A History of Burning

Humans & other beings: My story, “A History of Burning” is now available in the Summer 2018 issue of Midwestern Gothic. This is a dream pub for realsies. Much like my story, “Must Believe in Ghost” and its appearance in The Normal School, I could hardly imagine a more fitting place for this story than Midwestern Gothic.

fireboyheartlandThis is the story that won the 2015 Tom Williams Prize in Fiction at the end of my MFA. Judge Kevin Brockmeier admired this story for “its energy, its color, its empathy, and most of all, because nearly every sentence is perfectly tuned to its own intentions.” Despite rejecting it, GC Waldrep praised this story for its “bravura opening” and for “making a wily virtue of telling rather than showing.” Tom Payne said, “Its narrative voice gets me, sailing far above this darkest blue of blue collar worlds with a sharp, historical intelligence.”

For me, this story was written in a single weekend, mostly out of a writer’s block of frustration. It’s also one of the most autobiographical of my stories. About 80% of what’s in this story are true events filtered through the lives of the characters on the page.

Order this. Support writers & small presses.

Shadow CV: This story was rejected 38 times before it found its home.

The Stalker’s Would-be Girlfriend?

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.

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A fine example.

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.

Must Believe in Ghost

As I wrap up my MFA (which means a new subtitle to this blog is in order!) there have been a lot of lasts lately, like my last workshop which is this Thursday, my last day of teaching, my last Read Free or Die, the last time I’ll see people from my cohort who are going off to wherever their careers are taking them. (I have it on good authority that the place everyone goes to during the first several post-MFA months is Deep Depression, and from there, on to their careers.)

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Making words with my lips and teeth and tongue at Read Free or Die.

But there’s also some firsts which is ending my MFA years on a rather high note. As you may have seen, I was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and I just found out on Tuesday that my story “Must Believe in Ghost” has been accepted for publication in The Normal Schoolwhich is a magical magazine and if you’re not reading it, you should. I met them at AWP last spring and was immediately impressed, got a subscription, and began avidly reading their fantastic work (which is beautifully designed, by the way.)

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“Must Believe in Ghost” primarily concerns the content of this photograph.


I MUST BE IN THIS!
, I said, and sent them the one story I had that I thought would really fit their aesthetic. DING! DING! DING! (See, kids, it pays to read a journal to understand its editorial inclinations and target your submissions, rather than carpet-bombing your story to everyone.)

I’ll update later when it’s out and available, or you can 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!