Thursday, December 31, 2009

an update

i'm blogging over at html giant now. you can read my interview with the kickass, smart, charming, and talented jeremy davies.

i've moved to canada.

i'll probably start blogging again here some time soon. maybe. we'll see.

happy new decade, everyone. a new decade. wow.

Monday, December 14, 2009

a (fake) holiday

happy hannuhak day, blake. may it be filled with hiding joy.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Upcoming events & news

I'll be reading at Tasha Matsumoto's place on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 4pm. This is a reading/going away party. All are welcome! She lives at: 330 W. Colfax, Apt. 113. Tasha throws a mean party. You should be there. Also, I like reading.

I'll be reading in New York on Dec. 2 with Uwem Akpan (recent Oprah pick) & Juan Felipe Herrera for the PEN celebration, titled "Crossing Over." The reading will be followed by a panel discussion with Norton editor Brendan Curry & NBCC President Jane Ciabattari. This is happening at Housing Works Bookstore & Cafe, 126 Crosby St., at 7pm. I'm certainly the least known writer of the group so come show me some love, peoples!

In other news, I'm an Editor now over at Tarpaulin Sky. I love them.

In other news, my collection UNFINISHED has been picked up. I love you, Debra Di Blasi.

Monday, November 9, 2009

wittgenstein, emoticons, & the death of email

yesterday, i was schooled by austin choi-fitzpatrick. apparently, email is dead. email is "so 2006." according to choi-fitzpatrick (wtf? i'm citing him like he's the fucking scholar he is), email had it's heyday from 1996-2006. now, email is a dead form. for him, email is only his inbox: subject headings, nothing more. for him, it's all about facebook, text messaging, etc. we, as humans, reduced to 140 characters or less as our mode of communication.

this morning, i read wittgenstein's notes & lectures on aesthetics, psychology, & religion. wittgenstein argues that language is not universal; however, physical reactions are. he talks, at length, about the inadequacy of words such as "beautiful" or "lovely," that "beautiful" comes to represent not what is beautiful but an interjection. he argues,
would it matter if instead of saying 'this is lovely,' i just said, 'ah!' & smiled, or just rubbed my stomach? as far as these primitive languages go, problems about what these words are about, what their real subject is, don't come up at all.
whereas i get wittgenstein's point--words like beautiful or lovely are at times empty, they come to mean much less than what we mean them to mean--i don't think we could simply substitute a grunt or a physical action. and i agree that words like "beautiful" never conjure up the same thing to any two people, that does not make the word itself--or words in general--obsolete. after all, facial expressions, gestures, etc. can be just as misleading, if not more so, than words.

but this got me thinking about what austin had to say (see here how i've switched to calling him austin): what if we play wittgenstein out to his logical extreme? in this increasingly technologically fragmenting world, what if rather than communicate via facebook or text or even email, we just used emoticons, as our way of expressing emotion & feeling? rather than say, "i had a shitty day," i could just put up a some frazzle faced grumpy tired face? here's the thing, as austin pointed out, we can't just have our 10-20 emoticons. we need combinatory abilities. then, we'll create a new language, one with more capacity for miscommunication & confusion.

one of my colleagues, a philosopher, asked me, as i was thinking out loud about this earlier this morning, what does this reduction of experience into 140 characters do? i had my standard answer, nothing sophisticated or new: well, obviously, it breaks down communication, such that we're nothing but quippy cleverness that generates as many "responses" as possible. real life people, we're bound to disappoint, but on facebook, we're clever.

this is particularly pertinent to these blogs popping up everywhere. i'm a fan of html giant, but what's there is a lot of self-referential cleverness. is big other any different? is my blog any different? no! but you get a bunch of writers in a room together without booze, and what happens? i remember walking around awp, a freaked out zombie, unable to talk to people. i remember walking around &now, eyes racing from person to person, hiding & wanting to be seen. i'd like to blame technology for that, but it turns out i've just got social anxiety. but the thing is that everyone today has social anxiety, and that's something for reals we can pin on technology. are you cooler than your facebook persona? that's the real question.

and as for email, i love email. i have long email exchanges with many friends. it's my preferred mode of communication. i mean, i'd love to sit & talk to most of these people, but email gives me time to think over things, ruminate, delete, cut & paste, etc etc etc. that, & i don't actually have to leave my house.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Big Other

I've been blogging over at Big Other. Check it out, and thanks, John, for inviting me.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I'll have a full write-up on my experiences at &NOW, but I'm happy to say that I've survived it without too much scarring.

It was great to see old friends--HTML Giant folks (Blake, Ryan, etc.), FC2 folk (Lance, Andi, Steve, Debra, etc.), Chiasmus people (Trevor, Shane, Kate Z.), Les Figues people (Vanessa & Teresa), Starcherone people (Ted, etc.) & old old friends (Bee & Michael Stewart!)--and meet new, by which I mean once virtual & now real, friends--Josh, Matt Bell, Matt Kirkpatrick, James Yeh, John Madera, JA Tyler, etc.

I didn't sleep or eat nearly enough but I made it! Onward!

BBC Vietnam write-up

Here's something Hai Le wrote about me & Changing for the BBC Vietnam. If you read Vietnamese, it's quite nice!
BBC Vietnam

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


&now &now &now

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This made me laugh...

"If a poet demanded from the State the right to have a few bourgeois in his stable, people would be very much astonished, but if a bourgeois asked for some roast poet, people would think it quite natural. That would not scandalize our wives, our daughters or our sisters." -Baudelaire

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Good things

First, the rad JA Tyler is compiling all the Mud Luscious chapbooks into one monster book. See here:
Mud Luscious to print first year anthology {MLP: FIRST YEAR} featuring shane jones, brandi wells, nick antosca, james chapman, colin bassett, michael kimball, jac jemc, kim chinquee, kim parko, norman lock, randall brown, brian evenson, michael stewart, peter markus, ken sparling, aaron burch, david ohle, matthew savoca, p. h. madore, johannes göransson, charles lennox, elizabeth ellen, molly gaudry, kevin wilson, mary hamilton, craig davis, kendra grant malone, lavie tidhar, lily hoang, mark baumer, ben tanzer, krammer abrahams, joshua cohen, eugene lim, c. l. bledsoe, joanna ruocco, josh maday, michael martone, and more.

Next, I'm happy to announce that Starcherone Books will be publishing an anthology I've co-edited with Blake Butler called Thirty Under Thirty. Look for it Spring 2011. It'll be ready for AWP!!

Finally, my housemate Ana passed her first round of comps!

Talk about a good day. Even with all the dampness.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

something positive

as a follow-up to the previous post, this is something i loved from vn's lectures on literature: "there is no such thing as real life for an author of genius: he must create it himself and then create the consequences" (10).

unfortunately, i look around, and south bend is all too real. that must mean i am no author of genius. bummer.

beauty plus pity

thing is: i agree with vn to a point. yes, of course, seeing something of beauty incites pity because beauty necessarily dies, but does this make it art?

i want to believe great art--great writing--is more than this.

i also want to believe that there is more to literature than satisfaction and comfort. am i wrong?

i'm not trying to go head to head with vn here because i agree with almost everything he says, even his harsh--read: honest-- critiques about "talent," but there are some things that beg questioning. such as, for instance, the role of great literature and what "defines" art.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

on accepting limitations

there are things i cannot do. this is a good thing to know.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kate Greenstreet

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of going to a kickass poetry reading (Carrie Olivia Adams & Kate Greenstreet) at Tasha Matsumoto's apartment. Carrie Olivia Adams was great. Her poetry is solid. Kate Greenstreet, however, blew the air out of me. She reads softly, almost mumbling at times, her poems half-memorized, flipping through her book for markers of the few words she needs. Perhaps it was the softness of her voice or her bare feet or the poetry itself, but the whole room seemed to vacuum sound to hear her words. Kate makes me rethink what a reading ought to do. When I read, I'm loud, anxious, etc. Her reading was the opposite, and it functioned beautifully.

Afterwards, shyly, I introduced myself and offered to trade books, and can you believe it, she'd actually heard my name!?! Unbelievable! Then, although she's been plagued by headaches, we went to dinner with her charming, questioning, absolutely fantastic husband Max. Over dinner, it seemed like we had the most improbable conversations, and because of their improbability, they'll stay with me as cherished artifacts of our meeting.

So yes, Kate & Max: you made my week. I've been feeling pretty dolor of late, and you both have given me something invaluable. Thank you.

Everyone else: Kate & Max will probably be coming to a city near you soon. If you can, go check her out. She will blow you away. Brilliant brilliant brilliant.

Just typing this, I am humbled.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

New MLP chapbooks

Everyone check out MudLuscious Press.

The giant J.A. Tyler has brought out three new very cool chapbooks, one of which is mine, called MOCKERY OF A CAT. It's an excerpt from my yet-to-be-picked-up choose your own adventure love story novel OLD CAT LADY. Other chapbooks belong to Lavie Tidhar & Kendra Grant Malone, both of which are brilliant beyond words. I'm humbled to be in such company.

random thoughts on what i've been reading

Bataille says: Writing's always only a game played with ungraspable reality.

I dig this. A lot. Isn't writing--realist or not--an attempt to understand reality by creating another reality? Or rather: My writing is an attempt for me to understand reality by creating a non-reality, a non-realistic reality, a reality grounded not in the real but in truth, as I know it best.

Bataille says: I can't abide sentences... Everything I've asserted, convictions I've expressed, it's all ridiculous and dead. I'm only silence, and the universe is silence. / The world of words is laughable. Threats, violence, and the blandishments of power are part of silence. Deep complicity can't be expressed in words.

I am complicit, but even in stating my complicity is to undermine it. Make it less real. Then, when written, does the real become less real or more real? Or can the real ever be written? Would all realities written be nothing more than simulations--in Baudrillard's sense of the word--no matter how faithful to reality it is?

I have no real issue with this. I don't work in realism, but I wonder how realists would respond to this. Thinking in these terms, it all feels pretty futile.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

new review

The ever brilliant John Madera reviews Changing at The Collagist.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Feeling good?

I spent all of yesterday (minus time to eat) editing, and I have to say: I'm really proud of this collection. There are some damn fine stories in it. Is this a bad thing to think? Should I, as a writer, feel down on my writing? I hope not.

Then again, the crushing defeat of rejection wouldn't feel so bad if I didn't feel so good, right?

But of course, I'm still in the Honeymoon high phase, where I think everything is brilliant. In six months, I'll wish it was in a box, being burned, with some potatoes roasting underneath, that way, there will be some semblance of value or worth to those wasted pages. But I'm being melodramatic. As always.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

something to think about

"The real is produced from miniaturised units, from matrices, memory banks and command models--and with these it can be reproduced an indefinite number of times. It no longer has to be rational, since it is no longer measured against some ideal or negative instance. It is nothing more than operational. In fact, since it is no longer enveloped by an imaginary, it is no longer real at all. It is a hyperreal, the produce of an irradiating synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without atmosphere." --Baudrillard

Monday, September 7, 2009

on pretense

I've been thinking about pretentiousness a lot lately too. Mostly because I fear I'm pretentious but also because there has been a spike in the pretentiousness index around me lately. So I wonder: wtf?

Pretense is the act of giving false appearance. Ok. That makes sense. As a teacher-professor-professional, there's always a certain degree of acting. I have to give a false appearance. It's part of the job. Maybe not. But I don't think of myself as a "commanding" figure, one who "commands" respect, so I "act" in order to get it. This is, in no small part, because of my size, age, race, gender, etc. I've been cultured to be "small" and those who are "small" don't "earn" respect. It's a screwed up system, one that I'm working to change, even if it's only within the confines of my own classrooms.

Pretentious, however, is defined as making unjustified or excessive claims. That goes way beyond pretense.

But why are people pretentious? To me, the obvious answer is insecurity. So then, Person A is pretentious--making an unjustified or excessive claim--to Person B so that Person B knows that Person A is legit. Is it that simple? But clearly, Person A isn't legit, and Person B is a fool to fall for it.

This is getting complicated. I guess my question is: Why bother? Of course, I'm as guilty as anyone else. In general, I think I'm not a particularly pretentious person, but once people start asking about writing--or rather, my writing--my voice changes. I become some cross between pretentious and awkwardly shy. These "ums" and "likes" pop up everywhere. I don't know. I think this is going no where. Well, then. Yeah.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

PEN/Beyond Margins Announced

It's official: PEN/Beyond Margins.


I'll have a post on contests as a concept forthcoming...

on virtual friendships

i've been thinking a lot about virtual friendships. html giant had this posting recently asking if people were friends with writer/artist types, and that got me thinking about virtual friendships and why they're so attractive.

growing up, i didn't have a lot of friends, but i very much so wanted to be social. i wanted it so badly that i began to gossip, telling all my family friends anything & everything i knew, regardless of how it affected others. i was fairly young then, maybe 5-7. maybe younger. the point is, though, i understood that people would give me attention if i had something to give them. this legacy of unhealthy notions of friendship has followed me.

throughout high school & most of college, i--like most young women--flirted my way into friendships. and yes, duh, women flirt with women. it's socially acceptable. it's socially desirable. these are things i enacted without being conscious.

now, though, i'm more aware. does that change things?

but back to virtual friendships: what is it that makes them so attractive? well, the most obvious answer is that people are looking for validation, and if they can't find it in the "real" world, they look for it in the "virtual" world. people who are socially awkward in "reality" can have huge followings "virtually." besides, if you're actively blogging, facebooking, etc. etc. etc., when do you find time to be social? (of course, there is a balance.)

here's something that sucks: many people rely on the virtual world because they're unaccepted in the real world. the virtual world just gives people an opportunity to be doubly rejected. man, rejection sucks.

here's the hitch though, what happens when virtual world & social world intersect? that is, when you meet your virtual friend in real life... over the years, most of my writing friends (with a few exceptions: frances, kirsten, michael... well, now kirsten & michael are virtual friends since we don't live in the same place) have been virtual friends. when we (writer virtual friends) correspond, i don't mind being utterly vulnerable with them, mostly because i know i'll probably never meet them, and if i do, it's at AWP or some conference where there's no time to really talk anyways. except when there is. interactions that were once smooth, intelligent, smart, funny, and so on become stilted, awkward, filled with gaps. why? well, obviously, we're used to technology mediating our friendship. we're used to having time to think, be witty, whatever.

here's the other thing: when we type and email or whatever, the person on the other side is still a mystery. we just see an email address, a name. maybe we've read their book or stories or poems. we have a romantic sense (not as in romance, i want to sleep with you, but romance as is archetypal) of the other person. when we're confronted with a real person on the other side for the first time, of course, there's bound to be disappointment, and not just physically.

next, no matter how quick virtual interactions are, even with chatting, i'd argue that all virtual interactions are one-way. there is no real "conversation." i type something. send. you type something. send. but that "send" takes away the "conversation." there person on the other side may or may not be there. may or may not be real. may or may not be genuine, but none of that matters because i've sent "send." it could go anywhere. (i haven't really thought this part through. there are holes, i know.)

anyways, &now is coming up. i'm excited to see old friends (who i actually know) and meet new old friends (whom i've never met). i guess this post is a precursor to that.

i haven't blogged much over the past few months, but i'm back. say hello to lily, virtual world.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

finishing stories: an update

so far, i've finished 16 stories. i'd like to finish 21 stories for the collection, and i have more than enough in my vault of "story starts."

thing is: there is an odd gender balance. of the 16 stories, only 4 are from other women. when i originally solicited unfinished stories, there was a gender balance.

so i wonder: are women more "protective" of their writing? or is this merely a coincidence? would i be so generous to share my work with others? is it a question of generosity? i'm not really sure i'd even be able to answer this until it happened, although i love the idea of collaboration.

of course, i've had males voice their concern over sharing their work, and i think this is perfectly legitimate. furthermore, i could do ANYTHING with these stories, and these writers would have their names attached to it.

certainly, i don't write this as any kind of criticism! it's more of a curiosity. i'm grateful to those who have shared while fully understand why others have not. i'm not really sure what i'm saying. mostly, i haven't blogged in a while.

i do have to say though, i think the stories i've finished are pretty cool. it's exciting to have starting point, and i don't even have to come up with my own story!

Friday, June 5, 2009

new interview up

ryan manning interviewed me here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Word Spaces

Ryan Call displays my workspace on HTML Giant. Pretty cool.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

New Book

I sent out this email earlier to some folks about a new book I'm starting. If I didn't email you, please don't have hurt feelings. Instead, send me YOUR unfinished story to:

So summer is almost here. I have just six more finals to grade, and I have no writing projects.

And this is where you come in... This summer, I'd like to write a short story collection, but I'd like to finish YOUR stories (or something resembling stories). If you have something to spare that is unfinished, please, let me finish it. After I've finished it, I'll send it back to you, just to make sure you're not horribly embarrassed with what I've done with your work.

I'll try to finish the collection this summer. Then, I'll edit (& I'll ask for your input, of course). Then, I'll start submitting in September. Too easy for you, huh?

So, will you play? Send me your unfinished spare stories. Let me finish them. Let's have a mash up, collaborative story fun summer.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

On Realism

For the past couple weeks, in the midst of the insanity of existence, I've started writing again, which is wonderful. And I'm not really sure why, but I started working on a novel, a realist novel. Having not written within the confines of realism since grad school & blatantly autobiographical work, I thought it would be fun, a new challenge perhaps.

But what I've found is, whereas I am writing (I've averaged a couple pages per day for the past couple weeks, give or take a page or two here and there) efficiently and the work is ok, I'm not having fun. Realism doesn't seem to be a constraint that fits with me.

So I wonder how others work with realism. I'm so much more comfortable with my world of two-headed mermen and old cat ladies.

Also, check out FC2's blog. There's a new podcast there with my personal hero (and editor) Kate Bernheimer. She's reading from the newest installment of the Gold sisters. It's pretty exciting. Hearing her blog last night, I immediately wanted to throw out all that realist crap I'd been working on and start playing again. I want to start enjoying what I write.

Do you think writing realist fiction is inherently unenjoyable? Probably not. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm wired the wrong way.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On Regrets

This semester, I taught Jane Gallop's FEMINIST ACCUSED OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT, which is a very provocative book on many different levels, but I won't go into that now. After reading the book, I emailed Gallop & asked if she'd be willing to field some questions from my students later in the semester. She graciously accepted. So that's the back story.

One of the questions the students asked was, "If you could change one thing about your memoir, what would it be?" Gallop responded, "Honestly there hasn’t been one thing I’ve thought of changing. I’m not that kind of writer. I go on and write new books, but I don’t think about doing over those I’ve published. Which doesn’t mean I think they’re perfect, but that I think nothing is perfect. I think every book is a document of its moment in time, with the perspective of that moment."

Whereas this response received mixed responses in class, as a writer, I am quite honestly in awe of her point of view because I am "that kind of writer." I wish I could rewrite most of PARABOLA and delete a great portion of CHANGING. And they were only published within this last year! I can't even imagine what I'll think in a few years. Or a decade. Whereas these books are documents of their moment in time--my time--and I can appreciate that, it's for precisely that reason that I am most regretful for their existence.

I think it's brilliant that Gallop can think this way. I am humbled by her confidence and wise perspective.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Situating Self

The other day, I had a really interesting conversation with my friend Frances about where we situate ourselves as writers. She's a traditional short story writer. I, obviously, am not.

Well, first, I should mention that this conversation was spawned by a conversation I had with an artist friend of mine (Sheilah) about conceptual art v. pretty things. So I mentioned this "need" to categorize what I write--I use quotation marks because I often feel a need to use a modifying word when describing my writing, lest others find it too "confusing" or "difficult" without fair warning & dismiss it out of hand. The conversation then moved into insufficient words like "experimental" or "avant garde." I explained that, like her, I like the term "conceptual." I'd gladly say that my writing is "concept-based" rather than finding its rooting in "tradition."

Flash forward a few days to this other conversation with Frances, where I'm relaying the previous conversation, and as I was talking, I wondered where traditional writers situate themselves, or if they do. (I also had a conversation with Gene Morgan in Houston where he called this/my generation of writers a part of the "internet school," which is fascinating. I'm still mulling & processing this.) But not to stray off topic... So I asked Frances how she would label herself & her other writer friends. (Obviously, I'd have no difficulty "labeling" my writer-friends as "conceptual" or "innovative" writers.) But the thing is--or at least the decision we came to was--that if you're not challenging the genre, why would you need to situate yourself into any aesthetic politic? If you're not challenging the status quo, you don't need any modifying word to accompany "writer." I find this vastly unfair. And yet, I fall for it. I am the one who labels myself. Why?

Of course, this whole notion of situating myself within a "movement" is really pretentious, so I'm not even going to pretend that it isn't, but then again, there's a lot going on right now. Writing is exciting now. Books are exciting now. Why wouldn't one want to be involved in a dialogue, a movement? Or is it just self-importance?

Then again, I think the necessity--for me, at least--for this modifying word makes me LESS writer rather than MORE writer. I mean, if Frances calls herself a writer with no qualms (& really she shouldn't because she's an amazing writer), and I call myself a conceptual writer, which person is more secure & established as a writer? It's almost as if I need that modifying word as a buffer to separate me from my writerliness, as a disconnect, as a safety net... just in case someone criticizes what I write as "non-writing" or some shit like that. I'm not entirely sure I'm even making sense anymore. So yeah. I guess I'm done here.

Massive Novella Compendium

Please check out this Novella Compendium that John Madera has compiled. Very cool, and looks like I've got my summer reading...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Reading Tonight

Hey hey... if you're in or around Normal, IL, I'll be reading at Illinois State University at 7pm at the CVA Galleries.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sappy moments

In bell hooks's memoir WOUNDS OF PASSION, she writes about this great love affair--a partnership, really, that lasted 12 years. When this love affair started, she describes how wonderful everything was, "It was a true and perfect union. We could lie together after hours of passionate lovemaking and recite poems" (hooks 61). I love bell hooks. I really do, but reading this, I was almost ill. This is a perfect example of romanticizing the past. I mean, really!?!

Then, I wonder if I'm just callous because to me, reciting poetry after hours of lovemaking sounds like a painful cliche, some "dream" of what "poets" ought to do and be. I'm completely resistant to falling into the traps of what it means to be "poet," "writer," or "artist."

I remember in my undergrad & even during my grad writing workshops, there were always these stories about "all night lovemaking" followed by hours of gently crying each other to sleep. Sure, it may be true or not, but ultimately, who would really want this? Is this what people truly desire? Am I just some callous, unromantic bitch?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Grading: A Moment to Give Thanks

I am in the midst of grading essays for my Feminist Memoirs class. The prompt is: The Personal is Political. The stories are amazing, breathtaking, and while reading these painfully personal & political stories, I understand why I teach. This makes it worth it. Knowing that students trust me enough to share these stories, that these stories may never have been written down if not for an assignment for a class that requires an honest delving into the personal, that these stories may well have evaporated into the fog of busy life & repressed into the clamour of daily life, that I can read these stories makes teaching worthwhile. Teaching, whereas it's difficult, tedious, exhausting, etc., teaching is amazing. So to my Feminist Memoirs class: thank you.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


There's something decidedly unpleasant about growing older. I'm officially no longer in my mid-twenties. I'm now in my late twenties. Not to whine, but really, what do I have to show for it?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

cell phones

I dislike dealing with cell phones & Canada simultaneously. Why can't there be a simple plan that makes everyone happy?

Monday, March 23, 2009

the last samurai

Seriously... why would a bunch of samurais take in Tom Cruise? And of course, they're going to teach him how to be a samurai. Duh, it makes perfect sense.

I've never seen this movie before, but it's on tv. I'm not saying I dislike the movie, per se, because I haven't really been paying close attention, but god, the fetishization of Otherness...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

writer's block

A couple nights ago, I gave a reading at SMC, and one of the audience members--a student, if I remember correctly--asked me what happens when I get writer's block, how I get through it. For some reason, this question really stumped me. I thought about it. I thought about it some more. Ok, in a q&a session, you don't actually have that much time to think so yeah, I didn't think so hard. I gave an answer. Quickly. I admitted that I don't get writer's block, that I am not a "typical" writer in that sense. But then, I thought about why it is that I don't get writer's block, and I think it has everything to do with constraint. Because I do put all these superficial constraints of my writing, the process is then not as open and yet somehow there are more possibilities. I think it also has to do with the fact that I'm not a realist writer. Whereas I'm sure that non-realist writers get writer's block too, there is something stiffling about mimicking reality, right? Time is so focused on plausibility that a lot is forsaken in the process.

Well, this question has stuck with me, and I'm not entirely sure I have an answer now. But it is certainly something to think about.

Another question someone asked (Amanda asked this) that I was "unable" to answer: If my concern isn't plot or narrative, per se, how do I tell someone what my novel/story/etc. is "about"? How do I speak about the work? The honest truth is that I hate describing my writing. The truth is that I'm not articulate about it at all & I often sound like a bumbling idiot. I remember telling JB about this novel I was working on a couple years ago--turns out it's now THE EVOLUTIONARY REVOLUTION, which Les Figues will publish in Feb. 2010--and he told me that whereas my writing may be good, I should never talk about my writing. Well, yeah, maybe that wasn't a kind thing to say--his compliments are so often mixed messages--but there is some truth to it. So, now it's my goal to work towards speaking about my writing more articulately.

I wonder, how would any of you out there answer these questions?

Friday, March 13, 2009


I like books. I love books. It seems though that I am a dying breed.

There's this conversation that keeps repeating--the record skipping, continually bringing me back, regardless of my own desires--about the death of the book. I don't buy it. I believe there will always be book lovers, people who want to read books, people who want to make books. The books of the future will be beautiful. They will be even more lovely than we can conceive now.

And the trash, the shit they sell in the cookie-cutter bookstores, let all that go onto Kindle. I won't mourn their loss. But books, real books, book-objects, they will survive. They will remain. Those will be the books I will fall for, over and over again.


Yesterday morning, I saw this interview with Jonathan Safran Foer, and it's stuck with me ever since. Think what you will of Foer, but when asked about his writing, he said that his main goal is to write honestly, from a place of honesty.

So obviously, this made me wonder about my own writing. While I was in grad school, this was very important to me: to write an authentic story, not necessarily a realist story but one that conveyed an honesty. So I wrote PARABOLA and CHANGING. But since then, this need for honesty hasn't been a concern. At all. It's as if I needed to do it, and once done, it was done. That was that. The summer after grad school, I wrote THE EVOLUTIONARY REVOLUTION (which will be out with Les Figues in 2010). I had no desire for honesty. I just wanted to have fun. This, of course, does not mean that the novel is dishonest or even that it doesn't show authentic emotion (I'm talking more about process here than product), but I simply stopped caring about honesty. (This brings me another point, which I'll blog about some other time dealing with genre. I often call this a science fiction novel, but when pressed on, I have to admit that no, it's not science fiction at all. It just has non-realist characters & elements: a two headed boy, girls with wings on their thighs, an earth composed of only water, etc. This doesn't really make it science fiction though. It makes it fabulous.) I'm currently in the copy-editing stage with this book, and now, as I read it over again, even though I was unconcerned with honesty, there is a lot about humanity in there.

But moving on, last summer, I wrote INVISIBLE WOMEN (coming out with a kickass web-based version with StepSister Press in Oct. 2009). My goal here was simply to converse with Calvino's INVISIBLE CITIES, only instead of cities, women. Instead of Kublai Khan & Marco Polo, Freud & Lou Andreas-Salome. Again, I had no desire for honesty. I wanted to play, have fun, and even though honesty wasn't the concern, reading over the ms, there it is again.

And moving on again, this past winter break, I wrote OLD CAT LADY. (Don't worry. That ms doesn't have a home, lest you think everything I write finds a publisher, unless you are a publisher & want to publish my book. Then, by all means...) With this book in particular (it's a choose-your-own adventure love story), I actually tried not to be honest, but there's something about multiple endings that--whereas it's entirely unreal--is very honest. The honesty lies in the possibilities, the small choices, we obsess over, the fact that we all have regrets, desires for do-overs, mourning the loss of some small choice made wrong.

As a writer who's not trying to write honestly or even from a place of honesty, there it is. It crops up when you're not looking. So then, is Foer wasting his time focusing on the honest? In fact, if you're a writer, is it really even possible to write dishonestly? It doesn't matter how realist or fabulist your writing is, this honesty , this desire to convey some sort of truth or authenticity, keeps emerging. If this is the case, why Foer? Why waste your time trying to write an "honest" novel? Why not just write?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

being "proud of" someone

Yesterday, I got an email from a friend from my MFA program. In the email (which insulted me under the guise of compliments--I'd go into it but there's really no need), this email writer told me s/he was proud of me for my publishing accomplishments. As Elizabeth Bennet says in Pride & Prejudice, "I could easily forgive his pride, had he not mortified mine."

I dislike this very much.

This may be in part because I have always sought approval from my parents & other authoritative figures and am just now seeing how utterly detrimental this need is to me, BUT it's also because it's condescending and reeks of a hierarchical structure where this email writer deems that what I have done is "good" or worthy of being "proud of."

But let's back up a little. So yes, first off, I should clarify that like so many writers, I write for approval on many different levels. My parents think I'm a failure because I'm not a doctor. To make up for it, I went to a top notch Catholic university for my MFA and now teach at a Catholic college. (My parents are very Catholic. I'm not. This is my compromise, at least for the moment.) To make up for it, I am not just a writer. I write obsessively. I publish obsessively. And to show for it, I have books in print, books on the way, books written, stashed away on my laptop. (I've been asked how I write so much. I give some excuse, but really, when it's all said and done, it's for approval.) But aside from familial approval, which I think we can all appreciate, there's also something in the publication itself: Someone somewhere thinks what I've written is good enough that they want to put their time, energy, and money into bringing it out into this world. (Here, I'm talking specifically about book publication, but this also applies to journals, zines, etc.) There's a high you get when you have a ms accepted. Those of you who are writers, you know what I mean. Then, finally, there's the greater societal approval one gets for being a published author. The key word is PUBLISHED. Anyone who writes is given a certain degree of respect (by which I mean little to no respect) for being a writer, but let's face it, there's something about being a published writer that authenticates it to both YOU and society at large, and then, any grief you've gotten for wanting to be a writer (a most underappreciated occupation to be sure) is somehow forgotten because you ARE now a writer.

What is most frustrating though is that this notion of "being proud of someone" only makes us continue running in our little mouse-wheel because we thrive off of approval. We desire approval, no matter where it comes from (well, I guess I've shown here that where it comes from does matter a little), but ultimately, we--as writers and as people--want other people to like us, to like what we do, to tell us we're "good." But fuck that! We ought to write (but you can insert any other word here) for ourselves. But do we? So most of the people who read this are innovative/conceptual writers. The market doesn't dictate what we write, how we write, etc., but in place of the market, what other shadowy monster looms, waiting to give us a gold star of approval, dying to tell us how proud they are?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Being punched in the face

I dislike it when my cat punches me in the face at six in the morning because he's hungry. He's a real asshole about it too. He'll sit near me, purring. It's sweet right? Then, just like that, he smacks me. Right across the lips. If I respond (by getting pissed), he just punches me from a different angle. (He'll circle around me.) If I ignore him, he'll continue punching me until I get angry. If I get angry, I won't sleep. If I don't sleep, I'll get up and feed him.

He's clever, that cat.

Only he doesn't get fed until seven. Every morning it's the same. And yet, every morning, somewhere between 5:30-6am, there he is, all in my face, ready to fight.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze & Guittari write, "The real is not impossible; on the contrary, within the real, everything is possible; everything becomes possible" (27). So then, I think I like the real but only inasmuch as I prefer the fabulous. So if the non-real (irreal) is possible in the real, then obviously, I like the real. I think. Am I getting this right?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Copy editing

I dislike copy editing. I wish I did not have to do it. I would enjoy spring break much more if I weren't doing it, but alas, it's inevitable, isn't it? Luckily, I have a kickass editor who makes many corrections. & hopefully, this will be a good book.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


I like falafel. Just yesterday, I had falafel at the Tomasula house. It was great. (I also like Maria's couscous, which is the best damned couscous ever.) Today, I will go have more falafel with Laura. Life is good.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I like to ride my bicycle. I dislike a hill.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The day before a reading

I dislike the day before a reading because I never know what I will read the next day, which is tomorrow, which means that I dislike today, which in fact I do. Dislike it. Today, I mean. Hopefully, I will not dislike it tomorrow.

But if you're around, I'll be reading tomorrow at the Hammes Bookstore at Notre Dame at 7:30. Come. Please. I will be happy to see you.

Midterm exams

Whereas having midterm exams means that one has to not only write but also grade them, it also means not needing to prep for that day. This translates into something I like very much.

Earl Grey Tea

I like Earl Grey tea with honey and milk (preferably rice but soy will also do). Before this summer, I had a firm dislike for Earl Grey tea. Then, I had it with milk and honey & then, love.

Virginia Woolf

I like Virginia Woolf. She makes me want to write, and even if I don't have the time to write, she excites in me the desire to make time.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Something I like

I like mechanical pencils but only certain kinds. I prefer 0.7mm lead. I prefer Bics, not particularly because I like the brand but because they come in different colors. I like colors.

I think from here on out, I will use this blog to write about things I like (including people, books, etc.) and things I do not like.

Virginal blog

Only it isn't a virginal blog. I've tried blogging before, never really got the feel for it. But because I require that my students blog, it's only fair that I do too. So here it is. My first blog.