So many writers I know seem to have new books out. Steve and I went to the WTAW reading in Sausalito last night hoping to pick up Kim Magowan's new novel THE LIGHT SOURCE (she gave a great reading, but her novel wasn't there). Peg Alford Pursell took a picture of the two of us. At least my eyes are open. We went to Peg's book launch for A GIRL GOES INTO THE FOREST a couple of weeks ago, and there are more in the coming weeks. Looking forward especially to our friend Tupelo Hassman's reading at Green Apple Books on the Park. We read advance galleys of GODS WITH A LITTLE G and it's wonderful; we haven't seen Tupe since she moved to South Carolina last year.
And school is starting in just over a week. I'm nowhere near ready, though I had all summer to prepare this new flash class I'm teaching.
Our son Ben is supposed to be flying home from Malaysia tonight, with a stopover in Hong Kong, where they are having massive protests at the Hong Kong International Airport. There are live feeds all over the internet. They seem to be peaceful, but I'm still worried about him (of course). I imagine flights will be delayed.
I've been so busy with my writing group in San Francisco, and my online writing group Quills, and appointments and this and that and I haven't gotten to the stupendous Flash Nonfiction issue of LITTLE FICTIONS/BIG TRUTHS. I've been getting wonderful responses to "The Arithmetic of Memory" on Facebook and twitter. I'm looking forward to reading the others.
My cnf flash "The Arithmetic of Memory" came out today. So excited to be included in the first ever Flash Nonfiction issue of LITTLE FICTION/BIG TRUTHS with some truly amazing writers. Maddie Anthes, Aaron Burch, Kristine Langley Mahler, Dina L. Relles, Robert James Russell, Jennifer Todhunter, too many to list. Take some time to read this issue! And then check out their star-studded Summer 2018 Flash Fiction issue.
Big thanks to Kathy Fish and Hillary Leftwich and fellow Fast Flashers for inspiration and feedback on the first draft of this piece. Hillary's prompt called for something cinematic, and I'm not sure I did that, but I loved alternating between facts and deeply embedded sensory memories.
I wrote about this long-ago breakup during a motorcycle trip in Spain in LOST BALLOON a while ago ("By a Mountain Stream in Northern Spain"). It's interesting to me that it takes so many years to process and write about heartbreak. I heard Lacy Johnson and Carmen Maria Machado talk about memoir last April and something Lacy Johnson said stayed with me: "I can write an ending in which I walk out of the story." I think this ending does that.
Also today. I woke up to an acceptance of a flash that has been excruciatingly hard to place. I couldn't figure out why, and I've been sending it out and sending it out. Like some others of my flash, it's big on atmosphere rather than plot, but I still like my evocation of the free floating anxiety we feel under Trump. I'm glad I found someone else who does too.
Very anxious about my health. Something in the new family room (the new leather sofa? the new carpet? sorting and dusting and reshelving hundreds of books?) is giving me hives and I don't know how to ascertain what it is.
I did an interview for SWEET: A LITERARY CONFECTION that will be coming out soon and mentioned that it was a big advance to come out as bipolar. A former student has just got rid of his new twitter page and started a newer one, leaving out an essay where he came out as bisexual. Coming out seems so easy for some, so hard for others of us.
Just read today in a long blog entry of aphorisms about writing by
Alina Stefanescu: "There’s something feeble about writing mental health challenges in a way that defines a character. Mental health can only describe us, not define us. Only for a moment and among a cornucopia of other traits and embodiments." And while I know that's true, being bipolar seems more fundamental, somehow, than having brown hair, or hives for that matter.
Nonfiction coming out in a few weeks in LITTLE FICTION/BIG TRUTHS about the motorcycle trip and the breakup with Hartmut, and in F(R)ICTION about my aunt's suicide. Both more than thirty years ago. It seems to take a very long time before I can write about something painful.
I feel like my writing proceeds at a snail's pace this summer. I've been chipping away at a flash on lobotomies for THE LUNATICS' BALL, reading the very painful histories of Naomi Ginsberg, Rose Williams, Rosemary Kennedy, devising fictional voices to intertwine with facts. This from Alina Stefanescu's blog strikes me too: "As writers, we can't speak for others if this involves replacing or erasing their voice. We can, however, speak with others and in dialogue with ourselves and social institutions--we can show support or affinity by honoring the distance between the witnessing voice and the embodied one." Hard to know where I'm usurping voices and where I'm amplifying voices, especially when I fictionalize in this project.
An expressionist artist I recently discovered, who did portraits of madwomen in the late teens and twenties. Chaim Soutine, The Mad Woman (1919).
LITTLE FICTION/BIG TRUTHS just announced an August 7 pub date for their special Flash Nonfiction issue. Really excited to see the amazing roster of writers. Can't wait to read their work.
I’ve always loved CONNOTATION PRESS, fiction editor Jonathan Cardew’s wild and audacious fiction, and the great writers they publish, so I was especially pleased to make it into their last issue before they close for a long hiatus to redesign the magazine. Very excited to see that the other three fiction writers in this issue are writers whose work I’ve long known and admired: Len Kuntz, Claire Polders (I'm in the online writers group QUILLS with her), and Andrew Stancek.
"Prayer to St. Dymphna" is one of the LUNATICS' BALL fictions. I'm feeling stalled by my operation last Thursday and anxiety leading up to it (a parathyroid gland and tumor removed at UCSF Mt. Zion Hospital), by the continuing uproar created by the family room renovations (painting done, window today, carpet Wednesday, lots accomplished really but the entire house is a mess, with stacks of books everywhere). But really the project is moving along, and I've placed nonfiction in THE COLLAGIST, F(R)ICTION, and PASSAGES NORTH. Lots still to write.
Jonathan asked us about beginnings and endings and included our responses in his preface. All I could think about was saints. I have to write another craft essay, on plot, for CRAFT literary journal, and I'm not feeling very inspired. It will be short and I've got a couple of months.
Somehow I managed to write three flash in the three-day Kathy Fish Fast Flash Reunion Extravaganza this weekend, while doing a bunch of other things, including a potluck in Livermore (okay, we didn't cook the vegetarian lasagna ourselves) and a party in Marin (at Cristina Garcia's for her upcoming play). I was hoping to start a lyric essay (two of the prompts would have worked) but characters' voices kept intruding. The third prompt, where we were supposed to thread facts through a narrative, turned out to be the basis for all the lobotomy research I've been doing for the Lunatics project. It's grim, maybe the darkest of all the ones I've written, but I'm so glad to have a structure for what I'm going to do with it.
And one of my lyric essays came out today, in a journal I love, GHOST PROPOSAL. Here’s their description of the magazine:
“Proposal: an offering; a possibility; a conjecture; a guess; a hypothesis; a thing-to-be-explored. Ghost: a shadow on the sleeve of your sweater; a rhythm returning from lifetimes before; the meandering suggestion of a river on an ancient, yellowed map. At Ghost Proposal, we’re into writing that is aware of its own topography. We like work that engages with thought process. We think of writing as ‘a letter from a stranger that you can’t bear to throw away. It haunts you; it strengthens you.’ (Mary Oliver). We want to publish your strange objects. The whispers sitting in between your shoulder blades.”
It's the perfect place for my essay "Visitations," comprised of whispers and hauntings and memories and wanderings.
Love the cover art by Kailey Barthel.
Thrilled that my flash essay “Dear Maddy” won the essay contest at THE SUNLIGHT PRESS! I submitted a couple of months ago. They accepted it, saying it was still in the running for the contest, and I forgot all about it. So it came as a wonderful surprise. The contest was free (contests rarely are) and I’ve won $125..
I first came across THE SUNLIGHT PRESS when Claire Polders published there. Sudha Balagopal has also published there, and Cathy Ulrich (who won a contest).
“Dear Maddy” went through many revisions. It started with the Sherwood Anderson allusion, which my writing group advised taking out, which I did for a while, and then I put it back in, but I had so much trouble wording it, and landing in the right place at the end.
So excited to be part of the FLASH FLOOD JOURNAL celebration of National Flash Fiction Day in the UK. The reprint of my story “Little Darling” from WIGLEAF went up this morning. The deluge started hours ago and continues all day long (new flash every 5-10 minutes!) Take some time to browse! Here’s the ongoing NATIONAL FLASH FICTION DAY site and twitter feed.
Jonathan Cardew at CONNOTATION PRESS just accepted "Prayer to St. Dymphna" for their July issue (their last before an extended hiatus to redesign the magazine). He wrote of the group of Lunatics flash fictions that I sent to him: "These are fabulous and horrific and gorgeous and strange. Qualities I love!"
He wants all the writers to riff on "Beginnings" and "Endings" and after a very long day at jury duty in Oakland (I have to return tomorrow), I have no ideas. "It is up to you how you want to go about responding to these, but I don't want an academic discussion of how beginnings and endings work in prose. Just think, beginnings and endings, and have a play! Max 100 words for each, and no minimum. I am open to prose, poetry, memoir, hybrid, images, video, or a combination of these." Jonathan is a wildly creative flash writer (his newest at JELLYFISH REVIEW this week starts, "A fetus walks into a bar"). I hope I can come up with something at least moderately creative.