Category Archives: Literary Journals

Your Words on Other Pages

This week I received galley proofs for a 20 page political essay, printed out the pages and started blue-penning the thing.

I wrote the story a year ago — about an experience that occurred a year before that, a few months into the Obama presidency — and now here it is and I’m running my eyes across phrases and a story I barely recognize.  Did I really write this?  Are the scenes out of order?  This opening is not the right opening.  Does this story, two years on, even matter anymore?  I’m itching to rewrite the whole damned thing.

I want to rewrite it, but of course I can’t.  I’m just the fixer.  My words, my story, don’t belong to me anymore.

What happens when you see your thoughts on paper, months or years later?

Redivide Me

I have an essay in the latest issue of Redivider, out this week.

It’s about relocating from Minnesota to California, about being a serial mover, but also about moving on.

Here’s a little snippet of “Dog Days of Winter.”




Even Lea looks perplexed. "What's with all these boxes?"

Only then, sitting there on the floor, waiting for the thumping in my chest to subside, did the light finally flicker on:  my goodbyes were catching up to me.

I’d come down with a flu, lost my voice.  In the last couple of weeks I’d had lunch or drinks or dinner with this friend or that — neighbors, tennis partners, college peers, book club — for my big send-off to the west coast.  No matter what we said, all good intentions and kind words aside, I knew, even as I offered my last hug and wave, I’d never see most of them again.  These farewell tours were exhausting.  I envied my brothers and my family – those who’d never left the place of their birth – in this.  What would it be like, I wondered, to forever be surrounded by the people you liked or loved?  To never even change your zip code?  To return, time and again, to the house you grew up in, park in the same spot, sit in the same chair, talk about the same old things?  In a more practical sense, what would it be like to see the same doctor or dentist, year over year?  To pay taxes in the same state every April 15?  To send your children to the school you went to.

Sitting there, voiceless, on the closet floor with my dog, I realized I couldn’t even bring myself to go see Ned, my homeopathic doctor, who would surely have had some simple remedy to soothe my throat and help me regain my lost voice.  No, I couldn’t even see Ned.  I was that tapped out.  I could not bear to say goodbye to one more person.

How do you feel when you move on?

Loose Ends

Where oh where is my routine?  For the last 3 weeks I’ve either had house guests or been traveling, and while it was all great fun I can tell I am totally out of sorts.  I’m not sleeping well, and was up again this morning at 4:15.  My diet is a bit heavy on the pizza and chips.  I’m not working on my manuscript, even though I have ideas popping up all over.  On Sunday, I broke into the ugly cry at my in-laws house and ended up in the bathroom rubbing ice cubes on my eye lids to calm myself down.  Jesus.  Even my poor puppy dogs aren’t quite themselves.  When I picked them up at the kennel this morning the owner said, “Lucy has really settled.  She slept a lot this weekend.”

Excuse me?  Are we talking about my Lucy?

Is there a month-long full moon?

Anyway, that’s enough of that nonsense.  Back to my old routine.  Which starts, of course, with this itsy little list:

1.  I received my first graduation card in today’s mail.  Thank you, Lisa.  You know me so well!

2.  I finished SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones.  It was a nice, easy read, the kind of book I’d enjoy at the beach.  The structure was interesting — the father is a bigamist, and two sisters who don’t know each other tell their version of family life — but I think I was distracted by other, heavier books I’m reading.  Like Mira Bartok’s THE MEMORY PALACE.  Imagine having to change your name because you think your mother is going to track you down and murder you?  More about that and so much more when I’m finished.

3.  Has anyone tried this BOOKS FREE website?  I’m trying to figure out how/why I would use it.  Any thoughts?

4.  Did you see the Oprah interviews this week with James Frey?  I watched the first one last night.  Yowza, what a mess.  But also some pretty good insight into how things work in publishing land, as well as lighting up what can happen to someone’s life in the realm of Celebrity.

5.  Also in today’s mail, I received a personal rejection for a short essay.  It read:  Really enjoyed your piece.  Good voice.  But not right for us.  A bit too long as well.  Best, M.A.  Odd, considering I withdrew this essay back in November when it was accepted elsewhere.  And when I checked their website today, they said they wanted stories of 30 pages or less.  This one was about 16 pages.  None of this makes a lick of sense to me.

Not a lick of sense, I tell you.  So.  I’m off to walk my calm dog (ha!) and then I’m pouring myself an IBC Cream Soda.  What could go wrong?

Eve of the Ides

Or things that jogged through my mind while I was out jogging:

1.  The shallow breathing, counting 1-2-3 in, and 1-2-3-4 out, the sore hips and shins and feet.  Settling in.

2.  A creek runs along this trail.  I pass behind a Japanese man standing along the edge of the slow-flowing water.  His head is bowed.  The water level is too low.  Lack of rain.

3.  Tsunami.  The still photos in the NYT.

4.  This photo, the warning of the Slippery Slope.  I keep thinking about what it means, or doesn’t mean, or officially means, or means to me when I feel myself sliding down what very well may be one hell of a hill.

5.  The red sketch of the tight-rope walker, a stick figure, on the jacket of LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN.

6.  Our Book Club discussion of LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN.  This may well be the book we’ve disliked (overall) the most.  I finished it, and then wished I hadn’t bothered.  I’m not even proud of myself for finishing it.

7.  Just off the trail, a young mother has stopped with her double-wide stroller of twin toddlers and a fat black lab.  She disconnects his leash and tosses a big stick.  Lab sloshes through the shallow water, nabs the stick, and bounds back.  Joy.  One twin claps her hands and bounces in her seat.  Her sister sleeps through it all.

8.  I slow down to a stroll, catch my breath, hands on hips.  Is this cheating?

9.  It is the season of Writing Contests.  I keep getting e-mails saying Time is running out! I got one this morning from Creative Nonfiction2 Days Left to Submit on ANGER AND REVENGE. I kid you not.

10.  Time is running out.  I pick up the pace.  Sore hips and all.

11.  I was reading a Tom Perrotta interview yesterday in the December issue of The Writer’s Chronicle (great interview).  He talks about the film adaptation of his book LITTLE CHILDREN and how it came out too dreamlike, not at all like the dark suburban malaise he painted in his book.  The reality of boredom.  How dark.  His main character reading MADAME BOVARY and thinking, “This is not me.  Or is it?”

12.  A recent CNN article asked:  Are Whites Racially Oppressed? There’s a photo of a white man holding the flag and saluting.  Are they fucking kidding?  See the sign above.

13.  I slow down, coming to the end, what was also the beginning.  There’s the Japanese man, still there by the creek, but now he’s flanked on both sides by about a dozen geese rushing to the water, beating their wings, setting sail.

“Dog Days of Winter”

Redivider will be publishing an excerpt — “Dog Days of Winter” — from my memoir in Spring 2011.


The good thing about an executive relocation is that the company takes care of moving you.  They negotiate the contract with, say, Allied Van Lines for all the packing and unpacking, as well as the mileage the truck will drive from Old Home to New Home.  No one bothers to tell you how much it costs.  It doesn’t matter.  You’re not paying.  The company is.  You fill out some forms describing your home:  how many people live there, number and types of rooms, how many floors, number of stairs, is there a basement, an attic?  You give a list of electronic equipment – like big screen TVs and home stereo systems – that might require a technician for proper break down.  And that’s it.  The next thing you know, three strangers are trudging up your sidewalk, ready to dismantle your life.

And since yes, I am counting, this makes the 3rd chapter from yet-to-be-published book to be printed as a stand-alone piece.  One more step forward.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

The Paris Review “Interviews”

It’s an exciting day here in Carter Library.  The snail mail arrived right on time at noon and, for once, contained something besides junk mail:  Volume IV of The Interviews.  What a coincidence that Maya Angelou’s interview from 1990 just so happens to be in this particular volume, arriving in my mailbox while I’m re-reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Can’t wait to quit working/writing today so I read it!

Ray Bradbury

There’s a great interview with Ray Bradbury in the Spring 2010 issue of The Paris Review. Check it out.  Here are a couple of samplings:

On the New York critics and literati:  “It’s the terrible creative negativism, admired by New York critics, that caused [Kurt Vonnegut’s] celebrity. New Yorkers love to dupe themselves, as well as doom themselves. I haven’t had to live like that. I’m a California boy.”

On college writing classes:  “You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do — and they don’t.”

On writing Fahrenheit 451:  “Montag came up to me and said, I’m going crazy. I said, What’s the matter, Montag? He said, I’ve been burning books. I said, Well, don’t you want to do that anymore? He said, No, I love them. I said, Go do something about it.  And he wrote the book for me in 9 days.”