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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Out of Time Readings

Out of Time Reading Series (with annotations):

Monday, May 7th: River Styx Literary Feast. Read "The Last Cigarette." Couldn't eat delicious-looking food beforehand (not really nervous, just superstitious.) First time I left the lovely daughters alone to fend for themselves through dinner and bedtime (they're teenagers. I helicopter). Distracted. Adrian Matejka read first. Charmingly awesome as always. Largeish crowd, super quiet. Why did I read a story for a celebration that's about the world ending, over and over? Walked off feeling like I'd messed up. But afterwards, many compliments and a few books sold. Note to self: memorize pronunciation of "aubrietias."

Thursday, April 12th: Little Grassy Festival, Carbondale. Read "The Last Cigarette." Excellent questions from smart graduate students after. I am thinking of ways to write more accessible fiction, because it would be nice not to always have to articulate a defense of the experimental. Or, you know, the weird. It would be nice to be the two-fisted realist. These thoughts have nothing at all to do with reception at Little Grassy, which was warm and happy. Allison Joseph and Jon Tribble as always supergenerous with time and hearts. Sequoia Nagamatsu and Nick Ostdick take good care of me; all students very interesting and fun. Excellent readings by Claire Mcquerry, Cynthia Huntington, and Elizabeth Crane Brandt. Fiction panel Friday. In the lobby after, a contest for "edible fiction." My favorite was "One Flew Over the Cous-Cous Nest." Drove there and back praying awesome Nissan has a few thousand more miles in her.

Thursday, March 8th. Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven. Tiniest airport ever. Old friend Tim Parrish, looking out for me, lands me a reading with Margot Schilpp. Introduction like a roast. I did many embarrassing things when I was in graduate school. Richard Newman will also make note of this in May. I choose to take it as a sign of affection that people will tell these stories about me that make me blush. The room was packed, and my kind of crowd -- they picked up on the edge and the fizz in the story. "The Last Cigarette." I read it, increasingly, "like a poet." It has a metered prose, though; hard not to put on the poet's voice.

December. Read at "Afterwords Books" in downtown Edwardsville, next to Sacred grounds, now owned by former student and ex-neighbor Luann Locke. I remember the nonfiction piece she was working on in the independent study I had with her, and hope she still writes. Other former students stop by. Super colleagues Isaiah Smithson, Allison Funk, Joel Hardman, and Laurie Puchner are there, as well as my mom and oldest daughter. I read the short autobiographical pieces but they don't read very well out loud. Lesson learned. 

November. Super reader and promotional wiz Stacey Lynn Brown puts together a release reading at SIUE Bookstore. I have learned a lot about reading from her, and promoting a book, even though I can't be very agressive about it with my teaching schedule and having the kids every other week. My parents are in the crowd, which is fun during the Q&A. Dad requests the short "Chapter" that stars him and my sister tracking a raccoon in Delaware. A nice crowd, which is a blessing on your home turf. Once went back to read at IVCC and there were only four people there. But they were four hard-listening and friendly people. Once read in a bar in Mobile and was glad not to have chosen the life of a stand-up comic.

October. Pre-release reading of "The Last Cigarette" at Rend Lake. Peggy Davis is awesome! Nice get-together after at a winery. Student Mike Warden talks me into meeting with his book group, which I do later, in May, and read the platypus story. The nice thing about reading "The Last Cigarette" is that it is sectioned vignettes, so I can drop pieces without it making much of a difference. It builds to a nice lyrical double-ending that I know I read well. It has sections with Marjane Satrapi and Barack Obama that I like (though the pronunciation of Gauloise and Sacre-Coure Basilica always messes with me), and a section with Keith Richards that never works as well as I want it to. Vladimir the Squirrel Monkey always works, and is perfectly placed. I miss reading from Write Your Heart Out, which I got very good at, and which was funny and goofy and made people relax and laugh. Note to Self: write more funny but moving stories soon, with or without monkeys and/or dogs.

Yes, and yes: the book is available from University of North Texas Press, or can be found on Amazon.

Yes, yes, yes: I will read anywhere, and happily, and I will visit classrooms and read student work, and happily. Contact me at my SIUE email account or on Facebook, and I will say yes to you. And yes and yes and yes.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fun Facts About Out of Time, Part One

Out of Time is a collection of short stories.

It won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for 2011.

The oldest story in it, according to prior publication, is "Wherever You Are, You're Already Gone," which first appeared in The Alaska Quarterly Review in 1993.

When the manuscript was twice as long, it was a finalist or semi-finalist in five other contests.

The newest story in it was written in 2007 or so. It was accepted for publication by a major magazine but never published. But it all turned out okay in the end.

There are two other Chase stories that go with the linked stories in the collection, but they've never been published.

The structure of the collection is based on Hemingway's In Our Time.

Hit Send

So is there anything more terrifying than hitting send at one in the morning, pulling the trigger on the proof edits you've procrastinated on for a week? Attaching that file for the front matter, hoping you didn't forget to thank someone? Praying someone can format the table of contents because you have never been able to do that?

And then forcing yourself to read each story closely. Reading my own work is a game with magnets. Sometimes my prose and my eye are in love, clikclik. But more often, the prose pushes my eye away, skittering, and I have to force myself to read. Only three times did I read a passage that made me cringe. I fixed what I could.

My editor, Karen DeVinney, is very good. Thorough, but not too heavy-handed. Taught me the meaning of the word noisome. I was thinking about other good editors for the stories in the book. Tom Chiarella was by far the most heavy-handed, with "Last Cigarette" but also made the story so much better. It was Jack Heffron, when he was still at Story, who changed my writing forever. He rejected "Man with Gorilla Suit" and said, "I don't think it has an ending yet." I sat down and wrote the last paragraph and it opened up this voice, at once veiled and transparent, free to break with the established rule of the story. I use that voice a lot. That might have been in 1992. It was later taken by The Gettysburg Review. Some of these stories have been waiting to be collected in book form for twenty years. I honestly thought I'd die without seeing that happen.

I was excited to hit send, and terrified. Twenty years is a long time to wait for something to happen. But we never stop hitting send.