Tag Archives: Karen Russell

Looking back / looking ahead

8 Dec

I can count on one hand how many publications I had this year, but it was a year full of tremendous personal highlights. Mainly: M. & I became parents in January! One day when I catch my breath I will write about that journey. There’s a lot to say, and I need a lot of childcare to get it done. 🙂

In February, Capra Review published my short story “The Samoyed.” Here’s an excerpt I like:

In a large glass case beside a tapestry where the beast was hunted and speared, the horn of a narwhal gleamed. “To prove the existence of unicorns, men would drag back these tusks from poor old narwhals. The horn of a unicorn would have remarkable curative qualities, they claimed, for anything from rheumatism to insomnia to impotence.” Robert and Jane walked on into other rooms. The docent’s voice trailed behind them. “You could grind it up into a powder.” Jane imagined sprinkling narwhal horn powder atop her head, imagined coarse, white sand falling through a shaft of sunlight, an iridescent shower of skittering grains.

keep reading

In June, Orion Magazine published my lyric essay “A Dill in Every Soup.” Following the medieval theme of the prior excerpt, here’s another excerpt I like:

“During the Middle Ages,” WebMD tells me, “people used dill to defend against witchcraft and enchantments.”

keep reading

Finally, in November, Scablands Books, based in Spokane, put out their beautiful anthology Evergreen: Grim Tales & Verses from the Gloomy Northwest, edited by Sharma Shields and Maya Jewell Zeller. I have two short fairy tales in this volume. Why not pick up a copy from Spokane’s Wishing Tree Books or Auntie’s? Here’s an excerpt from “Moss Child”:

A lace of bright lichen crept up her arms, chin, cheeks. The green crept from her limbs up the sides of the thickened tree trunks, under so much soft moss that the echoes of footsteps and animal sounds grew muffled in the gulch.

Another very bright spot of the year was chatting with Karen Russell at Hugo House’s Novel Nights. Here is Italo Calvino’s essay “Lightness,” which is a favorite of mine and which she brought up in conversation.

There’s much to look forward to in 2022. Among other things, I am especially hoping there will be a COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5. In the meantime, I’m teaching a few virtual classes for Hugo House and Atlas Obscura, January-April, both over Zoom and in an asychronous format. Maybe I will make to AWP in Philadelphia in March? As that is Lanternfish Press‘s homebase, it would be sweet. Then in the fall Lanternfish Press will release my second novel. Huzzah! I also have a couple short publications in the pipeline, another lyric essay and a short story.

But before all that, I am turning back to revising my third novel and sinking deeper into Maggie O’Farrell’s beautiful and absorbing novel Hamnet. Hope you have a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season!

Tin House Writer’s Workshop 2013

7 Aug

Whew, July was busy. I went to the Tin House Writer’s Workshop for the first time, and I hope not the last. And I went to New York for a week after that (more in a subsequent post). There’s still a ton of information from the conference sifting through the crevices of my mind, but here’s a grab bag of favorites, with some bolded text and lots of links just for fun.

  • I studied with Benjamin Percy, who advised our short story workshop to “Grab [readers] by the throat and drag ’em down the rabbit hole,” which might be my favorite writing advice, second only to “Forget the reuben. Focus on the ninjas.”
  • In a panel on publishing and Tin House, Rob Spillman advised, “Don’t send your work out when you’re feeling creative. Send it out when you’re feeling organized,” which is a useful reminder, and at the agent panel he called debut author advances “Capitalism at its scariest,” which is something that will lurk in a corner of my brain for a good long while.
  • On character, Jodi Angel said, “We don’t go to the page to make friends. We go to see something other and apart from who we are.”
  • Karen Russell gave a talk on the art of long sentences and how they can give an “occult sense of how another mind moves, from word to word.”
  • On place, Luis Urrea urged, “Don’t use place. Inhabit it. [….] You are a place. As a place, you must be a shame-free zone [….] Writing prompt: go out and rub dirt on your face.”
  • On time, Jess Walter suggested: if you’re stuck in a story, consider making the clock more specific.
  • Anthony Doerr‘s talk on failure ended with this.
  • Also, I fell in love with Dorothea Lasky. Her latest collection of poetry is Thunderbird.

Again and again, throughout the week, it seemed everyone suggested you should write the story that only you can write, that you should pay “ruthless and tender attention” (Steve Almond, there) to life. At least some of the talks will be available online sometime. In the meantime, here’s a link to podcasts from previous conferences




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