Summer Writers Plan

Dear Kitchen Table Writers,

Below is a list of summer reading I plan to do — and I recommend for you. I’ve dipped into each of these and am eager to find a hammock somewhere and read for hours on end. Share your reading list in the comments!

Summer Reading List

Let Me Out Here, by Emily Pease, What Luck, This Life, by Kathryn Schwille, The Shaman of Turtle Valley, by Cliff Garstang, Magnetic Girl, by Jessica Handler, Nice People, by David Jauss, A Delicious Country, by Scott Huler (nonfiction).  I’m sure I’ll read more!

Do you have a book you read every summer? Mine: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis.

Literary Journals

Here’s a list from Kathryn Milam – suggested literary journals to try. I suggest you spend two hours every week reading from these journals and writing a two page story. Find a short piece you like. Use the first line as a prompt to write your own piece. In your final revision, revise the first line so that it belongs completely to you. Then send it out!

LIT JOURNALS

SAND Journal

The Antigonish Review

The New Quarterly

The Fiddlehead

The Malahat Review

Literary Orphans

PANK

Elimae

Boston Literary Magazine

Sonic Boom

North American Review

Red Fez

Mudseason Review

FIVE:2:ONE magazine

Angel City Review

Drunk Monkeys

Lunch Ticket

HOOT

Five Points

SmokeLong Quarterly

Ploughshares

The Missouri Review

Gulf Coast

Cheap Pop

Yemassee Journal

Newfound Journal

Paper Darts

Print-Oriented Bastards

Great weather for MEDIA

The Baltimore Review

Bat City Review

Broadsided

The Tishman Review

Journal of Compressed Creative Arts

Friday Flash Fiction

Cabinet

Antioch Review

The Southampton Review

Puerto del Sol

Chicago Quarterly Review

Crannog

Gargoyle

The Istanbul Review

Modern Shorts

Room Magazine

r.kv.r.y quarterly

Tahoma Literary Review

Blackbird

Image

Tin House

The Threepenny Review

Epoch

Spiritus

KYSO Flash

Barrelhouse

Day One

Hobart

Faultline

Bodega

Gravel

Passages North

Wigleaf

Eleven Eleven

American Short Fiction

Steel Toe Review

Matador Review

Wildness

Booth

The Monarch Review

Inch

Avalon Literary Review

The Writing Disorder

Luna Review

Cease, Cows

Pleiades

Mojave River Review

Alice Blue Review

Wyvern Lit

Synaesthesia Magazine

Quarter After Eight

The Citron Review

Neon Literary Magazine

100 Word Story

The Stoneslide Corrective

Quick Fiction

Failbetter

Black Warrior Review

No Tokens

Corium

The Butter

Gemini Magazine

The Iowa Review

Seneca Review

Northwest Review

Subtropics

McSweeney’s

Catapult

The American Reader

Lenny Letter

StoryShack

3:AM Magazine

Nanoism

Matchbook Lit Mag

Mascara Review

The Virginia Normal

The Stinging Fly

Juked

Threadcount

Calamus Journal

The Conium Review

Great Jones Street

Hayden’s Ferry Review

Ad Hoc Fiction

Flash Frontier: An Adventure in Flash Fiction

Prime Number Magazine

 

  • The BOLDED journals are ones that I know for sure accept flash fiction. The others probably do as well, but are devoted mainly to flash.

 

The Pushcart Listings

Finally, here’s a link to a great discussion of why you should use the Clifford Garstang Pushcart listings. Trish Hopkins blog

Handout – High Road Flash Fiction Seminar

Handout – Flash Fiction Class 

53 word story: The Gift, by Nancy Jorgenson Topic: a lost sock

Esophageal, doctors said. She refused ports and pouches, clutched her needles instead. She flicked bamboo until knit two, purl two hugged my ankles, peeked between my boots and jeans and smelled of wet wool when it rained. The lost one wove a knot in my gut, twisting and twining until it was found.

From Randall Brown:
I find Maggie squatting on the kitchen floor beside the door to the garage. My eyes always go to her belly first, as if she has swallowed a globe. There’ve been two miscarriages, both early. Never have we gotten so far. Then I notice she’s picking something off the floor, putting it in her mouth. Get closer. They surround her. Hundreds of them. Ants. Maggie is eating ants.
Ending:
“She’s still hungry.”
The breakneck drive, the crickets, the hospital waiting for our arrival—it’s all part of the blur, something to hide the truth from both of us, that nothing matters except the desires of Fate for our baby to live. But that’s nothing to tell Maggie.
“It has to be a good sign,” I tell her.
“It does, doesn’t it?” Maggie answers, then opens her mouth and feeds our baby’s desire.

Searching for Samuel Beckett, by Kathy Fish
At the Cimitiere Montparnasse, he offers a girl his raincoat. I’m searching for Samuel Beckett, he says, and holds an umbrella over her as she consults her map. We’re close, she says, pointing. I’ll go with you. Then we can visit Simone de Beauviour. My name is Scarlet. She closes her eyes. And I have been widowed twice. But she looks too young for that. After, he says, maybe we can grab a pint? The sleeves of his coat hang, black and wet, to her knees. She smells like candy cigarettes. They stand in front of Beckett’s grave. A three-legged cat shivers raindrops off its back. Scarlet flaps her wings and flies away.

One Purple Finch, from Wild Life, by Kathy Fish
He would make pancakes for her, with berries and honey. And she would lift the hem of her skirt. And she would build him a fire. And he would make her a card, drawing a picture on the front, of trees and one purple finch. And they would look at each other at the end of the day and say now what should we do? We should be friends forever and hold each other’s hands and tell each other when we have something stuck between our teeth and trade anecdotes and say oh you told me this before but I love hearing you tell it, so tell it to me again. And you should untie my sneakers when I am weary and I will wear the silky aquamarine robe when you want me to.

Fragmentation, by Peg Alford Pursell, in Show Her a Flower, a Bird, a Shadow

She hated the story about how the old fisherman cut up the sea stars, throwing each arm into the sea—an abundance of mutilated creatures, five fragments then for every one—it frightened her to think about an ocean of broken living beings awash in their own weeping juices, working to recreate theselves, vulnerable and having to hide until they could become whole again; her eyes were red-rimmed in the mirror when she gave up trying to sleep and went into the bathroom for a cool drink of water to rinse away the salt.

HORSES BY GEORDIE WILLIAMS FLANTZ, in Wigleaf

“It’s horses all the way down,” said Smelgor, sitting on a log.
Smelgor had got a new religion. It was a horse cult. They believed that everything was made of horses. A tree was made of tiny horses. Those tiny horses were made of even tinier horses. The only exceptions were actual horses. They were one indivisible thing.
“But see here,” said Stevenson, sitting beside Smelgor with a fern in his cap. “What if I take my axe and chop the horse in two?”
“You can chop it in two a hundred times,” said Smelgor. “But you will not divide its horseness.” Stevenson had to think about that. He had grown up on a hog farm. His father never owned a horse. Instead, Stevenson spent his days splattered with pig shit. Even when he washed it off at the well, the other kids all recoiled from him at school.
“Pigs too?” Stevenson said, wrinkling up his nose. “You telling me pigs is made of horses?”
“Everything’s made of horses,” Smelgor said serenely.
Stevenson got up and went to the edge of the woods. There was a grassy hill, leading down to a burbling brook. Cows stood by the brook. Further off, there sat a windmill beside a little stone cottage. An old woman stood outside the cottage. There was a rug hung out on a gate, and the woman was beating the rug. To think, Stevenson thought, a little thrill gone through him. She didn’t even know that everywhere, up her arms, through her heart, down her legs, a great stampede raced through her blood.

Selected Favorite Flash Stories
Marlena Learns to Drive, by Kathryn Milam 1000 words https://flashfictionmagazine.com/blog/2018/11/13/marlena-learns-to-drive/
“Bullet in the Brain” by Tobias Wolff 2000 words https://www.shortstoryproject.com/story/bullet-in-the-brain/
Binary Code by Michelle Ross http://monkeybicycle.net/binary-code/
5 Stories by Lydia Davis https://fivedials.com/fiction/five-short-stories/
Lit Hub  https://lithub.com/11-very-short-stories-you-must-read-immediately/

Selected Favorite Journals and Competitions

https://jellyfishreview.wordpress.com/
https://flashfictionmagazine.com/
http://monkeybicycle.net/
https://www.fishpublishing.com/competition/flash-fiction-contest/
http://wigleaf.com/
http://www.smokelong.com
https://thetishmanreview.com
https://fivedials.com/

 

A Quilt, A Novel, A Field

AJ Quilt Indigo Field

Thomas Wolfe wrote,

“. . . a stone, a leaf, an unfound door;”

in his seminal novel Look Homeward, Angel. I was inspired in part by Wolfe’s incandescent sense of place to write my first novel, about a Field. A Field so full of layers of history and mystery, plants and animals, people and hauntings, that it shimmers with life.

Over the many years of drafting, my talented friend AJ Coutu has been listening to my frustrations, my wine-infused rhapsodies, my struggles and triumphs on the page. We go on regular retreats together, where I tear out my hair and write, and she calmly quilts, draws, makes other kinds of art.

This week she surprised me with a quilt.

A quilt so full of life, it shimmers. A quilt that spookily tells the story of my Field, though AJ has never read my book in whole, only parts. Gorgeous images, a fish that is a rainbow, a wild woman dancing, suns and stars, patterns and squares, gros-grain ribbon that could be just the thing to mark a passage in the Bible, and spirits loose in the land. My heart is full. I will sleep under this quilt and dream. I will dream that this novel will somehow get loose in the world. And AJ can finally read it.

The marvelous fabric designer who created the center panel is Laurel Burch, an extraordinary California artist who died in 2007. Her inspiring life story is here. 

Hemingway in Pittsboro

Hemingway - youngI used to think that as a writer I had to hole up in my little room and write and write, and never come out until I was done.

But it dawned on me that unlike in journalism, with creative work nobody really cared if I ever finished something. That gets a little weird after a while. It turns out that’s a bad idea for me to hole up that way, and a bad idea for most writers. Think about it. Even in those first days in Paris, Hemingway got out of his little room and went out drinking, got great coffee in cafes, hung out with a writing group at Gertrude Stein’s place, and got into fights for fun and exercise from time to time.

This Tuesday is the first session of my Fall 2014 Kitchen Table Writers at Rosemary House workshop, and it’s always a great time to reflect on creating a writing community. What we do in workshops like this is provide the structure, the deadlines, the group support–and the coffee and cookies that every writer needs, whether she’s in Paris or Chatham County. It’s important to set goals, to finish drafts, to keep revising until that draft is really really good, then revise again. And it’s important to know that somebody cares if you finish, and if it’s really really good. In this room, we are all each other’s Gertrude Stein. Lucky us.

Some of my students have heard me say the magic number 26. That’s how many deep revisions David Huddle gave his first story, Poison Ivy. It was the story that won him attention, got him a book contract, and made his career. When he was done revising that story, he’d learned that it’s worth it to keep going, and I’m guessing it was just a little bit easier the next time.

So, for 12 Tuesdays this fall, we are going to be keeping each other going. We’ll connect on the level of the work — which is a great privilege. Good writing goes deep, and we get to know each other quickly through its pages. The writers’ passions will show. Also their blind spots. We’ll point them out to each other, but always with respect and support.

By December 2, our last session, I hope all the writers will have completed at least one revision. I plan to be inspired by their passion and discipline to kick in my own revisions on my novel draft. And I hope they will know that although we all have to sit in that little room alone to do the work, it’s actually really fun to come out and share your work when it’s ready to see the light.

PORCH rosemary-house-bed-andAnd it’s especially fun in Pittsboro. To steal Carrboro’s slogan, this is my Paris in the Piedmont.

Something I learned in today’s workshop: in addition to giving your subconscious assignments before you go to dreamland each night (fix this character, what’s my next plot move, etc.), you can invent an imaginary group of mentors. Put your writing problems all in a line on an imaginary conveyor belt (yes, just like the luggage-go-round at the airport), then imagine they are all passing by your favorite writing/life mentors: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Gertrude Stein, Anne Lamott. They will do their magic and your work will be ready in the morning with blessings upon it. Be ready with pen and paper. You never know what might happen. Thank you, Adams!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Writing Workshop at Meredith

ImageA summer writing workshop is the dreamy creative home for every aspiring writer. Lord knows I’ve been to many of them. I’ll go to many more. But something has changed in my writing life. Now I teach them too. For the first time this year, I’ll be teaching at Meredith College’s summer writing workshops, June 23 – 27, 9-3,  a kind of day camp for women writers. I’ve just visited the campus for the first time, and it’s so lovely it’s like living in a Mid-summer Night’s Dream of a women’s college, with rolling lawns, riotous gardens, and big trees. The day I went was the day before graduation and the young seniors were floating around campus dressed in dreamy white dresses – a Meredith tradition. You don’t have to wear a white dress to come to my workshop, though I remember one summer writing workshop with a slim dashing poet teacher who wore a black eye-patch like a pirate. By the end of the workshop, all the women attending were wearing white flowy dresses like pirate’s wenches.

  • For more information about next year’s Meredith College summer workshops, contact Ashley Hogan at hogana@meredith.edu.

Michael Jarmer’s Monster Talk

Just read Michael Jarmer’s novel Monster Talk and tweeted about it. It’s extraordinary. Why isn’t it a best seller? Everyone read this book! about love, childhood, the monster within, and Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. A young child, Victor, lives in Arizona, grows up with the family story that he is descended from ‘the monster’– the boy goes to school, gets bullied, falls in love with his teacher and when she dies, wants to bring her back to life. Adventures ensue. The writer has given us a meditation on loving, childhood, immortality, and Mary Shelly’s great masterpiece that is worthy of it. If anyone is a Mary Shelly fan, they should read this modern twist on the story. Quite delightful. Jarmer is a new favorite writer.  

Strategies for the Writing Life

I’m prepping for a workshop called Strategies for the Writing Life, set for Feb. 9, (see details under Workshops), and I came across an exercise we did–writing a eulogy for yourself, listing what you have accomplished as a writer by the time you die.

I chose to write mine in the voice of some unnamed friend, someone who knows me as well as I know myself. Here it is. You do it too!

My friend Marjorie is a writer with heart. She was smart when she was little–but she was so very shy. She was also the kid who brought home stray dogs, got bandaids for kids who were hurt, stood up against bullies, all the while quaking in her rain boots.

When she got older, she got fierce. She worked in mail rooms and construction sites with Navy guys and Italians. She worked in bars. She smoked cigarettes in self-defense, then quit and convinced her college to ban them from the classroom. She kept trying to be a writer, and over and over again people said it was not possible. She wouldn’t make any money. She stared at her jars of quarters from waitress tips and thought it had to be better than that. She kept trying. When her boss stole her words and put them under her own byline, she noticed that she was good at this, her work was valuable enough to be worthy of stealing. She noticed that NOBODY liked her boss. When she started writing sad little stories, they weren’t very good. But some people encouraged her. So she kept going. 

The first story she sent out won a prize. When, unable to keep herself from writing fiction, she turned and quit her day job, Sam was behind her all the way. She wanted to be like the writers who made her laugh and cry. She put her mind and heart to it. 

She published, in ever more obscure journals, until one day an editor read her work and tracked her down, gave her hope, and made her day.   

—————————————————————————

Well, the story does not end there, of course, my eulogizer left out my seven books and my Pulitzer prize yet to come. I noticed that the goals list I made two years ago has the three top items checked off now. Wow. I really did win a national honor for my second book. And I’m deep into revisions on a third.

Post your “writer eulogy” in the comments section! I’d love to see it.

Dream big. Keep working. Stay alive for a while and see what happens!

Circle City Books Mural in Downtown PBO

New Circle City Books Mural in PittsboroCircle City Books has arrived! And it is announcing its presence with a spectacular new mural in downtown Pittsboro.

A great place to wander and get in loads of trouble–the store has an incredible selection of high quality gently used books–and a few new ones! I was honored to be included in Georgann Eubanks’ recent presentation on her “Literary Trails of North Carolina” series, where we talked about the work of Chatham authors Nancy Peacock, Duncan Murrell, Doris Betts, Lawrence Naumoff, Virginia Boyd, Michael Parker, and others. I got to talk about “literary houses, hippies, and chicken trucks in Chatham” — with nods to “Shade Tree House,” which inspired the opening lines of my story collection ACCIDENTAL BIRDS OF THE CAROLINAS; the Alston Plantation, which inspired Nancy Peacock’s tales of black and white family connections in HOME ACROSS THE ROAD; Lawrence Naumoff’s old farmhouse in SILK HOPE; and Doris Betts’ chicken truck crash scene in SOULS RAISED FROM THE DEAD.

After the talk, Georgann got to see her book on the wall mural! Mine was included a few weeks later, and there are more to come. It’s a pleasure to be in such good company, but then you always are with North Carolina writers.

Circle City Books Mural

Circle City Books Mural

May I suggest a “mini retreat” for writers, especially the cash-strapped (probably all of us except Stephen King). Bring your writers group to Circle City Books, spend an hour or so stacking up some favorites at discount prices, then go outside and have your picture taken with the enormous book of a favorite NC author! Post it on your Facebook page!

Then–go have lunch with writer friends. when you’re done celebrating the rollicking side of the writer’s life, go find yourself some quiet place to read that stack. Reveiw your favorite writers on Good Reads and other blogs. Study, then write.

Who knows? The mural may have to go around the block by the time it’s done.

 

 

Kitchen Table Writers Read at McIntyre’s

We’ve been talking about it for more than two years. First we thought we might read at the General Store Cafe. Then we thought Davenport and Winkleperry. Then, we thought, why not McIntyre’s Books, where the writers read?

Peter Mock checked the schedule. There was a Sunday afternoon open. Most writers could come. So we did it! Our first Kitchen Table Writers Recital with Reception. Parents and friends, professional writers, teachers, and fans of all kinds came to listen. We had been writing and revising for months — some of us for years. We had some good stuff to read, and the audience was riveted.

Some days a teacher gets to just sit back and enjoy. Today was one of those days!

Hatching New writing in Siler City

Siler City, once known as a big-town destination for Andy Griffith and his TV sidekick  Barney Fife, is still known for its chicken trucks and trains and livestock auction house. It’s also got many fast food restaurants, a Wal-Mart, and Tiendas with fabulous fresh Mexican food. New to the mix, and growing and thriving now for nine years is the North Carolina Arts Incubator, a cluster of galleries, artist studios, a coffee shop and community college pottery program right in the old part of downtown in whistling distance to the train crossing.

People are starting to get it that something exciting is happening here. Some of the people who are getting it are writers.

In late summer of 2010, I started teaching writing workshops in the back studio of the Incubator in Siler City. Just today I met a couple who are moving to the area from Singapore. I’m not saying they moved for the Incubator–they hadn’t heard of it before today. But I am saying that one of them signed up for a writing workshop because it sounded good and she wanted to write about foreign travels, and well, this seemed like a cool place to write.

It is a cool place to write.

Since Monday, writers have been gathering here for free workshops sponsored by the Incubator and funded by a grant from ChathamArts.

And in a small back room, with a lamp, a bookshelf full of favorite books, and a laptop, I’ve been cooking up writing exercises, consulting on manuscripts, and having heady conversations about Jack Kerouac and the hitchhiking adventures of fictional and actual people (okay, including my youthful self).

What a great way to spend a week! More to come!