I'm not sure why I couldn't sleep last night, but I plunged into such sadness over a routine rejection. I sent a recent flash that's set in San Francisco and I think is really good (already published, in a good magazine) to a local reading series in San Francisco and it was rejected (18 others were accepted—eighteen!!!). I didn't expect to care particularly, but somehow I feel like the place where I live is rejecting me. Irrational.
I've figured out that my sadness over certain lit mag rejections has partly to do with their "family" PR, so being rejected over and over means I'm not part of the family. (Perhaps reverberating with my birth family's dysfunction. I don't know.)
The deadline for BEST SMALL FICTIONS nominations is nearing and despite a record year for Pushcart nominations, I haven't had any, which means of course that I have zero chance of making it into this year's anthology.
Wishing I hadn't sent my Top Ten Things to LITTLE FICTION/BIG TRUTHS (coming out some time next month), because it could be better, and my account of December 21 to ESSAY DAILY (coming out January 2) because it could be better. Sent my rewrite of the profile of the serial killer Lizzie McNally to the Leps for our meeting on Thursday, and that could be better. Today, everything I write could be better. (An irrefutable truth. There's a point where it's "good enough," though, and rejections raise the specter that it's just not good enough even when you thought it had reached that point.)
I'm meeting flash friends from out of town for breakfast later this week and for dinner next week and I'm not feeling very festive. I'm sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop, listening to the rain outside. The lemon tree in the back yard glows weirdly green and yellow against the dark gray sky. Maybe some sun will lift my spirits tomorrow. And a good night's sleep.
Actually the morning before Christmas. I've gotten a lot accomplished in the last week: grades are in, Christmas tree is up, Christmas shopping's done, house feels very cozy. Ben should be home tonight, and we'll sleep in tomorrow (gone are the days when he jumped into our bed at 5am, too excited to wait any longer for presents from Santa). Yesterday I finished up a recommendation letter for a student applying to an mfa program, my response to a student draft creative thesis, my "Top Ten Things of 2019" for LITTLE FICTION/BIG TRUTHS, my account of December 21 for ESSAY DAILY.
My rejection arrived from the CUTBANK flash contest. It's a soft reject of the we-enjoyed-this-hope-you-submit-again variety (but maybe they always do that, since contest submissions bring in money?). It's a flash I like, a sort of funny one (so many of mine are dark), and I'll think about where to send it after Christmas.
Accepted as a reader for CRAFT today. There were a lot of hoops to jump through, including a fairly difficult test (why I would accept/reject some sample stories, how I would assess some sample beginnings). Very professional. I've committed to 3-4 hours of work each week, January through June. It's cool to be starting this work at such a good magazine.
I hope you are all in a good place this year, and if you're not, that you find solace from the people who love you and have loved you in the past. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
And I haven't even had breakfast or checked my horoscope, which must be good, right?
A really great, productive, useful writers group meeting last night. A wonderful response from the author Piper J Daniels to my nonfiction flash-in-progress "I Saw the Devil" arrived in my email yesterday afternoon. (She's also bipolar one, I love her writing, and this critique came about because I ordered her book LADIES LAZARUS from her website and she didn't get the order and offered to do something for me to make up for the lateness of the book.) I loved her encouraging words about the piece, but also loved the Leps' strong critique and specific suggestions for change. (And I got some ideas for them for reorganizing the Top Ten Things, which is a great relief and had me up at 4:30 in the morning drafting a revision.)
The acceptances: one I can't mention until January, but I'm really pleased about it. The other is for "Charcot's Monkey" from SONORA REVIEW, an annual print journal I've been trying to get into for years. So excited to have another LUNATICS' BALL flash placed so well. I thought it had gotten a lot of rejections, but it's had exactly four, from really good places.
This offsets the gazillionth rejection from SMOKELONG QUARTERLY that I got yesterday. It seems to be my year for nonfiction flash.
I can't keep up with the year-end good news. This morning LITTLE FICTIONS/BIG TRUTHS posted a list of the "Ten Most Read" ("of everything we published last year—13 singles and 14 pieces in our flash nonfiction issue") and "The Arithmetic of Memory" is one of them. (The inner critic in me immediately whispers that it probably didn't hurt that it was the first piece in the flash nonfiction issue. I have a bad habit of discounting honors. I'm pretty thrilled anyway.) It's an amazing list of authors: Jeremy John Parker, Chloe N. Clark, René Mitchell-Matsuyama, Aaron Burch, Nathan R. Elliott, Dina L. Relles, me in spot 4, E.M. Tran, Madeline Anthes, Jen Michalski.
Way behind on my work. Grading portfolios is taking longer than usual because I required three rewrites from every student, and many of them are submitting the rewrites to student literary contests early next semester, so I need to critique them thoroughly. Writing group on Wednesday night may be switched to Tuesday night, when grades are due, and there's lots of reading and critiquing for the writing group too. Hoping to get a slot as a reader for CRAFT magazine, and there's a test involved, that I need to take by Friday. Student recommendation to write. Grad student thesis to read. Christmas tree not up. Christmas shopping not done. One of my Christmas packages seems to be lost (I got an oops do you want a refund email from Amazon). But for all that, feeling good holiday vibes.
Just heard from founders and editors Rudri Bhatt Patel and Beth Burrell of THE SUNLIGHT PRESS that they are nominating my flash essay "Dear Maddy" for a Pushcart Prize. It's an essay that means a lot to me and I'm honored by the recognition. At least two of the other nominees are writers whose work I follow regularly (Sabrina Hicks and C.C. Russell). Congratulations and best of luck to all of the nominees.
Cathy Miller, who teaches creative nonfiction at San Jose State, gives a holiday party in her San Jose loft every year with great food and company. Friday's was her last, as she will be retiring to marry and move to England, so I made an effort to go (despite being nervous about driving to San Jose in the rain, finding parking in her neighborhood, where there is no parking, possibly knowing no one at the party). I took a grad cnf workshop from her in 2012, and four other students from the workshop were there! Cathy always has a reading of two-pagers from her students and alum. Hers this year was a great, the love story of meeting her husband-to-be. I read my flash cnf "Checkmate" (scroll to second story in issue), which I love reading, because the prose has a lot of momentum. Someone just posted this photo. (If you squint, you can see me reading, seated in the chair in front if the white desk/cabinet.)
Off to another party today. My long-time friend and writing group moderator Alia Volz has a Cassernog birthday party every year. In the meantime I have lots of grading to do, and very little time to do it. At least I'm not teaching three courses any more (poor Steve).
Squinting at it some more, I think that might be Cathy Miller reading. It was a great party, at any rate, and I enjoyed reading!
By some strange synchronicity, my writer friend and world traveler Claire Polders posted this on Facebook today. She's in the Netherlands right now, I think, but I don't know where she took the picture. I just used this Beckett quote in my post yesterday.
p.s. So I told Claire and she wrote back: "Wow! I took the photo on Thursday in Amsterdam. The quote was displayed on the Schouwburg (International theater). It applied to my evening today."
Filled with gratitude for all the editors and readers who’ve supported my work in 2019. My longer project-in-progress THE LUNATICS’ BALL has been frustratingly slow to take shape, but I’ve made a lot of progress, with a lot of invaluable feedback from three writing groups—the Leporines in San Francisco, the online Quills (a very international group), and my tiny online flash group with Kathryn Kulpa and Eden Royce. The support from all three groups has meant a lot.
Scroll down on my flash, nonfiction, and fiction pages on this site for links to my 2019 online publications.
My flash nonfiction in 2019 (in some bucket list journals):
Little Fiction/Big Truths
The Sunlight Press
Sweet: A Literary Confection
The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts
Rhythm & Bones
Sonora Review (forthcoming)
My flash fiction (also in some journals I love and have long aspired to):
Queen Mob’s Teahouse
Cabinet of Heed
I never publish a lot of fiction, and I only published one story this year, but I was thrilled to have my work solicited:
My creative nonfiction publications have slowed, and are mostly shorter this year, but I’m proud of what I produced (and bowled over by an acceptance at one of these bucket list journals in particular):
Passages North (forthcoming)
Fourth Genre (forthcoming)
I’m a nonfiction writer at heart. This year I was blessed with a Notable Essay listing in BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS, and a nonfiction flash featured in CREATIVE NONFICTION SUNDAY SHORT READS. I won a flash essay contest and had two Pushcart nominations and a Best of the Net nomination for flash nonfiction. I also had two Pushcart nominations for flash fiction, and a Best Microfiction nomination for a flash microfiction. Several editors solicited work from me on the basis of my previous publications. I was interviewed three times and featured on a podcast. I did two readings and was the keynote speaker at an area writing conference.
I went to a lot of Bay Area readings. I supported book launches by friends. I bought a lot of books. I read a lot of work by fine writers and publicized them on twitter. I participated in the judging of the Black River Chapbook Competition at Black Lawrence Press again. I taught creative nonfiction workshops, a graduate seminar on memoir, and a flash workshop at Cal State East Bay; I hope I encouraged my students to be better writers.
In June I will teach my last class as a professor at California State University, East Bay. My resolution for 2020 is to keep writing, not slack off when I suddenly have more free time. Not let my frustrations with THE LUNATICS’ BALL keep me from making progress. Not let rejections (there have been so many this year) discourage me. Follow the advice of Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
RAPPAHANNOCK REVIEW publishes great work and has been on my radar for a while. When they solicited creative nonfiction from me, I sent my new lyric sequence “Octopus Dreams” to them (and nowhere else), and they accepted it soon later. Writing and publishing should always be this easy! Big thanks to editor Kelly Donaghey.
Some of Kathy Fish’s flash prompts made me write down dreams that I ended up using here. The sequence was originally inspired by a cool video online of an octopus changing color while she dreams.
Love the cover art from the 16th century botanist Gherardo Cibo (1512-1600). The editors comment: “When we came across this artwork, we were immediately drawn to its surrealism and exaggerated scale, intrigued by the idea that these oversized plants exist and almost levitate while the rest of the image suggests that nothing is out of the norm.” There are more illustrations from the manuscript here.
I sent out some submissions this week, along with two for readings. I just heard back from Jon Sindell that I've been accepted for the ROLLING WRITERS Reading Series on Saturday, February 15, 6pm, at the The Rolling-Out Cafe in San Francisco. The theme is "fatherhood" and I adapted three excerpts from a longer essay on my father for the reading, and after much thought sent him my favorite.
I've been writing a lot for the past few days, but I've also been plagued with indecision. I finished a draft of the "Ten Things in 2019" for LITTLE FICTIONS/BIG TRUTHS, but I'm not sure I like it, so I started another one.
Classes were over last Thursday. I have grading for my flash workshop due next week, but right now it feels like vacation. Steve, Ben, and I went to a really cool hip hop adaptation of Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart" in Berkeley which was inspiring for the sort of literary riffs I've been doing on the side for THE LUNATICS' BALL. We're going to a great restaurant in San Francisco for my birthday on Wednesday.
F(R)ICTION just put out December horoscopes with story recommendations for each astrological sign. Was pleased to see that Sagittarius (my sign) will have a high energy month. And that my story "Raining Blackbirds" in GHOST PARACHUTE is the recommended read for Aries, the first sign on the list.