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Lanternfish Press to publish my second novel

2 Apr
Joseph Cornell, Untitled (Celestial Fantasy with Tamara Toumanova), ca. 1940, collage and tempera on paperboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, 2002.58.36

I am so very delighted to share that I’ve just signed a contract with Lanternfish Press for my second novel, to be published sometime in 2022. Some of you following this blog may be familiar with bits and bobs from the book, which for many years had the working title Paralegal, and which tells the story of a diorama artist working as a paralegal during the economic crisis of 2008, in the same building in which the Bernie Madoff scandal explodes. (Binnie, the protagonist, is influenced by the surrealist artist Joseph Cornell, hence the choice in art for this post. This particular collage also been my laptop wallpaper for ages…) The project received early support from 4Culture and the Jack Straw Writing Program, and it’s so exciting to shepherd it on toward existence in the world!

“The Samoyed” in The Capra Review

1 Feb
The Unicorn Purifies Water (from the Unicorn Tapestries), 1495–1505, Met Cloisters

I’m happy to have new fiction in The Capra Review, and I love the art selected for the piece, The Unicorn Rests in a Garden, which is tangentially part of the story. (Just for fun, I chose a different unicorn piece for this blog post.) Other art mentioned in the story include Greco-Roman sculpture, Piet Mondrian’s abstractions, and Martha Graham’s choreography.

In a way, “The Samoyed” is a companion piece to my story “Old Boyfriends,” which appeared in Propeller Magazine in December 2013. Both stories started out as structural “imitations” of Chekhov stories, “Old Boyfriends” using “Gusev” as a starting point and “The Samoyed” using “The Lady with the Dog,” though I use the term imitation loosely. I wrote about that exercise here on my blog as well as for Ploughshares here. Anyway, here’s how “The Samoyed” begins:

“Modern art is fine for decor,” he said, popping a vodka-soaked olive into his mouth. “But I don’t find it meaningful.” His lips were full, his eyes a gelid blue, his jaw-line well-defined with a stubble that seemed to Jane too calculated.

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Bright Spots of 2020

24 Dec
A fun little sprite in the window of an architecture firm in Edgewater, Chicago

Back in December 2016, I remarked that world affairs were horrendous but that I would take a moment to celebrate some bright spots in my life. I’m not surprised that in the intervening years, I didn’t write a similar end-of-year post, and I know we’re not quite out of the dark yet, but I’m feeling hopeful for the future, nonetheless. Some reading, writing, and cooking highlights, forthwith!

According to my Goodreads Year in Books, the most popular book I read this year was War and Peace*, which in truth was a partial re-read during Yiyun Li and A Public Space‘s TolstoyTogether pandemic book club (which continues on as APSTogether). I first read War and Peace the summer between my first and second years at the University of Washington MFA program, as a way to counter my tendency toward sparse detail. It was quite pleasant to return to it this spring, but, alas, my reading life was too over-committed to stay the re-reading course with such a tome. The “least popular” book (for now!) I read won’t actually be released until April 2021; please add my college friend Julian Mortimer Smith’s wonderful collection The World of Dew and Other Stories to your to-read list!

Speaking of speculative short story collections by people named Julian, my one book review this year was of Julian K. Jarboe’s Everyone On the Moon is Essential Personnel. I am sad The Seattle Review of Books went on hiatus, as it has been a wonderfully thoughtful venue for book reviews. My “Dispatch from a Pandemic” in Another Chicago Magazine might be another “highlight” from 2020 except for the whole pandemic part! At least I got to fall in love with the art of Belkis Ayón, profiled in my ACM piece. My last writing highlight of the year is my first short fiction published since 2018 (!), “Hinges” in Gordon Square Review. I had a lovely time at their virtual launch party getting to know a segment of the Cleveland literary community, which I wouldn’t have been able to do under normal circumstances. This also gets me to closer to a side-goal I’ve had for several years, which I picked up from Seattle poet Susan Rich: get published in each of the 50 states. Still have quite a few states to go!

I am currently revising two novels, and between that, the pandemic, and writing 200+ “please vote” letters and postcards before the election, I think I’m going to cut myself some slack on “only” publishing three things this year. I think my biggest accomplishment, however, is learning how to make soup! I’ve made soup before. But it was always lacking the oomph my grandmother’s boasted, even if I knew the secret ingredient in her chicken soup is beef. I’ve started collecting vegetable scraps in a big tub I keep in the freezer. And, at least once a month this spring and fall (not so much in the summer), I have had a cauldron bubbling, and my, what a comfort that has been.

My winter break plans? Chinese BBQ, baby bok choy, rainbow cookies shipped from Brooklyn (courtesy of my sweet MIL); Robert Altman’s film Kansas City via our artsy cinema subscription, Metrograph; and, of course, the necessary trifecta of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, currently: Anne Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist, Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, Michele Bombardier’s What We Do.

Have a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season!

*NB: Links to books go to my Bookshop.org affiliate page. If you click through and make a purchase, you’re simultaneously supporting independent bookstores, other authors, and me, via a small commission. (Want to make sure the commission goes to me? It should say “Anca L. Szilágyi” in the top left corner of the screen.) Thank you!

Magda Szabó’s THE DOOR

28 Jun

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I’m so glad I finally read Magda Szabó’s The Door (trans. Len Rix), which Michael has been urging me to read for years. Set in Hungary after World War II, The Door is a rich exploration of the complicated friendship between Magda, a writer, and her formidable housekeeper Emerence. The mysteries that surround Emerence and her past give her a witchy quality. She almost never allows anyone inside her home where there are nine cats and, Magda guesses at one point, furniture and china looted from a Jewish family during the war. Here is Emerence bottling cherries for winter as she and Magda discuss the recent suicide of Emerence’s friend Polett:

The stream of cherries tumbled into the cauldron. By now, we were in the world of myth—the pitted cherries separating out, the juice beginning to flow like blood from a wound, and Emerence, calmness personified, standing over the cauldron in her black apron, her eyes in the shadow under the hooded headscarf.

The slow revelation of Emerence’s life before and during the war is balanced with a clash of personalities as Emerence foists her ways upon Magda’s life, such as throwing a bit of hot mulled wine at Magda to get her to drink it when she is distraught over her husband’s surgery. She is an infuriating, fascinating character, one of the most complex I’ve encountered in recent memory.

There is something about Emerence’s strong personality and guarded history that reminds me of my great-grandmother from Budapest, who I didn’t know very well and who I wrote about in my piece “Threads of Memory” in Jewish in Seattle. There is something about the metaphor of the door that has me scrabbling at it, anxious to understand so much that I never will. It’s the sort of anxiety that fills novels; one day when it is safe to travel to Budapest I will do so, if only to be physically in that city, to be closer to that which I can never fully understand.

A bit of comfort: all issues of Fairy Tale Review free for the foreseeable future

26 Mar

Here is a source of comfort in difficult times: all issues of Fairy Tale Review are free for the foreseeable future. Kate Berheimer wrote on Twitter:

This doesn’t put a dent in the painful news today, but maybe it will help some people through the difficult hours. I’ve always found that being in the company of a good fairy tale helps me do a little bit better, be a little bit kinder. It’s why I founded this journal in 2005. xo

@katebernheimer

I wrote “More Like Home Than Home,” the title story of my story collection, as an antidote to the darkness of Daughters of the Air. It was meant to comfort me, and I hope you find comfort in it too. It appeared in the Wizard of Oz-themed Emerald Issue. Now free and online, thanks to Fairy Tale Review , JSTOR, and Wayne State University Press.

The opening of “More Like Home Than Home” — read the rest here.

“Cosmic Fruit” in Orion Magazine

1 Jul

I’m thrilled to have my essay “Cosmic Fruit” in the gorgeous summer issue of Orion Magazine. It’s part of a collection of lyric essays on food and cultural memory that I’ve been slowly pecking away at for several years now, which includes “Dark Fruit: A Cultural and Personal History of the Plum” in Los Angeles Review of Books and “Used to be Schwartz” in The Rumpus. You can subscribe to Orion Magazine or pick up a copy at your favorite bookstore or newsstand. Here’s a taste of “Cosmic Fruit”:

UPDATE (7/9): You can also read the essay online here.

Going to AWP Without Really Going to AWP: A Post-AWP Report

2 Apr

This past weekend was my sixth time attending the AWP conference. My first was in New York in 2008, an overwhelming affair of 8,000 writers crammed into a couple Midtown hotels. That year, I sat on the floor beside a woman from Texas Tech who thought my plan to wait five years before getting an MFA was absurd. The next thing I knew, I was working as a paralegal to save money for graduate school, and by August 2009, I had a full ride to the University of Washington and Michael and I moved cross-country to Seattle. You could say that AWP changed our life pretty radically.

Over the years, we went to a smattering of conferences, but each year I went to fewer and fewer panels, as they tend to repeat and I learned you can only soak up so much information. In 2015 in Minneapolis, I mostly had lunch and dinner with friends, a most pleasant experience, but I’d realized the conference fee had been a waste. Next time, I resolved, I would go to AWP without going to AWP.

Last year in Tampa, with my novel just out, I didn’t get to do that. But *this* year, in Portland, it finally happened, and I highly recommend it to folks who’ve been around the AWP block. I was more relaxed. More hydrated! I had time to stay on top of my online teaching, so less stressed.

Now for some highlights:

Wednesday night, we started at The Old Portland, a wine bar owned by Courtney Taylor-Taylor of the Dandy Warhols. They only serve old French wine; I misheard the description of the Corsican rosé as “foggy” and enjoyed it very much; Michael enjoyed a ten-year-old red Bordeaux. Then, the very Portland-y (more stoner than twee Portlandia) bartender said, “Yeah, we don’t like advertise or anything,” and showed us the Odditorium, the band’s 10,000-foot “clubhouse,” where they rehearse, record, film music videos, and the like. It was cavernous and quiet. Michael, a big Dandy Warhols fan, was in heaven.

“Ice Cream,” the mono-print I made at VSC when I was sad that the ice cream shop had closed and there was no ice cream to be had.

Thursday afternoon, we went to the Vermont Studio Center alumni happy hour. I’d finished a first draft of Daughters of the Air there back in 2007. Three former literary staff read poetry from their recent releases. A line from Nandi Comer’s American Family: A Syndrome: “If there is blood, the artist has chosen to omit it.” Ryan Walsh spoke of the connection between visual art and writing at VSC (I still cherish learning how to make a mono-print there) and vegetable poems. Zayne Turner read from “Her Radioactive Materials.”

Most of the other readings I attended featured numerous readers, so, forthwith, more of a collage:

Reading “Cauliflower Tells You

At Strange Theater: A Fabulist Reading, there were spiders and trousseaus and swans roasted in revenge and Japanese monsters and red rooms and porcine men and tyrants and cauliflower-fueled murder. A doll’s head was raffled off, among other trinkets; I offered a rare talisman of Cyndi Lauper’s trip to Yemen.

Friday, we went to the PageBoy Magazine Happy Hour, featuring 17-word poems and prose. It was a fun afternoon of zingy one-liners and dreamy experimental works and Gertrude Stein jokes. Then we were off to Literary Bingo with Lilla Lit, a new Portland-based reading series; it was fast and furious with four-minute readings (a loud buzzer ushered off writers going over). Chocolate was pelted at every shout of “bingo!”; I caught a peanut-butter ball overhead with my left hand and won a copy of Jennifer Perrine’s In the Human Zoo. I also read a poem and someone won a copy of Daughters of the Air. All readings should have strict word and time limits and buzzers and prizes!

Saturday, we paid $5 to get into the convention center book fair. I had a lovely time chatting with Chicago-based folks in advance of our move (yes! big news tucked away over here; more on that in a future post), signing books at the Lanternfish Press table, and seeing fellow LFP authors Charles J. Eskew (Tales of the Astonishing Black Spark) and Andrew Katz (The Vampire Gideon’s Suicide Hotline and Halfway House for Orphaned Girls). It was also super cool meeting Carmen Maria Machado, who signed Her Body and Other Parties and Carmilla, an LFP reprint of a lesbian vampire romance that predates Dracula, with a Borgesian introduction and footnotes by Machado.

Fun!

We also picked up a whole slew of poetry in translation (from Romanian and Hebrew), essays on art, novels, short story collections. I can’t wait to read it all! Our last stop was the Northwest Micropress Fair at the Ace Hotel, where I signed copies of Sugar, my chapbook from Chin Music Press, and hung out with regional small presses, which felt like a special little send off before we leave the Pacific Northwest.

I heard that the conference had ballooned to 12,000 (15,000?) attendees. Amazing! Perhaps, perhaps, we’ll be in San Antonio next year, and if not San Antonio, Kansas City, and if not Kansas City, Philadelphia…?

Music Inspired by Literature

22 Feb

Yesterday, I got a sneak peek at a song Sean Morse is writing in response to Daughters of the Air for Word Play: Original Music inspired by Seattle7Writers. The theme of the concert (happening on March 2 at Hugo House) is “Transformations,” which is certainly fitting for the metamorphoses in my novel. But it’s also super cool to experience a transformation of one art form to another. And what a honor to have one’s own work transformed!

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Miscellaneous updates: a q & a at The Seattle Review of Books, a review of DAUGHTERS OF THE AIR, an author-editor panel

7 Jul

 

My, My, My, My, My by Tara Hardy

Some heartbreaking poems I’ve been reading.

The Seattle Review of Books invited me to participate in their fun & breezy column, “Whatcha Reading?” I touched on dark psychological fiction, heartbreaking poetry, an essay on the cleverness of crows, and more. Something for everyone! Plus: a preview of some Women in Translation Month picks.

Over on the Magic Realism blog, Zoe Brooks had this to say about Daughters of the Air: “In every way this is a mature intelligent book which may not suit all readers, but it is an example of how magic realism is so suited to ambiguity and  to difficult subjects.” You can read the whole review here.

 

Also, I wrote a very personal essay about life choices here on Healthline.

Finally, this Monday at 6:30 pm at the Phinney Neighborhood Association, I will be participating in a panel discussion on the author-editor relationship at the Northwest Independent Editors’ Guild. The panel will include Dave Boling, author of The Lost History of Stars and Jamie Swenson of the University of Washington marketing and communications department. Matthew Bennett of the guild will moderate. Not in town but curious about the topic? You can tune in live on YouTube.

“Sneaking into Dr. Zhivago” in Confrontation

22 Jun

I’m excited to have a new short story, “Sneaking Into Dr. Zhivago,” in the spring issue of Confrontation. It’s an honor to be in a journal that’s published the likes of Cynthia Ozick and Joseph Brodsky! Here’s how the story begins:

If not Paris, Vienna. That’s where I should have landed. My father sent my brother to medical school in Vienna, and I, I was being groomed for the Sorbonne. I would have studied history. And literature. Between the wars, many of my cousins moved to Vienna, London, New York. Children of my seven uncles.

Below you’ll find a photo of the first page of the story so you can get more a taste of it. If you’re intrigued, you can order a copy for just $12!

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