Book: launched.

Eagle and the Arrow, book, author

I did a little reading in a big room.

Last night was the launch party for The Eagle & The Arrow at Fairfield University in Connecticut. It was incredible. In fact, I’m still recovering.

Fairfield University let me throw the party in the lobby of the Kelley Center, and 50 people from so many areas of my life came to celebrate. People actually came in from out of state for this, including the wonderful reviewer Ally of Word Vagabond, who drove seven hours to join us, half the staff of Geek Eccentric and my amazing editor N. Apythia Morges, who not only drove for hours, but helped us set up, break down, introduced my reading, urged people to rate my books online, and took all my photos.

Speaking of which, I have many, many photos to share. Check this album on my Facebook page to see them all. If you were there, feel free to tag yourself!

If you missed the party and wanted to come, no worries. I have an awesome event coming up: A Trench Coat Party.

That will be happening on Thursday July 18 at Made in Bridgeport in – you guessed it – Bridgeport, CT.

I will be writing more about that soon.

Reading on Enders Island.

Fairfield MFA

Reading today at Enders Island. If it looks like I’m on an altar, that’s because I am. Enders is a religious retreat, hence the cross and pulpit and stained glass. There’s also a relic in that church, but that’s another story entirely.

I’m back from my MFA program’s alumni day, which welcomes alums back to Enders Island for a meal and a hangout and allows us to attend a seminar and pretend that we’re still in school. Today I took a poetry seminar. I’m not a poet, but the teacher of the seminar I took is Baron Wormser, and he’s incredible, as you’d expect a poet laureate of Maine to be.  I’ve now taken two of his seminars, and just like the first seminar I took with him, this one – which explored argument in poetry – simultaneously inspired me and made my brain hurt.

The administration also very graciously allows us alumni authors to come back and read from our work during a special reading period, which is followed by a group book signing. I didn’t expect to be invited as a reader this residency, since I read last residency, but I was delighted to be invited back to the island to read alongside novelist Chris Belden and poet Colin Halloran.  Being a part of that line-up is no joke.

It’s also really cool for me for another reason: although I read primarily from Beware the Hawk, I was also able to read a taster from the upcoming book, The Eagle and the Arrow. One of the beautiful things about being part of the Fairfield MFA program is that it’s a safe place to share new work, and all three of us did that.

My husband was on camera duty for the reading, and I’m posting the fruits of his labors on my Facebook page. We had some technical difficulties with the lens, but he managed to get photos of the other readers as well. Feel free to visit, like the photos, comment, tag yourself and whatnot.

Publicity for me and a fellow MFA alum.

Check out the flier created for me and fellow Fairfield University MFA alumni poet (whew, that’s a mouthful) Colin D. Halloran.  The kind people at our MFA alma mater, Fairfield U, put it together for us. Thank you, guys! I will be there on Oct. 10 and Colin will be there on Oct. 19.

Colin’s collection, Shortly Thereafter, which centers on veternan’s issues (Colin himself is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan) will be released on October 12; he will be at the Fairfield University bookstore a mere week after the release, for a reading and signing.

I’ll be there nine days earlier, and as you know if you read this blog regularly, I’m looking for reader input about my talk that night.

 

Help me decide what to talk about at my Oct. 10 appearance in Fairfield.

Have I mentioned that I’m going to be reading from and talking about Beware the Hawk at the Fairfield University Bookstore yet?

I will be there on Wednesday, Oct. 10, and instead of doing my regular reading from Beware the Hawk, I thought I’d try something that was suggested to me by author Matt Dicks. I thought I’d discuss the process of writing and publishing the book, then read a little, then answer questions. I think this might work better for me than just reading from the book for a very practical reason:

My book is a 40-page novella, and so there are really only two 20 minute readings I can pull from it without a) having to explain too much or b) delivering any spoilers. Also, I’d hate for anyone who’s been kind enough to come out to see me twice have to sit through the same excerpts. That would be mean.

Because of this, I’m thinking that I’ll probably talk about how Beware the Hawk sat unfinished in a drawer for nine years before it saw the light of day.

Or I can talk about how I got the idea for the novella and how that idea evolved over a decade.

Or I can talk about novellas in general.

Or I can talk about e-books.

I’m turning to you to help me decide, my friends. The reason? Well, the name contest  was wildly successful, although I cannot reveal the winner until the next book comes out. So I’m going to post a poll here and on my Facebook page, and hopefully you’ll help me decide. Scroll down for the poll!

Announcement time: Stamford appearance and reading in Mystic.

It’s on the Internets, so I feel like it’s probably time to announce this here:

  • I will be the featured reader at the Stamford Town Center’s Barnes & Noble Poetry Night on Monday, August 13. The event starts at 8 p.m. There will be other readers before me and after me, but I will be reading and I will have books with me. Need more info? Here’s the announcement.

It feels weird to be announcing an appearance in Stamford, when I live so close, because I make “appearances” in Stamford fairly often. Some of my recent “appearances” include a) picking up a new battery at the Apple Store b) that time when I sleepily and mistakenly got off the train from NYC at the wrong stop and c) once when we met some cousins for dinner.

But it’s also really cool to be appearing in Stamford because that’s my old coverage area. (For the uninitiated, “coverage area” is  reporter-speak for “the town in which I used to cover board of education committee meetings.”) I used to spend a lot of time in Stamford. I even covered the work of local authors there, so it’s pretty cool to be headed there for a reading myself.

I totally have to thank my MFA colleague Nick Miele for setting this up for me. He’s a poet and he will also be reading.

  • Speaking of the MFA…. I will be reading on Thursday, July 19 in Mystic, at my MFA program’s  Alumni Day. I will post something separate about this, but the readings will run from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Chapel at Enders. I will be reading with David Fitzpatrick, Deb Henry and Annabelle Moseley. It’s auspicious company, to say the absolute least. I will blog more about this later in the week, because oh my god. All three of these colleagues have reached insane career heights in the last year and you need to know more about them.

Lastly, you all have three days to get name suggestions for my main character to me. Then the voting begins.

Writing like crazy. And when I say “crazy,” I mean it.

If I haven’t posted here much in the last two weeks, it’s because I’ve been writing, and when I’m writing every day, I’m barely fit for human company outside of my writing groups and my paid work. In fact, writing and teaching is all I have energy for.

I don’t call. I don’t write. I spend all my time upstairs in my office, pacing or typing. Laundry piles up. If we have food in the house, I snack constantly. If we don’t, I live on tea and iTunes playlists. I don’t vacuum until I’m regularly having asthma attacks. If I do get dragged to a social event, I’m a bore, because I’m likely to talk about people who don’t exist and things that never happened. I forget to wish people a happy birthday on Facebook.  It all goes straight to hell.

Despite the fact that writing turns me into the modern-day equivalent of Jane Eyre‘s Mad Bertha, I really like this state. If I’m writing 500-1000 words a day and teaching well, I feel like I’m doing my job.

I have this fictionalized idea of myself writing 1000 words a day, teaching, but also updating the blog regularly and doing things like laundry. That person doesn’t exist. Maybe someday she will, but not now.

That said, I do have some things I want to post on the blog sooner rather than later. I have to update the store with a new tee shirt, which I am working on, and I also read from Beware the Hawk at last Friday’s Fairfield University MFA reading at the Fairfield U. bookstore (thank you, Phil Lemos, for your reading slot.) I recorded myself reading the first few pages of the book. If the recording is any good, I will edit it together and post the link… if I’m not typing and talking to myself, that is. No promises.

What my MFA program gave me.

This is where our residencies are held.

On Saturday, I graduated from my MFA program in Mystic, Connecticut. We had one more day at the residency, and now, I’m settling down to eat some lunch and do some laundry at home. I want to reflect on the program in a post, but because I’m still a little fried from 10 days of workshops, seminars, heavy drinking and various other writing-related activities, a proper blog post is beyond my abilities.

Luckily, yesterday I took a seminar, given by Porochista Khakpour, on experimental writing, and now I don’t feel the need to adhere to traditional forms.

So here, in no particular order, is a list of some of  of the things I’ve gained from Fairfield University’s Master of Fine Arts program on Enders Island in Mystic:

 

An MFA in Creative Writing, with a concentration in creative fiction

Five pounds

At least 100 Facebook friends

At least 10 really close friends

The pleasure of working with four talented published authors, who mentored me and read my work

The pleasure of having workshops with nine other published professors, and of taking seminars from many more

The honor of drinking a lot of Crane Lake table wine with almost every professor in the program, whether I worked with them or not

The company of poets

Several short stories that I might be able to publish

Two that I did/will publish

A trio of ill-conceived poems, inspired by Crane Lake table wine, sleepless nights and the company of poets

An article

Writing groups

Hundreds of bug bites

Dark circles under my eyes

A deep aversion to salads

The knowledge that my liver can still take abuse

A rudimentary understanding of LinkedIn

A first draft of a novel

The understanding that there is a big difference between the first draft of a novel and something that is good enough to show to an agent/publisher/my mother

The knowledge that I have to interview at least six drag queens in order for my novel to work

A funny-looking cap and gown and hood

Resilience during workshops

The ability to at least be quiet during workshop if I can’t be resilient

A love of strong verbs

An almost Pavlovian response to seeing bottles of Crane Lake table wine

50 other ideas for other novels that I can’t pursue until I hand this piece to an agent/publisher/my mother

Student loans that will come due any second now

A few connections

Some pointers on living my life after the MFA

A suspicion that life post-MFA will be a lot like life during the MFA, only without monthly packets and with student loans

The chance to see Wally Lamb, Sue Silverman, Mary Karr, Charles Simic, Philip Schultz and Rick Moody as they read from their work.

The haunting phrase, “Go get the eggs, you dwarf,” courtesy of Rick Moody’s reading in 2009.

An aversion to adverbs

A very, very long list of books I want to read

A long list of books that I have read

The knowledge that I may die at a very old age without having been able to read every book mentioned by every person I met at the program

The experience of being a fiction reader for Mason’s Road journal

The experience of being a T.A.

Two years of predetermined plans on New Year’s Eve

An ability to follow my bliss

Thank you, Fairfield University. This was exactly what I needed.

Revision day.

Today is the day I get down to business. Today is the day I make all adjustments and revisions to my manuscript before sending it off to my faculty mentor.

Revisions = arts and crafts. Those things on the floor are orphaned scenes.

This is a task I’ve been putting off, because it horrifies me. The first draft of this novel is not finished. Revising feels like going backwards. I don’t particularly want to read what I wrote in the first chapters. I hate having to put scenes in order when not all the scenes are written yet. I really hate the idea of making cuts to the manuscript this early in the game.
But since this is for a structured academic program, that’s what I’m going to have to do. And let’s face it: my mentor is probably going to want to read a draft with as few misspellings and typos as possible, so I have no choice but to make the manuscript presentable now.

The good thing is this: By the end of the day, I’ll have a very good idea about the shape of the story I’m trying to tell, and all of my scenes will be, roughly, in order.

So let’s do this thing – no Facebook, no Twitter, no email until I am done revising. I may have my husband unplug our router.

Clean manuscript or bust.

The MFA frenzy.

I’ve been back for a few days from my grad school residency on Enders Island, and I’m ready to blog again.

The gardens at Enders when it’s not extremely cold.

Before you all read this, I have to warn you: I have the MFA frenzy. It happens whenever I return from my creative writing MFA residency in Mystic, Conn. and it continues for about a month. During this time, I write like I’ve been taking uppers, talk incessantly about story arcs, character flaws,  scene vs summary, you get the idea. I apologize in advance.

For those who don’t know, let me explain where I’ve been. Enders Island, a religious retreat in Mystic, Conn.,  is the location for the Fairfield University Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing residency. (If you click on the link, I’m in the picture at the top of the page. You can just barely see my pink hat in the back row.) I’ve lived on Enders for 10 days every six months for the past two years. My cohort and I take all our classes there; we workshop our writing and take seminars and study with established authors. Every year when I come back home after my residency, someone always asks me if I’m sorry to leave the island.

My answer to that is no. It’s not easy to spend 10 days at a workshop with lots of other writers. Ask Chuck Palahniuk.

But, and this is a big but, I really need the residencies in order to be productive. And honestly, I’m not looking forward to graduating, because that means I’ll no longer have the creative kick in the pants that the residency provides.

Allow me to explain. In some ways, the MFA residency is run on the same principle as a boot camp. By the end of 10 days, I am physically ground down. I haven’t slept, I haven’t eaten that much, and I’ve been living in such close quarters with others that my personal space is all out of whack. I almost always leave the island with an ailment or a minor injury.  I  spend the final two days of every residency in a strange creative fog. I can’t pay attention to normal things, like conversation, or lunch, or tying my shoes, but a different part of my brain kicks in. I find myself thinking in poetry, and everything becomes a writing exercise. People become studies for character development. I start using active verbs, like “scrub” and “dive,” in small talk.  Nothing matters, by the end, except the work.

Once I get home and get some sleep, the writing begins, and does not stop for months. I’m not sure how I’m going to sustain that level of inspiration without the residency.

Another thing that’s amazing about the residency is that when I come home, I am always convinced that I will publish my novel. I’m utterly confident that my novel will be published, optioned, and translated, and that I will be able to eke out at least a modest living on my words. I write short fiction and poems and I send them out to literary magazines. They ignore me and reject me, and I don’t even care, because I am positive that someone will accept my work. It is bizarre. To hear me talk, when I come back from residency, you would think that I had already published a novel.

And, you know, I think that’s the way to be. Writing a novel (and getting it published) is my dream. If I were to allow myself to be discouraged by the cold hard facts of publishing, I wouldn’t even try to finish the manuscript. I certainly wouldn’t involve colleagues, professors, graduate programs and writing groups in a novel that I thought might fail. I wouldn’t want to disappoint the people I respect.  I wouldn’t want to waste their time. And at this point, I’ve involved at least 15 other people in my novel by asking them to workshop it, listen to it or talk with me about it.

So now there’s no room for failure. Especially now, because in the next few months I have to finish my novel in order to graduate.