Monthly Archives: September 2013

I made the Best American Essays 2013’s Notables list

The Best American Short Stories 2013 details have been posted and it looks really good. Laura van den Berg has two notable stories (as well as a notable in Non-Required Reading too!) and Lauren Groff has a story on the Notables list for each too. Karen Russell made Non-Required Reading! I’m really excited for both anthologies.

This, of course, led me to Best American Essays 2013’s details page. I did a quick scan of the authors who made it and then I immediately popped over to the Notables list. It was a long shot and I didn’t have high hopes, but I also really believe in the worth of my essay, so I clicked and scrolled. And there it was. Right at the bottom of the page. My name. My essay.

Heart-stopped, stunned, I stared at the screen for a good ten minutes. I stopped all work. I couldn’t process anything. I haven’t been writing seriously for very long, even if it’s something I always knew I had to do, so no part of me expected to make a list like that so soon in my career. I cannot thank non-fiction editor Nick Anderman and the Carolina Quarterly enough for running my essay. I’m really just in awe right now.

I guess this counts, huh? I’m on the right path in life, moving in the right direction.

Update: I’ve also placed a story in the Southern Humanities Review. Whoo!

Now I’m Just Babbling…

I suppose, from time to time, I might actually use this blog as a proper blog, though my general busy-ness is a great preventative measure there. Lately, I’ve been reviewing the manuscript I wrote, a novel on the shorter end of things about college-aged ghost hunters. There’s always been some disquiet about this piece because, thematically, I really love it. I can’t help but to, even if I’m exhausted of it at the same time (the curse of any novel-length project, I imagine). I kept thinking that there was something off on a structural level, something missing in the first part of the story (which I wrote several years ago) that lacked motivation, drive, stakes for the characters or the readers.

Still, the structure seemed okay to me. Rereads went on and I still liked what I’d produced. So what was wrong? When I decided to go ahead and write a synopsis out, I saw pretty quickly. There’s something about condensing a whole chapter into a single sentence and seeing those sentences side-by-side that make you think, Oh… well… how the crap do these two ideas follow? How did we get from there to here at all? I could see the gaps. And I could also see how I had neglected one simple thing.

When I approached this novel, I wrote an outline. This outline changed a lot and it existed as a perpetual Gmail draft so that I have no record of what the original looked like nor even what the final looked like (the outline was deleted). So I always had a relatively clear idea of where I was going, but not necessarily how I got there. I think that as things changed and shifted and moved, the original stakes were lost (in fact, the original narrative is nothing like the final) and I simply forgot about it. With the synopsis, I can see very clearly what the stakes should always have been. It’s so simple that I feel really dumb for not seeing it before. And it requires only a very minimal retouching of some lines here and there, and suddenly, everything makes sense and the narrative is cohesive (enough anyway).

I’m debating whether to continue calling this a work of literary fiction or to start marketing it as “young adult.” Maybe I’ll query it out as both and see what bites first.

Anyway, lesson learned: write your synopses.

One More Forthcoming and Another Article at the Good Men Project

My second installment of writing about vigilantism at the Good Men Project is a lot more real, taking a close examination of what it means to be an American and whether taking the law into your own hands (and sometimes defying the government itself) can be an act of patriotism. Thanks to Noah Brand for working with me on this and to my friend (who knows who she is) for being the first set of eyes on it.

In other news, I recently had a story recently accepted to the next issue of Sententia: The Journalmany thanks to editor Paula Bomer for taking the chance on this piece. And thanks to my co-worker, who is now a good friend, for not being creeped out when a relative stranger told her that he used her likeness for a character in a story. This particular piece is inspired by an item on my Bucket List (Item 56 — Have a conversation with a bonobo or gorilla in American Sign Language). This has been a story I’ve struggled with repeatedly, so I am very very grateful for this acceptance.