This summer I had a flash essay published by Little Fiction | Big Truths about the time my father drove me across the country for my heart surgery. The whole issue was fantastic and I am excited to be included.
I also have a long short-story coming out in the next issue of December. You should subscribe now so you get it. It’s about a minor figure of the 60’s counterculture movement who trying to die in Tibet, so if you like washed-up, former psychologist-hippies, LSD, hotel bars, the Himalayas, and freelance journalists, you’ll dig it.
The cover I designed for J.D. Salinger and the Nazis was a selection for The Association of University Presses Book, Jacket, & Journal Show. I am now an award-winning book designer. Which is now hilarious because I just got my first kill-fee for a failed book design. You didn’t have to do that, Universe, I wasn’t getting a big head about my design work.
I’ve come to realize that I have a hard time writing stories past the epiphany. Once the epiphany is there, I don’t care anymore; I don’t want a couple paragraphs of denouement. That feels more forced and writerly than anything. I’ve been told my stories end abruptly. And often they do.
I tend to write stories that are puzzles, stories where there are things to be figured out, problems to solve, mysteries hidden, under the surface stuff. Punchline things. The thing you lost is always in the last place you looked, because you found it. Why would you keep looking afterward?
I was told that for a while, in the 80’s, writing the perfect last epiphanic line was the soup de jour. Too bad I wasn’t writing short stories when I was six.
As a fiction writer, you’d think I’d be good at lying. My whole job is literally just making things up. But no, I can’t lie. Or rather, I can, but it is physically uncomfortable. It’s less uncomfortable to say uncomfortable truths. Which can make it seem like I lack tact, diplomacy, social graces, or that I overshare, or am just a plain jackass.
This character trait is particularly problematic in writing workshops and the solution of which is probably the greatest skill I’ve learned in workshop. Basically, I have had to learn how to spin “This sucks” into something constructive. Instead of “Holy shit, look at this ugly fucking hole in the ground,” I’ve learned to say “A big beautiful skyscraper would look fantastic right here.”
And I’m realizing it’s a fantastic skill to have. It’s incredibly easy to be a negative person, to see failure and deficiency everywhere, to see only the shits and the sucks and the ohmygodfuckthis’s. Instead, if in every failure, you train your brain to see potential, you can sound like a motivational speaker.
Jesus, that’s what I just did. I just independently invented motivational speakers.
Fuck positivity. Good art uses negative space. Feel free to suck as much as you want and when you want my opinion, I’ll tell you exactly how much it sucks.
But I’ll also tell you how much it’s awesome, so deal with it.