I’m doing it again, but this time I’m doing it differently. Last year I compiled stories I read and loved, pieces that had found me, that seemed to understand me, into a list. And then I started to do that again, for this year, and got overwhelmed. So instead, I’m posting a list of literary folks and experiences I am grateful for–and though that’s by no means a shorter list (and certainly incomplete), it’s important to me all the same to acknowledge the good and great I’m honored to have seen, heard, befriended, and–of course–read in 2014.
–Being in fiction workshop with the enormously talented, generous, and incisive Liz Eslami, who is a real gift to IU’s MFA program. If you haven’t yet read her Hibernate: maybe you definitely should.
–Getting the call letting me know I would be editor-in-training (next year editor-in-chief!) of The Indiana Review. This news came during a difficult time, and I was in the University bookstore of all places. I remember the day being very hot, that searing heat, and I was so excited my hand was shaking. I was spilling iced coffee all over the bookstore carpet. One of the cashiers, bored, eyed me warily–thinking, I’m sure, that I might be on the verge of some medical emergency. But it was that kind of rushing excitement. And I have the downright brilliant Britt Ashley (remember this name) to thank.
–Publishing three writers in The Indiana Review who are around my age and who are worlds more talented than I will ever be, and whose writing will–less praise and more promise–touch you as only the best, most careful and attentive fiction can. Elise Burke. Vincent Scarpa. Catherine Carberry. Click on each of those names. You are welcome.
–Being around Megan Giddings, whose great Tumblr I am now exposing, and who has been as much a support and great friend as a true inspiration. I once spent way too long introducing her at a reading. Her work is excellent and oh, just have a look yourself. Thank you, Megan. And, of course, check out my great friend Doug Paul Case, who is similarly wonderful and talented. (National Poetry Series finalist, anyone?) Also: Katrin Tschirgi. Who is the best. Who is light.
–Hearing Megan Mayhew Bergman read from her incredible forthcoming Almost Famous Women at The Hotel Vermont in early summer. The night confirmed suspicions Megan might actually be perfect, and as I drove home late I recall there was a detour, and I ended up driving deep in the Vermont woods, willing myself to get lost, and it started to rain. It was warm, peepers flipping like coins on the dirt roads, fog lifting like breath over the mountains. I don’t know a lot of people in my hometown anymore–I’m a very different person now than I was as a kid–but that night was such a point of connection, and I’m grateful to have been in the company of Megan’s big-hearted words.
–Talking and catching up with the incredibly smart and cool Tim Horvath. You should have already read his bold and just fantastic Understories, but in case you haven’t.
–Spending AWP Seattle with some talented and kind folks, and staffing the Indiana Review and Electric Literature booths. It was a treat meeting many excellent writers and editors while talking about these cool literary playing cards you need to buy right now. And being around two of the smartest lit folks I know, Halimah Marcus and Jake Zucker, was just an honor. I’m looking forward to Minneapolis this April, where I will spend too much money on lit mags and endure my annual affliction: AWP totebag handburn.
–Getting to work with editors who know how to polish a rock into a gem: Beth Blachman, Carmen Johnson, Chris Monks, Ellen Duffer, Masie Cochran, Brett Beach, Emily XR Pan, & Matthew Miniccucci in particular: Thank you!
–Working with the amazing Erin Harris of Folio Literary Management for a second summer. Erin is so smart and helpful, and the experience was such a great one. Thank you, Erin.
–Writing some stories that matter to me, that I feel are starting to uncomfortably reveal too much of myself, and having the title story of my debut collection, I KNOW YOU KNOW WHO I AM, appear in the gorgeous The Journal.
–Reading novels and collections (overdue reading, in some instances) by Celeste Ng, Alexander Chee, Rebecca Makkai, Kathleen Founds, Jennifer Egan, Roxane Gay, Anthony Doerr, Lorrie Moore, Ben Marcus, Junot Diaz, Kyle Minor, Bret Anthony Johnston, NoViolet Bulawayo, & others. Each of these stunned me. What brilliance is being written right now. What an honor to have these marvels in the world.
–Working on the novel in short bursts, on the hammock and in a Logan terminal, keeping a notebook of details and ideas for scenes, bits of dialogue, and reminding myself I will make this. It’s weird and probably unhealthy, but I keep a stack on blank index cards near my bed, and I regularly wake up, or am unable to sleep, and force myself to write whatever on them. I have a stack on fun nonsense to mine later.
–Having someone like you, who in all likelihood does not know me well or maybe at all, take the time to read this.