So proud of my San Francisco writing group The Leporine Conspiracy today. Just saw the advance blurbs for past member Caitlin Myer's forthcoming memoir WIVING. And I've been tracking advance publicity for Alia Volz's forthcoming memoir HOME BAKED (we've been in the group together for nine years, and I watched the book grow from infancy to adulthood). And in the past year went to launch parties for past member Alvin Orloff's DISASTERAMA (we read the first draft chapter by chapter, from beginning of end in group) and past member Olga Zilberbourg's LIKE WATER (we did lots of those stories in group). Sometimes the group is tough. It's always supportive and productive.
Just when I thought it was too late (the deadline was Friday) and I had no chance at all of getting into BEST SMALL FICTIONS because nothing I'd published had even been nominated, JUKED went and announced their nominations and my flash "Framed" is on their list. I was already blown away when they accepted the flash, which is one of my favorite. So I'm especially thrilled.
I didn't know this interview with RAPPAHANNOCK REVIEW was up. They asked good questions about my digressive, dream-filled lyric essay "Octopus Dreams" and I was able to talk about The Lunatics' Ball and some of my other lyric works.
Just ran across Sarah M. Broom's essay in The Paris Review about the long process of writing her book The Yellow Room. Loved this: "The unfinished work is no less real, or necessary, or powerful than the book. How we need it, this work, these long, beautiful digressions, these surprises. May we continue to gift writers with the time for wildness. May they ramble, digress, go beyond the edges of all the known and touted maps, may they hew close to the question, to unearth the questions beyond."
Not a loss exactly, a lost chance. Nominations for BEST SMALL FICTIONS close today, and despite numerous award nominations (four Pushcarts, one Best of the Net, one Best Microfictions), I didn't get any nominations for next year's anthology at all. So I won't be getting into that one. I didn't get into last year's (despite nominations), and the year before I had two flash on the Finalist list at the back of the anthology (they don't do that any more). I'm disappointed.
The results of the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition are in and I got Honorable Mentions in Flash (for "After Dinner" and "Free Fall") and in Creative Nonfiction (for "A Eulogy, Despite," which was a Notable in Best American Essays). Since I placed in three categories the only other time I entered this contest (first place in Memoir-Vignette, second place in Creative Nonfiction, second place in Flash, all with cash awards), this doesn't feel like a lot. But I'll get to read in their grand awards ceremony in the Koret Auditorium at the San Francisco Public Library on March 22, and I haven't read from the essay or read either of those flash before.
Finally finished the 600+ page biography of Vivienne Eliot and drafted that portion of my LUNATICS' BALL chapter. I need to read up on Zelda Fitzgerald for the other portion, and I have four books from the library, and I'm wondering why I'm working on a project that requires me to read up to six books and a ton of articles before I can write a four-page chapter/flash/short essay/profile/whatever I'm calling these. (Maybe it's no more insane than my PhD dissertation that had chapters on four different authors and a literary period and myriad minor modernist writers and was also 600 pages.) This started as a potential flash chapbook and just grew and grew.
Finished reading the short story and flash submissions for CRAFT. I enjoyed it.
I haven't gotten my first rejection of 2020 yet (or acceptance, for that matter). I have far fewer submissions out there than usual. Working on THE LUNATICS' BALL has slowed my other writing. And I think I've really been impeding my progress by worrying about which LUNATICS' BALL chapters can be sent out as stand-alones, writing two versions of each. I've gotten some excellent pubs and acceptances, more than enough to suggest that the project has merit, so I don't really need to send out more. It's easier to write in a conversational voice if I assume the reader is partway through the book, instead of introducing the reader to its central premise in each new chapter. I think I'm managing it, the conversational voice, and it makes inserting memoir easier since there's already an "I" on the page..
Planning changes in my creative nonfiction workshop in Spring Semester, and I need to work up a new syllabus and get it copied for class soon. Classes start on January 21!!! But today we're enjoying the semester break by driving out to the coast.
Alyssa Jordan does a cool horoscope series at F(R)ICTION that includes recommended reading. In December, my flash “Raining Blackbirds” in GHOST PARACHUTE was recommended reading for Aries. This month, my micros “Girls in the Woods” and “After Dinner” in CRAFT are recommended reading for Taurus. Sagittarius (my sign) isn’t predicted to have a great January. (Gorgeous art below by Joana Coccarelli.)
January's been great so far, though. I've made some real progress on THE LUNATICS' BALL (a really useful discussion of voice in the last Leps meeting). I'm way behind on syllabus and class preparation for the spring semester, but I've got a week. Almost two before classes start.
I started reading fiction for CRAFT; it's time-consuming, but interesting. I think it will feel less time-consuming when I get used to it and figure out a schedule (maybe Fridays).
And I've met out of town writer friends in San Francisco: Jayne Martin for a great breakfast at Sears by Union Square (photo below signing her new book Tender Cuts), and Claire Polders and her husband Daniel Presley (for the first time), Lynn Mundell, and Dorothy Rice for a great dinner at Tomasso's in North Beach. (Tomasso's looks like someone's kitchen in the photo of Lynn, Claire, Dorothy and me below.) Steve and I are planning to drive to the coast for a crab dinner on Friday.
Love “What Happened on December 21” over at ESSAY DAILY, an “exercise in mass attention” by hundreds of writers that's been going on for days and will probably last another couple of weeks at least. Mine's up today. This time around I paid closer attention to my day than I did last June. There was nothing remarkable about the day for me, but now I have a record of it, and a strange expansive sense of many unremarkable lives unfolding simultaneously. There’s some remarkable writing in this series of accounts. Take a look. It’s not too late to contribute your own.
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.