Category Archives: Publishing

The Mill River Recluse

This weekend I’m reading Darcie Chan’s THE MILL RIVER RECLUSE.

On my iPad.

And you know I don’t like reading on my iPad.

But I came across this article about Ms. Chan and her book and I was hooked.  After years of trying, unsuccessfully, to get her first novel into the mainstream world of publishing, she’s now sold 400,000 self-published copies.  In today’s New York Times Book Review, THE MILL RIVER RECLUSE is #23 on their e-book best sellers list.

iPad reading or not, I’m enjoying this story a great deal.  Click on the book’s cover above to get your copy.  I promise it will be worth every penny of your 99 cents, and then some.

Click here for Darcie Chan’s website.  You can find her RedRoom interview here.

Sometimes You Gotta Dance

Writers.  My people.  You know how most of the time we’re all by our lonesome, waiting with a bulldozer’s patience for our best ideas to flow through and out, all smooth-like?  How accustomed we are to the time alone, thinking, stewing, churning so we can get exactly what’s driving us insane sparkling in our imaginations onto paper?

And you know how, sometimes, we writers get the rare chance to stand up and read those best ideas?  Out loud, in front of other humans, on the spot-lit stage, like the shiny-happy-people?

Well, come January, I will be shiny and happy.  While nothing terrifies me more than a quiet audience, hands in laps, waiting for me to speak words into a microphone, I’m honored to have been invited to read at an upcoming literary and art showing.  I’ll do you proud.

Maybe I’ll watch this video a few times to get up my courage.  I figure I’m the horse in her stall, though I deeply long to be the ostrich towards the end.  Who do you long to be?

The Art of Fielding

As much as I try to avoid the big hype books (until the hype is long dead, at least), I’ve made an exception for the current literary darling.

I first heard of THE ART OF FIELDING when, late on a Friday night, AmyG directed me to an article in the latest Vanity Fair she called “writer porn.”  And jesus people, who among us can pass up writer porn?

AmyG was right.  If you haven’t read this long and detailed piece about how THE ART OF FIELDING came to be, stop reading this post and get ye straight to the magazine and read Keith Gessen’s phenomenal essay.  (in the print magazine only, sorry)  I’ve never read a better, more detailed and intriguing drama about how a book was written, re-written, discovered, agented, edited, negotiated, sold, marketed and, finally, set out into the world.

The writer, Chad Harbach, is also a co-founder and editor of N+1, one of my favorite lit mags.  Here’s an 8 minute review on NPR’s All Things Considered.  Chad wrote this book long-hand; he says he finds writing on the screen paralyzing.  There’s a thought.  He’s got me thinking, this Chad Harbach character, thinking about baseball and expectations and writing and success and MOBY-DICK and tragedy and secrets and long sagas and the art of great story telling.

Who wants to read this with me?  

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?

AWP Day One

Forgive me for the typos to come. I’m traveling with no keyboard.  But day one of AWP has come and gone, and I must tell you a few bits now. As in NOW, before said bits — random though they may be — escape into the void.  Check out/read/buy the following books. Trust me.





PICKING BONES FROM ASH, by Marie Matsuki Mockett








There’s also a new anthology — LIT FROM WITHIN — an anthology of writers on writing, by Kevin Haworth and Dinty Moore




Last week the New York Times said the memoir is dead, stop writing ME books! To which I say Bullshit. These memoirists blew my mind today, and I will follow them into the jungle: Dustin Beale Smith, Allison Hedge Coke, and the always incredible Valerie Miner.

As for rock star sightings, I spotted Richard Ford and Tayari Jones in the lobby, passed Elizabeth Strout on the sidewalk, and brushed behind the surreally talented and dreamy poet Terrance Hayes in the hall. Sigh. (oh contented sigh)

Essay “Old Games for New Girls”

I have an essay coming out this month in the Fall/Winter 2010 issue of West Branch, the literary journal at Bucknell.  All publications are sweet, but this one is particularly satisfying for the following reasons:

1.  On the surface it’s about women playing golf.  But it’s really about the chauvinism that women in corporate America have to deal with and it felt good to write it.  Yes, things are better since Anita Hill, but not perfect.

2.  When this essay was in its early stages, a man read it and his feedback was so negative as to the subject-matter (women and golf = boredom), it just made me want to work on the story even harder.  This essay is many things, but “boring” is not one of them.

3.  Dealing with the editors at West Branch has been a pleasure.  So professional and kind.  And their journal is beautifully produced.

4.  Six months after the essay was accepted for publication, I received an e-mail from another journal about possible publication.  They wanted to change the Point of View (or have me defend my use of 2nd person for parts of the story), as well as make several other changes.  It felt good to be able to say “No thanks.”


As a twenty-something newlywed, you had no plans to get pregnant, but you would probably have had Dennis’s baby if it meant getting that job. Between the salary bump and bonuses, your income would triple. Dennis might not be the boss you dreamed of, but the job certainly was. For years, you’d watched your single mother trudge off to work the second and third shifts at the hosiery mill. The nighttime hours and the machine noise and the constant dust and dirt wrung her out. The asbestos poisoned her lungs. All you’d ever wanted was to have an office (with a door), to sit behind a desk in a high-backed chair (that swivels), to wear pantyhose and high heels (real Italian leather!), and to go to important meetings (where you could act “important”). You wanted to work in a place where people were so goddamned busy they had to order in lunch.

And, well, there you were.

Your peers thought you were too small-town for the job and, not to mention, a girl. You had news for them. You’d grown up in a neighborhood full of boys. You raced your beat-up bike downhill, and even when you wrecked and slid sideways in the gravel, you wore your scabs and scars like trophies. You played baseball on the street with sometimes fake, sometimes real, bats, and you would slide into base, even if that base was a white Frisbee on cement, to help your team win. When you were eight, your mother signed you up to play softball. Softball! With girls!

“Girls don’t play baseball,” she’d said. “You could get hurt.” Then, like some kind of insult, she handed you a brand new softball. This ball-for-sissies was so big you could barely hold it in your hand, much less throw the stupid thing.

“I can’t throw this,” you said, trying to hand it back to her. “I don’t want to play.”

“I already signed you up. You’re playing. You’ll figure it out.”