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Lanternfish Press To Publish My Debut Novel

6 Mar

I am beyond thrilled to announce that Lanternfish Press is publishing my debut novel, Dirty, in late 2017 or early 2018. Dirty is a magical realist work about a teenage runaway whose father is disappeared during Argentina’s Dirty War.

The seedlings of this book emerged long, long ago, in 2001. And I worked on the first draft in fits and starts for years until I decided an MFA at the University of Washington would help me get it done. Then, mid-way through the program in 2010, Michael and I managed to travel to Argentina. (There was a pitfall to super cheap plane tickets; I wrote about it for Airplane Reading.) At graduation, my thesis advisor David Bosworth compared the process of finishing a novel to the gestation of a whale. Fast forward to 2017. Not sure which beasts gestate for 15 years. But this labor of love will see the light of day!

Lanternfish is based in Philadelphia and makes gorgeous, genre-blurring books like Vikram Paralkar’s The Afflictions and Christopher Smith’s Salamanders of The Silk Road. The moment I read Lanternfish’s cred0, I knew it would be a good fit:

READ. READ VORACIOUSLY. READ WRITERS WHO DON’T LOOK LIKE YOU. READ FOREIGN WRITERS. READ DEAD WRITERS!

Writing is a conversation. It can offer people who lead wildly different lives a window on each other’s worlds. It can bridge gaps between cultures and gulfs in time, overcoming unbearable solitudes. We tend to click with writers who’ve grappled with many stories and whose work is informed by that broader perspective.

I am so delighted they agreed.




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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!

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?

On the Docket for 2015

2 Jan
A partial reading list for Novel #3.

A partial reading list for Novel #3.

In 2014, I focused my blogging attentions to 16 posts on writing prompts for PloughsharesNow that the series is done (though stay tuned–I have plans for them), here’s a little update on what I’ve got on deck for 2015.

What are your plans for 2015?

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:

Audio Excerpt from “Dirty”

11 Jun

I’ve recorded a brief excerpt from the opening to my novel Dirty and uploaded it to SoundCloud. You can listen to it right here:

In case you missed it, an essay I wrote about my novel was featured in Airplane Reading.

Writing Nonfiction to Think Through Fiction

27 Jul

One of my former professors from UW, Shawn Wong, advised us to write essays on topics related to our fiction projects whenever we felt stuck. After working through many drafts of my first novel, I’ve come to really appreciate this advice. Not only does it give you a new angle on your material, enabling a return to the fiction with fresh eyes, but it can also build your confidence about the research you’d done so far and raise new questions that enrich your understanding of your project. Writing essays can also make it easier to talk about your project with authority and maybe answer that dreaded question, “So, what is your novel about?” with less trepidation.

Earlier this month, my friend SK invited me to speak to the creative writing classes held at UW’s Robinson Center Summer College about travelling to Argentina to research my novel. Though my novel is written for an adult audience, the students in these classes are 5th and 6th graders. It was an enjoyable problem thinking about this different audience and really fun to just address the hands on, primary research I did: walking down Buenos Aires’s wide boulevards and narrow alleyways,trying to get a whiff of the city’s unique scent (note to self: “city scents” as future post), talking to locals who’d lived through the period I was writing about (1978), and uh, gorging myself on dulce de leche. The students had a lot of awesome, thoughtful questions, like what point of view did you write in, did you ever want to give up in the years that you worked on it, did you ever get stuck and what did you do to get unstuck?

Around the same time that I was preparing this talk, I was also working on a short essay for a website called Airplane Reading, which collects “storytelling that can animate, reflect on, and rejuvenate the experience of flight.” This essay, “Mapping Imagination,” gets at some the anxieties I struggled with in writing and researching the novel and is featured there this week. Having worked on both a short talk and short essay, I’m feeling ready again to continue with all the work that goes into getting the novel out into the world.

SK delivered a stack of thank you cards from her students a week after my talk. Some of the details they remembered from the talk and included in their cards were kind of incredible. One student wrote, “P.S. I love food too,” which made me plotz, one student made the card in the form of a paper fortune teller (I learned from it that I will write 1000 more short stories in my lifetime), and two students made an elaborate card in which the Argentine flag opened to a diptych with their messages. It really made my week.

Revise, Rinse, Repeat

12 Oct A step in the revision process

A step in the revision process

On Saturday I took a fabulous one-day class on revision with Karin de Weille at the Richard Hugo House. I’m between the third and fourth drafts of my first novel, taking a month-long break so that I might return to the manuscript with fresh eyes. Though I sometimes get the itch to go back to the novel, I’ve found that if I interrupt the fallow period too soon, I start to lose steam. The time away is so key. In the meantime, perhaps the most heartening lesson I’ve taken from the revision class was to luxuriate and indulge in the revision process – rushing is the last thing you want to do (I guess I knew this, but it’s always a helpful reminder). I’ve plunged myself back into the world of the short story, drafting some new ones, splicing and rejuvenating  a few I wrote last spring, and sending out a couple that seem “done”. Onward!

northbound escape

15 Aug

I’m skipping town for 2.5 weeks, escaping New York’s hot damp stinky breath till just before Labor Day. It’s exciting because I get to show M. around Montreal (where its in the blessed 70s) and then get down to work for two weeks at the Vermont Studio Center.

In other news, my story “Skitter” is said to be forthcoming this October in the Fall issue of The Massachusetts Review. Naturally, paranoia prevents me from being more sure about that, but when I’ll have it my hands I’ll be a very happy lady.

Focus

7 Jan

Whew! Things are getting pretty busy around here. I’m finishing my master’s thesis. Vaguely and very broadly, it’s related to politeness, but that’s all I should say at this juncture. I’m applying for writers’ residencies for the summer, and the deadlines are soon after the thesis deadline, so that should be interesting. As a result, I may not be able to post as frequently as before (which I know is not so often, but I prefer a little restraint anyhow).

M. & I are off to Seattle and Vancouver next week, for a much-needed change of scenery. Hope to give an update on that when I get back, as well as jot down some thoughts on Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund, which I finished last week. I may go through fiction withdrawal next semester, as I’m moving into my last leg of grad school. But hopefully I’ll continue to make room for everything!

Oh, oh, last update! I’ve got another reading bubbling up. Will post the details later this month. It’s at a place that recently featured ukuleles, raunchy Flemish poetry, and Ovid on a Celtic harp. Wee!

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