The Wide And Lonely World

I have a new short story published today in The Economy. The Economy is cool. They publish just a single poet, prose writer, and visual artist per issue, and they’ve published some of my favorite writers. So I was very flattered to be asked to contribute by editor, Schuyler Dickson.

Anyway, please go read The Wide and Lonely World. The story was inspired by this very midwestern gothic looking photo of my brothers and me, taken, I think in the summer of 1968 or ’69: Welcome to Missouri.

Good things galore!

I know. I’m sorry I’ve left this blog untended. I had surgery Sept. 12th and I’m in recuperation mode. Recuperation mode is really nice at first until one starts to go seriously stir crazy. But I’m doing well and getting stronger every day and I really, really, don’t want anything to do with hospitals for a long time to come.

Doll PalaceOk, enough about that. I have good things to report. First, my review of Sara Lippmann’s fantastic short story collection, DOLL PALACE, is now up at The Lit Pub blog. Here’s an excerpt:

“These are stories filled with talk, conversations, recitations, memories, flirtations (often dangerous ones) and hard-won epiphanies I think what I love best about these stories though is their refusal to dot every i. There are no simple answers and lessons aren’t always learned. A deft writer, Lippmann displays control over her narratives even as she achieves a certain wildness and strangeness that both fascinates and feels entirely true. I love the fearlessness of these stories (see “Target Girl” and “Everyone Has Your Best Interests at Heart” and “Babydollz” and “Talisman”among others).”

One cool aspect of recommending books at The Lit Pub blog is that you’re asked to suggest other books readers might enjoy (that are similar in some way to the book you’re recommending), and I was happy to suggest Pia Ehrhardt’s Famous Fathers and Other Stories, Emma Straub’s Other People We Married, Amy Hempel’s Tumble Home, and Rachel Sherman’s The First Hurt. (I noticed later that Rachel Sherman actually wrote a blurb for Sara’s book, which is perfect.)

So. Just get this book. The stories are superb and Sara Lippmann is a terrific writer and human being. One of the kindest people I know in the lit world or any world. And oh, Dock Street Press is exceptional.

The other good news I have is that my short story, “The Wide and Lonely World” has been accepted! I was solicited to send something and did and hadn’t heard back for awhile so assumed they didn’t want the story (writers, you know the feeling), but yay, they liked it a lot and I’ll post a link and more info when the story’s up. I’m delighted. This is a story I messed with for so long, not quite knowing why it wasn’t working for me, until one day I gave myself the challenge of cutting it by 50%. Crazy! So I cut it from 5,000 words to 2,500, which required huge objectivity and mercilessness, but I did it, and the story is much better for the cutting I do believe.

And! I was surprised and thrilled that Blue Fifth Review nominated my story, “The Blue of Milk” for Best of the Net 2014. It’s a story I really liked but felt shy about sending out into the world. I’m very honored and cheered by Sam Rasnake and Michelle Elvy’s confidence in and support of the story. I posted it here awhile back.

Lastly, the website for the new MFA program that I’ll be teaching flash fiction for will be up and running soon and I’ll post a link to it here when it is. I’m VERY excited about this and proud to be a part of it. More to come!

A GREAT Cause: Help Smokelong Quarterly Redesign Its Site!

They are nearly halfway to their goal! Please help out if you can! Smokelong Quarterly’s Kickstarter Campaign!

From Senior Editor, Tara Laskowski: In the last 11 years, we have published hundreds of authors and artists, both well-established and emerging, and have hosted the Kathy Fish Fellowship, which has supported five writers-in-residence since 2007. And we have NEVER charged our writers for submitting, NEVER charged contest fees for our contests, and ALWAYS kept our submissions open 24/7, 365 days a year.

The minimum raised for this campaign will help support the initial redesign costs for the web site. If that goal is met and funds exceed our minimum, we will be able to do much more. Below are our goal levels for all the fun stuff we’d like to achieve!

Goal Levels:

$3000 [LOCKED--Minimum]–We will be able to redesign the SLQ web site.

$4000 [LOCKED]–We can even pay something to the wonderful wonderful web developer who is currently working pro bono because he loves us..

$5000 [LOCKED]– We will offer the Kathy Fish Fellowship and writer-in-residence (a $500 reward) to one writer in 2015-16.

$6000 [LOCKED] — We will pay all of the writers we publish in 2015 $25 per story.

Please help us continue to publish the best flash fiction on the planet!

We are a labor of love. All of the funds raised will go directly back to SmokeLong production and promotion, contest prizes, and other initiatives.

And remember: Funds pledged to a Kickstarter project are not deducted until the project is complete. No funds go to the project unless the entire amount is raised, so if you pledge $$ and we don’t hit our goal, you don’t ever pay it out. Kickstarter crowdfunding projects must make 100% of the money needed for a project.

Giveaway: 3 signed copies of TOGETHER WE CAN BURY IT

430239_329813657062269_180459741997662_984752_381805125_nEDIT: Ok, that’s it. I’m sending out FIVE copies, as it happens, because you’re all so quick. Thanks you guys!


Okay, my friends, I have some  nervous energy I need to dispel and also, some copies of my flash/short story collection. So I thought I’d sign and give away three today! I never do stuff like this. It feels vaguely weird, but like I said, nervous energy and can’t think of anything to blog about today. 


First three to comment here will get a signed copy sent to well, anywhere in the U.S.! And if you already have a copy, it’s okay to comment here and get a free book for a friend too. Go!

Flash Fiction: Another Story About Me and Some Guy

Very happy to hear the news that one of my favorite litmags, Night Train, founded in 2002 and edited by Rusty Barnes, is back and looking for submissions here: I’ve been lucky enough to publish a few stories in Night Train and this is a good way to introduce my next topic of flash fiction: the one paragraph story/prose poem. I love, love, love this form and use it a lot and lots of writers do it much better than I do. I will post their one paragraph stories here in the coming weeks (and if you have one, please post it in the comments section, I’d love to read it!) What I love about the one paragraph story is the tight encapsulation and breathlessness it achieves which suits a certain type of story to a T. Here is my one paragraph story, originally published in the great Night Train:

frost-378599_640 copyAnother Story About Me and Some Guy


We met because I hate the actor Bruce Willis. I knew he was in the movie, I thought I could manage, but eventually I had to excuse myself to the lobby. That’s when I saw Martin Ripley, blowing out his sinuses into a napkin. I squirted butter on my popcorn and said is there any chance you could do that outside? He gave me a destroyed look that, I confess, broke my heart. He was super tall and slightly malformed in a way that indicated possible chromosome damage. Do you like Bruce Willis? I asked, and he said sure, who doesn’t like Bruce Willis? And I said me, I can’t stand him and Martin Ripley said well… He tossed the napkin and asked if I’d like to go with him. Where, I said and he said anywhere. Jupiter. Cincinnati. He said first he had to take Maalox to his mother and there was the dry cleaning to pick up, a book to return. I thought about the guy, the other guy, I left in the theater, but here was Martin Ripley, smiling and introducing himself and shaking my hand. I looked up into his face, the asymmetry of his jaw like the asymmetry of my chest and I said let’s go. Spring was breathing puffs of steam out of the asphalt and the sun on the melting snow hurt my eyes and Martin Ripley drove as if the two of us were on a long trip, something important and urgent, as if someone far away had died and here we were, speeding to the wake.

Still writing…?

Here is Dani Shapiro’s answer to a question we writers get a lot and it has inspired the hell out of me this morning:

“I usually nod and smile, then quickly change the subject. But here is what I’d like to put my fork down and say: Yes, yes, I am. I will write until the day I die, or until I am robbed of my capacity to reason. Even if my fingers were to clench and wither, even if I were to grow deaf or blind, even if I were unable to move a muscle in my body save for the blink of one eye, I would still write. Writing saved my life. Writing has been my window–flung wide open to this magnificent, chaotic existence–my way of interpreting everything within my grasp. Writing has extended that grasp by pushing me beyond my comfort, beyond safety, past my self-perceived limits. It has softened my heart and hardened my intellect. It has been a privilege. It has whipped my ass. It has burned into me a valuable clarity. It has made me think about suffering, randomness, good will, luck, memory, responsibility, and kindness, on a daily basis–whether I feel like it or not. It has insisted that I grow up. That I evolve. It has pushed me to get better, to be better. It is my disease and my cure. It has allowed me not only to withstand the losses in my life but to alter those losses–to chip away at my own bewilderment until I find the pattern in it. Once in a great while, I look up at the sky and think that, if my father were alive, maybe he would be proud of me. That if my mother were alive, I might have come up with the words to make her understand. That I am changing what I can. I am reaching a hand out to the dead and to the living and the not yet born. So yes. Yes. Still writing.”~Dani Shapiro, from “Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life”

Chiseling the Marble

All of my focus the last few weeks has been on the non-writing aspects of my life. Health issues, life issues, children issues are in the forefront and must be dealt with. At times like this, I feel it necessary to draw back from daily writing and networking on social media. I draw into myself a little, too. There is so much to think about, do, and simply feel. When things return to something a little closer to normal, I know I’ll resume my habit of settling myself every morning in my writing room. I’ll drink my coffee and look out my window awhile. I’ll take pen in hand and begin again. That is simply the nature of life and living. Beginning again. Over and over.

Still-Writing-by-Dani-ShapiroHowever, even when I’m not writing, I’m reading and thinking about writing. Right now I’m reading “Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life” by Dani Shapiro. It’s marvelous. It reminds me quite a bit of Natalie Goldberg’s gently inspiring “Writing Down the Bones” (I have a story about that book and what it means to me that I’ll blog about someday). There are so many quotable passages in this book, but I’ll share just this one that really resonated with me this morning:

“Don’t think too much. There’ll be time to think later. Analysis won’t help. You’re chiseling now. You’re passing your hands over the wood. Now the page is no longer blank. There’s something there. It isn’t your business yet to know whether it’s going to be prize-worthy someday, or whether it will gather dust in a drawer. Now you’ve carved the tree. You’ve chiseled the marble. You’ve begun.”

So go and chisel something today. For me. I promise I’ll be back to join you soon.