Saturday, January 29, 2011

Just Kids

Early in Just Kids, here's how Patti Smith describes a life-changing trip to an art museum:

"I'm certain, as we filed down the great staircase, that I appeared the same as ever, a moping twelve-year-old, all arms and legs. But secretly I knew I had been transformed, moved by the revelation that human beings create art, that to be an artist was to see what others could not."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Upcoming Pub: Juked #8

My story "Couple" is in the latest issue of Juked, which can now be preordered here.

More Conversations with a 5-Year-Old

Ethan: "Daddy, look at this picture of an asteroid I found in this book."

Me: "Wow. It says there are millions of asteroids floating around the universe."

Ethan (very concerned): "But not here."

Me: "No, not here. Far, far away."

Ethan: "Yeah. Way far away. Like Texas. They have armadillos there too."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tom Franklin on Being Stuck

"Being stuck can also be a sign that you need to take some time off. Don’t fret about leaving a ms for a few days or weeks or even months. I have 3/4s of story that I started in 2000 that I take out and peck at every few weeks. At some point I’ll finish it, knock wood. But only lately have I realized what the ending should be. This is, what, 2011, and by my math that’s like 11 years. So don’t worry if you set something aside. Work on something else for a while."

More from Mr. Franklin here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

This Is What It's Like

The new issue of Blip Magazine is now live, featuring my story "This Is What It's Like."

The issue was guest edited by Courtney Eldridge, and includes work by friends Alicia Gifford and Rae Bryant, as well (deep breath):

Delphine Blue, John McKernan, Kimberly Ford, David Laskowski, Erin Bealmear, Timothy Buckwalter, Karla Eoff, New Waves, W.F. Lantry, Mel Bosworth, Bill Yarrow, David Ryan, Kevin Spaide, James Russel, Greg Pierce, Douglas Silver, Chuck Stephens, William R. Gilliland, Erik Smetana, Shelagh Power-Chopra, Daniel Crocker, Jon Patrick, Rick Moody, Nick
Ripatrazone, Michael Snediker, Sheree Rose and Matthew Levin.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Isak Dineson Quote:

"I write a little every day, without hope and without despair."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Where Shall We Meet?

I have a new story at Used Furniture Review.

UFR is a fairly new online journal, and editor David Cotrone has been publishing some great stuff, including work by Kim Chinquee, Julie Innis, Michelle Reale and Randall Brown,

I wrote "Where Shall We Meet?" for one of NPR's three-minute fiction contests. Alas, I didn't win, but I got a story out of it, and I'm happy this one found a home at UFR.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Carver Bio

It's January 3, 2011, and yesterday I finished reading the Raymond Carver bio by Carol Sklenicka.

I think Stephen King nailed it in his New York Times review when he called the book "exhaustive and exhausting." It really wore me out. It really, at times, depressed the hell out of me. Often I wanted to take a break and stop reading, but I always kept going.

What kept me going was Carver's sheer determination to carve (sorry) a literary life for himself. (It also helped knowing that eventually he got sober after years of drinking and out-of-control alcoholism. He took his last drink at the Jambalaya bar in Arcata in 1977.)

For so many years he struggled -- trying to write, submitting stories to small magazines, working crap jobs, raising a family, declaring bankruptcy (twice), bouncing around from one teaching job to another, gaining, at long last, the literary reputation and career he dreamed about.

But what struck me the most was how his family struggled, too. His wife, Maryann, supported him for long stretches. Carver's writing was the focus of the family. And his kids also struggled. Yes, alcohol was involved (Maryann also drank), but it was painful to read about the sacrifices made, all in the name of "art."

Carver's essay "Fires" discusses how his children have been his greatest influence. But not in a positive way. He talks of his children as a "baleful" influence. He talks about the "ravenous and ferocious years of parenting." He talks about the burden of family life and caring for his children: "And I would always have them, and always find myself in this position of unrelieved responsibility and permanent distraction."

There's a heartbreaking scene in the bio when Carver's son, Vance, is talking to Tobias Wolff. Vance says: "My father is really good, isn't he?" And Wolff says: "Your dad is one of the greatest short story writers of all time."

Yet Carver's family, including Vance, was repeatedly hurt by his stories and poems.

And this, ultimately, is what got to me: the sacrifice between life and art. The sharing of vibrant, wonderful, necessary stories vs. the pain bestowed by those stories, both in their creation and their journey into the world.

There's much more to the book of course -- the whole Lish/Carver thing is fascinating -- but that's what I'm processing now. It's relevant because I'm also raising a family. And I worry that my writing impacts my family negatively. I worry about a lot of things these days. Potential New Year's resolution: not to worry so damn much.


At some point I want to read Maryann Carver's memoir, What It Used to Be Like. But for now, I'm Carver'd out.