Indiana Review, Blogging, & Story Collection

Over at The Indiana Review, I interviewed the incredible Elizabeth Eslami. Liz is just a marvel, and her responses are engaging and illuminating. What a treat to have her spend some time answering questions about her process, her forthcoming novel, and, of course, how she believes in magic.

At Ploughshares, I wrote about Melville House‘s decision to reprint the Senate Torture Report as a book and the Man Booker Prize’s recent rule changes.

I had some very close calls with the collection after having only queried a few amazing editors and agents, but I think I’m heading back to work on it instead of casting out more lines, for now. I’m confident in the pieces but want to be absolutely sure it’s as strong as I can make it. So, I will be sending out I KNOW YOU KNOW WHO I AM again in a few months after a pretty intense inspection and polishing of it. I’m looking forward and have my fingers crossed!

Two stories out in the world right now, awaiting response from some of my favorite journals. Radio silence so far–here’s hoping no news is (tentatively) good news.

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Ploughshares, NPR, & Other News!

I’m thrilled to announce I’m now a regular blogger for Ploughshares. Huge thanks to superhuman Ellen Duffer for the honor. My first post was about recently established or soon forthcoming literary journals doing genuinely new and exciting work. Here’s the link to it.

And then NPR recommended it, and that was amazing. What an honor–thanks, Colin Dwyer!

Things have been tough. But there’s so much for me to be grateful for (see the risibly incomplete list below). Looking forward to seeing what 2015 brings!

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2014 End-of-Year List & Thanks

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.

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Ninth Letter & Other News

Matt Minicucci over at Ninth Letter recently accepted my story, “Puncture,” for a forthcoming issue. What an honor! Many thanks to Matt and the whole crew over at the journal, based at what I’m told is an Indiana U. rival school, U. of Illinois. In any case, it’s really one of the most beautiful literary magazines I’ve ever seen, so I’m grateful my piece has found a home there.

I’m writing a lot and revising a lot. I just started sending out a few stories that have been in revision since last April. I’m also nearing completion on my collection, I KNOW YOU KNOW WHO I AM, so that’s exciting. Oh, and I’m reading some amazing novels and collections. Kyle Minor’s PRAYING DRUNK is worth shouting-out here, and a shouting-at–as in, if you haven’t yet read the book, I am shouting at you to do so. Like, right now.

Rejection is happening, though not in any great amount or frequency, which is mostly a result of my sending out a lot less and a lot less frequently. And, I suspect, taking care before sending out. I’m only sending out what I love, though, so the rejection comes with some sad sting. So it goes.

How do I cope? I juice. Vegetables, mostly. I juice kale and mint and celery and ginger and beet and cucumber and apple. I juice carrot and parsley. Am I out of control? I’m not. I’ve decided I’m not. I feel a lot better. So that’s good. (Take that, rejection?)

There’s lots of exciting stuff happening over at The Indiana Review. Important to note we close for fiction prize and general submissions on October 31, so send before it’s too late! Check it all out here.

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Story Things, Bodega, Slice Conference, & Other News!

I was going to start this blog post by writing that my mother once said “The truth will set you free.” But this isn’t true. My mother said this many times, and recently I’ve been considering the adage more closely, and I have realized it is not true. The truth cannot set you free. The truth can keep you free, but when you’ve lied, your only options are: (1) to reveal, and in doing so to explode the awful bomb of the lie, its shrapnel hitting all sorts of unintended targets. Or (2), to live the lie out. You can decide to uneasily fold it into your identity. You can try to make it somehow true. But even that, we all know, can never work.

A lot of my recent stories examine characters who choose the latter: to live out their lies, to even make a point to prove them to be true, sacrificing too much of their own identity in the process. “I Know You Know Who I Am,” the most recent, is about this exactly. An excerpt, as the narrator describes it:

“It wasn’t that I’d never lied before, or even that my lies weren’t frequent: they were. The problem was that I’d made this person, this ghost, who could walk through the walls of my life, disorienting and rearranging, forcing me to recalculate every time Luke asked about him, which was often. And even more of a problem—it was working: Luke believed me. If I wanted him to think I was generous, I could work into conversation that Finn had been in some trouble with his landlord and I’d bailed him out. If I wanted him to think I had self-control, I’d explain that there had been another incident and Finn needed to learn I couldn’t do everything for him. After a few months, I had given Finn his own, terrifying breath.”

The story means a lot to me, not only because this is all stuff I used to struggle with (as I think many of us do), but because I feel like I’m making progress as a writer and a person. Basically, I’m starting to write the stuff that makes me uncomfortable. Writing a first-person narrator who we know from the start is a liar was especially hard, too, for somewhat obvious reasons. And so the charge became trying to tip off the reader via external clues which parts of his story are lies, and which are the bleeding, sorry truths.

Other news! Bodega Magazine recently accepted a brief piece, “Paid Vacation,” for their upcoming issue. Thank you, Emily Pan and Melissa Swantkowski!

I also got word I received a scholarship to attend Slice Magazine‘s conference this fall. So I’m pretty jazzed about that. The drive from Indiana to New York will be long. I will drink a lot of coffee and listen to a lot of 80s Pop Pandora Radio. Which, by the way, I highly recommend.

I’m nearly done with my workshop syllabus for the fall, in which I’ll teach amazing stories by (among others) Carol Anshaw, Kate Walbert, Amy Bloom, Vincent Scarpa, Catherine Carberry, Elise Burke, Roxane Gay, Rebecca Makkai, Karen Dietrich, Jennifer Egan, Jen Michalski, and Megan Mayhew Bergman’s astonishing first collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise. I’m so excited. I’m so grateful. I’m really looking forward.

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The Journal, Day One, SmokeLong Guest-Editing

I’m so, so excited that my story, “I Know You Know Who I Am,” will appear in The Journal! Many thanks to Brett and Preston for their time with the piece, and to the rest of the crew over at The Journal; they put out such beautiful issues filled with smart and big-hearted work. That this is likely the title story in my first collection (which is still in-progress!) only adds to my excitement. What an honor!

My story, “River Is to Ocean As ____ Is to Heart,” will be out in Amazon’s Day One in early/mid-June. Carmen Johnson, a fiercely talented editor, is to thank for this. Thank you, Carmen! Look for and read it on your Kindle app. if you want (and if you have one). It’s a real privilege to have work appear in this journal. I love the stories and poems it’s featured (Ann Rushton, Michael Conforti, among others). Looking to treat yourself? Subscribe.

Carmen helped tumble the rock that was this piece, which means a particular lot for what this story means to me. A lot of the story is in me in some way, though I’ll make a point to mention I’ve never cheated on an exam (as Ty did)! Also: that’s not a lie (as Ty is also a frequent liar).

Other news: I guest-edited SmokeLong Quarterly a while back and chose–to my surprise–a piece by my close friend, Vincent Scarpa. I’ve been a fan of his writing for, I can now say it, years. The judging was blind, and there were truly so many great contenders. I’m psyched to have you read his story. You should read it now. Find it, oh, here.

I’m working hard on a longer story that likes to fall apart on me. But it’s getting there, I think. It’s on its way.

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Pieces Online at Tin House & McSweeney’s!

So. Yesterday was my birthday. I didn’t eat cake, but I did read some of my favorite stories and do some writing. I worked on my humor book. Progress is being made. I aim to have a full draft by the end of the summer.

My short story template is up at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. And my brief story, “The Vanishing,” is up as a part of Tin House‘s flash series. What an honor. Many thanks to Chris, Masie, and Thomas for their time with my work.

Other exciting news: I’ll be associate editor of Indiana Review next year (and editor the following year!).

So grateful for this news. For now, I’m back to reading and revising, readjusting to warmth and sun in Bloomington.

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“Master’s Thesis” in Columbia Journal

I’m honored to have my story, “Master’s Thesis,” appear in Columbia: a Journal of Literature and Art. Thanks to EB Bartels and the Columbia crew. One of the characters, Luke, keeps showing up in my stories. He’s an enthusiastic, failed photographer. I’m not sure the reason for the reappearances. I barely know anything about photography.

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Good News!

The past few weeks have brought some great news. A ten-dollar bill on the ground. A few kind, encouraging personal rejections from my favorite journals. Congratulations from one of my all-time favorite writers. Flourless chocolate cake. You get the point.

Another great thing: Tin House recently accepted my brief piece, “The Vanishing,” which is set to appear online in April. I credit my father with giving me the idea for the story. He’s a surgeon, and once, he heard from a colleague about a sword-swallower who actually had a sword lodged in his throat. It had happened during a performance. I was interested in how that violent act might resonate with the narrator’s inability to move forward in his life, the things and disappearances that are similarly paralyzing him, rendering him a mute player in his own life. What an honor to have this piece appear in such a fine journal! Many thanks to Masie and Thomas, editors extraordinaire.

I wrote a post about AWP Seattle for Indiana Review. I’m excited for you to read the new issue. Be sure to check out Annie Harnett’s story, “Cheek Teeth,” in its pages. It’s, in a word, astonishing.

See you in Seattle? See you in Seattle.

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South Dakota Review, Pushcart Nominations, and Story Submission

I received my contributor’s copies of South Dakota Review‘s fiftieth anniversary issue! It’s stunning. Thanks to Lee Ann Roripaugh, R.B. Moreno, Sara Henning, and the rest of the great SDR crew for including my short story, “Slow Exposure,” in its pages. And let’s freak out about this cover for a second, OK?

Yeah. It’s gorgeous.

I’m honored to have two stories nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Thanks to the good folks at NANO Fiction and Wichita State’s Mikrokosmos Literary Journal for their time with my words. How cool!

I’ve been revising a few stories and just started sending them out into the world, by which I mean submitting them to my favorite literary magazines. Fingers crossed for more good news soon!

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