May ’15 Meto-News: New Publication in Timber, Vol. 5

Timber - image

I am happy to share with you the publication of my short story, “Revival”, in Timber, Vol. 5. This piece is yet another of the upcoming—nearly there—Southern story collection I began working on in earnest during the final phase of my MFA in 2013.

I so appreciate finding this story looking pretty on page 1, because its road to publication was sort of remarkable as submission experiences go. And a word of caution before you click through the link above or below (yes, twice, because I know you’re going to read it), “Revival” is the most experimental piece I have ever written, seeming to provoke quite strong reactions, both positive and uncomfortable.

From the beginning, “Revival” muscled its way into a voice I have not used before or elsewhere. As a mytho-memoiric study, the piece was planned. I knew what I was going to write. I knew the imagery I wanted to bend and expand—magical realism felt right for such strong and gothically dark statements. I also wanted to try, at least dryly, subtly, to include the bits I found so funny about this composite of memories and fictions.

That’s generally my process—I like to dream, to think, to know, to outline, to follow my plan. But once in a while a story utterly surprises me. This story was a huge surprise and became more surprising as I wrote it. Not only was it emerging as a piece of magical realism, but as a piece of syntactical experimentation.

After it was done, I had no interest in revising the story’s kinky relationship with syntax and voice. I knew that I needed to find a home for “Revival” where it would be appreciated, where it might be read with an open mind. I figured, lots of places publish highly experimental pieces. Granted, there is a bit of a temporal style signature to what passes as experimental literature, and maybe this story isn’t trendy so much as it is an individual. Still, I figure, editors are writers, too, and someone will read it all the way through and realize it really does work in its crazy multiple persona-ed voice.

But when I sent it out the first couple of times, not only was it rejected, but so spectacularly rejected that it caused the only actual submission uproar I’ve ever experienced. The first journal (to return it) sent it back the very next day with a note: “This story is nothing we could use. You should read our journal before submitting.” What? I know it wasn’t the Southern feel, they had printed other such stories. I know it wasn’t the magical realism, same there—I read journals carefully before submitting. Always. So it was the syntax. Yikes. I’m pretty chill about rejections, but I’d never gotten a personalized kiss off before.

The next place? Worse. First, I again received an almost immediate rejection and it, too, was personalized: “We appreciate the esoteric nature of pronouns, but really think this story’s pronouns are too esoteric for us. We imagine you examining this story again and submitting it elsewhere.” I’m guessing they’d only read the first page and mistakenly figured I didn’t know the pronouns were radically fancy. I decided to wait on submitting this story until I could find the perfect place, somewhere the editors, you know, read stories all the way through.

Then, nearly two months later, I got a separate rejection from the same place. I am not making this up. The second rejection was from a different editor whose note was just as personal, but way better: “The language is eloquent and compelling. The story is complex. I’m sorry we’re deciding against it.” Whoever wrote those words to me—I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Those words renewed my quest to find “Revival” a home. After that, I was like Eldad with a stray puppy.

Researching much, much harder, not only reading back issues of journals, but poring over editors’ interviews and mission statements, I found Timber. Folks, when they say innovative literature, they mean it. I am thrilled with this edition and with my story in its new home. The experience has been lovely and stress free.

Thank you to Loie Merritt and the Timber editors and staff. Welcome home, “Revival”. And you guys? CLICK HERE to read it. Syntax purists, you’ve been warned.

Posted in bad advice, creative process, creative writing, creativity, Encouragement, Experimental Literature, Experimental Prose, fiction, Literary Journals, process, Publications, short story, submitting, Timber Journal, writers, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

April Throwback Thursday: A Storybook

cat didn't care pnt 15

Of all the lame social media/facebook trends out there to which I wish I wouldn’t succumb (“What Avengers Character are you? Let’s Play!”), I admit there is one I actually like and even value.

Throwback Thursdays have given me the opportunity to dig through old photos, reread announcements from family and friends, and I love seeing into the past through everyone else’s eyes.

So I thought I might bring a once-in-a-while TBT right here.

Here’s my throw and how far back it goes: 2000-2001. I was working with young children. We were in the middle of studying about farms when my kids, knowing my soft spots, begged me to write them a story about a farmer who has a family and some pets.

Now, had this happened more recently, I’m positive I would have explained to them that if the farmer has a family, then the farmer’s partner is also a farmer. But, this was a while ago, and I suppose it’s good to see how much my ability to realize these sorts of glaring oversights has improved.

I wrote them their story, drew the pictures, and put it all away. I did send a copy to a beloved niece who was still little at that time. Funny thing is, I found this all recently while looking for pictures of stars (my filing system is weird) and was completely gobsmacked when I saw that I had drawn my own daughter years before she was born. That’s her little, round face and the half undone braid I perpetually tried to re-braid for the first five years of her life. Also, that can only be her middle of the night operatic yoo-hoo. How’d I know? I guess this is a bit like a belated Mothers’ Day blog, in a way, since it is a memory of predicting so much that I’ve actually lived in the last ten years.

And the dog? We wound up with Booger, too. Different color, same silly grin.

So here is my first blogged TBT. Picture heavy and so un-me these days. I was toying with all things cartoon when I drew these and in love with innovations in children’s literature.

Also, clearly I was in need of a paradigm update. But then, that’s the -back part, right? What I love about it is the serendipitous clairvoyance of the imagery. Now, if I can just find myself that farm, though, naturally, I will not leave the cat in the yard. Or the dog, either…makes me wonder what I’m currently guessing correctly (and not so much) about the years to come.

A Mouse Ran Home Through the Forest

mouse  paint 1

bear paint 2 bear river paint 3 bear fish paint 4fish moon paint 5 goose 6 goose mountain paint 7 goose on wolf  paint 8 wolf on hill paint 9 wolf in wind paint 10 wind to valley paint 11 woke the dog paint 12 dog in the yard pnt 13 dog barking  pnt 14 cat didn't care pnt 15 cat scratched pnt 16 hinges pnt 17 woke the child pnt 18 child sat up pnt 19 called pnt 20 mother and father pnt 21 cat in pnt 22 curled up pnt 23 dreamed pnt 24mouse  paint 1

Posted in art, artist, awareness, bears, children's literature, creative process, creativity, family, imagery, memories, motherhood, painting, parenting, stories, storybook, Throwback Thursday, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Goddard Blog: rawboned in the News

“Skinny Little Thing”/collage, acrylic on cardboard

Check out the Goddard Blog, here, for a great overview/interview/write up of our rawboned staff in its current configuration: Ginna Luck, who I think of as our soul-bearer of beauty and the aesthetic ideal. bevin, who is the persona of poetry–a living metonymy for art. Our boss, Trisha Winn, who is strength, vision, talent, and sheer will. Then there is me, who loves words like a smitten fool and who likes to work. Of course, I had to take the forum to wave my art flag high. Here’s an excerpt from my blurb (though you can just click through and read the whole thing):

I have read a lot of opinion pieces lately that suggest there are a glut of writing programs, a glut of writers (implying, therefore, a glut of people who only think they are writers), a glut of small literary journals, a glut of art that isn’t Art, of letters that are not Canon […] There is a glut of violence, a glut of racism, a glut of poverty, a glut of selfishness, a glut of cultural and personal narcissism, a glut of entitlement, a glut of apathy, a glut of nihilism, a glut of viruses and antibiotic resistant bacteria, a glut of cancer, a glut of exclusionary thinking, a glut of positionism in the arts, as in, a glut of individuals who proclaim their position in the arts community entitles them to exclude, to insult, to belittle, to disregard, to disenfranchise.”

I realize now that may have sounded a bit combative.  I’m not combative, but I do feel certain about a few things. Also, my fires have been burning pretty hot lately in defense of the unshown artist, the untenured academic, the unbooked writer. And because fences stink at unifying communities, I think it’s important to go on supporting those very people when they eventually do get shown, tenured, all booked up. Then, the artists who  experience platform success can meaningfully support others, in turn. More art gets made, supported, and seen. That’s a beautiful cycle.

goddard collegeClick through to the article, take a look around the Goddard blog. They’ve posted many articles and resources you’ll love.

And while you’re at it, waste some time on the net today to look for an artist or a writer who isn’t a known deal, but who should be. Know them. See there? You just solved a problem in the arts.

Obscurity and renown are growing more and more obsolete. I wonder what comes next? I’m ready for whatever it is.

"read raw bones"/imaginary art supplies

Posted in art, artist, blogs, creative writing, flash fiction, Goddard, Literary Journals, MFA, nonfiction, online journals, opinions, Publications, rawboned, writers, writing, writing community | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

May ’15 Prompt-a-thon: Quantum Fiction

“Mars”, by Liv/watercolor on paper

Here I go, on a nerd voyage. But there is a literary ending, so all will be well.

Just to preface, if you haven’t been reading along and don’t know it yet, I am a huge lover of all things sky: space, owls, clouds, the nigh vista. Sci-fi and moon missions were my dream parents. So, now, here is a way to share that love with you, once again.

Do you enjoy the various and truly entertaining theories that have threatened to unify sci-fi and physics? If not, you probably still have a good notion what I mean. After all, Neil deGrasse Tyson has become a pop culture icon precisely because of his ability to freestyle quantum theory and sci-fi fandom into a kind of thinkable dance mix.

My favorite theories? I am enamored with ideas about the universe as a hologram or (largely because I’m too physics illiterate to understand in entirety the difference) the crazy theory about the universe being a computer simulation—actually, more accurately, a simulation of a simulation.

“Only Sky”/marker on vellum

I love this stuff, but even if you are not a sci-fi fan (which I am), or a writer of sci-fi (which I’m not, btw, because, wow, are genres ever the unloved child of the literary family), or a physics aficionado, speculative fiction and magical realism are both red hot and calling.  Answer the call with these realism-grounded yet theory-induced prompts.


Read about the hologram and computer simulated universe here, here, and here.

Now, having steeped yourself in the wow, envision a character, or use a character you’re developing in a different story, who is suddenly struck with the insight that, yes, in fact, we are living in a simulation.

  1. Your character learns to hack the universal rules. Why not? It’s all a program. Write up to 500 words.
  2. Your character sends information to the programmers, or believes so. Your story will either depict a person falling into a well of delusion, a person discovering the means by which to alter the course of events in orchestration with their messages (or counter to…), or will ambiguously infer something more nuanced. Write up to 1000 words.
  3. Your character realizes that reality is a sham, a subroutine of a subroutine. This character maybe has a job to hate on, maybe a relationship tugging in all the wrong directions, maybe family doing what families do in stories (going overboard with the drama, the pressure, the ennui). What does this character do with the information that none of this is real? Does your character party like it’s 1999? Or…? Write up to 1200 words.

See, that’s always a great formula: Read up. Get drenched in the weird. Write about it.

“I’d Jump. Would you?”/watercolor on paper

Posted in art, cosmology, creative process, creative writing, fiction, flash fiction, inspiration, physics, quantum physics, sci-fi, short stories, space, stories, writers, writing, Writing prompts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Meto-friendly news: rawboned live!

April rawboned is live! Congratulations to Trisha Winn, who decided to poke the bear and encourage others to do the same. I like bears, but this one will take its lumps for the sake of excellent reading. So how do you get to this new issue of rawboned, the small and mighty mag? Click right here.  When Trisha opens submissions, I’ll update here. Check back! Or check rawboned. Just check and then submit your flash lit.

Posted in flash fiction, microwriting, nonfiction, online journals, Poetry, Publications, rawboned, submitting, writers, writing, writing community | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meto-News, April ’15: Moon City Review Arrives!

Cover art,

Cover art, “Angel Song in Shawl”, by Steve Willis

I am happy to present my short piece, “Drafts”, in this spring’s Moon City Review, 2015.

“Drafts” is another from the collection that includes “The Problems of Odessa” (REED/ John Steinbeck Fiction Award, 2014), “House of Broken Dishes” (reDivider/Beacon Street Prize, 2013), “My Grandmother, Lily, Says a Few Words about Brooding” (Clockhouse), and “Peaches for Jesus” (Concho River Review). As the collection comes together and finds first shelter in various lovely places, I’m getting sort of happy with it. I still suffer from what my former-but-forever advisor, Bea Gates, calls the whim whams, so some days I’m all frowning doubt. Overall, though, it’s been a journey of benefits. The final stretch is so close…got to keep my eyes on the words not the feels: Still in progress, trust the flipping process, Shel.

Concerning “Drafts”, I’m super stoked about this particular piece in this particular magazine. First of all, Moon City Review is phenomenal. If you have not ever had the pleasure of picking up a copy, click right here and take care of that oversight right now. And then check out Moon City Press for some fresh and worthy ink.

Also, as a writer collecting writerly experiences with editors at lit mags, I have to send some love to the folks at MCR who made this an easy, cordial experience. The editor, Michael Czyzniejewski, (hey! meet his new book, I Will Love You for the Rest of My Life) proved that you can be professional but still totally personable when putting together good reads. In fact, it was through this experience I had opportunity to interview Julia Strayer for Smokelong Quarterly (another favorite place) about her story, “Let’s Say”, which went on to be included in Queen Ferry Press’ Best Small Fiction Anthology. Go, Julia! I told you at the time it was an amazing story (here, easy links to her story and our interview, on me). So, for the record, Moon City Review treats readers and writers the way we all imagine it should be.

I'm in there. Let me pause and say, that's so cool.

Contributor lists are such the good idea.

Next on the list of good, the issue itself makes me happy. It’s big, bold, and the stories—though I’ve only just started reading—punch the page. A fellow contributor posted to facebook saying he’d taken a shortcut through the issue by reading the first two lines of everything. I might just copy his strategy while I’m parsing story and poem time over the next few days.

The funniest part of this experience? My ten year old offering commentary on the cover art. So far, her mom’s and dad’s writing appearing in print is still largely a matter of cover aesthetics and paper quality. She’s a natural critic, clearly, but she’s only ever read one of my stories (“Brooding”—huge mistake, dead chickens = crying child). Sharing my creative work with my daughter—there’s a future threshold with some interesting geometry, but it’s not here today. Today, I have nothing but woot!

Thank you to Moon City Review and to my friends and blog friends who woot with me.

Look at the postcard goodies they sent!

Look at the postcard goodies they sent!

Posted in creative writing, fiction, flash fiction, Literary Journals, Publications, short stories, stories, writers, writing, writing community | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Erasure Time

Working the words.

Working the words.

I’ve been erasing again.

I am back on the Henry Van Dyke project pretty much every day, working steadily while also shaping the final projects in a short collection that began as my MFA thesis.

On the whole, I have decided the best thing for the erasures in the primary source material I’m working from is to find a different way into the world (fall ’15, I have two erasures coming out in a publication so gorgeous just thinking about it is freaking me happily out, but this is only spring ’15, so I hate to over-hint). Meanwhile, I’m delving into other old books to make something I can share here.

Though I’m open to any source, it happens that Henry Van Dyke was a prolific, wonderfully expressive writer with a love of rich, textural metaphor, which equals lots of raw lexical material. It also happens that his books are tumbling into library and thrift sales along with paisley bedspreads and wall sized gods’ eyes fashioned from acrylic yarn. It seems HVD had a bit of a revival in the 1970s, and as the last of the avocado colored cast iron is cast off, so are the last copies of Henry’s books. I love them all and have acquired a bit of a collection.


Henry Van Dyke: My Last Century Crush.

Henry Van Dyke: My Last Century Crush.

The Ruling Passion (1901), is a book of HVD’s stories that would be rather naturalist if not for their moralistic tighty-pants. The syntax and visual vividness is somewhat limited for Henry, but on most pages, he offers just enough for me to work with.

I’m talking about Henry familiarly because I adore him. Actually, the question I am most often asked about erasure work is, simply, why does it take so long to finish a few small poems? Well, other than that I’m a sorry multitasker and very slow in general, there are some inherent reasons to slow down and de-slam this form.

A few slow facts about erasure art:

I make decisions pretty quickly. The problem is that I then make more of them...

I make decisions pretty quickly, but then I make more of them…

Every page of prose has multiple hidden poems. Being a Libra, I struggle with the multiple part.

Every page doesn’t have a good poem on it. There are some pages in almost every major literary work I’ve looked through (and I’ve looked through lots and lots of the greats—imagining what I WOULD do) that seem to be comprised of prepositions, articles, conjunctions, and commas. Sometimes I just settle on spelling things out or, if I can’t put together the words I want most, I might find one or two lovely words and just circle them. There now, not a “poem”, but poetic.

No going back.

No going back.

The books are fragile. I paint. It’s my form. I could buy a trunk load of pretty pencils and crayons and pastels, and I’d enjoy that. But in the end, I find a way to cover everything with paint.

I’m like this with sriracha sauce–it goes on everything I eat. So when I art, I have to paint. I have to get the pages wet. Think about that. The pages have to get wet. This is 100 year old paper. And glue. And thread bindings. Wet. Careful now, easy does it.

The poems an erasure artist writes are real poems–from intricate to minimalist. Only, and here’s the catch, the erasure poet cannot redraft. It’s inked, and then it’s done. I’m not rushing into anything.

Now I can really see what will happen next.

Now I can really see what will happen next.

This work has to strike a certain note with me or it’s not worth the labor. The note is not something I can describe. But it has to ring true.

The work part.

The work part.

The paintings have to be worth looking at. I like the blackout poetry I’ve seen wherein someone circles something like “Live fully” and then spray paints the paper around it. It’s really cool. But that’s not this. I have to want to paint the picture. I have many erasures written that haven’t been painted yet.

Love/wake and/hear if you will/the Moon calls/from a thicket of dead trees.

Love/wake and/hear if you will/the Moon calls/from a thicket of dead trees.

I think this one is rather haiku-like and I imagine many from this particular source book might share this quality. Hey, so that’s something to keep in mind when writing anything in any form: Dimensional resonance is a structure created by the lexicon, not the intentions or even the plot of a piece. Seems obvious, but when do we think of it like that? So how many levels does your language access? Yeah, get all metaphorical and abstract on that and maybe the revision fairies will visit your dreams tonight.

Sweet and inky sleep, all.

Posted in art, artist, creative process, creative writing, creativity, erasures, Henry Van Dyke, inspiration, painting, Poetry, process, writers, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment