Stuck in the Mud

A man stands on a beach in front of a beached whale that has washed up on the shore

Going into 2019, I was a bit depleted creatively. I struggled with a long-form fiction project and was out of ideas. While I did not want to take any time off, I also did not feel inspired.

I remembered I had purchased a prompt book, Judy Davis’ A Writer’s Book of Days, while on vacation in Asheville, North Carolina, a few years earlier. It had sat on my shelf, unopened. I retrieved it and skimmed the intro and its basic premise: a prompt a day.

That could be a good New Year’s resolution, I thought. Daily prompt, no pressure, no editing, no time limit or word count, just the practice.

I kept at it and didn’t miss a day. I wrote longhand. By the end of the year, I had a stack of notebooks filled with potential stories.

In 2020, I used the notebooks as starting points, with a new resolution: 12 short stories from the prompts, one per month.

Time and Tide, newly published in MudRoom magazine, is April’s story, although the process was much longer than that:

  • April 2019: Original prompt
  • April 2020: First draft of the full story
  • April – December 2020: Two workshops with the SWIG writers’ group, plus additional helpful feedback from Robert Scott and Andrew Wagner
  • January 2021: Pitches, final revisions
  • February 2021: Publication

For more details, MudRoom editor Maiasia Grimes generously invited me to discuss the writing process in the magazine’s newest interview.

Thanks for reading!

Photo courtesy Sue & Danny Yee via Flickr Creative Commons

Short, to the Point

A waitress in a diner stands in profile silhouette in black and white

Thank you to the team at Levee Magazine for publishing my newest short fiction, Embolus.

A bit of process notes on this one: Embolus went through multiple revisions over the years and received mixed feedback, both from my writing workshops and editors at literary journals. It certainly mystified me as I worked on it. I knew I wanted a mood piece that spoke to something the main character considers unspeakable, something she knows but prefers as mystery. Something intimate and also foreign.

I’ll say little more, just that the timing of Embolus’ publication in Levee’s fifth issue, in the throes of the novel coronavirus, and the rash of high-profile diagnoses this week, seems a little too timely. Can we ever really acknowledge our vulnerabilities?

Photo courtesy Tyler B Dvorak via Flickr Creative Commons

Book of Days

cranes_overhead

In 2019, my New Year’s Resolution was to work on a writing prompt every day, using A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves as my guide. Whether I had five minutes or five hours, the goal was simply to make it a daily practice. I wrote longhand each day, sometimes in plain notebooks, other times in fancier leather-bound journals. I alternated between drugstore ballpoint pens and bold purple inks. I made it the whole year.

In 2020, my resolution has been to work through those prompt exercises like a miner, extracting useful nuggets, in an attempt to produce a polished short story each month. Nearly five months in, I’ve been keeping at it, although “polished” may be a relative term.

A bit of validation, though: I’m pleased to announce the first of my prompt stories has found a home. Check out my newest published fiction, Serotiny, in issue 6.1 of The Maine Review. (Interestingly, although perhaps not surprisingly, nearly nothing from the original prompt exercise made it into the final draft.)

Thanks to editor Rosanna Gargiulo for her thoughtful edits, as well as the incredible readers of SWIG and Andrew Wagner for their invaluable feedback.

As always, thanks for reading!

Photo courtesy Matthew Macy via Flickr Creative Commons

My Favorite

Like parents and children, writers aren’t supposed to have favorite works, right? Each piece holds its own special place, the result of a unique hybrid of ideas, experience, workshops, feedback, revisions, more revisions, pitches, and (hopefully) acceptance and publication. Each work is a snapshot of the writer at a particular moment in time, and reflects the writer’s state of mind up to and at that point. Writing is too subjective a process to rank what’s produced. How can one piece stand apart from the rest?

Yet having said that… my short story, Acquaintance, is my all-time favorite piece I’ve written. Originally part of a larger novel, it was able to be coaxed out and morphed into a smaller work. Sometimes you work on something big, only to find that distillation is what’s needed. In that case, while the effort and result may not be matched in volume or size, the alignment between labor and product lies (hopefully) in resonance and meaning.

Thanks, ink&coda journal, for publishing my favorite.

Read the full story here.

Photo courtesy Jonas Boni via Flickr Creative Commons