Saturday, December 31, 2011


...Hey, I really hope you have a magical New Year's Eve and a fantastic new year in 2012.

…Before I forget, I had a couple of things published recently:
“Just Do What I Do” at Pipe Dream
“Together” at Rusty Truck
Both are here under “Words In Print.”

…They’re all important, of course, but a year like 2011 felt especially important in the scheme of things, in the scheme of learning and growing and fucking up.

As usual, I pushed myself to be productive, but what was even more important was meeting people, doing things and going places that took me well out of my comfort zone.
(Being uncomfortable is often a really good idea if you find yourself in a rut.)
(Being uncomfortable is important provided there’s a potential happy ending in the outcome.)

At AWP, I was completely overwhelmed.
I felt like a little kid peeking through a cracked door, listening to adults discuss classical music or quantum physics.
Even with snow storms that disallowed many from attending, there were still 9,000 writers there.
I felt very small and insignificant. For a good part of the time I felt lonely.
However, I did meet some of my favorite internet writers/people, thereby making them real--Roxane Gay, xTx, Aubrey Hirsch, Heather Fowler, Nicole Monaghan, Matt Bell, Rae Bryant, Randall Brown, Steve Himmer, Mel Bosworth, Tim Jones-Yelvington and many others….

…I saw Junot Diaz, listened to Mary Gaitskill read.
I stood in line for coffee behind a frail, bug-eyed Joyce Carol Oates.

…I did my first readings ever—at The Cell Theater in New York City, for Housefire in Portland, OR, and twice at Iowa City, Iowa.

I read for two audio podcasts/radio shows.

I did ten or so interviews…

The Summer Writers Workshop was a thrill.
Being in Iowa is the opposite of being in New York, yet for a writer, Iowa City is hallowed ground.
You’re walking where Carver walked. Where Robert Frost and John Berryman walked.

I had stories accepted. I had stories rejected. I ended the year with just under 600 acceptances in the last two and a half years. Once I hit 500, something odd happened. I felt deflated and uninspired. I slowed way down. I got introspective. Roxane G. helped set me straight about quantity versus quality.

I did not get an agent for my novel this year, nor did I get a publisher for my story collection(s). So those goals will swing into the New Year.

My mother died this year. She’d been in ill health for quite some time and her death was not sudden nor a surprise.
Still, I didn’t expect it to affect me the way it did. She was a complex woman, a pivotal figure who shows up in the majority of my writing and who perhaps is the main reason why so much of my writing is dark.
My father asked me to write her eulogy, which was extremely difficult for several reasons, chief being the challenge of portraying her honestly without denigrating her.
But I did, I wrote it and read it.
A writer friend posted the eulogy on her wall (which was perfectly fine by me) and a huge number of people commented. Most of them misread what I wrote, thinking I'd made her superhuman when what I was really trying to do was make her "humane." That difference of perception really caught me off guard. It made me wonder how much of my writing is misinterpreted. It made me question my ability to make a poignant point that is clear enough to be understood.

I've got my New Year's Resolutions done for 2012. If you want, I can share them with you.
As I've said, there are some carry-over goals from 2011.
A lot of them are statistical.
Taken as a whole, it sort of makes me look like a "human doer" again, as opposed to a human being.
But I need that--landmarks in the sand. Lots of stakes in the ground. I can't wait for a muse to show up. Otherwise I get lazy. Life really is short. I'm more than half way through mine. I wanted to be a writer at age nine and waited almost forty years to finally do so.
I've got a lot of catching up to do.


  1. What a great post, Len! Congrats on all your success this year and I will be crossing my fingers for you to get that agent/publisher in 2012. I know you deserve it. Here's hoping for a wonderful new year!

  2. tawnysha,
    thanks so much. i, too, hope you get all the great things you deserve.