“Once a girl found a stray tornado. She lured it inside with a dog biscuit.”
I’ve had a couple of stories come out recently that I’m super happy about: Telltale Signs of Disaster in Booth and Ten Ideas for Small Talk Upon Re-entering the Dating Scene in Monkeybicycle. I’m excited to see both of these stories appear in such fantastic journals.
I’ve been in Orlando the past week, and that has overshadowed everything else. I couldn’t be sadder for, and prouder of, my hometown. Orlando is known for being a place of many theme parks, and while I’ve certainly gotten in my fair share of digs about the weirdness and superficiality of growing up under Disney’s shadow, I’ve always been more interested in writing about the real people of this area. Simply, I love it here. And as a queer person, as a member of the LGBT community, I feel wrecked over the Pulse shooting. So here, too, are some images of O-town in the wake of this horrendous violence. It’s always been The City Beautiful, and the way the people here have come together to support queer people of color, and latinx people specifically, has made it all the more beautiful to me.
Nimrod International Journal has just released their themed issue, “Mirrors and Prisms: Writers of Marginalized Orientations and Gender Identities,” and they’ve included my story “Nobody Understands You Like You” in it. Read it here.
The story is about a woman who may or may not have accidentally adopted a pet wolf, and though the story has queer content, the call for submissions for this issue was specifically about the identity of the writer, not the content of the writing. I’m really interested in the different ways attention to inclusivity and diversity are playing out in the literary marketplace. What are the reasons to issue a call for writing about marginalized orientations vs. a call for stories by writers who consider themselves part of that marginalized group?
As I’m gearing up to teach a course on Queer Literature this fall, I’ll be thinking about questions like this, so I’m really happy to have my own work in the mix! I hope you check out all the great work by writers in this issue!
The fantastic Gold Wake Press just released their list of winners, finalists, and semi-finalists for their open reading period, and I’m thrilled to announce that my collection of fairy tale retellings, Nobody Understands You Like You, was chosen for publication in Spring 2017. I can’t wait to peddle this collection — it’s got fanged mermaids, pet wolves, philandering Little Red Riding Hoods, and more. Stay tuned!
The Rapunzel story has always fascinated me because the mother’s craving is what gets the trouble going, but then the mother drops out of the story entirely, replaced by the witch/ogress and the prince who, of course, finally saves Rapunzel from the tower. In Western culture, most versions share this quality, even when the details differ. So what is the lesson here? Don’t live next door to ogresses with green thumbs? Don’t give in to cravings, even for something as mild as veggies and salad greens? I suppose the real lesson doesn’t pertain to the mother at all, but I’m fixated on her loss, returning to where the fairy tale leaves her.
Here’s a photo of one mother-to-be’s consumption of rapunzel. She’s going to lose her baby over this, but the line on this page is “His wife was content that night.”
I have a new story, “Dear Fairy Godmother,” up at Barrelhouse for their Weird Love segment. Basically, Cinderella wants a do-over. And makes a “that’s what she said” joke.
To celebrate the publication of With Animal, the collection of short stories I wrote with Carol Guess, I am giving a reading with three other fantastic writers of stories and poems about animals this Thursday, November 12, 8pm at Honey Moon in Bellingham, Washington. Please come if you can! There will be books for sale and donations taken for Happy Tails Happy Homes, a local animal rescue organization. My fellow readers are Brenda Miller, Kami Westhoff, and Elizabeth Vignali.
I’m using this picture to advertise the reading because it’s one of my favorites of my kid. It really conveys the Chuck E Cheese experience perfectly. And since my book is about human-animal families, it just seemed to fit.
When you are a collection of strange, magical little stories published by a small press (albeit a truly fantastic one), you depend on friends, family, and word of mouth to get your book into the hands of readers. So it is always with excitement and gratitude that I hear from people I know who are interested this book — and here’s one of them. Lauren at Author Stalker interviewed Carol Guess and me about the collaborative process and our individual writing styles. It was a joy to talk to Lauren again, especially about how much fun it was to write this book.
In one of my classes this week, we’re talking about the differences/similarities between influence and appropriation, using a whole bunch of recent news in creative writing to fuel our discussion (see this, this, this, and this — and one of the many responses to that last one — to start). My students are characteristically brilliant at seeing the nuances: the line between ethical and unethical “stealing” is constantly shifting, depending on the players, the art, the bodies behind the art, the zeitgeist, the power dynamic, and on and on. One of the stories in my book is a retelling of the Virgin birth; right now I’m working on a collection of retold fairy tales; I love the idea of telling and retelling and recreating familiar narratives. I’m invested in fluid kinds of identities, too. And yet. And yet. The kinds of racial and cultural appropriation I’ve seen happening in academia and popular culture are often disturbing, infuriating, and downright harmful. So here I am, trying to parse out this line between right and wrong, knowing that the line is a product of what I understand right now, and that it could change as I become more aware of my own biases, prejudices, -isms, privilege, and creative boundaries.
That said, I love to challenge morals. It’s how I understand their parameters. Call me the devil’s advocate. Now I’m going to go write a story that breaks all kinds of rules, just to see what will break and what will hold. And eventually, when I have more strange, magical little stories, I hope to find other small magazines and presses who will take a chance on them.
The new book I wrote with Carol Guess, With Animal, was motivated by a lot of things, one of which is a deep love and respect for animals, both human and non-human. I’ve been interested and active in animal rights for nearly two decades now, and so I’m delighted that this organization, Our Hen House, is featuring a story from With Animal on their website and hosting a giveaway for the book. Check them out, and consider making a donation if you like what you see.
I struggle, as I know many people do, with balancing the many different kinds of injustices that demand my personal and our collective attention. Sometimes I feel pressure to rank them: who/what will get more of my time and money and words? When I feel overwhelmed by all this, I often return to a story written by Lorrie Moore, “Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens.” In it, a woman insists on grieving over the death of her cat, Bert, in spite of the pressure of her family and friends to move on. Toward the end of the story, the narrator comes to this conclusion: “You couldn’t pretend you had lost nothing. A good cat had died — you had to begin there, not let your blood freeze over. If your heart turned away at this, it would turn away at something greater, then more and more until your heart stayed averted, immobile, your imagination redistributed away from the world and back only toward the bad maps of yourself, the sour pools of your own pulse, your own tiny, mean, and pointless wants. Stop here! Begin here! Begin with Bert!”