I’ve got a strange little story up at Maudlin House today. What started as a silly, pun-filled exercise in wordplay ended up as time-jumping surrealist quest to stop World War I. Check out “Communist Armstrong and the Dadaist Detective Agency“!
This summer I’ll have at least two new publications out: My story of high-octane American childhood grief, “A History of Burning” will be published by Midwestern Gothic and “The Bangor Crows”, a tale of a woman overwhelmed by depression and the mystery of the chthonic evil that inhabits the town that Stephen King calls home, in Longleaf Review.
I’ve only just finished grading for the semester, a taking a quick jaunt to Wisconsin for my dad’s 60th birthday, then returning home to write a goddamned novel if it kills me.
It’s been two years of depression and writer’s block and it’s time to get busy writing. I’ve found ways to keep engaged: teaching writing and editing for Outlook Springs, but I’ve hardly written anything, paralyzed by the gap between how great I felt finishing up my MFA and the harsh reality afterward of my blank screen with the monsters of what-is-art-for-especially-in-the-face-of-advancing-fascism chanting, chanting, chanting, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” and shutting down all avenues of escape.
Creating characters, a whole world, is like getting into a new relationship: you have to be ready for the deep dive, to learn another person completely. But since the end of my MFA and the aftermath of the election, I have this bandwidth problem, this lack of signal, this literary attention-deficit disorder where I can’t pay enough attention to do the deep dive, to put in the time and attention of making people. There’s enough horror in the world; why should I torture fictional people too?
And suddenly, I am inspired to write a story where everyone gets exactly what they deserve.
If you like tales of people attempting to construct cosmologies that allow them to process grief and guilt, then whoa baby, do I have a story for you. In other words, The Coachella Review has published my story, “At the Speed of Light.”
This started out as the final story for my undergraduate creative writing thesis at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. It evolved and focused through my MFA at New Hampshire, and finally found it’s home. This is also the first solicited work I’ve published, which was a nice process to go through. Many thanks to Coachella‘s fiction editor, Chih Wang, for her help bringing this story to publication.
My story, “Spectrum” is up at CHEAP POP today!
This summer, “Spectrum”, the shortest story I’ve ever written (around 350 words!), which had previously been a semifinalist in Mid-American Review‘s Fineline Competition, will be published by my favorite microfiction venue, CHEAP POP. If you’re not already reading them, get on it!
My story “Must Believe in Ghost” which appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of The Normal School has arrived on their website. Find out how exactly “human consciousness is a long, sadly ignored, fundamental force in the calculations of quantum mechanics” or see how “even the cobwebs were old, as if the spiders in the house had long run out of insects to eat and had absconded to a more plentiful promised land” and find out what happens when an out-of-work journalist tries not to monetize someone else’s grief.
I’ve been on the staff of several literary journals now and I am shocked at the prevalence/frequency of one particular species of story:
The guy-sees-girl-and-is-transformed trope.
Almost always, it’s a very unhealthy obsession. It’s often not even the infamous Manic Pixie Dream Girl either, but just any woman. More than not, she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, but frequently there’s no real identifying character there at all. And she never gets her own arc in the story.
Hell, sometimes, they never even meet the woman. They see her from across a bar or coffee shop and are apparently haunted by the idea of her.
When they do meet, these stories tend to start post-breakup then spend the majority of its wordcount relating their relationship. There’s no stakes in this type of story at all.
And often, the change the male “protagonist” goes through is not good. Maybe he gets bumped out of his boring life by their interaction, maybe. In many cases, it seems like they can’t wait to get back to living their pre-stalking sadsack life.
There’s also a variation in this trope that shows up with a surprising frequency: in the end, the guy kills the girl. These stories make me want to googlestalk you and report your whereabouts to the authorities.
I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t write these kinds of stories. However, I am saying that it’s a pretty worn trope, we’ve all seen it a million times, it’s pretty sexist, there’s little stakes involved, and it smells almost exactly like a too-specific dating profile where we know you’re basically subtweeting about your most recent ex.
P.S. Also, in worn-out trope news: maybe chill with stories that open with a dead woman.
Good news: My short story collection, And When the Ghost Has Vanished, was a semifinalist for Black Lawrence Press’ The Hudson Prize. So that’s kind of a big deal.
The collection, which is comprised mostly of my MFA thesis stories, also includes “Must Believe in Ghost” which is being published by The Normal School in their fall issue. (You still have time to subscribe before it’s out!)
After a long slog of rejections (though, some very positive) it felt very nice to know I’m up to something good.
In the meantime, I’m going back to teaching composition (and joining the “long line” toward teaching creative writing courses) and expanding my book design work into independent and literary presses.
A reminder! My story, “Must Believe in Ghost” will be appearing in the spring issue of The Normal School. If you want to read it (YOU DO YOU DO YOU MAY NOT KNOW IT BUT YOU DO) you should order a subscription now! It’s only like $12 a year. CHUMP CHANGE! Flaunt your affluence! Make it rain! Then, when April or May rolls around and I’m all getting in your grill to go buy my issue, you can be all, hey man, I’ve already been grooving on these sweet, sweet narratives!
Also, the cover of the first issue of Outlook Springs (for which I am the fiction editor!) has been leaked and the issue will be out on April 15th. You can get your hands on a copy (or a subscription!) here. It’s chock full of amazing writing and interdimensional weirdness and existential heartbreak and esoteric malapropisms.
Oh, and we’ve opened submissions for the next issue, so transmit us your wordwork!