06 March 2013

the first publication

Jess Walter reads at Powell's from his new book of stories, We Live in Water. He answers the follow-up questions, some pointed and complex, some just curious. He gives up details of his life in Spokane, as a kid, as a writer. The real stuff. Without pretense.

Once a couple summers ago, we played basketball. Jess was my partner in a 2x2—his bad luck as I was out-of-shape and out-of-practice. He kept us in range with a mean 3-point shot, and I had a few lucky slop-shots fall, but it wasn't enough to pull out the win. He shrugged. Good game, he said.

At Powell's, he talks about rejections—his short stories, his boyhood self—without bitterness. As if it is all just a part of the process leading up to the moment of him standing at the podium answering our questions.

I want to ask him what he's reading lately, but we're out of time.

I want to make one more shot, but we'd already lost.

I want to tell him how my first publication was a line from my cover letter to Howard Junker on the back cover of Zyzzyva saying that my writing group closed every week with his quote made famous to any one of us who'd ever gotten that same rejection letter: Onward!

Instead, I hear Jess' voice whenever I read his stories:

     Bit slides the book forward. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. What's a hallow, anyway? he asks.
    The clerk takes the book and runs it through the scanner. I guess it's British for hollow. I don't read those books.
     I read the first one. It was pretty good. Bit looks around Auntie's Bookstore: big and open, a few soft chairs between the rows of books. So what do you read?
     Palahniuk. That'll be twenty-eight fifty-six.
     Bit whistles. Counts out the  money and sets it on the counter. Shit, he thinks, seventy cents short.
     The clerk has those big loopy earrings that stretch out your lobes. He moves his mouth as he counts the money.
     How big are you gonna make those holes in your ears?
     Maybe like quarter-size. Hey, you're a little short. You got a discount card?
     Bit pats himself down. Hmmm. In my other pants.

          ~ Jess Walter, "Anything Helps," from We Live in Water
Jess signs books.

Thanks for talking about the stories being rejected, I say.

Two novels published, he says, and I couldn't publish a short story. Who's this one for? 

Twice before I've had him sign books for my daughters. Me, I say. I spell my name for him. Two Rs. I.

They used to tell you to put a collection together. Now they tell you those are never published. But here it is. He hands me the signed book.

That's why this one is mine, I say.

He gives me that Jess Walter smile, and I feel like he gets it.  

 ~ sherri

24 February 2013

short notice - reading this Weds

One of the consequences of having my home life turned on its head at the moment is a distinct lack of organization in other areas of my life.

I will be reading at this month's Wildfire Gathering and Reading, a monthly reading sponsored by Christi Krug and Wildfire Writing.

Weds, February 27
6 - 7:30pm

Cascade Park Community Library
Community Room 
Vancouver, WA 98684
 Hope to see you there. I'll read something Wildish.
 - sherri

21 February 2013

february is a dervish

...if the dervish includes a funeral and a wedding, both unexpected. January—with final MFA residency, thesis, and graduation—seems calm in comparison.

I fall back on simple beliefs.



a² + b² = c². 

And George Saunders. I adore George Saunders.
"One idea that gives me a lot of comfort – and I’m aware it sounds corny – but I like the thought that any of us could find a sort of fictive corollary, in our minds, for any other of us. That is to say, since one person’s brain is actually very physically similar to any other brain, and because the neurological processes are similar, we are more alike than we might think – and fiction (reading or writing it) is a way to remind ourselves of that fact. When Tolstoy describes childbirth in 'War and Peace,' any of us who’ve been through that get a weird jolt of recognition. And what a weird thing that is – some guy who died over 100 years ago is causing intense activity in your brain. Magic, really, and hopeful – since that implies that deep and profound understanding of another’s motives and feelings is not only possible, but probable, if we just lean into it a bit."
     ~ George Saunders, interview on The Diane Rehm Show
I have a similar, less elegant theory: the Cockroach Theory. When I wake up to discover I've turned into a cockroach, I go to my community, raise my hand, say, "Hey! I've turned into a fuckin' cockroach!"

At least one person will answer. "Yes," they say. "That happened to me. Here's what I did."

Write that.

 - sherri


I like relativity and quantum theories
because I don't understand them
and they make me feel as if space shifted about
like a swan that can't settle,
refusing to sit still and be measured;
and as if the atom were an impulsive thing
always changing its mind.

~ D. H. Lawrence