Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sweet stuff

I've been posting a lot about meditation, general health and wellness, cooking more whole foods, eating veggies, exercising mindfully, etc... and I still am. But today's post is no healthy writer post. This week has been overflowing with the sweet stuff, the decadence.

My intentions were good. I brought home a single 1.7 ounce Vermont-shaped container of maple syrup for myself and quite a few maple leaf-shaped deals for friends. This was strategic thinking as the stuff is like crack, not that I've done crack, and I have very little restraint when it comes to such sweetness.

Also particularly saccharine this week is the fact that I'm reunited with my husband, who had to leave in a mad dash six hours after I got back from Vermont, who I barely got a chance to hug before having to drive him to the airport. We had three weeks apart. But yesterday, we were really reunited. We had waffles with that amazing maple syrup, took a long walk, practiced our respective art, and then went out for a healthy vegan meal followed by the most ridiculous dessert martini at SoHo on the Riverwalk in San Antonio to celebrate a friend's birthday. (I'm still feeling a sort of sugar buzz from this thing; in fact, my body might be in shock for a week. I was drinking the one on the right.)
Insanity aka the SoHo's Creme Brulee and Samoa martinis shown here.

This week has also been filled with literary sweetness. Here's a glimpse:
  • The release of The Istanbul Review, VII, in which I have a longer piece of fiction. (The shipping is high for those in the U.S., but this publication is available on iTunes and will soon be available on Kindle as well.)
  • The release of Versus, by many of my favorite poets who are all writing on a list of topics that, well... I just can't wait to read this book.
  • Two acceptances recently, one of which was in Monkeybicycle, one of my long-time, all-time favorite online publications.
  • Oh, and I finished a new flash piece I'm quite fond of this week. 

With the sweet, there is always the difficult. I'm off to reconcile a few writing dilemmas:

One is in a short piece I wrote. As I began the piece, I found the character came to life quickly and seemed to fit a particular name but the name was also somewhat awkward and jarring to the flow of the piece which is very important to me. My writing has to be read-out-loud friendly. But, my dilemma is whether I should keep the character with the name that seems most appropriate and get over my style obsession or compromise her initial portrait for style's sake. I'm leaning toward the latter, but I'm still unsure.

Also on my agenda, writing-wise, is another new character. Like Wallace (a character that recurs in my work and will be a highlight in my novel), I have a new character that seems to want to appear and reappear in my work. His name is Rattle, and two of his stories have been picked up already. I am very eager to see what people think of him. My dilemma here is, if I allow this character to grow and emerge through different short stories, should I also give him a voice? The difference with Wallace is, I always tell the story through his POV or a close third-person narration. Meanwhile, I have written all of Rattle's stories in first person, but never from his perspective. I guess that will be a question better answered when the publications come out, but I am excited about this guy. He's still mysterious enough to me to write quite a bit more about.

We'll see how it all works out. Such writing dilemmas are a good thing. They mean my gears are going. VSC really got me back into the writing swing. And if there's such a thing as residency addiction, I think it's already kicking in because I'm already thinking about my next (month-long) residency, and how I can make this happen. There has to be a way. Focused energy allows so much. It really does.

Before I sign off, I thought I'd share this because this blog is about my writing journey. Below is a taping of my reading from KGB. The awesome Michael Dickes took the footage, and Joani Reese delivered the MP4. If it doesn't work, sorry. I noticed I say um a lot when introducing my work. I guess that's why it's good to tape these things... Anyway, it's really dark but the sound is good. Once I get into the reading, I stop saying um, promise.

Read here is "Getting There" which appears in PANK and a short essay about my Grandpa Homer and a falcon that originally appeared in Narrative Magazine as "Columbus, Ohio." I had so much fun in NYC. Invite me back, NYC!

Have a good week all!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Week 1

Snow drift early this morning over
the mountains
It has been one week since I landed in Burlington, Vermont and took the shuttle to the small town of Johnson, where the population comes in well under 4,000 and the maple candy is pure. It has been as low as -15F since I've been here, and oh yes, there has been snow. We didn't get hit hard at all by the blizzard, but what reached us was the most snow I've seen at once in a long time.

I was thrilled because I was able to take pictures with my phone today. In the airport, on the way here, I had dropped my phone on the bathroom floor, and it fell to pieces. I was able to put it back together; however, I didn't realize at the time that I had lost my micro-SD card, which meant I couldn't store anything on my phone, including pictures. But, I got a new one last night and voila! I took these on my early morning walk... a few pics post-yesterday's snow. I have to say, it really is like being inside of a snow globe.

It's a little snowier now
If you are considering a residency but have yet to make up your mind as to whether to apply, do! The food is good, the people are cool (though I guess the people would always be different), and the value of free time to write is, as MasterCard would say, priceless TM (they did trademark that, right?). Also, Johnson, VT is adorable. There's pizza, wing, and Chinese restaurants downtown. No grocery store since the flood, but a pretty handy gas station and another deli that sells wine and snacks. There's a headshop (smokeshop), an art store, Ebenezer Books on Main, a cool little coffee shop, a P.O., and a laundromat. That's pretty much the extent of it, but let's be honest, any more would just be distraction.

I am happy to say that I was productive my first week. I have 25 badass pages of revised novel and 160 pages to revise. But, I've done some major adjustments to the book I'm working on here that I think are changing the pace of things dramatically. One of the residents here said something that struck me the other day. He said that if you're not interested in your own work, no one else will be. You have to be excited about it as you create, and if you are, that's exactly how you know you're on the right track. I agree. When I first started on this piece here, I wasn't excited. I just wanted to finish a novel. Now, I'm thrilled. In fact, I want to see what happens next as much as I would if I were reading someone else's work.

Along with my badass novel revision/additions, I have written two new stories top to bottom that star the same character, only neither story is told from his perspective. These new pieces were inspired partly by my interest in animal trivia (in case you haven't noticed) and some of the nature stories I've heard here in Vermont. I developed a rather oddball character, but I love him. I think he's interesting enough to have an entire collection of work devoted to him. We'll see. I hope to write at least one more piece with him in it while here.

So, yeah, I'm energized and ready to write some more. (Conversely, this cold wears a person out! I'm exhausted by 6PM.) I'm technically more than half-way through the residency, so here's to hoping I can get to page 100 of the novel. If I can, I think I could get it ready for an editor by early summer.

In the meantime, please read my new experimental piece in Stone Highway Review. You can read it for free here, or you can support a lit mag and get the beautiful printed version here (see right for the cover image). Thank you, Mary Stone Dockery and Kate Longofono, for putting together such a beautiful body of work. Also soon to come out is the beautiful new issue of Lost in Thought Magazine, which is put out by Kyle Schruder and Robert Vaughan. I got my proof yesterday, and I can't wait to read (and see) the whole thing.

I also had three pieces accepted into the Eunoia Review, which should be appearing this summer. Thanks, Ian Chung, for the mega acceptance. It sure set the right mood when I got here.

Talk about good vibes in Vermont. Now, back to it... I only have a week left!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Well, I made it to Vermont. I am in the company of visual and literary artists from around the world. It's cool to be a minority as a writer here. I have enjoyed hearing about the artistic visions of painters, photographers and sculptors over breakfast and lunch, who tell me about projects that I can't wait to see realized.

I am writing fiction. To finish or at least come close to finishing my first novel. I won't get more specific than that, but so far so good. I'll be here for two weeks, and I plan to make the most of it. VSC is pretty amazing. The people are awesome; the weather is cold; there are dogs; there is a meditation building that I will visit twice a day; there is tea and coffee; there are blankets; there is a goood view from my studio; and for one of the first times in my life, there is time available to me, specifically, to devote to writing. I'm taking it. I've put in two hours this morning and plan to work for the next four. I can't believe how much I accomplished with two straight hours; it made me realize how little time I really am able to devote to writing in my day-to-day life. Okay, so given the rarity, I must go... write... I'll check in again over the weekend. 
This is what I woke up to at 6AM

The meditation building. I was here at 7AM and plan to do the same each day.

The view from my studio
Where I hope to type The End, if only for dramatic effect

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