Some amazing news from Linda and Susan at Glimmer Train: my story Crow Advice has won their Very Short Fiction contest! It is true what everyone says about their care and dedication. It has been such a pleasure to work with them. I'll post here once I know what issue it will appear in.
If you live in Vancouver, particularly East Van, you will know about the enormous number of crows that fly east to west in the morning, and then west to east in the evening. They were the spark for this story. (Also: despair, rats, life choices, etc.)
A few words on how/why I write short stories in Glimmer Train's latest Bulletin.
Why you should listen to crows, if you can (from the NY Times.)
Issue #145 of The New Quarterly is out now and in its pages you'll find Everything, These Days, a story I wrote that I thought, for a while, was about public transit (!) but is probably about rage. Many thanks to Pamela Mulloy and all of the hard-working people at TNQ for taking a chance on this story. I'm so pleased it's found a home.
Some companion reading: Leslie Jamison's excellent essay about anger in the New York Times.
If you're looking for something to do, and happen to be somewhere around Main and 20th, you can find the beginning of a story I wrote for the Active Fiction Project in a planter around the side of the Bean Around the World. Make a choice and then follow the directions to the next chapter. (Or you can, of course, choose not to do anything. I understand. There are lots more important choices to make. Have you voted yet??)
A fun project I've been working on this summer is almost ready. The creative, committed minds behind the Active Fiction Project will be posting a story I wrote around the Riley Park neighbourhood in Vancouver. It's a choose-your-own-adventure like the books you remember from when you were a kid except that instead of flipping pages, you walk. Surprising how tricky the logistics were (avoiding infinite loops and repeat chapters, making sure the hero didn't end up gripping something at the start of one scene that they didn't have before).
A different medium, a different structure, and a whole lot of fun.
The story winds through the neighbourhood between Fraser and Main and 16th and King Ed. I'll post the starting location once I know it.
"Say You're Sorry", a short script I wrote that I planned on sticking in a drawer, has been filmed. Loads of talented, hard-working people worked for four days under the direction of the amazing Iuliana Constantenescu. I had no idea how many times actors had to say the same lines. Also, how complicated lighting could be. Also, how annoying planes flying overhead could be! Humbling. And crazy fun.
Some great news from the kind folks at Fiddlehead: a home for my short story Something Like Joy in the Spring issue and honourable mention in their fiction contest.
Sometimes, when I think about the subjects of my stories, I feel sheepish. Who wants to read a story that features a dying cat and West Edmonton Mall? What was I thinking? Anyway. Someone at Fiddlehead likes it. Craig Davidson likes it. Everything's coming up spring!
This past weekend at the Whistler Film Festival, I watched Iuliana Constantinescu pitch “Say You’re Sorry” to a standing-room-only crowd and a jury of three. Our project had made the shortlist, and it was a thrill to watch Iuliana argue passionately and convincingly that it should be the one to take home the prize. Alas, we didn’t win the big money. But we did get a “special jury” prize. I’m not sure what that means, but I know that before she’d even sat back down, people were handing her their cards, offering support.
I wrote this short screenplay with every intention of putting it in a drawer. But Iuliana’s passion and vision as a director convinced me otherwise. “We’ve worked so hard and come so far,” she said. “We can’t stop now.”
A weird and wonderful weekend during which I learned about pitching, how to recover from complete disorientation in a small village (just keep walking), that the best screenings take place in subterranean bars, and that chanterelles and stop-motion animation are perfect partners.
The summer issue of Prairie Fire arrived the other day. In its pages, you’ll find the contest winners: the compressed, leaping “Rhubarb” by Lauren Carter; the tightly observed “Green Shoes” by Janice McCachen; and my own odd “This Much, I Know."
Also in the pages: Michelle Kaeser’s "Upside Down on Friday Nights” which, all on its own, is worth the cover price of this journal.
And here is the cover!
But it was the lovely people at Prairie Fire! They left a message to say that my story, “This Much, I Know”, won third place in their fiction contest. What news! And by phone, no less!
The story bumbled around in my head for years and went through a few drafts, one so opaque that after reading it, a friend simply wrote “What the shit happened?!?” across the final page. The improved version will appear in the summer issue of Prairie Fire.
The kind folks at Grain offered a home to an essay I wrote about stories and why (oh why!) I write them. It was a pleasure to work with them, and I’m honored to be in the pages of their 40th anniversary issue!
When I first put this site up, it was because I thought I should. Every writer should have a website, right? And I waffled and procrastinated but then did it because I was thinking, well, no one will even see it, right? Who is going to find this site? I can just play.
And so I tinkered around, posting interesting tidbits, trying to find something that felt natural and that didn’t distract me too much from the writing I should be doing. I imagined it was invisible in the dust storm of information. Who would care?
But then a friend mentioned she’d checked it out. (Hi Bernie & Herman!) and then my husband told my brother about it, and so now it occurs to me that yes, a couple of people might actually look at this site.
What I have discovered is that I am not terribly good at posting things regularly. Or at adding any content that is not a link to something else. That I feel strangely exposed writing in this way. In the rare instances where a story of mine struggles into the world, it does so in a way that feels measured, considered and, by the time it appears, distant enough from me that it doesn’t quite feel like mine anymore. I like it that way.
So for now, that’s where you’ll find me. In an upcoming issue of The New Quarterly (Issue 125, appearing in January). At the Canadian Fiction Podcast. And maybe, once in a while, if I have something I really want to say and I won’t feel like I’m completely wasting your time, here. There’s lots of great reading to be done out there! Tally-ho.
In this great article for The Millions, Josh Rolnick writes about writing, and short stories in particular. My favourite idea from this piece: writing fiction as “fidgety, dodgy chaos” (a quote from Richard Ford put to apt use by Rolnick). It took Rolnick 13 years to complete his first collection of stories “Pulp and Paper” (published this year). I’d better get back to work.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about short stories too, from a different angle. If you’re interested:
Jacob de Zoet is still with me, but I’ve also started dipping into The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg. I could approach it any which way, but so far I’ve been sticking to the order assigned by each individual collection in the book, as well as the chronological arrangement of the collections. I’m interested to see how her writing changes over the collection. The heft of this book is intimidating — what a lot of impressive stories! Plus I find the name “Deborah” always make me a little nervous.
I’ve had this book on my shelf for at least a year. Now that summer has relaxed my brain, I feel I finally have the capacity for more novel-reading. After only a few reading sessions, I’m already half-way through “The Golden Mean” by Annabel Lyon . What took me so long to get started?
And I’ve started David Mitchell’s “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet”.
I’m not sure how I ended up in Macedonia with Aristotle and 18th century Japan with Jacob de Zoet at the same time, but so far, I’m emerging relatively unscathed.
I do, actually, care about your reading. I love readings, even the bad ones. Maybe I love the bad ones even more because feeling uncomfortable provides fertile ground. But this article rightly points out that readings could be so much more.
This week: Satisfying one of my enduring fascinations with scams/liars/greed with “The Wizard of Lies”
I love this documentary. LOVE IT.