Self’s Very Own Apocalyptic Dystopia

Why on earth would self be quoting from The 100 when she has written her own story of apocalyptic dystopia that was published just a few months ago?

Right? Right?

Here again is something from “The Freeze” (Bluestem, Spring 2015). When she realizes how long the story is — it’s a miracle. It’s written in very hallucinatory prose. And she was able to go on like that, without switching voice, for almost 20 pages? Self is always surprised when she can pull something like that off.

To tell the truth, every one of her speculative fiction stories is an experiment. Beginning with the extremely short story, “The Departure,” published in Philippine Genre Stories (thanks to Charles Tan, who solicited it for their very first issue).

She likes applying the dreamy voice to her science fiction.

Moving along.

There is a very terrifying scene in “The Freeze.” But she will skip right over that because she is quite distressed herself after reading it.

No sign of Annie. She had been taken by a great, invisible force. Up, towards the light? Or down to the sea. Who knew?

If there was no body, there could not be a death. That comforted me.

I walked in the gloomy dark until I heard, far away but distinct, the sound of waves pounding the cliffs.

Descend.

Almost overnight, the temperature dropped, and dropped, and dropped.

Mr. King, the old man who lived next door, said, It’s just a cold spell. It will pass.

But two weeks later, it was dark almost the whole day.

The roses blackened, my teeth chattered in my head.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“The Decedent Is Initially Viewed Unclothed”

Self’s story, “The Decedent Is Initially Viewed Unclothed,” is included in Calyx Press’s 40th anniversary collection of prose and poetry, to be published 2016 in partnership with Ooligan Press.

She was particularly happy to learn that “the book will feature an excerpt from the memoir of Margarita Donnelly, who was a founding editor of Calyx.” Margarita passed away December 2014.

And that is all self has to say right now, sorry for this extremely short post.

Stay tuned.

Villanueva + THE WRITING DISORDER + Dust =

To think, self didn’t even try sending out this story, not for years. Until she began trying to put together a new collection. And even then, she only added this one at the last minute, as an afterthought.

It’s about a death.

It was sunny, a glorious day. April was sometimes cold, but Jocelyn thought she could sense summer coming, just around the corner.

The girl who clipped them, that afternoon in April, was just 18. Driving her red Ford Mustang at a speed that was just short of criminal, she’d gotten her driver’s license only that month.

The Ford Explorer rolled over and over and over — for almost two years she saw the image flash into her mind, often just before she lay her head down to sleep. Then she had to get up and pace the bedroom, or take two Ambien if there was something important she needed to do the next day.

She finally sent it to The Writing Disorder. You can read the story here.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Future: “First Life”

A short piece self wrote about a classroom of the future has been accepted by Juked.

This was the magazine that chose “The Hand” to win first place in their fiction contest, 2007.

Self still remembers when she got the call. She had to sit down. It seems like yesterday.

She never could have imagined that, eight years later, she’d be writing science fiction. She loves writing when she can play with the sound of the words, which is what she was trying to do with her story, “First Life”:

The human organism has proven itself completely willful. Narcissism results in confusion. My present condition.

And the consequences? The consequences of this confusion?

Well, extinction.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

2nd Quote of the Day: From Self’s Short Story, “Lizard” Included in the Collection, GINSENG AND OTHER TALES FROM MANILA (Published in the U.S. by Calyx Press)

They must have been sitting there a long time. Her grandmother was leaning forward, saying something in a low, insistent voice, while Wito’s mother listened with bent head. Wito saw how intently her grandmother gazed at her mother, how there seemed to be something about her mother that kept drawing the older woman forward, so that it seemed she might reach out any moment and touch or, perhaps, hit her. Wito saw how her mother hung her head, and knew that she was crying. The back of her neck, covered with fine, black hair, looked narrow and exposed. Wito thought she caught the words shameful and waste, but then her grandmother saw her and broke off aprubtly.

When Wito went up to greet her grandmother, the old woman’s cheek felt dry, like parchment, whereas her mother’s cheek was soft and moist, and when Wito turned to leave, her mother softly said “no” and pulled her close. Her mother’s arms encircled her, forcing her to face her grandmother.

—  Marianne Villanueva, “Lizard,” included in The 100 Best Philippine Short Stories in English, Manila: Tahanan Books, edited by Isagani Cruz

“Thaw” by Luisa A. Igloria

Surprise, surprise, it snowed! In the late afternoon. Self was supposed to go to a reading, but with the snow and all, she chickened out.

Self is rooming with Luisa A. Igloria again. (We were roommates also last year at AWP Seattle) Luisa is very good at attending panels, which is great, because self has been holed up in her hotel room just reading, and if not for Luisa’s recaps she would be in a great blizzard of Know-Nothing.

Self totally bombed about attending the Karen Russell reading this evening. Luisa loved it.

Here’s a poem from Night Willow (Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing) one of two books Luisa had published in 2014 (The other is Ode to the Heart Smaller Than a Pencil Eraser)

Thaw

Warmer days. Light that fades later and later. Finally we can fling the
windows open. The clasps grate and rasp, like throats gargling salt
water first thing in the morning. Rooms crammed with more than
winter’s fat; eaves with bits of leaf and twig, blinds lined with ledgers
of dust. The drawers groan with socks and scarves, the pantry
shelves with unopened cans of beans. I want to scrub all the corners,
scour the tiles in the bathroom with bleach — even the stripes of
grout between each one. I want a pot of yellow strawflowers, a bowl
of blood-red tulips, nothing else but the mellow gleam of wood in
the middle of the room. I read about ascetics and what they chose
to renounce. Sometimes I think I want that. Sometimes I want to
be both the mountains emerging from their heavy robes of ice and
snow, and the streams they feed below, rushing and teeming with
color and new life. Sometimes I want to be the clear unflavored
envelope of agar, other times the small mouthful of sweet azuki bean
entombed like a heart in the center.

Luisa A. Igloria is the author of twelve books of poetry and numerous awards, including the 2014 May Swenson Poetry Prize and 2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize.

Symmetry 5: The Mendocino Headlands

Such a gorgeous day! Tonight is self’s talk on Flash Fiction at The Mendocino Hotel.

She walked along the bluffs, just to let her mind organize her ideas.

She’s having different people read her short shorts, and then she’s throwing in two more: the piece that appeared in Vela Magazine right after Typhoon Haiyan, and Shirley Ancheta’s piece “Kristine,” in Going Home to a Landscape (Calyx Press, 2003)

In the meantime, here are some pictures she took of the Headlands, with an eye to the WordPress Photo Challenge this week, SYMMETRY.

Standing on the bluffs, just off Main Street, earlier today

Standing on the bluffs, just off Main Street, earlier today

A Wider Perspective

A Wider Perspective

Port of Richmond, on the last day of the Codex International Book Fair, Feb. 11, 2015

Port of Richmond, on the last day of the Codex International Book Fair, Feb. 11, 2015

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Place, Memoir, Journey” Workshop, This Saturday & Sunday

Self’s primary purpose in coming here to Mendocino is to teach a workshop. A travel writing workshop. A workshop on writing about place. About a physical location. Something that exists. And damn self is going to make the students write as hard as they can. Write write write write write write, dear students. The funny thing about travel writing is: you’re writing about place, but you’re also writing about memory. And damn we will mine those memories to the max, dear students! Especially those of you who arrive in Mendocino from far away. From, say, Louisville! So, in order to prepare the students for this wonderful two-day hard writing weekend, self has been immersing herself in manuscripts. She’s looked at Zack Linmark’s Leche, which is tremendously inspiring for voice work. And she’s reading Tony Robles’s about-to-be-published manuscript Cool Don’t Live Here No More, which is amazing for being about a specific place that he loves so much: San Francisco, South of Market (which may be disappearing under the onslaught of construction and high-tech companies moving in)

She’s also reading the absolutely heartbreaking memoir by Sonali Deraniyagala, Wave. Deraniyagala lost her entire family in the tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004. She lost her parents, her husband, and her two sons. And everyone told her: You’re so lucky you survived! Which just goes to show, people are stupid when it comes to pain. They either don’t feel it, or they feel it but they don’t want to feel it so they fight it and end up doing things like telling a woman whose entire life has been wiped out in one day: Thank the Lord you survived!

She’s also reading Thomas Lynch, who’s a poet but also an undertaker and also a memoir writer. She’s reading Nandini Dhar’s Lullabies are Barbed Nations. She wishes she had something by Atul Gawande and Abraham Verghese but after all, she could not bring her whole personal book collection to Mendocino. She’s still reading Roberto Bolaño and on the basis of the individual sentence, he is amazing. She thinks he has one sentence that goes on for two pages (Translator Natasha Wimmer, self salutes you) She will include the first page of her story “Rufino,” because it’s so far the only one of her short stories that mentions Neil Young. And Luisa Igloria’s poem “Oir” from her collection The Saints of Streets. And that’s as far as she’s taken her reading list at the moment. Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Reading (First Tuesday of February 2015): Luisa Igloria

Fish is much on self’s mind these days.

That’s because she has successfully avoided eating any meat (rib-eye steak* cough* Mendosa’s Harvest Market* cough!) during her stay in Mendocino.

No, that’s not quite true. She has had a roast beef sandwich from Cultured Affair Café; and she tried some lamb from Ledford House.

But for the most part, her daily diet has consisted of: fish and chips; cod; clam chowder; scallops; pasta; ramen and vegetables (She had the most wonderful cod from Ledford House, just last Saturday)

Ledford House, Albion: Saturday, 31 January

Ledford House, Albion: Saturday, 31 January

Given her new eating habits, it is fitting that the first poem self reads this morning, from Luisa Igloria’s collection The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House), is about fish:

Parable of the Fish

A bitter heart, a few little fires
abroad in the countryside. The skeleton
of a life shaved down, both bait and
barb. So here is the fisherman
who never caught a thing, having moonlit
conversation in the reeds. She
is covered with scales and sinuous
as brocade. She listens
but will not grant
a mansion for his wife.
His hair is fading to the color of shells.
Maybe he will cross the river tomorrow.
Maybe he will beg a boon.
Maybe he will take her back
and hide her raincoat in the garage
among the power tools and
rusted lawnmowers.

How beautiful is the language!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

The Story “Rufino” (from MAYOR OF THE ROSES, Self’s 2nd Collection)

Towards the end, he couldn’t wear any clothes. They had to cover him in banana leaves.

It was in July he died — I couldn’t believe it. A voice on the phone told me.

“Rufino died na.” It was my mother speaking. Naturally, she had to be the one to break the news.

I was staying in a friend’s house in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In the mornings, fog blanketed the hills. We heard the mournful mooing of invisible cows. One or another of us would look east, toward where we heard Neil Young had his ranch, wondering whether we’d catch a glimpse of his pink Cadillac that day.

*     *     *     *     *

Mayor of the Roses was published by Miami University Press in 2005. The press was known as publishers of the American Poetry Series. Self’s collection was the first book of fiction that Miami University Press ever published.

Heartfelt thanks to Brian Ascalon Roley for bringing the manuscript to the attention of the press and Keith Tuma.

The collection’s been taught at Bates College (Maine), Pampanga Agricultural College (Magalang, Philippines), Skyline College, and Stanford University.

One story, “Lenox Hill, December 1991,” was in the syllabus of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, in a course on Ethics and Medicine.

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