Wednesday links—wait, it's Wednesday already?

Ever have one of those weeks where the time goes by and you have no idea what you did with it? That’s been my week. I’ve been thinking about the projects on my plate and my varying levels of “yeahness” about them. (Are you familiar with the concept of yeahness? That feeling when the prospect of working on something makes you go, “Yeah, can’t wait!”? No? Just me?)

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading when I’ve not been thinking about everything I need to get done:

The secret to work/life balance? There isn’t one. Also, isn’t it peculiar how this question so often gets asked of women, but much less so of men.

An excerpt from Edmund White’s new novel, Our Young Man. 

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Rules of the road(runner), or Ghost (world) rules

I think the first time I heard the term “ghost rules” was when my friend Rebecca used it in a writing for children class in grad school. At the time, I was working on a middle-grade science fiction book (which I need to finish one of these days, but I’ve already got enough on the to-do list without adding that; eventually, though), and I was winging it. I won’t go into too many details, but it involves a used bookstore, a map, a hyperspace gateway to another world, and a missing scientist.

It’s really hard to write the first draft of something while you’re also workshopping it a piece at a time. I don’t recommend it, to be honest. Too many inputs from too many people can fuck something up when you don’t even know what it is yourself. The best advice anyone can give you is “just finish the damn thing.” But anyway.

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Wednesday Links, the bathrooms and gay diners edition

I’ve been thinking a lot about North Carolina and the HB 2 law that passed there recently. The owner of Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café asks in The New York Times why her store in North Carolina should be boycotted. It’s hard, especially when good, well-meaning people like her and her business are stuck in the middle, as it were. But the target of the boycott is not her or her store, but rather the entire state. And a boycott only works if it’s as complete as possible.

Likewise, if Missouri lawmakers are stupid enough to pass SJR 39 (and let’s not be mistaken, most of them are), I’d fully support a boycott of the entire state. That means don’t come visit me (not that many do—ahem), don’t patronize businesses based here, and don’t bring your concert or your book tour here. That’s what a boycott is. And it needs to stand until the reason for the boycott is rescinded.

Following up on that was this opinion piece at Fortune (oh, the irony) by an author who’s going ahead with her plans to bring her book tour to the state. People can have legitimate discussions and come to different conclusions about what’s the best way to support the trans citizens who are the targets of this law. Even better would be to listen to the very people who are directly affected, and take a cue from them and support them in the ways they want to be supported. I also really, really wish Mrs. Kline had taken a moment in her commentary to acknowledge her own massive privilege, as a cis, het, white, married, Ivy-league-educated woman who, as far as I can tell, has no skin in the game except a book to promote. At the same time, I’m also cognizant of my own massive privilege as a white guy (apart from that whole being super gay thing) and think, really, the people who should have the most say on how they would like allies to proceed are the people impacted the most by this repugnant law.

And that’s all I have to say about that, in lieu of boosting other people’s signal on the topic.

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When should you give a shit?

(Sorry, this is kind of a long one. If you want to skip the intro, click here. Also, my sailor mouth comes to the fore a bit in this one. If you don’t like the four-letter word that rhymes with spit, you may want to skip it entirely—but I think you’ll be missing out, if I do say so.)

In the days before smartphones and tablets, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth—wait, hang on, not that far back.

When I was a lowly undergrad, I took a class in basic reporting that required working on the daily newspaper put out by the journalism school. Our teachers were the editors for the newspaper and they would review our articles before they got passed along to the copy desk. Particularly memorable to me was one of the editors named Yves (not my editor; my editor was a guy named Mark, who called Yves “Why-vez”). Yves was known for reviewing student articles and saying, in his very proper accent, “What is this shit?”

I was glad not to be his charge, but I wasn’t glad to be taking that reporting class. It was here that I discovered a) grad students who had authority over undergrads were almost universally assholes (especially you, Sarah), and b) I really, really did not want to be a reporter.

This was a frightening discovery, since I’d worked hard to get into one of the most competitive journalism schools in the country. I loved to write, and I loved doing research; what I hated was writing articles that I had absolutely no interest in writing, and the constant rejection that comes with calling one person after another trying to get them to speak on the record. This was also when I discovered just how much of an introvert I am. The relation between the two things is obvious.

Anyway, at that point, I felt adrift. I had no idea what I was going to do. I always thought I’d be a writer and reporter; now what?

I considered changing my major to English. One of my friends did exactly that, and it seemed like the closest fit for me, too. Later that semester, I discovered the joys of editing and graphic design, switched my emphasis from reporting to magazine editing and design, and breathed a sigh of relief. Of course, seeing the strange, sometimes rudderless course my career took after that, I probably could have spent more time thinking about that decision, but it was twenty-five years ago, and there was no knowing how the career landscape would change.

All I knew was that I didn’t like reporting and I didn’t have time for that shit. If Yves had asked me “What is the shit?” my answer would have been, “It’s not my shit, Yves, that’s for sure.”

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Crises of confidence, or "who do you think you are?"

Photo by Patrick Tomasso,
Photo by Patrick Tomasso,

Sometimes I have crises of confidence.

I know, right? “What a shock,” you say. Even though online we present our best possible faces to the world, always doing interesting things or going to exciting places or shooting photos from just this right angle because that makes my nose look less crooked and the funny wrinkles around my mouth that no amount of moisturizer will seem to—uh, never mind. Although that’s probably a topic that I could write about at length, too.

My crises of confidence extend to pretty much every aspect of my life. If you meet me at any point, chances are I’m fretting about something. It may not show (it probably does—it totally shows, doesn’t it?), but like those wrinkles at the edge of my mouth (and the corners of my eyes, and the little frown divots in my forehead—ugh, ANYWAY), the fret is always there. And of course, the funny thing is that most of the things I worry about? I can’t do a damn thing about them. (Kind of like those wrinkles.)

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Wednesday Links, and an epiphany

I’m still catching up and catching my breath after the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. I’m always re-energized and inspired by this conference, by meeting with new (or new to me) writers, catching up with old friends, and talking about all things bookish. (And eating way too much Cajun food.) My to-read list has expanded, including Carol Rosenfeld’s novel The One That Got Away, and Fiona Riley’s debut, Miss Match.

And as I’d hoped, I came away with an idea for a story of my own, about a tree and an astronaut, which I’m looking forward to writing as soon as I finish a few other things. I also had an epiphany about the YA novel, Prophecy Boy. I’ve been writing it from Jamie’s point of view almost by default, and I started getting a nagging idea that maybe this isn’t his story anymore; at least, not exclusively. It’s Sarah’s, too. And that’s going to require a lot of rewriting and a lot of new material in the second draft, but that seems to have been the case with all of my previous novels, so no big surprise there. It also means that tentative title, Prophecy Boy, will have to change.

Anyway, I’d tell you more, but…

Spoilers, sweetie

Right! On with what I’m reading this week:

There are two new stories up at Little Fiction:  “Chimera” by Mallory Tater and “Sneaker Waves” by Kelsey Robbins Lauder. Go check ‘em out!

Congratulations to fellow MFA grad Adrick Brock for making the CBC Short Story Prize longlist!

Edmund White has a new novel out, Our Young Man, reviewed by Dan Lopez at Lambda Literary. I can’t wait to read it.

A new story at The Citron Review

There’s a story of mine, “You Ride the Bus,” up and live now at The Citron Review for their spring issue, which features queer-themed writing:

After a while you start to take note of the drivers you encounter. There’s the one who drives very carefully when the bus is packed, and the one who drives like he’s Sandra Bullock in Speed. One always looks tired; another always looks in the mirror as if he suspects the passengers are up to something. This one’s chatty. That one plays the “please move to the rear of the bus” recording way too often.

There’s one who smiles at you whenever you get on board. He has a tattoo sleeve on his right arm; it peeks out from underneath his shirt and you wonder how far up his arm it goes, and if he has any in other places.

To read the rest, go over to The Citron Review and check it out. And be sure to take a look at all the other amazing selections (if I do say so) in this issue. Special thanks to guest editor Seth Fischer, who selected my story for publication and for the incredibly generous things he said about it in his editor’s note.