Monday, April 30, 2012

On submission

I submitted my master's thesis on Friday, all 140+ pages of short stories and flash fiction. Hence the radio silence.

Note, too, the word "submit." As if handing it over were akin to bowing in submission, prostrating with your manuscript beneath you, making yourself smaller than it. I made the mistake of celebrating before it was time, running down the hall as soon as I'd slid those crisp bound pages into my three readers' mailboxes, chanting, "I turned it in! I turned it in!" To which our program administrator said, not unkindly, "Ah, yes, but they haven't read it yet, have they?"

There probably isn't a better way to describe what it's like, trying to write. The obsession with new characters, new stories, new projects - the precision of revision, the frenzy of rethinking, rewriting, the careful, plodding way that stories develop over time - and then, once you submit it, letting the documents loose into that vacuous wide open ether, who's to say that what it is you've sweat over, labored over, alternately loved and hated, is anything of substance?

I suppose, I guess, one's thesis committee.

Not that I'm nervous or anything. Or anxious or terrified or secretly suspecting that, in one week's time, they'll gather me and my friends and my family all in one little stuffy room, then ask me to drop the sheets one by one out of a third story window, underscoring, yet again, the fruitlessness of it all, this prodding, obsessive need to play with words.

But then there are nights like last Friday, when I was lucky enough to see one of my pieces (from the dratted thesis) performed by a wonderful actor, Benjamin Ismail, at Stories on Stage in Sacramento. I was especially encouraged to hear the amazing "The Art of Fiction" by Lindsey Crittenden, a successful writer who graduated from this very same program a while back. I was so nervous, thinking and rethinking and obsessing over all the edits I should have made before this thing made the light of day, all the scenes that should have been shorter, all the lines that could have done more, earned more. And then a funny thing happened. He started reading and he found things in the story that I didn't know were there. He found voices where I wasn't sure there were any, and little moments of poignancy or humor that I didn't necessarily plant or plan.

So maybe we get both kinds of moments - those ever-present occasions to kneel, to submit, to let all our work vaporize into the atmosphere, and those rare times when someone reads our work back to us and we get to stop, breathe, and think, hey, maybe there is value in all this.

Maybe there is and maybe there isn't - until then I'll just have to keep submitting.

Monday, April 16, 2012

one hundred word story: Werewolf

Gertie never liked Harriet’s boyfriend. He combed his hair into a ponytail and rarely bared his teeth. Maybe it was the loose way he buckled his pants. Maybe it was his hugs—long, excruciating embraces that crumpled women in his arms. Gertie resolved to be kind, until the day he surprised her after work. His face was darker, his eyebrows bushier, his hands mottled with scars. I feel like we can’t connect, he said, brushing one paw along her palm. The moon gleamed. Gertie called security. That night, she eyed the waxing moon, waiting for that long and plaintive howl.

for a longer version of this story, check out Fictionade Magazine starting April 21

Friday, April 13, 2012


The duende…Where is the duende? Through the empty arch comes a wind, a mental wind blowing relentlessly over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents; a wind that smells of baby’s spittle, crushed glass, and jellyfish veil, announcing the constant baptism of newly created things.

--Federico Garcia Lorca, “Play and Theory of the Duende” (1933)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Introducing the 100-word-story postcard

Starting in late April, I will be selling 100-word stories as postcards. All of the images and stories are my own; my boyfriend Ryan helped me upload, tweak and design the postcards. I will bring a set of postcards to Stories on Stage in Sacramento on April 27th, when a local actor will perform my short story, "Big Dog."

It's my goal to get these postcards out into the world, mailing stories around the globe. Spread the word!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

On running

Today I ran one of the most beautiful courses I've ever done with my friend Shirlee. The half marathon started at the Santa Cruz waterfront, wound along West Cliff, wandered out beyond Natural Bridges State Beach and looped Wilder Ranch. That loop was by far the best part of the 13-mile run. I've had the pleasure of running along many beautiful beaches - Santa Barbara, Malaga, Tenerife, Hawaii - but today the waves were crashing so high that as we followed the coastline, our feet clipping the bluffs, we were dusted in ocean spray. The bluffs followed an ess curve and with every bend you could make out a long line of runners dotting the opposite cliff. Sometimes I think this is how humans should move - all of us chugging along at our own pace, in twos, threes, and fours, occasionally breaking the line just to feel that momentary thrill of leading the pack.

Sometimes I feel the best about my body when I'm running.

There is something that happens when I am racing, usually around mile 10. I find someone ten yards ahead and decide it's time to beat them. As soon as I get on their heels it's time to pick the next person. And so on. Today I noticed new magic. All I had to do was name the color of their jersey, and before I knew it I'd catch them. Purple. Blue. Pink. Red. It felt like writing. Name a feeling and you feel it. Describe an action and there you are, ten steps forward, ten times faster. Running falls somewhere between careful calculation and a complete freedom to be - it is a measurable escape, a feeling I crave often.

Mile 12 is intolerably long and today I found myself chanting a little mantra. This is something I can do. This is something I can do. When I was first running with my dad, I'd remember the trains from Shining Time Station and the way they'd chug, I think I can I think I can. At some point I dropped the think.

How wonderful things can be when you don't have to think, when muscle memory is good enough. I love it when I'm running and I forget for a moment that actions have consequences - that on nights like these, after long runs, I must set alarms to test my blood sugar in the middle of the night, or that, everywhere I go, I'm zippered up with all kinds of sugar. I think I can? No, this is something I can do. And did -- with my boyfriend's mom Shirlee, who has run six of these babies before. Talk about badass. And at the finish line, there they were - Ryan, my parents, his dad, our dog Taj, the ocean itself. All limbs still functioning, all organs intact.

I have a few friends who run the full 26.2-mile marathons and my respect for them (and their knees!) deepens with each race. I don't know if I'll ever run that far in one go, but I think, maybe, someday I can.