Great to see "Cutting Edge" featured in the online roundup of essays in the weekly newsletter "Memoir Monday." I used to read every single essay every week, but they feature 10+ longform essays, and I have tons of reading for CRAFT as it is, so lately I browse and read just a few.
Feeling very unproductive lately, not writing for days at a time, making very little progress on The Lunatics' Ball, also stuck on a flash fiction that I have worked to death but need to finish for a deadline by the end of December at the very latest. Too many cooks. I've submitted it to my online flash group, to my San Francisco group, to a virtual friend who's an excellent flash writer, to my San Francisco group again. Everyone seems to have different ideas and only now have I really defined my character's feelings. Which still doesn't hand me the great ending I want for the flash. Maybe I should write a brand new one, but I'm not feeling inspired at all.
So many people are leaving—for very good reason, considering the politics and abysmal management style of the new owner. There are those who argue for staying since it's been such an important tool for international social justice. And those who argue for staying since it's been a vital center for the literary community. I'm sticking it out, for now. I've joined Discord, and I'm waiting for Mastodon, but I'm pretty sure I won't like either. Meanwhile I'm trying to transform my Facebook page by posting works I admire by other writers, which feels very uncomfortable and cluttered. I have over 7000 followers on Twitter, and not quite 1000 on Facebook. And Facebook has all these mysterious algorithms keeping posts from reaching followers. So I'm friending new people but I'm not very hopeful that this will work. I've forged so many important connections on Twitter! My friend Alia recently said that I have a "platform," and one of the great things about Twitter is that I never thought of it that way. Never followed a writer back unless I respected their writing, never followed genre writers back (since that's not what I read or write), never did those stupid "writers' lifts" where people indiscriminately follow lists of writers to boost their numbers. It's a large community, but a curated community of writers I admire, 7000 of them apparently. Hope I don't lose touch with all of them.
My interview with Ingrid Rojas Contreras is up at CRAFT, where I interviewed her as judge for our current Creative Nonfiction Contest. She is a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction, and it just so happens that the winners were announced on Wednesday night, and since the CRAFT EIC Courtney Harler and I were corresponding about something while we watched at home we did some realtime back and forth while the suspense built. I would have loved to see Ingrid win for her amazing memoir THE MAN WHO COULD MOVE CLOUDS, but when Imani Perry won she gave a gorgeous speech and now I want to read her book too.
Organizing my WIP THE LUNATICS' BALL has been so difficult, and I have often wished I'd started with a plan, instead of trying to create one after so much was written. I particularly appreciated Ingrid's insights on planning and structure, as her memoir is long and extremely complex: “One of the things I’ve learned about structuring a book is that we tend to want solid answers too early. I’ve also learned that the creativity of our subconscious mind is much more interesting than anything we can come up with analytically. For this reason, I am not the type of writer to come up with a plan before writing. I like to show up to the page and sort of walk into the dark cave of what I am writing, discovering what is interesting about it as I go.…. My advice to any writer is to lean into the counterintuitive space of not-knowing. It’s uncomfortable, but each time I’ve allowed myself to be lost in the woods of discovery, the results have been more surprising and creative than anything I can come up with intentionally.”
I'm so glad I suggested Ingrid for our contest, as I think she's just perfect and will stretch the boundaries of creative nonfiction in all the right ways.
I'll be introducing Myna Chang, a flash writer I love, at CRAFT's first-ever salon the week after next, where Ingrid will be our featured reader. Register on our Submittable page if you want to attend (November 30, 4pm PST, 7pm EST). Just click that link as if you were submitting something and you'll get a return email with the Zoom info. Don't worry about the tip jar. It's free.
I just got an emailed notice from the University of New Mexico Press of Grant Faulkner's THE ART OF BREVITY, which comes out in February 2023. It sounds great: "THE ART OF BREVITY truly is a unique writing guide—one oriented toward close-reading and brevity as an aesthetic that transcends the page. Grant Faulkner is the executive director of NaNoWriMo and the cofounder of 100 Word Story, and his work has been widely anthologized in flash-fiction collections. But THE ART OF BREVITY is not just an examination of flash-fiction as a form or brevity as a writing tool—it’s a lyrical meditation on compactness as a value in storytelling, scaffolded by deep readings and writing challenges."
Looking for mentions of the book to publicize it on Twitter, I ran across a long-ago thread where Grant was looking for flash to include. I'd forgotten that a writer named Jill Witty (whom I don't know at all and haven't encountered since) recommended my micro "Little Darling" on that thread, saying, "This one by @doylejacq feels like an instant classic, like it has always existed." Which is an amazing compliment.
Grant ended up writing about "Little Darling" in his weekly newsletter: "If you're looking for a textbook example of how a story is enhanced and heightened through omission, I recommend Jacqueline Doyle’s Little Darling. It's also just a classic. It should be on every writer's reading list."
I was excited when he told me he's included "Little Darling" in THE ART OF BREVITY. I feel like I've missed a lot of parties with my micros and flash, which haven't made it into any of the anthologies. I'm honored to be included in this writing guide.
Having trouble lately sifting through recommendations for revision in my writing group (and getting over the somewhat toxic aftereffects of a previous member who really wanted a very different, thesis-driven kind of creative nonfiction from me). And I remember that we had a visitor when I workshopped "Little Darling"—someone with a recent book from Sarabande Press that I loved—and she really disliked "Little Darling," didn't get it at all. It didn't bother me because I felt quite sure of the value of what I'd written. I wish I had that confidence these days.
Thanks to Cameron Finch at TINY MOLECULES for the interview that appeared in the "Observations" section today. I got to talk about what I'm reading, art that inspires me, and to sort out the multiple genres in THE LUNATICS' BALL. I'm a big admirer of TINY MOLECULES, where I've published twice.
FBomb reading today was great. Was particularly fun to see Jolene McIlwain, who I know from Quills, whose writing I've loved since long before that, who we've published in CRAFT. Somehow I feel I've met her in person though I haven't. Nice to see Francine Witte, Gary Fincke, Melissa Goodrich, the curator and flash writer Paul Beckman, and some editors who've published me (Cindy Rosmus, Karen Schauber, Zvi Sesling). Yet another Zoom screen:
There should be a YouTube video later.
So thrilled to see not only essays from Steve (CATAMARAN LITERARY READER) and me (SUPERSTITION REVIEW) but also TWO essays from CRAFT on the Notable Essays of 2021 list in BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS:
Andrea Avery, "Father Figure," CRAFT, August 25, 2021
Shaina Phenix, "some things I knew by age seven:," CRAFT, October 20, 2021
That's an incredible honor not only for these authors but for CRAFT. We've only been publishing creative nonfiction since July 2019 (when I started as CRAFT's first Creative Nonfiction Section Editor), and we've gotten three Notables! I must be doing something right.
A number of our CNF writers at CRAFT also made the Notables list for essays published elsewhere: Paul Crenshaw, Jade Hidle, Beth Kephart, Davon Loeb, Sarah Fawn Montgomery. And more writers at CRAFT who published in other genres. (And Ira Sukrungruang who was one of the reprints for our launch.)
I love TRAMPSET and I’m so pleased to have my second publication with them in their grand new issue today.
It seems that most of my publications and honors this year are concentrated in a two week period. My Notable Essay and this particular flash went through an extraordinary number of revisions. (The craft talk I gave for SUPERSTITION REVIEW about feeling my way through the revisions of "The Dream Lives of Objects" is available here, and starts at 9:51.)
Some flash write themselves quickly. For some reason “Champagne” took years. Like the edifice of champagne glasses, it kept collapsing. I was reading something else when the magician appeared and I thought “ah yes, that’s what ‘Champagne’ needs. A failed magician!” And after so many false tries, the last paragraph wrote itself.
My micro "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" is up in SUGARSUGARSALT, a great new online zine that does CNF reprints (reprints only). This is old, and I was surprised when they solicited it (I feel like I probably have more obvious CNF that would qualify). But even though I'd forgotten it, I really love this one. Interesting that I published CNF flash way back that was 3/4 speculative, only 1/4 grounded in reality. I can see how the hybridity in THE LUNATICS' BALL evolved. Jamy Bond and Charlotte Hamrick at SUGARSUGARSALT did a great job of showcasing the flash, and found a the perfect illustration.
(illustration by Lucas Quintana at Unsplash)
This has been a week of such good news. Later yesterday, after we learned that Steve's essay in CATAMARAN was a Notable in BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS, he got an acceptance of a story from HUNGER MOUNTAIN. Great magazine!
And I finally got hold of the full Notables list, and I see that two CRAFT essays are on it. Which is incredibly gratifying. I wonder sometimes whether we're keeping up with other magazines, whether I'm choosing the best CNF, whether the best CNF is being submitted to us, and feel very encouraged (yes, and yes, and yes). Really love working with our EIC Courtney Harler and having a stable team of CNF assistants and readers (Jamie Etheridge, Shara Kronmal, Allison Carr, Kyle Cochrun). I don't always agree with the readers, but I respect their opinions very highly. Will name the two Notables here once we've contacted the winners.
And this morning I got a direct message on twitter from Jill Talbot.
I meant to tell you I taught "Haunting Houses" two weeks ago, and my students LOVED it. They appreciated the intertextuality, the descriptions of the house. I asked them if they hadn't seen the film if it was a distraction, and they said no, the description was enough to make it clear. One student said, "This is the first essay we've written abotu the persona haunting, rather than being haunted." I thought that was very insightful. I put your essay with an excerpt from Nick Flynn's latest memoir, a late chapter when he returns with his daughter to his childhood home. And Jamila Osman's "A Map of Lost Things" from Catapult. Everyone agreed that all three were the strongest essays of the semester (it was our final day of reading!), which is why I selected them as our final readings.
It means a lot that a writer I respect so much is teaching my essay. When she told me a few months ago that she was going to teach it, I said it might be difficult for students who hadn't seen the movie (probably all of them; "Ghost Story" wasn't in the theaters for long and I haven't seen it on streaming platforms), so I'm glad she addressed that. I'm THRILLED that the students liked it!