Monday, April 20, 2009

It's 4/20 Kids!

Yes, it's the Columbine anniversary, yes, it's Hitler's birthday, but 4/20 is also a High Holiday for lots of stoner types. It's National Pot Smoking Day, "an unofficial counterculture holiday that is based on the simple concept of smoking some cannabis and being happy. "

Spark one up for freedom, yo.

Writing News!

The storySouth Million Writers Award Notable Stories of 2008 have been posted, and Narrative Magazine takes the top spot for best online publication with 8 notable stories.

Yours truly and humbly got a nod for "Lobster Girl" in SmokeLong Quarterly, and dearly beloved Night Train got two nods for "The Tree That Girdles Itself" by Donna D. Vitucci, and "Dating 101" by Angie Chau. Kudos, yo!

More shout outs to my darling pal Myfanwy Collins for her wonderful story "Liar" in Pank, to T.J. Forrester for his story "To the Bone" in Storyglossia, which also gets kudos for 5 notable stories this year. A shout out to FRiGG for 2 starred stories, and have you seen FRiGG's new microfiction issue? Sweet fancy MOSES it's good. Be sure to read the hilarious microfiction debate.

And in other writing news, 3 recent acceptances for yours truly and humbly.
  1. "Wreckers" will be in the next issue of Freight Stories
  2. "Fallen" (from my novel-in-stories-work-in-progress) will be in the annual (3rd) annual issue of Pank, along with Matt Bell, David Erlewine and the irrepressible Aaron Burch.
  3. "Birds, Bees" will be in the next issue of The Los Angeles Review.
If I got all this linking right I owe myself a beer.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spring Fever

Tip-toeing through
the tulips
Today in Descanso Gardens
La CaƱada, California

Olfactory Orgy

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Putanesca, Baby.

Whipped up a sexy pasta puttanesca tonight.

Here's how:

All ingredients from Trader Joe's.

Olive oil
Tin of anchovies
jar of capers, drained
jar of pitted kalamata olives, driained
red pepper flakes (some like it hot)
large can of diced tomatoes
jar of Trader Joe's Arrabiata sauce
about 12 large cloves of garlic, chopped
a fistful of Italian parsley, chopped
bread crumbs, toasted, about a cup
a pound of whole wheat linguine cooked al dente
Parmesan cheese

In a large, cold pan, mix the olive oil and anchovies, turn on the heat low and poke and mash at the anchovies until they start disintegrating. Throw in the garlic and continue cooking with very low heat. When the garlic softens and the anchovies are pretty shredded, add the parsley, and some red pepper flakes, keeping the heat low until the parsley is cooked a little. Turn up the heat to medium or so, not letting the garlic brown, and dump in the canned tomatoes with its juice, more pepper flakes to taste (plenty!), the Arrabiata sauce (or another can of tomatoes in puree), some black pepper, the olives and the capers. Bring it to a good simmer at medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, then dump in the cooked al dente pasta. Lower the heat and toss it together , then add the toasted bread crumbs, and mix it all up some more. Serve with good parmesan cheese or a parmesan/reggiano mix, and a glass or three of red wine. You can also add some red wine to the sauce in the simmering stage.

Weep for the whores of the world.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

WordHustler Redux

So I sent myself a submission of a 4 page story via WordHustler to check it out. WordHustler sends submissions of 4 pages or less in a 6X9 manila clasp envelope, so the submission is folded in half. They charge $.99 to send it, including an SASE. Anything over 4 pages is sent in a 9X12 or 10X13 manila envelope.

It was sent out yesterday and arrived today.

I'm not CRAZY about a folded submission, but, in this economy, if an editor of a journal that still clings to the old ways (snail mail) gets upset about a folded submission, then it's probably not a magazine I want to be in (okay, that's a lie. Or a rationalization).

The envelope came with a thermal printed postage/mailing label, very professional. The return address is to WordHustler's P.O. Box in Los Angeles. At the bottom of the mailing label in very small print: Prepared with care by - One Click to Destiny.
Very small print. It doesn't bother me.

Zero complaints about the printed submission: very white, 20 lb stock, cover letter is professional and lovely, no signature, of course. They do have an option of adding a photographed signature. The pages are loose, clipped together with a large, high quality butterfly paper clip, again, very professional. The SASE is printed with my name and address, stamped, and has the WH tracking number printed on there as well. My address in the return address, but it would be the literary magazine's return address in a regular submission.

I communicated via email with WH about the possibility of opting for a full sized manila envelope for a 4 page submission, paying a bit extra for the larger envelope. They aren't set up to do that now.

For submissions over 4 pages, they do use a full-sized manila clasp envelope, and I'm now confident that it's more professional than anything I do on my own at home, being that I address my manilas and SASE's in my big loopy longhand, and plaster on stamps all akimbo.

Two thumbs straight up.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Delacorte Press, Kurt Vonnegut's long-time publisher, announced that Look at the Birdie, a collection of 14 never -before published stories will be coming out in November of this year! 14 never-before published Vonnegut stories!

And more! Read about it here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


So I'm checking out WordHustler, a submissions service for writers. As more and more and more lit journals have gone to online submissions (!), I've snail-mailed less and less, with the result of ceasing to submit to the places I covet that still only take snail-mail subs. I used to keep a mini post-office at home (because I abhor physically going to the PO) but then USPS kept jacking their rates around making my stamps obsolete, which then made for crazy hodge podges of postage additions, and rows and rows of 1 cent stamps, a giant mess on the manila.

So now with WordHustler, you upload your story (they now take and convert them to PDF files for you), you choose a market from their market list, compose a cover letter (which they address to chosen market), they print it all up, stuff it into a manila envelope with thermal printed labels (I do my envelopes in longhand) along with a standard #10 SASE also printed with your address and the return address of the market, and they mail it for you. For a manuscript up to 20 pages it's $5.99. Here's their price list:
Under 4 pages (Query Letters, poetry submissions)
10 pages (Articles, essays)
20 pages (short stories, partial mss, articles, essays)
30 pages (short stories, partial mss, articles, short screenplays):
50 pages (short stories, partial mss, articles, short screenplays):
Over 50 pages (Screenplays, Manuscripts, Novels, Non-Fiction Books)

All of our prices include tracking, postage, and free SASEs!

If you want to include a receipt/reply postcard, it's an additional $1.29 (or so). If you're traveling the world you can use their Virtual Office and have the SASE's returned to them, and they'll update your profile online so you can see you've been rejected by AQR while sipping chai in Mumbai.

You get a free submission when you sign up. I did it. I sent a story to Black Warrior Review. Pretty cool. And since it was free, I included a receipt postcard, postage paid and self-addressed. If it works like it's supposed to a black warrior will drop that postcard into a postal out-box, and I will know BW got my story.

As an aside, snail-mail/SASE submissions give that mailman-anticipation-buzz. Now that I mainly submit online and have no outstanding SASEs, I have lackluster interest in what comes in the snailmail box. It's kind of fun to anticipate mail, even if the presence of one of your SASEs is rarely anything good.

Anyhoo, now all I have to do is hurry up and wait. I'll update the experience.

American Idol

Okay, so I have a little TV addiction problem, one of my vices being American Idol. This year I think the competition is hot. 16 year old Allison rocks the kasbah with her Janis Joplin vibes, Matt is a little Michael Bubbly (you know who I mean), and I loved his Part Time Lover rendition from last night. And then there's ***A*D*A*M***. Adam Lambert has the kind of talent, not just chops but a whole sensibility, that has already launched him into the super star stratosphere in Alicia's Universe. From devastating looks to vocals that don't stop to what the new chick judge (Kara?) calls artistry. Because that's what it is, art, interpreting (and choosing) tunes according to his own private Adam Vision and belting them out with his giant talent.

Lil is talented (yawn) but too much same-old-same-old. Kris is adorable and talented, a contender for sure, but he doesn't have the consistency of, say, ADAM (doh). Anyway, it's a great season IMO. Who's going home today? I think it's got to be Scott (enough already).

Monday, April 6, 2009

More Narrative and a Demand for Pith:The American Short Story

A good article in yesterday's NYT about the short story inspired by near simultaneous new biographies of Flannery O'Connor, Donald Barthelme and John Cheever.

"Reading through their collected stories, you wonder if novels are even necessary. The imperial ambitions of a certain kind of swaggering, self-important American novel — to comprehend the totality of modern life, to limn the social, existential, sexual and political strivings of its citizens — start to seem misguided and buffoonish. More of life is glimpsed, and glimpsed more clearly, through Barthelme’s fragments, Cheever’s finely ground lenses or the pinhole camera of O’Connor’s crystalline prose."
The article by A. O. Scott goes on to say that these three writers "shared the good fortune of writing at mid-century, when the institutions of print supported the flourishing of the short story as never before or since." Well, yeah, maybe, but we've got the world wide web today, and I'll venture to say (without knowing anything really) that the dissemination of pith and narrative is at its height, even if you can't make living off of it like in the days of mass-circulation magazines.

(As an aside, the photo is of Flannery O'Connor's typewriter. How much lower the slush piles must've been back in the days of the manual typewriter and carbon copies! The word processor has generated the writer-wannabe in slush glutting droves, which in turn has spawned the evolution of the low-res MFA program as well as countless other MFA programs, all generating moolah for universities and short fiction like weeds in an empty lot in rainy season.)

Scott suggests that the Kindle might parallel the iPod's effect on music and revive the short story's popularity. I dunno. It's easy to listen to music, something you can do either actively or passively. Much/most contemporary short fiction requires concentration and a high level of reading skills, too demanding maybe, for mass consumption. Literary short fiction tends to be incestuously consumed by literary short fiction writers. Kindle might be conducive in reviving that old conceit: The Plot! Short fiction where shit actually happens!

Anyhoo, anything that touts the short story (and snorts at the novel) gets a solid woo hoo from this incestuous girl writer.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

Photo of Carson McCullers

I don't know why I never read this before. It's been the kind of wonderful book that could wholly take me away to another place and time for the half hour, hour that I've spent with it at a time. Carson McCullers was 23 when she wrote this, and that freaking blows my mind.

It's an extraordinary book. First published in 1940, and one of the characters, a black doctor, Doctor Copeland, says this:

"I have a program. It is a very simple, concentrated plan to lead more than one thousand Negroes in this country on a march. A march to Washington. All of us together in one solid body."

In 1940, the fictional Doctor Copeland had a dream. 1940. The enormous empathy and humanity and prescience that McCullers, a woman who grew up in the South, had at that tender age for the plight of the black man freaking flumoxes me. I have McCullers fever.

The book is largely about delusion, too, the delusions humans use to make life easier, to cope with slings and arrows, much like religion. Mr. Singer is singular in that he's a deaf-mute, an "other" that the various characters put their Jesus figure spin on, being as his muteness makes him somewhat ethereal and unfathomable. His quiet, attentive patience makes him like a blank Scrabble tile, played to fill each character's need. And then Singer has his own delusion in the passion he has for his friend, Spiros Antonapoulos, who is presented to the reader as a simple (as in mentally challenged), indifferent boor. And the good Mr. Singer inexplicably adores this oaf, to the tune that when Antonapoulos dies, Singer commits suicide. It's astounding, really, how complex and yet wholly true and heartbreaking it all is, and how this book explores human isolation and despair, and the nimble way we humans scramble to find a way to live with it all.

McCullers titillates, too, with Biff Brannon's inappropriate attraction for 12 year-old Mick Kelly, building tension as you wonder if he's going to go all Humbert Humbert. There's a whiff of pedophilia in the air that dissipates (pedophilia-like) when at the end he begins to see Mick losing her childishness after she gets a full-time job at Woolworth's to help out the family. There's also titillation in the inexplicable fondness that Singer has for Spiro Antonapoulos, as in: are they 'mos? The question is subtly posed; never answered. I love this. It keeps my Curious Yellow gland excited.

Craft note: Anyone wanting to nail dialect should-oughtta read this book. It some good dialect.

I officially love this book.