11 October 2008

Lysis Complete

My story Lysis Complete is published this week on 42opus in Fiction. My thanks to the editors of this lovely site.

This story is interesting to me because it comes out of some writing I did in what feels like another lifetime more than 14 years ago. I had been working with François Camoin at the University of Utah, and at his suggestion, signed up for a workshop with Phyllis Barber. Most of this story comes from pieces that I originally wrote for her in that workshop.

But perhaps most strange to me was the tangible rush of memories that opened up when I came across the draft of this story about a year ago. My life was in shambles at the time of Phyllis' workshop. I was in the throes of a failed marriage, in between jobs and had applied to the writing program at the university - surely if I could go back to school I could pull my life back together.

The workshop was in Park City. I couldn't afford to stay at the conference, so I was staying at my parents' home near the mouth of Emigration Canyon, driving up and back through the canyon each day.

One night I had imposed myself at some party, passed out in my '76 Camaro, and then, still drunk and shored up by a little pick-me-up, I headed down Parley's Canyon. It was early morning, cold and there was fog like there is in the mountains and little traffic - the occasional semi-truck heading East to Cheyenne.

I came fast around one of those sweeping bends through a bank of fog, and my headlights caught the most enormous porcupine I had ever seen, illuminated by fog and headlamp to appear completely white. It turned its head towards me. Then I flashed by, swerving hard into the far lane, banking back again to adjust and readjust for my panicked over-correction.

I didn't stop. I doubt I even slowed.

Some psychological theory somewhere will explain how memory imprints most clearly under duress. The burst of adrenaline that implodes at chest level and then drops to churn in your stomach also binds the detail of every silver tip of porcupine quill and the round, dark eye just above the curve of its face, childlike in the headlights.

I carry more than a few memories from those long, bad years, set, as they were, by duress heightened with adrenaline, fear and pain. Even now, with resolution for the greater burden of guilt and shame, the images remain unfaded, ethereal and vivid, with crisp edges and the faintest taste of regret at the back of your throat like bitter almonds.


27 September 2008

like music

There are many theories about how to write. As a reader, I am most moved by works that connect me in an emotive way, the confluence of intellectual and emotional and shared human experience.

Music moves me at the same level. Or perhaps beyond as it surpasses language. It is emotive from a different direction. That being the ultimate challenge for a writer - to evoke connection in a holistic way. Breathe life into character and story, with subtlety and balance. Like music.


14 September 2008

City streets

There's noise on the street. The two strangers in front of me at the Starbucks on the corner. The produce guy who brings me fresh cucumbers from the back, talking over the counter to the woman in the bakery. The gas man trading quips with his co-workers across the pumps. My husband's friends downstairs in the Cigar Room at Kells that feels like a real old-fashioned speakeasy. Everyone's talking about it. Election. Power. Abuse of power. Counting votes, opinions, days.

While I am amused by the daily stupid human quote that makes it to the internet and then, days later, the local news, I hope to stay out of the debate. Especially the one that breaks out in my living room between the brother-in-law, nephew, and step-son.

But I enjoy the buzz. The conversation. The flight of words. Sometimes it's exactly like the old soup-can phone, string pulled tight between our refrigerator-box houses. It's like eavesdropping on the collective.

And then in the stillness of a breath, a moment of silence for David Foster Wallace. Be at peace.