critical reader” classes (my favorite classes from the program) one after the other, in poetry with Heather McHugh and then prose with David Bosworth, my adviser. Heather brought in a translation of Anton Chekhov’s story “Gusev” that she’d been working on with Nikolai Popov, a prose-bone to throw at the small contingent of prosers in her class. At first, I bristled against the story, feeling disoriented in its dark, suffocating setting. But the ending was wonderful and the more I read it, the more I loved the whole thing. I loved seeing how the story opened up with Gusev sinking in the ocean among the sharks and the pilot fish and how the light in the sky shifted to green, to violet, to gold, to rose. In David’s class, we were invited to choose a short story that we wanted to study deeply and either imitate or take its structure and themes and write a story we’d already been wanting to write within that structure or launching off of it somehow. I chose the latter, among other things making Gusev’s ship into Sandra’s city bus and kind of letting the story take over from there. Dan DeWeese, the editor of Propeller, had a couple wonderful suggestions that ultimately took the story away from the exercise and made me excited about the story all over again, since writing that first draft back in 2010.

Visual Inspiration: Hugo at the Henry

25 Nov

I’m pleased to offer a third iteration of my writing with visual art class for Richard Hugo House at the Henry Art Gallery, now snappily-titled Visual Inspiration. Here’s the course description:

This class, which meets at the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington, will use visual art as a springboard for diving into prose writing. We’ll mine the inspiration of images to unearth new prose or add unexpected meaning and direction to works in progress. Students can search the Henry’s digital archive and request works from the permanent collection not currently on view. For even more creative percolation, we’ll read published works inspired by visual art. Exercises, readings, and discussions will cover the writing process, character, story, landscape (internal and external), and style. Students will have the option to workshop one short-short story or essay. Co-Presented with the Henry Art Gallery.

Class meets Thursday evenings 6-8 pm, January 30-March 13 (with no class on February 27 due to the AWP conference). General registration begins December 10, and the scholarship deadline is December 24. I’m excited to see what students do with “Sanctum,” the interactive installation now outside the Henry that draws on social media and surveillance technology, and I’m curious as always to see what gets pulled from the permanent collection and what new creative works spiral out from that.

The Casserole Reading Series

18 Nov

Casserole-Anca-and-Andrew (1)Last night, I had a lovely time reading in Chelsea Kurnick’s YouTube-based reading series The Casserole. I read from my novel Dirty alongside Andrew Ladd, whose novel What Ends won the 2012 AWP award and will be published in January 2014 by New Issues Press and in August 2014 by Oneworld in the UK. As you’ll hear in the reading, Andrew’s writing is beautiful and the scope of his novel impressive and compelling. I’m looking forward to reading with him in person at our off-site event during the AWP conference in Seattle: Thursday, February 27, at 8 pm, at Eltana. Why Eltana? Well, Andrew and I met in a writing group in Montreal when we both attended McGill University. It’s nice to have a bit of Montreal in Seattle via the Montreal-style bagels of Eltana. Also, the space is lovely.

But, back to The Casserole. What a neat idea! Chelsea has also featured two other writer friends and co-conspirators of mine, Corinne Manning and Kristen Young. Corinne read a hilarious short story, “Professor M,” from her wonderful collection-in-progress. Watch for her forthcoming chapbook from Alice Blue Books‘ Shotgun Wedding Series, out later this fall, and read her gut-punching-beautiful novel excerpt in Drunken Boat. Kristen read an excerpt from her ambitious, layered novel Subductionwhich is ultimately about “wanting more than we have, longing to belong, and choosing, only to lament our choices.” Watch for an excerpt in the December issue of City Arts Magazine.

Here’s the video from my reading with Andrew:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RiqSDmNNNM

Some Day by Shemi Zarhin

8 Nov

ImageMy latest bullet-point book review is up on the Ploughshares blog. I’m so glad Ross Ufberg of New Vessel Press reached out to me about Shemi Zarhin’s novel Some Day and brought to my attention this new publishing house focused on translating foreign literature into English. I’m big on linguistic and literary diversity, border-crossing and mind-opening, and I’m looking forward to reading more books from New Vessel.

Tale: A Two Day Moveable (Writing) Feast

5 Nov

ImageI’m excited to be teaching a class on fairy tales at Corinne Manning’s Living Room Workshops. Mid-December is wonderful time for contemplating magic, especially fairy tale magic. Here’s the course description, with nitty gritty info below:

Explore magical realism and fairy tales with 3 teachers over the course of one weekend in this moveable feast of a writing workshop. Participants will move from house to house gaining craft skills, knowledge, and writing some “marvelous” fiction and exploring the memoir as fairy tale. Readings will include Brothers Grimm, Angela Carter, and Alyssa Nutting.

Each class will last 1.5 hours and will take place in Capitol Hill and the Central District on Saturday, ending in Greenwood on Sunday. Carpooling is encouraged. Course must be taken as a whole. No single class drop ins. To enroll please email corinne.manning@gmail.com.

Tale: A Two-day Moveable (Writing) Feast

December 14- 15, Saturday and Sunday
Instructors: Corinne Manning, Anca Szilagyi, Anne Bean
Saturday: 1-2:30, 3-4:30 (Capitol Hill, Central District)
Sunday: 1-2:30 (Greenwood)
Cost: $100

Refilling the well

26 Oct
A fresh green chestnut

A fresh green chestnut

I’m retraining myself to write novels. My first novel is floating in the ether, I wrote a quick, rough draft of my second novel some time ago, I focused on finishing my short story collection, and now, with the leaves falling off the trees outside, I’m in my dark office x-raying that second novel to get at an outline.  I already had a couple outlines in hesitant pencil, one very bare bones, one a bit more detailed. But I’m hesitant to launch into a rewrite yet as I seem to still be in a fallow period. I’d have loved to take a suitcase full of books into the woods and just read for 10 days. Alas.  A decent second option was to bolt to Vancouver with M. for the weekend, where two writer friends were visiting from New York. We gorged ourselves on dim sum, wandered around Coal Harbor and the West End, had cocktails at Cloud 9, a bar that rotates on top of the Empire Landmark hotel and that has some very 1995 cocktails (we stuck to a gin martini and an old-fashioned), and went on a short, mild hike where we spotted purple and orange mushrooms and black slugs and a seal. We waved at the seal, and the seal seemed to give us a little nod before disappearing in the water, probably grumbling that we took his lunch spot, Cod Rock. All this to say, there are different ways to refill the well. Reading and travel (and with travel, eating) are some of my favorite ways. So is looking at art.

I feel a little out of shape, novel-writing-wise, because I’m at the difficult step where I’ve decided to rewrite entirely. The first draft was quick fun, throwing details on the page and seeing what sticks.  I want to be a lot more strategic about the second draft.  I decided to try using novel writing software, to help me feel less scattered, and a few friends recommended Scrivener. This morning I finally started to get the hang of it, and now I have a more detailed outline with fancy arrows and nesting files and everything. Soon (hopefully!) I can go deeper into the writing cave to write those scenes.

Outlining at this point feels helpful, but sometimes I outline when I’m stuck in writing because I don’t know what else to do. I might already have the outline in my head. I might have gone over that outline obsessively already. But I still write it down, maybe more than once, as if I’m in a holding pattern, and then it just feels like treading water.  In a way, it is like a writing exercise I used to do, coming up with arbitrary lists of specific things. But it is also very different from those lists. Rather than racing from plot point to plot point., those lists try to get me to think about very specific details or to think about words I don’t often use. Red things; things that start with the letter V. More particularly (while still being quite broad), Ray Bradbury recommended making lists of nouns as a way to jog creativity. He wrote, “Make  a list of 10 things you hate and tear them down in a short story. Make a list of 10 things you love and celebrate them. When I wrote Fahrenheit 451 I hated book burners and I loved libraries. So there you are.” Such sound advice, for not only finding ways into writing, but writing with passion.

Back in September, as Rosh Hoshanah approached and I thought about all the oncoming holidays (hello, Thanksgiving-Hanukkah merger), I thought it would be fun to just write a list of all the dishes my grandparents, great aunts, etc. were known for. I invited M. to add to that list.  This got me thinking about how many stories might be in each these specific dishes as well, and how revisiting memories is another way to refill the well.

Here’s that dish list:

Bubby’s mandelbrot

Grandma’s chopped liver

Aunt Shirley’s jello molds

Aunt Ellen’s meatballs in a sweet tomato sauce

Aunt Myra’s chicken schnitzel

Grandpa’s sarmale (large and loose and juicy)

Eva’s matzo balls (dense as bricks)

Aunt Shirley’s brisket

Mom’s meatloaf

Grandpa’s meat pies

Bubby’s Swedish meatballs

Grandpa’s cheese pies

Bubby’s matzo balls (large and fluffy)

Aunt Myra’s walnut cake

Mami’s salade de boef

Grandma’s apples and rice

Grandma’s salade de boef

Eva’s fish soup

Eva’s salade de boef

Aunt Myra’s trifle

Eva’s sarmale (small and tight and smoky)

Grandpa’s fried kippers and onions

Grandma’s upside down cakes  (fruity and light)

Eva’s plum dumplings

Grandma’s plum dumplings

Mr. C’s plum dumplings

Everybody’s plum dumplings

What do you do in your fallow periods? How do you get yourself ready for big creative projects?

Related posts:

1. Background Reading for a Novel-in-Progress

2. Parking Signs to Power Lines

3. Writing from Art

Seattle Lit Crawl 2013

14 Oct

This post is extra linky! I’m looking forward to reading at the second annual Seattle Lit Crawl as a part of Dark Coast Press: Works in Progress. I’ll be reading during Phase Two of the crawl (7-7:45 pm) at Sam’s Tavern (1024 E Pike St.) with Jarret Middleton and John Hamilton.  As the name of the event implies, I’ll be reading new/unpublished work.

There will be tons of readings that night (about 60+ authors in 19 venues all about town). Before my reading, during Phase One of the crawl (6-6:45 pm), I plan to be at Three Jennys Walk into a Bar, also at Sam’s Tavern, and featuring Jennifer D. Munro, Jenny Hayes, and Jenny Forester, with host Jenny Neill; they’ll be telling tales of lust, loneliness, and the American West. After my reading, I’ll saunter down the street for Phase Three (8-8:45 pm) to Lobby Bar (916 E Pike St.) to see my Furnace reading series co-conspirator Corinne Manning and my fellow Made at Hugo House fellow Irene Keliher read alongside Cole Arden Peake and Jeremy Halinen, with host Jaimee Garbacik in A Big Ol’-Fashioned Queer Bash.

Then it’s off to the mother ship–Richard Hugo House– for the after party!

Made at Hugo House Fellowship Reading – Video

11 Oct

In case you couldn’t make it or wanted to watch again, here’s the video from my final Made at Hugo House reading. I read half of my story “Healers,” which I workshopped at the Tin House Writers’ Workshop this summer and which may be the final story in my collection MORE LIKE HOME THAN HOME. Many thanks to Samudre Media for recording!

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