Thursday, December 15, 2011

Publishing Resources

I keep getting questions about publishing, and I'm hoping to put together a few posts on different areas of publishing over break.  In the meantime, I've compiled a list of resources for getting started learning about publishing:

Here is a list of the best literary magazines, ranked by the number of Pushcart Prizes their stories have received: Perpetual Folly

Here is a link to an alphabetical list of most of the literary magazines in the country, with breakdowns by genre, electronic submission, and links to websites: Literary Mags

Poets & Writers also offers a list of grants and awards that are upcoming: Grants and Awards

Nathan Bransford, an author and former literary-agent-turned-CNET-reviewer, has one of the best-known and most helpful blogs regarding the process of landing an agent and publishing a book.  From a query formula to weekly book news, this is probably the best all-around resource for writers interested in publishing a book:  Nathan Bransford

The very first agent blog, this site is no longer running, but all of the archives are still available.  Some of this info is dated, but it's a great and hilarious crash-course in the world of publishing, thanks to the infamous Miss Snark.

Janet Reid is another great resource, and she also runs the great site QueryShark in which she dissects and helps revise selected queries from an agent's point of view (for free!).

Hope this helps; more to come later this month.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

This Never Gets Old

So happy to announce that my piece, "GymnopĂ©die Paris," has been published by The Fiddleback. This magazine is a) awesome, b) easy on the eyes, and c) has some really great poetry in this issue alongside my piece.  Check it out if you get a chance.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Just...I Don't Even Know: An Ode

The human ability to live, sometimes for whole lifetimes, in contradiction to one's real desires is a thing I will never understand.  Doesn't it hurt people to be separated from what they love? I spent three years pretending I wanted to do something with my life other than be a writer, and it was the most miserable three years of my life. I was a motherf*cking mess.  I lied, I hurt the people I loved the most, I spent time trying to love all the wrong people, and more time trying to be loved by all the wrong people (which is an exercise in terrifically painful guaranteed failure, btw, just in case you ever want to experience misery to its fullest (and also, "the wrong people" can be simply defined as everyone who doesn't already love you which means, guess what, you don't need to try at all)), my hair went grey, I slept with my hands curled into fists or didn't sleep at all, and nothing was ever enough for me. I don't know how to explain fully what I mean without going into the details--but all of the things I said and did were in direct contradiction to what I really wanted, and I didn't even know it. I found ways to obsess over the details of other people's philosophies and actions in order to avoid thinking about my own. I positioned myself against ideas to try to define myself so that I didn't have to say the simple sentence, "I want to be a writer and I'm scared that I won't be very good at it." 

But for the love of God, it was painful.  Anytime I experience that kind of pain, now, I know to shut the f*ck up about whatever I think is bothering me and have a little chat with myself. And sometimes it takes me a few days or weeks and in the meantime I do stupid sh*t, but after a while I remember to ask: What is it that I really want, from myself, that I am not doing or giving or creating? The answer never has to do with other people.  If that's the answer I come up with, I'm wrong.  Have I been forgetting to spend time alone? Have I been spending too much time on work that isn't writing? Have I been cold to people I really care about because I am afraid of what they will say or do in response?  Am I getting enough g*ddamn sleep? (Sometimes that's all it is, which is when I feel really stupid.)

And, even though I know that it is out of my control, and that I have been there before, and that really it doesn't matter and I need to be a loving and kind person to them no matter what, sometimes I get really mad when the people I love are obviously not doing this. Sometimes I really just can't fathom how they can live in that kind of psychological pain and not see that it hurts.  I consider all of my own discomfort and loathing during those three years to be the greatest blessing, not because it was fun, but because it made me stop doing sh*tty things that I didn't like doing. It was the rusty nail that made me stop running around junkyards barefoot. And even though I know that it took me years to figure that out and learn to see it that way and that I was lucky I figured it out at all, some small part of me is constantly crying out, "Holy sh*t, man, your leg is broken, STOP RUNNING ON IT!!"

If it hurts, that means stop. If you think your life sucks, and it's other people's fault, or that if you could just get this one thing to happen or this one person to love you or achieve this one goal and then you will be happy, or that "that's just the way it is and I can't do anything about it," or that the system is like totally f*cked and you're just a cog in a wheel and we need change, or that people are inherently evil and/or apathetic, or that it is your destiny to be lonely or never to get what you want, F*CKING STOP. Just stop. It's not true. None of it's true. What do you want? What would you want if you didn't have any obligations or limitations at all?  Who would you call right now? What would you make? Okay, now go do that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In Which I Fall Short

Why do I keep writing about love?
I read Les Miserables and cried when a good man died and rejoiced that he did not die alone; I thought, there is something more here I must get at.
Then the next day I sat down and wrote about love.
I don't want to write about love; I want to write about the condition of the human heart.  I want to write about Mexicans and the way Americans say the word "Mexican" like they used to say "nigger." I want to write about children and they way they still smile at butterflies in a net even when they didn't get enough to eat that morning and have bruises on their wrists where someone grabbed them. I want to write about my classmates and they way they go out on Friday nights and inundate all the cells in their body with poison and rub their genitals against metal poles while a strobe light flashes and how on Saturdays they call it fun.
Then I come home and write about a boy in a brown workman's jacket and the way his fingers look on a guitar.
I don't want to write about love; I want to write about women and their secrets and the stupid vanities they commit in the name of what other people call love.  I want to write about failure and the men I knew and the way the American Dream has become a father's imperative, the way their good grades dictate their law school acceptance letters and the way they turn around and run back to the bars and old-fashioned manual labor in the face of what they are supposed to be earning. 
I don't want to write about long nighttimes talking about nothings with a person whose pheromones hit your nostrils in just the right way.
I don't want to write about love; I want to write about the way a man can look another man in the face and then put a gaping hole right through the middle of that face and calmly wipe the bits of brain off his forehead and walk away.  I want to write about heros and how to be a good man and how to grit one's teeth and grimly complete the task set before one, and expect no thanks. 
Then I come home and I write about the pain of separation from a man who doesn't return my phone calls.
I don't want to write about love; I want to write about why it is stupid to write about love, why love is an old wives' tale that gets lost anyway in the boring realities of running a household and not getting enough or the right kind of sex and spending too much money. I want to write about how fourteen-year-old girls'  grades drop drastically because they have begun to learn that it isn't pretty or sexy to get good grades. I want to write about how the packaging industry is the biggest industry in America and there are people who dedicate whole lives to making sure that packaging isn't dented on the train ride from a manufacturing plant and then we expect them to die happy.
Then I come home and fail, and write about love.
Some part of me insists that it's because love is the redeeming factor in a world full of pointless labor and murder, but I have seen nothing that isn't set in black and white in twenty-six roman characters to suggest that such a belief is true. I suspect that it is the fourteen-year old grade-dropping part of me that whispers such blasphemy in my ear while I am trying to write about something important. No one dies for love outside of novels, anyway; sometimes bouncers step in front of strippers when a crazed gunman enters a strip club, but more often your spouse will have a psychotic break and kill you, your children, and then himself--always the wrong order.  If you put love on a scale against an income and a working vehicle, I'll tell you which one any sensible person will choose, and I can show you the looks on the faces of your friends and mother if that fourteen-year old sucker for psychologically-backed advertising makes you choose wrong.
God, I would like to stop writing about love!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Small Thing I Know

I keep learning this, over and over, in so many small ways: that the trick is to stop thinking about the externals of myself, like how I am perceived and how to get what I want, and to start thinking about my real self.  Who am I? And what can I do to shape myself into a person I love?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dear Phoenix: It's Over

This is a breakup letter to a city I never thought I'd leave.  In the words of Neko Case, "I'm sick of doing your dishes, town--I'm out." 

   Dear Phoenix,

   This isn't working.
    I'm tired of having to make new friends every three years when your economy turns over. I'm tired of your dead downtown and your 1800 identical Walgreens.  I'm sick of your white-collar hamburger values and and I can't stand your perfect f*cking freeways for another minute.  I'm sick of having to carry around a sweater in July to deal with the schizophrenic difference between your indoor and outdoor climates, and I'm sick of you getting dark at four o'clock just when your outdoor temperature finally becomes tolerable.  I'm sick of the cum trees. 
    I'm sick of your quaint little goat farms getting bulldozed for tract housing and not being able to go to a single restaurant that I went to when I moved here because you can't put together a functional community.  I'm sick of trying to talk over your terrible music on your terrible outdoor patios at your terrible dank-lit bars to your terrible dank-lit temporary residents.  I'm tired of you trying to pass off "shitty" as "ambiance." 
    I'm tired of your contradictory politics and your platform flip-flops.  I'm tired of you trying to cover up your B.O. with citrus body spray.  I'm tired of your classist snap judgments and the way I can't use the sidewalk to go anywhere without you making me feel weird.  I'm tired of all your goddamn trucks. 
    I'm sick of the way you spend so much money on psuedo-midwestern landscaping but you won't lift a finger to help out the arts or your city parks.  I'm sick of your HOAs and also all your empty downtown dirt lots.  I'm sick of your ugly-ass autoplexes and your terrifyingly homogenous apartment complexes.  I'm sick of the bars you put down the middle of your city benches.  
    I'm sick of the fact that it takes your public transportation TWO HOURS to get me from one suburb to another, and then you complain about the gross brown pollution cloud.  I'm sick of your bitching about the heat.  It's the desert.  It's f*cking hot.  STFU about it already.  At least we don't live in a barren cultural landscape devoid of any neighborly feeling---oh, wait.  Yes, we do. 
    I'm sick of how hard you try to be like L.A. without investing in any of the things that actually make L.A. kind of sweet.  I'm sick of your obsession with new cars and big houses and fenced-in yards.  If I see another cement-block wall, I might throw up.  I'm sick of your weird fusion chain restaurants and your uncomfortable seating.  I'm sick of your disgusting man-made turquoise lakes, and your total waste of potable water in the form of misters and decorative fountains.
       In short, Phoenix, I got to know you better than almost anyone else, and you kind of suck.  Good luck with all that.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

This Week's Book/Music Choices: 6/12

    I've been desperately wishing for one of those books that come along only every few years and change your whole worldview. (In order, since high school, mine are: The Great Gatsby; One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; The Will to Power; The Hero and the Crown; Eat, Pray, Love (Dear Elizabeth Gilbert, it annoys me that I have to change all my commas to semicolons in order to accommodate your book in a list); and Loving What Is). Last week I dropped $40 at the bookstore in search of the next one, the results of said shopping spree being $30 of FAIL, because apparently if you buy a book by Michel de Montaigne you're really just buying an abridged version of Seneca, although the Kurt Vonnegut/Lee Stringer dialogue by Seven Stories Press was fun.  Though not particularly enlightening.
     So I mentioned to my father today that I was going to go read Seneca when I got off the phone, and he was like, "Oh, who is that again?" which was strange because my father is a philosophy professor.  I told him he was a Roman stoic philosopher and I could really probably use some stoicism in the face of my recent breakup, to which he (my father) said, "Yes, good idea.  We did the stoics in my class this past year."  And a bell went off in my head (yes, I get bells in my head when something important is happening, or else when I'm in Amsterdam and the weed's really good) and I said, "Epictetus? Is that right?" and he said, "Yes, the Encheiridion," and I promptly hopped right on the Amazon website and downloaded the (free!!!) Kindle version for my phone and pretty much spent all day reading it. Yes, on my phone. And it's AMAZING.

If you're up for it, it's here.

I'm only halfway through it, but basically, Epictetus argues that the one thing in our possession is the will, and we are free because the will is both our only possession and the one thing that cannot be possessed or influenced by others. He then proceeds to draw from that statement an entire line of reasoning about which events and actions are under our control (anything having to do with our own will) and should therefore concern us, and which are not (everything else), and should therefore not concern us.  And he also, and very importantly to me right now, argues that our will should always align with reality, because "where a man is against his will, there he is in prison."  In short, our freedom and contentedness is contingent upon using our will to maintain said freedom, as the will is the only thing we actually possess.  And in the meantime he drops in some great enlightening insults:

"Wretch! You bear God within you, and know it not."

"How will I be received? How will [this great man] listen to me?"
"Slave! Just as it pleases him. Why do you care about what belongs to others?"

 On to music.  This is probably a tiresome place to begin a weekly music commentary for those of you who know me well, but we're starting with Bob Dylan.  First of all because I just bought f*cking awesome tickets for his show in Tucson, and secondly because I'm revisiting him after a few years away.

Playlist For When You Are (Somewhat) Voluntarily Stripped of the Company of a Favorite Friend:
1. "Most of the Time," off of Oh, Mercy
2. "I'm Alive" by Kenny Chesney, with Dave Matthews
3. "Girl from the North Country" by Bob Dylan, with Johnny Cash, off Nashville Skyline
4. "Smoke a Little Smoke" by Eric Church
5. "Wonderwall" by Oasis (yes, I did)
6. "Come in from the Cold" by Joni Mitchell
7. "Red Ragtop" by Tim McGraw
8. "Bartender" by Regina Spektor
9. "Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight" by Emmylou Harris
10. "Smile When You Call Me That," by Jakob Dylan
11. "I Don't Want to Talk About It" by Crazy Horse
12. "One More Cup of Coffee" by Bob Dylan, off Desire
13. "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" by Crosby, Stills, and Nash

1. I don't need to say anything about this song, really. It speaks for itself. Even if you don't do the whole playlist, listen to this song.
2. I just really like this song, and even though I have a vendetta against Dave Matthews I really enjoy his vocals on this; in general, this song is about being content where you are (personal theme for this, um, year?)
3. I love this version. It really brings home that the memory is from a long time ago, and it always sounds to me like the young man who loved this woman and the old man who remembers her are singing it.  And yes, that's Bob Dylan, and yes, he can sing.
4. This song is about a breakup but that's not apparent at first (kind of like Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi), and it's also relevant to my theme of being content where you are.
5. Shut up.
6. Oh, God, this song is just so beautiful, and that intro line has stuck with me since I was five and my mom listened to this album while she was making dinner.  Also it's about--well, not regret, exactly. Trying to find what you want and never quite succeeding.
7.   This song has been on my mind because I went to Tim McGraw's concert last week.  The banjo part just kills me, and it's one of my favorite songs to cover.  But it's also a song about loss, and how decisions you make sometimes force you into choosing what you didn't want. Also, country song about abortion as a real life decision=win.  Yay progress!
8. Just a really great viewpoint on a common theme, and a pretty melody from a great singer.
9. Love. This. Song. Reminds me of my hometown.  This is a remake, but she changed the very last line (from a repeat of "The highway goes on forever" to "There ain't no way to stop the water") which I love contemplating.  Also her version is way less jug-playing country.
10. My other favorite, Neko Case, sings backup vocals on this album, and it's a gorgeous country album by Jakob Dylan.  This song is about post-breakup bad blood, and the lyrics are phenomenal. THIS GUY SHOULD GET MORE CREDIT FOR BEING BRILLIANT.
11. Apparently Rod Stewart did a version of this song, but I hope to God I never hear it.
12. Gypsy country, by the Bobster.  What can I say? I'm a sucker for the violin.
13. This is basically the whole breakup process rolled into one song with some snappy Brazilian dance music thrown in.  Classic.