Third Blurb Is In

My third blurbist came through, and book production proceeds briskly. I am honored and humbled and excited. With these particular authors, I can’t exactly reciprocate in kind; one wants a blurb from an author that, uh, elevates the profile of the book, yes? Therefore, maybe the point is to pay their consideration forward, if I am ever asked to blurb someone else’s book, to remember how it felt when I was the writer in need.

I also think this process shows the importance of maintaining connections with the writers in one’s past. All of these writers have a connection to the University of Montana, either as a student or as a teacher, during my time in the MFA program.

Kim Stafford Class (Notes and Snippets)

Here’s my condensed notes from an old class by the inspiring and inspired Kim Stafford at the formerly wonderful, since eviscerated, but kinda coming back, Northwest Writing Institute.

Regarding prompts: “Savor the different directions taken from the same beginning.”

Also regarding prompts: “The most interesting writing is from invitations poorly understood.”

"…the vacuum surrounding certain fictional characters." Eg, Hopper paintings

"You have the right to pass, but you diminish everyone else’s experience by doing so."

The furthering of truth v the antistory, the denial of truth

Onion layers

The a-story, the b-story

The trigger, the actual, the first genius, the second genius.

At the final class session, I brought seedlings from my atlas cedar, the largest, most sprawling specimen I have ever seen, and which some people have aptly called the Mother Tree. Many writers took one home. Kim took one; years later, he told me it’s in solid ground and doing well.

My story from this class, “She Likes My Hair,” in which two daughters discuss their crazy-chef father long into the night, was published in Alimentum. They even paid me 250 bucks! Kim Stafford’s critical suggestion was to shift the point of view away from the two daughters, this being achieved by putting someone else in the room during their conversation. A roommate. But his radical suggestion, and the one that really explodes the story, was to call attention to the point of view only during the title. Miss the title, and you miss everything else. He suggested, “What I overheard when they thought I was sleeping.” The real story, then, is how to give the narrator a stake in the action, a capacity for change, a choice to be made, a problem to be solved. The title I settled on, “She Likes My Hair,” achieves that, but for reasons that would be obvious only to a reader of the story.

Press Kit!

Well, it took me three hours (make that four), but I finally created a press kit for my webpage. Now I have no excuses: go forth and solicit venues!

Lean into the punch!

I would post the link, but I’m sure that a night of mulling things over will bring multiple shortcomings to my attention.

Story Done

I have finished writing a new short story. The story is not done, of course, but from here onward the work will consist of revision, not composition. In that sense, the story is done.

The story is entitled “Girl on the Floor,” but that may change. It is a complete re-write, every word, of a story I had written several years ago, which felt dead on the page. Lifeless voice. Problems with a story’s voice are often fatal. It can take years to admit it, knowing I have to start from scratch. All that work for nothing. But it’s never for nothing.

In the rewrite, I borrowed the voice from the 23d psalm. Such resonant, harmonious, entitled, slightly amazed, I’m-still-wrapping-my-head-around-this, gratitude. How does a work of only 15 efficient clauses happen to balloon to ten pages? Well, that’s just me. Each clause initiated a movement within the story.

My story is also inspired by a wonderful, haunting story I heard on a very old episode of This American Life, “The Man in the Well.” Also, a story by André Dubus in which a groundskeeper at an elite college finds the body of a dead student on a Sunday morning.

I don’t keep precise records, but that’s three new stories this year. Now comes the hard part: finding a market for them.

My letter from Multnomah County Library, granting me privileges to the Sterling Room for Writers at the downtown central branch. The door bears this stenciled logo in frosted glass. Inside the room, you will find four library tables, a high ceiling, and quietude. Shhh!

My letter from Multnomah County Library, granting me privileges to the Sterling Room for Writers at the downtown central branch. The door bears this stenciled logo in frosted glass. Inside the room, you will find four library tables, a high ceiling, and quietude. Shhh!

At the Portland Zine Sympsium, one vendor had a basket of fortunes on her table. Here’s mine: “It’s nice when friends and lovers are so close. And maybe you have many and maybe you have one — but remember — the ones from lives far gone are still remembering you, lighting candles for you. Your face is in many places at once.”

At the Portland Zine Sympsium, one vendor had a basket of fortunes on her table. Here’s mine: “It’s nice when friends and lovers are so close. And maybe you have many and maybe you have one — but remember — the ones from lives far gone are still remembering you, lighting candles for you. Your face is in many places at once.”

Morning Pages Done! Now Comes Marketing

Super successful morning pages. The rest of the day will go very well indeed.

Today I will begin the task I have been avoiding the most: soliciting venues for readings for my book, which comes out November 1. I suppose I am avoiding the possibility (the likelihood?) of hearing No for an answer. I need to deal with it. Besides, even a No can begin a relationship (eg, No, we can’t host a reading, but yes we will stock the book).

One of my absolute faves, the stories of Paul Bowles. Maybe I don’t get around much, but in my fifty years I have only met three other people, ever, who had any familiarity with them (Martha Geis in 2004, Tony Doerr in 2008, and a woman I met through a personal ad circa 1995, not that I was trolling for a fan, it just came up). This collection is from the now defunct Black Sparrow Press, in a letterpress volume, where the very feel of the type on the thick paper, even the odor, was integral to experiencing the stories (take that, Kindle!). I also have an auditory association; one night, in 1990, I left my radio on as I fell asleep, and I was awakened in the middle of the night by a BBC broadcast of Paul Bowles reading his stories aloud in his ancient crackle. It felt like a kind of call, and from that moment on, whenever I read these stories, I hear that voice.
It is not a spoiler alert to tell you that every story involves a journey. Go with it.

One of my absolute faves, the stories of Paul Bowles. Maybe I don’t get around much, but in my fifty years I have only met three other people, ever, who had any familiarity with them (Martha Geis in 2004, Tony Doerr in 2008, and a woman I met through a personal ad circa 1995, not that I was trolling for a fan, it just came up). This collection is from the now defunct Black Sparrow Press, in a letterpress volume, where the very feel of the type on the thick paper, even the odor, was integral to experiencing the stories (take that, Kindle!). I also have an auditory association; one night, in 1990, I left my radio on as I fell asleep, and I was awakened in the middle of the night by a BBC broadcast of Paul Bowles reading his stories aloud in his ancient crackle. It felt like a kind of call, and from that moment on, whenever I read these stories, I hear that voice.

It is not a spoiler alert to tell you that every story involves a journey. Go with it.

nprbooks:

Beach libraries. (Enough said.)

Brilliant! But why is the old lady scowling at those girls? Because they have better hair than she? Because they’re reading manga (the covers being backward) and she disapproves? Someone give her a book! I clearly see Memoirs of a Geisha up on the top shelf. It’s next to King of Torts.

Paper Rejection Slips (Remember Those?)

2014 has been a dry year. In 2013, I had eight stories placed in magazines, but this year, nothing. Weeding an old file, I found the following rejection slips, which I share with you now before recycling them. They are from another era, and maybe it was a better era, but I’ll take encouragement where I can find it. Onward.

"Thank you for showing your manuscript to the Paris Review. We are interested in your work and would like to see more of it." -The Editors

"What an interesting story. I really enjoyed reading it, and I would love to read more from you in the future. Keep writing!" -EC (The Missouri Review)

"seriously considered … keep them coming" -Robert Clark (Alaska Quarterly Review)

"Great story; it came close. Please send us more of your work." -Beth (Hayden’s Ferry Review)

[in the neatest, tiniest handwriting ever] “We enjoyed your story and hope to see more of your work.” -unsigned (Zoetrope)

Found at a used bookstore: a 1963 translation of selected Babel stories, including Red Cavalry ones and Odessa ones. In a prior post (http://evan-morgan-williams.tumblr.com/post/87595349428/two-years-ago-this-christmas-present-the-isaac) I expressed my frustration with the Constantine translation of Babel, but this obscure old pulpy volume just might do the trick. Babel was never meant to be read pretty.

The translator is Andrew McAndrew.

Did you know that Denis Johnson was trying to channel Babel when writing Jesus’ Son? 

Now I just need to find time to read it. Maybe if I stop posting on Tumblr!

Found at a used bookstore: a 1963 translation of selected Babel stories, including Red Cavalry ones and Odessa ones. In a prior post (http://evan-morgan-williams.tumblr.com/post/87595349428/two-years-ago-this-christmas-present-the-isaac) I expressed my frustration with the Constantine translation of Babel, but this obscure old pulpy volume just might do the trick. Babel was never meant to be read pretty.

The translator is Andrew McAndrew.

Did you know that Denis Johnson was trying to channel Babel when writing Jesus’ Son?

Now I just need to find time to read it. Maybe if I stop posting on Tumblr!

I’m in Palio Cafe in Portland’s elder-turned-hipster neighborhood of Ladd’s Addition. Mission-style library tables. Straight-backed chairs. No talking. Everyone is writing except the woman doing integral calculus, and I say that takes as much of an imaginative leap as poetry or story. Most importantly, this cafe is a church of pie.

I’m in Palio Cafe in Portland’s elder-turned-hipster neighborhood of Ladd’s Addition. Mission-style library tables. Straight-backed chairs. No talking. Everyone is writing except the woman doing integral calculus, and I say that takes as much of an imaginative leap as poetry or story. Most importantly, this cafe is a church of pie.