Jon Sindell curated a wonderful reading on the theme of fatherhood as part of the Rolling Writers Series. I read a piece excerpted from my essay "Traces of a Life" in KESTREL. I've always wanted to read the last paragraph of the piece and was glad to have the opportunity. The essay, and the photo of my father that I provided, have made me sad for the last few weeks, though. He looks so happy and hopeful in the picture!
Here we are at the Rolling-Out Cafe after the reading. Top row of the group photo: Jon Sindell, Bonnie McManis, Michael Alenyikov, Gary Singh, Richelle Slota. Bottom row: musician Michael Crabtree, Sandra Wassilie, Kathleen McClung, Kalpana Mohan, me, Kathy Wall. The room was packed, more than are visible in the photo. We got the last two seats and latecomers had to sit upstairs.
I've been down on my work lately, and I didn't expect this acceptance. I was astonished and thrilled to open my email this morning and discover that LITTLE FICTION, BIG TRUTHS will be publishing my flash "Sooner or Later" in their special Flash Fiction Issue next summer. I love the magazine, and was so happy to appear in their special Flash Nonfiction issue last summer.
Not sure why I've been feeling so down. Not much to send out, for one thing, and a pretty short list of essays and flash out under submission on Submittable, for me at least. I got rid of some dead wood, cut one flash in half that's been getting tons of rejections (and the shorter version was just rejected yesterday). Days and days go by where I don't write. The LUNATICS' BALL writing seems to require so much preparation and research (I'm overwhelmed by facts). Reading other people's work has come to dominate my days: student exercises and essays, short story and flash submissions for CRAFT, submissions in my writing groups, long biographies for the LUNATICS' BALL. This week we have too many submissions in my San Francisco group so I volunteered to postpone the two flash I wanted to do. And now I'm disgruntled and depressed about it, even though I volunteered. (Maybe because only one member said thank you.)
LITTLE FICTION, BIG TRUTHS. A dream journal (I could hardly believe I got in there the first time, and then that they nominated me for a Pushcart). A totally unexpected blessing.
I'd also forgotten that Jane Ciabattari nominated me for a Pushcart. Yesterday I got a letter in the mail from the Pushcart people, asking me to select up to three pieces to send to them for consideration. Even though I know I won't get into the anthology, it's still a thrill.
Pleased to see my three-part flash sequence "Johnsy Seen Her Too" in the new issue of CRACK THE SPINE (click on my name in the table of contents).
This garnered some rejections as a micro (just the first section) and I wondered whether it was because the narrator is so misogynist. So I decided to redo it as three sections, adding two women's voices. Before I could send out that version, CRACK THE SPINE accepted the micro. (Of course!) I sent the new version to them just in case they preferred it,, and the editor-in-chief Kerri Farrell Foley agreed to accept that one. I'm still not completely sure which version I prefer.
It's my first time in CRACK THE SPINE, which has published many authors whose work I love—among them, Kim Magowan, Claire Polders, Minyoung Lee, Christina Dalcher, Sara Siddiqui Chansarker, Madeline Anthes, Sarah Broussard Weaver, and Jan Elman Stout.
I was really excited to be included in the stellar Flash Nonfiction issue of LITTLE FICTION BIG TRUTHS last summer. And gratified that my piece, “The Arithmetic Memory,” made their TOP TEN MOST READ list. LITTLE FICTION/BIG TRUTHS asked some of their contributors to put together TOP TEN FOR 2019 lists and they’re up today. I wrote mine before Australia was burning and before a lot of environmental roundups in the newspapers might have provided even more facts and dramatic evidence. When I sat down to write it felt like a lot was disappearing in 2019.
Each weekend a different editor at ATTICUS REVIEW writes a letter. Today's by the creative nonfiction editor Chauna Craig has me thinking about the hope necessary to sustain a longer project. I regret abandoning my essay collection DO-IT-YOURSELF NIGHT when it was just about finished. I kept thinking I needed a stronger arc and ending, and started THE LUNATICS' BALL thinking it would be a flash chapbook (ha!) that I could complete as a distraction. Here's what Chauna Craig says about hope:
"In my morning reading I came across this quotation from writer and revolutionary Vaclav Havel: 'Hope is not a feeling. It is not the belief that things will turn out well, but the conviction that what we are doing makes sense, no matter how things turn out.' I paused. I printed those lines into a journal. I pondered. A conviction is something much more lasting than a feeling, and Havel reminds us that hope is less a look to the future than a deep grounding in the present, the affirmation that what we are (currently) doing makes sense, no matter how things turn out. When I examine my own writing life through this frame of hope, I see how much — to the detriment of my own joy — I still tend to value product over process and give too much weight to external evaluation. I’ve set aside difficult and complicated writing projects, telling myself they just need to rest. Rest is generally good, but some of my projects have gone Rip Van Winkle on me, stirring again long after the cultural moment has changed. The more that happens, the more I succumb to the belief that the current project will go the same way, that I’m not capable of really finishing, that I’m only wasting my time and energy if I don’t. The opposite of hope."
It's hard not to overvalue external evaluation, and the brief thrill of having something published and acknowledged by editors and readers on social media. It's hard to maintain the belief that what I'm working on "makes sense, no matter how things turn out." THE LUNATICS' BALL keeps growing instead of neatly cohering, but the process of discovery makes some kind of sense to me. I hope I can maintain that process.
Literary journals can only nominate a handful of flash for BEST SMALL FICTIONS. I guess individuals can too (as they can for Pushcarts: this year Jane Ciabbatari nominated me for a Pushcart and I don't know how that works either). Tom Gumbert just announced his list of nominees on twitter, nineteen of them, and I'm thrilled to be one. Already excited that JUKED nominated me for BEST SMALL FICTIONS, because JUKED is so good, and it's also a flash I like a lot. I don't know whether there's a particular flash associated with Tom Gumbert's nomination (surprisingly many authors I don't know, but Amy Stuber and Leonora Desar are on the list, and I love their work).
I would really like to get into BEST SMALL FICTIONS 2020.
Managed to get through my first week of teaching. A great group of students in my creative nonfiction workshop. It's taxing!
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.