We spend a lot of time, as writers, looking at processes. Ours. Someone else’s. We eschew conformity. We crave it, too. Today I turned over the first of a few rounds of developmental edits with the wonderful editor 47North paired me with, Caitlin Alexander. I found myself laughing at the state of my usually neurotically-organized-into-stacks desk and thought I’d try my hand at a diagram. Ladies & gentleman, I give you the Anatomy of a Novel Edit (click image for larger size):
I’m honored to be among Synaesthesia Magazine’s 2014 Best of the Net nominees for my piece, “Pros & Cons of Montana” — a piece that explores a tip of the iceberg that is my complicated relationship with my home state, all that pulls me and pushes me away. It could not have found a better home than at SM. xo
I’m not going to lie. Announcing the sale of my first book last week was tremendous in every way. I’ve also realized I’m glad I’m doing this at 37 — I don’t know if at 25 (or whatever arbitrary age) I’d have recognized how colossally fortunate I am to have met and befriended so many amazing people in one lifetime. And in a time where we can remain virtually connected and celebrate our successes (and lament our sorrows) together. It’s a lot for one heart to hold.
I know, I’m getting mushy. And it will get worse in a minute.
I received more great news last week. “The Perils of Rosella,” my CNF piece pubbed in May by Cartridge Lit, was among their Best of the Net nominees. This piece was about the death of my (grand)father and instead of overusing metaphor, I used metaphor exclusively, pairing the months spent back home trying to help him battle lung cancer with my favorite childhood video game, Kings Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella.
I’m, of course, humbled and honored to share the nomination with so many other talented authors. If you haven’t had a chance to read these pieces — again, all inspired by the presence of video games in our culture, I encourage you to take a few minutes and visit (Seriously. “After I Heard Another White Woman at the Bar Talking About Michael Vick and the Death Penalty” by Jason McCall is one of the best poems I’ve read all year.) Don’t be fooled by the gaming premise: this mag is churning out some of the heaviest hitting short form lit around. Creator/Editor/Litentrepreneur Justin Lawrence Daugherty and Managing Editor Joel Hans are developing this project from their hearts into a serious contender.
The painful twist here is that his belief in me was unconditional and ever present. In fact my very first terrible book I wrote at 9 was dedicated to him. If he were here, he’d be buying champagne. If he were here he’d tell me the bitter comes with the sweet. If he were here. If. If. If.
If he were here he’d tell me to remember Kipling: “If you can dream — and not make dreams your master.”
But here’s another if: would I be the same me without that specific loss? Zell and “Perils” and countless other works would not be the same. He continues to be here — shaping things via the person I’ve become over time. For this too, I am grateful.
Lucky for me, contract negotiations take a little while. That’s good because I’ve been puzzling over the best way to announce the novel that demanded to be written — my epistolary, fairy-tales-invade-Los Angeles novel, Letters to Zell, has been bought by 47North and I will soon embark upon the last leg of the publishing journey for this particular project.
The sanguine side of me says, tell them again how you’ve always wanted this with your entire soul and that your brain never shuts off and that you can’t believe the gamble you made with your job and everything else actually paid off it’s like a dream come true or your very own fairy tale you can’t believe you haven’t woken up yet.
The other side says, shut up, just announce it like a professional and be done with it. Let people think you’ve got this all under control.
So like a true Gemini, maybe I can give you both. I sold my book and if all goes to plan you, dear reader, will be able to read it in June of 2015. (OMG! OMG! OMG! *Epic Squee*)
Thanks to everyone for the support. It truly means the world to me. Special thanks, of course, to my agent Cameron McClure for all of her patient guidance through this process. And of course to everyone over at 47North, especially my acquiring editor, Jason Kirk. I’m so looking forward to what’s next.
Last week, Tangent Online published a triple review of Unidentified Funny Objects 3, edited by Alex Schvartsman. I read them with one eye closed, ready for the great shoe in the sky to come down on my head.
However, the reviewers had nothing but praise for “Into the Woods, With Zombunny,” noting that as utterly ridiculous as the story and concept were, my utter commitment to the zany saved the day.
You can read the reviews here and pre-order your own copy here.
Last Tuesday I finally resigned myself to surgery I should have had months ago for the ruptured disc sitting on my radial nerve. Almost 10 days later, I’m experiencing new pains and limitations, but all in the name of a pain free life six to twelve weeks from now.
I visited my specialist who cautioned me to take it easy. It’s hard. I love reading and catching up on guilty TV series, but I also feel an underlying panic. Is the house clean? Should I have gone to the grocery store? Is there something I haven’t done?
I’m consoling myself with my mantra that art out requires art in. So if I’m a bit quiet for the next couple of weeks, it’s only because I’m focusing on ingesting art (and the basket of chocolate covered everything my darling Izzy sent me). xo
Earlier this month, I made a quick trip back to Montana to participate in a collaborative art project. My hometown of Billings is a place I’ve had trouble reconciling over the years. As an adult, I didn’t believe I belonged there. After five years in larger cities, the homogenous feel of the town was a bit smothering — I didn’t wear the right clothes or listen to the right music or think the right things. And yet, I want to want to be there. It is where my roots are, the last of my family, the vistas I know by heart.
I’ve spent more than a quarter of 2014 in Montana and it’s almost as if I can’t escape.
There are people making a difference.
People using art to start a conversation. Some of these people were my friends. Now almost all of them are my friends. Asked to join in the concept of “Tug of War: Where Conflict Resides,” I sent a batch of appropriate work. Directors Krista and Mike (who developed the idea), selected “The Great Divide” and “From the Kitchen of Helena Wilson” as components for the show. Around there were moments of dance, poetry, visual art, metaphor, audience inclusion, heat, light, breath, and the magic that comes from being a part of something truly unique.
I sat talking to some of the younger dancers before the show. They weren’t sure what some of the pieces meant, how they related to a tug of war. Some of their confusion, I said, was because they still had so much life to live before they could feel love and loss the way those of us in our 30s do. I hope someday they’ll look back and realize how lucky they were to touch so many creative minds at once, supported by a subset of a community that loved us back. I know I’ll carry this tiny hope, this flame of gratitude with me for the rest of my life. xo
Please check out just a few of the artists I was privileged to work with:
I’m running the Cascade Writers Conference this weekend — scheduling and bustling and talking. It’s so much fun to have this small community of writers, connecting circles and fostering friendships.
Last night we skipped traditional programming and hosted a meet & greet instead. We played a game and ate cake and at the end of the evening, groups had formed to start writing, socializing and creating. Unlike my dog (pictured) everyone was cooperative about wearing their badges, even the first year folks, who we badge with a color to make sure they are included, welcomed, and nurtured.
Today starts the first of the critiques and I’ll be watching for folks, who, like me, found their first experience to be unexpectedly emotional. Life happens all around us, even when we’re here in this safe space. I take this responsibility seriously and though I’ll be the most relaxed come Sunday, the big worries are over and now we come to the business of writing. xo
Update 8/27/14: Editor Nerine Dorman has found a new home for this anthology. An updated purchase link will be provided as soon as we have access.
Update 8/13/14: Dark Continents Press has sadly closed its doors. I have a few copies of The Sea in paperback and, of course, the electronic version if you are interested in reading. Please contact me for details.
“Songs of the Sea,” my first and (only) pirate story is out today in Dark Continents Press’ beautiful anthology, The Sea. Available now electronically with paperback version to follow.
Thanks for reading. xo
Up today at Big Truths (a division of the beautiful Little Fiction), my segmented essay “You Said There Wouldn’t Be Bears” explores fear and the times in life when fear surprises us.
These days, You Said There Wouldn’t Be Bears is a personal refrain. Every time I’m hyperbolic (which is a lot, surprise) or prone to generalities and pronouncements (also a lot), I hear it in my head. The humbling bear bounds down the mountain and makes me re-examine from whence my bluster comes. But the less I know I know, the less scared I become.
Thanks for reading. xo