la_fields: (Default)
2017-10-08 03:13 pm

Editing Weekend

I've had an editing weekend, and it seems like a good time for an update:

0) The Joseph and His Friend Annotation

Two weeks ago I went through the nearly 500 pages of my annotation project, Joseph and His Friend. It took a year to research, nine grueling days to compile, nine relatively easier days to edit it. The manuscript was pretty clean the way I put it together the first time, thankfully. Some writers need lots of drafts (I hear), and a grad school would insist on lots of drafts if I was doing this scholarship in school instead of out, but it's not necessary for me, it never has been, which I'm happy about (and also happy to argue with professors about). This project was a lot of work, and a lot of information to mentally hold together, but all I had to do to account for that was stay sober while I was working (fiction doesn't require that much sacrifice). It was a daunting effort though, and all the rest of this stuff follows right on its heels.

1) "The Nightmare Pygmalion"

This was a commissioned story for a Dorian Gray anthology, and came with a request that it somehow involve Sherlock Holmes. Not a problem! I've already got a Holmes-meets-A.E.-Housman story for another upcoming anthology, and ideas for more in that vein, enough to eventually produce a collection of Companion Stories to My Dear Watson (but that's next year's project). I wrote "The Nightmare Pygmalion" within a week of getting the request, but took months getting around to editing it. Finally this weekend I read through it, and so did a friend of mine, and again it was put down clean enough on the first draft that it didn't need much tweaking. That has been submitted and is off my plate for now.

2) Compulsion

Set to be published either later this month or early November at the latest, I edited this 4th Disorder Series book already this year. That was in preparation for writing the 5th, which I'm now 1/3 of the way through on a careful deadline. I dreaded having to look at Compulsion again so soon, but thankfully another friend volunteered to help me by giving it a read in bookblock form; I'll rely on her notes, review them Monday, give the whole thing an overall look, and submit that too.

3) My Friend's Dissertation

The first friend I mentioned is coming up on her dissertation defense and just wanted someone to review the submitted copy in case I could see any weak points she'll have to argue later this month. It's reading solid to me, but it's another monster (about 250 pages of straight argument), and so I've been reading chunks of it between weekend activities like TV binging and laundry. 

Interestingly, the whole thing is on the subject of diaries, and writing of oneself for public consumption, and a lot of it resonated with me. Firstly, in talking about the diaries of the dead, someone who wrote from age twenty-one to ninety-nine is impressive, so it's nice to remember that I started keeping an online diary at 18, and have been careful to preserve and archive it clear to today, at age 29. One solid decade! Not only does it always do me well to articulate whatever I'm feeling at the time (from victory to stress to sadness), it helps keep life in perspective, and it also serves as a valuable record. There was family drama recently with people trying to rewrite the past to cast themselves as victims in it, but that's hard to do to an archivist. I have Comey-style notes about every interaction, with names, dates, times, and specifics; people can talk inventions all day about what they felt in the past, but they can't change what they actually did, not without coming to my house to destroy the evidence. There's a point for diary-keeping right there.

My MFA program was very insistent on journal-writing, very insistent specifically on physically keeping a journal, which is just unadaptable old-school garbage if you ask this Millennial. They sounded a lot like the middle and high school teachers I had who graded us on keeping our planners up to date in the exact way they told us to, and nevermind that I had a separate notebook back then with columns and boxes and an ever-evolving To Do list with long-term projects on the side and homework kept in a square at the bottom. Their aim to make students internalize organization was lost in the rote check-boxing of grades and rules. I've kept a journal for years, but not the kind I'd bring in to read for a classroom of other people--that wasn't the part that made it useful for writing, it was the part that made it look like they were performing their jobs. If I still sound annoyed about grad school it's because I am: the measure of competence is performance. I've done so much more writing (in different styles and genres) with my day-job than I ever once had space to do in school; I was too busy trying to work around their assignment specifics, and too worried about my future and what I'd do for money back then (because that degree hasn't helped me once job-wise). My friend's dissertation really highlights what a value diary-keeping is for writers, for scholars, and for personal reflection, but it also highlights how well one man did when he shit-quit school, and how badly another did when he languished in school-teaching. We've got more rogue scholarship over here, it's part of why we're still such grand friends.

Current and Future Projects

I'm happy to report that I'm still up to schedule with the 5th and final Disorder Series book, Fixation, and in fact I'll have more time for possibly finishing it ahead of schedule after the end of this year. That is when the Gay A Day project completes (I was so far ahead on that one I had to re-organize my timeline so I wouldn't finish before my writing partner). With two stories already written for the Companion Stories project (and above 20K word count so far), I'm confident that I'll be able to populate more real-life-gossip-fictionalized stories with all the information I'm collecting through the GAD project. Dissertation friend is on the wind-down of that monster task, and so we're starting to discuss our upcoming collaboration too. We're even planning a podcast on assorted topics, and we'll be meeting up again to celebrate her dissertation defense later this month. I've never been so creatively busy in my life, and it's lovely. I can't wait to keep doing it, and journaling about it, for years. 
la_fields: (Booze Time)
2017-04-06 12:20 pm

An Earful of Queer

Hear me argue for the better drunk in An Earful of Queer’s special segment, Dueling Dandies!

An Earful of Queer is a new monthly LGBTQ fiction podcast; each episode comes with an interview in front, and a cage match in the back!

First up for interview is my own dear publisher Steve Berman, and then it’s the debut episode of Dueling Dandies: the Talented Tipplers edition!


That's me defending The Lost Weekend’s Charles Jackson against my MFA buddy and her pick of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman: who was the better drunk, and who would win in a literal cage match? Listen to find out!
la_fields: (Sparks)
2014-06-05 03:20 pm

Lambda Award Weekend

I didn't win the Lambda Award, but I did have this trip:

Day 1 - Philadelphia
- All travel was efficient and timely.
- Cheesesteaks with [ profile] mroctober, talked about books and boys.
- Got to hang out with an old college friend and do my favorite thing: bitch and complain. So freeing, so invigorating. We covered romantic exploits, job searches, loneliness and moving, TV shows.
- We also walked around the Philadelphia gayborhood where she lives. Gayborhood is so gay the street signs have rainbows:
2014-06-01 19.56.20

Day 2 - Lambda Awards
- I was the youngest person in every group I talked to, but I adapted. I've got parents and grandparents, you wanna talk about baby names? The '70s? I got you, I can do that. I am now under the impression that gay people never look older than 55.
- Lots of speeches about the gay community and queer spaces highlighted that I still feel a little like an interloper--I'm bisexual, but I haven't been involved with another woman since undergrad (where anyone can be bisexual, so are you really?). And of course all my gay characters are men. Suspicious.
- I don't like the designation M/M. It seems to apply only to women who write romance about gay dudes, and it rankles my feminism to know that a lot of people would include me in that category. I recognize it as a distinct category that plenty of authors are happy to participate in, I just don't think that's what I'm doing, and I don't want it applied to me. Most of my books are actually about unhappy families, addiction, and anxiety/depression. I take the perspective of gay men because it's a world I'm almost entirely excluded from, so it interests me. In my personal life I've got women all day, every day. It's a total clam festival over here.
- This is the book that beat me for the Gay Romance award: Into This River I Drown. That's okay though, because I've since decided my book is more of a Mad Men-esque contemplation of success and substance abuse and existential fatigue anyway.
- My bones only felt melting-cold for a second when I didn't win, then I went back to the hotel to assure my audio copy of My Dear Watson that, you know, such is the pursuit of fame, and that now we at least have the privilege of feeling misunderstood.
2014-06-02 19.35.37

Day 3 - Manhattan
- Everything in Manhattan was about two feet too close to me the entire time I was there. I may like other parts of New York City (I wouldn't know), but Manhattan did very little to please me.
- I spent the day in Central Park, MoMA, and in a Starbucks.
- Modern art tires me out, I waste too much mental energy wondering if each piece is just an Emperor's New Clothes trick being played on me by some ironic asshole.
- I sat down in Central Park because my feet were on fire, some guy sidled up next to me to say hey, I got right the fuck back up and kept moving (you're a shark honey, sharks must move to live).
- Spent a pleasant beginning of the day with Sacchi Green (who won a Lammy for the Wild Girls, Wild Nights anthology), but afterwards hit some bad luck: rush hour and rain meant it took more than an hour to find a cab to the airport, flight was delayed by the storm, not enough free outlets in the airport to properly do homework for the next day, etc.
- Chicago let me fly to NYC with this keychain, but New York would not let me fly back with it. I mean it is a tiny knife, and I don't want knives on planes, but *whine* and stuff. I usually remember to take it off, and I'm surprised it wasn't confiscated at O'Hare (dropping the ball, O'Hare).
2014-06-03 15.09.11

- I have a month to figure out if I'm going to renew my lease. Right now it looks like probably yes, and if I get a job that demands I move, I will find a replacement for myself.
- Big giant multi-step applications for which I am making endless telescoping lists.
- All this and homework and reading at Printer's Row and blisters on my feet the whole time.
- I just got off the phone with a recruiter for teaching in Korea--feel like I totally nailed that, so it's a real option.
- I want to write chapter three of my novel but when, oh but when? I get to show Chapter Two to my Fiction Seminar class and my thesis adviser this summer, even though it's not my thesis material.
la_fields: (L.A. Fields)
2012-09-29 06:49 pm

Interview with Keith Banner

In my Short Story class I got to pick an author to do a presentation on, and I picked Keith Banner (1) because I want my fellow classmates to experience the treat that is reading "Holding Hands For Safety" and (2) because I am Facebook friends with Keith and he very kindly agreed to answer some questions, which are now posted on his blog, 2+2=5.

My first online publication ("Walls") happened because I was following Keith's work around the internet, and "Exit Signs" happened because I couldn't not imitate him, so it's been really cool to ask him about his writing.

I'll post the questions here too, so that I can look at them here too.

I looked up the anthology where I first found “Holding Hands For Safety” (in Men on Men 7) and found a review calling your story “fierce and funny,” which is not at all the impression I got (it seems very quiet and serious to me). How would you characterize this story? Or at least what is the impression you hoped to give with it?

It’s both funny and sad to me, and I don’t think you can have either in a story like that without both humor and tragedy working at the same time together to get you through. That said, I also think the class aspect of everything I write can sometimes be misinterpreted as insouciance and “black comedy,” when really it’s just the way people live, point-blank. Poor people, like rich people, have beautiful idiosyncrasies – it’s just that rich people often have more elaborate and intricate ways of hiding those idiosyncrasies, or to transform them into sweet little eccentricities. When Flannery O’Connor talked about why many of her stories featured “white-trash” people, she said something about how many of her characters are stripped of manners and decorum, and that allows the reader to look into their souls. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist. And I think in “Holding Hands for Safety,” all the characters are stripped down to their essences to the point you have access to their souls, and while those souls might be a little ugly and a little worn out, they are beautiful souls none-the-less, especially the souls of the three main characters: the teenaged gay narrator, his punk step-cousin, and the six-year-old girl the step-cousin kills.

You said in an interview with Donald Ray Pollock that you’ve written another novel since The Life I Lead—would you mind telling me what it’s about, and if it’s any closer to finding a home?

Actually it’s Holding Hands for Safety turned into a novel, funny enough. I opened up the story to include many other points of view (including Courtney and Troy), and what happens after the murder. It’s going around now to different places. No good news, yet. Or maybe ever. But I keep trying. That’s the essence of all this stuff: you can’t get deterred. I have a draft of another novel I’m working on now called Johnson City Divas. It’s a homage to James M. Cain and other noir writers. It’s kind of like Mildred Pierce spliced with Jean Genet. A middle-aged drag-queen who lives in Johnson City, Tennessee is one of the central characters. I liked the idea of going with a plot-driven gig for a change. In The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity, Cain’s plots have both an artificial dexterity and a weird existential necessity. It’s the nexus between reality and phoniness where murderers live. A lovely place for a story.

Having written both novels and short stories, which do you enjoy writing best? Are there differences in how you approach long and short pieces of fiction?

I like writing short stories, but then I get sick of them because I want the terrain of a planet instead of the intimacy of a condo. But they go well together, and most of the novels I write come from the short stories. They intermingle. And some of my favorite novels, actually, read like collections of interrelated short stories. The best I’ve read recently: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.