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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!

Interview in Ordinary Madness #76

9 Mar

Yesterday I had the pleasure of chatting with Steve Barker for the 76th edition of Ordinary Madness, his Arts & Entertainment podcast. We talked about novel writing, rejection, The Furnace, the effects of winning awards, and a bit about my time at McGill University in Montreal. I also read two short-short stories, one of which is quite new. Fun!

Upcoming Classes

1 Dec
Strange trinkets and doo-dads on display in Astoria, Oregon.

Objects galore, courtesy a storefront in Astoria, Oregon. An image-based writing prompt for you.

There are still some spots in my 30-minute, $10 online class Powerful Objects, meeting December 9 at 7 pm.  This micro-class is via OneRoom, an online platform designed specifically for creative writing classes allowing real-time interaction via video. The format of the micro-class is a great way to sneak in some writing in this busy time of year, if I do say so myself. Here is the class description:
Italo Calvino wrote that “the moment an object appears in a narrative, it is charged with a special force and becomes like the pole of a magnetic field, a knot in the network of invisible relationships.” We’ll read Kate Bernheimer’s short-short story “Pink Horse” to see how she uses imagery and detail to bring out the psychic power of a particular object. Then we’ll do a writing exercise exploring a character’s relationship with an object. Register here.
In 2016, I’m teaching 1000 Words a Week, a six-week class in which–you guessed it–we will write 1000 words a week. It’s like NaNoWriMo but at a more merciful pace. Class meets Thursdays 7-9 pm, starting January 14. General registration opens December 8; if you’re a Hugo House member you can register today. Scholarships are available! Apply by December 14. Class description here:
Each week we’ll write 1000 words using big-picture and fine-grain prompts. In class, we’ll lightly workshop pieces, focusing on questions like “What creates energy in this story?” and “What do you want to know more about?” Stories may be part of a larger work or stand alone. We’ll also discuss writers’ thoughts on writing, from classics like Anne Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts” to newer essays like Rikki Ducornet’s “The Deep Zoo.” Students will leave class with 5000 new words. Register here.
Finally, I am teaching a mini-lesson called The Priceless Detail at Hugo House’s Write-O-Rama, this Saturday at 12 pm & 1 pm.  Here is the class description:
Good liars know that selective detail, not a pile of facts, make a more convincing story. In discussing Chekhov’s exceptional use of detail, Francine Prose notes that we live in detail, remember in detail, identify, recognize, and recreate in detail. But finding the right detail in fiction takes a lot of sifting. We’ll look to excerpts from Chekhov for inspiration, then immerse ourselves in an exercise drawing on keen observations of our own experiences. Register here.
Wishing you a writing-full season & 2016!

“Cauliflower Tells You” in Monkeybicycle

27 Feb
Partial inspiration for "Cauliflower Tells You."

Partial inspiration for “Cauliflower Tells You” — a magic dress shop in Victoria, B.C.

One of the weirdest short short stories I’ve ever written, “Cauliflower Tells You,” was published today on Monkeybicycle. It happens to be my 33rd birthday, so this is an excellent birthday present from the universe.  Here’s how it begins:

Cauliflower perches behind your ear and talks to you in a tinny voice.

continue reading

Elements of this story have been floating around in my head for some time, but I couldn’t figure out what to do with them. (Like “Raven in a Jar,” I had an atmosphere first, then a story.) Then one day this past fall, after immersing myself in Anne Carson and Haruki Murakami, and after eating a rainbow cookie, and after finding myself on the couch with the flu, this story poured out into a notebook, following the intensely strange logic of a fever dream.

Summer

29 Jun

It’s a balmy 59 degrees in late June Seattle, about nine degrees warmer than the average temperature in January, February, March, etc…And yet, I love this cool weather, and how every evening the clouds pattern differently. Last night, a giant paw streaked pale pink, blue, gray-white across the sky.

My reading list for the summer was ridiculously unrealistic, then I changed it and it is still ridiculously unrealistic, so there’s no point in putting it here. But I will say that I’m reading War and Peace and Suite Française and they make for interesting companion pieces. There’s a scene in the latter that refers to a scene in the former, about troops and villagers crossing a bridge (and Suite Française, in case you don’t know, is about Parisians trying to leave Paris in World War II), and I got a certain twinge of readerly satisfaction from having so recently read the scene the more contemporary characters were talking about. The same sort of intersection gave me a similar twinge a couple of years ago when I was reading The Travels of Marco Polo (which I still haven’t finished) and The Decameron (…also unfinished, for shame…) and both mentioned the same story of an old monk in a cave, this time without making direct reference to predecessors. I love picking up two books, supposedly at random, and finding those connections across centuries. Seeing the reference in the more contemporary World War II novel somehow made the wartime scene in Tolstoy more powerful, for being still relevant, and also had an ironic effect on the character speaking about the scene, who didn’t yet experience fleeing Paris and didn’t seem to take that prospect seriously.

On that intertextual note, here’s another little piece I wrote this past quarter extending the myth of Prosperine. (The extension part begins with “In Hades…” and everything that precedes it is just to refresh your memory about what went down in that story.)
——————————————————————————-

Ceres implored Jove to return Proserpine to her. Jove replied that Proserpine may return, so long as she has not eaten anything in the underworld. But Pluto had given Proserpine seeds of the pomegranate, and she had eaten those glistening seeds, so she was bound to spend part of the year in Hades and part of the year on Earth.

So, the months she spent in Hades became our autumn and winter, full of thistles and bramble and numbing snow. And the months she returned allowed us spring and summer– cherry blossoms and dogwoods, blackberries and huckleberries and rosy-hued nectarines and black plums.

In Hades Proserpine was dulled by dark winter. Pomegranates, with their juicy red-jeweled, bitter-centered seeds, were still on offer. Pluto sliced open this fruit and offered her a further wedge. Proserpine hesitated, tempted by this momentary distraction from underworld tedium.

“I want you to enjoy your time here,” Pluto said, still struck by Cupid’s quiver, still enraptured by Proserpine. “Please enjoy this fruit.”

“I can’t,” said Proserpine. “I know I’ll be further bound to this place. I know what will happen.”

“I’ll use my powers to prevent it. Longer summers, more lush vegetation. I promise.”

Proserpine knew that Pluto, struck by Cupid’s quiver, would keep his promise. She ate another wedge of pomegranate seeds.

Above, a confused Ceres watched the oceans rise.

Some Hunger Artists

8 Apr

I’m taking a fabulous “show and tell” class that demands thoughtful imitation and analysis of a range of prose, ancient to post-modern. This week, I wrote a short-short in response to Franz Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist” and thought I’d share it here.

Some Hunger Artists Go to Coney Island

Every July 4, across the street from Nathan’s on Neptune Avenue, three emaciated demonstrators sat on the corner in protest of the annual hot dog eating competition. They held hand-painted signs that read “wasteful”, “capitalist sludge”, “cruel”. But they were only three and they sat silently with grim expressions, so it was easy for the boisterous crowd to dismiss them or simply overlook them as the contestants dipped buns into water for ease of swallowing and gobbled them down with dog upon dog.

As their protests were unsuccessful, the competition continuing each year, the demonstrators thought of other ways to show the crowd that their lauding of excess was morally repugnant. They agreed upon an action for the next year’s demonstration that went beyond the previous year’s silent hunger strikes.

“Something spectacular, because the crowd only understands spectacle,” said one.

“Something that also shows our true devotion to the cause, an ultimate self-sacrifice,” said the second. The third, devoted to silence, said nothing. They hoped to permanently mar the spectacle of excess with their spectacle of sacrifice.

The next year, they each arrived on Neptune Avenue with a freshly sharpened cleaver and set up their old hand-painted signs beside them. They’d agreed with one another to be as swift as possible. Shock would be their friend (on a number of levels). At the start of the competition, as the contestants began their gorging, the protesters stood and swiftly lopped off of one another those limbs they’d previously agreed would be sacrificed to the cause. Taking turns, they hurled at the gulping contestants their severed limbs.

Nearby police, who’d always stood guard in case of such displays, whisked away the protesters. And the crowd, though at first aghast, thought it some outrageous joke and clamored for more.

Middle of Nowhere

16 Sep

A very short story of mine appears in The Middle of Nowhere: Horror in Rural America, an anthology out from Pill Hill Press this month.

In other news, M. and I have explored and fallen in love with Georgetown, an artsy former industrial area south of downtown, chock full of studios in rickety old brick buildings (former bottling plants, iron and brass works). It felt like a combination of the Wild West and Red Hook. Their Art Attack (when studios are open to the wandering public) is every second Saturday of the month.

Blame Frida

28 Apr

Sometimes I look to visual art for writing inspiration. I have a stack of little Dover Fine Art Stickers for several painters (Kahlo, Klimt, etc.) that I’ll randomly select and stick in my notebook and then write whatever comes to mind. Here’s what spewed forth from Kahlo’s “The Little Hart”.

The little hart fled through the dark wood, hips hobbled by multiple arrows thrust in her body. Wind licked blood trickling down her fur, drying in spots, mingling with sweat in others. Brush crunched underfoot and she was conscious only of her labored snorts of breath and the thought that They were out there, waiting for her to collapse in exhaustion, ready to saw her limbs apart for their great spring feast.

Her antlers had only recently grown so long and majestic and she lowed at the thought of them being carved off and used as tools to separate her flesh from her skin. Or worse, as mere decoration, her head mounted on a wall as a show of might and extravagance.

A bird twittered in a tree and she realized she had stopped running, was actually stumbling. She looked up at a broken tree branch, jutting from the trunk she leaned against. Above, a blue patch of sky.

Then, a whistle, a swift thrust of sharp in the soft part of her arching throat. A buckling of the knees, the underbrush against her cheek, then nothingness.

55 words

2 Jul

So I’m now the editor of the guest stories portion of Rosemary Mosco’s website. There’s a new email address for submissions: 55gueststories at gmail dot com. I hope y’all will try writing one–55 words, no more, no less. They’re oodles of fun. I put one of my own up on the site (Ro originally had it on her livejournal). Take a peek .

Escribir

6 Jun

(silliness)

This is a cop out of a post. So I’m taking beginner Spanish at TC’s Community Language Program. Below is a short absurd story I wrote with my limited knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. It is also probably completely incorrect.

Hoy, los gatos toman gotas de girasol. Pero el pinguino sordomudo, el gerente de la gente, toma cerveza. Los gatos y el pinguino son de la ciudad de las luces. Por cierto, la derecho de la ciudad es linguistica aplicada. Hasta luego!

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