Honk honk: August 2016 edition

Today is the first day in a long time where I haven’t had to be anywhere or do anything. It feels nice, if weird. I feel like I can breathe a little, plan the rest of my summer, and actually enjoy the nerdy nerdy things I love (oh video games, how I’ve missed you).

Time, as always, still runs out before I accomplish everything on my list (plus all the things I want to do but don’t put on my list), but I still have a good number of accomplishments to round up from the first stretch of summer:

  • My short story “What Jeannie Needs” was published in Rose Red Review,
    an online journal that publishes modern fairy tales. I’ll write up a little behind the scenes post for this story in the near future.
  • I interviewed Ranbir Singh Sidhu for The Rumpus. If you recall, I wrote about Ranbir’s book Good Indian Girls on this blog and followed that up with a short interview. After reading his novel, I wanted to do something more in depth. I highly recommend Deep Singh Blue, especially for anyone who’s ever felt completely out of place.
  • My short story “The Time I Listened to Warren Zevon for One Year Straight” will appear in Permafrost’s Summer 2016 online issue.
  • For the work blog, I wrote about my corgi’s degenerative nerve disease and the debut novel Lily and the Octopus, and apparently made some people cry. I also wrote about Pokémon Go, which hopefully didn’t make anyone cry.
  • And finally, my review of Sherrie Flick’s Whiskey, Etc., written for the work blog, was syndicated on Littsburgh. This is another fantastic book that I highly recommend.

Even though this is a great list, I feel guilty about the things I haven’t done: written a synopsis for my short story collection and novel so I can attempt to sell both projects to an agent, reading a friend’s novel, reading my husband’s novel, devoting serious time to Wild Age Press… I could go on forever. It’s something I’m working on with my therapist.

Maybe one day I’ll hack this time thing. But in the more likely scenario that I don’t, I’ll try to remember that friends, family, and writing are the important things, and those should always come before all the necessary chores of life.

Read my story, “Warren Zevon Attempts Happiness,” in Shadowgraph Quarterly

I wrote “Warren Zevon Attempts Happiness” many years ago, as part of my undergraduate creative writing thesis. It is based around true events, but is a completely fictionalized account of what might have happened to Warren Zevon (my favorite singer/songwriter) while he was living in Spain with his wife, Crystal.

But something was missing from it. It lacked “oomph” and tension, and I had no idea how to fix it, and neither did any of my undergrad thesis advisors. By the time I began my MFA program, I had mostly given up on that story.

But on a whim, I brought it to my historical fiction workshop with Katherine Ayres, who is a wonderfully insightful writer and excellent teacher. After I read the story aloud to the group, she asked me a single question: “What is the conflict here?”

It hit me like lightning. Suddenly, I knew exactly what I needed to do to make the story tense and meaningful. In retrospect, it seemed obvious. And, it worked.

Shadowgraph Quarterly, an online literary magazine that also publishes chapbooks, picked up the story for their Spring 2016 issue.

Their editors, who have hawk eyes as well, also picked out a few places where I was telling after I’d shown, and helped me trim the story down to its essentials.

Click here to read “Warren Zevon Attempts Happiness.”

I hope you enjoy it, and if you’ve never heard of Warren Zevon, here’s one of my favorite songs:

Make room for the new

Every night I come home from work and think to myself, “I must write that post on X!” (where X is usually a book I’ve read that has blown my mind). But then I sit down to nurse my various aches and pains (left heel, lower back, head) and pick up a new book or put Bones on Netflix and zone out.

Before I blink, it’s way past my bedtime and I’m too tired to write anything.

Most of this has to do with the new position I started at a new library branch. Someone decided it was a good idea to put me in charge of things, so I’m using my brain a lot to get us moving toward our organization’s best practices.

Using my brain makes me tired.

But there’s more to my failure to write (fiction and blog posts) over the past two weeks. Something happened that made me think, “Oh damn, shit just got real,” and it has me terrified. I will decline to discuss the event in question, but I can sum it up like this: People are reading my stories and are responding to them in positive ways.

This makes me ecstatic, but it’s also terrifying. Writing, revising, and submitting my work alone in my house is easy. No one’s scrutinizing what I’m doing. There’s a sort of freedom in anonymity. But of course I write because I have stories to tell, and although I would write them anyway, I really want people to read and engage with my work.

And they are. And that’s wonderful, and it makes me so happy. But I suppose it’s a lot to adjust to while I’m also adjusting to a new job and new living arrangements.

So I’ve been doing what my therapist always tells me to do—I’m being kind to myself by not expecting too much right now. By letting myself read fantastic books and actually relax, for once.

TL;DR: I’m around, but not as much as I was before. I’m writing, but I’m not pressuring myself to meet specific goals right now. I’m giving myself time to adjust to the newness of things.