I clearly still haven't had much time for blogging, but I've been pretty active over at Goodreads lately (probably because it fills that blogging void) and have done some reviews. I thought I'd share them over here, just in case you're looking for something to read.
I've been quiet here for almost two months now, but those two months have been packed with change and new beginnings. I've wanted to post here, but part of me kept holding back. I think I needed to withdraw in order to take some time to figure out my new routine, my new goals, my new life, and how it all fits together, but from here on out, I hope to make weekly posts here again. After all, I don't want to lose sight of my writing goals.
My biggest announcement is that in August, I found out I'd been accepted into a graduate program at the University of Chicago. I am so incredibly excited about this. It is a really unique program that prepares its students for teaching in urban environments like Chicago. The program is two years long and at the end of it, I will have a Masters in the Art of Teaching and be certified to teach K-9. I started the program in September and it is just as wonderful and amazing as I had hoped. I plan to write much more about this later, but for now, know that this is what has been keeping me too busy for words.
During my hiatus from blogging, I also had two new stories published. You can find my story Thin White Line
in Issue #2 of Adanna.
And my shortest publication to date appeared in a recent issue of Safety Pin Review.
Now I am off to do some homework, but I'll be back soon!
Today's stories came from Alice Adams' final collection of short stories The Last Lovely City. I picked this book up at a used bookstore because the title and the cover caught my attention and this particular bookstore had an enormous selection of Alice Adams' books. I've never read any of her novels or short stories before, but thought Short Story Month would be a great time to introduce myself to her work. I selected two stories pretty much at random from this collection. I read A Very Nice Dog and The Visit. Both were very simple stories and at first, I was a bit disappointed, even thinking that A Very Nice Dog lacked plot. But what I realized as the stories marinated and followed me around throughout my day, is that Adams was a master of the subtle story. A Very Nice Dog was not at all about the dog, but the narrator's own loneliness and longing to connect with an acquaintance. She denies any kind of romantic interest in this man, but the whole story is her plotting to find ways to spend time with this man, even going so far as to arrange for him to adopt the very nice dog of the title. This story does not follow a traditional story arc, but instead follows the narrator through her denial. It is the type of story I strive for in my flash fiction. Subtle and capturing a mere moment important for the main character.
As for my own writing, I continued work on my bagpipes story and my word count is up to 1125, putting my on track for meeting my monthly goal. Now I'm going to go watch some more Olympics. Check back in tomorrow for more short story g
Day 1 of Short Story Month is off to a good start. My first reading selections came from the The Best American Short Stories (2011)
. I read Ricardo Nuila's Dog Bites
(originally published in McSweeney's
) and Elizabeth McCracken's Property
(originally published in Granta
). I felt both stories were strong, but McCracken's story spoke to me as both a reader and a writer.
As a reader, this story appealed to me because it is a story about grief and how we perceive the world around us differently when we grieve. Grief has always been a fascinating process for me, possibly because I've lost many loved ones, and maybe I don't quite understand how I manage to continue moving through it and beyond it and how everyone around me has their own unique way of dealing with their own grief. The first story I ever got published was about grief. It is hard for me to put down a story about loss and the healing process, especially if it is well-written, and well-written feels like an understatement to describe Property.
As a writer, I was drawn into McCracken's beautiful language and unique descriptions. She piqued my interest by opening her story with how an ad for a rental property should have been written, had it been accurate. But she hooked me in the paragraph that followed with her description of her characters. One character she described as looking like, ". . . a plump-cheeked naughty heroine of a German children's book having just sawed off her own braids with a knife. Her expression dared you to teach her a lesson" (193). I struggle with character descriptions in my own writing and tend to just leave them out because they fail to stand out and fail to serve the story, preferring to hint at a few surface details and letting the reader use their imagination. McCracken has no such problems. Without giving a humdrum list of physical features, she manages to create a vivid image of her character while still leaving the details to my own imagination. This is something want to strive for in my own short stories. There was much more about this story worth loving, and the exquisite descriptions certainly aren't limited to the first page. Her characters were quirky and real, and while the story was about grief and healing, it was not bogged down in the weight of heavy emotions. She somehow makes this a light read without being flippant about death and loss. This is a story definitely worth reading, especially if you are interested in studying well-crafted stories to help improve your own short story writing. If you don't care to pick up a copy of the above book, you can also read it via the Granta website
if you care to subscribe. Or at the very least, you can get a free sneak preview.
As for my own writing, I am working on a new short piece tentatively titled "Bagpipes". I am handwriting it at the moment (less chance of ending up on the internet or play solitaire for three straight hours that way) so I don't have a word count, but I am keeping Elizabeth McCracken's way of describing her characters in mind and may try my hand at accomplishing the same thing. I'll post an updated word count with tomorrow's post.
And just a little teaser, I've selected two of my favorite short story collections for giveaways and a fun little tool for writing inspiration. There may be more. First giveaway starts on Friday, so keep checking back!
So who are your favorite short story authors? Leave me recommendations in the comments because I have 60 more stories to read this month!
Happy Writing! (And Reading!)
I have short stories inside me again. They boil and bubble over at the most inconvenient of times, when it is impossible for me to write them down. The flame burns itself out whenever I finally put pen to paper, so that all I accomplish is to jot down a quick summary of the ideas, so it is all captured at least and will continue to simmer. I can only hope that the story boils again the next time I sit down to write.
The spark for this long-lost flame has been my copy of Dzanc Books' Best of the Web 2010.
While looking for some fresh reading material without taking a trip to the bookstore this weekend, I found it sitting on my shelf, brand new, corners unbent, spine uncreased. This monster of a volume scolded me for buying it months ago, only to almost immediately forget its existence. Shamed, I shoved it in my bag and declared it my day's reading. Within its pages, I discovered short gems of contemporary literary fiction. Writers I've heard of in magazines I've been rejected by. Writers I've never heard of in literary journals with unfamiliar names. Some spoke to me, others were forgettable. Some I could even finish, others I devoured. But through reading them, I was reminded of a fact that I should be painfully aware of, but choose to ignore for the most part: I don't read nearly enough short stories. For someone who wants to write (and does) literary short stories, my reading tastes tend to run in the opposite direction.
So in an effort to rectify this and to celebrate my rekindled spark, I am declaring August "Short Story Month" here in Happy Writing Land! What this means for me is threefold:
- I must read at least two short stories every day in August. They can come from any source I wish. Any author. Any genre.
- I must blog about at least one of the stories I read each day. That means 31 new posts in August minimum. Ideally, I will discuss elements of the stories that drew me in and what did or didn't work for me. But naturally, it is just going to depend of what it is that I end up reading and how it appealed to me.
- I must write a minimum of 500 words of a short story of my own OR a complete flash piece of less than 500 words each day. I will attempt to use prompts for this and post the prompts used here on the blog, but won't deny inspiration if it comes from an unexpected place.
So to recap that means I will be reading a minimum of 62 stories, writing 31 new blog posts, and writing approximately 15,500 words dedicated exclusively to short stories. Aside from this new project, I do intend to continue editing my novel, so don't think I am going to use the month of August for slacking off in that department.
Now, I don't want to keep all the fun to myself, so I plan to do at least 3 giveaways throughout the month -- maybe more! So stick around and join me on my short story journey!
Happy Short Story Month!
So I am officially in the process of keying in my hand-edits, and naturally adding more edits as I go, to my first draft of my YA novel, which, when I am done, will mean I have the second draft officially done. This is something I have danced around doing for quite some time. Part of that is just good old fashioned procrastination. (What? I'm not the only writer guilty of this?) But a good chunk of it has been rooted in a deep, dark, emotional place for me. I finished my first draft of my novel last August. It was a high like no other. I was walking on air for a solid week and ready to dive back into to draft two, sooner rather than later. But then, like with so many of life's unexpected twists, my phone rang and priorities shifted. I lost my brother a week after I finished my novel. And going back to that happy place just didn't seem like a valid option for a long time.
Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Dawn Turner Trice, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, and a YA author herself, speak for the second time at a workshop. Last year during the same workshop, I submitted a page of my novel for her feedback, and she was amazingly supportive and encouraged me to finish it. A month later I did. This year, I was able to tell her how much her words of encouragement meant to me and shared with her that I was now working on the second draft. Because she had shared her own novel-writing process with us the year before, and she spoke of the loss of her sister during the writing of her novel, I shared my own loss with her, and she said that I would be seeing my novel in a whole new light now. Losing someone you love changes everything.
She was right, of course.
Now when I wrote my novel, I believed it had little to do with my life. It was just a good story burning inside me, nothing more. Something I thought that tweens and teens might enjoy reading. Certainly something I enjoyed writing. But as I crept back towards my novel -- editing it in bursts and fits then going back to ignoring it, I began to suspect that there was more of me, more of my family, and more of my brother buried deep in those pages, than I realized during the writing process. I now know that my novel is for him, and that knowledge carries me through the deep, dark, emotional place that I avoided for so long.
I introduced you all to my main character here
for the first time, so today I thought I'd take the opportunity to introduce you to her sister, since really, today's post is largely about siblings.
So how are all of you doing? I hope you are all writing brilliant things!
The last two months have been busy for me as I make plans for the future. (I will keep you posted when I have news on that front!) I hope to get back to regular blogging again by the end of the summer, but in the meantime if you are dying to read some of my work, you can find one of my stories in Volume II of Magnolia: A Journal of Women's Socially Engaged Literature. This is actually not a flash piece for once, so take advantage and get your copy to read a rare longer short story by me.
I've been writing lots of short works and am getting back into editing my novel. Hoping to have lots of exciting news to share in the near future. In the meantime, keep writing, folks!
Check out the newest issue of Black Fox Literary Magazine
! You can view the whole thing on their website for free, or purchase a print issue, but either way you get to read one of my stories. Happily
is a warm and fuzzy little flash fiction that I hope you like.
In other flash fiction news, I have finally knocked a hole through that wall of writer's block I've been struggling with since February (hence the drought here on the blog) and have written five new flash fictions in the past week, which is phenomenal progress after such a long dry spell. I have actually started to compile my first ever themed collection of flash fiction and hope to have a chapbook in a few months as a result. I am finding the theme to be a great solution for shaping problematic stories that I've written over the last year, but have resisted revising. It gives me a frame to work within, and it is like getting permission to change the story from my original intent. Not that I couldn't have done anything I wanted with them prior to starting in on this collection, but I think sometimes revision is hard for me because I may have an idea or a vision when I first write a story and then when that story falls short of my intent, I feel like I can't change its purpose (I am a stubborn creature, just ask my mother), but I know it will never be what I wanted it to be in the first place. So it gets filed away in my To Be Revised File and just gets really dusty. Going back and re-reading it, but still not knowing what to do with it, always makes me a little sad. Like seeing a dog or a cat at the animal shelter and I know their odds of getting a forever home are slim, but that doesn't make them less lovable, nor does it alter the fact that I am in no position to give them a forever home. Yes, it is THAT heartbreaking for me. Or I am being overdramatic. One or the other. Either way, I am writing and revising again, and it feels good to be back.
How have you guys been? What exciting news do you have to share? How's the writing going?
Wow! April is almost over and it's been like a ghost town over here in Happy Writing land. Never fear, I am alive and well, if in a bit of a dry spell. April has been a bit of an emotional month for me. As you may recall, if you have been coming around here for awhile, I lost my brother back in August. He was young and his death was unexpected. For various reasons, our family decided not to hold a memorial service for him at that time. Instead, we planned a celebration of his life a few weeks ago following his birthday and preceding Easter. It was a bittersweet time and leading up to it and since, I've spent a lot of time in reflection on my own life and have been trying to make healthier decisions and live a life I can be proud of. However, all this reflection time has made me neglect my website. I am working my way up to posting here regularly again and I have a whole slew of posts that I am itching to write when I have time. So many exciting writerly things have been happening!
In the meantime, however, I would like to share that an extremely short piece of mine is up in the newest edition of Scissors and Spackle
. This is a very experimental piece for me and I am thrilled that it found such a loving home.
I am alive! Apologies to all who stopped by for the silence and the failure to deliver the promised AWP post. I still plan to get that up (better late than never) but I've been feeling run down lately and haven't had a lot of energy to do things beyond the absolute necessary. However, I am hoping to get back in the groove of things this weekend.
In the meantime, I did want to share with you that I have a short story up over at Infective Ink
today. It's an older one -- an early attempt at suspense, but it fit in nicely with their March theme, and I am happy to see it have a permanent home.