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Bright Spots of 2016

21 Dec
della_tramutatione_metallica_sogni_tre-a184

From Della tramutatione metallica sogni tre by Gio. Battista Nazari, 1571

Dang it. Despite world affairs being horrendous, I’m going to relish some good things that happened in 2016. First, I achieved my goal of obtaining 100 rejections (106!). If you’re not getting rejecting 90% of the time, you’re not aiming high enough–so goes the wisdom from Creative Capital. The fruits of this labor paid off with eight publications. Here they are, plus other goodness. (Find the zoetrope!)

 

My plans for the holidays including gorging myself on kreplach, cholent, pizza, and rainbow cookies and devouring Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters. Happy winter solstice!

“Cauliflower Tells You” On Display at V2 in Capitol Hill for Artist Trust’s 30th Birthday

4 Oct
angled

Find the cauliflower.

Fun news: We just installed my short story “Cauliflower Tells You” in the storefront window of V2, a temporary collaborative art space in Capitol Hill’s old Value Village. If you’re in Seattle, stop by anytime! This is part of Artist Trust‘s 30th birthday celebration, which will culminate in a party on October 22. The party will feature art, music, film, readings, and performances from:

Humaira Abid / Iole Alessandrini / Juventino Aranda / Hami Bahadori / Jana Brevick / Zachary Burns / Romson Bustillo / Blake Chamberlain / Michelle de la Vega / Ryan Feddersen / Dakota Gearhart / Leah Gerrard / Ari Glass / Lori Goldston / Dayna Hanson / Vic Haven / Gary Hill / Andrew Hoeppner / Jessica Hoffman /  Jan Hopkins / Jenny Hyde / Mari Ichimasu / Todd Jannausch / Britta Johnson / Christopher Paul Jordan / Lisa Kinoshita / Robert Lashley / Cheryll Leo-Gwin / Stacey Levine / Holly Ballard Martz / Cathy McClure / Fiona McGuigan / Marilyn Montufar /  Tyna Ontko / Clyde Petersen / Kristen Ramirez / George Rodriguez / Paul Rucker /  Austin Stiegemeier / Anca Szilagyi / Barbara Earl Thomas / Elissa Washuta / Ellen Ziegler / More TBA!

Prior to the party on the 22nd, you can drop in during Capitol Hill Art Walk on October 13, 5-8 pm. Hope to see you on the 13th or 22nd!

cat

A fantastic cat is one of Cauliflower’s neighbors: “Lion” by George Rodriguez. 

strips

Find the ice pick.

anca-and-brian

Examining the final product with Brian McGuigan, Artist Trust’s Program Director.

Kingfishers, herons, news

9 Sep

photo-24I’m back from a family trip to Orcas Island. Waiting for the ferry in Anacortes, we spotted skittering kingfishers and a great blue heron in flight–its path strangely loping. Then, in Orcas, there were the requisite cows, sheep, and horses; a buck crunching on dead leaves; and sweet doe eating dandelions. We went to the old strawberry barreling plant in the hamlet of Olga, where there are no longer any strawberry fields. And M & I baked our bones in a sauna that may have been close to 200° F. How refreshing!photo-27

Now I’m in back-to-school mode. A few tidbits of note:

  • On Sunday, September 18, I’m teaching a free one-day class on contemporary fairy tales at the Capitol Hill branch of the Seattle Public Library.
  • On Saturday, October 22, I will be one of 40+ featured artists at Artist Trust’s 30th Birthday Party. Tickets are $25 and proceeds support this amazing organization and all the hard work it does in Washington State. I have felt their impact profoundly as a recipient of their inaugural Gar LaSalle Storyteller Award. But they have been a helpful resource for me long before that; I attended a number of their grant writing workshops and compiled some of my notes in a post here.
  • Finally, I’m pleased to be offering one-on-one writing coaching via Hugo House’s new manuscript consultation program. You can learn all about here.

In other news, I have a few pieces forthcoming–a collage essay about a fruit (in the meantime here’s a post I wrote about nectarines), a short story inspired by my recent trip to the Netherlands, and two short-short fairy tales. I’ll be sure to post links to these pieces as they become available.

photo-26

Netherlandish Birds

15 May

bosch-pond

Thanks to the tremendous generosity of the Artist Trust / Gar LaSalle Storyteller Award, I spent the earlier part of this month in the Netherlands, researching my third novel. M came as my trusty research assistant, furnishing highlighters, snacks, and sweaters with alacrity. There’s a lot of information crammed in my skull right now, which I am organizing as best I can, hoping it seeps into the crevices of my subconscious fruitfully.

What struck me on our trip: the birds! (I know, I know, put a bird on it.) Egrets, loons, swans, geese, ducks, grouse, crows; white-breasted, brilliant blue, long-tailed, plump and shimmery; raucous, trilling, warbling, chortling. Fact: the first painting acquired by the Rijksmuseum features a bold, angry swan.

Jan_Asselijn_-_De_bedreigde_zwaan;_later_opgevat_als_allegorie_op_Johan_de_Witt_-_Google_Art_Project

In the moat by the citadel in ‘S-Hertogenbosch, an egret bullied ducks until a trio of geese chased the egret to the boardwalk where it loomed. This continued on a loop for a while. A seagull swooped down to chase the egret further and when the egret returned, the geese trailed it, sinister and slow. Sinister, at least, until we realized there were goslings near.

In a canal in Rotterdam, three loons had a lovers’ spat. Slapped wings, held heads beneath the water–murderous! Not far from there, we strolled past the “swan bridge,” soaring and modern.

On our last night in Amsterdam, we stayed at a fanciful b&b on the Western Canal Belt. Our hostess could not greet us when we arrived. She hid our keys in a flowerpot. Up two steep, narrow flights of stairs, we flung open the door. The lights were on, the doors and windows open, a gust of wind coming from the terrace, which led to another room with another open door, and the flutter and chirp of green and yellow parakeets, in a big cage looking down upon the Keizersgracht canal. Old books stacked everywhere, art on the walls and leaning upon the books, a laptop left on a long wooden table, half open, as if our hostess had left in a hurry. It had the feel of that computer game Myst, where mysterious rooms, empty of people, always suggest a presence, a place quickly abandoned. We did meet her late that night and in the morning at breakfast the birds flew freely about the room and she would call to them and air kiss them and talked to us about Argentina and Barcelona and photography and her love of Amy (Winehouse).

Apropos of birds, on the flight back, I finished Noy Holland’s debut novel Bird, a raw gorgeous thing. Here, I leave you with an excerpt:

She was hungry again and gorged herself on chicken fried steak and skittles, on vermilion faces of canyons, cliffs you could dig with a spoon.

 

“Art After Auschwitz” in Jewish in Seattle’s April / May issue

8 Apr

“I wish people would just stop writing about the Holocaust,” a woman said to me at a national writing conference. Thus begins “Art After Auschwitz,” my feature article for Jewish in Seattle‘s history issue.

It’s such a big topic. I’d love to explore it further. I learned about so many artists, such as Israeli Maya Zack, who’s working on a film about Paul Celan, and Seattleite Leah Warshawski, whose documentary Big Sonia follows a larger-than-life survivor running a tailor shop in a dying mall outside Kansas City. I came across Ann Lipscombe, a young artist whose surreal drawing “What We Talk About When We Talk About My Jewish Nose,” stopped me in my tracks at the Jewish Art Salon’s “The Jew as Other” show in New York last December, and miniaturist Tine Kindermann, whose “Hummel Midrash” project explores the danger of kitsch and who curated “The Jew as Other” with Yona Verwer.

“How Do I Fit This Ghost in My Mouth” in Pacifica Literary Review

23 Mar

I’m very happy to report that “How Do I Fit This Ghost in My Mouth,” my first published poem, is up on Pacifica Literary Review’s website. The piece was inspired by Geoffrey Farmer’s exhibit of the same name at the Vancouver Art Gallery back in September. Many thanks to editor Matt Muth!

Spring Classes: Contemporary Fairy Tales & Powerful Objects

15 Mar
Moss+Blossoms

Mossy trees sprouting cherry blossoms at the University of Washington

This spring, I’m teaching a six-week class on contemporary fairy tales at Hugo House. We’ll read Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood and Sarah Shun-lien Bynum and Alissa Nutting, among other fantastic writers. We’ll talk about some of my favorite techniques, like everyday magic and intuitive magic. And we’ll try our hands at writing our own fairy tales. Class meets Wednesday nights 7-9 pm from May 25-June 29. Registration is currently open for Hugo House members; general registration opens March 22. Scholarships are available and applications are due on March 25.

white out blossoms

Cloud cover & blossoms

I’m also teaching a 75-minute webinar on Saturday, April 16 called Powerful Objects via Inked Voices. We’ll talk about one of my favorite topics: how objects create a special kind of magic in fiction and how useful they are in developing character, plot, and emotional resonance. It’s a lecture-based class that will include writing prompts and a Q&A. The class will meet at 12 pm EST / 9 am PST and is just $25. We’ll talk about Cynthia Ozick’s story “The Shawl,” so please read that in advance. You can register here.

Speaking of fairy tales, right now at the Henry Art Gallery, you can see Paul McCarthy’s White Snow, a wildly whimsical and subversive take on Snow White. A few years ago, I saw his gonzo installation WS at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, a similarly subversive spin on Snow White but somehow less rich than the wood sculptures on view at the Henry. White Snow seems more artful, crafted, and thoughtful, whereas WS was a big raunchy frat party. The Henry is now free on Sundays (huzzah!), so go check it out. Perhaps it will inspire you!

paging archimboldo

Where is Arcimboldo when you need him?

“Bedtime Stories for Ghosts” in Electric Literature

18 Sep

My essay “Bedtime Stories for Ghosts: Reading Aristotle to Coco Chanel and Other Encounters in a Massive Art Installation” is up on Electric Literature today! This piece has been in the works since the beginning of the common S E N S E, Ann Hamilton‘s show at the Henry Art Gallery in October 2014, evolving as the show evolved and growing stranger with each of my visits. It draws on Aristotle and J.A. Baker and Mercè Rodoreda and Rikki Ducornet and humming birds and egret capelets and more.  (Not incidentally, the Coco Chanel egret capelet makes an appearance in my story “Cauliflower Tells You,” over on Monkeybicycle.) I’m excited to have my work in Electric Literature and am thankful to Kelly Luce for taking it on.

How Do I Fit This Ghost In My Mouth?

8 Sep
From Geoffrey Farmer's "The Surgeon and the Photographer" at the Vancouver Art Gallery

From Geoffrey Farmer’s “The Surgeon and the Photographer”

I’m grateful to have caught “How Do I Fit This Ghost in My Mouth?”, Geoffrey Farmer‘s exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery this weekend. I had never heard of Farmer, and I was entranced. “The Last Two Million Years” is a collage sculpture that takes up an entire room, comprised of hundreds of figures meticulously cut from a found Reader’s Digest encyclopedia of the same title. I was awed not just at the amount of work that went into the installation, but the impulse to pin down layers of ephemera–not only tiny details in a vast history that feels impossible to contain but also the fleetingness of the found book itself, which stands eviscerated as you exit the room.

The Surgeon and the Photographer” gathers images in a similar though more surreal manner, creating Dadaist characters from used books salvaged from a closed down used bookshop as well as fabrics. The sculptures are called puppets, suggesting one might inhabit them, give them voice and stories, and they’d be rich and complex stories indeed. Somehow this piece recalled for me a bizarre puppet movie I once saw as a tiny person, sitting alone in the attic in front of our old knobbed television tuned to a UHF channel. Faceless wooden mannequins sat chained in tubs of water and turned their heads, vaguely squeaking but unable to talk. I was utterly mesmerized and alarmed and had no idea what I was looking at.

The most thrilling installation for me was “Let’s Make the Water Turn Black” — an eerie room filled with moving sculptures made of old movie props (lion heads, snakes with blue light bulb teeth), a haunting soundscape (bells, chimes, wind), and lights that shift from green to red to blue so that when it finally becomes white, the colors of the objects are almost a shock. The room is programmed to last the duration of an entire day, and I was very tempted to try and experience it for that long.

Alas, we did not spend the entire day there. After leaving the museum, we encountered a zombie-themed wedding and wondered if the square outside Vancouver Art Gallery has a similar function to New York’s Union Square. On the beach by English Bay, at sunset, we saw someone make enormous soap bubbles that shrieking children and adults alike chased to pop. We found a wonderfully curated independent bookstore called Pulp Fiction (I picked up The Dud Avocado and M picked up Wanderlust), and we watched a man train an enormous pit bull puppy on Kitsilano Beach with the help of beautiful red husky, and we gorged ourselves on Ukrainian, Malaysian, and Italian food. We also found time to just sit still and read. And, thanks to Geoffrey Farmer and all kinds of other stimuli, I wrote a poem, possibly the first I’ve written that I actually kind of like. Maybe I’ll even send it out. Art wins!

On Writing Difficult Material

2 Mar

Over on the Hugo House blog, I’ve got a mini-lesson previewing my upcoming one-day class at the Henry Art Gallery. The excerpt of class reading I chose comes from the opening of Mercè Rodoreda’s novel Death in Spring, which is the new book integrated into Ann Hamilton: the common S E N S E(The first book was J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine.)

Death in Spring is a stunning novel, for its poetic language, lush imagery, and its tackling cruelty among humans as well as violence in nature. Rodoreda was a Catalan writer living during Franco’s dictatorship, and the novel can be read as a metaphor for that regime or for any oppressed society.The violence is also of mythological proportions, and the beauty of the language helps make reading it bearable. This technique was something that was made explicit for me by Rikki Ducornet speaking at an AWP panel on “Magic and Intellect”: “For a difficult book to be readable, find a language that levitates somehow, that is scintillating.”

The class will go beyond this topic, delving into the many layers of Ann Hamilton’s monumental show, on our relationship to animals, the sense of touch, and being touched–emotionally and intellectually–through the private act of reading. Death in Spring will definitely bring home this last idea of being touched–being moved in profound ways by another’s experience and creation.

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