The winter storm that shut down the south isn’t funny.

First, let me say this: yes, it sounds bizarre that two inches of snow could create states of emergency in two states, take 13 (at last count) lives, and completely gridlock two major cities to the point where drivers are abandoning their cars or sleeping in them. It especially sounds bizarre if you come from a place that routinely gets much more than 2 inches of snow. I realize that your cities don’t shut down for two inches or even ten, that you still go to work and school and lead your lives as normal aside from some extra snow shoveling. As a native Alabamian now living in Pittsburgh, PA, I respect that. Believe me, I do.

That being said, if I hear one more person who gets snow all the time laughing at Southerners right now, telling us how stupid we are, how backwards we are, haughtily detailing how much snow they routinely tramp through in high heels, or making light of this ACTUALLY FATAL winter storm, I am going to take my brand-new snow shovel that I just learned to use this winter because I NEVER HAD TO BEFORE and (figuratively) smack them over the head with it.

I am not offering shovel-brainings to ALL Northerners/Midwesterners/Canadians/wherever you cold weather people come from. Just the ones that are partaking in these, at the very least, unhelpful and unneeded, and at the most, down right offensive and cold-hearted comments. Do you think parents whose kids have been stuck in school for the past two nights are going to be helped, at all, by your self-righteous description of how much snow you have in your yard on the frozen tundra right now? Do you think the stranded motorists who slept in their cars and offices and in the aisles of Home Depot are going to read your comments about how easy it really is to drive in snow if you aren’t stupid about it and be like, “oh shucks, that was the problem–not the lack of salt trucks or the fact it was actually ICE (not snow!) or how fast it came on when NO ONE WAS EXPECTING IT–it was that I’m just stupid.” And furthermore, do you think that your reprehensible stereotyping of ALL Southerners as ignorant rednecks is going to be in any way useful to the families of the 13 people who lost their lives?

I’m really hoping your answer is no.

Of course, I realize that scolding the trolls is going to do absolutely no good. And I’m pretty sure that a large portion of the commenters who aren’t intentionally trolling still don’t give two shits about whether or not they hurt some Southerners’ feelings, but are instead just jumping at the chance to make themselves feel superior. If you fall into either of those two groups, may I introduce your face to my aforementioned snow shovel. But I don’t think everyone was trolling or just seeking to pat their own selves on the back for being awesome at snow. I think that some of these commenters genuinely don’t get how 2 inches of snow can completely cripple an entire region. I think this because one of those people is my own boyfriend, who was born in Colorado and went to high school in Missouri, which routinely gets horrible ice storms, and Just. Doesn’t. Get it.

So I’m going to explain it to you.

1. States that normally experience snow have a much more extensive infrastructure for dealing with it. The South doesn’t. I’m not talking about small rural towns that only have one snow plow attached to a pickup truck.  I’m talking about large metropolitan areas, where there are way more people on the roads and where this winter storm fucked things up the most.

I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. I lived there for 24 years. The last time I remember it snowing even two inches was 1993. 1993. When an event like this only happens once every 20 years, it is ridiculous, I repeat, RIDICULOUS to expect the cities and counties to maintain extensive fleets of plows and salt reserves. Instead, they spend their budgets on preparing for weather emergencies that happen all the time, like tornadoes and hurricanes. So, no, your “get a better infrastructure” argument is invalid. Sit down.

2. It is ridiculous to expect that someone who has spent his/her entire life in a place it does not snow would have ANY IDEA how to drive in it.  Yes, some common sense does come into play here. For instance, driving slow. Duh. I guarantee you everyone was driving PLENTY slow when they were stuck in gridlocked traffic for 3 to 6 to 12 or more hours. I am equally sure that some assholes who didn’t realize the roads were icing over in the beginning were driving too fast, causing some of the initial wrecks that screwed the cities. But wrecks weren’t the only problem. In Birmingham, at least, a big problem was hills. And big ones. There are many hills around Birmingham, and lots of them are very steep. I’ve seen plenty of YouTube videos of crazy, slow-motion crashes up North when people try to drive up or down icy hills, so don’t pretend it doesn’t happen to you, and you supposedly “know better.”

And if you’re going to say something about snow tires or snow chains, I refer you to #1. I include that in infrastructure. Think of this example: Did people in the Northeast have sandbags to keep out the water and wood to nail over their windows just, like, hanging out in the basement, waiting to be used in case of a hurricane when Sandy came? Nope. But guess what. People in Florida do. Because hurricanes are a normal part of life there, so they are prepared and skilled in dealing with it. When the D.C. area had a small-by-California-standards earthquake in 2011, people freaked out because they did not know how to deal with it and the buildings aren’t built by the same codes that ones in earthquake-prone areas are. (Again: infrastructure!) The fact that the people in these cities were ill-equipped to deal with these events does NOT make them funny. Does NOT make it okay to make fun of them online or anywhere else and flaunt how superior you are. Yes, there were people who did make jokes about Sandy and the D.C. earthquake and other events like them, and I’m sure some of those people were Southerners, and they are assholes just like the ones making fun of the South right now.

3.  What little infrastructure Birmingham and Atlanta does have did not have an opportunity to be put into action. This is because they didn’t know the snow was coming until it was already there. Birmingham and Atlanta were both forecast to have a light dusting of snow, if any at all. All the bad weather was supposed to move well south of them. Therefore, they didn’t pre-treat the roads, didn’t cancel school, and everyone went to work like normal. And by the way, it wasn’t just the local forecasters who messed up here–it was the National Weather Service, too. We actually DO have a tried-and-true method of dealing with snow and ice down south. It’s called We Shut Everything The Fuck Down. Preemptively, I might add. Before the first flake falls. We are all very well aware that you snow bunnies think this is a hilarious overreaction every time we do this, but now you know why we do it. It’s to avoid what happened on Tuesday. If they had known beforehand that the snow was coming and shut everything down, none of this would have happened and everyone would have enjoyed two lovely snow days at home with their families. But on Tuesday, they didn’t know it was coming until it was too late.

4. When the snow started to come down and they realized the forecasts were wrong, most of the schools and businesses let out at the same time, flooding the icy roads with people trying to get to their children or get home. Everything devolved rapidly from there. The plows and salt/sand trucks couldn’t get onto the roads to treat them, because they were stuck in the gridlock like everyone else. People started abandoning their cars when they rolled onto ice and could no longer control their car or get it to move an inch in the right direction, or when they’d been sitting in it for hours without moving, or when they ran out of gas, adding to the gridlock. (“But driving on snow is easy!” I refer you back to #2; your reading comprehension is lacking.) Wrecks happened in intersections when people couldn’t stop. Pileups happened at the bottom of hills when people got part way up and then slid back down into the cars waiting below them. My dad left work around 3:00, and when it took him over half an hour to go five blocks, he found a parking spot and walked the rest of the 4 miles home from downtown Birmingham. In a suit and no-traction dress shoes. Over Red Mountain, which is one of those big, long, steep hills. He was one of the lucky ones who lived closed enough to work to walk home. My mom left in the middle of a dentist appointment at 10:30 to pick up my brother and four of his friends (by frantic request from their parents) from high school. She was also one of the lucky ones because she was driving before the ice and the traffic got truly awful, but even so, she passed more than a dozen cars already stopped on the side of the road. And hour and a half later, the city was stopped dead.

Both Atlanta and Birmingham were pretty much screwed as soon as the weather changed and unexpectedly hit them. Yes, some things could have been done to mitigate the shitstorm, such as staggering the let-outs of schools and businesses so that everyone and their mother wasn’t hitting the road at once. It wouldn’t have been as bad then, but it still wouldn’t have been good.

TL;DR: Have some compassion, people. Take a moment to think outside of your own experience and entertain the fact that this is a very rare event in the South, for which it is unreasonable to expect they be as prepared for or as experienced with as you. Yes, you deal with five times the amount of snow all the time. The fact is, they don’t. I have three times their amount of snow in my front yard right now, but it hasn’t caused me any problem because my Pennsylvania town has the infrastructure to deal with it because snow is a common occurance in this climate. When the temperatures reach over 90 degrees in the Northeast and people are bitching and moaning about it, I do my best to not laugh and make fun of them, despite the fact that in my head I’m thinking, “This is picnic weather.” Sometimes I fail, but I try. It’s called having some common courtesy and some compassion for other human beings when they are experiencing situations that are unusual for them. Not everything has to be a one-upping contest. Especially when it’s caused thousands of people considerable trouble and even cost people their lives.

Lastly, I fully realize that my tone here is pretty damn angry. I do not apologize for that, and I reserve the right to be angry. I realize that it will alienate some people and turn them immediately defensive, but FUCK IT. It is NOT funny that thousands of children were stranded at schools and day cares, that hundreds of teachers and school workers stayed with them for two days to take care of them. It is NOT funny that thousands of people either slept in their cars or were forced to abandon them to seek shelter in businesses, churches, and private family homes that compassionately opened their doors to them. It is NOT funny that people went without necessary medications for days, or that a woman gave birth on the side of the highway because emergency vehicles couldn’t reach her. It is ESPECIALLY NOT FUNNY that people lost their lives in car wrecks and other weather-related tragedies that seem so pedestrian and run-of-the-mill to you. So please take a second to give it some thought before you make some joke or snide comment that you think is SO hilarious.

We are not laughing.

Pushcart Prize 2014

Hello, internet! It’s been awhile. I won’t even try to make excuses for my long absence, other than to say: life.

20140127-174801.jpgHowever, I return to you triumphantly! My story “Upper Middle Class Houses” that Third Coast nominated for the Pushcart Prize earned a special mention. If I was saying all the right things, I would say that I was honored and humbled, but actually I was honored and felt like a freaking rock star. I’m quite sure that I was positively insufferable in the days afterwards because I couldn’t stop telling anyone who would listen about how amazing I felt to be included–if even in a back index–in such a respected award anthology, in the same book as such great authors and poets. Thank you, Third Coast and the Pushcart Prize for believing that my story deserved recognition. Now that I’ve had some time to get over myself, I am truthfully humbled.

Gillian Flynn, you creepy genius: some thoughts on Gone Girl.

I just finished reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and I have to say, I am floored in two completely different ways by both of them. Gone Girl I finished two days ago, and Wild yesterday. Not that I started and finished Wild all in one day, although it’s so good that could be very possible. I just tend to read multiple books simultaneously, picking one or another up depending on my mood. I’ve been reading Wild in short installments for a few weeks, rationing it like Cheryl does her food on the trail because I had so anticipated its release that I didn’t want it to be over too soon. (Yes, I’m a long-time Sugar fan.) And also because the book heartbroke me. I could scarcely read it without crying, sometimes bawling, sometimes uncontrollably, so I had to take some breaks lest I become dehydrated through loss of water via tears alone.

An aside: I had a wonderful moment earlier today when I realized that ALL the books I’m currently reading or am about to read are by women! I love that. There have been several moments in time when I have downtroddenly realized that all the books I was reading were by men–and most of the books I’ve ever read are by men–and nothing against men, I love men, but I get markedly sad when I see women excluded. But that’s a subject for another day. The point is, I just read Gone Girl and Wild, and before that I read Jennifer Egan’s The Keep, and next I have Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad (I know, I’m horribly late on this one) and Lidia Yunknavitch’s The Chronology of Water (late on that one, too) and B.K. Loren’s Theft, which I picked up the other night when I went to see her read at Chatham. All women! And I didn’t even do it on purpose! It just turned out that way! So exciting.

But anyway. Right now, I’m only going to talk about Gone Girl. We’ll save Wild for another day.

Oh, and SPOILERS. Except I’m pretty sure I’m the last person on the internet to have read Gone Girl, so it probably doesn’t matter. I mean, I’m behind. It’s kind of shameful. But in my defense, when you move cross-country and get married in the span of a few months, you get behind.

So, Gone Girl.

As so many have said before me: cutting, witty, twisted, brilliant, devious. A literary thriller about the decline of a marriage–although decline is putting it far too mildly. I rephrase: A literary thriller about the psychotic manipulative mind-fuck explosive shit-storm disaster of a marriage, but simultaneously a love story of the darkest sort, about the people who we try to be in order to make someone love us, and then what happens when our real selves show through. Probably not the best book to read a month and a half after you get married. But whatever.

The novel really screws with your mind and emotions, even as you’re watching this husband and wife screw with each others’. For instance, I was totally manipulated by the first part of the book. Like, TOTALLY manipulated. I was like, Oh I know this wife, I know this woman, she is flawed but I love her and feel for her in her sweet, quiet desperation, and she doesn’t even know she’s being cheated on, poor thing! Team Amy!!!! On top of that, there were eerie similarities between Amy Elliott Dunne and I, such as: her husband moves her away from the city she loves (for Amy, New York; for me, New Orleans), she knows no one and has no friends in this new city and also has no job (*cough,* me in Pittsburgh), and she is forced to live in a mass-produced box with wall-to-wall carpet and doors and moldings made of cheap crappy plastic made to look like wood (which she hates, and sooooo do I–hardwood floors, please), oh and she’s a writer. So, we had some things in common. I may have read some sections from Part One aloud to Todd in a kind of horribly mistaken wife-righteousness–See, she is so sad and alone. See, she hates wall-to-wall carpet, too. And then her husband kills her! Let us take this as a teaching moment.

Here is the real teaching moment: Never start quoting a book all righteous-like before you’ve read the whole thing. Especially when it’s a thriller, which is never what it seems in the beginning. I should have known better.

So imagine my embarrassment when Part Two commences and we find out that, oops, Amy is a sociopath who meticulously fakes her death and disappears and frames her husband for her murder so he’ll get the death penalty or at least life in prison, just to prove a point, which is pretty much, No one puts Amy in a corner. (Yeah, I’ve seen Dirty Dancing a few dozen too many times.) Amy is a legit, for-real, 100% psycho. This is the woman I felt solidarity with, who I compared myself to. I repeat: oops.

To be fair, the diary entries that compose her point of view for the first part of the novel were specifically written by Amy-the-psychopath to be found after her disappearance, make the world love and sympathize with her, and point the finger of blame steadily at her husband. So, I mean, easy mistake. Right? Right? (Someone assure me I’m not going to turn into a sociopath.)

But anyway. The point is, Gillian Flynn manipulates the reader’s emotions with a skill that borders on frightening. By the end of that first part, you legitimately sympathize with Amy, you totally suspect that Nick, the cheating, negligent husband, killed her in a fit of passion the morning of their five-year anniversary. If I was Gillian Flynn’s husband, I might be just a little bit afraid. Be afraid, sir. Your wife is a creepy genius. So. Well. Done.

What unfolds after Part One is a fascinating study of absolute madness, switching between Amy and Nick’s points of view, both of them narrators of the most unreliable sort, in which neither character is the hero. And I love me some anti-heroes. We humans are flawed, messy, catastrophically doomed creatures, and I love us for it. Give me a book where the protagonist is just fucked to the core, and I’ll eat it up, because that’s something I love to see in literature and in people in general–the acknowledgement that we as people have horrible, deep deep faults, and there’s maybe just no fixing them; that’s just the way we are, and we have to try to be the best people we can be with them. Gone Girl takes this to a very, very disturbing place, where husband and wife are forced to be the best husband and best wife they can be in a life-long stand-off, or else they’ll eviscerate each other–but still. I dig it.

Nick does end up being a little more the hero than Amy. As he writes at the beginning of the tell-all book he composes (and then is forced to delete thanks to some more brilliant trap-setting on Amy’s part),

I am a cheating, weak-spined, woman-fearing coward, and I am the hero of your story. Because the woman I cheated on–my wife, Amy Elliott Dunne–is a sociopath and a murderer.

I mean, compared to that–yeah, you are the hero.

But despite Amy’s balls-to-the-wall bat-shit craziness, she has some pretty astute observations, such as the oft-quoted-at-least-on-Tumblr section about the myth of the “Cool Girl.”

Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time, Cool Girls offended me. I used to see men–friends, coworkers, strangers–giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much–no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version–maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain.

Bam. I mean, truth, guys. What woman (at least in America) reads that and doesn’t feel a little sick to her stomach because she has tried to be the Cool Girl at least once in her life (probably during college, thanks Judd Apatow), and also at the same time a bit buoyed up because she has since given up on being the Cool Girl, the Cool Girl persona being unsustainable. And this from the mouth of a sociopath, yet it resonates in all of us.


And that’s one of the most horridly wonderful things about Gone Girl. Like the Cool Girl critique, the novel is full of social commentary that meshes completely with the narrative. It takes numerous societal stereotypes, builds them up, and then burns them all down. The Cool Girl. The Happy Couple. The Gritty Detectives. The Good Wife. The Good Husband. The Cheater. The Psycho Bitch. The Sweet-Wife-Is-Murdered and the Husband-Always-Did-It. One by one, the novel establishes these roles and then, just when you get comfortable, turns them inside out. The whole thing is an endless parade of people wearing masks. It’s disturbing and brilliant and all-too-true.  As happens whenever I unadvisedly read the bone-chillingly hateful comments on any online news article, I walked away from this book peering from the corners of my eyes at the passerby on the street around me and wondering, Who are you, secretly? What horrible thoughts do you have tucked in the dark corners of your skull?

But aside from all that, Gone Girl is about the small, quiet ways we hide ourselves from the people around us. Our spouses, our parents, our friends and siblings. And the ways we manipulate each other–even manipulate ourselves–into believing we actually are the people we pretend to be. It’s about the pile-up of all the tiny disconnects in a marriage, which anyone who has been in a long relationship will be familiar with–the time he never showed up for that dinner, the cuckoo clock she loves and he hates, the special kiss one remembers and the other doesn’t, his difficulty in showing emotion and her need to always be right, the compromises inherent in sharing a life with another person, the struggles, the disappointments. Except in Gone Girl, these things don’t pile up into a mild case of resentment that finally explodes into a bad argument or even divorce, they pile up into cheating and lying and trap-setting and disappearance and homicide. I mean, talk about needing to communicate. So, yeah, it gets a bit (a lot) more extreme than your average marriage, but Nick and Amy’s marital struggles before the psychosis kicks off are disturbingly familiar. We all know that story. It’s scary. To say the least.

But also, even while this husband and wife are plotting against each other with maniacal glee, Flynn shows their similarities, things they have absorbed from each other over five years of marriage. There’s all these inside jokes they both remember, both Nick and Amy make observations about the real meaning of the word “surreal,” and they also both refer to their stomachs as feeling “oily.” This oily stomach thing is an unusual enough description (at least I’ve never heard it) that I’m sure Flynn does it on purpose to show us some teeny tiny, but meaningful, ways in which they are a couple. And I’m sure there’s others that I just missed on the first read. In the end, when all the barriers come down, Flynn shows us that Nick and Amy truly, deeply know each other. They know each other to the core, better than any one else in the world, in all their cunning, manipulative, hate-filled flaws. They truly see each other. And even if that sight is ugly, isn’t that all anyone wants in a marriage? To be known? To be seen?

I was wondering the other day how Gillian Flynn came up with the idea for Gone Girl–because this is the kind of novel that totally intimidates me, that makes me feel like I will never be able to write a novel as complexly extraordinary–and I wonder if she was just sitting around one day, listening to ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands gripe about their female ex-counterparts, saying, I’m so glad I broke up with her, she was a crazy bitch, like they so often do. And Flynn was like, what’s that? No. No, fellas. I will write a novel and show you what a crazy bitch actually is. Challenge accepted.

And, oh, does she. I dare you to call anyone a crazy bitch after reading this book. Mission accomplished, Ms. Flynn. Well done.

Humans are not at the top of the food chain here. Or, I wanted all the poison.

Last night, something horrible happened. I ran across these two articles and actually, for some reason, read them. This was the equivalent of being alone in a house in a horror movie, hearing a noise in the basement, and (why god why) going to check it out.

You probably have a mind-controlling parasite in your brain, and

You also might have tape worms in there (your brain), too.

If you don’t want to ruin your life by reading the above articles, let me go ahead and reveal the moral of both of these stories:

Poop is gross. Don’t touch it.

Karen Munro asks Roxane Gay about emerging writers, getting your work out there, and all the various cool shit she does in this audio interview at this very cool site, and I have a fan girl brainsplosion at hearing both their voices conversing together cause it’s established that I have a writer-crush on Roxane Gay and I’d like to take this moment to announce that Karen Munro is pretty darn cool, too, and we’ve been published in two of the same journals, which I find awesome. I may play this interview every night as I fall asleep to encourage sweet dreams. It’s like listening to angels. Gay also hands out some good advice about promoting your work and some encouraging words about emerging writers, so if you’re a new or emerging writer, it’s definitely worth a listen.

An acquaintance who I wish I could call my best friend because she’s such a cool person and an amazing writer, Tarfia Faizullah, had this beautiful poem published in Lantern Review a little while ago, “At Zahra’s Salon for Ladies,” and this profile where Tarfia speaks on the process of writing the poem just came out. Both the poem and the process profile are gorgeous. In fact, the process profile is almost a poem, itself:

I wanted to write a poem that could dwell in nostalgia, that could dwell in those first feelings of hunger without fully leaving the present.

I wanted to write a poem that acknowledged the beauty and terror of solitude.

Don’t we all long for a lifetime of sweetness?

Yes, Tarfia. Yes we do.

Continue reading

Some thoughts on superheroes. Or, the one in which I somehow manage to mention Star Wars, D&D, and Stargate SG-1, totally betraying what I did in high school.

So, Mr. Claire and I saw The Avengers on Saturday, and I enjoyed it, I really did. It was highly amusing at the same time as being highly improbable. But it’s a superhero movie, which is by definition improbable, so it can ask you to believe that a giant, green rage-monster can plummet miles to the earth from an invisible, floating aircraft carrier under attack by a God of Norse mythology and survive, and you take it in happily and eat your popcorn.

Some observations:

-Iron Man is the best Avenger, for obvious reasons, the foremost of which is simply: attitude.

-Hawkeye is the worst Avenger. I kept referring to him as Robin Hood in my head. Which is really not fair to Robin Hood.

-Robert Downey Jr. is the best thing about this film. Or any film with Robert Downey Jr. in it, and some without him in it, as far as I’m concerned, but especially this one. He is responsible for almost every witty and amusing line of dialogue, which could be the writers really loving on his character, or the studio knowing that without his constant comic relief distracting us from what’s actually happening in the movie, it would be one constant eye-roll.

Robbie D, as I call him in my dreams, is also the source of almost 100% of the good acting. He does the smart-ass know-it-all character frequently in his movies (see: Sherlock Holmes), but he does it so so well, and I am therefore fine with it. When he was on screen, despite whatever craziness and poor plotting was going on, I was happy.

-Samuel L. Jackson is the worst thing about this movie. His over acting is remarkable. One of his eyes is out of commission because he’s Nick Fury and has an eye patch, so he works extra hard with the other one. Tyra Banks would be proud.

Continue reading

Really, Stop Checking your Email. Or, My Writing Process.

Books, y'all.

A photo of some books, cause this post is about writing.

I am submitting things again!

Or, soon I am.

See, for a while I had this thing known in the “real world” of “adults who don’t have master’s degrees in the fine arts” as “a job,” and that really put a damper on my writing productivity. Instead of coming home from work, sitting down at the computer, and happily pouring out all the creative thoughts that had been brewing in my head all day, I would come home from work, sit down on the couch (which in my house is my bed), and stare vacantly into whatever show on Hulu or Netflix I was currently using for escapism until I fell asleep at an obscenely early hour or a friend contacted me to go drink away our communal misery together. And all those creative thoughts that had been brewing all day? They never existed in the first place. Or if they did attempt to poke their little heads into the light, they were swiftly drowned by the over-worked, under-appreciated, absolutely-no-natural-light-because-WHY-ARE-THERE-NO-WINDOWS-HERE-I’M-BECOMING-A-MOLE-PERSON-BECAUSE-I-NEVER-SEE-THE-SUN, mind-fuck soup of my existence.

However, since I broke free of the leash of responsible employment (i.e. quit), and after a short recovery period of travel and doing absolutely nothing to overcome my 9-to-5 trauma, the writing has been coming along nicely. Or somewhat nicely. My process is still very, well, non-processy. I found out a long time ago that I work best in the morning–strangely, since I am NOT a morning person–and the reason for this is because I have to cut myself off at the pass before I start doing anything else with my day that could distract me or provide a convenient excuse for not writing. These potential disastrous activities include: going to the grocery store, reading the news, cleaning house, paying bills, showering, or explaining these disastrous activities on my blog (yes, it’s already too late for me), to name a few. If I so much as wake up and then start reading my daily websites, that could be a trigger into a spiral of useless internet surfing and GIF giggling and YouTube watching that ends with me half-way through a bag of potato chips and mowing through the entire season of some brain-numbing CW show about vampires in high school.

Continue reading

Literary Deathmatch: Print vs. Online

Interesting side note: That’s actually a cast of my actual teeth, there. I got to keep it after my dentist made me a mouth guard to wear at night so I stop grinding my teeth to nubs. I was way more excited about keeping the teeth.

So Hunger Mountain, the lovely journal that published “Last Dog” back in the fall, will be putting the story on their website sometime this month. I’m thrilled about this, because this means I can link to it! I get very excited about linking to things. However, I also get, like, Christmas-excited when I get a print journal in the mail. So which is better, print or online? Let us decide this in the age-old manner passed down from the gods: Compare/Contrast!

-Made of real materials, paper and ink. -Made of zeros and ones and magic.
-You can touch it, hold it, nuzzle it against your face, sleep with it under your pillow. -You can touch your computer screen, but it’s not the same, and skin oils aren’t good for computer screens.
-It exists as a real object in your house, and when your eyes land on it accidentally at any given time, you can smile and think, “Yes, I am in there. Good job, me.” -It does not exist as a real object in your house, so your eyes can’t accidentally land on it unless you “accidentally” set it as your homepage and look upon it with great ecstasy every morning when you open your browser for a month straight.
-You can show it to your grandma who thinks the computer box is a tool of Satan. -You can show it to anyone with internet access, anywhere in the world. Even strangers on your blog!
-People who want to read it have to pay money, which is great for the journal, but somewhat unlikely unless the prospective buyer is related to you or loves you very much. -People can read it for free, which means they’re more likely to read it, and that’s better exposure for the writer.
-You can find it in a library. -You can look it up on a computer in a library?
-A lot of people believe print journals are more prestigious. -Online journals are getting more and more impressive every day, so much so that many print journals are starting or have already started an online component in order to be able to compete.
-You can spill coffee on it, misplace it, lose it in a fire, or it can go out of print. -It is IMMORTAL.

Continue reading

I know I am part of the problem, but after this can we have a media storm about a Good Work of Literature already please?

Earlier this month I wrote this little diddy about the whole Katie Roiphe feminists-can’t-be-submissive-in-bed thing, and then a few days ago my mom and I had another phone conversation on the topic that went something like this:

Mom: Have you read this book 50 Shades of Grey?

Me: No, still haven’t. I wrote a blog post about it, though.

Mom: Oh did you! What is it about?

Me: The media getting all ridiculously riled up about the S/M scenes. There was this one essay by Katie–

Mom: I KNOW! It’s so disturbing! I don’t understand how anyone can enjoy reading about that! That’s why I’m not going to read it. It’s just trash. I don’t think its worth my time.

Me: Well, it probably isn’t worth your time. Not cause of the S/M, but more because it’s probably just not worth much. And that’s not really what I wrote the post–

Mom: I don’t even understand what S/M is. What is S/M?

Me: We’re not having this conversation anymore.

Perhaps I should send this to her and let Ellen give her the gist:

On a related note, there’s a great short interview over at Paper Darts with Roxane Gay (my current writer crush and general sayer of wise and insightful things) in which she drops some wisdom about erotica:

I’m not even sure that the goal [of erotica] is to become more respected. As a culture, we struggle to respect expressions of sexuality. We see this at every level. Until our culture changes, there’s no place for literary erotica to reach for. Within the literary community, erotica will gain more respect when the writing gets better. I’ve read the 50 Shades trilogy and the story is pretty hilarious and at times hot, but the writing is abominable in every possible way. There’s a reason why people are pointing fingers. There is great erotica out there but most of it focuses on the erotics and less on the writing and that’s fine. While there are different opinions in the erotica community, are we really reading erotica for a complex intellectual experience? I just want to be turned on. I’m not looking for Pulitzer-worthy prose.

Amen, Roxane! The point of erotica, like vampire TV shows, Britney Spears, and the art you buy at Target, is not to be High Art. The point is to provide simple empty pleasure in some form or another. And ain’t nothing wrong with that. (You should probably go read the rest of it, because she has lots of other Incredibly Awesome Shit to say about writing uncomfortable topics, genre fiction, and small towns, too.  Also, Paper Darts is super cool.)

And speaking of vampire TV shows, I am now going to go watch some Being Human (the U.K. version) on Netflix. A vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost are flatmates? WHAAAAT? That’s crazy talk! And oh, Mitchell, Mitchell. You’re so bad but you try to be so good and I love you for it! And you also look really hot when your eyes go all black and your fangs come out. I love this shit.

And ain't nothing wrong with that.

This is Not About You. Or, a Publication with Accompanying Non-Academic Musings About the Second Person.

I'm in there.

A few days ago, to my immense pleasure, I found two copies of the new issue of Third Coast in the mailbox, with my story “Upper Middle Class Houses” inside. I wish that happened in the mail more often. Because dear god there is almost no better feeling in the world than seeing your name in a table of contents! Is this somehow related to a need for approval? Affirmation by a third party who is not your mother that you are good at writing? Yes, of course, yes, that’s part of it. All writers, unless you are some impermeable bastion of self-confidence, need a little boost sometimes, a reminder that all that hard work and pouring out of emotion and soul-poking exploration of what it really means to be human is worth it. But also, more than that, it is the thrill of knowing people you have never met will be reading this thing you put together out of words, and that maybe, just maybe, those words will connect with that stranger in some way, elicit some emotion, however brief, and make them see some small facet of life anew for a moment.

And what a wonderful thing it is to be a part of that.

New-publication-gushing aside, this is a topic I’ll return to at some point (i.e. Why the Fuck We Write), but back to my original purpose of writing this post: half-brained musings on the second person point of view. Exciting, I know.

This story in Third Coast is one of those that appeared unexpectedly when I was trying to write about something else. Specifically, when I was trying to finish my thesis. But when a story comes knocking of its own accord, without you having to stand outside the door pounding and begging and sleeping on the stoop in the freezing rain, you have to answer it. And to my surprise, this story demanded to be in second person. That’s the only way it would exist, the only way the voice felt right. I wrote it entirely in the span of one nearly sleepless night, and I remember standing on my balcony in the snow (I was living in Nashville at the time, not New Orleans) with headphones and a cigarette, bouncing up and down on my toes with anxious energy, trying to re-write the story into first person or third person and failing. Finally, I gave in. I stopped resisting the second person and just went with it. And hey, it apparently worked. Possibly, it was a fluke. But I’m going to pretend otherwise.

Continue reading

Rainy Saturdays are for doing absolutely nothing, except for this.

Rainy Saturday mornings are the best. On sunny or partly cloudy Saturday mornings, one may feel pressure to get up and DO something. Like finish one’s health insurance paperwork. Or pick one’s socks up off the floor. Or get outside and enjoy the beautiful day. When really, all any of us want to do is stay in bed and do absolutely nothing useful. Am I right?

So let’s celebrate that with some relaxing, lazy, beautifully gloomy rainy day photos. All taken by me with my iPhone, in places ranging from Louisiana to Pennsylvania to France, sometime between October 2011 and this morning, using either Instagram or Hipstamatic, cause I’m a hipsta like that. Enjoy, and happy Saturday.

This is the only thing I’ve done so far today. I hope your Saturday is going just as well.