And the Nobel goes to…

Ill: N. Elmehed. © Nobel Media 2016
Ill: N. Elmehed. © Nobel Media 2016

When the Swedish Academy announced this morning that Bob Dylan was their choice for this year’s Literature Prize, people went crazy in exactly the ways you’d expect: his die-hard fans were jubilant; many writers and literature-lovers expressed open dismay; and others jumped into the fray to defend the award and call out the naysayers for snobbery and narrow-mindedness.

I think one can be nonplussed or even disappointed by this decision and remain innocent of elitism or parochialism or of suggesting Dylan is anything less than awesome. Sure, song lyrics are poetry, which makes it literature. Still, I don’t think the expectation that the award go to people who’ve spent their lives making, you know, books, as their principal occupation, is necessarily misplaced or snobby. Continue reading

On Writering

Writering it up, One Story Debutante Ball, May 2016 (Photo Dan Fuchs)
Writering it up, One Story Debutante Ball, May 2016 (Photo Dan Fuchs)

See the end of this post for details about the Landfalls audiobook giveaway. It ends July 14, 2016.
[This giveaway has ended. Congratulations to Sandra G. of Woodland, CA, for winning an audiobook!]

Before my book came out, I was a writer who spent a lot of time writing. Now I’m a published author, and I spend a lot of time doing things connected to writing or to my life as a writer but that don’t involve actual writing. If I wanted to, I could easily spend all of my time doing writerly stuff instead of writing. I call it “writering.” Continue reading

Moby-Dick Blackout Poems

Moby-Dick blackout poem
Blackout poem in progress

My novel Landfalls came out in North America yesterday (!!!), and I want to share a quirky project I’ve been working on in anticipation of its launch.

The idea came from Austin Kleon’s newspaper blackout poems. Kleon’s technique entails “finding” short poems in a newspaper page and inking out everything else. They’re really cool. Here’s one example:

Austin Kleon, newspaper blackout poems
Austin Kleon newspaper blackout poetry

I first stumbled across Kleon’s work four or five years ago. I was teaching at Sacramento City College and looking for an engaging and approachable in-class writing exercise for the poetry unit of my Intro to Creative Writing class. Many of my students had signed up to write short stories or personal essays. The prospect of writing a poem daunted them. Indeed, their instructor had not written a poem in many years and wasn’t undaunted herself. Continue reading

How I Found My Agent (and a Few Tips in That Regard)

apricot blossoms
Apricot blossoms – because, why not?

Now that I have a book coming out, a lot of people want to know how I found my agent.

The cheeky version of the story is that it took me almost ten years to write the book and only a week to find an agent.

The less-cheeky version is that I worked pretty hard for a very long time, then experienced some great good luck.

Here is the long version: Continue reading

On Writing Slowly

Frowning over every word.

I’m an incredibly slow writer. How slow? Well, there was five minutes of keyboard silence between the completion of that first sentence (“I’m an incredibly slow writer.”) and the arrival of the second one (“How slow?”). And that’s fast for me.

Now you know why I blog so seldom. (Another break while I check my dictionary to see if one blogs seldom or seldomly. Turns out “seldom” is both adverb and adjective. How nice to have that question settled. Another minute while I meditate on that and on the always reliable pleasures of the dictionary.)

This slow thinking coupled with obsessiveness is also why, after seven years of not-exactly-unrelenting-but-pretty-sustained work, my book manuscript is only now crawling toward completion.

Then there’s the research. Continue reading

My Pushcart nominations

This morning I walked to the mailbox and posted my Pushcart Prize nominations.

This is the best thing about being a past Pushcart winner. Well, maybe the second-best thing. The best thing, for me, is appearing right above William Carlos Williams in the index at the back of each Pushcart volume since I made my lucky appearance in the anthology a few years ago. One of these days an Oscar or Samantha Williams is going to come between me and William Carlos, and I’m going to be very sad for a few minutes.

But for as long as I or the Pushcart lasts, I get to be a contributing editor. I love everything about this, starting with the amazing fact that I am invited to send in nominations right along with seasoned editors and famous authors. I love reading something wonderful in a lit journal and feeling like I can do something about it, something more than just posting about it on Facebook. I love nominating poems and essays as well as my genre, short stories. And I love having to mail in the list—an old-fashioned letter, addressed to a real person (Bill Henderson, the man who’s kept this going for 35 years), folded into a real envelope, and affixed with a real stamp.

But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t manage to bring some stress to this delightful activity. For most of the year, I read very happily, noting any writing that amazes me on a “Pushcart nominations” list I keep on my desktop. But as the December 15 deadline draws closer, I grow anxious. At least half a dozen journals are piled up on my coffee table unfinished or even unopened. What wonderful pieces are going to lose out on getting nominated because I didn’t spend more time reading? Not that I really need more entries on my nominations list: I already have more than the ten I’m allowed. Who will I cut from the list? Continue reading