A.M. Homes, Birds of a Lesser Paradise, & Another Incredible Acceptance

I spent more time than I’d like to admit on my hammock this week reading and re-reading short stories. And writing. And revising.

A.M. Homes, a brilliant writer for whom the word “brilliant” does scant justice, created something of a masterpiece in her piece “May We Be Forgiven.” The first line is fierce fierce fierce. It reads: “Was there ever a time you thought–I am doing this on purpose, I am fucking up and I don’t know why?”

And the story itself is just such a downright compelling story. I’m not sure I can adequately detail the thematic material in this piece. Find a copy. Really. Read it. It is incredible.

You’d think by now, after raving to just about anyone who will listen–actually, I should broaden that statement: anyone with ears–about Bergman’s story “Housewifely Arts,” I’d have read the collection in which the piece assumes its regal posture among other distinguished Bergman stories. But until recently, I had not.

But now I have. Reader, I have seen the light. And it cost less than fifteen dollars.

Bergman is gifted at excavating the interior worlds of her people and their intimate connections with the natural world. She does this with remarkable vision and clarity, tending to the specificity of protagonists who bespeak the universality of their situations.

I had a story, “Off Trajectory,” accepted to Baltimore Review. I am thankful and flattered and excited. I am very fortunate for this to be my second story to appear in the journal. Barbara Westwood Diehl, editor extraordinaire, is a gem. If you haven’t read her piece in Word Riot, do so now. It will shatter you as only the best stories, the most carefully-drawn pieces can.

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Hawai’i Review, Anna Kamienska

I recently had a piece accepted to Hawai’i Review! Very excited about this news. The story, “Leave It Behind,” underwent a series of rapid revisions last March, when I became very interested in stories as (I’ll cite Jennifer Egan here, as these are her words) “studies in compression.” So I carved away at the story’s exposition, compressing, and the story became a kind of reduction, its plot narrowed to a few choice scenes. After much revision, I thought it worked, and apparently, so did the good folks over at Hawai’i Review.

I’ve been re-reading old books on my shelves, ones with torn and dog-eared pages, ones that have fallen in the dismal crevasse between the wall and my bookcase. One such collection of poems, “Astonishments,” by Anna Kamienska, fascinated me. Several of the poems touched me deeply. I re-read one poem for some time. I vaguely recall its strength and significance from a first read over a year ago. An excerpt:

“Some deaths are polite and quiet
as if somebody gave up his place
in a crowded tram.”
–Anna Kamienska, “In a Hospital”

Potent, resonant, right. Not every poem landed as this one did–so tenderly and well–but many of the pieces are deeply felt. I recommend the collection.

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I Wrote a Poem

I wrote a poem.

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My Not-So-Furtive Love for Narrative Magazine

I’ve been interning with Narrative Magazine for a few months now, writing newsletter content, and I just love the opportunity. Narrative is a publication of the utmost quality, and they’ve published some of my favorite stories. One of them, “A Portion of Your Loveliness,” is fiercely compelling. The piece begins with the powerhouse line: “My daughter’s favorite game is Holocaust” and does not let up. Such obvious attention has been paid to language, to plot and voice, and what I perhaps most admire is Bloom’s ability to convey a deep sense of a mother’s care and concern for her child. I encountered something similar in Bergman’s BASS story: the moving timbre of wanting badly to provide for a child, tend to their well-being. Bloom is a master sentence-maker. This one is a knockout, folks. A story with a pulse that beats past its final line.

In a few days, I’ll be headed to help teach writing to talented youth, and I couldn’t be more excited. In the meantime, I’m completing revision on statements of purpose for MFA programs and working to radically re-structure two stories. My work might be cut out for me, but I’ve got to face it: I don’t get to complain. This is work I love.

Thanks also to my local used bookstore, which has provided me with three older copies of Best American Short Stories (2006, 2007, & 2008) and Best American Essays (2008), all of which are delivering fresh, vibrant prose. There just seems to be no shortage of well-crafted work; I look forward to reading my share this summer.

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Word Riot, A Favorite Essay, Sou’wester Contributor’s Copies

I just received word from Nicolle Elizabeth over at the always-fabulous Word Riot they’ll be publishing my prose poem, “Signs.” I’m naturally excited about it, as this is my first published poem. The rest has been fiction: what I typically write, what I most love.

A moment for how much I adore Nicolle: she’s as astute as she is friendly. I value that. Highly. A person so richly invested in writing and in kindness is a person worth knowing.

Now, because I probably won’t stop linking to the great PANK Magazine, here’s an essay she wrote.

It’s titled “On Arguing, On Screwing Up.”

I love this piece. I love this piece a lot.

In the essay, Nicolle discusses her time in an MFA program, among other things. An excerpt, because I’m insufferable and in love with much of this piece:

“The first day we’d met one on one in Mary’s office, there were questions, and I was terrified the entire time. I was a first generation college graduate. I was coming from a small town. Going to New York symbolized returning to the place my immigrant family had lived in for 40 years after coming to America by boat. I was dealing with a lot of emotions. The meeting ended with me literally saying to Mary and myself, out loud, the words, ‘I am supposed to be here.’ I said them, and you can ask her about this, while running out her doorway, over my shoulder, down her cobblestone famously carved steps, and she actually did call out after me, running, ‘I know you are.’”

So relatable and true–this is writing that knows where its heart is.

Other exciting news: my contributor copies of Sou’wester have arrived, and they look fantastic! I think the journal must have undergone some sort of design transition, because the cover and layout are sleek and modern, pleasantly unique. I’d recommend you check it out!

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Cataclysm Baby

I recently finished a first read of Matt Bell’s Cataclysm Baby.

Um, guys.

This novella is something else. Spoiler alert: I’ll be reviewing this title for The Colorado Review. Many thanks, as always, to J.A. Tyler and Mud Luscious Press–a press and online quarterly should be foreign to no reader; it’s been publishing some of the best innovative work out there. Bell’s work is no exception. The fierceness of Bell’s language is matched only by his world’s inhabitants, by the soot and murk of their existence. Purchase the novella here. You want to.

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The Emerson Review

I received my contributor’s copies of The Emerson Review, and goodness: this issue is fierce. I’m impressed by both the content and layout; it’s quite obvious the editors take great pains to produce a beautiful journal. Paul Robert Chesser’s story, “We Should Take Up Dancing,” is especially remarkable. So glad to have my story, “Vestiges,” included in this issue!

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Fiction Daily

I was excited to learn FictionDaily has recommended my piece, “Animal Control,” originally published in Necessary Fiction. Many thanks to Emily Koon and Steve Himmer for their time with the piece.

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And the News Keeps Coming!

In the past few weeks, some downright incredible things have happened. I’ve had work picked up by Sou’wester, The Emerson Review, and Slice Magazine. Many thanks to the editors who helm these incredible journals. I am humbled and flattered and thankful. I am thrilled. I am not on cloud nine. I am tentatively perched somewhere just above it.

I have been writing fervently recently. Pages and pages each night. Most of it won’t make the cut, but it feels good. Especially post-revision.

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News, News, News!

So thrilled to have this site go live. Many thanks to Steven Seighman, editor and designer. He’s Founding Editor of Monkeybicycle, a fantastic literary magazine. I used to read submissions for them, and goodness, do they receive some gorgeous work. And goodness, do they publish some gorgeous work!

For anyone who doesn’t know, I’m in the throes of the MFA admissions process. Not the sending out part, but the oh-God-an-unrecognized-number’s-calling-my-cell portion. Telemarketers have somehow managed to get a hold of my number, and I’ve been the recipient of many such calls. So much false adrenaline. Calls from automated Santorum representatives in particular fall into this category. It’s the absolute nadir of inconsequential disappointment.

So far, I’ve received some generous offers. But alas. There are no easy answers. Difficult decisions abound.

Some exciting publication news on the horizon (fingers crossed)! But for now, I’ll get back to writing, drinking more water than I probably should, and making detailed pro/con lists.

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