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.
I'm in a twitterary magazine, up on twitter for a couple of months. Here's the tweet announcing v3 of Mythic Picnic's magazine, and the tweet announcing my story "Long Before." I've never been in a twitter magazine before; I'm not sure whether these function as permanent urls.
Speaking of which, SLEAZEMAG's site is down and they may already be defunct (I published "On Foot," about walking and bunions and our Guanajuato trip in August and the magazine was young then). So online zines can be as ephemeral as twitter.
My short story "Her Story" (I never came up with a better title; the story is about the stories a woman tells herself about her first marriage) should be in CAUSTIC FROLIC this week. They're a print magazine and they put the magazine online, but their site has lapsed. It will presumably come back up, and sooner or later I'll get a copy of the print mag, and they solicited me and paid me $100, so I'm not complaining.
There's a small celebration going on about MYTHIC PICNIC's twitterary magazine, because there are a lot of well-known flash writers in this issue: Meg Pillow Davis, Kara Vernor, Tommy Dean, Eric Andrew Newman, Cavin Gonzalez, Francine Witte, Megan Giddings, Benjamin Woodward, and probably some I missed in this list (though I read them all, and enjoyed the issue: micro-flash are so easy to read online).
And there's a much bigger party kicking off this morning for the WIGLEAF Top 50 short list and long list. Lots of my friends are on it, lots, and I'm happy for them. I'm also depressed that once again I'm not on it. This year I'm reading between the lines, much more attentive to the names I would have expected to see and don't, wondering whether they feel as discouraged as I do.
A few things coming up for me in June: publications in CAUSTIC FROLIC (I hope online), GHOST PROPOSAL (I'm thrilled to have something in there), FLASH FLOOD JOURNAL (a 24-hour party on June 15 for Flash Fiction Day). OCEAN STATE REVIEW said they were going to build their online presence and they set up my story "The Snows of Yesteryear" to post, but that was months ago and they haven't done so yet.
Today is our beautiful son Ben's 31st birthday. Steve and I talked to him on the phone this morning (he's in Indiana at a college friend's wedding) and will celebrate with him Tuesday night.
LITTLE FICTION/BIG TRUTHS is doing their first ever flash nonfiction issue and they just accepted my flash "The Arithmetic of Memory" (written in Kathy Fish's flash workshop, the first flash I've placed). I'm so excited! Another of those magazines really high on my wish list.
In other news, I've just about got my final grades finished and ready to post. The major upheaval of renovations to our family room has started. We have a small house (it isn't really the family room, since there's no living room, just a porch converted into a sitting room), and right now we're emptying six tall bookcases so the painter can take down the old paneling in order to paint. There are stacks of books all over the house. I have absolutely no idea where we can put the bookcases and sofa and other furniture when the carpet gets done. Time to thin out and organize the books when we reassemble the room. What to do with all the books in German from the years when I lived there? I have trouble letting go of things. The book collection is like an archaeological dig into my past.
Or maybe a few days? A month? Really pleased that I made the longlist for v3 of Mythic Picnic's twitter zine. It's a "twitterary magazine," it's an anthology, it's hard to explain but you get three tweets to tell a story and the finalists are up for a month or so until the next issue goes up (v4 subs in July).
Meg Pillow Davis is on the short list of winners (I love her work). Kara Vernor, Tommy Dean, Eric Andrew Newman, Megan Giddings, Francine Witte, and Benjamin Woodward are on the long list (love all of them too), and other writers whose names I don't recognize.
Mark Finnemore, aka Mythic Picnic, is a literary benefactor who donates money and time to this project and others, including fiction prizes at WIGLEAF. I was happy to meet Mark and his wife Panji at the Bay Area Book Fair a couple of weeks ago. (And to learn that he'd bought THE MISSING GIRL!)
I got a very cool message on Facebook this morning from my friend Claire Polders. Claire is a Dutch writer married to an American filmmaker/writer who I've never met in person but consider a good friend. After living for many years in Paris, she and her husband recently lost their apartment, and now they are nomads, writing wherever they're offered living accommodations. Here's her blog about it. She's a wonderful writer of novels and stories and flash. Right now she's in Venice, and this morning she sent me two pictures with the note: "Look who I found in the Accademia this morning!"
I think the ekphrastic flash about Hieronymos Bosch's St. Wilgefortis that I published in JELLYFISH REVIEW last year is short enough to quote here. It's a very enigmatic painting, and I'm a big fan of female saints. The reproductions online are quite dark and I'm excited to see Claire's photos. "Prayer to the Bearded Virgin Martyr" was published in JELLYFISH REVIEW.
Prayer to the Bearded Virgin Martyr
On Hieronymus Bosch’s St. Wilgefortis Triptych
The woman nailed to the cross wears a red dress and a dark green sash. Her long blonde hair cascades down her back, unbound. Arms outstretched, face raised to the sky, she looks upward or inward, away from the crowd of men assembled below her. Some of them tumble out of the hollow trunk of a dead tree. One seems to have fainted, and several men cluster around him, supporting him in their arms. On the other side of the cross, a man in the foreground pontificates as another looks on. The men in the background crowd and jeer. One points up at the crucified saint, his mouth ajar. The pose of the crowned woman on the cross, her face open and undisturbed, suggests indifference to the onlookers, transcendence rather than suffering. “Blessed art thou,” St. Wilgefortis. Also known as Liberata, Kümmernis, Livrade, Uncumber, St. Wilgefortis promises relief from the burden of violent, abusive husbands. In Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych centering on the female saint’s crucifixion, the merest hint of facial hair on her chin convinces art historians that she is Wilgefortis, daughter of a Portuguese King who had her crucified when she refused to break her vow of chastity and marry the non-Christian King of Sicily. Wilgefortis famously sprouted a beard and mustache to underline her resistance to the proposed matrimony. In the murky panel on the left, a solitary, black-robed Saint Anthony meditates, hunched in prayer. A city far behind him has erupted in hellish flames. In the panel on the right, a black-robed monk leads a soldier, or perhaps an executioner, who holds a spiked club that rests on his shoulder with one hand, grasps the hilt of a sword in a sheath with his other. The monk gestures ahead, his raised hand drawing attention to the figure who points to St. Wilgefortis in the central panel. Behind the two of them, far away, the white spires of a city arise beside a harbor and boats, one almost sunken, only its prow and tilted mast visible. Where are the women? “Blessed art thou.” Beyond the crucifix in the central panel, a fertile landscape is threaded with the silver ribbon of a shining river. A dead tree stands on a grassy hummock in the middle distance. Is Wilgefortis dying on the cross, or already dead? A martyr rumored to give succor at the hour of death, her feast day was celebrated on July 20. “Pray for us now, and at the hour of our death.” But that was a prayer to the Virgin Mary, who ascended bodily into Heaven. Bosch’s Wilgefortis looks untroubled, as if confident that she too will ascend. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” But that was God the Father. Has Wilgefortis defied the law of the father who crucified her? Holy gender transgressor. “Blessed art thou.” Bearded lady, reviled sideshow freak. “Blessed art thou.” Patron saint of abused women and girls, transsexual, bisexual, homosexual, and transgender people. “Blessed art thou” and thy inviolate womb. How many have prayed to you over the centuries, pray to you still? “Blessed art thou among women.” Not a single woman in the crowd. “Blessed, blessed, blessed,” they whisper, hidden from sight in the shadows beyond, fingering rosaries in kitchens, bedrooms, women’s shelters, police stations, court rooms, jails. In morgues and funeral parlors, rosaries wrapped tightly around hands clasped on their breasts. “Pray for us now.”
And another nice surprise on Facebook this morning. The writer Len Kuntz messaged me to say that the flash they read in Robert Vaughan's Bending Genres workshop in New Mexico last week was "Free Fall" in FICTIVE DREAM. One of the cool things about the generative flash workshops, Kathy Fish's and Bending Genre's and others, is that lots of really good and well-published writers participate. I admire Len Kuntz's work (so great to hear that he admires mine) and would love to meet him in person some day.
Just as I was feeling sorry for myself, two of my flash fictions were accepted at CRAFT, a really top magazine that also pays ($100 each for "Girls in the Woods" and "After Dinner"). They will come out next November, when they're devoting a month to flash. which gives me some time to think about what I want to say about plot in my craft essay. Really excited.
Because I'm getting so many rejections of flash fictions that I like, and I can't decide whether to persevere or to retire them. And because I decided to put together a very tentative draft of THE LUNATICS' BALL (five of the flash unfinished or barely started) and it seems very bumpy to me. Even with intervening illustrations, at least four of the transitions seem dubious, the overall chronology unclear (though I like the arc). It's also too long for the one chapbook contest I was considering (which goes up to 75 pages, very unusual) and too short for a book. No one said writing was easy.
Oh, but some good news, just as I posted this. Robert Vaughan tagged me in a Facebook post about the ongoing Bending Genres workshop at Synergia Ranch in New Mexico (which looks beautiful). Apparently something of mine was in their readings for today.
Another lunatics' ball, this one a masquerade at the Brookwood Surrey Lunatic Asylum in the UK in 1881.
My contributor's copy of FEMININE RISING, an anthology from Cynren Press edited by Andrea Fekete and Lara Lillibridge, just arrived in the mail. Pleased to see a reprint of "Mirrors and Reflections," which originally appeared in HIPPOCAMPUS. Strange too, because the flash essay is about my mixed feelings about aging and my appearance, and seven years later I have much more positive feelings about aging and my appearance than I did then!
Every year in the UK, FLASH FLOOD JOURNAL releases a deluge of great flash fiction EVERY 10 MINUTES for 24 hours on June 15, National Flash Fiction Day, and then closes up until the following year. Last year they posted my tiny flash from 100 WORD STORY, "Cassiopeia." This year my tiny flash from WIGLEAF, “Little Darling,” will appear at 19:00 BST (that’s 9:00 am PST). Lots of great flash writers whose work I know (and other great flash writers whose work I don’t) will be flooding the internet. Check out twitter, @nationalflashfd, and Facebook, National Flash-Fiction Day, or the FLASH FLOOD JOURNAL website. Prepare for some great reading.
Really pleased to see Gay Degani's interview with me in HEAVY FEATHER REVIEW today. I got to talk about THE MISSING GIRL, and also a little about THE LUNATICS' BALL (saying something in print makes it seem more real, somehow). Gay Degani is a great flash writer whose work is in all the top magazines and flash anthologies. I'm thrilled that she liked my chapbook.
I think my rejections are outpacing my good news lately, so it's always great to celebrate the good news.
Disappointed that I didn't make the top 5-10 in Mythic Picnic's tweet story contest. I think there may be a longer list to come, so I have my fingers crossed. (I probably shouldn't have submitted something that hadn't been previously published, since I can't do anything else with it now.) I met Mythic Picnic aka Mark Finnemore and his wife Panji at his booth at the Bay Area Book Festival yesterday, which was fun. Also attended a great event, a conversation between Lacy Johnson and Carmen Maria Machado. Very inspiring. Dinner across the street at Cancun with Steve and Ben was great too.