Heard from two writers whose writing I admire tremendously, both of whom taught my work this week. Kaj Tanaka taught THE MISSING GIRL in his chapbook class and told me on twitter that "ppl loved it...that book continues to be such a powerful and important work about trauma and sexual violence." And Jill Talbot private messaged me on twitter today. "This week my beginning nonfiction students read 'Little Colored Pills' (we read about seven or eight essays each week). In their discussions, it was unanimous that your essay was the favorite of the week and for many, their favorite they've read this semester. It is such an engaging triptych with its disparate segments that coalesce so beautifully in the final lines (which many students quoted). I enjoyed addressing all of the effective craft elements at work in the piece, too. Just wanted to pass along that you have fans here. With admiration, Jill"
Still having trouble applying myself to my writing. I do a little here, a little there, mostly on LUNATICS' BALL essays-in-progress. The work for CRAFT becomes more and more interesting and challenging though. And I stayed up late last night critiquing a creative writing master's thesis, really good creative nonfiction, also a challenging and interesting task. A rare thing to have work you enjoy so much.
THE MISSING GIRL has gone into its second printing. I'm so impressed with BLACK LAWRENCE PRESS: the editors, the production standards, the marketing, their list. This month there's a 40% off sale on all in-print titles, and I've seen a lot of tweets from people who've just ordered my book. I never expected that, with a chapbook, two years after it was published.
BLACK LAWRENCE would be my dream publisher for THE LUNATICS' BALL, if I ever finish.
SMOKELONG QUARTERLY is one of a handful magazines I seem never to get into. Tyrese Coleman solicited me for the "Flash, Back" series on the SMOKELONG blog, where I wrote about Jayne Anne Phillips, I've gotten very close with a couple of stories, but mostly I just get standard rejections from them. Sudha Balagopal has a story in SMOKELONG QUARTERLY this week, and an interview, and she included me in the list of flash writers she admires (with some real heavyweights). So my name's in SMOKELONG anyway.
Finally, after a month of severely unhealthy air quality in the San Francisco Bay Area, the air has cleared. Steve and I were able to take walks three nights in a row.
Black Lawrence Press does a great job of marketing its new titles and back list (this month they have 40% off all in-print titles with the code BACKTOSCHOOL40 at checkout), and I'm continually pleased when THE MISSING GIRL attracts new readers.
The essayist Rick Bailey, who's published an essay collection with University of Nebraska Press and has another forthcoming, just posted a very generous review today on his blog, that ends, “This is flash fiction at its best, not a wasted word or extraneous detail. These are stories that will leave a mark.”
I also ran across a review I hadn't seen before in a magazine called RUNESTONE. Abigail Morton's review closes, "Discomforting, disturbing, chilling, haunting, and incredibly familiar in a way that horrifies the reader yet makes them unable to stop. This is Jacqueline Doyle’s award-winning The Missing Girl. In 30 brief pages, Doyle does not just tell eight stories. She makes the reader actively part of the horror, whether as a victim, a perpetrator, or a witness. Her writing dances the line between nightmare and reality in a society where violence against women truly hides around every corner. 'You just never know.'" Sort of takes away the sting of a former student giving the book a 3 on Goodreads. Sort of. Never expect gratitude from students. You'll be disappointed. Better just to be pleased and surprised when students express appreciation for what you do.
It was heartwarming when Aileen Hunt thanked Katelyn and me on twitter for our editorial suggestions for her flash, just out today at CRAFT. I was surprised at what a thrill it was, working with an author on something we would publish. A first.
Dark skies today with an angry orange tinge. It feels like nighttime even though it's mid-afternoon. We've had more than three weeks of continuous "Spare the Air" days, and even though this is not the worst on the air quality index, it's by far the scariest. Like being in a horror movie.
I was scrolling through twitter this morning, brushing my teeth as I did so, and saw a class on the flash chapbook by Kaj Tanaka that looked really good, so I retweeted it for my followers, since lots are flash writers, and many are putting together chapbooks. And then I saw his next tweet and stopped brushing my teeth. THE MISSING GIRL is one of the chapbooks he's teaching! I don't know Kaj Tanaka but I love his fiction (and he's fiction editor at GULF COAST), and he's teaching some writers I love: Kara Vernor, Shasta Grant, Robert Vaughan, Maddie Anthes.
Who would have guessed that people would still be reading my little book more than two years after it was published? I just finished reading the finalist entries for this year's Black River Chapbook Competition (all of them astonishing and wonderful) and love knowing that the winner will have readers for years to come. This really made my day (week, month, year).
Here's the class: "When a House Becomes a Town: the Flash Fiction Chapbook."
After I read in the F-Bomb Flash series on Zoom, the editor of YELLOW MAMA asked if I had anything to submit to her horror zine. She just accepted "Prospero's Last Party," which will come out in mid-December. I'm especially thrilled to hear that there might be an accompanying collage because I love it when there's art for my stories. The story is based on Poe's "Masque of the Red Death," and it's about Trump and the pandemic. Let's hope it's outdated by December. It would be great if there were some advances in the pandemic, at least falling numbers. It would be great if Trump was voted out of office. After the surprise upset of the last election, I'm afraid to hope.
In between tons of reading for the Black Lawrence Press chapbook competition and CRAFT (and interesting new editorial duties like editorial notes and editing our first acceptances and craft-based introductions and finding interview excerpts), I've been revising a handful of flash and micros to send out. Finished a revision of my story "Where Did Sissy Go?" on Tuesday. It's a shade above the maximum flash limit at 1086 words, I sent it to one place, and this morning I got an acceptance from MENACING HEDGE!
I’ve never published there before, but I’ve always liked the name MENACING HEDGE (this story is narrated by a rather sinister little girl), and they’re a great magazine that’s published a roster of authors I follow: Tara Isabel Zambrano, Melissa Goode, Beth Gilstrap, Sara Dobbie, Candace Hartsuyker, Shome Dasgupta, Todd Kaneko, Amorak Huey, Alina Stefanescu, Anne Champion, Sheila Squillante, Kathryn McMahon, K.C. Mead-Brewer, and a bunch more.
A rejection yesterday for a flash that's been rejected at more than twenty magazines and I still sort of like the story but I don't feel so strongly about it and it's certainly a lot of effort to keep sending it out, so I guess I should retire it.
MENACING HEDGE does cool covers. Here's the current issue's.
My creative nonfiction flash “The Madwoman on BART” is up at MATCHBOOK, one of my very favorite flash zines. So thrilled to publish there again. (Already riding the BART train to San Francisco seems long ago and far away. I would love to be on BART again.) This one’s from my work-in-progress THE LUNATICS’ BALL, where narrative pov sometimes takes center stage as I puzzle through levels of identification with my subjects.
Big thanks to the editors, R.B. Pillay and Brian Mihok! MATCHBOOK is on my top 5 long-established favorites list (among hundreds and hundreds of flash journals out there—who knows? maybe a thousand by now). The work they publish is consistently topnotch, they've published tons of writers whose work I know and love, and they're the only top flash journal that publishes lyric work that's not necessarily plot-centered. My first publication there, "Heartbreak Hotel," has only a hint of character and plot at most. I guess "The Madwoman" has a plot, of sorts.
Two reasons not to go out of the house now: the pandemic, and fires raging all over the state. In the Bay Area, the smoke is so bad that our air quality was the worst in the world today. Now the daily statistics are pandemic cases, pandemic deaths, acres burned, houses destroyed, areas for evacuation. Even some fire-related deaths. And because COVID-19 has decimated prison populations, and prisoners have always comprised a large portion of California's firefighting force, the number of firefighters is way down. It's tragic what's happening to our state. And our country and the world.
Can't seem to manage a self-guided writing class, maybe because of my workload, maybe because once again the state of the world has me paralyzed. I appreciate the readings in the "speculative nonfiction" class at CREATIVE NONFICTION at least, and maybe I'll get to the prompts later. I'd already written an introduction using the term "speculative nonfiction" for our reprint in CRAFT of a dazzling essay by the poet Patricia Smith (coming out next week). And I think it's a good description of a lot of my own nonfiction, which usually includes imaginative riffs and sometimes is one long imaginative riff (as in the alternative lives for my aunt in "Kaleidoscope" in COLD MOUNTAIN REVIEW). Two of the prompts for the class (one involving photographs, one based on Sonja Livingston's "A Thousand Mary Doyles") fit things I've already written. I even used an epigraph from Livingston's flash in my essay "Another Mary Doyle" in UNDER THE SUN.
Lots of work this week for CRAFT (the editorial duties that have kicked in are challenging and interesting) and BLACK LAWRENCE PRESS (reading the final round of chapbooks for their contest).
It’s here. What I love about flash: you can submit a piece, hear a few days later, and the next day it’s online. My oddball flash found its way to the perfect oddball zine. Big thanks to Kevin Brennan for publishing “Two Guys Carrying a Toilet into Taco Bell” at THE DISAPPOINTED HOUSEWIFE today.
THE DISAPPOINTED HOUSEWIFE is pretty new, not even two years old. I’ve read stories by Cathy Ulrich and Pat Foran there, probably by other writers I’m forgetting. (They don’t have a clear archive posted, so my “Two Guys” will sort of disappear soon, which is okay, since the experience was pretty ephemeral too.)
In other news: The proofs for my essay forthcoming in FOURTH GENRE arrived. Just saying “essay forthcoming in FOURTH GENRE” has me breathless, since FOURTH GENRE has been at the top of my bucket list for years. Really excited. Can’t wait to hold the magazine in my hands.
And even though I’m swamped with work right now, between CRAFT and rewrites for THE LUNATICS’ BALL, I just saw a really cool class that’s self-guided (do at your own pace, no instructor feedback but really interesting materials) and has already started (but I can catch up at my own pace) so I impulsively signed on: “Writing Beyond the Known: Exploring the Possible through Speculative Nonfiction,” taught by Joanna Penn Cooper, sponsored by the magazine CREATIVE NONFICTION. I also put myself in the lottery for a three-day memoir flash intensive taught by Kathy Fish next fall. I’ve been looking at classes here and there. Some are fabulously expensive. These two look just about right.
I think THE DISAPPOINTED HOUSEWIFE is really cool, and Kevin Brennan just accepted my oddball nonfiction flash "Two Guys Carrying a Toilet into Taco Bell" which will not be everyone's idea of an essay, but I'm fond of it and I feel like it's a perfect fit. They don't spell out their aesthetic in their submission guidelines, but Kevin did an interview with duotrope a couple of days ago (it was after I'd sent him my essay) where he described their nonfiction: "a short piece that plays with the personal essay with exaggeration and absurdity, aiming to get the reader to a new level of understanding without adhering to the usual rules." The flash has gotten rejections and not everyone in my writing group liked it and it was hard to decide on the right place to send it, but I'm glad I persisted.
Steve and I both read. We're rarely in the same reading, so that was fun. There we are on the left, looking distracted and in the dark. I still have no idea how to get the lighting right on Zoom. Their next reading is on August 12 at 7pm PST and you can register to attend here.
Just heard from FOURTH GENRE, slated to come out in August, that they're behind schedule. It is really a thrill of a lifetime to have an essay coming out with them. Haven't heard from SONORA REVIEW, which I think comes out around now each year, but I'm guessing they're behind schedule too. I don't know how print journals are even managing, with everyone working from home. Will I get my contributor's copies when there's no staff in the office to send them out? Online magazines seem to be doing okay. My ATTICUS REVIEW pub now has a firm date of October 1. MATCHBOOK hasn't told me my pub date. No idea what's happening with QUEEN MOB'S TEAHOUSE, originally planned for August, since their editor-in-chief stepped down in the midst of a scandal. I'm pleased to have pubs spaced out over the next few months, at journals I like so much.
A plumber is coming today. First outsider we've had in the house since March, and despite social distancing protocols, it makes me nervous. Will life ever approach normal?
California's death toll is still burgeoning.