Coming soon … poetry chapbook!

Just a quick happy Friday announcement: In June I’ll be publishing Every wrong could be righted with a slow dance, a collection of poems. It will be a limited print-run, with each copy numbered and for sale on my website. I’ll just leave this here:

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For those of you who don’t know, I have an MFA in poetry from Goddard College, where I studied with Chase Twichell and Michael Klein. I wrote my thesis on the natural metaphor and compared the work of Yosano Akiko and Walt Whitman. My poetry has been published in Malahat Review (Canada), FifeLines (Scotland), California Quarterly, Asheville Poetry Review, and Roach Motel.

I also feel compelled to share that I just ate a fortune cookie and it informs me, “Your sense of humor will soon cheer up a friend.” I’m not sure if my poetry chapbook is exactly rife with witticisms, but it does have several poems about kissing.

 

 

FOMO and the writing life, Part 2

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Image from whencemoments.tumblr.com

It’s only halfway true that, when I’m really into a writing project and I stay at home to work, I worry that I’m missing out on all the fun stuff. I’ve never actually been that great at fun stuff. (This might be why I was drawn to writing rather than, say, emceeing or acting or politics.) I’m the person who hides in the kitchen at a party, or talks to the resident dog. I’m the person who stands as far away from the stage as possible at a concert. More than missing out, I fear being crushed or having beer spilled on my shoes. Continue reading

Wayne Caldwell and Robert Morgan: Writing and Appalachia

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Robert Morgan, lower left, and Wayne Caldwell, upper right.

During an event sponsored by the Western North Carolina Historical Association, authors Wayne Caldwell (Cataloochee and Requiem By Fire) and Robert Morgan (Gap Creek and Boone: A Biography)read from recent work (Morgan’s latest novel, Chasing the North Star will be published on April 5, by Algonquin Books), discussed Appalachia as setting and inspiration, and talked about their own writing processes.

On being from Western North Carolina:

Robert Morgan: It was the example of Thomas Wolfe. If he could grow up in Asheville and write Look Homeward Angel, maybe I could write something.

I grew up with one foot in the 19th Century. Remember, the people coming here [now], whether Hispanic or retirees, they all have stories, too.

Wayne Caldwell: When I published my first short story, someone asked me if I considered myself as Appalachian writer. I’d never even thought about it.

On perceptions of Appalachia in literature

Caldwell: Traditional Appalachian people have been centered on the bible for centuries.

Morgan: [But} I’d never heard of snake-handling in Appalachian churches until I read about it in novels.

Caldwell: [Contemporary Appalachian literature] focuses on drugs, crime and violence. There’s a darkness that’s come over the view of Appalachia. It bothers me that that’s what New York [publishers] want to buy.

Morgan: There’s a connection, I think, between the resurgence of Appalachian writing and the disappearance of Appalachian culture.

On publishing

Caldwell: It’s not self-publishing that’s the problem, it’s self-promotion.

Morgan: Publishers and editors are caught in a rapidly changing business. I realize my writing is old-fashioned. … I’m lucky to get published. The answer to how to get published is any way you can. There’s no rule, you just have to try everything.

The hardest thing to publish is short stories because every other person in the Unites States is writing short stories.

On process

Morgan: When I work in fiction, I begin with the voice because it’s voice-driven

Caldwell: I try tho write every day, and I try to do it at the same time [of day]. I like to write for a couple of hours in the afternoon. If I have the energy in the evening, I like to dedicate an hour to cleaning up what I’ve [written] that day.

Morgan: The most important advice I can give is to have a schedule that allows you to write every day. I’m lazy — I never work more than a couple of hours a day. But if you can give two hours or an hour and a half, it adds up.

Joshilyn Jackson and Sara Gruen on writing

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Meeting Joshilyn Jackson at Malaprop’s

New life goal(s): Write an incredible novel. Make a superstar friend who is also a fantastic novelist. Go on tour together so we can mostly hangout, share stories, crack jokes and be mindblowingly awesome — in a very down-to-earth and relatable way.

This isn’t just a pipe dream, it’s a performance model. On Saturday, Feb. 20, contemporary authors/critique partners Joshilyn Jackson and Sara Gruen discussed the writing process, business, their newest novels and their friendship in a delightful event at Malaprop’s.

Joshilyn and Sara met on an online writers forum before either were successful authors. (For what it’s worth, they revealed that both sent their first published manuscripts to more than 130 agents each before securing representation.) With Karen Abbott, they formed a critique group that provides support, brainstorming, beta reading, and writing retreats. But as professional (and ingenious) as that sounds, Joshilyn and Sara have this enviable best-friend known-eachother-forever camaraderie in person.

On writing style

Sara: I’m a Northerner in attitude.
Joshilyn: I call her Canada. She calls me passive-aggressive.
Sara: But Paula, the main character [in Joshilyn’s new novel, The Opposite of Everyone] is very Northern, and Maddie [in Sara’s most recent book, At the Water’s Edge] is very —
Joshilyn: — passive aggressive.

On archetypes

Paula, a feisty divorce lawyer, was a minor character in Joshilyn’s previous novel, Someone Else’s Love Story. “I’d try to write a Paula chapter, and it would go on and on,” she says. “I realized she’d have to have a book of her own.” Paula’s backstory, which unfolds organically in the opening chapters of The Opposite of Everyone, includes an unconventional childhood during which her hippie mother frequently moved them and changed their names, while also raising Paula (then known as Kali) on Hindu mythology.

Joshilyn: I sink in a lot of Christ figures. … I feel like if you’re leaning into a mythology, you’re going to be telling story that will resonate because it’s bigger than itself.
Sara: I’m fascinated with oral tradition and folklore. … The oldest written account of the Loch Ness Monster [who plays a major role in At the Water’s Edge] is more than 600 years old.

On outlining

Sara: For my first couple of books I was dumb enough to outline until I realized once the characters come alive, they throw the outline out the window and set it on fire.
Joshilyn: You want them to. The good books live in the dark and salty reaches of your mental illness. Your characters want to go there.

On their critique group

Joshilyn: You want to keep at least one member of the group to read your whole manuscript [with fresh eyes] before it goes to your agent.
Sara: I probably don’t send anything out until I’ve gotten a third [written].
Joshilyn: One of the nicest things we’ve done over the years is go on retreats. On the first night you set a lofty goal, and as soon as your goal is met, you can play with the other writers.
Sara: Then we have fancy dinners and read to each other what we’ve written that day.
Joshilyn: None of us ever wants to write anything you can set down. Our goal is for none of you [readers] to get any sleep for the rest of your lives.