The editor, Nava Renek, and four contributors (Aimee Parkinson, Alexandra Chasin, Cynthia Reeves, Brooke Wonders) produced a panel at Seattle’s AWP conference, in which they discussed what makes prose experimental, which I really enjoyed because I don’t think my work is clearly experimental. By that, I mean I feel my work is still very accessible. Perhaps I like the term innovative writing better. Innovative writing has a smaller audience in mind, no pre-determined formula, and exists outside of easily defined narrative conventions.
Aimee Parkinson said, “innovative female authors constantly push boundaries of written expression, finding new ways to express diverse experiences and the diversity of their visions in an ever-transforming world.”
Alexandra Chasin notes that as women, we’re shackled by the knowledge that we are in danger, and our mobility is inhibited by this knowledge. Chasin advises a young woman to unshackle her mind and just “write like a fucking human being.” This, in and of itself is post-structuralism, she says, “the end of the Master narrative.”
Oh there’s more, so much more good stuff. Just click on any of these links and rock your world. I’m honored to be in the company of these brilliant women.
A great “final” reading at Sac State by departing professor Peter Grandbois was a retrospective of sorts, as he generously read from the works of his colleagues who, as he put it, he ended up writing “in conversation” with. He read what he called “PPFF” pieces–prose poetry/flash fiction. Work by Doug Rice, Josh McKinney, Steve Owen, and yours truly. I was very honored to be included in this esteemed group, and was able to surreptitiously film it with my little pink cybershot. Sorry for the shakiness.
Each fall and spring I have had the honor and pleasure of presenting my work to a small gathering of colleagues at the Sacramento State Library Galleria during their Collective Reading Series. Tomorrow I have that pleasure once again, but since I haven’t been writing creatively much at all lately (just some jots, some observations and skeletal ideas), it is more difficult for me to select what to read.
I have already presented many of what I consider to be my most audience-worthy pieces~ those with a scent: a bit of humor, sex, irreverence. I have presented quite a few of my shortest pieces because they are almost like prose-poetry and as such come across easily. Lots of breathing is possible in the delivery.
I have been reading Lydia Davis’s The End of the Story, a novel where the reader hears such a strong voice throughout it is like being in someone else’s dream. I considered reading passages from that, much like my colleague Jordan Reynolds reads from his favorite poets whenever he stands at the CRS podium. These poems always dovetail so nicely, always complement his so well. But I dismissed the idea for me, fearing that anything I read of my own after Lydia would either sound like mimicry or vanity.
So I went through my collection, Watching: The Impressions of Impropriety, to find something that I haven’t yet read to an audience. A piece or two that represents what I can do when I set pen to paper (or hands to keys). I settled on the title piece, “watching” which might be explained as abstract, and a more narrative-story that I know I’ve never read aloud, “Stephanie in Beige Kimono,” which was inspired by a piece of artwork by that name.
Now I’ve got to practice, make my inflection notes on the page. And perhaps I’ll see you there tomorrow at noon.
On the TV over the sushi bar a video image of an assault plays over and over: A woman is working behind a convenience store counter and a man appears to make a purchase wrapped in a brown paper bag. He jerks his arm back with the hand holding this solid brown bagged item. It is heavy in his grip, solid, like a 24 oz can of peaches or stewed tomatoes, though he doesn’t look like he cooks.His face is too dark to discern any features. He lifts his arm to pitch the package and she flinches. He motions the same way again and she picks up the phone. He lines himself up to the counter, he’s tall and his thighs hit it; he reaches over and with all his strength lets fly the hard package, knocking the clerk to the floor. This scene repeats, and Barbara can’t stop looking.
She had just sat down and didn’t have to look at the menu; there is nowhere else for her to look but at the flat screen television. Each time the object impacts the victim’s head and each time she collapses to the floor, Barbara grimaces and looks at the slabs of fish under the glass in front of her. The chef wipes his hands on the white rag, then grips his Damascus steel cleaver.She came to eat lunch, but she hesitates to order. The television goes to commercial.
She pinches the crease in her pants leg and reaches down to the elastic strap on the back of her sling back high heel. A thud from the other side of the sushi bar makes her look up. The chef, cleaver elevated, stares at a slab of salmon on the butcher block.
The pink flesh hurls itself at the chef, thwapping, striking, leaving damp squares and tiny coralline bits on the white jacket before turning to the steel blade and chunking itself on the finely hewn edge.
The chef escapes through the beaded curtain. Barbara lifts herself up on the stool and reaches over the glass. The salmon is cool and tender on her tongue.
“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears.” Italo Calvino
While the towers stood, I had never visited Trinity Church or stepped inside the cemetery’s wrought iron fence. The hole opens up other options. The elimination of one possibility leaves a gap another can move up into. But at the same time, can not step into the footprint.
Uptown, Central Park has 21 playgrounds, a zoo, two museums, a boat pond, and Alice on a ‘shroom. Between the playgrounds, if you’re five, there’s nothing but sidewalk and lawn and the insistence of a hand to hold yours.
It seems that Publishing (with a capital P) is in a bad way– layoffs, minimal advances and long release dates are the norm now, rather than the exception. Having this kind of insight through my connections with the extremely knowledgeable Andrea Hurst is disheartening as a writer and agent-in-training. But in some way, it is also freeing. My fiction is not written for mass-market consumption, and I am allowing myself more time to peruse the small presses and independent literary magazines to see where I might fit. I don’t worry about trying to get my first collection of fiction printed in its entirety; I don’t even consider it as a possibility. The time is not right. Instead, I work to refine, to hone down to the best images, the most meaningful language, and practice my craft.
I was baptized at St. John’s Church by a Catholic priest at the behest of my agnostic father’s Irish-Catholic mother and English Protestant-converted-Catholic father, much to the dismay of my atheist mother’s Christian Scientist turned atheist mother and Jew turned atheist father. So would it be a surprise to you to hear that I never received confirmation and am now a Secular-Humanist digging into myself for a spirit that can illuminate language, and a muse that will inspire spirit?