“The Norton Anthology of Self-Destructive Behavior”:

This story was one that unfolded itself gradually over time. It started with the title which came to me one day during a residency NewImage for my MFA. I wrote down the title and even got so far as writing down a list of self-destructive behaviors, but put it aside for a while after that.

I picked it up again a year later and wrote the first draft pretty quickly and painlessly. The “zeroeth-person” point of view of the story was something that just evolved as I wrote the story when I was about halfway through and realized that I hadn’t written in first, second or third-person, exactly. Pretty much everything emerged from my subconscious in the writing process.

Then I put the first draft away and didn’t look at it for three years. When I worked on the rewrite, I found my self thinking that I had something really good here and I worried about ruining it. I spent some time revising it and then in May of 2018 I sent it out on submission.

It got rejected, but it had a very high level of positive responses. I let it lie fallow for a while longer, and then pulled it back up once I was back in a writing group. Probably the single most important thing was identifying one of the sections, “Violence towards others” as problematic. That was enough to, I thought, make the story perfect or at least close to it. It garnered a few more rejections, but now I was getting personalized rejections from journals who had only ever sent me form letters before. Eventually, it was picked up by Meniscus, the Journal of the AAWP.

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Writerly resolutions: June status

Progress has slowed but not stalled on the novel.NewImage Rewriting chapter 26 is a challenge since I’ve also been reading multiple books about the Exodus 1947 which is at the center of the chapter which has often revealed details that required rewriting scenes as well as occasional direct contradictions between one source and the next.

Rewriting the short story is also progressing slowly and I have just one week to get it done and revised if I want to have it for my next turn up with my writing group.

And the most recent acceptance has also turned into a publication. Meniscus is the journal which was the first to publish one of my poems, so it was nice to return to their pages in a different genre.

Something Interesting: Microwave Lasagna

I’ve (finally) released the first post on my mailing list. It’s about microwave lasagna. There’s also a recommendation and a link to my latest story. 

Dewey Decimal Project: 910.45 DUN Pirate women : the princesses, prostitutes, and privateers who ruled the Seven Seas

Looking for a different change of pace, for thCover of Pirate Womene 910s—Geography and Travel—I decided to give this book about women pirates a look. Of course, as Duncombe is quick to acknowledge, there is little information about her subject available. In some cases the “pirate” women (Duncombe is a bit expansive in her definition of pirate) may have existed only in legend, and for those who did exist, the documentary evidence is slim.

Still, it’s nice to see reminders that piracy extends beyond the “golden age” of pirates—the Pirates of the Caribbean–style buccaneers that dominate the American imagination, and that there were pirates in other places and times. There are times when the tone gets a bit didactic and Duncombe spends more time than is necessary belaboring the lack of information about her subjects, but it was an entertaining enough read.

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Dewey Decimal Project: 901 JAC Dark Age Ahead

This was my first read for this project after the NewImage ibrary reopened after the first Covid shutdown. In the apocalyptic summer of 2020, this seemed an appropriate introduction to the final 100 of the Dewey Decimal System—history.

Written in 2004, Jacobs was warning of an impending “dark age” where we wiykd see a collapse of society through cultural amnesia.

The future is notoriously difficult to predict, and Jacobs, has her flaws as a futurist. Certainly, she failed to see the danger of the rise of Trumpism and anti-democratic movements both in the U.S. and across the world, but while her specifics were often off, she did accurately assess broad issues with the culture that persist with or without Trumpism and even with the anti-democratic forces still a threat, other issues continue to be problematic. Certainly, in the midst of the pandemic, seeing many in power insist that economic continuity trumped all was a shining example of what Jacobs called bad science.

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Writerly resolutions: May status

I continue to make progress on the novel,Progress on the novel—steady increase through the first half of the month, then a complete 1st draft, and the rest of the month I've been reading what I have for the 2nd draft rewrite with the first draft of chapter 26 done. It’s a big chapter—28 pages—so reading what I have in preparation for the second draft rewrite is taking a while and I keep making changes as I do my research (this is probably the best-documented historical event in the novel so there’s a wealth of material to use).

The rewrite of the short story is progressing, albeit more slowly than I would like still. The rewrite draft is revealing things I didn’t know before which is a good problem to have. I did miss my writers’ group deadline with the rewrite (maybe this month?) so I pulled another story out of my backlog and have a big rewrite to do on that one too.

The “publication soon” happened. And there’s another acceptance in the mean time. I love my writing group. They’re an outstanding bunch of readers with great insights into my work and its deficiencies.

Dewey Decimal Project: 892.1 GIL Þ

For a long time, I had managed to confuse in my mind GCover of Gilgameshilgamesh and Beowulf, most likely because of the earliness of the two narratives. I did puzzle about how I had managed to miss the flood story in Beowulf, not realizing my mistake. But then, I have a long history of this sort of confusion: as a child I had thought that Hogan’s Heroes and MASH were the same show and couldn’t understand why sometimes they were trying to escape. And after nearly two years, my wife pointed out that the Director of Curriculum and Director of Administration at my kids’ school are two different people.

But I’m older and (a little) wiser now so I know that Gilgamesh and Beowulf are different works and I hadn’t read the former, so when I got to the 890s, which encompasses the literatures of anywhere that doesn’t use the languages of Western Europe, I decided to pick up this book. 

Reader, I was amazed. It’s a gripping story, one which feels almost modern in its concerns. Certainly, there are parts that feel fable-like, but overall it’s a fascinating read and its interest extends beyond its presentation of a version of the flood myth which predates the Hebrew Bible. I’m surprised that no one has made a film of the story. It would make a good movie.

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Dewey Decimal Project: 882 EUR Iphigeneia at Aulis

Greek literature gets its own decade in the Cover of Iphigeneia at Aulis800s and I decided to pull this one off the shelf since (a) I’ve heard the title before (thanks to an assortment of operas whose titles I’ve heard even if I’ve never seen/heard any of them) and (2) it was reasonably short.

Many of the classic Greek stories are familiar even if we’ve not read the source material. I read Oedipus Rex a few months before I read this play and although I’d not read the Sophocles before, I still knew the outline of the story well thanks to its being deeply ingrained in the culture. On the other hand I’d managed somehow to not know this story which is part of the broader narrative of the Trojan war. The story is a dark tale, a tragedy in the classical Greek sense of the word, and Merwin’s translation makes it all the more powerful. I can see why it was a popular source for so many operas.

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“Saint Anthony in West Hollywood”: The Story Behind the Story

My newest story, “Saint Anthony in West Hollywood” is up now at The Rappahannock Review.

I began with a vague notion of a saint in the modern world, or perhaps someone who was delusional and just thought he was the saint, leaving the trStatue of Saint Anthony holding the Christ Childuth purposefully indeterminate. I had no idea which saint or where. Then little by little, things came to me. Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, and West Hollywood, which gave me some idea of the other protagonist of the story.

I have a bizarre fondness for second person, partly because my first published story was in second person, and partly because for this piece, it’s planned as part of a collection where the POV has a subtle coding to something about the story and “Saint Anthony in West Hollywood” fits into neither category. Just as well, I think that the second person fits it nicely.

There’s an interview with me (my first ever) accompanying the story.

Thanks to those with whom I’ve workshopped this story, Aaron Frankel, Paul Gee, Diane Gilette, Davy McNell, Laura Nelson, Gwen Tolios and Matt Zakosek. The first draft of this was begun at a writer’s retreat hosted by Sister Julia Walsh where, for the first time, I read in public an unpublished excerpt of my work, in this case, the opening scene of this story.

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Writerly resolutions: April status

I continue to make decent progress on the novel. graph of progress on the novel for april, steady progress with a big leap in the last week of the month till perfect on my goal of working on the novel every day. I’ve cracked the 85,000 word mark on the novel and chapter 26 is currently at 6,800 words and counting. I think my guess that it will hit 10,000 words is not too far off.

Thanks to looking at the footnotes on the Exodus 1947, I found Aviva Halamish’s The Exodus Affair, which was exactly the book I needed for research on chapter 26. 

I got to an end on the short story. at about 8,100 words so now it’s time to do a complete rewrite on what I have. I have a better idea of the aboutness of the piece so it should go a little faster and with luck I’ll have a version I can workshop in time for my next turn at writers’ group.

There will be a publication update soon. 

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