Sunday, January 25, 2015


I've been having nightmares about hackers and cyber terrorism lately, so I figured I had better post here because what better prompt?

My dream went like this: I woke up in the middle of the light, and my phone was buzzing and lighting up. When I picked it up, a screeching sound came from the tiny speakers and a rough-chinned man with a hoodie on glared at me from the screen. He told me my online persona no longer existed, and that he owned it now. He told me all my accounts were now his, and that it would take years to rebuild everything. He told me he didn't want to be me, only to show me how fleeting it all is. Then my screen went black. I tried to turn on my laptop, and it too was dead. I looked out my back window, and the guy was there, hands in pockets, then I woke up with the feeling that this was happening across the country.

Scary? Mmmhmmm. So this week's prompt:

Write a flash piece about technology terrorism and how a victim of online identity theft would handle the situation. Write for 20 minutes, then stop. Go back and revise later. 

That's it. Go!

My new collection of fiction, AFTER THE GAZEBO, is more experimental than anything I've ever done. As I work with Rain Mountain Press to finalize everything and get ready for the spring release, I wanted to invite you all to vote on the cover. Everyone who votes will be entered to win a free copy when it comes out. See the options on my website. We are leaning toward one of the three, but I figure it will be a fun giveaway.

I probably won't have time to post next weekend due to the literary citizenship festival, but meet me back here in two weeks. That is, if I'm not cyber destroyed. :)

xo Jen

Friday, January 16, 2015

What is Literary Citizenship?

I have been invited to speak at Otterbein College, where I earned my undergraduate degree in English, to speak on the subject of Literary Citizenship. Although speaking and participating in panel discussions (not to mention reading from my work) will be a great honor, I have to admit that I am most honored and engaged by the topic itself. In order for there to be literary citizenship, there must be literary community. Although I will put together a more complete argument, here's what I've teased out so far:

The literary citizen must adopt four different roles to be an active citizen:


I recently read Julia Cameron's fantastic book, The Artist's Way. In it she suggests that people adopt shadow professions in place of the artistic professions they desire. One example was the teacher who secretly wants to be a novelist. I agree with much of what is in this book, but I think literary citizenship is about adopting all roles. The novelist is made stronger by engaging in the literary world as a teacher as well as a reader and audience. If I could make the above a circle, it would be more in-line with what I believe. I hope I can portray my thoughts on the matter in a coherent way when I go. I am very, very excited.

In place of a writing prompt today, also, I have an announcement:


I signed the contract yesterday. It is a full-length collection entitled After the Gazebo, after the story here. It will feature band new stories and much of my work over the last two years. More soon, but if you'd like to get one of the very first copies, email me: :)

*If you're in the Columbus area, here's the agenda.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A restful prompt

The first week back to a cubicle job, after quite a few days off for holidays, is rough. I ended up making it to the weekend (almost) and then wanting nothing more than to collapse. I've been doing some freelance work that ended up taking most of my free time, however, so my resting time was cut a bit short. Then I realized I was late for yoga. Even though I find my work stimulating and teaching/freelancing gratifying, I realized how much I was craving rest when, after a yoga class, I sat down on the couch to read and fell from conscious reality fast.  I woke dazed and relieved.

My non-stop pattern of work has been recurrent in my life. As a writer, I have always wanted to do and try everything, at least once, so I can't say no for fear of missing out on knowing just what this or that would be like. What ends up happening, however, is that my schedule becomes so tight I barely leave room for air.

I love being busy, but it also comes with real challenges. First, everyone needs rest. Second, every writer needs to write. Otherwise, we go rather batty. To put it nicely. In the past, when I haven't listened to my body's pleas for rest, it has slowed me down with force - either illness or injury - and I thought this would make an interesting prompt.

Write about a person who is going non-stop, maybe a corporate Type A or a Type B with delusions of grandeur (or, ahem, both). Start with this person in the middle of his/her work routine, then bam! Slow this person down. How does the character change? This is a simple plot, but it has potential to be quite dynamic. 

Have a great week, everyone! Don't forget to breathe. xo Jen

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


"New Start" by Ryzaki

Happy New Year!!!

As you may know, I am a big fan of resolutions. I am a huge fan of new beginnings. In order to begin anew, however, one must take stock of where she's at. As much as I'd love to let Facebook do it for me, I think I'll sum up my year myself, no algorithm, just plain old human memory bank.

In 2014, I traveled to Seattle for AWP in February, I began work as a research analyst across ICT markets, I published a fiction chapbook that I love even after print, Don't Tease the Elephants. I ventured to Nebraska and had truly life-changing time at The Art Farm. I visited my family in Massachusetts, and I struggled to write a novel. I finished a novel. I spent good time walking and dining with and hugging my husband and dog. We found a new living space and set up home. We spent a lot of money on Christmas decorations and enjoyed a solitary if beautiful holiday. I made new friends. I decided to do more in 2015. This is all the good stuff, the stuff I talk about. I also had surgery on my ear; took my husband to many, many, many appointments; worried over family and friends; beat myself up here and there for not doing better, looking better, being better. But to bring it back home, I am grateful for this year. So incredibly happy to have survived another one and to have made it to the year Back to the Future Part II took place in. To 2015!!!

I'll post a new prompt next week. Proud to have these final publications for 2014:
writing to art in:
& my piece on not having children in:

2015 Resolutions:
  • Be good to my friends, love them unconditionally
  • Write more regularly, find my routines
  • Find representation for my novel and work on the second one diligently
  • Have fun
  • Keep believing that things can happen at those moments it doesn't feel as though they will
  • Travel more, host literary events, give back to the literary community
  • Laugh more
  • Try a new food, at least one
  • Meditate regularly, to keep perspective
  • Zip line some damn where
  • Go to Honduras, go home, attend a residency
  • Do more of what is in-line with who I am
  • Have fun!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Closing out 2014

2015 is the year of the Ram in Chinese astrology. Jupiter is in Leo. Technology will continue to converge. New mobile gadgets will be created. My dog will hit the magical 2-year birthday in which she is supposedly going to calm down a little bit and lose her taste for my shoes.

I can't wait. I am ready to resolve to begin again.

I've been relishing the holiday break. Spending some time writing and reflecting, hanging out with my husband with no rush to be here or there has been divine. On Christmas Eve, we were treated to a free four-course meal at a Jason Dady restaurant, Tre Trattoria, in San Antonio due to a reservation conflict. We ate caprese salads, cioppino, rainbow trout, and Nutella dessert 3 ways. Divine. We bought a bottle of wine and tipped generously to show thanks and will most definitely return again. On the 26th, I was thrilled to find Room Magazine in my mailbox, which so lovingly contains my piece "My Children in Times New Roman." It is perhaps my favorite piece to-date, mainly because I wrote it not only for myself but for all women who cannot or do not have children.

Also, given the time off, I was able to begin planning a March reading at San Antonio College. I've invited Melissa Studdard, JP Reese, Amy King, Jane Hammons, Bill Yarrow, Meg Tuite, and Lynn Beighly to read at SAC on March 7th, and I do believe it will be a blast. If you're in the area, plan on coming to hear us from 3-5PM. After, there will be a party. Before that, I head to Otterbein in Columbus to assist in a workshop about literary citizenship. I love that my year will begin with so many literary events, as I've felt a lack there since mid-summer.

In lieu of writing a story this week, I recommend writing an extra set of resolutions. One of your own, if you so please (no diets allowed) and one of a fictitious character - who will appear in a story later on. For my part, I will write Rattle's resolutions. I hope you have fun with this one.

Happy New Year! I'll post resolutions next week. xoxo Jen

Sunday, December 21, 2014


I have been missing posts here, after such a good run. I have, however, been writing here and there. Here, at Fiction Southeast, I have a micro essay on why I believe we still read, despite claims of lowered attention spans and tech-assisted laziness. I also have a piece forthcoming about online personas and their value to the modern-day artist.

BUT I haven't been here. I suppose it's partially due to my busy schedule, school winding down for the term, the holidays, the freelance work I've picked up. Perhaps I have something I want to talk about but can't. Yet. Nevertheless, here I am with a prompt. For you.

Write a story with three characters. Character A is missing and Character B is looking for him/her. Character C finds Character A but doesn't tell Character B. Why? 

It's something of a mystery, and if you write to it, let me know how it goes.

I'm not with my family this year, so I will be having a quiet holiday with my husband and pup. It's strange how not being with family makes you appreciate them all the more.

I wish everyone reading this a very happy holiday season. Enjoy your families and friends, and if you are alone, do something good for yourself. Or for someone else. Enjoy, eat well, and don't feel as though you have to purchase needless things. Only give what matters.

San Antonio looks nothing like this, but this is how I still think of the holidays.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Prompt and story

The first full week back to work after a holiday is a long week indeed. I am currently wrapping up my fiction writing class and preparing for yet another break in January, and I'm psyched because I'm tired (see: fewer posts to blog).

I had a Rattle story come out this week, in Superstition Review XIV entitled West on N Road. I am particularly fond of SR because it is the journal that published the first story I wrote that I felt was complete and whole. It's available in issue IV. West on N Road is a longer piece, but I hope you'll read it. Another one, a sort of prequel, will be out in Per Contra soon.

For kicks, and because I begged him, Chris drew up an older Rattle for me, which I love. This piece captures a part of his final journey (it is not the end).
Rattle for West on N Road by Christopher J Shanahan

I find that images are very powerful ways to bring out stories, so in lieu of a textual prompt this week, try to write to the following image. Just examine in a while, set a timer for 20 minutes, and GO!

Have a great week, all! xo Jen