An Ungraceful Gesture

Very happy to have a new short story up at Eunoia Review. Check out this online literary journal – lots of great stories and poems!

Eunoia Review

Grif didn’t know what to make of the new teacher dressed in an oversized man’s wool sweater and a long patchwork hippie skirt. Three weeks ago, at the interview, Lila Waterford had worn a smart two-piece suit, heels, and carried an expensive leather briefcase. An import from Phoenix, he thought she’d bring a little professionalism to the rural one-building school nestled amongst the towering ponderosa pines of the northern Arizona forest.

Now, he could see he was wrong. She was a mess. Not only were her clothes too big and looked like they came out of a church donation box, she was pale, slack. Her long copper hair was pulled back into a loose bun, none of the styled curls he’d noticed earlier.

Lila sat at her desk, grading papers, or so it seemed. Grif watched as she moved her pen across the page, transferred the worksheet from one folder…

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Greetings from the Bird Room

Bird1I’m happy to say that I’ve talked to everyone staying here now at the Weymouth house (maybe, unless there is someone in hiding. And that’s entirely possible). I’m here with two other novelists and a playwright. It’s interesting to see the different patterns of how people write.

For the most part, I write in bed. Pillows propped up behind me. Coffee and water on the night stand nearby. I wake up, grab the laptop, check the social media rounds, and start writing. Wait – turn off the internet access – then start writing. I also need silence. I find music distracting. I’m also writing historical fiction – so perhaps music will only work if I have some Irish harps or Appalachian bluegrass (depending on which novel in progress I’m working on). I prefer silence.

I can’t write creatively at a desk. There’s something work-like about it. I can write lesson plans at a desk. I’ll sit at the windowdesk to answer email or send out review requests or write this blog, but that’s not where the story gets done. However, I’m finding this chair really comfortable, so I’ll try it today. Let’s see what happens.

Every writer here has a different place. One writer doesn’t like confined spaces.She works in the common room or outside on the porch (we had a gorgeous polar vortex day of about 80 degrees and low humidity). She’s at the desk with music playing. She has the complete and total ability to focus – she doesn’t seem distracted by those of us who wander into the kitchen for a coffee refill. Another is in her room, like me, and another finds a great long table in one of the open rooms in the mansion. She writes at night, she says. Two of us prefer to write our first drafts in longhand, two do not.

Bird2

Angry birds

I do get distracted, even in this room. The windows look out onto the grounds, which are lovely. It’s a temptress window, a siren. Take a walk now…don’t wait until the end of the chapter…don’t wait for another thousand words…

There’s also the birds. Remnants of Christmas decorations, they somehow found their way into the Paul Green room.  I like the birds. They remind me of my grandmother who loved birds but they do tend to stare me down.

Stop looking out the window, say the birds. Write, edit, revise. Get back to work.

Teachin’ the Craft

Pretty Ain’t Easy: The Myth of the Easy Short Story Cycle. 

There’s a belief among writers that linked short stories are easier to write than novels, that perhaps a story cycle is really an attempted novel that failed.

In this workshop, we’ll discuss the benefits of reading and writing a story cycle and compare the experience with that of a novel and short story. We’ll also examine ways in which various authors have intentionally linked their collections, analyze the most effective techniques, with the goal of applying them to our own writing.

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This was the blurb to the craft seminar I taught today at Queens, part of our MFA graduating requirements. Although I read a dozen linked short story collections, I really focused on Junot Diaz and how he linked his 3 books, using his main character and narrator, Yunior.

I also presented an overview of ways stories can be linked from Dr. Kevin Cook, Short Story Cycles, Linked Stories, & Novels-in-Stories. (Arizona Universities Faculty Exchange Lecture Series. April 4, 2007.) and listed techniques as described by Dylan Landis, in his Paper Chains and Lace: Lessons on Linked Stories from Love Medicine(Tri-Quarterly. March 12, 2012.)

As a class we read excerpts from Diaz’s story Fiesta 1980, and analyzed the links presented there which carried over into his most recent book, This Is How You Lose Her and specifically the story, The Cheater’s Guide to Love. We also discussed the idea of novel vs. linked stories, and brainstormed story collections that are not labeled as linked, but could be. A great class, a great discussion!

I’ve included my list of recommended readings below. Feel free to add your own in the comments section!

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Recommended Reading List:

1. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
2. The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro
3. Drown by Junot Diaz
4. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
5. The Brief, Wondrous, Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – novel
6. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
7. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
8. Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
9. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
10. Animal Crackers by Hannah Tinti

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