Saturday, August 25, 2007

Prairie Girl

So, a student gave me a copy of Richard Ford's Rock Springs and I'm in love. Love all the references to Montana, where I lived for several years. But mostly, love his prose--what's going on in the stories and how he ends them--with some philosophical passage that hits the mark. Someone asked me the other day if I had read any great poetry books lately and I said, well, I've been reading short story collections all summer. Then I went home and looked at my book shelf. The Read 180 collection, edited by Billy Collins is great. Sun Under Wood by Robert Hass and All of Us: The Collected Poems by Raymond Carver would be my recommendations. I actually get my poetry in small doses through lit mags and the Pushcart Prize Anthologies. Then I go to poetry readings in the community and pick up chapbooks from authors from time to time. I started back to school this week--been rereading My Antonia and in love with the prose and the sweetness of the story. I've been reading the Little House books to my eight year old and so pairing these two prairie girl stories in my mind has made me meditate on a harder time and a simpler time. I'm a Prairie Girl. Sounds like the next book title.

Friday, August 17, 2007


The thing about blogging is what I think most of you have already figured out--it's like journaling on-line and people can comment on your thoughts. So now, I'm figuring out, hey, maybe you should be careful about what you say. Plus, I want to write back to people who comment, but didn't know that wasn't an option except via e-mail, so yeah. What's going on today--gotta do some editing for a friend and buy some ink for my printer to print out my manuscript and send out. I'm interested in hearing from people on their process for deciding what goes into a short story collection and how they organize it. I was thinking yesterday that a short story is much like the format of an aerobics class. Start off with an introduction that's easy, relaxing, warm up, get harder and more complicated, build, but don't stay at the hard peak for too long, get up to it, then back off, then move forward, have one super hard song, and then cooldown with some nice relaxing stretching. Oh wait, no, that was an orgasm is much like an aerobics class. Or maybe that was a short story collection is much like an orgasm. I don't know. What was that about being careful about what you say?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thursday's my hump day

It's Thursday and I always think of it as the low-energy day. I don't know why. I think it has something to do with being a former aerobics instructor. By the time Thursday rolled around, I'd be pretty beat up. So now, I take it easy on Thursdays. Okay, I've decided I will try to be more grammatically correct but can't promise to clean up all dangling participles. I like things that dangle. I also like it when someone accidentally says something that is funny on two different levels. For example, when I said to my class, "If you're not going to watch tv, then we're not going to watch tv." I'm working on a comic book (very bad drawings) called Ms. Johnson Tries to Get Herself Fired. If you know me, you know that. I've been trying to write a story about winning the northwest aerobics championship and going to L.A. and being on national tv, but there you have it--that's the story. Keep getting stuck on the seamier underside and making a funny story into a sad story. Does that ever happen to you? You want to write something hilarious and it turns dark on your ass. It's no Alice Munro story, which makes me wonder if Alice Munro takes aerobics classes, you know, Pilates, or Yoga or something. (Sorry, my brain does that.) It'd be funny to have her in class in front of you and doing the pendulum. That's how I broke my foot in two places--doing the pendulum, remember that aerobics dance move? I'm reading this Writer's Chronicle article about Alice (Go Ask Alice) and it's talking about rhyming action in her work, and I'm thinking--motif, where's the word motif? There's some good stuff in there, though, about introducing some image and repeating it later, but waiting just long enough so that the reader doesn't remember the image, so that it gets imbedded in your unconscious, and then repeating the image where it's not so obvious. This idea is actually from Charles Baxter's book Burning Down the House, a collection of essays about writing that's just a really great book. I saw him read in SF and talked to him for a while after, a great guy--love the meticulous detail in his short stories.

Guess I should go buy some ink for my printer and print out that manuscript and mail it off to some contests before school starts. Come see me read on the 20th because it's all about me. Both my daughters have that printed on a t-shirt. Just kidding. I am going to get a t-shirt that says, "I Don't Give Directions!" for when I'm out walking. More on the streets of Rodeo later.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I'm So Excited and I Just Can't Hide It

After chatting about Steve Almond's collection of fiction, I cosmically received a notice from my writer's collective asking if anyone would like to read with him, so I shot my hand into the air and whatya' know, I get to read with Steve, the man with the great last name, on September 20th at Modern Times Bookstore on Valencia in San Francisco at 7:00 PM. Super-de-duper. I'm going to read something very funky and fun, but don't know what yet. His new book is a collection of essays titled Not That You Asked.

Even better news is that my collection of short-short stories (under 2000 words) was a finalist for the Elixir Press Chapbook Awards. Got a great rejection letter with cool typos and the ink running out on their printer--i love stuff like that. The collection was called I'll Tell You That Story in a Minute. This is a line from one of the stories--called "Manx," a line I refuse to take out of the story, despite my writing group's advice. I think it's the best line in the story.

My teenager delaney took some great pics of me, so I'm going to post one or two.

What are you reading? I'm reading a collection of Richard Yates stories. If you're a writer, you have to read "The Builders" a story about being a writer. I read about him in the Writer's Chronicle and so I picked up his collected works. What I like about him is that he said that his work was autobiographical in nature, but not autobiography. That's a great way to answer the question, "Is this about you?"

I'm also reading How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously. We're not in debt, according to the book, but I could use some lessons in living prosperously.

Just finished Andre Dubus In the Bedroom. Absolutely cried reading almost every story. What a great storyteller. Two of his short stories have been made into independent films. "Killings" was made into the film "In the Bedroom." (Look let's just get it straight right now. I know how to edit this page, I just don't feel like it. I know titles of movies are italicized, but I hate searching out the button before and after. I'd rather type three sentences.) His longer work called We Don't Live Here Anymore was made into a great film with Mark Ruffalo (number one hottie). Rent them both, you won't be disappointed. Then read them or vice versa. These are stories that seem to go well both ways.

Peace Out