Saturday, December 27, 2008

Iowa Short Fiction Awards

Well, it's bittersweet. Once again, a semifinalist for the Iowa Awards. I know you are saying, bitch, you should be happy. Ten years writing and writing once we hit '09 and still no book published. What do I have to do? I have to write 15 Stories that will knock your socks off. Or just get lucky, I guess. Maybe it's something to do with the times. Oh well, I think I'd rather get a semifinalist letter than no letter at all. That's in the top 20 out of almost 400 people, according to the quit y'bitching, Ms. Genna. That collection is still out there looking for a home. It's called Stories I Heard When I Went Home for My Grandmother's Funeral. The stories in it all have some reference to Iowa. I thought it was pretty lucky to get picked as a semifinalist for the Iowa Prize because they don't look for Iowa stories. I have been shopping for a press that does Midwest stories, but they are few and far between.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Thank God, X-mas is over. I still want to to go to church, just to sing all the old hymns, clear those rusty pipes out. But hey, it's time to look forward. Can someone point me to a bookstore? I'm finished reading all my lit mags that I have on my shelf: Cimarron Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, and, oh wait, I still have to read River Oak. The Cimarron issue started off a little slow, but then it grew on me. I'd have to say I enjoyed the poetry the most--lots of narrative stuff that I could appreciate. Toni Graham is the fiction editor there; she used to teach at USF, so I thought I'd check it out. The stories in there--let's see, I really liked "Funny Looking People" by Gemini Wahhaj--a story I thought my students at Hercules would like. "Gazelle" ended a little abruptly for me, and I love an abrupt ending. Oh, and I finished Opium 7. I love the graphics in that magazine. What's weird is that my name's in it and I keep forgetting that. I'm going to show it to my students as a possible idea for imitating some of the different layouts. We produce a high school lit mag called The Dynamite Factory, which sounds like an old school 70's name, but is really based on the fact that all of Hercules used to be a powder works company. We should have our website up and running soon for that class, too.
Okay, so writing. I think the best thing is to read what you want to be writing. By that I mean, if you're gearing up to write a novel, read novelists you admire. Someone gave me a copy of Water for Elephants, and I can't get past chapter 2. I wanted to read it, just for the fact that it's about circus people, but I couldn't get past the convention of old fart telling his life story. I remember a really good novel called Geek Love that does this much better. Read some Richard Yates. I heard a review of the movie Revolutionary Road on NPR that said it was an okay version of the book, but don't do what I did with Atonement and watch the movie first. I can't get through that book now, and I felt the movie was anticlimactic. The lit mag Water~Stone Review is just beautiful, inside and out--try that one. I have a few more pages of that left to read. So my two faves in L.M. This year are still The Iowa Review and Opium. They fit my sensibility. Of course, there's always McSweeney's and Missouri Review. If you're a short story writer or a poet or a creative nonfiction writer, you should be reading lit mags, period.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stories to get oneself fired

Finished the Mississsippi Review's magazine about Literary Magazines (Volume 36, Number 3) and found a great deal of the information in there to be useful to me as a short story writer. I also finished Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates and loved, loved, loved it. His dark themes and his writing style are right up my alley. If you're a writer, order that lit mag; it'll be worth the investment. The editors who talk up in the magazine also recommend some new writers and I found them all disturbingly inspiring. I'm not a critic, just a writer and a reader--so order it for yourself and decide.

Well, it's vacation time--time to catch up on the writing and make some resolutions:
1. Get in better shape--the back problem is, for the most part, resolved, so it's time to work on the legs and the arms. They got a little flabby this year. Personally, though, I think it's pre-menopausal stuff, to be honest, because I stayed pretty active even with a bad back.
2. Well, it's time to start thinking about a novel. I have an idea for one--As Lewis Buzbee said to me once, "Don't write a novel unless you've got an idea for one." But what happens to me is I start out to write a novel and it ALWAYS turns into a short story. That may just be who I am.
3. Which, by the way, leads me to another resolution and that is to order a new copy of Lewis's book Steinbeck's Ghost and read it. I had just started it, took it to school to show off to my students, and it came up missing. An avid high school reader, perhaps? Anyway, I can't wait to get it again and read it.
4. Read some long fiction: I'm thinking Toni Morrison's new book Mercy sounds good. Any suggestions? I like to read books that I could also share with high school students, so nothing too obscure. It works best if it's something that will get published later on in paperback.
5. Read some short story collections: Ron Carlson, Charles D'Ambrosio? Any suggestions there? I read Haruki Mirakami's collection this past summer. How about a woman writer? Nona Casper's collection was also right up my alley (IoWa, IOwa, IOWA).
6. Write some short stories about my teaching experiences, if they won't get me fired. As always, thought, that might not be such a bad thing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New flash on-line

This is a story I wrote for Big Toe Review called "The Holiday Issue." Tell me what you think.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Correction: The Mississippi Review / Literary Magazines

OOPS! The magazine is the Mississippi Review: A Journal of Contemporary Literature. The issue is called "Literary Magazines / Volume 36 / Number 3. I just got it and will let you know if it's useful for finding out about literary magazines. I want to know what the state of the art is. I send a work called "The Holiday Issue" to Big Toe Review and got accepted, so look for that piece of irreverent flash. More later, recovering from the flu.