With Animal: A Reading

Carol Guess and I will be reading from our collaborative story collection, With Animal, for a Live Lit! event at Village Books in Bellingham, Washington on January 22, 2016 at 7pm. Please come if you can! More information can be found at the Village Books website.

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Animal Stories: A Reading of Poetry and Prose

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.

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Author Stalker Interview

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.

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Our Hen House

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!”

Here’s to Bert, and to all the animals and people and things we love outside ourselves.Our Hen House

TML: A (Possibly Unnecessary) Plug

I’m guessing you’ve already heard of This American Life, the fantastic radio show and podcast that uses a variety of storytelling, reporting, interviews, and music to tell stories based on a weekly theme. I’m guessing you’re already a fan. But on the off-chance that you’re not, I wanted to plug this week’s episode, “What’s Going On In There?” One of the stories is about a young girl’s struggle to free herself from an abusive relationship. I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about domestic violence lately, so this one really spoke to me. And the other stories in the episode are pretty great, too.

National Book Award Longlist

The national book award longlist for fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and Young People’s Literature were recently announced here. I was particularly excited to see Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude on the poetry list. I heard him read in Minneapolis this past year, and it was a phenomenal reading — one of those that made me rush out and get his book (and a second copy for my friend). I’ve spent the summer making my way through this stack of books, and if I had to recommend one from the stack, it would be this one. IMG_3809

The Lammys

Check out this list of submissions for the Lambda Literary Awards, which, according to their website, “identify and celebrate the best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender books of the year and affirm that LGBTQ stories are part of the literature of the world.” I’m excited that the book I co-wrote with Carol Guess, With Animal, has been submitted to the “LGBT SF/F/Horror” Category, and I’m delighted to be in the company of such a great list of books. And writers, check out the list of publishers at the bottom of the page!