Writing News – Win, Place, or Show

So I’ve been writing like crazy this summer, even though I’m also doing a million other things, and I have some good writing news to share.

I just found out that my flash collection The Path the Lost Girls Take is a finalist in the Black Lawrence Press Black River Chapbook Competition! The winner has not been announced yet, but I’m honored to be a finalist. Black Lawrence Press is an outstanding small press that has published writers whose work I admire. All fingers and toes crossed!

My story “Squeeze Box,” published in 3Elements Literary Review, was nominated for the Sundress Publications Best of the Net anthology. If you’d like to read it, it’s in Issue 18. More fingers and toes to cross!

In my “early” writings, when I was a kid, I invented a comic character, “Mee-Too” (no relation to the #MeToo movement, but I rather  like the coincidence) whose claim to fame was that he had 10 legs and 10 arms and rolled around like a pinwheel. If I were that character right now, I’d have all 200 digits diligently crossed.

In addition to the wishing-hoping-praying stuff, I’m also excited to have work accepted by Pidgeonholes, Longleaf Review, Fiction Southeast, and 100 Word Story. These stories will be coming out at different times over the next year and into 2019.

And although I haven’t published a ton this summer, I’m happy with these two pieces that came out recently:

“Things You Think About When You’re a Girl” was in the August issue of Bending Genres.

And “When God Closes a Door” is in the September 5 issue of Jellyfish Review. That marks my third appearance in Jellyfishlandia. I’m going to be keeping an eye out for tentacles. And a close and hopeful watch on that email of mine.

 

 

 

Sometimes It Happens in a Flash

Spry Cookbook 1950s

Circa 1950s recipe booklet

Sometimes stories come together almost instantly. I would say “easy as pie,” except I make pies. I know how much time it takes to get them right!

Sometimes stories take a long time to simmer. An idea might get started, put away, re-started, put away again, and then reappear in a different form. And sometimes, even when a piece feels finished, it can take a long time to find it the right home.

Two examples. My erasure poem, “50 Shades of Spry,” and a flash fiction piece, “The Day Before,” were just published in the Evansville Review.

“50 Shades” grew out of an erasure exercise my writing group did, using old texts about “femininity”–cookbooks, recipe pamphlets, advertisements–and subverting the original messages through erasures. My piece was originally accepted for an anthology that didn’t end up being published, but now it’s published, beautifully, in Volume XXVII of The Evansville Review, a print journal.

“The Day Before,” published in the same journal, started out as two different exercises I assigned in a teen writing workshop a few years ago. One was to start a story with the first line of a song, and one was to describe a particular moment in time. The original image of a “girl in a harbor town,” riding the bus just as the sun was setting, remained constant through all the many forms and titles the story took before finding its way to Evansville.

Meanwhile, back in Rhode Island: I’m teaching a summer flash fiction workshop at the Barrington Public Library. We have a dry-erase whiteboard, and I often ask students to throw out prompt words, characters, settings, or situations. In our first class, we wrote 10-sentence stories, starting with a sentence of 10 words and working our way down to a one-word sentence. One of the prompt words (not shown in the photo, sorry) was “wheelbarrow.”

Story brainstorming board

That word took me to the old song about Molly Malone, and I went with it, giving Molly her own voice. And quite the pissed-off voice it was, because who’d want to be stuck wheeling a wheelbarrow of smelly shellfish throughout eternity?

I liked the voice that came through in that 10-sentence story, so I worked on it a bit more, and several drafts later, sent it out to Bending Genres. Two (!) days later, I found out it’s going to be published in their August issue.

Sometimes it takes two days. Sometimes it takes two years, or longer. A few things I’ve learned:

  1. Always be open to inspiration, however odd or random the source.
  2. Never be afraid to start a new story, even if you have multiple unfinished ones going.
  3. If something’s not working right away, put it a drawer for a while and let it ferment. There will always be new ideas (see #1).

Teaching in June – and Some Words from a Student

Starting Tuesday, June 5, 2018, I’ll be teaching a 6-week Flash Fiction Writing Workshop at Barrington Public Library in Rhode Island. The classes are free and will meet from 6:30-8 p.m. at the library through July 10th. The library is also hosting poetry and memoir workshops, and their classes tend to fill up quickly, so if you’re interested, visit their site and sign up now!

Writing WorkshopSpeaking of teaching, I was surprised (in a good way) to find that one of the students who took part in a flash fiction workshop I taught at Wheaton College had blogged about the experience. It’s so encouraging to hear positive feedback from students! Read about it here at the Wheaton Blog.

I’m off to Cape Cod next week to work on a new project, so things may be quiet here for a while, but I hope to have some new work to report on soon!

“Jolene” Meets Mr. Bear!

I’m happy to be featured a second time on Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon, a unique and wondrous podcast of flash fiction, poetry, and music. My story “Jolene, Jolene” is in the mix, along with other stories about girls named Jolene. And the original Dolly Parton song, of course, along with variants and interpretations. You can listen online or download to iTunes.

Other news: new stories will be coming out this spring in 3Elements Review, Evansville Review, and Spelk Fiction.

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Girls on the Edge

Jellies
It’s been a year of stories about journeys and disappearances, magic and mysteries, the monstrous and the beautiful. I finished out the year with two new stories about girls on the verge of adulthood, girls standing on the edge between danger and safety.

“Jellies” is published in Pinball.

But not “the body.” That’s the breaking news. She has a name now. They keep showing the same picture, grainy, badly cropped. The kind of picture you get when someone dies who had no one in her life to tend her memory.

Read the rest of the story here.

And “We the Underserved” appears in the Winter 2017 issue of The Citron Review.

We the underserved, the undeserving poor, sitting underground, in the street-level window of an Eighth Avenue pizza joint, where we share a large extra cheese and pick garbanzo beans out of our side salad and make fun of passing feet.

You can read the full story here.

Image found on Pinterest.

The Uncool Kids’ Table

It’s been a tough week for me as a writer: seeing the nominations for Pushcarts and Best Small Fictions make the rounds on social media, reading the lists of winners and finalists, and knowing that this year, too, I’ve been passed over.

It’s a week that makes all the dormant high school mean girls in my soul come to life, spitting out their judgments on me and my writing. Loser. No-talent. If you haven’t made it by now, you never will. Why don’t you just give it up?

Maybe those girls live in your soul, too, always ready to let you know that no matter what, you are not good enough. You will never be good enough. Never be included in the big-name anthologies. Never be published in the top-tier journals. Never, as a writing friend said recently, be asked to sit at the cool kids’ table.

Should it matter? Is there a reason to keep writing even if you’re not ever going to make it into the canon? (Is there even a canon anymore?) Should I just grow up, give up, find something sensible to do? Something that might even pay the bills?

The only time I don’t ask these questions is when I’m actually writing. When I’m absorbed in the work that is play, the mean-girl voices shut up for a little while.

My writing group and writing friends are my lifeline, and when we write together, sometimes things happen that are a little bit magic. I can start with a few prompt words …

And suddenly, there’s this story taking shape on the page, and I’m not even stopping to worry if it’s bad or good or if it’ll be rejected or accepted. (This one was, at JMWW, and I’m very thankful to them for giving it a place to live.)

There are little victories along the way, but I don’t know if I’ll ever shake those feelings of inadequacy completely, ever stop worrying that I’m not as widely published as X and don’t have as big a Twitter following as Y. But I don’t really know X or Y. I don’t know what Greek chorus of mean girls lives in their own heads, telling them Forget it! You suck. You’re nobody.

I wish I could remember that all the time. Too often, I forget it when I’m listening to the chorus. But I think I know it when I’m writing, like the heroine of my story who confronts her rival, and finds her “only lonely and scared, like everybody else.”

I’m nobody. Who are you?

 

“How to Find Your Way to Black Bread Lake”–Two Ways

My story “How to Find Your Way to Black Bread Lake” was published in the always-wonderful and strange Jellyfish Review last week, and then I learned last night that it was featured on the podcast Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon/The Secret Lives of Stuffed Animals, along with some other magical, fantastic stories and music. Give it a listen–the music and stories are perfectly combined to take you to a mysterious, watery place.

Black Bread Lake

Month of Stories – Part 1

I’ve always loved fall and the sense of renewed energy and creativity it brings. This October, I have several new stories coming out in different journals.

“Breach” made its debut in 3Elements Literary Review. The story grew out of a writing prompt supplied by this quarterly journal, which asks writers to incorporate three words into a poem or story. Issue No. 16 features the words peppermint, breach, and scale. To see how they’re used in the story, download a free copy of the journal here.

Accidentally Like a Luddite“Accidentally Like a Luddite” was published in Atticus Review, a journal I’ve admired for its strong flash fiction. I’ve worked on versions of this story for a while. It’s close to my heart, and I’m so glad it’s found the perfect home. You can read it here.

More stories are coming soon–in Pinball and Jellyfish Review.

Visiting Wheaton

I was happy to be invited to teach two flash fiction workshops at Wheaton College this past week as part of the Evelyn Danzig Haas Visiting Artists Program. Despite a little interference from Hurricane Jose, it was a peaceful drive to a beautiful campus, and I enjoyed talking and writing with a class of talented young writers.

We worked on a writing prompt with three elements, then talked about revision, and I shared my own revision process, cutting down a much longer first draft of several (messy!) pages into the published 53-word story “An Ordinary Day, With Spin Art.” Not all revision is this radical, of course, but writing with a strict word limit as a goal can be a helpful way to learn the art of compression. Or, as the elder scribe Bob Seger put it: “What to leave in, what to leave out.”