wigleaf top 50 LONGLIST
Hooray! It's something I've been wanting forever. I made the 2020 longlist for the WIGLEAF TOP 50! There it is, right after Tommy Dean and Leonora Desar, my name and my story "The Lost Umbrella" (published late last year in PITHEAD CHAPEL). So grateful to Kim Magowan for accepting the story, and the judges at WIGLEAF for choosing it!
Four in a row. The first two, for a Lunatics' Ball essay, were really really nice, from eminent print journals where I didn't expect such strong interest, so I was kind of buoyed. The third, from a journal where I've published flash before, was also nice, and I already thought that my flash didn't quite fit the theme of their special issue. They said they were fans of my work, so that was nice too.
The rejection today was the least important by far, but it really slayed me. A big 24-hour party that takes reprints and takes tons of writers and I was one of them last year and the year before. Always a blow when you're not invited to the party. And of course I opened twitter to find a number of posts from writers who were invited instead of me.
I'm carrying on a Facebook private message correspondence with a third-year student in the Ukraine who was assigned a story of mine in her English class and is having trouble interpreting it. Very strange for a number of reasons, but firstly because it was one of my very first stories, in 2011, in a magazine that's folded with no archive. I couldn't open my old Word files of the story (I hadn't kept a .pdf) and Word kept freezing my iMac. Finally got it open on my laptop. So weird to imagine that a long-ago story, any story really, might be read halfway across the world in a class, or by anybody really. I guess that's heartening. The story, "Benediction," is a bit mysterious, a creative nonfiction flash that I still like.
Heat wave has started. Today is our son's 32nd birthday. 32 years ago I was in labor, a long one. I think he was born at about noon, after about twelve hours of labor, so that's an hour from now.
p.s. And in a strange twist of fate, Sam Rasnake of BLUE FIFTH REVIEW just tweeted one of the rejected reprints ("What Remains," a story which is also in the newish BENDING GENRES anthology) and it's getting more attention today than it would have at the party I won't be part of.
how we are
How are you? Thanks for asking, Lesley Heiser! I'm glad to have this online record of my shelter-in-place experience, since I'm not keeping a pandemic journal as so many writers are, and I love the collective nature of the "How We Are" site. My favorite part of my creative nonfiction workshop was a "How are you" folder I set up for online posts on Blackboard. One student said, "I guess we are living in history. I always hated history class." These posts by writers, musicians, and artists add up to my favorite kind of history, accumulated personal testimonies.
Michelle Ross in her Zoom talk at the Desert Flash reading advised sitting on new work for weeks or even months before revising and sending it out. I sat on my How We Are post for minutes, and now of course I wish I'd read more of the other blog posts, made mine shorter, less mundane, avoided using the word "wonderful" twice. (Both times in connection with Ben being home with us during the shelter-in-place, and in fact that has been wonderful.) But I still like being part of the historical record.
Here's the picture I gave them, me squinting at the Zoom screen, which I seem to be doing regularly.
Just posted grades in my last creative nonfiction workshop in my last semester of my last year of teaching at Cal State East Bay. In my first job at Fresno State, my office was in a “permanent temporary building” that was finally demolished, but when I left, they insisted I turn in my office key (to an office that no longer existed in a building that no longer existed) and I spent a day running from bureaucrat to bureaucrat getting affidavits about the missing key. At Cal State Hayward (as East Bay was called then), my office and classrooms were in the nine-story Warren Hall, which they blew up because it was seismically unsafe. (Here's a thirty-second video clip.) We gathered at the bottom of the hill in the K-Mart parking lot and a DJ blasted AC/DC’s “TNT” as the building toppled. Everyone cheered. Nevertheless I would say that the pandemic has made this my most surreal semester. Looking forward to a new editorial position that I can’t announce for a month or two, but I already miss my Cal State students.
revived flash, final grades
I'm halfway through grades, doing pretty well, as long as I can get myself started again this morning.
Laura Black, the editor at FICTIVE DREAM, has a new feature where she runs stories from their archives. Saturday she ran "Clara at the Bus Station," which no one seems to have noticed, but it was nice of her. This morning K.B. Carle posted "The Arithmetic of Memory" from LITTLE FICTION/BIG TRUTHS on twitter out of the blue, one of my favorite nonfiction flash, one that I mentioned by chance in my Zoom talk on Saturday (she wasn't there). Nice. And the accolades continue for "New Shoes" in 50WS, the smallest micro I've published in ages. It's starting to feel kind of weird.
Rudri Patel and Sudha Balagopal from the Arizona-based group Desert Flash invited me to read something and talk on nonfiction flash yesterday, along with Michelle Ross, who talked on flash fiction and read, and Jayne Martin and Dan Crawley, who read. The dimensions of the event kept changing, and in fact it turned out to be quite small, with some eminent flash writers and editors there (Michelle Finn Johnson of Split Lip, Kim Magowan of Pithead Chapel, Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar—all three amazing writers, other published emerging writers). Sudha asked me to talk about where to publish and I felt like my talk was pretty basic, aimed at a less experienced audience. But I still enjoyed the event anyway, and will attend their next event as a spectator participant. Sudha took a picture of the screen.
The English department's end-of-the-year party via Zoom on Friday was fun, and I was touched that the department recognized my retirement, and that a lot of students chimed in on the chat board saying they'd loved my classes and would miss me. It was a nicer way to exit that some of the retirement parties in the dean's conference room have been in the past, and I got to celebrate the winners of the two contests I started and have been running for the student lit mag Occam's Razor.
Hoping to catch Alia in a Zoom memoir event on Monday that includes Sejal Shah, whose writing has always interested me, especially since she outed herself as bipolar in Kenyon Review, and discussed the difficulty she had as a closeted bipolar academic (who failed to get tenure). I introduced myself to her at AWP. Her essay ("Even If You Can't See It: Invisible Disability and Neurodiversity") meant a lot to me, probably helped me to weather the self-disclosure involved in THE LUNATICS' BALL.
But I'm getting tired of Zoom events, which are definitely no substitute for in-person readings.
There has been an amazing tidal wave of response on Twitter and Facebook to my tiny 50-word micro. I have meanwhile been laboring over my pandemic micros and I think they're ready to send out. (Michelle Ross advised yesterday that you should sit on work for a few weeks or months before sending it out; I don't seem to be able to do that. She also mentioned getting 30-40 rejections on some pieces before they were accepted, but continuing to believe in her work; I don't seem to be able to do that either in the face of many rejections.) Alia needed a last-minute beta reader for an essay on Thursday, so she and I traded a couple of drafts with each other, her essay, my most problematic micro. One-on-one intensive work was really helpful.
Time to turn to comments and grades on the portfolios in my class, emails with comments and final grades to my 21 students. Perhaps typical that I've postponed my last set of final grades for so long. I remember procrastinating as a T.A. in graduate school, and pulling all-nighters before grades were due.
a new 50-word story
I'm writing some very tiny micros these days, just finishing up a set of three pandemic micros that I like a lot. Here's one I wrote about an experience with my mother. "New Shoes" came out today in 50WS: FIFTY-WORD STORIES, a magazine where Sudha Balagopal has published several micros. I just did one of her hour-long online restorative yoga classes yesterday, and I'm looking forward to seeing Sudha in the Zoom flash reading she's co-hosting tomorrow. Even though I've never met her in person, I feel like I have.
reading next saturday
Just discovered that the combined reading/talk on flash nonfiction that I've been invited to do next Saturday via Zoom is an altogether larger affair than I'd imagined. Desert Flash is sponsored by excellent writers, Sudha Balagopal and Rudri Patel (editor of Sunlight Press, where my essay "Dear Maddy" won an Essay Contest). They've scheduled a formidable roster of well-known flash writers. Michelle Ross is also doing a talk as well as reading. Other readers: Dan Crawley, Spencer Litman, and Jayne Martin. They expect about twenty people. (For some reason I thought they might be a group of five or so, like my writing group, and that I'd be the only visitor.)
On Friday I'll be attending another Zoom event, the end of the year party for the English department, important because the Occam's Razor writers will be part of it and I supervised two writing contests, and because it's my last year. Feeling nervous about what I should say, if anything. I'll be reading the judges' comments on the winning flash and creative nonfiction and I always enjoy that.
I feel like I'm behind, when in fact I'm doing okay. CRAFT reading finished for the week (more coming tomorrow). Workshop portfolios organized and ready to grade. Grades aren't due for a week; the work is not the grading, it's the final comments I'm planning to send each student.
I was most worried about revising my essay "An Incident on Clement Street" in time to to send it to a couple of journals about to close down for the summer. Spent all day working on it today and I'm pretty pleased with the result. I think it's finished. I'll wait a day or two just in case I want to do any last-minute changes. There's something so satisfying about the hard work of revision.
When I logged on to twitter after breakfast today, three writers had already posted my new flash "Sooner or Later," out now in the special flash issue of LITTLE FICTION/BIG TRUTHS. Really excited to see it in such a great magazine with such an amazing roster of well-known flash writers. Can't wait to read the rest of the issue.
The Zoom open mic I did yesterday for my creative nonfiction workshop went without a hitch. I'm feeling sad already that it was basically the last class of my career. What a surreal end to 34 years of teaching this final semester has been.
I don't know whether it's the ten-week WIP facebook group I'm in, or rereading "The Lunatics' Ball" now that it's online and I have new readers reacting to it, but I sat down and did a revision of "I Could Have Danced All Night in My Maidenform Bra," which I think will be the closing flash in the collection, and I really love what I've done with it. One of my problems has been writing Lunatics' Ball essays and flash so they can stand alone (and I can send them out for submission at magazines) but also function in the book. I decided to forget about the stand-alone (really I've gotten enough Lunatics' Ball writing published, at very good places) and just work on the version for the book and it flowed beautifully, arriving at just the right last line. I'll do it with the Leps in a few weeks, which will probably temper my satisfaction, but right now I love what I wrote, and I love writing again. For the first month or so of the pandemic shelter-in-place I found it so hard to focus or even imagine reading or writing anything.
Pandemic news is not good. California is flattening the curve, but beginning to reopen too soon, I think, and many states are reopening even more businesses way too soon. Trump is a catastrophe, and seems much more interested in the economy than people dying (and in himself of course, always himself). I'm scared to go out, and Steve's anxiety keeps ramping up. 71,526 deaths in the U.S. so far. (More than a million cases diagnosed in the U.S. so far, but there's such limited access to testing that the figure doesn't mean much.)
keeping my wip alive
I've spent a few hours each day lately on flash and microflash and it's felt so good to be writing again, even on very small things. Managed to send a couple off to magazines. Critique in my writing group of one of them on Wednesday was very useful and inspiring; the rewrite is much better.
I joined a free ten-week facebook group on jump starting your work-in-progress run by Michael Loveday, a flash writer (specializing in the flash novella) who is also a creativity coach. One more thing to feel guilty about, as I'm supposed to have started a project journal, and I haven't. What particularly appeals to me is his suggestion that you can include pictures and collages. But somehow I'm very busy, between CRAFT reading (this week's finished yesterday) and my workshop (Sunday is my day to send out instructions, and on Tuesday I'm leading a Zoom open mic class that I'm nervous about; technology is not my forte).
I'm a bit uncomfortable with the degree of self-revelation in "The Lunatics' Ball" (glad I got my editorial job offer before this came out), but mostly pleased to have it online, a jump start to the WIP in itself. A lot of writers have commented, and many I admire have reposted it on facebook and twitter. Today I was bowled over that Kathy Fish did so: "Go read this intricate, compassionate, masterfully distilled CNF piece by @doyljacq now online @FrictionSeries."