The Harry Ransom Center now has a brand new Flash Fiction Collection housing more than 250 books, donated by Tom Hazuka, Tara Lyn Masih, Pamela Painter, Robert Scotellaro, and Robert Shapard. Since I know THE MISSING GIRL was part of Scotty/Robert Scotellaro's library, I'm hoping that means it's part of the collection. Who knows, maybe some graduate student writing a dissertation a hundred years from now will run across it and like it. In such anxious times, it's nice to imagine a future.
Finally have done some writing. A flash, a few micros, I like them. Finally read something that wasn't just escapist, and was not only inspiring, but good for my WIP: Sheila O'Connor's Evidence of V. So now instead of feeling guilty about not writing or reading anything good, I'm feeling guilty about falling behind in my online workshop and my reading for CRAFT. But I feel like I'm regaining the ability to concentrate, which means I should be able to catch up today and tomorrow. Almost finished grading the essays in my workshop, need to send out emails, go over the Discussion Board. Will post grades for my very last class in a career of 32 years in just a few weeks.
The summer flash issue of LITTLE FICTION/BIG TRUTHS will be out (I just went over proofs for my story "Sooner or Later") and I'm excited to be part of it. I'm not publishing all that often, and an issue like that is always like a party.
We spend a lot of time making grocery lists, getting groceries ordered and delivered (mostly Steve does that), planning meals, cooking. I'm mostly enjoying it, wondering whether we were missing the point of life by not concentrating on the pleasures of cooking and eating together in our pre-pandemic life. I'm ready to sustain this shelter in place for a long time and it looks like it might be necessary, for people in our age group at any rate. Steve and I are worried about what to do when the shelter in place is lifted and Ben moves back to Oakland. They predict that the second wave of the virus in fall/winter will be worse than the first. Will it be risky to see Ben in person after that? I'm worried about him too. If he's required to return to work, he'll be taking BART.
Today the cnf editor at ATTICUS REVIEW, Chauna Craig, posted about negative space and negative capability and the absence of so many things we're used to. Here's a rather long quotation from her letter that spoke to me:
What the pandemic and these books brought home to me is how little anything outside of my own heart and mind actually needs my attention. Yes, my children and my students both need guidance as they navigate the changed world, and my body needs the usual life-sustaining practices. But as I’ve exhausted my most useless anxieties and run out of busy-making tasks, I’m left with the me that goes deeper than the optics of Facebook or Zoom, deeper than my now heightened sense of mortality, deeper than any sense of obligation for who I think I should be in any circumstance. That deep place is a scary place only because I stopped hanging out there, stopped allowing myself familiarity with life’s negative space.
I’ve finally recognized how this long stretch of absence from my workplace and my friends and family may be my opportunity to not return to what became my normal. I want to make peace with negative space, to lose a self that wasn’t ever my own, to see what’s really there. I don’t know how this will shape my relationship to the world, my writing, my sense of self, but I don’t want to reach for those answers. I’d rather, to paraphrase Rilke, learn to (again) love the questions themselves.
Actually there are a lot of writers on the list for BEST SMALL FICTIONS 2020 that I don't know at all, and some I expected aren't there. Kathy Fish is there of course (a fabulous writer and teacher, who's posting thirty days of flash prompts on her blog right now), Amy Hempel, Etgar Keret, Amber Sparks (a cool flash I just reposted last week), Amy Stuber, some more writers I admire, and someone else from JUKED whom I don't know. But they passed over my story "Framed," nominated by JUKED, and damn, I think that's a pretty good story. Some day I hope I'll get into the anthology. Right now I'm glad that I haven't let the rejection (which it sort of is) affect my feelings about my work. I've been letting that happen too much this year.
Some great news in an anxious time. I was offered a new editorial position that I can't make public for a month or two, but it works just perfectly with the end of my teaching. It will be an exciting challenge and I'm really looking forward to it.
More and more of my students have posted on our Blackboard class site about their shelter-in-place experiences. They're posting pictures of a hike they just went on, or the banana bread they just made, or themselves with their pets, lots and lots with their pets. Many of them feel the same aimless anxiety and inability to focus that I do. Many of them are home with their families and liking that (having Ben home is the best part of all this). Their posts are really touching. (And I see that I posted about this just yesterday, which is typical of my lack of concentration. I'll leave this here anyway. There have been more posts since yesterday, and, fingers crossed, no one has reported having COVID-19.)
Bigger good news. It's looking like California has flattened the curve. Many new deaths every day nevertheless. 19000 cases in California (they've doubled in just the last day, I think), over 500 deaths in California. The global figures are staggering.
According to the Castro Valley Patch today: "There were 399,979 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States and 12,912 deaths as of Wednesday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University. 452 of those deaths were in California. The U.S. has the most confirmed coronavirus cases in the world." There's so little access to testing; numbers might not mean much, but the death statistics should be accurate. Governor Gavin Newsom says California's early shelter-in-place efforts are flattening the curve. Since virus cases increase exponentially, even a day or two makes a tremendous difference. New York started later.
I opened up a folder on Blackboard for students to post paragraphs about how they're doing, where they are, with photos (most chose themselves with their pets, someone posted a waterfall from a hike, another posted a picture of the banana bread she made). I'm so touched by what they're writing. No one reports illness yet, but not everyone has posted.
I think particularly because I'm not writing (I can't remember a meeting of my writing group like tonight's where I didn't have something ready to submit, and that's in nine years), I'm particularly touched by mentions of my work. Cathy Ulrich posted links to my flashes in WIGLEAF (last week) and MATCHBOOK (this week), and several people retweeted them. Someone out of the blue posted my microflash in BENDING GENRES on twitter and people retweeted that. There's a great flash audience on Twitter, but it's unusual for folks to post past publications..
One of my students on Blackboard said he was reading THE MISSING GIRL and really liked it (especially "Something Like That"). And Genia Blum in Lucerne posted a 3D picture of pandemic reading with a foil-wrapped Easter Bunny on top that included THE MISSING GIRL ("Easter Leo-Bunny has read and munched on books by Jacqueline Doyle, Maria Kuznetsova, Paul Lisicky, Scott Manley Hadley, Aisha Sabatini Sloan, and more").
Come to think of it, I did write a new essay, for Genia Blum, for the chapbook at QUEEN MOB'S TEAHOUSE that she's curating. I've been editing it, on and off, and it's almost ready to send to her. I'm still a writer, even though I'm writing much less, and slowly.
Over 1 million cases, 62,000 deaths world wide; 300,000 cases, 8,000 deaths in the U.S.; 11,000 cases, 250 deaths in California (75 in the Bay Area). They're hoping the California deaths will peak at the end of April, so there's worse to come. The news from Italy, and now from New York City, is heartbreaking.
Feeling low level anxiety most of the time, but I only had one near meltdown, when our weekly meal kit from HelloFresh was delayed and looked like it wouldn't come at all this week because UPS didn't have enough drivers. We've been setting up online alternatives to food shopping (HelloFresh, Instacart for Sprouts, another one for Safeway) and everything seemed to be in place, and for a couple of hours I glimpsed the possibility that everything would fall apart. The restrictions for our shelter in place in California have heightened. Really I'm hoping that we won't go out at all, except for walks (and Ben is running). Guidelines are in place until May 3, but everyone expects them to be extended, perhaps for months.
My concentration is very poor, not good enough for sustained reading, certainly not good enough for writing. Steve and Ben and I have been cooking great dinners and I'm enjoying that. Right now we're watching a zany seven-part documentary on Netflix, The Tiger King, and enjoying that. Ben's working hard at his job. I'm sort of doing my online class, not very well. I've pared down their requirements, which I'll announce tomorrow. They have one more essay due. (If I can't write, how much can I expect from them?)
It's Spring Break this week. Steve and I were supposed to be in a beautiful Airbnb on Wilderness Lake in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains outside Seattle. (Airbnb charged us something, but the hosts refunded all of our money. Delta Airlines gave us an e-credit good for two years, even though we had a non-cancellable economy ticket.)
Because of quasi-deadlines, I managed some revisions on two short essays yesterday and the day before. Feeling good about that.
And today I got my contract from FOURTH GENRE, which is still such a thrill, though I've known about the acceptance for a couple of months. It's not at the very top of the Clifford Garstang CNF rankings, it doesn't pay either (which GETTYSBURG REVIEW did, NEW OHIO REVIEW did), but it's at the top of my dream CNF pub list. Steve and I have had a subscription for years. It doesn't look like they plan to edit "On Being Told That Her First Husband," which I half hoped they would. It's coming out in August.
And my flash in the special flash issue of LITTLE FICTION/BIG TRUTHS comes out in May. It's great to have something to look forward to, since it feels like the world is ending.
SONORA REVIEW (also a journal I tried to get into for a long time) will be my remaining forthcoming pub, and I don't know when that will be. It's a print journal, and I think it usually comes out in the spring.