I love the flash sequence, a form that hasn't gotten a lot of attention, and was thrilled to be included in a one-of-a-kind anthology in the Marie Alexander Series at White Pine Press: NOTHING TO DECLARE: A GUIDE TO THE FLASH SEQUENCE, edited by Robert Alexander, Eric Braun, and Debra Marquart. The anthology got some great advance blurbs. Tara L. Masih called the book "an important addition to the burgeoning exploration of brief prose and flash fiction." John Dufresne called it "a brave new narrative genre," a collection of "innovative and fearless narratives." Dinty W. Moore described the sequences as "hypnotic, startling, and alive." But there haven't been many reviews.
So I was pleased to see that Vestal Review editor Mark Budman has reviewed the anthology in the latest issue of the UK print journal FLASH: THE INTERNATIONAL SHORT-SHORT STORY MAGAZINE (edited by Peter Blair and Ashley Chantler at the University of Chester, the center of the thriving flash scene in the UK). While Mark Budman wishes for a clearer definition of the genre (that may be exactly what attracts me to the genre, its porous boundaries), he praises the anthology as "innovative," "an eclectic collection of anything short and powerful: stories, essays, prose poems, and most often, forms unclassified."
I read the 300-page anthology from cover to cover in one sitting. I loved everything in it! I hope the review draws more readers from the international flash community, because this is a very cool book.
I had the opportunity to read my flash sequence on Freud's case history of "Dora" twice this year (both times with my husband Steve reading the Freud sections): at a wonderful reading on forgotten women curated by the poet Kathleen McClung, and at a memorable reading at Alley Cat Books in the Mission curated by the Flash Fiction Collective. Definitely fun to read.
I just finished drafting my short blog post on change for CHANGE SEVEN, where I include lines from Muriel Rukeyser's well known poem “Käthe Kollwitz." I ran across another poem by Rukeyser that's so beautiful and so timely that I had to share it here. Both poems are available on the Poetry Foundation website linked to her name here.
"Poem (I lived in the first century of world wars)"
by Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980)
I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.
I lived in the first century of these wars.
Really this is supposed to be my Friday activity, but here I am a day late, working on submissions on a Saturday when I should be grading essays from my creative nonfiction class. Today I'm spending time on my own creative nonfiction instead—two longish essays I'd really like to see published. While I'm working a rejection comes in from SWEET. I love SWEET, which publishes flash creative nonfiction. I had two pieces published there a long time ago. The acceptance from Ira Sukrungruang came immediately, from his phone, with such a nice compliment. I haven't been able to place anything there since. Ira (whom I met at AWP later—love him, love his writing, love the Sweet "Contributor's Copy" t-shirt he gave me) is still the editor, but no longer the primary reader. They take months and months (these flash have been there since August 1). It was a nice rejection, asking me to send something else. But they like to see two or three flash, and I only have one nonfiction flash at the moment, so I made a note to myself and filed away the rejection with a sigh. Turned back to my creative nonfiction, trying to decide which essay to send where. It's a time-consuming process, reading guidelines and sample essays, trying to figure out what work of mine (if any) would be the best fit.
I didn't open the email from CHANGE SEVEN, since the first line looked like all rejections ("Thank you for sending …"). When I got around to opening the email, it was exciting to find that it was an acceptance of my flash "Florida."
The editor Sheryl Monks invited me to do an optional blog entry on what change means to me, and because the flash involves violence against women, and my chapbook involves violence against women, and #MeToo seems to have precipitated a tidal wave of stories in that area (and at least some change, I hope not temporary), I feel like I should do that. I'm glad for the opportunity, but also don't know when I'm going to find time for it.
I also spent a lot of time this week on a very unpleasant exchange with a literary magazine (not one that I knew before, but a good one affiliated with an mfa program) that wanted to interview me about the chapbook. The questions their grad student fiction editors came up with were so devastatingly misogynist they took my breath away. I declined the interview. The faculty advisor asked me to explain what had offended me, and I spent a long time spelling it out. We parted by mutual agreement. It reinforces my sense that violence against women, sexual harassment, victim-blaming, and silencing are crucial issues, and also left me uncomfortably aware that once you publish something, anyone might be reading your work, and you are open to misinterpretations you never anticipated.
Scott Garson, the editor at Wigleaf, wrote to me today to say that they've nominated my micro "Little Darling" for a Pushcart Prize. I'm floored. It was already exciting to get into Wigleaf, and then to get such a great response from readers, and now this.
Really excited to have flash forthcoming in some really kick-ass journals and zines: Post Road, Occulum, Lost Balloon, Fiction Southeast, Spelk, and Hotel Amerika (between December 1 and next spring, in that order).
My micro "Cassiopeia" and Steve's micro "Lil" will be coming out in a great anthology on April 3, 2018: Nothing Short Of: Selected Tales from 100 Word Story, edited by Grant Faulkner, Lynn Mundell, and Beret Olsen (San Francisco: Outpost 19, 2018). It's available for pre-order from Amazon
Here's a press release with the very distinguished list of contributors. Since both the publisher and editors are in the Bay Area, I hope there will be some readings here.
My first podcast! I’ve done recordings of my work before but never a podcast. So I was thrilled and trepidatious when SUPERSTITION REVIEW asked me to participate in their Authors Talk podcast series. I put together some thoughts on “Fireflies,” the essay I published in SUPERSTITION REVIEW last spring, THE MISSING GIRL, my new chapbook, my flash “Zig Zag,” winner of the “Under 1000: Poetry and Flash Prose Contest” at MIDWAY JOURNAL, writing creative nonfiction vs. writing fiction, and Michael Martone on process. Would love to have you check it out, if you have 9 minutes. Hope you enjoy it.
Flying to Ithaca tomorrow morning (leaving 4:30 am), where Steve has been awarded the Philip Freund Prize for Creative Writing at Cornell and will take part in a reading.
An acceptance at PERSIMMON TREE this morning, of a story I've been unsure about placing. I thought of it as a story that had already had a lot of rejections, and was startled to discover that it's only had two. (Two is nothing!) I think because the story is fairly conventional, and about an older woman who feels invisible, I had trouble deciding where to send it. PERSIMMON TREE is an online magazine of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry by women writers over sixty, so it's the perfect place for this particular story.
That's always a tricky thing, finding the right match for a story. There's a useful post by Allison K. Williams over at the BREVITY blog this week ("Rejection Is Not Feedback") that points out the obvious (very hard to remember as a writer): "The process of reading work for publication is not the process of reading to give feedback. When journal editors read, yes, they are evaluating the overall quality of the work. But they’re also asking, Does this fit our mission? Do I personally like it? Did we already accept something similar last week? They are assessing where the work fits in the overall structure of the magazine and its mission. A piece that isn’t the right fit must be let go, regardless of how good it is."
I had a story published by PERSIMMON TREE a while ago that I've always liked. It's not about an older woman, but it's about the generation of women now in their sixties—their coming of age in the nineteen-sixties and seventies. It's not autobiographical (definitely not my mother) but I happen to be left-handed, and have a toe like that, and I grew up in suburbia where a lot of women in my mother's generation were questioning their lives: "Mary Most Contrary."
The great new flash mag ELLIPSIS ZINE has just published a Trump-themed story of mine. It was written in an optimistic moment last summer, when I thought: surely the entire country is coming together behind the impeachment and it will happen any day now. But the process drags on and I’m no longer sure at all about the jerks in the bar.
ELLIPSIS caught my eye because it’s published Cathy Ulrich, Stephanie Hutton, Rob Parrish, Damhnait Monaghan, Tino Prinzi, some of my new favorite flash writers, and then I read some more and loved their entire archive. I’m thrilled to be included among them. Take some time to browse!
Here’s “Happy Hour at The Eagle Bar & Grill.”
Originally I was hoping to place the story with Scoundrel Time, a new resistance magazine. I sent it to them on July 9; when I still hadn't heard from them by September I sent it to Ellipsis, where the editor Steve Campbell took less than a week to accept the story. I withdrew it from Scoundrel Time, and got a great note from one of their editors, Ellen Louise Ray, saying that it was a “lovely story” (“I am sorry we didn’t get a chance to publish it”). Which was nice.
I’ve only had a few notes after withdrawals from editors saying they were about to accept something. (One just this week about my flash accepted at Occulum.) The best was from Superstition Review when I withdrew “Long Distance” because it had been accepted by Under the Gum Tree. They were about to accept it, and wanted to know if I had something else I could send them instead. They took “Fireflies,” and I’m thrilled to be one of their authors.
My podcast about “Fireflies” and The Missing Girl and “Zig Zag” is coming out on the Superstition Review site next week.
Sonja Livingston, Lia Purpura, Dinty W. Moore, Brenda Miller, Jill Talbot, Ira Sukrungruang, Marcia Aldrich, Matthew Gavin Frank, Alison Townsend, Rebecca McClanahan, Anne Panning, Nicole Walker, Gerald Stern, Ander Monson, Paul Crenshaw. What do all of these writers have in common? They’re all outstanding creative nonfiction writers. Many are writers that I teach.
And they’ve all been published in ZONE 3, which just accepted my creative nonfiction essay “Some Things I Forgot” for their spring 2018 issue.
Which is pretty thrilling.