Monday, February 28, 2011


…I have two new things, "Where Are You?" at Wufikniks and "Written In Stone" at decomP. Both are also here under "Words In Print."

…Lots of talk and tweeting about the Oscars. I thought all of the stars looked pretty and handsome. A few tried too hard to be witty, but it's difficult to know what that'd be like, standing in front of a couple thousand superstars. Melissa Leo from "The Fighter" really caught me off guard. She was so attractive, whereas in the film she was…not. Not at all. I think it was an accident, her dropping the F bomb. Her banter with Kirk Douglas was very dear. And I loved how the crowd was so respectiful to Kirk and his disability.

…xTx's book, "Normally Special" finally showed up in the mail Saturday. (And also a beautifully bound version of PANK 5.) I'd read most of the stories in xTx's collection before. Aside from the things anyone else would logically say about her work, what I notice now is how important the concept of cadence plays in so many of the pieces. Some of the writings are tiny with a punch, as flash should be, and it's the lilt of the phrasing that makes them that much more powerful, lyrical and necessary. She's quite a talent that one.

…I've been queried by a few different people/magazines, so I have some writing projects today. I love it when someone asks me to write for them. It feels humbling. Same when strangers friend request me on Facebook. No matter how many there are, I always try to reply and thank them, say I'm looking forward to getting to know them better.

…I have a thing about gummy bears. My thing is I find them irresistible. When they're fresh, they're spongy and sort of oily. It could eat a bathtub full of them. Cherry and orange are my favorites. My son bought me a bag yesterday and it's sitting right…here…next to the keyboard. I ate half the bag last night. Think I'll have a couple for breakfast. Hold on…
…YUM! So good and chewy.

…So good is also Mumford and Sons. They sound like a bunch of forlorn swashbucklers on a bender. Semisonic is another band I've been listening to a lot. "Feeling Strangely Fine" is a great album. Here's a sampler from "Secret Smile":
"Nobody knows it,
but you've got a secret smile
and you use it only for me.
So use it,
and prove it,
remove this swollen sadness from me,
because I'm losing,
I'm bruising
so use that smile
to save me from madness…"

…Here are some other things I like that you might also:
--"I have scars on my hands from touching certain people." JD Salinger
--"It's not the load that breaks you down. It's the way you carry it." Lena Horne
--"You climb a long ladder until you can see ovre the roo, or over the clouds. You are writing a book. You watch your shod feet step on each round rung, one at a time; you do not hurry and do not rest. Your feet feel the steep ladder's balance; the long muscles in your thighs check its sway. You climb steadily, doing you job in the dark. When you reach the end, there is nothing more to climb. The sun hits you. Bright wideness surprises you; you had forgotten you were at the end. You look back at the ladder's two feet on the distant grass, astonished." Annie Dillard

Saturday, February 26, 2011


…the snow is flying sideways, like a chilly scarf flipped over my shoulder. it is floaty and stirring, stubborn and unmotivated. it is thick flakes that do not know where to go, snow that knows only that it doesn't want to land, to touch ground, to attach to something it's not and therefore die.

i am in a globe that someone shook and I'm growing a white beard of snow that tickles my chin and makes me simultaneously giddy and forlorn.

the snow is has me going dreamy, feeling all floaty. damien rice is on the iPod singing, "The Animals Were Gone." it's so damn good. you should Youtube the song right now. you'll thank me. here's the beginning..

"Woke up this morning and for the first time,
the animals were gone.
It's left this house empty now,
not sure if I belong.
Yesterday you asked me to write you a pleasant song.
I'll do my best now, since you've been gone for so long.
The window's open and the winter settles in.
We'll call it Christmas when the adverbs begin.
I love your depression and I love your double chin.
I love most everything about you, my friend…"

i don't like to be cold. being warm for me equates to being safe, secure. as a child i was cold a lot.

but the snow, the snow is beautiful. outside my windows, it is.

there's a windshield of frosted ice on one part of the lake and a lone duck has ensconced itself in the middle of the flow. it's a picture.

the snow looks like frosty freckles looking for a someone's face to flock.

the snow is coconut shavings. shredded pillow stuffing. God's dandruff. the iceman's beautiful tears. lovely lint. a polka-dot shroud. pointilism. pixilation exploded. frosted sand showers. Dip 'n Dots. tufts of cotton candy. a million jagged pills. white pepper. powdered sugar. a storm of white, wayward ladybugs.

the snow is a beauty this saturday morning.

Friday, February 25, 2011

…I have new things: "A Conventional Woman" at 52/250 A Year of Flash, "Cat Nip" at Tainted Tea, and "Christmas in July" at Wufniks. All three are also here under "Words In Print."

…I like that photo above. It's a tad suggestive. Okay, more than that. But they're both clothed and they both seem very…relaxed. happy. comfortable. in their own skin. in each other's skin. Just enjoy the picture.

…I wrote a lot yesterday. A LOT. I think nine stories. I think also, that they were all pretty good, not much rubbish. I read stuff by Rae Bryant and Diane Williams and that made me want to write. Diane Williams is a marvel. Her work is odd, often times deep but then it can feel light and frivilous, too. Sometimes she dances in between tenses and from first-person to second-person to third-person plural all in the same piece. Here is a short, short story so you'll have a flavor. (And by the way, I think she was doing flash fiction long before any of us were doing it.)

Ecstasy or Passion

While I am alive, I have raptures. I have troubles with my nose. When I fell, I broke both of my arms. I didn't know I had broken my arms. I sat down after I fell. There was semen on my penis. My hands were together on my belly, the way Bob's were, as if somebody had tampered with my body. Somebody else--I did not do it!--must have killed me.


…Someone once posted this: "If you had to choose between being happy or writing, which would it be?" I don't know why, but I think about that question a lot. Of course, you can say they're the same thing, but then that's cheating, isn't it? I can't imagine not being able to write. I try not to take it for granted, either. I try to be grateful and respectful of the craft.

…I got the new Adele disc and Ratatat. The latter is a lot of ambient sounds and muffled talking. It's the audio equivalent of a Jackson Pollock painting. It's hard to listen to as background music. It demands to be sorted and attended to.

…My son and I watched Russell Brand on Saturday Night Live. The guy has those big, moose eyes and that high forehead and the Jesus hair which taken altogether make him look like a frightened wildebeast. I didn't like him prior to SNL, but you know what, the guy slayed his monolouge. Very clever. Didn't read any cue cards. I was rolling laughing (but not on the floor.)

…The Oscars are on Sunday. I'll watch. Of course. Films are one of my 8 Things You Can Never Have Enough Of. I try to remind myself beforehand, though, that this is an award show where everyone thanks obscure people I don't know, that the Oscars, often and ultimately, is a boring affair.

…I like these things today:

"I'm sorry I didn’t have time to write you a shorter letter." Mark Twain

"One thing does not follow the other."
"Ever read a book that made you cry like a vodka divorce?" Sean Lovelace
"I think it would be a good idea." Mahatma Ghandi

"Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it." Jane Wagner

"Beauty is a form of genius--higher, indeed, than genius, because it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts in the world, like sunlight or springtime, or the reflection in the dark water of that silver shell we call the moon ." Oscar Wilde

-"Long before Einstein thought up his theory of relativity, any child could explain that some days passed more slowly than others and some weeks dragged pretty much into eternity."
-"Men with money are rarely slim."
--Meg Rosoff, "Just In Case"

-"The dead are as sentimental as anyone else." Stuart Dybek

-"His piss is not piss, he drinks only mineral water and produces a cloudy chartreuse flow that smells of summer grass."
-"Insects got caught in the warm putty of the windows and horseflies drifted up and down the panes. They were furry and weighted, blunt, and their heads were blue."
-"Laura put Callie down to sleep when they got home. She wondered why sleep is down. She thought it was like a sinking. Callie was afraid to go to sleep."
-"She felt the round covered balls of her eyes, the boned sockets, the hard line of her jaw. Her face felt old to here when she touched it. She hadn't seen her face since she was a child. She remembered seeing it that night in the mirror; the halll light a sudden blindness, her mother laughing, the sweet sick smell as she leaned close to tie a red ribbon too loose in Laura's hair."
--Jayne Anne Phillips

"You can't gain much if your name's not in lights, but you can't lose either. Soemtimes this attitude catches up with me; I wonder if I'm trying to shield myself from the trials of competition, the heartache and paranoia that come with being in the fray."
"The face of a harsh fact is this: success is a long shot."
-"Restaurant workers are the urban equivalent of filed hands. About 40 percent are "undocumented aliens," and many of the rest are either rehab cases , runaways, or parolees."
-"I didn't know yet that what is done well is invisible."
-"After all, English is my second language. My first language is gutter."
-"If you expect gratitude around her, you're doomed."
-"Who has't encountered madness at some point in their lives, in a relative or friend?
--'You don't need perfume in a hospital,' he answers.
--'Wrong, my love. The hospital is where you need it most.'
-"The name of the game is endurance. I've seen a lot of writers drop away after a few decent stories and disappear."
--Michael Greenburg

"For a child, memory is a reservoir that doesn't empty." Aharon Appelfeld

"I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that spark should burn out in a brilliant
blaze than it hsould be stilled by dry rot. I would
rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in
magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The proper funciton of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time."
--Jack London

"They had entered the stage of fact races where the protests of the body overrule the willingness of the mind." Tom Jordan

"Whatever you do will be very insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." Gandhi

"I've learned that you can tell a lot by a person by how (s)he handles these three things: rainy days, luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights." Maya Angelou

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart." Helen Keller

"Love has a hem to her garment that reaches to the very dust, it sweeps the stairs from the streets, and because it can, it must." Mother Teresa

"Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind." Johann Wolgang van Goethe

Most of us miss out on life's big prizes. The Pulitzer. The Nobel.
Oscars. Tonys. Emmys. But we're all eligible for life's small
pleasures. A pat on the back. A kiss behind the ear. A four-pound
bass. A full moon. An empty parking space. A crackling fire. A great
meal. A glorious sunset. Hot soup. Cold beer.

-- Anonymous

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

…I have a new poem, "The Seamstress" up at The Camel Saloon, and three new poems, "Filibuster," "Tight", and "This Would Not Be Happening If We Were Still Children" up at Verse Wisconsin. They're all here under "Words in Print" as well. The Verse Wisconsin poems were in response to the political upheaval going on there presently. I tried to take a macro view of things, as opposed to taking sides.
In real life, however, it's hard not to take sides, not to have strong opinions. I think that's okay. I think having an opinion means you give a shit, that you care. The tricky part is having a conviction yet remaining clear-headed enough to hear an opposing view, a counterpoint. I wish I was more open-minded about those issues I disagree with. I think it would make me a better person. I'll keep trying.

…I'm listening to Don Henley, "Boys of Summer." It's a haunting song. Also, the lyrics are juxatposed with what's happening outside my window now--the sky is entirely flocked with snow, each flake about the size of bowtie pasta. It's breathtaking.

…I got an email from Negative Suck, a lit mag I really like. They're having a prompt challenge. You have to write a flash piece using two of several words (I'd never heard of any of them except Namaste), words like--hyaline, scurf, impetrate, demotic, moue, liminal. These are just a few of the thirty or so you can pick from. I'm going to do it. I like expanding my vocabulary, although these words kind of come off as ones you'd fling down in print to sound smart. "Moue" means a pout. That's kind of cute, though.
My piece starts with this girl running and her footprints leaving bloodstains in the snow… I know, I know, how dark can I get?

…Don Henley is not doing it for me anymore, so I'm switching over to Joanna Newsome or Bright Eyes. Be back in a sec…

…Actually, I landed on an album collaboration of Elvis Costello with Burt Bacharach. I know it sounds bizarre, but it's really quite wonderful, filled with pretty sounds and soaring choruses. I'm a sucker for a strong pop hook.

…Are you having a good day? A happy one? Hope so. Here are some words I like today:

--"It is so easy to exist instead of live. Unless you know there is a clock ticking."
--"C'mon, let's be honest. We have an embarassment of riches. Life is good."
--"Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. We have to teach ourselves to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live."
--"This is not a dress rehearsal. Today is the only gruarantee you get."
--"Think of life as a terminal illness, because if you do, you will live it with joy and passion, as it out to be lived." Anna Quindlen

--"Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay." Flannery O'Conner

--"Writing is a dog's life, but the only life worth living." Gustave Flaubert

"Exhaust the little moment.
Soon it dies.

And be it gash or gold
it will not come

again in this identical

-- Gwendolyn Brooks

--"Find a subject you care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style." Kurt Vonnegut

--"Successful writing inspires the writer to do better, to attempt the scaling of greater heights."
--"It is an intriguing fact that in order to make readers care about a character, however bad, however depraved, it is only necessary to make hi love somone or even something. A dog will do, even a hamster." Ruth Rendell

--"At the most basic level, I appreciate writers who have something to say." Daniel Alarcon

--"To be a good writer, read until your eyes swell, and take your time and follow your weird, even if it means being lost for intolerable stretches--your weird will guide you, it will deliver you to a place that will be worth all th suffering and disorientation." Junot Diaz

Monday, February 21, 2011

…I have a new poem, "The Gift" up at The Camel Saloon and a "Housefire Interview, Pt.1," "Housefire Interview, Pt. 2" up at Riley Michael Campbell's pet project, Housefire. They're all also here under "Words in Print."
Riley's intervew was exhausting but fun. He's a very clever fellow. I've never met anyone's whose mind works in such a way as that.

…This morning I wrote a story in ten minutes about a woman who goes blind. She has a bad man in her life, this woman, and being sightless makes her see her situation more clearly.
It might behoove us all to be blind for a few days. I'm certain we would view the world differently, that we would come away wiser, better listeners.

…Speaking of seeing, I went to "Barney's Version" yesterday. It stars Paul Giamatti and Rosamund Pike. Rosamund is striking--so poised, classy, beautiful and subtle. Paul is more hideous than normal, and naturally he's fantastic. You should go see this movie. It will rip your heart out with a pair of rusty pliers. Your heart will be sore for a few days, yet you'll be glad it is.

…I also saw the Justin Bieber movie. I did. And I liked it. Quite a bit. You would like it, too. Oh, yes you would. It's a rags-to-riches documentary. Even the biggest haters in the world would walk out admitting the film was good.

…On the treadmill this morning I listened to Drake. He's come a long way from DeGrassi. I love him. I especially love how honest he is and the track where he talks about how rotten he is because she's busy having sex rather than calling his grandmother who just got moved into a nursing home. After Drake, I listened to Matthew Sweet's album girlfriend. That boy can shred a guitar. "Girlfriend," makes me jump around and swing my arms a lot.

…I saw this quote on someone's wall post and liked it: "I will tell you something about stories. They aren't just entertainment. They are all we have to fight off illness and death. You don’t have anything if you don't have stories." Leslie Marmon Silko

…For you writer folk out there, he's some advice from Mr. Vonnegut…
Kurt Vonnegut's 8 rules for writing a short story
From Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things--reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them--in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Friday, February 18, 2011

…I have two new stories, "A Fair Exchange" and "Fruit" up at 52/250 A Year of Flash and Staccato Fiction respectively. They're also here under "Words in Print."

…I love that photograph above, from Christine Ritter. Don't you love it, too? What are you thinking when you look at it? Who are you thinking about?

…I had an agent request to see my novel yesterday. It doesn't mean anymore than that at this point, but it was still very thrilling. I nearly peed my pants. The agent in question is someone I'd die to work with. I won't share his name unless something happens. Pray for me. Knock on wood for me. Rub a lamp and conjure up a genie. I'll be grateful. I'll repay your kindness with a box full of kisses or gummy bears, whichever you prefer.

…Augustana is an awfully great band. You should check them out. They're raging right now on my iPod.

…Sometimes I write pieces and I think, a little while after, This is actually not very good. In fact, this is crap. Sometimes I write pieces and think, Hey, this is good. I like it. I believe others will as well. And then sometimes (yes, I know I'm using that word repetitively) I send it out and people do indeed enjoy it enough to accept and publish the work. But other times, they reject work that I think is good. And sometimes they reject it a lot and then I wonder if my guage of quality is accurate.

This Is Not a Love Poem

You are in Switzerland noshing patchwork cheese,
buying wristwatches with Andre or Gary.
The sun is gentle and restrained on your faces.
The breeze kicks up enough that your hair flounces around your cheek
while seeding the air
with the honeysuckle notes of your perfume,
and at this moment
on our very planet
there could not be a more lovely creature
than you.

Over here
there’s no yellow brick road
so I’m heading off to where
the trails are paved with razors pointed topside,
sticking up jaggedly,
a billion blades
of glinting metal teeth.
To get where I need to go
requires more than faith and
means taking a blood bath.

You should be so thrilled.
Perhaps you can toss confetti across your gazpacho
or shoot up the next guy to slip you the finger.

Mind you, this is not a love poem.

Mind yourself
and mine those men with their ceramic smiles
and candy cane eyes,
their Dudley Do-Right jaws as reliable as oxbows.
Take them in the crux of your kiss,
your armpit
or crotch
for all I care.
Crush them like scrawny spiders or
choke them with a designer garrote,
but leave me out of it,
I’m busy.

When I brushed my teeth this morning
they bled inky black, liquid licorice.
I tried gargling with salt water but that did nothing to stem the flow,
the blow as it were,
so the doctor has fitted me with this muzzle thing
and now the only way I’m able to convey how much I hate you
is to type it
like I’m doing right now.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

…I have a new story, "You" up at PANK and also here under "Words in Print." I love PANK. Being in PANK is like being asked to Tolo by this really cute girl you've had a crush on since fifth grade but were always too shy to talk to. She's so attractive that she's intimidating, but then you meet her and discover she's both beautiful and sweet and a really good kisser.

…I finished my 600th story this morning (that's since I started charting my writing back in May of '09.) The story is about a very old woman, Ruthie, who wants to skinny dip before she dies. Ruthie broke my heart.

…Borders filed bankruptcy today. This is also a sad thing for me, akin to learning one of your favorite couples--say Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward , when they were both alive--filed for divorce (they didn't.) It feels like we are now one step closer to the end of books and bookstores. All those building will become a few, razor-thin Kindles. Terms like book signings and book burnings will become as archaic as gramaphones and eight-tracks.
Honestly, I was never really a big fan of Borders. I prefer Barnes and Noble, or Scribners back east, Powell's in Portland, of course. Borders always had half-emtpy shelves and that this-is-a-part-time-job-for-me ambiance. But they housed and sold books, and that, to me, is special. Books are special. They are. They're gifts.

…I started reading Marcy Dermansky's novel, "Twins." It's sharp and clever, edgy and quirky. You should read it, too. You'd like it. If you read it, then we could talk about it. We could go into our respective beds and hike up our respective sheets with a flashlight, the book and our cell phones, and we could read our favorite passages, sort of like when we were younger and were at summer camp.

…I have a list of 8 things you can never have enough of. Photography is one of them. I like things that make you feel emotion--euphoria or fright--whether you want to or not. Great photographers can cut you off at the knees, can zap you with a taser and make you stop and stare and ponder and see all sorts of hidden warnings and messages in an image. I love this photo above from Christine Ritter. If you don’t like it, well, then maybe you are somehow reading this post by Braille?

…Here's some Annie Dillard for you: "This is your life. You are a Seminole alligator wrestler. Half naked, with your two bare hands, you hold and fight a sentence's head while its tail tries to knock you over…
At best the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, you back, your brain, and then--and only then--it is handed to you….
One line of a poem, the poet said--only one line, but thank God for that one line--drops from the ceiling."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

…This morning the world is tilted. Does it feel different to you when you're walking, the way gravity is off? The planet's having to deal with a love hangover from Valentine's Day. Today will be a chaste day, but yesterday was a bawdy bash or maybe it wasn't, not everywhere anyway, maybe in Arkansas the romantics lined up their bouquets and recited poetry while in New Mexico men hired troupes of guitar players to serenade their beloveds. Who knows? The air does smell different today. The ground feels harder. I’m even leaning in my chair as if there’s a headwind.

…That fabulous photo above was created and taken by Joan Stepp Smith, who’s fabulous herself.

…I wonder what constitutes a successful Valentine’s Day. I suppose it is as simple as being with the one you love. Perhaps when you’re quite young, it’s about getting a special gift. A lot of people give chocolate. I don’t get that. It seems odd, on the cusp of cheesy or insulting. Why not give Sprees or SweetTarts? (Those are my favorite candies by the way, right behind gummy bears, cherry-flavored.) Then there are single-file roses wrapped in plastic with the grocer’s green pricing sticker on it that never really peels off all the way, leaving a sticky slit. Jewelry’s always good. Dinner. Hand-holding in low-lit places, some smoldering music in the background, maybe a little slow dancing, nothing grinding. Maybe it’s just talking, sharing secrets. Perhaps it’s just staring and really taking a good look. Yeah, I kind of think it’s those last two.

…I hope you had a fantastic Valentine’s Day and that you were properly loved.

…”Beauty always promises a return. The young always assume they’ll see you again.” Tom Chiarella

Sunday, February 13, 2011


…I am competitive. I think I've always been that way. Mostly, it's an outgrowth of my massive insecurities. Insecure people think they are always behind, that they are the underdogs in a film no one will see, a movie not produced by Pixar or funded by Disney. I am competitive, but I want my friends to win and I want people I like to have much success.
I just read xTx's blog. Then I read Roxane Gay's. You should probably not bother reading mine and just hop on over to theirs. I bow down to them. I cannot compete. Oh, sure, I know we are not competing, but it's a Wayne's World I-am-not-worthy type of feeling that thumps me on the head when I read their stuff, even their rants and diatribes (that might be a good title, "Rants and Diatribes.")
I love both of those ladies. I do not know them exceedingly well, and we just met in person a week ago, but I am fans of theirs. A big fan. As should you be.

…I got my 320th acceptance today since first submitting in May of '09. It's still a rush. I really feel lucky to have found a place where I can put my writing out there and have people like it. Remember, I'm insecure. (I actually think all writers are.) But I am getting a little burnt out by the submission process and I write so much that there aren't enough places to send things to without feeling like you're being greedy or overbearing. I need to work on the novels anyway. Starting the 15th, that's what I'll do.

…"Round Here," by Counting Crows is such a good song. "August and Everything Else After" is so vivid and tactile that I often get depressed listening to it and half way through I'll have to turn it off. The words and meanings slice through my pores like light and swim in my blood stream like sad toxins, messing with my endorphins. Adam Duritz would be fun to have a beer with. He's been open about his mental illness. I think that shows a lot of strength. I am not so strong. I couldn't let everyone know about all my therapy and time in an asylum. I'm not that brave. That's Adam's photo up top and it's a really, really flattering pic, trust me if you've never seen him. Adam gets a lot of chicks--Jennifer Anniston, Courtney Cox, Emmy Rossum, Amber Tamblin. No, really, he dated them. Just shows you the power of a great lyric/lyricist

…Today was partly irritating. One of my least favorite things--even worse for me than a jail term--is watching bad cinema. We saw "Just Go With It." Do not see it. Do not even let your irises rest for one second on a movie poster of that film and, should an ad come on during your favorite TV show, TURN THE SOUND OFF AND LOOK AWAY. I wanted to eat someone's broken window and bleed to death right there in the last row of the theater. How do they do it? How do people make such horrendous fodder and release it into the world? Brooklyn Decker, is okay, firehouse-smoking hot, but she acts as well as an armadillo. Jennifer Anniston is cute, right? She's a former Sexiest Woman Alive winner. But in this you want to feed her to the woodchipper, head-first so you don't have to hear her. The movie's jokes, the plot, the acting, the everything, was very, very bad. I've seen Adam Sandler act. He can act. But he should be ashamed.

…I read "Alien Autopsy" by Pedro Ponce. Each story was less than 300 words. He's a good writer, clever. I'd never heard of him until AWP. I'm reading Meg Pokrass's collection, "Damn, Sure Right." She's so brilliant. You should read it, too. I'm parceling the stories out, holding onto them so as not to run out of her words too quickly.

…My pastor said this today, and I think he's right on the mark: "Misery is usually self made." Jeff Knight

Saturday, February 12, 2011

…I have a new story, "Revelation" up at 52/250 A Year of Flash and also here under "Words in Print." It's an apocolyptic take on the Bible's book of Revelation.

…I have lived in big cities and suburbs. Where I live now is not like those places. Not many miles from where I live now there are cattle, lamas, free range chickens that often skedaddle into the road, donkeys, goats, show horses and two really darling midget horses. Around me are trees and farms and rolling hills. The lake I live on is postcard and daily steals my breath and attention. Still it can be a tad redneck in these parts. For instance, I counted 17 (SEVENTEEN) different tattoo magazines at 7/11. I have nothing against tattoos. But this 7/11 does not sell GQ or Vanity Fair. The New Yorker is out of the question, as is The Atlantic Monthly. It's like the last time I saw a Tyler Perry movie, all the previews were black-themed.
Yes, we all were a uniform, a costume, whether we realize it or not. But we have individual DNA.
At this exact moment, some chucklehead is zipping across the lake in a speedboat even though you are not allowed to go more than 8 MPH until the start of Memorial Day. He'd better knock it off. People around here are not only gun owners, but they know how to use the.

…I have a coffee cup on my desk that I bought at AWP from The Rumpus table for $10. It says, WRITE LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER with the letters in red and shaped like a heart over the ceramic white background. I realize Motherfucker is not a nice word, moniker or label, and that a lot of people would take offense to a hot term such as m.f., especially if the hot term were spelled out in bloodred captial lettering like the ones just right of my mouse, but I really like this mug and what it is trying to tell me to do. I don't know how most motherfuckers write. Actually, I don't know any motherfuckers who are writers, (I do know some who aren't authors) but I'm thinking the cup is telling me to write passionately and profusely, to write hard, to stop screwing around and not let myself get disuades or distracted. I am thinking that's the message, and that that is why I am found of a mug which tells me I should write like a motherfucker.

…Here are some things I've read or heard that are fresh and interesting:

"To get through seventh grade, you only need one friend." Molly Peacock

"Pleasure and displeasure wrap around each other like snakes." Natasha Vargas-Cooper

"Someone asked me once which is worsed, ignorance or apathy? I said, 'I don’t know and I don't care.'" David James

"Half the battle with confidence is exuding it to other people even when you're not really feeling it yourself."
"You've got an emergency. Who would you call at four in the morning, knowing they would get out of bed and do whatever they could to help you? Those are your friends. That reduces your Christmas-card list a lot."
"The most powerful tool I've learned is silence."
"'How many times have you been properly in love?' is a great question."
"Arrogance is a total lack of self-awareness." Piers Morgan in the February Esquire

"Sometimes kissing is better than eating. Most of the time it is. Actually, all of the time. Kissing, if it's good kissing, is all the food you need." Anonymous

"Sending out your story is like moving to a new city--finding your store, café, gast station, church." Anne Holman

"Writers keep going, because that's what writers do."
"The only way to avoid rejection is to stop sending work out." Geetha Kothan

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

…AWP is long gone, not even a speck in the rearview anymore, and I am realizing--in the after-the-fact way a really great film sticks with me days later--how much I enjoyed the event. I've marked next year's on my calendar already.

…The sky is blue, white-blue, but blue and so I am. I don't know why. I even switched my music from Damien Rice to Carolina Liar. Time for some Airborne Toxic Event. I will shake out of my funk any second now. Yes, I will. I will find some kickbutt fiction to read. Until then, here are some random excerpts from speakers, readers and friends at AWP. None of it is in any order, but most of it, I think, you'll find interesting, should be you a writer yourself or not…


"The thing about AWP is that you get to see everyone you like, respect, admire, want to meet and want to avoid all at once." Roxane Gay (Monday's blog post)

"I want to smell your beard. Don't forget to let me smell your beard before you go." xTx (about anonymous)

"She's so tiny I could just throw her over my shoulder and take her home for breakfast" (anonymous about Sara Lippmann)

"If you keep kissing everyone's ass, you're bound to lose your sense of smell eventually." (anonymous)

"For a long time I've denied the existence of rejection in the same way I have denied the existence of death, writers block, airplane malfunctions while in flight, and management skills. This is one in a number of viable uses of the competency I call, for lack of a better term, denial. Rejection simply doesn’t exist. If you go fishing and don't catch anything, is it because the carp don't like your work? Of course not. They would have taken the bail but their fiction inventory is full and, well maybe the next one….
Questions have been raised in recent years about the practice of denial. In a very few cases, instances of digestive tract irritation followed by nose-bleeds and death have been reported. Patients are invited to evaluate whether these symptoms are worth the risk or if they would rather just go around being you-know-whatted all the time, and unhappy." Philip F. Deaver

"I was a florist for 18 years, but I always wanted to do something masculine, so I became a poet."
"The world is made by people who show up."
"Poetry saved my life." Gary Glazner.

"The internet can be an enormous mind suck."
"If you can write it, then it comes down to your ability to push the work forward after it's been written."
"You better get used to rejection or you'll never make it in this business." Julie Barer

"Everything is energy, even words on the page. It either flows through, off of you, or it short-circuits you." Kevin Watson

"Rejection test your belief in yourself and your work." Wendy Call

"The idea of having a thick skin is a myth. People are sensitive. Writers are. You have to be permeable to the real world, but after a short measure of heartache, you do need to get on with things."
Every rejection hurts. The way I cope with it is to acknowldge it, not deny it. "Molly Peacock

"She holds herself out like a cake topping."
"He's scraped before but never broken skin."
"He's fuming, smells like alcohol. There's a seed in his tooth." Sara Lippmann

"The scent of a lover is the hardest infection to irrigate." Danielle Bryant

mid-sized presses get an average of 1,000 queries a month.
good book sales for a small press are 1,500-10,000 copies
large presses want to be pretty certain the book wil sel a minimum of 30,000 before they'll even sign an author
Norman Mailer's, "The Naked and the Dead" was rejected by 11 different publishers, Annye Rand's, "The Foutainhead," by 12 and it now sells 12,000 a year
William Saroyan had 7,000 rejection notices reaching 30 inches high before he got his first story published.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

....Certain spaces are very noisy. Airport terminals would be one--almost no matter the time of day or night. People speak at thrice the decible on their cell phones, planes erupt thunderously upon take off, a door alarm invariably starts bleeping (as it is now), children squawl, espresso makers chuff and suck and fight for breath like a wounded dragon.
Hotels are also noisy spaces. People in the hall always forget to keep their voices down, so you can hear them cursing or guffawing as they stagger down the hall outside your door. People nextdoor keep their tv turned up loud ("Real Housewives, Atlanta"). Guests in the other room open and slam their door repeatedly. Above you, a maid or someone reconstructing the furniture pattern for a possible disco party, screetches table legs on the floor(your ceiling) and pounds on walls for whatever reason.

....Last night the wind whipped so hard outside my hotel window that it sounded as if dozens of children were shrieking. Their terrifying squeals were real-sounding and scared me. There's nothing worse than a frightened or hurt child. Consequently, I slept very little.
Right now, I'm sitting at Reagan National airport, enduring hour three of a five hour flight delay. Kind of sucks. Kind of sucks a lot, but what are you gonna do? I'm trying to let things bother me less, however, my butt is already pretty sore from sitting on this chair. I'm sure that when I stand, people will think I've somehow fitted a square pizza box into the back of my underwear.

...As I started to report on the previous post, AWP was quite an experience. So much stimuli. It's a writer paradise, to be sure, what with all the books and writers and literati-type stuff.
I saw Sapphire ("Push") and Mary Gaitskill read. Mary shared a long excerpt from her upcoming novel. It dark and chilling. She was brave to read some of those passages in front a crowd. Most people would have a hard time reading a graphic sexual abuse scene involving a child. Not Mary. Her writing--the sentence flow, cadence, word selection and movement-- was spectacular, as always. Mary's themes make my novel seem like a jolly trip to Disneyland.

...Thursday night I went to a reading at John Hopkins University. Sarah Lippmann read. She was freaky good. Roxane Gay rocked. Been Loory was witty and fun. Kara Canditos's poetry was stunning and recalled JT Leroy's point of view (yes, I know JT Leroy is a fictious author).
Afterward a group of us went to the Black Cat and had a blast. Roxane, Mel Bosworth, Christy Crutchfield, Rae Bryant, Sara Rose, xTx and others. It was loud. There were libations. The following day, my head felt large, mishapen, and made of stone.

....Once home and organized, I'll do a better posting. I caon't think as sharp in unfamiliar places, especially ones as choatically loud as this.

....The guy over my shoulder is telling me his marital problems. He's talking quite boisteriously into his cell phone. Things are not going well for the man and his wife and I am sorry for him, but I wish he would keep his voice down and I wish he would speak more lovingly to the woman on the other line.

Friday, February 4, 2011

...I have a new story, "Consumation" up at 52/250 A YEAR OF FLASH and "Reflective" @ HOUSEFIRE. Both are also here under "Words in Print."

...AWP is going on. AWP stands for "Association of Writers and Writing Programs." (It should probably--correctly--be called AWWP.) I am here. It is a little daunting for a rookie virgin novice newbie. It would definitely be better to have someone here to pal around with.
Last night I went to a reading at an Irish Pub. Most everyone in the online literati was there. It was fantastic. If I hadn't met them earlier in the day, then I got to meet them that night, all of these fabulous writers that I am fans of--Roxane Gay, xTx (yes! she's real. she's blonde. she's sweet and shy), Brandi Wells, Molly Gaudry, Steve Himmer, Amber Sparks, Mel Bosworth (what a sweet guy), Heather Fowler, Bonnie Zobell, Aubrey Hirsch, Nicolo Manoghan, Jen Michalski, Elizabeth Ellen, Kewin Watson, Dan Wickett, Matt Bell...
I am a thin gray minnow here. I don't really belong. I do belong but I don't. I am not really connected directly to anyone or any group so I swim solor and flit here and there. It reminds me of my most shy years in junior high and early high school.
It's hard to exagerate how massive this conference is--over 7,000 attendees, and that doesn't count most presenters. There are warehouse and warehouse of tables/booths set up with every small and major writing press in the country, from college presses (Univeristy of Pittsburg) to online houses (Hobart), they're all here.
The different panels/presentations are a little hit and miss, but I did go to two that were great and I got to meet two of the agents (Alex Glass, Julie Barer) that I sent query letters to. I'd love to have either one of them representing my novel. They are fantastic. It just feels so grubby, standing in line with 75 other panting writers, to meet them.
The message we kept hearing from the panels was--once you have the craft down, it is all about showing up and being able to put your work out there.
That's what I'm doing. That's why I'm here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

...I have three new poems, "Ways to Remember Birmingham" up at Steel Toe Review and also here under "Words in Print."

...Lately, I've been feeling pretty solid about my writing. I think I'm getting better. It has helped to be reading a lot of great writers like Lindsay Hunter ("Daddy's"--get this, it's good), Meg Pokrass ("Damn Sure Right"--ditto), Alissa Nutting ("Unclean Jobs for Women and GIrls"-the cover alone is enough to keep you up at night) and others. I loved Stuart Dybek's story collection but I just finished his poetry collection and it didn't do anything for me. I guess it's not a given that prose writers can transition to poetry.
I just wish I could do a better job of writing on the novels.

...Tomorrow I fly to Washington D.C. for the writers conference, AWP. I'm excited. I've made a list of writers I want to meet, and it's over 150 so far. I hope this weather works itself out. If I get stuck in an airport, though, I'll have a bag of books. The way I look at it, readers are always advantaged.

...I like these and hope you will, too:

"Exhaust the little moment.
Soon it dies.

And be it gash or gold
it will not come

again in this identical

-- Gwendolyn Brooks

"It is so easy to exist instead of live. Unless you know there is a clock ticking."
"C'mon, let's be honest. We have an embarassment of riches. Life is good."
"Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. We have to teach ourselves to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live."
"This is not a dress rehearsal. Today is the only gruarantee you get."
"Think of life as a terminal illness, because if you do, you will live it with joy and passion, as it out to be lived." Anna Quindlen