16 January 2012

new fiction: Blue

You can read my story, Blue, in the latest issue of PANK Magazine.

It's interesting timing for this particular story to come out as I return today from my winter MFA residency. I wrote it last June during the summer residency at Pacific University in response to the craft talks by the fiction faculty: Kellie Wells on turning metaphor into reality; Jack Driscoll on loving your characters; Mary Helen Stefaniak on the power of "once"; David Long on meaningful sentences; and others. I did fall short—couldn't figure out how to employ Jess Walter's suggestion of the 2nd person narrative switch. Maybe next time.

Some additional backstory on the writing process is that the main character, Mayfair, comes from a piece I wrote years ago in a Writers@Work workshop with Phyllis Barber. Even though that particular story didn't came together at the time, Mayfair has remained with me.

The bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building occurred during a time when my personal life was in complete collapse. I recall picking up the newspaper in a hospital kitchen and being so struck by the enormity of loss and moved by the survivors' stories, including stories of some of the children who survived. That has also remained with me.

In her craft talk at the most recent MFA residency, Pam Houston said people always wanted to know if her stories were true. I have to think that's kind of a trick question for a writer. Everything I write is grounded in truth in some way. The truth could be a porcupine on the freeway that I nearly hit driving drunk and too fast on I-80 from Park City in the middle of the night after the W@W conference. Or the news story that made me weep when I could not access my feelings about ending up in yet another treatment center. Or the startling beauty of a robin's song, defiant in the darkness before a summer sunrise.

Or maybe they're all just stories.


Everything on the earth bristled, the bramble
pricked and the green thread
nibbled away, the petal fell, falling
until the only flower was the falling itself.
Water is another matter,
has no direction but its own bright grace,
runs through all imaginable colors,
takes limpid lessons
from stone,
and in those functionings plays out
the unrealized ambitions of the foam.

- by Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

02 January 2012

new fiction: Chick

My new story posted today on The Intentional Ducati #3: Chick.

The Intentional Ducati began as an awareness of the odd coincidence of recurrent elements during the Pinewood Table writing groups, the first being a Ducati motorcycle that appeared one night in two different stories.

Pinewood Table instructors Stevan Allred and Joanna Rose issued a challenge to write to some specific elements, and The Intentional Ducati was born.

This year's elements include:
i. A reference to Moby Dick.

ii. A paragraph made entirely of nouns.

iii. In consecutive order, sentences of 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 word(s). For example: "This will not be easy. Not easy at all. Difficult, in fact. Damned hard. Aaargh!"

iv. A 'Support Our Troops' magnetic ribbon, or a variation thereof.

v. A piece of taxidermy.

vi. A character who crosses a literal bridge.

vii. The same word used as both a noun and a verb in one sentence. For example: "She tore at the dress with her hands, almost ripping it away from the fence, but the rip hit a seam and wouldn't rip anymore."

To celebrate the launch of The Intentional Ducati #3, the Pinewood Table is hosting a reading at the Blackbird Wine Shop and Atomic Cheese, 7pm on Weds, January 4. See you there!


14 December 2011

from below

Having had my share of migraines since I was a child, I've had lots of down time over the years, more lately, it seems, for various reasons. Being forced to pause the pace and fury of daily life is jarring, and I find myself anxious in the solitude of healing.

It's cold outside, below freezing, the firs and fenceline frosted white late into mid-morning. From my spot near the fireplace, I watch through the sliding glass door as sparrows and chickadees and the black-hooded juncoes hop and scratch in the seed spread on the porch. Swarms of gray bushtits flow like schools of fish over the suet feeder hung in the eaves. Mourning doves drop from the rooftop, sluggish in the cold. Even the winter sun seems chilled.

There is a slight breeze, a sigh, a breath of air. The fir tree shakes its needles, and the thin sunlight catches the spray of ice crystals. It is Oberon's fairyland. Tír na nÓg. The air fills with glints of color and turning light.

I think it's a trick of my eyes or the pain I harbor. But then a tendril of mist lifts from the wooden fence struck with sun, and another burst sparkles through the yard.

The darkness in me eases, and I am able to sleep for a bit. Outside my window, ice turns in the light and shines a field of stars over the birds.


Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). Poems. 1918.


THIS darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.