It’s been a year of birds. At least that’s what the editor of Best Small Fictions 2017 says. I’ve been enjoying the anthology, a Christmas present from Steve, and was startled to read in Tarah L. Masih’s introduction: “Birds, birds, birds. We did not see so many birds if any in 2014 or 2015. Perhaps almost 60 percent of the nominations included birds. That’s a lot of birds.”
It seems particularly odd because my very first publication this year, on January 1, 2017, was a nonfiction micro about a dead bird. Here’s “Avian Portent” from Entropy.
Tarah L. Masih speculates, “Perhaps they reflect some prescient Hitchcockian malaise that was forming collectively.” And that seems to fit my micro. Here’s the picture of the actual dead bird on my front porch that accompanied it.
Alison K. Williams asks some questions in "The Year of the Writer" on the Brevity blog (the only blog I read regularly) that seem worth answering.
"How was 2017? OK, a dumpster fire, yes, but how was your writing in 2017? Because now is a great time to consider what you got done. Not scold yourself for what you meant to do and didn't, but genuinely take a moment and sit with your accomplishments."
"Did you write an essay or a paragraph or a sentence you’re really proud of? Get a piece accepted? Submitted to places you want to be accepted? Help another writer with insight or feedback or supportive critique? Make it to a workshop or a class or a conference or a coffee date with another writer? Read a book you really loved that showed you something about writing? Read a craft book and tried some exercises? Researched something new? They all count. So bask in the feeling of accomplishment. Make some notes about what felt great to get done, and why it worked to do it that way. Congratulations."
Publishing The Missing Girl, my first chapbook, has made it an exciting year. I’ve gotten such gratifying feedback from readers and reviewers, loved doing interviews and my first podcast, and working with the wonderful editors at Black Lawrence Press. I’ve also done more readings this year than in previous years, and become more aware of what a vital, sustaining literary community I belong to here in the Bay Area and also on twitter (particularly among flash writers and editors). As ever, I'm grateful to my wonderful bimonthly writing group in San Francisco, the Leporine Conspiracy. I've also been trading flash online with a couple of great readers/writers, and some stories and essays with individual readers as far away as Berlin. It’s been a year of high anxiety, politically, but also a year when I’ve appreciated writing and other writers more than ever.
I’ve thought of myself as a creative nonfiction writer, but I’m beginning to see myself as a flash writer too. It was extremely encouraging to win the high stakes flash/poetry contest at Midway Journal judged by Michael Martone, and to get a Pushcart nomination from Wigleaf.
PUBLISHED OR ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION IN 2017
The Missing Girl (Black Lawrence Press)
Rooted (Outpost 19); Forgotten Women (Grayson Books)
accepted and forthcoming: They Said (Black Lawrence Press); Fairy Tales and Folk Tales (Between the Lines Press): Nothing Short of 100 (Outpost 19)
The Gettysburg Review, Superstition Review, Under the Gum Tree
accepted and forthcoming: Under the Sun, Zone 3
accepted and forthcoming: Persimmon Tree
Wigleaf, matchbook, Ellipsis, Midway Journal, Flash Frontier, Occulum, Jellyfish Review, Lost Balloon, b(OINK), Threadcount, Entropy
accepted and forthcoming: Hotel Amerika, Fiction Southeast, Change Seven, Spelk, A-Minor, Jellyfish Review, Post Road
Notable in Best American Essays 2017
First place in flash contest at Midway Journal
Pushcart nomination from Wigleaf
Best Small Fictions 2018 nomination from Black Lawrence Press
Resolution for the New Year: I have some essays in progress, some essays and stories still looking for homes, but my ambition this year is to complete Do-It-Yourself Night: A Suburban Memoir. I had such a productive writing residency in Pennsylvania with Alia Volz over a year ago, and while I’ve been adding new essays to the collection since then, and placing others for publication, I haven’t worked on pulling together the project as a whole. I’ll have spring quarter off. I hope I can start working on the manuscript again in April when winter quarter classes are over for me.
I’d like to keep writing, and not let anxiety about the news weigh me down or occupy quite so much time. I’d like to keep reading, flash writers on internet zines, and books in the growing stack by my bed. I’d like to support other writers, including my writing students, and take the time to appreciate all the support I receive.
Happy New Year to all of you. May your wishes come true.
Yay! The wonderful Chris James at JELLYFISH REVIEW accepted one of my weirdest flashes yet, an ekphrastic flash centering on Hieronymus Bosch's St. Wilgefortis triptych. Those of you who know my work will know that I've written about saints a number of times. A bearded female saint who was crucified is right up my alley. The flash won't be out until May 30.
I didn't write a Christmas story this year, but I have several from previous years that I like.
One about the appearance of the Virgin Mary in K-Mart that I co-wrote with my crazy husband Steve under the name Alvarado O'Brien: "Night of the Virgin" came out in TIMBER (scroll down the list in their archive).
One about a two couples who run into each other while Christmas shopping at the mall and go out for drinks. Two of the spouses are unaware that the others had an affair: "Merry Gentlemen" was published in DIGBOSTON, a free weekly, and reprinted in PURE SLUSH.
One about a would-be burglar who got stuck in the chimney (happens much more often than you'd think). "A Tight Spot" was published in the EAST BAY REVIEW. Alexandra Herrington did some art depicting my hapless protagonist Dean (dressed for his job at Mel's Electronics):
Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!
p.s. 1-2-18 One week later. Wouldn't you know it, the newspaper this morning reported on a burglary in Citrus Heights where the burglar got stuck in the chimney. He called the police himself, and Sacramento firefighters extracted him.
Floored to have made another Best of 2017 list. PAPER DARTS lists The Missing Girl among "Our Favorite 2017 Small Press Short Story Collections (Plus a Few Others)"!
Jan Stinchcomb writes: "You can read this chapbook of line-perfect flash in one breathless night, or you can read it over and over, as I have. Doyle explores everything from kidnappings to inappropriate relationships to the casual violence of bars and college parties. She pays careful attention to class issues and the vulnerability of the adolescent mind. Flash is a great form for this project (we don't want the horror of a girl regaining consciousness after a brutal rape to go on for even a syllable longer than necessary). Doyle frequently employs a chilling use of the second-person point of view, but all perspectives in these tragic situations are represented, including that of the predator. This collection challenges us to define what we mean by 'missing': should we be concerned about literal disappearance or the ways girls lose huge chunks of themselves under violent misogyny? Read 'Nola,' in which the narrator tries to find a friend lost after an episode of childhood cruelty."
A lovely Christmas gift.
Woke up early this morning (still in Hawaii—we leave tomorrow) to a great review of THE MISSING GIRL by Lara Lillibridge in MOM EGG REVIEW:
The Missing Girl by Jacqueline Doyle 0
BY MOM EGG REVIEW ON DECEMBER 13, 2017
Review by Lara Lillibridge
Jacqueline Doyle’s work has earned her a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2017 and has won the 2017 Flash Prose/Poetry Contest at Midway Journal. Doyle has had work published in Hotel Amerika, Quarter After Eight, PANK, Monkey Bicycle, The Gettysburg Review, and many other magazines, journals, and anthologies. The Missing Girl won the Black River Chapbook Competition. Doyle is a professor of English at California State University, Easy Bay, and resides with her husband and son in the San Francisco Bay area.
The Missing Girl is comprised of eight separate stories, each only a few pages long. Told from the point of view of perpetrators, victims, and friends of victims, each chapter is a stand-alone story about a girl who was preyed upon by someone known, or unknown. A haunting collection, its prose is clear and direct, with exquisite tension.
"Yes, you feel like you know this girl. Just the kind to go missing. Awkward and shy. Inexperienced and eager. Tender, playing brave. Dirt poor. You know. The kind of girl who’ll step right into your car if you call her pretty." (2)
Doyle’s flash fiction answers the question how much can you leave out and still have a viable story? Each story is stripped to its skeleton, but it’s not just a pile of bones; rather there’s gristle and bits of jagged flesh: “‘You aren’t going to tell your Mommy and Daddy anything,’ I say to her, and pull her back by her hair” (6).
Exceedingly timely in this #metoo revolution, The Missing Girl gives voice to eight women and girls who can’t—or can’t bring themselves to—tell their own stories.
My favorite chapter of the chapbook was “Something Like That,” what I think is perhaps the most complicated of the flash pieces. It begins, “I don’t know why I lied. Maybe it’s because someone finally believed me. So maybe it didn’t really happen in exactly that way with exactly those boys on exactly that night.” (9) In just one-and-a-half pages, Doyle manages to expose an array of convoluted feelings belonging to an often-victimized girl. From the beginning, she sets herself out as unreliable—but is she? Whom do we believe? When do we believe them? And is her line, “I don’t know why I lied,” a lie in itself, or has she been coerced to say so after the fact? The final paragraph states, “maybe I got confused, or maybe it all happened”(10), but it is never resolved, nor should it be. Each chapter is a snapshot into an intense moment, and confusion is a very real (and often under explored) stage in the process.
It is hard not to say too much about such a short book, but The Missing Girl truly puts the reader in the headspace of people on the razor’s edge of horror. It’s a great study on flash fiction as a form, as well as social commentary on women as prey in our society.
The Missing Girl by Jacqueline Doyle
Black Lawrence Press, 2017, $8.95 [paper] ISBN 9781625579836 30 pp
Lara Lillibridge recently won both Slippery Elm Literary Journal’s Prose Contest and The American Literary Review’s Contest in Nonfiction. Lara’s memoir will debut April 3, 2018 with Skyhorse Publishing. Some of her work can be found on her website: http://www.laralillibridge.com/.
Exciting news! THE MISSING GIRL is on Al Kratz's "Best Books of 2017: Staff Picks" list in THE COIL! Here's what he says: "For flash fiction chapbooks, one of my favorites of 2017 was Jacqueline Doyle’s The Missing Girl published by Black Lawrence Press. This book, dedicated to missing girls, shows the expansive power of condensed fiction. These stories almost have to be flash. This is how people go missing. The conflict is fast and intense. The facts are fleeting and mysterious. The truth often hides in the spaces these eight short-short stories exclude. Doyle uses the second person to speak directly to the predators, to bring us just as close as we can bear. She uses the first person to force a predator to speak. To force him to be honest. These girls remain missing, but Doyle finds their stories. It’s twenty-eight pages you might read in one sitting, but will never forget."
Another new magazine that’s already published so many terrific writers (just for a start: Kathy Fish, Cathy Ulrich, Melissa Goode, Lori Sambol Brody, Tyrese Coleman, A. E. Weisgerber). Thanks to Chelsea Voulgares for publishing me in LOST BALLOON. Once again, flash writers on twitter have been so enthusiastic and supportive in their comments and retweets. It's overwhelming, and I'm full of gratitude for this virtual community. (Mr. Bear again! She retweeted this flash and also "He Looked Like James Dean"!)
It so happens that I was walking on a beach in Hawaii with my husband of over thirty years last night, so it seems particularly strange to relive this long-ago vacation and love affair in this nonfiction flash. Here’s “By a Mountain Stream in Northern Spain.”
Up until the last day, I wasn't sure I would make it to Hawaii. I'm allergic fo a number of antiobiotics, and just started my third for a treatment-resistant infection (which seems to be working). So glad Steve and I made it after all. He's exploring volcanoes and beaches. I'm writing in a great week-long creative nonfiction workshop with Brenda Miller and Sheila Bender. I've got some new flash I'll be revising when I get home.
I was so pleased when the flash writer Tommy Dean asked me to participate in the mini-interview series on his site (so far he's interviewed flash writers I love: Jayne Martin, K.C. Mead-Brewer, Cathy Ulrich, Tara Isabel Zambrano, Stephanie Hutton). He asks great questions. My interview is up!
Twenty-one readers participated in the Flash-a-Thon reading sponsored by the Flash Fiction Collective at Alley Cat Books in the Mission last night. Everyone was great! Jane Ciabattari and Grant Faulkner kept us moving along. And Grant had an advance copy of NOTHING SHORT OF 100, the microflash anthology coming out from Outpost 19 next April (Steve and I are included).
If you're looking for Christmas presents, BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 2017 is always a great bet for the essay lovers on your list, BEST SMALL FICTIONS 2017 for the flash lovers on your list. Both hot off the press.
Consider supporting indie booksellers and indie presses! There are many.
Black Lawrence Press offers wonderful chapbooks and books—poetry, flash, short stories, essays, novels. Outpost 19 Books in San Francisco has a great catalog and is doing a terrific promotion for the holidays: 25% off + free shipping. Enter the code winter17 at their shop.
I'm in two Outpost 19 anthologies and I'd highly recommend both of them. ROOTED: The Best New Arboreal Nonfiction is a collection of gorgeous creative nonfiction touching on trees by top essayists in the field. NOTHING SHORT OF 100, a collection of stellar 100 word stories by top flash writers won't be out until April but is available for pre-order now. (What's better than opening a Christmas present in April?) Click on the links to see the amazing lists of contributors.
Take a look at the contributors to the anthology THEY SAID: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing, where Steve and I will have a collaborative essay. Not out until June 2018, also available for pre-order from Black Lawrence Press.
And while I'm at it, take a look at a one-of-a-kind anthology of flash sequences from White Pine Press, a collection that I love (and not just because I'm in it): NOTHING TO DECLARE: A Guide to the Flash Sequence. Order from your local indie bookseller (or from Amazon, if you must).