Carolina Quartly has published my story, “Ready for Glory,” on their website this week. This is the first I’ve published from an ongoing project I’ve been working on as part of my Ph.D, which is to “adapt” (I put quotes because I’m still trying to figure out what that means) the stories in James Joyce’s DUBLINERS to stories about present day Detroit.
It’s exciting to have “Ready for Glory” out first, because it is based on the first story in Dubliners, “The Sisters.” Take a look if you wanna.
The second story, based on “The Encounter” has also already found a home. News about that is coming soon.
The first few were easiest because they are about childhood, something I love to write about, and because they are in first person. As the project progresses, it gets trickier, but I’m also embarking on the challenges that have drawn me to the project in the first place: to learn how Joyce uses point of view. With every story, I’ve been enjoying finding parallels with early 20th century Dublin and early 21st century Detroit. There are more than I’d imagined.
The last story from my MA thesis (2010) from Miami of Ohio has found a home! It’s based loosely on some experiences I had playing in a cover band on Khao San Road in Bangkok.
You can read “Miss Thailand Country Band” in the latest issue of UNT’s American Literary Review, which also features work by their contest winners and a pretty awesome photo gallery. My friend Raina has a n essay in there too. Check it out.
While you’re at it, enjoy this photo of me singing in a Thai cover band:
For the last two weeks, I’ve had the pleasure and honor of finishing a novel draft at this arts center in Nebraska City. I wrote more in May than I’ve ever written in my life, but a huge portion of that productivity happened in my writing studio at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts.
I also had a great roommate, a photographer from Montana, who was fun to talk and cook with after our work days. The residency houses five artists at a time, and so I shared the facility with three fiction writers, a composer, a painter, and that photographer I just mentioned.
The arts center gives a stipend for food and the grocery stores are real close (I like to cook as part of my creative process–there is nothing like working through a scene while chopping vegetables for a stir fry). Nebraska City is also where Arbor Day began, close to the Missouri River, and so the area around the center was green and life giving around this time of year.
Residents are allowed to check books out at the library. I was impressed at how expansive that library was–I had a specific book in mind to read (The Blood of Emmett Till), and found it in their new selection area as soon as I walked in the door. Also, it was a nice place to go jogging in the mornings.
After I finished writing the novel draft, I took day trips to Lincoln and Omaha, both of which were an hour away from Nebraska City, but really easy to get to (just one straight road from town to each city).
Follow this link for more information about how to apply to the residency.
After about a month of training, I am two days away from my first 5k race. I don’t remember what inspired me to start, but I am encouraged to know that for many writers, distance running is a part of their creative process. Nick Ripatrazone explores the phenomenon in November’s Atlantic article, “Why Writers Run.” Joyce Carol Oates, for instance, “eases writer’s block with an afternoon run.” Haruki Murakami says he “became a serious writer, ‘the day [he] first went jogging.'” I’ve only just started, but I can see the connection: it involves the same clock-checking doom (it’s better done without checking a clock); it’s got the same accomplishment relief/joy of putting pages and hours into a novel.
One thing I enjoy about introducing running into my writing life is that it dispels the myth I once believed of the unhealthy genius. In the past, my understanding of a serious writer involved a hungover, cranky artist enclosed in a small workspace, escaping to a porch or balcony to smoke through sticky sentences or plot points. Cigarette breaks were my writing process but these days, I’m able to work for longer durations without the help of any sort of substance. It took me a long while to get here, and some days are better than others (God, I miss smoking sometimes), but it’s the best way for me to persist on what I like to call “the horrible uphill climb of writing a first book.” Literally running up hills somehow equips us for literary hills, if I may drop some cheesy wordplay onto this blogpost. Pushing through discomfort and discouragement–that’s probably the thing that separates the real writers from the wannabes. Not publications, but persistence.
They can be such haters, as is proven by this “35 Author on Author Put-Downs” from ShortList.com
My favorite is:
Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.
~Mary McCarthy about Lillian Hellman
Most of the time, writing requires a lot of chugging along, and a lot of resistance towards hating other people. Especially people who do well in the field. It’s because we have this illusion that when other people get things, those things must have fallen in their laps without any effort. Of course we know deep down this isn’t true (more likely, we resent the fact that we haven’t made the time to work as hard as other people), but this ridiculous idea translates into our own entitlement and prohibits us from enjoying other people’s work. Even when that work is really, really good.
In a recent article from Poets and Writers, Steve Almond tells the truth about how jaded we’ve become as writers.
…entitlement is the enemy of artistic progress, which requires patience and gratitude and, above all, humility. You don’t grow as a writer by writing off other people’s efforts. You grow as a writer by respecting the process.
The more we write, the more we understand how hard that process actually is. The more we write, the harder it is to write. It’s so easy to get discouraged, and discouragement makes it hard to appreciate what other people are writing.
(I’m speaking for myself, anyway.)
Let’s just acknowledge that we’re discouraged and try not to take it out on other people.
Grace and peace to you, other hardworking writers…
I’ve been listening to and enjoying a lot of New Yorker fiction podcasts lately. If you aren’t familiar with them, they work like this: an author who was published in the New Yorker at some point reads and discusses another author’s story, which was also published in the New Yorker at some point. Editor Deborah Treisman conducts wonderful interviews at the end of the stories. Most run about 30 minutes, which makes them great for dog walks or housework, or short commutes. For me, these have been a post-MFA staple.
I’m sharing this one, where Jennifer Egan reads Mary Gaitskill’s story, “The Other Place,” because I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m a big fan of Egan, ever since she came to Tallahassee and I heard her discuss her writing process, which was to write out the entire novel by hand on legal pads and then craft it while she typed it up. I’ve tried this. It doesn’t work for me at all, but I love the idea. Listening to her, though, makes the writing life seem “possible,” and that is always refreshing.
The story she reads forces the reader into dark and ugly spaces (surprise! if you are familiar with Gaitskill at all…), but it does so with a wild amount of understanding and compassion. Let me use the word “masterful” when I describe this story. And Egan’s insights are smart.
Here are some other stories/discussions I love:
Boyle Reading Barthelme
Erdich reading Oates
Oates reading Ozick
I made this when I was teaching students how to approach reading in a literature class that focused on the short story.
I am not usually a visual person, but more of an audio learner (charts make me queasy). That said, the essence of this “map” is that it starts by looking at the story in the broadest sense and moves down to the narrower, more detailed aspects of the story. It moves from genre to structure to language.
By posting it here, I suppose I am asking what it leaves out. Should a discussion-based literature course examine a story in a more encompassing and maybe effective way?
This is how I tend to read. How do you read? How do you teach your students to read?
I’ve loved the stuff they publish at Hobart for a long time, so I’m super excited to be a part of their work today. You can read my story, “Final Warning,” on their website.