Life was joyous and exhausting when I was parent to a very small child, and I couldn’t figure out how to fit in much writing, or exercise, or sleep, or a million other things. I would daydream of an expanse of unbroken time, vaguely recalling what it had been like to concentrate for more than fifteen minutes on any one thing. Sometimes, I wished for a second me to hold the baby for a minute or two. Or, sleep, a solid week of it to catch me up, so I could become fully human again. I wished for a room for only writing, but I didn’t apply to any residencies—not even when my child was older, talking nonstop, no longer helpless—though I’d found residencies magical before becoming a parent. The hurtles seemed too hard to clear, starting with the sheer amount of time many programs offer (often a full month), far more time than I could be apart from my child. On top of that, there was the daunting task of finding childcare.Continue reading “Residencies, Conferences, Grants, and Resources for Writers Who Are Parents”
A flash fiction story of mine called “Dogs Who Break My Heart” is up at Epiphany! During a period when I was feeling bewildered and exhausted by the tangle that is my maybe-novel, I turned to working on this flash piece as a breather. It was such a relief to write a really short story, something I could easily hold the whole arc of in my mind. Many thanks to editor Diego Medina.
I’m teaching an online fiction writing class this August, and I’m really looking forward to it. My own writing routine is sometimes disrupted by the complications of daily life, even when there is not a pandemic raging. I’ve got a few tricks and tools I rely on to get back to the page and inspired once more. In the class, we’ll focus on generating new story ideas, developing material that intrigues us, and generally getting unstuck and inspired once again.
The class will meet three times via Zoom, and proceeds will go to support Philadelphia Stories, a gem of a magazine that supports local writers and artists in a multitude of ways. Find out more and register here.
Zadie Smith has been thinking about the same questions I’ve been grappling with lately, though she does so with far more precision, nuance, and erudition. I recommend her essay: “Fascinated to Presume: In Defense of Fiction.”
A belated brag on behalf of the husband: he made this music video for Washed Out. It’s been a while since he’s worked on his own animations. He puts most of his creative energy into projects for work lately, and telling wild, serialized bedtime stories to the little one. Juggling family, paying work, and art-making is tough, and we clearly haven’t figured it out yet.
A few weeks after Donald Trump’s inauguration, I went to a party at my neighbors’ house. I didn’t know any neighbors beyond hellos, and I went to this gathering alone. My husband was at home, putting our two-year-old to bed. I liked the hosts, their warmth, their humor. The bookshelves in their living room were full of novels. On a top shelf was the book I was currently reading: they were people who bought literary novels in hardback. When the host asked after my own writing, I admitted I was working on a novel. This was sort of true and sort of not. In the immediate aftermath of the election, all I found myself writing were angry missives to Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, letters to the mayor, protest signs.
My neighbor asked the obvious question: what is your novel about?
Many writers dislike this question, even when the person asking is well meaning and interested. Pinning down a narrative arc, or a theme, can become an obstacle to filling blank pages or shaping a draft. All the best bits of my own writing emerge out of a messy muck. But, I wasn’t hesitating because muck is hard to summarize.
I really didn’t know what my novel was about. For a moment, I couldn’t remember it at all. Not one character, not one scene.Continue reading “On Being Derailed”
I won an award! I’m over the moon that Robin Black, an author whose work I love, has chosen my short story, “The Hothouse Lounge,” for the Marguerite McGlinn Prize. And how fitting that this particular story should find a home in Philadelphia Stories. It’s the first story I’ve ever set in Philadelphia, this city I live in and love.
This painting by J. Rossi (titled Trees in Orange) was the cover image for the 2016 fall issue of Philadelphia Stories.
One recent morning, my husband picked up his phone and made a puzzled face. He had hundreds of new emails. It turned out a Vimeo staff member had chosen one of his animations, Turkey, as a Staff Pick, and now people were watching it. Lots of people. Since that morning, his video has been viewed over 130,000 times. Being an artist means working without any acknowledgement of your effort a lot of the time. My husband works hard, and he’s motivated to do that because he enjoys making things, but it’s nice to reach a wide audience with what results.