Gigantic Anthology

I’m thrilled that my story “Where Sisters Come From” will be included in  Best of Gigantic: Stories from the First Five Years, 2009–14, which  features forty-two Gigantic stories collected in one e-book.


Here’s a description of the anthology:
“Included are parables, fairy tales, monologues, and stories in which one might encounter a talking deer or a juggling god; a bratty cellist or a chatty head flight attendant; a body-contorting bank robber or a Nike-wearing mob boss and his personal trainer-cum-bodyguard; emperors, dictators, and would-be despots; servers, salespeople, and recently dismissed postal workers. Occasionally you won’t come across anyone at all, just a list of ways you could greet a stranger—or end up in an asylum.”

And this is the list of authors within:

Nico Alvarado, Selena Anderson, Marie-Helene Bertino, Dan Bevacqua, Anelise Chen, Joshua Cohen, John Colasacco, Jon Cotner, Lydia Davis, Rebecca Evanhoe, Jean Ferry, Sasha Fletcher, I. Fontana, Avital Gad-Cykman, Anya Groner, John Haskell, Kevin Hyde, Mitchell S. Jackson, Margo Jefferson, Etgar Keret, Michael Kimball, Carmen Lau, Kitty Liang, Robert Lopez, Ottessa Moshfegh, Iris Moulton, Stephen O’Connor, Ed Park, Thomas Pierce, Joe Mungo Reed, Helen Klein Ross, Paul Scheerbart, Sparrow, Lauren Spohrer, Saša Stanišić, Marguerite W. Sullivan, Lynne Tillman, Anthony Tognazzini, Deb Olin Unferth, Laura van den Berg, Robert Walser, and Diane Williams.

Such fabulous company to be in! Thanks, Gigantic!


Writing Process–Blog Tour

The lovely Beth Couture asked me to participate in this Blog Tour about Writing Process. I know Beth from reading her work online and we’ve since become friends. She received her Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the Center Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi, MFA from the University of Notre Dame, MA from SUNY-Binghamton, and her Bachelor’s from Hollins University. Beth’s fiction can be found in Gargoyle, The Southeast Review, The Georgetown Review, Drunken Boat, The Yalobusha Review, Ragazine, and Thirty Under Thirty, an anthology from Starcherone Books, among other publications, and her poetry’s been published in Southern Poetry Anthology: Mississippi. She is also an assistant editor and the social media coordinator of Sundress Publications. She’s currently working on a novel in stories and her novella “Women Born With Fur” will be out this fall with Jaded Ibis Press. A woman of many talents, she’s at Bryn Mawr in Philadelphia these days, getting her MSS.

Here’s my contribution:

1) What are you working on?

Right now I’m staying at the Whiteley Center, a beautiful residency at Friday Harbor Labs on San Juan Island in Washington state. My goal while I’m here is to finish (at last!!) a novel about fourteen-year-old sisters who run away from home—and each other. It’s set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, where I grew up. One girl ends up couch surfing with aspiring performance artists and her sister gets mixed up with environmental activists who plan on bombing a damn. It’s a dramatic plot and switches back and forth between the two girls’ perspectives. 

I’m a twin myself, so that’s clearly a big influence on my subject matter. In fact, my sister, Maya, is an ecologist, studying eelgrass wasting disease and ocean acidification in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve been shadowing her some over the past week and plan on writing an essay about the amazing work she does.

2) How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre? 

There’s a shortage of writers exploring coming of age from a female perspective. Catcher In The Rye is always hailed as the end all be all bildungsroman, but, though I appreciate the writing, I never connected with the book that much. Holden Caulfield’s perspective, his whiny disillusionment and big city upbringing, never pulled me in. John Brandon’s Citrus County has been a big influence for me as well as Joy William’s The Quick and The Dead. Megan Abbott is another author who gets teenage girls. Her writing is dark, intelligent, and emotionally astute. Fast-paced dark humor is something that I almost always respond to as a reader, especially when the humor isn’t slapstick, but offering some kind of deeper observation or commentary. 

3) Why do you write what you do?

I wouldn’t know how to write anything else! A lot of writers I know go through phases—periods in which they’re interested in mothers or childhood or hunting. My big writing interests at the moment are sisters, adolescence, and the environment. 

4) How does your writing process work?

My writing process is ugly! As someone who’s not associated with any particular religion, writing is the biggest act of faith I know. On days (or weeks or months) where I’m perpetually dissatisfied with my work, I do my best to remember that the process—revision and more revision—is a good one. It’s worked for others and it can work for me. I’m an obsessive reviser. And I’ve often got several projects going at once. When I get stuck, I tend to move on to a different project and hope that a door will open inside me at some later point and I’ll be able to return to whatever it is that I’ve left behind.

Recently, I’ve started journalling in the mornings, and that’s been immensely helpful and surprisingly generative. I write down any old thought that comes to me and just keep my pen moving. It’s very low stakes writing, which makes it more fun. I often tell my students that writing IS thinking. We don’t write down our thoughts—we write in order to create thought. 

Next week, check out these two writers I admire and adore: Charlotte Matthews and Abigail Greenbaum.

Charlotte Matthews is the author of two full length books of poetry: Green Stars and Still Enough To Be Dreaming.  She is also the author of two chapbooks, A Kind of Devotion (Palanquin Press, 2004) and Biding Time (Half Moon Bay Press, 2005). Her work has recently appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Borderlands, Ecotone, Tar River Poetry, and storySouth. Most recently she received the 2007 New Writers Award from the Fellowship for Southern Writers. She is a graduate of The University of Virginia and The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. She teaches in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary and Professional Studies at the University of Virginia.

Abigail Greenbaum grew up in Gloucester, Massachusetts. She studied writing and history at Brown University, and then headed west (well, midwest), where she worked in haunted theaters and on tour. She studied fiction writing in the M.F.A. program at the University of Mississippi, where she learned about storytelling and tornadoes. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her dog Waylon, and she teaches writing. She’s also learning to kayak.  Her stories and essays can be found in journals such as Ecotone, Orion, Grist, The Hairpin, and The Louisville Review.

Dirty Orphans

“The year my twin and I turned eight, we vowed to kill our neighbor’s cat. Buster was an enormous marmalade and, a couple times a week, he left the heads of decapitated songbirds in our front yard. He belonged to the girl across the street, Liza Parker. Liza was in our grade but not our class. She wore button-up dresses every day and had her mother drive her to school each morning because she thought the bus was too dirty. When we saw her outside, she’d turn around and go inside; or if Buster was there, she’d bend over and pet him and whisper “Dirty orphans” in a singsong voice we could hear from our side of the street.”

My story “Buster,” winner of the 2014 Meridian Editor’s Prize, is now available to read in print and online. Here’s a link!

Residencies Residencies

I’ve never been to a writing residency before, but this summer I’m going to two. I’ll be at the Whiteley Center on San Juan Island for two weeks, sharing a cottage with my awesome ecologist sister and then I’ll be at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts for three weeks. I feel blessed to have these opportunities. If any one has advice for how to make the most of a residency, please let me know!

Meridian Editors’ Prize

I’m so happy that my short story “Buster” won the Editors’ Prize at Meridian: the Semi-Annual Journal from the University of Virginia! Here’s the first paragraph.

“The year my twin and I turned eight, we decided to kill our neighbor’s cat. Buster was an enormous marmalade and, a couple times a week, he left the heads of decapitated songbirds in our front yard. He belonged to the girl across the street: Liza Parker. Liza was in our grade but not our class. She wore button-up dresses every day and had her mother drive her to school each morning because she thought the bus was too dirty. When we saw her outside her house, she’d turn around and go inside, or, if Buster was there, she’d bend over and pet him and whisper, “Dirty orphans,” in a singsong voice that we could hear from the opposite sidewalk where we stood.”

Read the rest of the story  in Meridian’s May issue, which will be available in print and online!

My Childhood Espionage

My essay “Suspecting The Smiths” is up at the Oxford American.

“From the ages of nine to eleven, I worked as a spy. No one paid me, nor did I report my findings to any higher-ups. I discussed my cases with my partner, who went by code name Mountain Chicken Mother of the Buddha. Mountain Chicken also happened to be my identical twin sister, and during morning recess or summer afternoons at the neighborhood pool we let lifeguards, teachers, and stray dogs in on our findings. Eventually, the Department of Labor, the U.S. Postal Service, the Virginia State Police, and the State Corporation Commission got involved. Our next-door neighbors were indicted in September of 1998 by a federal grand jury, Joe Bob on eighteen counts and his wife, Jeannie, on fifteen.”