Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lit TV: Abani on Horror, Humanity, and Superhero Comix.

"You can steel your heart against any kind of trouble, any kind of horror, but the simple act of kindness from a complete stranger will unstitch you."

This one grabs me in the gut every time I watch it. Thought I'd share.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lit TV: Getting to Know Litmags

Youtube, Vimeo, and the like are loaded with live reading videos, which can be a fun way to get to know literary magazines. This video, sponsored by CLMP and NY Public Library, features members of the editorial staff of several magazines. They make macro comments about each magazine, talk about publication schedule, philosophy, and history, before reading excerpts.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Taking Care of the Writer

With so many folks around me learning to cope with serious illness, grief, and transitions, it's absurd for me to obsess on my recent batch of routine literary disappointments. The skinny SASE's and almost-theres are nothing new to me, and I have plenty of practice handling them.

One disappointment has nothing to do with literary merit. The class I was planning on taking this summer has been canceled. I heard from Captain Fiction himself that he has chosen to take care of his own health instead. Six-hour lectures are no joke for anyone at any age. He clearly made the right choice, one that I hope might lead him back to the writing desk. (It's selfish of me, but I would not mind reading another single-paragraph Lishkowitz novel.) Maybe I can learn, if not from his yelling voice in class, from his example of self-care. (Dumb, therapyish choice of words, for which he would probably yell at me, but yeah. I said it.) He is "refusing the gas pipe," to use his own words. Refusing suicide-by-teaching.

I find myself running all those choice sentences through my head, the ones I have been composing carefully and hoping to test out on him, the man with the magic ear. Then it dawns on me: this is just the usual schoolgirl crap. Hoping to please teacher. Hoping to please editor. Please, notice me! Notice me! When will I just stop already?

The teacher I need to please is me. The editor I need to please is me. The ear I need to tune up is mine. Self-care is how adults cope with routine difficulty and disappointment.

And with that in mind, I went back to another teacher, one I have never met. Natalie Goldberg's books helped me access some rich subject matter back when I was first exploring fiction-writing. I discovered they are available on audio download, for a reasonable price, read by the author, with remarks thrown in, the 50-year-old Natalie commenting on the 36-year-old Natalie. She has evolved, but also cares for the person she used to be. It's a self study that is full of the right kind of humility. In her Long Island accent, she "nags" (her word) me gently to "get to work."

Teachers come in all forms--some gentle, some not--some in person, some far removed by geography or time. So, for the moment, I'm back on track. Writing. Back in the practice, as she says.

I feel impotent in the face of the frailties of body and spirit I have been hearing about in the past few weeks. I think we all do. For all of you I know who are heartbroken or grieving or in pain or facing giant challenges right now, I think about you every day, and wish you peace of mind, energy, and courage.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lit TV. Gaitskill Talks About Reading

If you haven't discovered the Center for Fiction channel at Youtube yet, discover it. They have full videos of their fantastic events, in parts. In this one, for example, Mary Gaitskill talks about the writer's arm. It's very physical, to her, writing, and reading is a sharing of the physical between writer and reader. I love this point of view.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Some Old Drawings.

This embedded slideshow thing is new for me. Fun!

The drawings are 52 illustrations for a long poem I did in 1994, entitled Stories Inside a Crawling Skin. I published it at home in an edition of 52 (or was it 50)? signed copies. I'm proud of both the drawings and the poems, even though my work has evolved a bit since then. What I miss is the artmaking energy I had. I still have the research and inquiry and obsession thing pretty strongly, but I don't stay up all night drawing any more. I sleep instead! Gave up drawing for dreaming.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Running Around in Circles

In a good way! Check out Baby Gracie, all grown up. She has her own friends, even.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Medieval Guild System? Maybe.

I just love Anis Shivani's essay in the Fall 2010 issue of Boulevard, "The MFA/Creative Writing System is a Closed, Undemocratic, Medieval Guild System that Represses Good Writing." I don't entirely agree with it, but I do love the argument. What are your thoughts? "Well-told myths of internal solidarity and well-timed rituals to enhance fellow-feeling"--well, that sounds about right. Programs each have their "house style." He goes after all the big institutions: the schools, the artist colonies, the fellowships, the summer conferences, the magazines, even the annual "bacchanal" of the AWP gathering, with an almost gleeful hammer. Masters, journeymen, and the rest of us schlubs trying to get in.

The only thing missing from his argument is joy. Yes! The kind of joy that doesn't come from a dark outlook. Maybe this fellow-feeling isn't all that false. Just one girl's opinion.

As for the assertion of written output getting more "conservative," this is something many of us agree on, including the MFA-ers themselves. Part of the challenge of entering the guild is knowing which kool-aid to drink, not losing sight of the world outside the guild.

Anyway, I highly recommend this entertaining essay. Inflammatory in all the right places.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hempel's Dog Notices Stuff Too

What's not to love about Amy Hempel and her yellow lab? And that wonderful story, "The Harvest?"

"How you solve being alive...what do you have that you can draw on?"

Monday, April 11, 2011

Live at r.kv.r.y

Check out the April 2011 issue of r.kv.r.y, and not just because I'm in it! I love the theme of this journal: recovery in all its forms. Emotional, physical, even environmental. Also, the editor, Mary Akers, interviewed me here, on the r.kv.r.y blog. Topics include knitting, transitioning from visual art to written art, and the use of sensory detail in fiction.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

(Yes, I'm alive!) Ann Beattie on craft.

Sorry for my long blogosphere absence. I decided today I miss it.

So I'll go right to my go-to: podcasts. I am still addicted.

Check out this Michael Silverblatt interview with Ann Beattie. They talk about the process of getting into the New Yorker (she went through the slushpile), the temptation to "hide behind technique," how "bringing the strands together" feels concocted in a short story, and how she aims to undercut lyricism. The key is the "surprise after the surprise." Beattie did not take any fiction workshops, but did learn a ton from sitting beside editor Roger Angell.