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An Anthology

For a long time I've been really frustrated about flash fiction. It's a genre I really enjoy writing--I love how hard it is to write something that feels full and alive in 1,000 words or less--but it's a genre I feel like a lot of writers of color struggle to feel welcome in. There's an active flash fiction community online, many journals that publish it, but it's still a genre despite its roots in many different cultures, feels predominantly white and middle-class. (We could talk a lot about how many forms of mainstream writing are like this, but I'm trying to stay focused!)

So, yesterday on a frustrated whim, I decided to ask people on Twitter who's willing to finance an annual or biennial anthology of flash fiction featuring writers of color exclusively. Many, many, many writers said they would love to submit and/or be in an anthology like this. Several people said they were interested in donating money. People donated their time. Several gave me advice about costs, what to do. And the awesome Carissa Halston of apt/aforementioned offered to team up with me on this.

It feels weird to have something so big start happening off of something that feels so small. I have a lot of work ahead of me now: figuring out details, timelines, reading submissions eventually, fundraising, etc. I'm probably going to be talking about this all the time because yes, it is HAPPENING. And I am scared (because this already seems to mean a lot to so many people!!!) and excited and determined and a little barfy.

Also a bird pooped on me today, so I feel lucky and disgusting. 

Anyway, I'll be updating this blog with more concrete links to things when they happen. And if you're reading this and would like to volunteer something or donate something, let's talk! This is going to be great. 

Fiction Readers At The Offing

I'm not sure how many people read this, but just in case: if you're looking to join a great community of writers and editors, please consider applying for one of the fiction reader spots at The Offing: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1X7ifXdod0nBbAZknP6YTENs1GomiaH8TSa-yQ0FAn2g/edit?usp=sharing

While it is a volunteer position, we are a nonprofit literary magazine dedicated to giving marginalized voices recognition, space, and payment. I do wish we could pay more. I do wish we could publish more often than one a month. (And we're working on ways to up payment, and potentially, frequency of publication)

One of the truly unique things about The Offing's fiction department is we try very hard to publish stories that don't center white readers. This isn't a way of saying white readers and writers aren't welcome or anything silly like that, but the majority of writing still published in literary magazines treats being white, and sometimes being cis, straight male, as the default status. We're interested in stories that aren't about deliberately teaching those readers about what it's like to not be white and/or straight. We're interested in stories that have narratives that exist without even considering a story should have I must teach you moments, that try as much as possible to be speaking to their communities.

We are also very interested in stories that experiment and play with form, style, and voice. And this is more reactionary, but those of who are creative writers with academic backgrounds are usually given examples of experimental writing (Barthelme, Barth, Coover, Foster Wallace, etc.) that are again, cis-male, straight, and white. I like Barthelme too, my guys, but it's 2018. Magazines should be publishing the voices of living writers who are trying to break new ground and reflect the (maybe this is too optimistic) writing world as it should be. It's one of my priorities at The Offing because it feels like very few magazines that publish "experimental" work are also thinking about this. 

Anyway, I hope this helps at least one person decide to apply! And if you're reading this and you have questions, please reach out. 

(spoilers for Twin Peaks: The Return)

There was a scene in the most recent episode (6), where a drug dealer named Red starts karate movies. He's saying these menacing things, but he's also doing karate moves like an excited child (we're getting ice cream?! karate kick! pow!). And the scene had this added layer of unsettling to me.

Last year, I was writing in a coffee shop and a man who was obviously not right in some way tried to get my attention. I refused to look at him. I had headphones on, I was writing, it was easy to pretend that I had just not noticed. He was at a table about six feet away from me. He got up. 

Then the man bowed at me and assumed a fighting stance. He started karate chopping the air. He did a kick. I looked at the barista. He was really upset. Everyone else in the coffee shop was pretending to not notice.  The man said, come on. Fight. He got closer to my table. He karate chopped the air really close to me. The barista came over and said, I called the cops. The man ran out. I didn't know how to react. It was disturbing. It was funny. The barista asked me if I was okay. I said in a (please excuse this adverb, it feels appropriate) surprisingly relaxed way: I'm fine.

I texted my husband. Told him what happened. He was really upset at first. Then we both started laughing after he said, What if that guy had karate chopped you in the head? 

One of the things that I hadn't quite realized until watching this current season is the effect that David Lynch has had on my writing, my work. I'm really interested in thinking about the dissonance of experiences, in thinking about the ways we do and do not accept whole truths. 

A lot of Lynch's dissonance is based out of surrealism and the juxtaposition of US white suburbia/rural beliefs that where they live is the safest place on Earth. All the things that rot beneath the surface that eventually has to appear. And some of that interests me too. I grew up in a similar place where I would hear parents say how safe it was all the time. And then I could walk down the street and be called so much shit.

I was unnerved by the experience. (Big spoiler) I wasn't like unnerved and angry enough to like run down a kid. But every once in a while, even without an obvious reminder, my brain comes back to that space. I think about an older white man with sandy hair and a red beard assuming a stance like a kung fu master approaching a village filled with bad dudes. I think about him approaching my table and karate chopping the air.

I didn't stop going back to that coffee shop. The next week, I went back. Ended up at the same table. 

Best Week, Worst Week

This week, I went to the dentist because I was experiencing some tooth pain. I need two root canals. When they were telling me how much it would cost, giving me all my options, explaining things, I got so overwhelmed that I started crying. And it was this miserable moment, worrying about money, making these important decisions about how to deal with my (genetically awful and also just goddamn, does bourbon mess your mouth up) teeth, crying in front of people that I don't know, and Ellen's on the TV in the next room and she's telling the kind of jokes you laugh at when you've had a long day and your just thirsty to feel anything, but tired.  

Then the problem became a little harder because the person they thought I should go to was on vacation until next week and they really thought I should go on pain pills. And I refused the pain pills. The main reason is I had promised a lot of brain work to people over this week: I had a fellowship proposal to write, a fellowship to apply to, a textbook chapter to revise, and more, and more. And pain pills make me in general TOO high. But now it's Saturday and I've been in pain for days and it's getting to the point where Advil (even the doctor recommended three to four) is starting not to cut it. So now I've been grumpy and tired and distracted.

On top of that, I found out something that I think is dumb and ugly, but I have to take care of and make right because of family obligations is going to cost another bunch of money. Doing the math, I realized I have never in my entire life been on the hook for so much money all at once in such a short span of time. I'm a little sick thinking about typing it right now!

On the other hand, I make an important life decision and signed with an agent. I'm excited. She and I click a ton, I think. I feel weirdly good about the decision (which is strange for me because I often spend my time feeling hesitant directly after something that feels like a big deal thing). 

It's just kind of bewildering to alternating between being so excited about professional stuff (it's something that I kinda didn't think would ever be possible. I regularly think when it comes to writing: well, this is as far it goes. It was a fun ride!) and then being so annoyed and tired physically and fiscally. 

What I want--because this whole year has been like this--where things just settle down for a while. I'm fine with having some mildly good things and some mildly tough life stuff happening. I'm just exhausted and burnt out from alternating between dealing with some super rough stuff. Give me a little bit of a break, life!

I promise I'll talk about books or art or Atlanta or something more fun next time. 

Last night I saw Florencia en el Amazonas. To be frank, it's just an OK opera to me. I didn't really emotionally connect with the music. It was pretty, but there was nothing that made me feel I would confetti into a million bits because it's loveliness mixed with emotions was almost to much.

But there is a moment I want to write about. Near the end of the opera, the ship bearing Florenica  and all the other main characters reaches its destination, only to find out that cholera has beat them there. In the stage production we saw, the lights dimmed into a magic hour blue. Out from the wings came people on every side holding lanterns on curved sticks  that had lights on the same spectrum of warm orange candlelight. They were all wearing black cloaks and skeleton masks.  From same angles, these people looked as if their costumes had been inspired by the Rider-Waite version of the Hermit. And then you saw the masks. The lights dimmed more. The dead became rows. They turned in circles, one hand holding onto their lanterns, the other hand held out as if grasping for a partner who had not yet arrived. Florenica sings of feeling her lover--the one she has come home to seek out--near. The dead surround the boat. Florenica keeps singing. The rest of the stage becomes darker and darker lit. Around Florencia, the lights were purple, green, and yellow. Bright.

It was a moment that despite not feeling most of the rest of the performance, made me so happy to be there, to see this. It was thrilling to see something that felt so much like a dream enacted. It made very little sense. It made so much sense.