Through winter

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The recent election results have affected the time I devote to my writing, and demanded an adjustment to remain focused on my work. Like many other people, it’s important to me to stay engaged in steady, consistent resistance against Trump’s administration, even before he takes office. It requires time set aside daily for research and choices about which actions to take. Millions of people are adjusting their lives a bit to do this work. First there was dread, then annoyance at all the effort that resistance requires, but this is the way it is, steady work, coping with the fear. Staying informed and connected to others has eased things along.

Now that I know my representatives’ contact info and have the hang of leaving quick, pointed, polite messages, it takes less time overall to act. And it’s nice when we win on certain issues. It helps to see other writers sharing their publication successes, their victories as activists, and effective methods of resistance.

In terms of my writing, looking back briefly on 2016, it was a significant year. I finished a novel, got a wonderful agent (Sarah Yake at Frances Collin), and for the first time earned more from my fiction than nonfiction. Which isn’t to boast, only to say that at 42 good firsts can happen.

Recent writing & upcoming events:

  • In December, I published two new stories with Great Jones Street, a free short-story app. (To publish in an app may sound strange, but GJS pays well for fiction, and they run a tight operation that is genuinely supportive of writers.) If you download the app, you can find my work by searching for my last name. The two new pieces are called “Flowers Floating Past” and “The Good-Bye Window.” (Website link.)
  • For Cleaver magazine, I reviewed Marc Anthony Richardson’s experimental first novel, “The Year of the Rat” (FC2, 2016).
  • On January 18, I’ll be on a panel called, “Marginalized Work, Innovative Critique” at the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania. It’ll be a stellar group of experimental, small-press authors: Vi Khi Nao, Steven Dunn, Hilary Plum, and Caren Beilin. It’s co-sponsored by Full Stop magazine, in honor of their first print anthology.
  • I’m co-editing an upcoming issue of The Critical Flame on the theme of parenting. Submissions of reviews, essays, interviews and hybrid nonfiction are being accepted until Jan. 27.
  • I’m reading manuscripts again this year for the Open Prose Series for Rescue Press. Submissions accepted until Jan. 31, seeking nonfiction, fiction, or “sui generis prose.”

Best wishes to everyone in 2017. Good luck with all your work, in all its forms: artistic, political, and everything in between!

The Family

This essay of mine  originally appeared at the Broad Street Review. It’s about public art and personal loss. (With thanks to Inga Saffron and Timothy Duffield.)

“The Family,” by Timothy Duffield. (Photo by Christopher William Purdom / philart.net)


The Family

I walked past 1835 Market Street one afternoon and saw the sculpture was gone.

It had been there since I moved to Philadelphia from Chicago in 2008, a tall bronze sculpture about a dozen feet high depicting the naked forms of a woman and man, arms stretched upward, holding aloft a young girl and boy.

I’d felt mildly shocked by their nudity, but I liked seeing them doing something wild and joyous together, and felt proud of the artist and the building’s owners for presenting those bare elbows, bellies, knees, and rear ends among the corporate towers. Their nakedness was brave, flaunting the capacity of the natural, daring body. Two adults working hard, literally lifting up the next generation, vulnerable to anything and everything under the sun.

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through summer & into fall

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Scary “best books of the year” lists are here. Dare to look away.

It’s been an eventful time lately.

In early summer I signed on with the wonderful Sarah Yake from the Frances Collin Agency. Just like that, my novel, which looked like this in early 2016, is now “making the rounds,” as they say, going out to great editors far and wide. It feels crazily amazing. So, good luck, novels, mine and all the others out there.

In August, I got to read for the first time in New York City, at Brooklyn’s Unnameable Books, to be exact, where I bought a copy of a Janet Frame novel for $7. The occasion was the launch of Vestiges_02 from Black Sun Lit. We heard from a fantastic group of writers and poets, and there was even a surprise appearance by Russell Bennetts, who just happened to be in town and was kind enough to stop by and celebrate. (In case anyone’s curious, I read this short piece from Minor Literature[s].)

I found out that I’ll have two short-short stories in The Brooklyn Rail. They’ll be published sometime in the next few months or so. One’s about love, the other’s about escaping death.

For The Kenyon Review Online, I wrote a review of Caren Beilin’s experimental novel, “The University of Pennsylvania,” from Noemi Press, 2014.

That’s it for now. Now on we go into fall reading and submission season, complete with those “best books of 2016” lists, which are popping up all over. I sort of love to hate them. I’ve said I won’t read them because they’re cruel to writers, just reductive clickbait designed to maximize holiday book-buying, but I do end up looking at a few. It’s hard not to feed the monster a little.

An interview with Daniel Evans Pritchard

What motivations shape a critic’s decisions to write about the books they defend and those they dismiss? And what are the ethical or moral dimensions of those decisions? Beyond mere conflicts of interest, what lines do they draw for themselves in their work? Are there personal forces or experiences that affect their preferences about what to read and review?

In this ongoing series of interviews with critics, one of the central questions will be, “What is a critic’s role?” It’s a broad question, open-ended, but one which can be used, if the critic chooses, to address the personal side to their lives as critics, and perhaps how they see their work affecting society and culture.

Daniel Evans Pritchard took the time recently via email to talk about some of these questions during a discussion that ranged from his reflections on the effect of focusing solely on writing by women and writers of color for a year to the possible fates of respected literary journals that refuse to address biases in the kind of writing they support.

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translation

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Three Percent announced the poetry and fiction longlists for the 2016 Best Translated Book Awards last week and while I know that two of my last four posts on this blog have been about Mercè Rodoreda, I still have to say it–hooray, Rodoreda made the longlist! It’s her novel, War, So Much War (Quanta, quanta guerra) translated by Martha Tennent and Maruxa Relaño. (My experimental review). If you haven’t already seen the full list of books, click on over to see who else made it (fiction longlist | poetry longlist) and be sure to follow the BTBA blog for guest posts by a fine array of people arguing why their favorite books should win.

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Walk the novel

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It’s been months since I posted anything but hey, I finished a draft of a new novel! At this stage it has a lot of short chapters, as you can see by this photo. It’s fun walking across the room and moving scenes around. This is the best way I know of to see the whole book, a very useful technique I shamelessly borrowed from novelist David Connerly Nahm

Oh, and last month I wrote an experimental review of Diane Williams’s new story collection, “Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine” for Minor Literature[s]

Okay, back to revising this novel. It’s going out to my first readers very soon.

And if you use any tricks or techniques like the one above when you’re revising a book, I’d love to hear about them.