In which I play a bit of catch-up and resist making puns about catsup (barely)

Been a while! I know! I know. I can’t even say I’ve been busy, exactly. There have been things going on, but mostly I am lazy and also avoiding myself. I feel like there are too many screens in my life. I don’t want to blog, I want to look at someone’s face. I want human contact. Or animal contact, though Josie doesn’t care what I have to say and Seb gives me these looks like, lady you are beyond helping. Also how about we go outside and poop now?

(I’ve been trying to teach Seb some bad habits, because he’s old and he should have a little fun. I keep trying to get him to snuggle up next to me on the big Sac, but he won’t. The closest he’ll get is leaning really hard in my direction and breathing his hot dog breath on me. One time I lifted up his enormous paw and put it on the Sac, hoping his body would follow, but then Joe told me to knock it off. It’s a work in progress. I’ll teach this old dog some new goddamn tricks if it kills me.)

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Moving in chronological order, we go back to 2011. I am the laziest blogger ever. 

In October I started keeping track of the books I was reading so I could, like, look back once and month and reflect on what I’d read. Or something. Obviously that didn’t happen, but I have a couple months’ worth of records to review.

From October 8, 2011 to December 22, 2011 I read 21 books. Well, 1 of those was a lit journal (Beecher’s) and two were One Story issues, but the rest were books. A bunch were romances and a bunch were for my sci-fi book club, but some were self-selected. Hands down the best one I read was Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, although I also read We Need To Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver) and that was pretty intense and sad and wonderful. But Lemon Cake…oh man. This book! I literally wept when I finished it. I need to read it again, over and over, forever. 

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I submitted one short piece of fiction at the end of 2011 and haven’t heard back about it yet. It’s one of those stories that skews dangerously close to being nonfiction so I feel even more anxious about it than usual.

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Just before Christmas I found out I’d been awarded the Jan-Ai Scholarship to attend the Poetry & Prose Winter Getaway near Atlantic City. It was exciting not only because I got to go to a writers’ retreat for FREE but also because I used some of Clementine as my writing sample. I hear good things about this project from my workshop group, but this was the first time someone who doesn’t know me or the project or my intentions thought it was good (worth awarding me a scholarship!). Validation is awesome, I don’t mind saying it.

The retreat was pretty great. It’s been too long since I spent that much time in the company of writers. I was in a workshop group with some very interesting people, led by Richard Weems. We did a lot of laughing and I also got some really good feedback on my stuff. I bought Richard’s collection Anything He Wants and even though I don’t “know” him, not really, I kept reading it and thinking, “this is so Richard.” 

I got to hear Stephen Dunn read and he signed a book for me. He signed everyone else’s “Best, Stephen Dunn,” or something like that, but mine says, “All my best wishes, Stephen Dunn.” I keep the book next to my bed and sometimes I read a few poems before I go to sleep. Is that too corny to admit? 

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A couple of weeks after the retreat, I had my first public reading in foreverrrrrrrrrr with The New Yinzer and it was pretty great. I read a Clementine arc to a fantastic reception (validation yay!) with two other very talented writers, though all three of us had totally different vibes going on. I felt like an asshole because I was so nervous and my stupid voice was shaking (PULL IT TOGETHER, SELF), but I guess that will only get better with practice. Practice and sustained drinking.

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I GOT COPIES OF MY BOOK AND SHE IS BEAUTIFUL AND AMAZING AND THE STORIES ARE SO GOOD AND, HOT DAMN, STAMPED BOOKS IS AMAZING AND EVERYTHING THEY DO IS FANTASTIC AND EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK IS PERFECT AND WONDERFUL AND I WANT TO HOARD ALL MY COPIES INSTEAD OF SELLING ANY.

I sold 3 at the reading and traded another! So my girl is out there, in the world. She’s going to be at AWP! I am not, but she is. Big Women, Big Girls. Stamped Books. Check it out.

(I love it when people ask me what my book is about and I say, “fat people,” and then they change the subject. But “fat people” isn’t quite right. The experience of a fat body, maybe. Fatness. The stories are about what every story is about – longing, self discovery, identity, relationships, the choices people make when navigating a life – they just happen to be centered mostly around people who are fat. They are not about dieting. Fuck that noise.)

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So far in 2012, I have finished 13 books. One of those books was A Game of Thrones, which I read in 5 days. I’m not usually a fan of fantasy-type books, but I’ve become a bit obsessed. Book 2 is waiting for me at the library. 

I also read Dave Cullen’s Columbine (fucking incredible) and a novel called Ice Fields by Thomas Wharton that I picked up at the book swap at the retreat. I really, really enjoyed it but was dismayed to find out that Thomas Wharton hasn’t written much else. One YA novel, according to the Carnegie Library catalog. Thomas Wharton! Please write more! 

I also read Jason Jordan’s novella The Dying Horse. No big deal, but Jason and I were in the MFA together and I workshopped a bit of this novella in class once. So. You’re welcome, literary community. Jason is one of those writers who I feel like has his Shit Together and is constantly blogging and writing and publishing and being cool and making me feel bad about myself. When I grow up, I want to be Jason Jordan, luxurious beard and all.

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I guess that’s it? 

Clementine is coming along. I am chugging my way through her arcs, bit by bit. For better or for worse, I’ve become very attached to her. I already changed one ending so that she comes out on top. I need to watch out – the Clementine story is inherently sad. She can’t win every time. But I love her. I want her to be happy. I know, I know, “kill your darlings.” I will. I do. But sometimes… Sometimes I just want to be her champion and protect her from harm. 

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Some links:

Mystery Lovers bookstore is closing

Mark Twain declares interview “pure twaddle.” 
(I had this attraction to old, curmudgeonly men. Not a sexual thing, but a very special fondness. Jim Harrison makes my heart race. Mark Twain hits all my buttons. I work for a guy who gives them both a run for their money and I adore him unceasingly.)

Dear Sugar unveiled!!! (also the first Dear Sugar was revealed to have been Steve Almond. I have both met Steve Almond in meatspace and written to Dear Sugar Steve Almond. He gave me great advice. I waffled a while and then I took his advice and it was the right thing to do. Thanks, Steve Almond.) 

Library in Utah lends “human books” (this is too awesome, stop it)

If famous writers had written Twilight… 

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