Excited to announce that I've been chosen to read at the 2016 ATX Listen To Your Mother! I know, I know, I'm nobody's mama. Let's just say I know (at least) one great mom and had to share. I'll do my best not to mansplain motherhood. I just hope to do justice to a very special lady through my very meager talents. If you're around ATX on May 7, come give all us mama's boys and girls a listen. If not, sit yourself in front of the YouTubes and wait patiently for clips. Maybe check out a few cat videos. Seriously, you're wasting your lives.
Proud and pleased to report that my cover designs for the 2nd and 3rd issues of Raleigh Review have won Gold level at the Summit International Awards' Summit Creative Award.
You can check out our profile at the Summit International Awards page or, even better, visit Raleigh Review's homepage for literary web content, upcoming events, or to subscribe or order our print issues.
Thanks to the fine menfolk at Bull: Men's Fiction for accepting my short story "Trans-Neptunian Bodies." All of my stories are important to me, but this one holds a special place in my innards, so I'm glad it's found a home at Bull. I met a couple of the editors at the AWP conference in Chicago last year, super nice guys. Makes it mean all that much more.
A few friends have expressed puzzlement (and possibly disdain) at the concept of "men's fiction." I'll say this much: it's not about bachelor parties, strip clubs, fantasy football, or lady-bashing. These stories for men are, among other things, meditations on fatherhood/sonhood, journeys into wilderness, expressions of fear, longing, hope, and despair. Think of "The Road." Yes, it's full of horror, but is essentially (if my sources can be trusted) a love letter from Cormac McCarthy to his son. Bull is full of good writing that also fits into a million other cateogries. It's not about exclusion, it's about inclusion. Possibly re-inclusion. To quote Bull's site: "Major publishers say men don't read fiction. We say Bull."
I'll post a link to the piece when available.
A year ago I was leading an undergraduate workshop in creative writing and, as is unavoidable, one of the stories was about death. Actually, thinking harder about it, all of the stories were about death. Serial killers, cuckolded husbands, super-powered soldiers, alien marauders, people who’d had shitty days and just had to kill somebody over it.
On the day in question, the student in question who’d written the story in question had not actually created any murderous sociopaths, but had created a character whose supernatural duty was to step in at the last moments or hours of an individual’s life and die for them, so they didn’t have to experience the pain and fear of death.
Somewhere in the middle of my comments on the story (which wasn’t bad; the writer was one of my best students), I lost my mind and let forth a rant that I have never, despite my best efforts, been able to duplicate. But the main point was this: even when you (writers) aren’t writing about sudden death (which, really, you write about waaay too much), you still are. You’re still writing under the assumption that death comes fast and only hurts for a second (give or take a few days of torture at the hands of a sociopath). Popular entertainment’s culture of quick and brutal death has us perpetuating lies.
The truth is this: death doesn’t only hurt during the last moments or hours. Death isn’t only scary for those three seconds in between the gun coming out and your brain hitting the wall. Death isn’t exciting. Most of us won’t be shot or stabbed or walk in front of a bus or under a piano. Our deaths will take days and weeks and months, the terror and pain building more slowly and palpably than anything an hour of Dexter could hope to convey. Death is the worst kind of boring.
And, in treating it like it’s not, a lot of writing about death is also the worst kind of boring; the kind that refuses to engage in actual human experience and instead glamorizes and misrepresents something fundamental about our existence.
There was a stunned silence after my rant. I think I’d made a Neil Gaiman reference, something about “the high cost of living” and an impressed student finally broke the silence to give me kudos for my having read it (back when he was about two years old, actually). The moment passed and we went on with workshop. I left feeling more like a real teacher (of Big Stuff, not just writing) than ever before.
The following class, we read about a mercenary who killed immortals with a gun the size of a cello. It was actually pretty good.
Today I finished grading my students' final papers and submitted their grades. There have been a lot of lasts over the past few weeks. Last fiction workshop, last round of drinks with my fellow writers, last day of classes, final exam. Graduation was two days ago. But submitting those grades was the last of all the last things left for me to do. My time spent at NCSU earning an MFA and teaching undergrads was an amazing experience and I met many people who will likely remain among my favorite people ever. I will miss them all terribly. Sure, we'll see each other on ocassion, comment on each other's Facebook walls, pages, timelines, but today's last last thing really makes this leg of my journey feel over and makes my MFA family feel extra distant. On the upside, I couldn't be more proud of the work that we've all done collectively and as individuals. Hell of a group of writers. I'm glad I got off my keister and did this MFA thing.
Now all I have to do is sit back and wait for my Professional Writer checks to start coming in the mail.