I've been recording my pandemic dreams, the ones I remember (sometimes as many as three a night). They've become more mundane. Lately I've been writing in my dreams. (And writing when I'm awake. The Kathy Fish Fast Flash Reunion fertilized some new work that I would never have written otherwise.) Often I find myself somewhere (a bookstore, a library, a hair salon) and realize I've forgotten to maintain my shelter in place. Not surprising since all of California seems to be reopening, ominous COVID statistics notwithstanding.
A couple of disappointing rejections.
Tons of reading for the Black Lawrence Press chapbook competition, which I need to have completed in six days. The usual weekly reading load for CRAFT. And for my writing group, which is going strong, meeting every two weeks via Skype. Work ramping up for my new editorial position, which I'll announce some time closer to July 15.
Looks like I will be reading for the Flash Fiction Forum in San Jose (via Zoom) on June 17 (with Steve, which is always fun) and for the eminent F Bomb Flash Fiction series at the KGB Bar in Manhattan (via Zoom) on Friday, July 3
And I'm energized about launching my new creative nonfiction position, not officially announced yet. Lots of work to do in the coming weeks.
Back to the LUNATICS' BALL after a long time away. A big revision (serial killer Lizzie Halliday) and some new essays-in-progress.
I'm in a Facebook group for jump-starting your WIP ("Unlocked in Lockdown") and Michael Loveday, who organized it, just posted a great George Saunders youtube clip where Saunders talks about writing without a plan or preconceptions, and revision as an "act of love." It seems to relate to "Author's Note" I sent to MATCHBOOK yesterday:
“For my hybrid work-in-progress The Lunatics’ Ball, I’ve been reading biographies of Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot and Zelda Fitzgerald, along with the forgotten histories of lesser-known madwomen who also died in mental asylums. They haunt me. Possess me. It’s difficult to articulate the complex exchange of identities implicit in this project, but I keep writing my way into what I want to say. I wonder if I will ever finish.
Heard from the editor-in-chief about my new editorial position, which she'll announce (and I'll announce) very soon, and I'm excited and nervous at the same time.
An acceptance today that I'm really pleased about. First because it's MATCHBOOK and I love MATCHBOOK. Second because "The Madwoman on BART" was written for THE LUNATICS' BALL. MATCHBOOK does "Author's Notes" to accompany their publications, and now I have an opportunity to say something intelligent about the collection. A challenge. THE COLLAGIST was supposed to interview me about my two LUNATICS' BALL flash and didn't, I think because they were suddenly severing ties with Dzanc Books and transforming themselves into THE RUPTURE. Now I can try for a succinct descriptive paragraph.
It just happens that I had an exchange today with the Irish novelist Nuala O'Connor about second person pov, and the flash is partly about that. Nuala generously sent me a lovely paper she wrote about Edna O'Brien and her own novel YOU and 2nd person that's really interesting to me. Somehow I let my writing group influence me and I changed the two autobiographical death flash from second person to first person. Don't know if that was a good idea or not. Maybe I'll reconsider it after a rejection or two.
Ever since George Floyd was killed by the police in Minneapolis I haven't been able to stop thinking about his death ("I can't breathe") and how many similar deaths there have been year in and year out for so many years. It's no wonder most of the cities in the U.S. are on fire right now. It's been profoundly frightening hearing Trump threaten to mobilize the military against demonstrators, and watching police battling demonstrators with rubber bullets and tear gas on the news on TV. Yesterday we got emergency notifications on our cell phones and land line about a new curfew in Alameda County: no one can go out after 8pm now. Last night I couldn't sleep.
Today faculty pulled together to write a letter to students of color on our campus. I've been thinking about how much I learned from our students. Cal State East Bay has been named one of the three most diverse campuses in the country. I know I shifted my scholarly area to ethnic American literature because I had so many students of color in Fresno and in Hayward. (And I shifted from scholarship to creative writing because of my students' personal essays in Advanced Expository Writing.) Today I decided to put together a list of Black writers I taught regularly in my classes. Not all the Black writers I have read by a long shot, not all of the writers of color I've read or teach, but specifically the Black writers. Most of these I taught over and over for thirty years. Since I used anthologies in my literary surveys, I taught a lot of other individual poems and essays.
Claudia Rankine, Citizen
Jesmyn Ward, Men We Reaped
John Edgar Wideman, Brothers and Keepers
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
August Wilson, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Toni Morrison, Sula, The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon
Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy, A Small Place
Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun
James Baldwin, Going to Meet the Man, Notes of a Native Son
Gwendolyn Brooks, poems
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Toni Cade Bambara, The Salt Eaters
Richard Wright, stories
Langston Hughes, poems
Charles Chesnutt, stories
Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl