The summer issue of Contrary Magazine is out, and I’m excited to have a story in there, “Hidden Tracks”–the strangest story I’ve ever written actually–right beside “Blue Moon,” a wonderful story by my friend Jodi Paloni. Here’s the beginning of “Hidden … Continue reading
Since I started Catching Days back in 2008, it’s been my policy (also my personality) not to do the group blog things. Which made it easy to decline the first time someone asked me to join the my-writing-process blog tour. … Continue reading
Those of you who know me in real life know I have issues with aging—as in I couldn’t possibly be this old; this is my mother’s age. Resisting the truth is not making me any more comfortable in my crinkling … Continue reading
All my physical therapist, who is from the Netherlands, has to do is lay his hands on my neck or back and I’m all better. He’s a wonderful painter, as well as a reader, and so we spend the rest … Continue reading
Contrary celebrates 10 Years! And my story, “The Empty Armchair,” (the first story I ever wrote, based on my first novel), made their Top Ten in Fiction from their first decade of publications! Here’s the link for new readers: The Empty Armchair. … Continue reading
Thrilled to have a craft essay in the new issue of Brevity, which includes fifteen brief wonderful essays by Sven Birkerts, Brian Doyle, Robin Hemley, David Jauss, Thomas Larson, and more. Plus other craft essays by Philip Graham and Mary Clearman … Continue reading
Several readers have asked if I had any other photos of Ragdale, especially of my room or of the prairie. So on the last day of the month in which I spent two amazing weeks in residency at Ragdale, I … Continue reading
For the last two weeks I’ve been an artist in residence at Ragdale in Lake Forest, Illinois. If you haven’t applied, apply now. The most wonderful people are here to make sure your work comes first and that you don’t … Continue reading
I’ve been doing too much, or trying to do too much. Contrary, Hunger Mountain, Catching Days, writing group, writing, family, life, read… Wait a minute. I haven’t been reading all that much. I used to read every evening–from after supper … Continue reading
Gargoyle 57 is now out with lots of new work, including a flash fiction story of mine. Here’s the opening of “Mackenzie”:
“I waited ‘til you got home,” Rim said, as I came into the den. He was standing by the open front door. I had just come in through the back, Mia in my arms. At the sound of his soft voice, I stopped where I was.
“Why?” I asked, wondering if the waiting was for him or for me.
Just a quick update: the rearranging of my study is temporarily on hold (things still sit in laundry baskets and all around me is still a HUGE mess) as I work on the revision of my novel like someone who has no other life. My third to last packet is due Friday, and I want to make it count.
What prompted me to stop in the middle of a page to check in here was that in the last few days of revising, more than once and again just now, I’ve deleted parts of the story that I really liked because a new opportunity has arisen. Each time, as I hesitated before changing, one of the five orange sticky notes on the front of the notebook containing my manuscript has popped into my head like one of those conversation bubbles. I don’t know where the words came from, but here they are:
Back to work…
Summer Contrary is online with new fiction, essays, and poetry, as well as reviews of these books :
Poetry: Northerners by Seth Abramson
Essays: Otherwise Known as the Human Condition by Geoff Dyer and A Journey with Two Maps by Eaven Boland
Fiction: And Yet They Were Happy by Helen Phillips, You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon, and The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen
Here’s the beginning of my review of The Bird Sisters:
When they were teenagers, Milly hoped to marry and have children, while Twiss hoped to stand on the Continental Divide and “to be the world’s most interesting spinster.” Rebecca Rasmussen’s debut novel, The Bird Sisters, opens at least half a century later with Milly and Twiss living together in the house where they grew up. Perhaps, as Twiss concludes, they just didn’t want those other things enough.
As part of a series at Douglas Glover’s Numéro Cinq, my childhood…
The Winter issue of Contrary is live, and there’s lots to celebrate. First, Writer’s Digest voted Contrary one of the 50 Best Online Literary Markets. Second, my story, “The Empty Armchair,” published in the Autumn 2009 issue, was one of the top ten most viewed pieces for 2010. Thanks to all who clicked over to read it. Third, I’m the new Review Editor for the journal. I had no idea how much I would enjoy editing. Lots of interesting books reviewed in this issue too–Mourning Diary by Roland Barthes; Horse, Flower, Bird by Kate Bernheimer; Voices at the World’s Edge edited by Paddy Bushe; and more…
It’s not unusual for a character in a book to find herself in an unfamiliar place, but what is unusual is for a reader to experience firsthand the sensation of unfamiliarity as she reads about the character. In Susan Froderberg’s début novel, Old Border Road, the reader finds herself in the unfamiliar world of repetition. Repetition—which Froderberg wields like a wand, transforming familiar words into unfamiliar sentences.
Happy New Year to all of you!
Taking a break from the Christmas list, I wonder whether to write about the holidays, which reminds me of the first line of a Dickens novel…or whether to write about something other than the holidays. I think about what I’d like to read myself.
One of my favorite books ever is Light Years by James Salter. It was published in 1975, and I read it for the first time in 1990. One of my favorite (maybe my favorite) quotes in the book is this:
Life is weather. Life is meals. Lunches on a blue checked cloth on which salt has spilled. The smell of tobacco. Brie, yellow apples, wood-handled knives.
James Salter and his wife Kay wrote a book together that was published in 2006– Life is Meals: A Food Lover’s Book of Days. The entry for December 18th is on dining rooms. Apparently Thomas Jefferson used the State Dining Room in the White House for his office and let his pet mockingbird fly around. I remember I used to let the kids play ping-pong on our dining room table. You can still see faint ping marks.
A stilt house off the shore of Miami is a wondrous and fragile thing, built against all odds of survival. As is a marriage. Although we know that nothing lasts forever, still we hope that some things will. Stiltsville, the debut novel by Susanna Daniel, is straightforward and unsurprising, and each day that I was reading it, I could not wait to return to it.
There was nothing there but sea and sky, but then a few matchbox shapes formed on the hazy horizon. They grew larger and I saw that they were houses, propped above the water on pilings.
I’ve always wanted to like yoga. I tried Pilates–for two years. I wanted to be more connected to my body. Surely this would make me a better writer.
Today I’m going to CORE, a studio in the recently renovated and very cool White Provisions Building in Westside Atlanta. Outside its large rectangular windows, trains pass slowly. This will be the last 4 hours of a 24-hour pre-training course in the gyrotonic expansion system.
I stumbled onto gyrotonics by accident. Every January I try to visit a spa. In 2009, instead of choosing what I wanted to do while I was there, I asked the two women at the desk the name of the best trainer. Paul, they both said. I showed up the next morning, and Paul began talking as we walked past the machines and the free weights.
As I wrote in The View From Here, gyrotonics
makes sense to me. Most of the movements are circular and three-dimensional—like life. As founder Juliu Horvath said, “You will…find the unexplored parts of the body.” And I have, starting with my abs. Naturally it’s not for everyone, but I clicked with it. In late April, I discovered that the “wave” was a larger movement than I had understood. I was really supposed to roll far more and involve more of my body. “Oh,” I said, “I’ve been doing it wrong all this time.” “No,” Kayley said, “you’ve been doing it right. This is just a different level of right.”
The week before Thanksgiving, I had an appointment in Atlanta with a visiting Master Trainer. Bradley is tall and lean, and was wearing frayed gray sweatpants and a fitted t-shirt. He had been reading Truman Capote and, as I was arching and curling, he was talking about the long sentences in “The Thanksgiving Visitor.” Then I swear this is what he said to me:
“I think you like doing the movements in gyrotonics because each movement seems to hold a story within it.”
As a plane heads down a runway, a stranger reaches for the Narrator’s hand. “Here comes the dangerous part,” he says. Not terribly subtle, but such layering makes a story feel alive. Love in Mid Air, the debut novel by Kim Wright, is rich in “shadow truth” as Charles Baxter refers to subtext. “What is displayed evokes what is not displayed.”
An Equal Stillness, the debut novel by Francesca Kay, who grew up in South-east Asia and India and now lives in Oxford, was one of the best books I read in 2009. My review of this book is now online in Contrary Magazine‘s Winter Issue. An Equal Stillness also won the 2009 Orange Award for New Writers.
I imagine that the inspiration for the UK edition’s book cover came from this passage:
“In her great painting of that time, simply called Santiago, the foreground is a block of saffron broken by a line of deepest blue, above which is a band of blue that is even darker, so dark it might be black if it were not for the light contained in it which magically shines through.”