When Jill Talbot chose my three-part flash "Little Colored Pills" for the triptych section in her forthcoming anthology ESSAY FORM(S), she asked all the writers in that section to write a 100 words on why they chose to write their essays as triptychs. I was worried about doing that. Have I ever written a triptych before? Did I even think of the flash as a triptych? What makes triptychs different from segmented flash or essays with more than three sections? I knew I hadn't actually chosen to write a triptych. I started fooling around with ideas a week or two ago and discovered it would be a lot easier to ramble on for 300-400 words than to write a 100 (which actually required me to have an idea).
I don't know whether it's because Lent just started, and Steve has become so religious, but I landed in a fairly astonishing place, to me at least. I was thinking about the visual arts, not so surprising, but I was rereading the piece and struck by the line about religion. Here's what I wrote for her:
II chose the triptych form by instinct rather than conscious design, possibly inspired by medieval religious triptychs. The reference to T.S. Eliot’s modernist montage of “glittering fragments” in the short central section suggests an aesthetic principle: meaning is generated through juxtaposition of the separate sections. Medieval triptychs were altar pieces intended to aid prayer; the three panels evoked the Holy Trinity. A direct appeal to someone in the afterlife, a celebration of life—“Little Colored Pills” might be a prayer. Is that why I included the inner room filled with light, “my only truly religious experience”? I honestly don’t know.
She loved the response, which is a relief, both the medieval context and the reminder that forms sometimes choose writers instead of the other way around. And, very exciting, she mentioned that she's just taught the piece again: "I taught this essay in my graduate workshop last week, and the students really enjoyed talking about the variety in the sections, the Eliot intertextuality."
So that made my day.
Here's the Annunciation Triptych from the school of Robert Campin. It's in the Cloisters, so maybe I've seen it in person. It's well known to me at any rate. And maybe I'm thinking about how meaning announces itself through art in mysterious ways.
My short story "The Beautiful Girl on the Flying Trapeze" was just accepted by FIVE SOUTH! I don't write many long stories, one or two a year at most, none published last year, and I wanted to place this at a good magazine. I got a few very soft rejections. ("Masterful," one editor called it.) I held back from sending it out further when FIVE SOUTH told me I'd made the finalist round. Really thrilled!
Since the story references Wim Wenders' film "Wings of Desire," I watched the version with the director's commentary while I was writing it, which I highly recommend.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Every February FICTIVE DREAM does a flash fiction series, with a new flash every day. I’m thrilled to be included for the fifth year in a row (my sixth publication in FICTIVE DREAM). “Family Night” went up today. For some reason I struggled with this one, despite (or maybe because of) a lot of helpful suggestions from my San Francisco writing group, my online flash group, and an excellent beta reader. They were all different, and I realized it was because I hadn’t decided myself how my narrator felt about her marriage and its future. Also foods: originally this was called “Quesadilla,” and I like quesadillas, but discovered that many people don’t!
Claudia McGill does the art in FICTIVE DREAM every year, and I absolutely love it.
Feeling sorry that I won’t make it to Grant Faulkner’s upcoming book launch at Pegasus Books in Berkeley, since I love THE ART OF BREVITY, but I’m really wary of gatherings at indoor spaces. Lots of people get COVID more than once, and I don’t want to be one of them.
Sorry to miss my chance to read with the PINCH contributors at AWP in Seattle next month. And to participate in CRAFT's AWP activities, including a co-hosted reading.
I may read at an in-person reading in the Rolling Writer series in May, though, which is now held in Jon Sindell’s beautiful garden instead of the Rolling Café. I wish more events were outdoors.
My flash friend Kathryn Kulpa will be the keynote reader in Paul Beckman’s FBomb series in July (originally at the KGB Bar in Manhattan, but on Zoom since the pandemic started). She’s invited me to be one of the accompanying readers. I’ve been in the series many times, and always enjoy it. I’m trying to grow out my bangs. Maybe I’ll have made some progress by then.
I have my Lunatics' Ball essay in EPOCH (print only). (And I'm finally making progress on more essays in the book.)
Steve has a wild story in HUNGER MOUNTAIN.
My chapbook THE MISSING GIRL went on sale at BLACK LAWRENCE PRESS, and a lot of people are saying nice things about it to promote the sale.
I picked up my copy of Grant Faulkner's THE ART OF BREVITY at Books on B today, and I was really pleased to see his lengthy, appreciative writeup of my flash "Little Darling." I knew he was including it, but I didn't know he'd say quite so much!