Pleased to see my nonfiction flash "My Mother's Suitcases" in the up-and-coming creative nonfiction journal THE NASIONA MAGAZINE (which has published some great essays in their first six issues, including work from my husband Steve Gutierrez and writing friend Tom Molanphy). A big thanks Julian Esteban Torres López and the other editors!
Al Kratz, one of the editors at NEW FLASH FICTION REVIEW, has a craft essay on endings today that features my flash "Pretty Girl." In "Notes from the Slush Pile: Endings," he suggests that the ending is "the most important part of flash fiction: "A Choice is made. Something is realized. A character wins. A character loses. A character wins something even if it wasn’t the thing they originally wanted to win. Someone dies. Someone lives. Chekov’s gun goes off. Satisfaction. Expectation. Surprise. Resolution. Echo. The ending does all the work. The character’s balance has to be either restored or destroyed. The character does something different. They are taken to a place they weren’t at in the beginning, and therefore, the reader is moved as well." He has nice things to say about "Pretty Girl" and how the delayed ending works. I'm pleased because I feel it's always hard to end a story that involves danger and violence:
"Pretty Girl, by Jacqueline Doyle, was one of our Pushcart nominations this year at New Flash Fiction Review. It is a difficult story to read that pulls no punches. Right from the start, it’s going for your gut as hard as it can. It doesn’t take long to find where our character is or what her balance is or what’s at stake:
She has no idea how long it’s been since he came up behind her in the dark parking garage, one hand squeezing her throat, one holding a gun to her head, whispering “Don’t scream, pretty girl,” his breath hot on her neck.
For the next 800 words or so, we progressively learn that she is duct taped and lying on the floor of the back seat of her car (as far from balance as possible), driven by her attacker. It blends with memories of her life before (balance).
One of the punches not held back is the idea of how it will end for her. The reader is in the same spot as the protagonist: wanting to delay the inevitable ending. Wanting to see anything else. The only grace given is that delay. Everything that happens, every word is in balance with the mission.
She feels sick, she’s never had a headache this bad, she’s trembling from the cold, the grit on the floor cuts into her bare arms and legs, which are covered with goose bumps, and all she wants is to curl up beside her mom on the ratty brown couch in the family room with the green afghan wrapped around her, watching some dumb show on TV. Cramped on the floor of the back seat, twisting with her arms bound behind her, she watches streetlights on the freeway whiz by outside the car window above her, then nothing, telephone poles, an increasingly emptier night sky, hazy, with hardly any stars. She can’t remember ever looking at the sky for this long before."
This came out of left field. LITERARY MAMA has nominated my story "A Nest, a Rock, a Bird" for BEST SMALL FICTIONS 2019. It came out last June, which seems like a long time ago! Very thankful to Colleen Kearney Rich and the other editors.
“Yet why not say what happened?” Sejal Shah uses this line from Robert Lowell in her stunning account of being bipolar, taking medications, dealing with neurodiversity and an invisible disability and the demands put on a faculty member of color in academia. Her essay just came out in KENYON REVIEW online this week and I feel so encouraged in my impulse to finally come out with my own neurodiversity (a term I’ve never embraced). Here’s the conclusion of Sejal Shah’s essay, but it’s all worth reading: “No one has to know your diagnosis—it’s true. But everyone deserves to be seen and known. And to get any support, you have to be willing to say it, claim it. Disclosures of cancer elicit sympathy, gifts of casseroles, rides to the hospital, or other support. Disclose a mental illness and observe the response. Our culture finds mental illness distasteful, unfortunate, a moral failing. Managing a mood disorder is exhausting—a taxing second job. It’s also a job invisible to most people in my work and personal life. Would I rather be neurotypical? Maybe; it would be easier. But would I be me? Who would I be? They say creativity arises in part from brain chemistry. Living with manic depressive illness has shaped me, created the contours of my adult life. I don’t tell everyone, but I am telling more.”
My fractured nonfiction flash “Little Colored Pills” on being bipolar and taking medications is finally out in SWEET: A LITERARY CONFECTION.
I wrote “Little Colored Pills” in a generative workshop on hybrids that Lidia Yuknavitch taught in Silverton, Oregon in fall 2017. We read Carole Maso’s wonderful, experimental The Art Lover in advance of the workshop. During the workshop some amazing free writes about bipolar sisters and mothers by fellow workshop students inspired me to read my freewrite about being bipolar aloud too. This was the next piece I wrote there. I was supposed to read it on the last day, and then there wasn’t time, and I felt so frustrated and silenced. I’m pleased that it’s been published, and in SWEET in particular. If I’m going to get anywhere with THE LUNATICS’ BALL, I need to accept being “out.” Because yes, “why not say what happened?”
I was in SWEET many years ago, back when the amazing writer and founding editor Ira Sukrungruang was accepting submissions. (He wrote me from his phone! He said my two flash were remarkable!). They've published so many creative nonfiction writers I admire profoundly. Just a sampling: Patrick Madden, Renee E. D'Aoust, Sarah Viren, Paul Crenshaw, Karen Babine, Chelsea Biondolillo, the late William Bradley, Karen Craigo, Joey Franklin, Amy Yellin, Melissa Mathewson, Brenda Miller. Until now I haven't managed to get in again, not for lack of trying. So I'm particularly thrilled to have "Little Colored Pills" in this latest issue.
Usually I have a stockpile of writing to submit to my writing group in San Francisco, which meets every other week. Lately I'm scraping together two or three flash, sometimes rewrites. I think it's the first time in seven years that I've had so little for the group. In fact in the first years I often didn't even take my flash to them, since I had long essays I wanted critiqued. My lowered productivity makes me nervous. I've been working—revising LUNATICS flash that they looked at, figuring out what can stand alone and submitting those to magazines (a time-consuming process, both the editing and the submitting). My reading for the project has slowed down. The beginning of the semester has me absorbed in the class I'm teaching. I spend altogether too much time on social media, especially twitter, reading other people's work and publicizing mine. I have quite a few things coming out right now. I don't think I have writer's block, but I'm still distressed about it.
I finally decided on a submission to F(R)ICTION after their really gracious solicit, and it looks like they like my flash "The Lunatics' Ball" pending what sounds like a potentially long round of edits with many editors involved. Not sure how that will turn out, but I'm thinking that THE LUNATICS' BALL will be the title of the collection, making this the title piece, so I'll be interested to hear what they say. Luckily I sent it to just them, so don't have to worry about juggling simultaneous submissions while I wait to see if this works out. This will also take away from producing new work, but may be time well spent.
Another new zine devoted to lost work from defunct litmags, DERELICT LIT is curated by Alan Good and looks great so far. (Check out stories by DeMisty D. Bellinger, C.C. Russell, and matchbook editor Brian Mihok.) Pleased to see my microfiction sequence “Step Right Up” from WORD RIOT reanimated. Bertha the Bearded Lady in particular was calling to me.
A post from my writer friend Alvin Orloff reminded me that today is Edgar Allan Poe's 210th birthday. (Love Alvin's suggestion that his face should be on the one dollar bill.) And then Janice Leagra, a writer on Twitter, unearthed and posted the weird lyric piece on Poe that I published in THREADCOUNT (she says she just ran across it for the first time, in a moment of cosmic serendipity), so I'll post it here. I am a diehard Poe fan.
"Fyodor Translates Edgar Translates the Universe," THREADCOUNT
Lots of nice twitter response to "The Red Ball," including praise from Kathy Fish, which always bowls me over. Can't wait for her online flash class in February.
I have some Poesque flashes, and lots of dark ones. Funny that the lightest flash I've published in a long time should be on his birthday.
I love Joseph Cornell boxes and cabinets with lots of tiny drawers and I was already taken by the aesthetic of the Irish online journal THE CABINET OF HEED. So I was thrilled when they accepted my story “The Red Ball,” just out in their January issue.
Relatively new, THE CABINET OF HEED has published many writers I love—Cathy Ulrich, Pat Foran, Sudha Balagopal, Adam Lock, Stephanie Hutton, Niles Reddick, Dan Crawley, Jayne Martin, Dorothy Rice, Christine Dalcher, Gaynor Jones, Salvatore Difalco, Gary Duncan, KB Carle. Many others.
I wrote this very uncharacteristic flash at Kathy Fish’s Fast Flash Extravaganza weekend event. Without her prompt and the encouragement of my fellow Fast Flashers, I would never have written a flash with an animal and a happy ending. (All three flash I wrote that weekend were departures for me, and that was fun. I’ve finally finished revising the other two and hope they’ll land somewhere soon.)
I was proud to have my essay “Saving Trees” included in the grand anthology from Outpost 19: ROOTED: The Best New Arboreal Nonfiction, edited by Josh MacIvor Anderson. So I’m pleased to see Daegan Miller’s tweet recommending the book today (and mention of my essay along with essays by the late Brian Doyle, Annie Bellerose, Paul Lisicky, Megan Gette, and Renée E. D'Aoust). ROOTED is a wonderful collection!
@DaeganMiller January 18, 2019
Another amazing book worth picking up: *Rooted: The Best New Arboreal Nonfiction* with an intro by @billmckibben and essays by @Paul_Lisicky, @idahobuzzy, @doylejacq, @808omega, Annie Bellerose, and the late Brian Doyle, among many others. http://outpost19.com/Rooted/
Daegan Miller is an environmentalist and Thoreau scholar with a lovely prose style who sometimes publishes in larger venues. I first came across his work in a personal essay on books and trees he published in Electric Literature a year ago. He's just what an academic should be, in my opinion.
Just read proofs for "Little Colored Pills" in SWEET, so it should be out any day. "The Red Ball" will be out in THE CABINET OF HEED tomorrow. And I have a reprint of "Step Right Up" coming out in a couple of days from DERELICT LIT. And classes start Tuesday, but I'm almost ready.
The lovely Swiss Ukranian Canadian writer Genia Blum included my flash "Pretty Girl" in her list of "Hot Picks of 2018" at QUEEN MOB'S TEAHOUSE today. An unexpected compliment!
I'm trying to redesign my creative nonfiction workshop, which is turning out to be difficult and a lot of work, and really should be completed by today or tomorrow, so I can get the 9-page syllabus photocopied by the university. Still didn't get the Christmas tree down, still awash in file folders and stacks of papers and books in my study. How did this long vacation suddenly get so short?
Nice interview with Diane Goettel, Executive Editor at BLACK LAWRENCE PRESS at the Kenyon Review blog. I'm still so thrilled to have won their Black River Chapbook Competition (what are the odds with 500 entries or so?) and to have landed at such a woman-centered press. Here's what she says about some of their recent themes: "I’m always thinking about our readers when I’m reviewing manuscripts that have come in through one of our contests or open reading periods. How will the manuscripts that we choose for publication serve them? Recently, for example, we’ve published a number of titles that specifically speak to current important conversations. The poetry collections The Truth Is by Avery M. Guess and Three Hands None by Denise Bergman (both forthcoming in the spring of 2019) focus unflinchingly on sexual violence against women. So does Parse by Ruth Baumann, due out this month; prey by Jeanann Verlee, published this summer; and The Missing Girl, by Jacqueline Doyle, published in 2017. Our recent list also includes a number of titles that grapple with issues of gender and sexuality–Past Lives, Future Bodies by Kristin Chang, Mosaic of the Dark by Lisa Dordal, The Summer She Was Under Water by Jen Michalski, Wasp Queen by Claudia Cortese, and With Animal by Carol Guess & Kelly Magee. Tornado Season by Courtney Craggett (due out next month) and Jillian in the Borderlands by Beth Alvarado (just acquired) are both short story collections squarely located at the US-Mexico border. And it Begins Like This by LaTanya McQueen, Blue Hallelujahs by Cynthia Manick, and Patient. by Bettina Judd, all illustrate and investigate the experiences of Black women in America."