Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Getting a Story in Audience

Last week I got a short story accepted for publication in Audience literary journal. I'd already been published there before, but it was nice to be published there again since I hadn't published with them for almost two years. It's also nice to see that this journal that has published me twice now has survived two whole years, no small feat for a small press and literary journal. What makes me happiest about this publication is that about a month and a half ago now, I went through a short story collection I was putting together to send to some contests and I noted that two stories in particular "Reaching Lincoln Center" and "Nowhere-On-Hudson" were really good stories that I wanted to see published. Looking back on it, I couldn't think of why these stories hadn't been published yet. So I sent them out to a few literary journals and within two weeks Skyline Literary Review had accepted "Reaching Lincoln Center" for publication and last week Audience accepted "Nowhere-On-Hudson." So within two months of my deciding to get these stories published, they have been published. In fact both stories have gone to print and can be bought in journal form. It's nice when things that you want to happen, happen. Now if only I could accomplish this feat with regards to the publication of my novel that my agent is trying to sell.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Just today I decided to write my May 1968 novel around a frame. It wasn't something I'd thought about doing before, but it just came to me today and I think it makes sense. Frames work well when what you're writing about is sweeping, large, when it covers vast amounts of time and I think that would benifit this novel. I have stopped, for the time being, wanting to write about the everyday. That's what novels are now. It started with Joyce and Woolf and has moved from modernism to post modernism and while I never minded the every day, in fact I have written about the every day, I'm a little sick of it. I want to write about something bigger, grander, more sweeping. History. I want to explore the price of and the effects of history without venturing into historical fiction per say. Having said that I think the frame works well for this story which will center around a couple, a young American girl come to Paris to study and an older Romanian gentleman who works as a waiter at a popular cafe. I want to start the novel a couple of years ago, at the thirtieth anniversary of the May 1968 riots in Paris where both characters meet again after many years. He'll be old, in his seventies and she'll be around fifty-something, much younger even now. I'll weave what's going on now in history with what went on them as the story goes back and forth. Perhaps there will be larger bits of one story and then another, but then again, maybe it would be nice to keep it all even.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Editing Cynthia Marie Richardson

Someone I know mentioned the other day that the average person only reads trash novels, if they read novels at all. This I was pretty aware of before. It's obvious by the sales of literary fiction just how many people like to think when they read. And this someone said just that, people want to escape their lives, not be hit over the head with more of life. And I can understand that, I can admire that in some instances. That's why I write. I write to escape, to have complete control, to build a world and be in it. I just don't think that being hit over the head with life, being "deep" to put it in the simplest terms, is necessarily a bad or boring or hard thing. And then I started to think about this novel I wrote last year that I haven't even gone back and edited yet, called The Ponderously Peculiar Expedition of Cynthia Marie Richardson. It's actually written a lot like this novel that my agent is currently attempted to sell (ah, poor literary fiction), a literary retelling of Alice in Wonderland called Alice Down the Basement Window. It has that kind of playful, British, hoity toity, but in a nice way, voice. And it's all about escaping. The main character is trying to escape her illness (she has brain cancer) while the sister she is trying to find is attempting she escape the law (she aided in a robbery many years ago) and the main character's boyfriend, a sweater vest wearing Buddy Holly glasses donning British (with a great accent) economist working at Columbia, is attempting to escape, well, being a sweater vest wearing, Buddy Holly glasses donning British economist at Columbia. The story takes place in Paris, Rome, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast. The Amalfi freaking Coast. It's about a woman with brain cancer and her hot boyfriend, it's about running from the law and searching over countries for a person. You can't get more escapist than that. And yet this story, this novel, is not a trash novel. It is literary, if I may be so bold. Sometimes I wish to God it were a trash novel, then maybe I could sell it. But there is something about it, something about the essence of life, that is inherently at the heart of this story and so it is literary. Maybe it's my Orlando, not quite as literary as something else I've written, like my thesis, but it's not a trash novel. I don't know whether this is a good or bad thing, or what good or bad means in the grand scheme of this, but ah...sighs....

But I have decided to start editing this book finally. I pushed it aside for a year right after I finished writing it. I edited it a little as I went along. I always do that, but it's time this book get the attention it deserves. And I've decided not to start working on something long again until July, so I have the time to work on Cynthia now. I don't know what this will get me, but I've never known what this will get me.

Whale Story

I started (and finished) the first draft of a story yesterday. It only took me a few hours, but the story had been swimming in my head for a great long while. At least a few weeks. I'd been too busy with the editing of my thesis, and the aftermath of all that, to get around to writing it until then. The story is about a man who goes on a whale science expedition so that he can drop his wife's ashes into the ocean in the hopes that a blue whale will eat them. The story opens as the narrator says "It had always been my wife’s dream to have her ashes spread in the belly of a blue whale." That dream is actually mine. I don't know exactly when I decided this, but I have always been fascinated by blue whales, perhaps merely by their sheer size, and I have always wanted my ashes to be eaten by a blue whale. I think it's very deep, very literary at the very least. The story goes on from there. While the plot is about the man on the boat preparing to and then spreading his wife's ashes, it goes back and forth into the past of this husband and wife. What this story is really about, if I may be so bold, is life. I have been reading entirely too much Virginia Woolf and so life seems to be the only thing worth writing about. I just finished Julia Briggs' criticism on The Waves and while I liked it, all I could think was that one should not read criticism on The Waves, one should read or reread The Waves. That being said, my story, like The Waves, is an attempt to understand life, the meaning of it. The tiny moments of being that we exist in, like dots on a Seurat painting that at the end of the day, the end of many days and months and years and decades, make up a life.

"But that’s what life is. The story of our greatest sins, our greatest loves held together by the smell of lamb roasting at dinner, peeling, yellowing linoleum in the kitchen under the old oven and the look of wire hanging baskets and how they remind us of our grandmother. And what’s more important, more beautiful? Making love on the beach or the way our cologne smells after we’ve just showered day after day after day after day."

That's what I've got so far, on the meaning of life. I'm probably far off, but I find that the human race can only exist, is only worth existing, if we try to find it. And art is still the best way to find it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Left

My brother told me the other day that he wants to be the Bill O'Rielly of the left wing. I'm not exactly sure what he meant by that, but I think he wanted to shout really loud and get people to listen. I agree that people really don't listen anymore. Not to much of anything, not unless you scare them into believing they're going to go to Hell. But people are only scared of Hell in the abstract. Believe me, most people do things that are quote unquote Hellworthy all the time and they don't bat an eye. It's when they can walk around swinging baseball bats and complaining, that's when Hell becomes a weapon. and I kind of understand what he's saying. There is no left wing in America right now. Not at all. Liberals...Democrats, they are not the left. And it's not as if I love the left. Not a fan of Mao, not a fan of Stalin or even Lenin. But there is something to the left and I think the right is just out for themselves. The left might be dumb sometimes, but the right at this time in history is just plain evil. Sorry. And I wish it were the sixties, back when the left meant something, when it did something. I think it would be best for the world if the American democrats folded into the republican party, because they're basically republicans anyway, and a new party emereged. I know the left has it's problems, but we have not have a left wing in the last ten years, not at all and look what has happened. To culture, to politics, to the economy. Something needs to happen. So maybe my brother is right. I start working on a novel based on the Paris 1968 riots next month, so we'll see how "political" I get as I research it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Thesis

Today I turned in my thesis. Kind of bitter sweet. I'm going to miss my MFA program but having an MFA has been really helpful and so I can only hope that it will be more helpful later on. The trick is to know how to use your MFA, how to get the most out of it. Because if you're not going to get the most out of something then what's the point? Do you really want to spend thousands of dollars on school only to get...what, a degree? Is that really all you're paying for? I see it so often with my students who sit in the back and don't speak. What I want to say to them, though I don't, is that I know right now who is going to have the corner office and who is going to be stuck in the cubicle their entire life. It's right there on their faces, baring some sort of invisible genius that might creep up.

But my thesis is finished and turned in and that's great. Though I think at the end of the day, my thesis, an IRA novel about three boys growing up near Belfast during the Troubles in the early 1980's, is really just about how much I have a crush on the brother of the main character in my novel.

"He smells like Ireland. Not frilly waterfalls and the Blarney Stone, not those high, stone castles and all that pasture land, hills tumbling over each other untouched and uncertain since the year 1547 like you see in postcards. But the dirt behind the garbage bins near the pubs, dead end streets made of crumbled stone you can barely drive on and the siding falling off the houses in the poorer sections of Belfast where dirty concrete foundations meet mud and sewer water. That is what he smelled like and that is what he looked like, and that is what he felt like. And that was what he was. It was a terrible beauty he had."

Yep. I think that means I'm crushing on him.