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November News

17 Nov
Discovery Park

Discovery Park

Well, gosh, November snuck up on me! I try not to let a whole month go by without popping in over here, so here’s what’s been cooking.  Daughters of the Air will be out in 18 days (you might add it to your Goodreads list to be notified of giveaways); the last several weeks featured early mornings hunched over my laptop pitching book critics and events to bookstores and a handful of book clubs. Anxiety-fueled self-googling is at peak levels, which, yes, I know I should not be doing. But every now and again someone says something lovely about the book, which, as I’ve said on Instagram, has me rolling around like a happy puppy. (Also: I am increasingly on Instagram, where I overuse creepy filters, such in the photo above.)

Suzzallo

The University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library, where I recently managed to claw my way back into Novel #2.

I just finished teaching for the first time a fiction thesis writing class in the online MA program I work for. It’s an interesting class that coaches students through the first 30-50 pages of a novel or story collection, and I am embarking upon it once again very soon, just as my own novel will be hitting shelves. Our final week’s discussion on paths to publication (traditional vs. hybrid vs. self-publishing) will be rather timely.  In related news, as I head out on book tour next year, I’ll be teaching online for Hugo House as well: an eight-week intermediate fiction class touching on point of view, dialogue, and scene construction. Watch for one-day classes at Chicago’s StoryStudio and Port Townsend’s Writers’ Workshoppe!

 

teaAmidst all this activity, I’m looking forward to some holiday downtime, if that is even possible. Lately I’ve been starting my day with Anne Carson’s Plainwater and ending it with Mavis Gallant’s A Fairly Good Time: a superb literary sandwich. Before the year is over, I hope to get to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Gothic novel The House of the Seven Gables. I picked it up from a used bookstore in Montreal, The Word, just before graduating from college…in 2004. Yes, I guess it’s about time I get to that one.

Stay tuned for stories forthcoming from Lilith Magazine, the New Zealand-based Geometry, and the new Pacific Northwest-based Cascadia Magazine. If you’d like monthly news in your in-box, which will include information for upcoming events across the country, you can sign up here. Until launch day!

Eight Million New Yorks, Thirteen Million Tokyos

22 Jun

716I like big cities and I cannot lie. They’ve fascinated me for a long time. Spike Lee, Woody Allen, Lena Dunham, John Dos Passos, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sapphire, and Betty Smith all have wildly different visions of New York City. Sometimes I feel apologetic for writing about New York, because of some perception that most writing about New York is stereotypical and/or because New York stories dominate the landscape and are therefore overdone.

But, having grown up in Brooklyn, it is impossible for me not to write about it. And, as with any piece of writing, of course, the deeper you dig into something, the more you unpack a city or character’s complexities, the farther away you get from tired old narratives. Write the story only you can write, advice I picked up at the Tin House Writers Conference, has been enormously valuable to me in moving forward with stories and novels and embracing my own peculiar vision. New York is the city I know best and the one I can endlessly burrow into.

New York is not, however, the only city that fascinates me, whose identity offers multitudes. I fell head over heels in love with Tokyo and can’t wait to get back there one day to walk its ancient alleys and zoom by its blinking towers. Reading 1Q84 after experiencing Tokyo made palpable the dreamy and unsettling alternate universes cities offer.

Working on my first novel, I swam in a pile of books set in Buenos Aires. Fiction, memoir, reportage, poems. Anything I could get my hands on, starting with Borges. Then I was fortunate enough to take the leap and visit. That city’s mix of architectural traditions (Spanish, English, French) creates the strange sensation of being in South America and Europe simultaneously. And the simultaneity feels more real because of my different encounters with the city through literature.

Chicago is a place close to my heart, but whose literature I’m less steeped in. I love how the El downtown feels like a mash up of the outer boroughs of New York with stately old Chicago buildings. I know Saul Bellow writes Chicago, and he’s been on my to-read list for quite some time, but I’m wondering about all the literary versions of Chicago. Other than say, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, also in my to-read pile.

I’m wondering, too, about the literary versions of Seattle. Truth Like the Sun, Where’d You Go Bernadette, and Blueprints from the Afterlife have been in my to-read pile for some time. Now that I’ve lived in Seattle for over five years, I may find myself writing about it too. That is, after I get through novels two and three. One day.

What are your favorite writers who have particular visions for the cities they write?

Story as Architecture / Architecture as Story

16 Mar

My third set of writing prompts for the Ploughshares blog takes architecture as its starting point.

Nesting

3 Dec
This is Edmund.

This is Edmund.

We have a penguin. His name is Edmund. Edmund guards the dog house that came with our new house, which is an old house – 1892 or 1900 depending on where you look. Our new-old house is in the Central District, a neighborhood much like Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, and the old creaky house itself feels just like an old creaky house in Brooklyn, which is part of why, as soon as we stepped inside of it, it felt right.

In the crawl space, we found a volleyball and in the kitchen drawer a 1962 high school yearbook from Macon, Georgia. Edmund, our ceramic penguin, is the crown jewel of our object-finds. He looks serene and proud in front of the dog house, which sits before a towering cherry tree and a slip of a maple.

The architecture of the house itself is a jewel. Built as a “working man’s Victorian,” it’s a Victorian in miniature, with gables and nooks, all fairly tiny. Our favorite spot is the nook beneath the stairs in the dining room, which we’ve declared the reading nook, complete with an ottoman, dreamy cushion, and wooden milk crate of currently-reading or to-be-read-soon books. Despite being nearly blocked off by towers of boxes, I’ve already spent several delightful hours reading poetry there in the bluish morning light.

Moving, and a host of other things (a new job, mainly), have kept me away from this blog. November was dedicated to nest-building, poultry-roasting, bread-pudding-making, big pots of soup-making. All pleasant things. I’ll be sure to poke my head back on here again this month; I’ve got lots of exciting projects in store for the new year.

High Line’s Debut

10 Jun

Yesterday, M. took me to the High Line, which officially opened its first section to the public this week. The only entrance for now is on Gansevoort and Washington. I felt giddy ascending the steps to what had been built up and built up and talked about and photographed and anticipated.

The rain had rendered the vegetation lush: wild grasses, purple and blue conical flowers, odd green spears and larger cones of muted yellow just about to burst open to something brighter. (I’d wished there was a guide to the plants, but could find none on their website, just a picture or two of echinacea purpurea.) There were spindly plants topped with magenta spheres and moody, bluish red petalled things, everything poking out of stylized cracks in concrete and elegantly arranged rusting train tracks, just as they’d done wildly, before.

And the views! M. snatched my attention away from the architectural botany to the strange and wonderful perspective on the buildings around us. Just-above-the-rooftops of the meatpacking district on the one side with wispy grasses growing atop awnings and views of pediments and cornices you’d never see from the street level without craning your neck and getting hit by truck hauling animal carcasses or a snarling Escalade.

On the other side, remnants of what is still a manufacturing zone. Whining machinery still grates the ear. You get a marvelous close up of the rotting neglect of buildings. Gorgeous patterns of mottled brick and peeling paint and metal doors leading out to no where, fire escapes rusted away long ago. Barbed wire catching plastic bags and shuddering rooftop ventilation systems.

Thankfully, the botany seems delicately designed with the olfactory in mind, wafting over any industrial smells.

We walked further north and M. seems to salivate at the view ahead, that explosion of West Chelsea architecture. I’m staring at a honeybee burrowing into a lavender poof of something and then he pulls us forward, under the gray Standard Hotel straddling the High Line. Slabs of concrete jut out of the hotel, reaching for the High Line without touching it, amputated by glass barriers that perhaps will one day be removed and planks put across the gap so park goers can be sucked into fancy pants lounges.

Gehry’s iceberg / sail boat is moored along the northwest side, with Nouvel’s winky windows behind, continuing installation as I write. We can stare into a yoga class in the Equinox near 14th Street and the students emege groggy from their corpse pose, befuddled by the voyeurs standing on this perch, snapping pictures of everything, shamelessly.

We recline on a cedar (?) bench that rolls a short distance along a track and wondered how long it would be before names were scratched into the slats of wood. A man in an army coat, circular sunglasses, and a thick gray moustache pointed whimsically up, shoots his enormously expensive camera right at our faces. He repeats this with the man beside us, assuring him he is only taking pictures of the gallery behind us.

At the fence on 20th St., a Parks Department sentry repeats a happy spiel: “This only the end for now. Section Two is scheduled to open next year. Check out the website for updates.”

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