“All Write All Write All Write!”

(Hint: Say it like you’re Matthew McConaughey.)

Another cool thing that happened recently: I got to do a reading at Webster Groves High School as part of their inaugural All Write Festival, a week of programming where they invited writers of all stripes to give readings and discussions and hold Q&As with the students. I shared the stage with Nicole Evelina, writer of historical fiction and romantic comedy (because “never limit yourself to one genre if you don’t want to” are words I live by), and we had a great time sharing excerpts from our work, talking about process and craft, and the importance of research.

Pictures:

I hope they do it again next year. Thanks, Webster!

Looking for Bigfoot? Find Him Wednesday.

Happy Monday, y’all! I know it’s been a little quiet on the blog lately, but that’s partly because I’ve been writing stories, among other things—but you don’t come here to read about my workout routine or what I’m making for dinner (spoiler alert: usually pizza; or reservations).

However! I can tell you that my story “Looking for Bigfoot” will be available for download on Wednesday from Little Fiction. If you haven’t heard of it, Little Fiction is a great one-story-at-a-time e-publisher. They’ve put out some fantastic stories by Leah Mol, Trevor Corkum, Shawn Syms, Eliza Robertson, and lots more. And this Wednesday, I’ll have somehow managed to sneak in.

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the cover:

Looking for Bigfoot cover

And—and!—they even put together a video trailer for it:

All this for one story. Pretty cool, huh?

Catching Up with Swoon

blue-moon-chocolateIn case you’re wondering what I’ve been up to lately (and admit it, how could you not, right?), the lovely (and award-winning!) writer Ruth Daniell just posted a Q&A with me over at the Swoon Reading Series website. You may recall that I was lucky enough to be her cohost in 2014 for that series, a role now filled quite capably by the fantastic (and also award-winning!) writer Sierra Skye Gemma. We talk about books, writing poetry vs. fiction, chocolate, and Valentine’s Day, among other things. Check it out!

And if you live in Vancouver, you owe it to yourself to check out the truffle that I mention in that post, the Blue Moon, at Koko Monk in Kitsilano. It’s a fantastic concoction at a really great shop with lots of tempting chocolate creations.

The literary feast

Recently, my friend Andy (one half of the podcasting duo behind Four Courses—where they really do care what you had for lunch) asked me to name my favorite food/dining/cooking scenes from literature. It’s a topic that comes up in one of their future episodes—I’ll post a link when it goes live—and he was having a tough time thinking of things.

I thought, well, that shouldn’t be too hard, but when I tried to actually think of anything, I couldn’t think of a thing. Eventually, I mentioned the dining hall scenes at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series—I still want to know what butterbeer tastes like—and just about every page of Like Water for Chocolate. With the latter, though, I couldn’t remember if I’d actually read the book or was just remembering the scenes from the spectacular movie that was made of the novel. To be honest, the same question could be asked of my Harry Potter memories.

I won’t exactly say that it’s a shame, how many of my food-based literary recollections are colored by their translation to film. I think it just points out how much of a leg up the movies have in that respect. Have you ever seen The Big Night, for example? One of these days, I’m going to attempt to make a timpano because of the scene in the film with that dish.

Children’s literature seems to do a better job of representing food, though. There’s Oliver Twist, of course, and Alice in Wonderland and the Winnie-the-Pooh series, and (though this may not be strictly children’s literature, it’s something I read as a kid) all of the hobbitsy obsessions with meals in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. (Again, there’s an instance where the movies kicked that up a notch.)

It disappoints me how few I can remember, especially when I considered that one of the stories I’ve written that I’m still fond of today—and I view my back list of stories the way I suspect a lot of writers regard their past work, with deep suspicion that it was written by someone else—is a story that revolves around a restaurant, love, and bread pudding. It was called “The Key Ingredient” and appeared in the anthology The Dirty Diner. I read an excerpt from it at Swoon in 2013. I set out to make that story an homage to Like Water for Chocolate, in fact, though with a very gay twist. Whether it succeeded is for other people to say, but it does capture my deep and abiding appreciation of bread pudding.

So! What’s your favorite food or dining or cooking scene from literature? What makes it stand out for you? Tell us all about it in the comments field—and include recipes if appropriate.

Making list-making a Habit(RPG)

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you might be aware of how big a fan I am of making lists. Lists are pretty much the only way I manage to get anything done. That’s partly because I am so very easily distracted (SQUIRREL!) and partly because I try to do too many things at once, yet am not always that great at multitasking. As a result, some days I manage to work on anywhere from two or three to a dozen things, but don’t actually finish or make significant progress on any of them. How much do I love lists? Well, I’ve been known to finish a task and then write it down on my list after the fact just so I can check it off. Maybe a little obsessive, but yeah, pretty much a fan of lists.

Making a list doesn’t guarantee that you’ll actually do any of the things you’ve written down, of course. A little accountability is called for, sometimes. That’s why sometimes I mention on this blog the goals I’ve set for myself—even if no one reads them, I’ve put them out in the world somewhere.

Better still, though, if you’ve got people who can say “hey, why didn’t you do that thing you said you were going to do?” Even better, though, is someone saying “we took 1.7 damage in the Vice Awakens challenge because of you; what did you forget to check off your list yesterday?”

Here, I’ll explain.

My HabitRPG avatarI was introduced to a website/app called HabitRPG by my friend and fellow writer ’Nathan. (He also played D&D back in the day; still does, I think—and no, I don’t think I’m giving away anything by mentioning that.) Anyway, it combines list-making and accountability with a bit of role-playing game character building and point scoring. I keep track of things I should be doing every day (like writing, for example), habits I should either be encouraging or discouraging (like playing games on my iPod and tablet), and larger, long-term, multi-part projects that tend to linger on my to-do list (that sequel to The Unwanted, for instance, or the short story I’ve been trying to finish for the past eight months). You score points for checking things off your list, and are rewarded with weapons and armor to deck out your account profile’s avatar. (That’s my level 47 rogue-class avatar up there on the right, riding a black wolf with my trusty pet spider as a sidekick—well, I didn’t say any of it made sense.)

Perhaps it all seems a bit silly, but I’m a big proponent of pragmatism: Whatever works, works. I’ve used it to set deadlines for fellowship and residency applications, magazine submission deadlines, and to monitor progress on freelance editing and design assignments. I’ve also used it to persuade myself to eat more sensible breakfasts and keep working out every day. You can use Habit for free, too, which is a bonus for me.

And if I can score extra gold points for critical hits on tasks and hatch pet dragons while I’m at it—hey, whatever works. (If you join the site, let me know.)

2015’s reading goal: not so many white people!

If you recall, my goal in 2014 as a reader was to find and consume fewer stories by straight white guys. Looking back at my list of books read last year, I managed to do that pretty well. Out of thirty-six books, five were written by straight (as far as I know) white guys. Not that there’s anything wrong with straight white guys! It’s just that, well, most of the stories we hear about are written by and about them, and I kind of get burned out on them. Variety, spice of life, and all that. Not to mention expanding our perspectives and tuning in to voices outside that mainstream that also deserve to be heard. As a writer who’s gay, I can relate.

Continue reading

They’re not resolutions, they’re goals. Here are mine.

I know that if I go back and look at my posts for January 2014, I’ll find something about setting goals. (Oh look! Here’s one of them! And hey! Here’s another one! And here’s one about my reading goals for 2014.)

How did I do with those? Well, I said I wanted to read fewer books by straight white guys, and out of the 36 books I read last year, five of them were written by the dominant paradigm, so that’s an improvement over the prior year. I want to keep up with that—although right now I’m reading a book by, you guessed it, a straight white guy. He is, however, a friend of mine, so I’m declaring an exception to the rule. (It’s also really good. I’m enjoying it.)

I also submitted more stories to magazines and contests last year. Twenty-six submissions, a couple honorable mentions, a handful of personalized rejections (very nice)—and one acceptance, which is of course AWESOME. That story, “Looking for Bigfoot,” will be coming out early this year from Little Fiction. Stay tuned for that.

I also applied for some residencies and a fellowship, and am waiting to hear back on some of those. I did hear back from the Vermont Studio Center, where I’ll be spending the month of May, hopefully finishing up one of the things on my yearlong to-do list. So that’s pretty awesome.

So, this year, my goals are:

  1. Agent. As in “find one.”
  2. Finish the sequel to The Unwanted.
  3. Apply for another fellowship.
  4. Send out one story a month.
  5. Put together a set of stories for a collection.
  6. Lose five pounds.
  7. Perfect my technique for making an old fashioned.

So, what are you working on?