Meto-news: Smokelong Interview with Zach VandeZande

A much needed step toward some happy shares to come, please enjoy my all-in-the-spirit-of-angelic-fun interview with writer, Zach VandeZande, currently up in the new issue of Smokelong Quarterly.

A shout out in thanks to Mike Czyzniejewski, Smokelong’s interview editor, for letting me in on this gig. This is my third interview with SLQ, and it’s always a pleasure. The approach they take to the interview allows everybody to have some cheeky fun, framing the writer through the lens of their work. Sensible, really, since it is through a given piece a journal reader feels connected to a particular writer. Also, it’s nice to be given some freedom and a license to enjoy yourself when talking to someone new. As an extroverted introvert, I thrive under those working conditions, a feeling I hope shows in the interview. Zach was certainly a lot of fun to talk with through text. And like I always say, I love talking to writing people about writing.

Keep in mind, SLQ interviews every single writer they publish. This is issue #53. The math, people–that’s a bunch of writers talking about writing, which has to be a score for good.

Check out Zach’s excellent piece of magical realism here and our interview here, in case you didn’t take the bait already.

Smokelong Quarterly Issue 53

Smokelong Quarterly Issue 53

Posted in fiction, flash fiction, humor, online journals, process, Smokelong Quarterly, writers, writing, writing community | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

For my father-in-law, Downer


Mostly, I have written here about writing. But sometimes,  in a life of writing, things happen and then there is no way forward but through. Downer, I wrote this for you a long time ago.  Now I imagine I read it to you and you liked it. Or maybe you explained to me how pine cones are really nothing like desert arroyos. papa-gardens-with-liv-effectYou probably blushed and groaned–things like poems about you embarrassed you miserably, which is why I never read it to you. The closest I ever came was saying once, “Hey, Pop, you know I wrote a poem about you one time.” You pretended to be looking out the window at something that suddenly needed doing. Okay, later, Pop. Livy used to say, “Oh, Downer, my Downer.” And then she’d take your face in her hands, and you would make silly faces until she laughed or squished your cheeks, still saying, “Oh, my Downer.” Downer, always.


Papa knows all about pine cones/about their bowered nests that scratch/at the sky like cheek whiskers

Papa knows about their fall into hiding/where they wait for fire to burn them/free, where they wait for snow/to kindle their physics, where/children may find them/heaped in pirate caches

He can unwind stories of their/winding trails through/masonically secretive chambers/spiraled as tombs of warrior kings/who lay undisturbed under desert arroyos/dressed in armor, wearing masks, holding swords

Papa says, There are more rooms in the kingdoms/of a pinecone/than in all saltbox subdivisions/stacked rooftop to rooftop, folded in ways/the world will appear when/all heaves over again to mountains/and mountains are pierced

by the swords of seeds




Posted in family, Grief, grieving, loss, love, memories, nature, parenting, poem, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Returning from the Ghost Pile


Tree of Stars/acrylic on gloss plate-visual erasure.  "The future enters into us, in order to transform itself..."  --Rainer Maria Rilke

Tree of Stars/acrylic on gloss plate-visual erasure.
“The future enters into us, in order to transform itself…” Rainer Maria Rilke

I’ve been away for a long time. What makes that absence kind of strange is that I have a pile of writing, and specifically blog posts–those essaying conversations–never to see the light of day. I wrote them, but didn’t post them, instead creating a kind of ghost file/pile on my desktop.

I can explain, but the narrative of that explanation wouldn’t be particularly interesting. Life and its components—time, energy, and material demands obliging the use of time and energy—can place many seemingly essential pursuits squarely beside the point, negotiable as ballast.  That right there is probably more than enough information about what could take someone who loves their blog like a piece of chocolate cake away from posting for more than a year.

And I do love my blog, cakishly. I love the galleries, the comments, the assortments of photos and art pieces I’ve made for metopen. I appreciated (maybe not enough) how each post would drive me to create something new, both written and visual.

So I’m returning, or rather my blog is returning.  Please consider the missing months more of an interregnum than a lapse, during which time I have come into possession of a new set of experiences and reflections to feed the keys. Metopen is back from the ghost pile just in time for the lovely, long dark of fall.

Posted in blogs, creative process, creative writing, demiurge, erasures, inspiration, process, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 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