Four Weeks In Hawthornden, Scotland, June 2012

The benefactress Drue Heinz passed away recently, and there was outpouring of sadness from all Hawthornden alums. The impact she had on writers around the world was amazing.

June 2012, self availed of one of Ms. Heinz’s enduring legacies: the Hawthornden Retreat for Writers, near Edinburgh (40 minutes by public bus from). Four wonderful weeks, with five other writers: Allison Amend, Richard Lemm, Jenny Lewis, Marylee McDonald, and Joan McGavin.

One of us volunteered to write down every book recommendation, every movie recommendation, every poem recommendation, every television series recommendation and every short story recommendation. Self completely forgot about this list, until today.

She’s going through her house in Redwood City, inch by inch. At the back of a drawer, she pulled out this list. She didn’t have time to look at it in Redwood City, which must be why she brought it with her to Mendocino. Here are some of the book recommendations (The list is three pages long, double-sided. Self has no time)

FANTASY

  • Guy Gavriel Kay: The Fionavar Tapestry

MEMOIR

  • John Steinbeck: Travels with Charlie

NONFICTION

  • Jim Rosenberger: High Steel

NOVELS

  • Bhira Backhaus: Under the Lemon Trees
  • John Banville: Doctor Copernicus
  • Andrea Barrett: The Voyage of the Narwhal
  • Joseph Boyden: Three Day Road
  • Michael Byers: Percival’s Planet
  • Sarah Shun-lien Bynum: The Ms. Hempel Chronicles
  • Michael Crummey: Galore
  • Richard Flanagan: Wanting and Death of a River Guide
  • Katherine Govier: Angel Walk
  • Eleanor Henderson: Ten Thousand Saints
  • Guy Gavriel Kay: Under Heaven
  • Larry McMurtry: Hud
  • Howard Norman: The Bird Artist
  • Marge Piercy: Gone to Soldiers
  • John Steffler: The Afterlife of George Cartwright
  • Elizabeth Strout: Abide With Me and Olive Kitteridge
  • Rosemary Sutcliffe: The Eagle of the Ninth
  • Adam Thorpe: Ulverton
  • Sigrid Undset: Kristin Lavransdatter

NOVELLAS

  • Josh Weil: The New Valley (3 novellas)

POETRY

  • Tamar Yoseloff: The City With Horns

SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS

  • Andrea Barrett: Ship Fever
  • Evgenia Citkowitz (Hawthornden Alum): Ether: Seven Stories and a Novella
  • Michael Faber: The Apple: Crimson Petal Stories and The Fahrenheit Twins
  • Tim O’Brien: Going After Cacciato, The Things They Carried, The Lake in the Woods
  • Tobias Wolff: In the Garden of the North American Martyrs

Work-in-Progress: The Rorqual

(Self hopes this story, which she started writing last year at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, can go into her newest collection)

This has always been, from the very first draft, the opening paragraph:

AlbionJan2017

Sunrise, Albion, California: January 2017

The report came from somewhere on the Bering Sea. The pair had left Yellowknife the previous morning. The woman, it appeared, was headed for Baranof, the man for Kuiu. Both were on foot.

The story was born New Year’s Day 2017, in Albion, California.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Recommended Reading: Women Writing (Comics, Nonfiction, Novellas)

Essay:

Skinning the Rabbit, by Jane Eaton Hamilton (The Sun, July 2017)

The Cone of Uncertainty: Parenting on the Edge of Climate Change, by Sarah Grey (Salvage Quarterly, 28 November 2017)

On Yoga, Diversity Lite, and the Empire of American Wellness, by Namrata Poddar (CounterPunch, 3 November 2017)

The New Bad Girls of Contemporary Literature, by Myriam Gurba (Literary Hub, 1 December 2017)

Why are America’s farmers killing themselves in record numbers? by Debbie Weingarten (The Guardian, 6 December 2017)

Comics:

DC New Talent Showcase 2017

Food-Related:

In Search of Lost Butter Chicken, by Sukhada Tatke (National Geographic Traveler: India, June 2017)

Novella:

Day of All Saints, by Patricia Grace King (Miami University Press, November 2017)

I Don’t Think of You (Until I Do), by Tatiana Ryckman (Future Tense Books, September 2017)

 

 

Gil Sorrentino/ Stanford Creative Writing

Dear blog readers, creative writing workshop made self very tense because she honestly had never met any American writers until she got into the Creative Writing Program, and they intimidated the heck out of her. One of her (male) classmates got up and danced on the table before the start of the workshop. Self can only say: she had never seen anything like it and was so amazed. Because if any of her college classmates in Manila had done that, they would have been arrested. Banned from campus. Reprimanded. But here, she got to enjoy the man’s dancing. lol

In addition, her classmates wrote about things like going hunting. Or going on road trips. She made herself read Jack Kerouac just so she could understand Americans better. The other writers came from different states: Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana. Self was from the Philippines, and she for the life of her could not even open her mouth. Once there was sharp disagreement about one of her stories and self couldn’t even get up the gumption to explain what she was trying to do. Much to her everlasting shame, a fellow writer had to stick up for her and defend her, and then was so overwhelmed by the task that she left the workshop and had to hide in the Women’s Room for a while. And self followed her there but had nothing to say. Self was such a blithering idiot. This woman was kind enough to pick up the cudgels for her and all she could do afterwards was stare helplessly at her? She absolutely had no courage.

Seriously, every time she opened her mouth, she ended up putting her foot in it.

Gil Sorrentino was one of three professors who took turns leading workshop. He was this amazing, experimental writer and before self met him, she didn’t even know what “experimental fiction” was. His most famous book was Mulligan Stew. He led workshop on the day self’s story, Ginseng, was up.

Told from a “we” point of view, and self was so nervous.

After all the discussion, Gil looked at her and said, “What the narrator doesn’t understand is, after everything is said and done, the man still has his pride.”

Self realized that Gil had more sympathy for the old man than for the detached and critical narrator.

She didn’t realize it at the time, but the fact that Gil felt he had to defend the old man was an amazing thing.

Ginseng is narrated by a man whose father is gradually sinking into dementia. The narrator keeps describing all his symptoms while getting more and more amazed: why does the old man insist on putting on a Panama hat before he takes a walk?  Why does he carry around that fancy walking stick? The narrator felt only exasperation.

Self always imagined the narrator as a man because to write about an old person from a woman’s point of view and to be that detached was something self felt she couldn’t pull off.

The story begins:

  • My father is 83. Once he was very handsome, but now he has plump hips and breasts, with dark, pointed nipples on top of two triangles of brown, leathery skin. It is impossible for me to think of him as still a man in the usual sense, in the sense he has wanted me to think of him for so many years.

At VCCA, a long time ago, one of the other writers found this story, she doesn’t know how. He found a copy of the journal that had published it on one of the shelves of the VCCA library and showed it to her. AMAZING!

By now, self has read many, many American writers. She loves Jim Harrison. Part of the reason might be that she loves Yellow Dog and another reason may be that Harrison writes novellas. His stories are set in Michigan’s UP and they are so specific to that place but also so universal. She never got into Kerouac. She adored Cynthia Ozick and Grace Paley.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Winner of 2016 Miami University Press Novella Contest Announced

And the winner is:

Tara Deal, for That Night Alive: I’ve Come Close

This year, there were 155 entries. The final judge was Margaret Luongo.

Congratulations to Ms. Deal!

Here are the 2016 poetry titles from Miami University Press:

  • Her Faithfulness (Out Now), by Liz Waldner
  • Leaving CLE (Forthcoming) by Janice A. Lowe

Miami University Press is at the Los Angeles AWP Book Fair, Booth 902.

Here are the scheduled author signings:

Friday, April 1, 2 – 3 p.m. — Lawrence Coates, Camp Olvido

Friday, April 1, 3 – 4 p.m. — Janice A. Lowe, Leaving CLE

Saturday, April 2, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. — Marianne Villanueva, Mayor of the Roses

Hope to see you there!

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Finally, the Good Stuff — The Very, Very Good Stuff

William Maxwell’s novella So Long, See You Tomorrow has kept self pre-occupied (that and writing fan fiction) since Dec. 7 (For the record, self notes all her “book start times” onto a log, just like a ship’s log — BWAH HA HAAA!).

This is kinda surprising as it’s a very short book (134 pages).

But, here’s the really good, exciting stuff, finally, on p. 116:

SPOILER ALERT!

“You’re too young to know your own mind,” he said. “On the other hand she wasn’t too young to have fallen in love with a man with a wife and two children. “I won’t have you breaking up somebody’s home!” he shouted. And she said — even as the words came out of her mouth she regretted them — she said, “You’re not my father and I won’t have you or anybody else telling me what I can or can’t do.” So he locked her in her room, and she climbed out the window onto the roof of the back porch and slid down the drainpipe. He knew what was happening but didn’t stir from his chair.

All of this takes place out in the stillness of deep countryside in America. That is, rural Illinois. Clearly, messy emotions erupt everywhere. Not just among city dwellers and the like. But even among farmers and the like.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Moving On

Self has just begun the next book on her reading list:  Hans Fallada’s novel, Every Man Dies Alone.

She’s quite pleased with her progress. Though it took her 9 days to get through Donna Leon’s Death and Judgment, she did finish it. Which can’t be said of any book she’s tackled since — oh, late March.

(After this, for those readers who’d like to follow along:  a William Maxwell novella, So Long, See You Tomorrow; another Donna Leon mystery, About Face; and a mystery by a Swedish writer self has never read before: Hakan Nesser. His book is Woman with a Birthmark)

Self has high hopes for finishing Every Man Dies Alone, for she’s never been disappointed by any of the German writers she’s read.  For instance, she loves Bernhard Schlink. It’s been a while since she’s read Hannah Arendt, but she remembers liking what she read. And Kafka, she’s always adored Kafka (Self isn’t completely sure whether he’s German or Czech)

Hans Fallada was a Nazi resister who remained in Germany; he nursed himself through World War II by becoming an alcoholic, and ended up having a nervous breakdown (Self would, too. If she were a Nazi resister who chose to remain in Germany for the duration of the war, that is). Whether he was extremely brave, or extremely bull-headed, or extremely crazy, or maybe all three, the point is: he continued to write. His output never flagged. His Every Man Dies Alone begins with a female protagonist, Eva Kluge, who works as a postal carrier. On this particular round, she has to deliver Nazi Party circulars:

. . .  she has to remember to call out “Heil, Hitler!” at the Persickes’ and watch her lip. Which she needs to do anyway, there’s not many people to whom Eva Kluge can say what she thinks. Not that she’s a political animal, she’s just an ordinary woman, but as a woman she’s of the view that you don’t bring children into the world to have them shot.

The translation is by Michael Hofmann.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Cover Art: Welcome to Self’s Universe (Actual Cover Art)

For this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, COVER ART, self is posting two actual covers — one of a recent issue of Prism International, the Vancouver-based literary magazine; another for Elmore Leonard’s Raylan, adapted for TV on F/X as “Justified” — and one projected:

FCover Art, Prism International 50.4 (Spring 2012 Issue):  "Soup" by Mandy Barker

Cover Art, Prism International 50.4 (Spring 2012 Issue): “Soup” by Mandy Barker

And here's a picture of the Nora Aunor of her time:  Dearest Mum.  Have you read the story "Lizard"?  You should read "Lizard" (in self's first collection, GINSENG AND OTHER TALES FROM MANILA)

The Superstar of her time: Dearest Mum. She played in Carnegie Hall at 14.

For the past couple of years, self has been working on a novella about Dearest Mum’s concert career.  She’s chosen to call it “Ambition.”  If she ever succeeds in getting it published, this photo of Dearest Mum as a young woman would be the cover.  She doesn’t know who took the picture.

At Books, Inc. today, self's eyes were forcibly drawn to a shelf which happened to display:  xxxxx !!!

At Books, Inc. today, self’s eyes were forcibly drawn to a shelf which happened to display: xxxxx !!!  Self loves “Justified” and is sad about Elmore Leonard’s passing. And the show’s entering its final season. And oh, will Timothy Olyphant ever get an Emmy?  He is THE iconic Raylan.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

K. M. Kaung’s BLACK RICE: Further Reading

So intense this year has been.  Self is just now picking up the threads of the various novels/novellas she began to read as long as a year ago.

Here’s an excerpt from Kyi May Kaung’s novella Black Rice.

She was a storyteller too, my mother, just like Uncle Kong and Aunt Anouk.  So I always knew that after her tenth failure at the Dufferin Hospital, she was so sad, she turned her face towards the wall, wishing she were dead, tears streaming from her eyes.  Even the jokes of my inebriated father, already tipsy at the afternoon visiting hour, could not make her smile.  Her tenth pregnancy had not ended in a miscarriage but in a live birth.  To keep the pregnancy, she lay in bed almost all the eight months, hardly moving.  On the advice of her doctor, she gave up sex with her husband.  She was so proud of carrying to term and of having a live birth.  And it was a boy, too, she told me.  She said his eyes and nose, and ears that stuck out, were just like mine.  Just like my father’s ears.

Kyi “has been writing fiction since she was a teenager in Rangoon, Burma, and her play Shaman was praised by Edward Albee.  She has won a Fulbright fellowship, a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Award, the William Carlos Williams Award of the Academy of American Poets, and was a Pew Finalist in Fiction twice.  K. M. Kaung’s fiction has appeared in the Wild River Review, the Northern Virginia Review, the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine, and  in Himal Southasia.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

And the Strangest Twist of All!

Dear blog mistress’s novella, published last year by Vagabondage Press, has been shortlisted for Best Novella of 2013 by the Saboteur Awards!

Which are going to be handed out Saturday a week from today!

In a very cool town which just so happens to be Oxford, England!

And the par-tay will be in the cooler part of Oxford, which self understands is the northern part, in a place called JERICHO TAVERN!

And self really didn’t think she could make it, but suddenly she got a message from her friend Jenny Lewis who teaches at Oxford, who said, “Everyone here’s been talking about it.”

So then self has been kinda stunned, and part of her wants to go into full-on Pity Party Mode (Self has nothing to wear! She’s been re-cycling the same three pairs of jeans for a month!) but another part wants to say:  GET UP, WOMAN!  JUST — GET UP!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

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