“Name Origins” now published at Cheap Pop.

My dissertation is rigid, POV-wise, and it’s been a while since I’ve worked on a long form first person story. To compensate, these short monologues show up on my blank pages from time to time. Here is my latest one of those.

Also, related: I have never named a child. I have named two dogs, though, after American music icons. We’ve got Woody Guthrie (the bigger one) and Elmore James (the littlest).




New story out: “Miss Thailand Country Band”

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:

Thai Cover Band

New Story in REDIVIDER 14.2

This one, “Next to Godliness” is a flash story that came from a prompt from my Fall 2016 fiction workshop at Georgia State [Write a story that takes a saying literally and use it for the premise of a story].

I think I must have submitted at least 20 stories to this magazine before they finally took one. Writing ain’t nothing if it ain’t persistence.

Kimmel Harding Nelson Residency


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.

A Good Reminder

The inner itch to “just do it” is the artist’s compass.

Although as artists we make maps, we seldom find them. An artistic career does not resemble the linear step-by-step climb of a banker’s career trajectory.  Art is not linear, and neither is the artist’s life. There are no certain routes. You do not become a novelist by moving from A to B to C.

Julia Cameron, Walking in this World

The reward is in the making of the thing.  Do it for that.


S for Sentence

Check out this paragraph I wrote about a Faulkner sentence. I won’t tell you how long it took me to write it, but I will say that it may be the longest time I’ve ever spent on a paragraph.

S for Sentence is a cool website where writers choose sentences to reflect upon in a short paragraph. There are a lot of cool sentences out there and on the website.

(Have a ever mentioned that I’m related to W. Faulkner? He is my great-grandmother’s cousin.  That doesn’t make his sentences any easier to write about…)

Revision Tips

I really enjoyed these from author Karen E Bender at the Story Prize blog.  #10 resonated with me the most:

Remember that revision is a process and happens in stages. The first stage, you may be trying to find out what the story is about. Then you may develop scenes, layer characters. Later, you may compress scenes/characters. Then you may work on pacing. A late revision focuses on clarity and language. You may work on any of these issues during the process, but try not to get too focused on honing the language too early, as you may not know what will remain in the story. As one writer I know says, “Writing a story is like building a boat. I don’t want to spend too much time intricately painting a hatch when I don’t know if the boat even has a rudder.”

My writing tip in general: Remember that writing takes up a lot of time.

The Seaside Writers Conference

seasideWe all know about Tin House, Sewanee, Yaddo, the Vermont Studio, and the FAWC (which I get to attend in June! Woot!), and some of us, like me a few months ago, set our sights on those places for our summers and forget about the smaller, newer and lesser known summer writing conferences and retreats.

I just got back from the Seaside Writers Conference, which was my week out with a  group of writers who workshopped stories, attended readings, and hung at the beach together. These writers were fun and helpful and not competitive, which was maybe my favorite part. The FL Gulf beach at Seaside, which also happens to be the set of The Truman Show, was beautiful enough to make me feel that twinge of “I can’t believe I get to do this” and “Why isn’t everyone here?” from time to time.

I have been writing for a decade and a half, but it hasn’t occurred to me until lately to do this kind of writer’s retreat.  I have been out of school for a couple of years and I thought I was done with workshop, as a thing, but I learned more in this week than I have in certain semesters. This is probably thanks to Matt Bondurant, who led us through each other’s stories with the right amount of tough, encouraging, and helpful feedback we all hope to get on our work.

I also got to learn how to pitch a book at a New York agent, an intimidating experience that has now been de-mystified.  Poets got to study with Seth Brady Tucker for the week, and I attended his flash-fiction talk one morning.  Like Bondurant, he is also a tremendous instructor and worth the trip.

I’m curious if any of you writers have had your own great summer writing experience somewhere else.  I can’t recommend this one enough.