Random Post of Awesome: Braggin’ on a Buddy!: Traci Cizek Sackett in High Contrast Review!

Awww. I held Traci’s babies when they were teeny-tiny – now I (and you, dear blog readers!) get to read her story-babies too. And if you wanna know how much fun this gal is, just check out the title of her piece, just published in High Contrast Review:

Maggot Pie

There’s such a terrific energy to this piece. The images are magical. I think they picked just the right photo to go with it.

Congrats, Traci!

New Short Story from Our Mentor!

Hello Atwood fans.

For those of you interested, The New Yorker has published a new short story by Margaret Atwood: “Stone Mattress.” If you dig stories with dark women…this one’s for you.

Let us know what you think!

A Week of Almost-Not-Quite: A Tuesday Post of Accountability

Ah, welcome to Tuesday comrades. Time to see what we’ve accomplished this week.

For me:

It’s the week of almost-not-quite.

1. Almost finished a new short story. I’m up to the climatic, near-end scene. The story sorta wrote itself, which is always nice, right? But it still isn’t finished. Just two more scenes.

2. Worked on the first chapter of the book I’m collaborating on with Ali. (Soon she and I are going to be joined at the hip we’re doing so much together.) But I didn’t finish the work I wanted to do on the second chapter.

This collaboration thing is interesting. It seems to me that a lot of the decisions you make while writing are instinctive. When you have a writing partner, you have to be able to articulate – or, at least, to show – to another person what and why you’re doing what you’re doing. This is true both for this blog now that we’re both working on it and for the fiction piece we’re doing.

Ali – what are your thoughts on this work together stuff?

3. Almost hit my scheduled weekly word count for my own novel. But not entirely there. Sad faces all around. And I’m pretty sure I’m not going to hit the count again this week because I’ve got to prep for a presentation that my writing group is doing this Sunday. (More on that next week!) Also, I have to prep my submission to the same group – which means editing some of my NaNo pile instead of new writing. At least that is all on the same project.

4. Almost finished with a poetry chapbook on Ted Bundy that I’m going to submit to a competition. Need three more poems. I know the subject matter, it’s just a matter of finding the right words. Poetry is tougher than anything when you’re struggling with finding words. So it’ll probably take me right up to the deadline before I finish.

5. Oh! I did finish one thing. I set up a page on Facebook for my writers’ group The Under Ground Writing Project (UGWP to those ‘in the know’). If you’re so inclined, you can go on Facebook or go to the website and click Like. Also, feel free to join the website itself, even if you can’t make the regular meetings. There are writing forums and blog posts and writing resources listed. The only thing you can’t do on the site is read the group’s documents. You’ll forgive me for protecting our work, right? I really want to promote writerly friendships.

Now it’s your turn! Tell me what you’ve been up to this week!

Random Post of Awesome: Braggin’ on a Buddy: Iver Arnegard in High Contrast Review

Wahoo! My wonderful friend and mentorish-writing buddy, Iver Arnegard, has just had his short story “Made of Land or Water” published in the High Contrast Review.

Definitely check it out if you’ve got a second. It’s worth it.

Congratualtions to Iver, who took time out of his crazed teaching schedule to talk to my writing group last month. So, not only is he a talented writer, but he’s an all around nice guy.

Random Post of Awesome!

Yay! My new flash fiction piece “Judas Slouches Through Jerusalem” is out at The Medulla Review! Big thanks are due to the editors. Your work is appreciated.

So, if you’ve got a quirky little story that has something to say, this is probably the market for you. Check it out.

Thursday Reviews!: Good Bones and Simple Murders by Margaret Atwood

Good Bones and Simple MurdersGood Bones and Simple Murders by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read the first story of this book, “Murder in the Dark,” and when I was finished I turned to my husband, shoved the book in his hand, told him to read it and then he was to tell me HOW DID SHE DO THAT?

He didn’t really have an answer but his comment defined what I thought of the rest of the book: “It’s written with the confidence of someone who knows she can hit a homerun every time.”

Confidence oozes through every one of these pieces.

Least faves (because they just seemed a little too forced – and I wish I had a better word for that sensation, but that’s the best I’ve got!):
“Gertrude Talks Back”: Queen Gertrude gives Hamlet her opinion on her current and former husbands. Fine. But the tone somehow seemed dismissive – and the character of Gertrude never seemed dismissive in the play – which is doubly odd considering the information she is giving her ‘priggish’ son. And, this may seem an odd critique, but I think the white space between the paragraphs doesn’t do the story any favors. It gives it a fragmented feeling and I think that a piece riffing on Shakespeare would work better within the play framework – perhaps shaping the monologue in a block form like Hamlet’s own speeches would have allowed the words to have more impact instead of making the reader adjust both the form and the words.

“Poppies: Three Variations”: While this is probably the most complex exercise, it reads just like that: an exercise. She riffs on a verse about poppies by John McCrae by using the same words of that verse, in the same order, to tell three different stories. The first words of McCrae’s verse is ‘in Flanders’ and all three mini-stories have with ‘in’ followed somewhere by ‘Flanders’ followed somewhere by the next word in the verse. It’s a good way to stretch the literary muscle, but it’s like watching someone work out – we admire their physique but prefer not to see the huffing and puffing and sweat that go along with it. Just give me the calendar, ya know?

The stories that I absolutely adore are the ones that have a satirical bite to them.

“Simmering”: Oh! My FAVORITE by far. (I know, it’s unfair to choose favorites, but there you have it, anyway.) It’s all about what happens when men take over the kitchen. Go get this book and read that story.

“Murder in the Dark”: It set the tone for the rest of the book. Is the author just trying to manipulate the reader throughout (I’m totally okay with the way Atwood manipulates, by the way), is she just a magician showing nothing of reality? Puts the power with the writer…so I think my writerly friends will enjoy this a lot…as well as readers who like to figure out the trick. I still haven’t….

“Happy Endings”: A choose-your-own adventure marriage!

Atwood also illustrated the collection, and some are as provocative as the stories – which are also dominated by the bits and pieces of male and female anatomy. Interwoven among the stories is the question of objectifying the body: “Making a Man,” “Alien Territory,” “Dance of the Lepers,” and “Good Bones” hit on the question in a more direct way…but it’s everywhere.

Well worth reading – and it won’t take that long either.

View all my reviews

Progress is Slow, but Inevitable: Tuesday Post of Accountability!

All right, here’s what I’ve done in the last couple weeks (since I missed last week – Bad Me!)

1. Finished a couple chapters of The Line. Now, last week I totally slacked off and managed to do a whole lot of nothing. My goal for September was to write 100 pages (count ’em) and I managed 60. At first I was all:

“Man! I’m 40 pages off of my goal. That’s a lot.”

then I talked myself down a bit and was like:

“I wrote 40 pages over what I managed to write in August. That’s a lot.”

It’s all a matter of perspective. Progress was made, so I shouldn’t bitch and moan too much. Plus, I’m right at the end of Part I. That means I’m in the fun writing stage known as: Jacking My Characters Up. The sadistic part of all writers loves this stage.

I’m also upping my ante for Nano. I realize that you’re supposed to write something new, that you don’t really care about, but I want Bigger Word Count. I want to have a rough draft of The Line finished by the end of February – and that’s closer than even I think it is….

2. Started two short stories, which I’m really digging. Again, I’m off my goal because I wanted to have one short story done every two weeks. Since I’m halfway through both stories, I guess I’m not technically off my goal that much…especially if I finish both of them in the next couple weeks. It feels good to be working on somehing that can be finished fairly quickly. The work on the novel sometimes feels like a neverending task and it’s good to have work in ‘different states of repair’.

3. Joined a book group on Goodreads. Our first book is The Count of Monte Cristo. I dig the group. They have these giant books broken up in weekly, totally doable chunks. Since they’re all going at the same pace, I feel like I can handle some of these big novels.