Meanwhile, over at Dear Teen Me… hey, that's me!

Scan0001Have you heard of Dear Teen Me? It’s a website where authors write letters giving their younger selves the advice they wished they’d had at the time. It even became a book that has letters from more than 70 writers.

If you could talk to your younger self, would you? I’m not sure; the person I’ve become is an accumulation of all the things that I did and didn’t do in the last

This week, they’ve got a post by me up wherein I try to give my 13-year-old self some advice. Yeah, as if I’d listen to anyone when I was 13. Okay, so not much has changed; and your point is?

Anyway, go check it out, if for no other reason than you can see a photo of me when I was 17 in my high school cap and gown—you can see the small version off to the side here, but you’ll have to click through to Dear Teen Me to see the full horror—lordy, do I look ridiculous. (Again, not much has changed.) But! While you’re there you should also take a look at the other letters, which include one by my editor, Greg Herren. I think we’ve both gotten better with age.

Nanowaitaminute, how many words?

So, the goal of Nanowrimo is to write 50,000 words (the equivalent of a short novel) during the month of November. At the moment, though, I couldn’t tell you how many words I’ve written.

That’s because I’m writing this novel longhand, for the most part. I have a vast stockpile of notebooks, notepads, journals, and super-fancy-looking books that have been accumulating for, well, for years. I’m really eager to use some of them, especially this blue one with the brocade fabric cover and the cord closure which was a gift from my mother (whose birthday was last Tuesday—hi, Mom). I have a shelf in the spare bedroom (one of these days I’ll actually have a home office, but I’m not holding my breath) that contains all of the journals and notebooks that I’ve scribbled thoughts and minutiae in over the past twenty-odd years—I don’t think there’s anything from high school in there, but some from my first undergrad experience are in the pile.

The one I’m using right now is similar to the old-school composition books that I used to use in high school. It was given to me by Mimi, a paper vendor I used to work with in my old job BGS (Before Grad School). When I told her what I was going to be doing, she loaded me down with notepads, papers samples, and notebooks so that I wouldn’t have to buy any. Her excitement about my return to higher education rivaled my own; if you’re lucky, you encounter such people in your life.

Anyway, I have a feeling that I’m going to fall short of the 50,000-word threshold for “winning” Nanowrimo, but I’m okay with that. I’m a slow writer. I’m writing anywhere from 3 to 5 pages a day in the notebook, and that’s more than I might have had if I didn’t have this to kick-start me.

The word Smith dba ’Nathan Burgoine

’Nathan BurgoineEnough of tooting my own horn. I’m going to sing someone else’s praises for a while.

I met ’Nathan Smith (who publishes under the name ’Nathan Burgoine) in May of 2009 when Michael and I went to the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. I knew a little about him already at that point, because we’d both just had our first stories published in the same anthology, Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction, from Cleis Press. He wrote a story titled “Heart” that is still one of my favorites from him.

At this point, I should warn you that ’Nathan writes stories that will make you cry. Keep Kleenex® handy when you read him.

We spent a lot of time that weekend hanging out with ’Nathan and his husband Dan, and it kind of felt like we were going through Writing School orientation together: this is how you give a reading, this is you signing your work for the first time, this is your life slowly starting down the track that you’ve had in sight for more years than you can count. For me, it was a relief not to be going through that alone, and to have made a fast friend who could say, “I know exactly what you mean.”

The thing about my circle(s) of friends is how often their members live in farflung cities. If I’m lucky, I get to see some of them once a year. In many cases, years go by before we’re able to catch up in person. The irony, when I started grad school in Vancouver, was that though we were both in the same country (’Nathan lives in Ottawa), I was actually farther away from him and Dan here than I was in St. Louis.

Still, most every year we’ve caught up in New Orleans and talked about writing, living, dogs, cats, and why coffee is so much better than tea. (I’m kidding about that last part; we don’t talk about it, though coffee is obviously superior.)

I’m sure ’Nathan lost track of the number of times people asked him, “When are you going to write a book?” ’Nathan loves short stories; he loves writing them, reading them, telling people to pick up this fantastic anthology he’s been reading, and on and on. He’s got more than two dozen of his own stories in print, perhaps most notably in the recent anthology This Is How You Die, where his story is the lead-off in this sequel to the Machine of Death anthology. He’s so good at writing stories, he doesn’t have to write a novel, and really, I don’t think writers of stories should feel pressured or be expected to think of their work as a springboard to a novel. Stories are wonderful creations in their own right and are, if you ask me, a lot harder in some ways.

That being said, the next time someone asks “When are you going to write a book?” ‘Nathan can say, “Oh, I already did that.”

Light‘s about Kieran, an unlikely superhero. An unlikely gay psychokinetic superhero (and how often do you get to say that?) who can also refract light in spectacular and sometimes blinding ways. He has his hands full with a fundamentalist preacher/prophet who decides to bring his message of hate to Pride Week and things get violent. If that weren’t enough, there’s also Sebastien, who takes a liking to Kieran and who also has Pilot, who might be one of my favorite dogs in fiction. He’s certainly my favorite of the moment.

I can’t wait to read what ‘Nathan comes up with next.

Help! I'm melting!

I let things go quiet on the blog this week, didn’t I? Not without reason; I’ve been writing. And (even though Michael Thomas Ford hates it when I do this) I’m happy to report that I’ve passed the 30,000-word mark on my thesis. Some of them are good words and even in the right order and may make it into the final draft.

No promises though.

So, I’ve been back in St. Louis for two months now, and have one month to go before I return to Vancouver for the final year of my MFA program. While I’ve been home I’ve been working on the aforementioned thesis, which is a novel (but then, if you read this blog with any regularity, you know that, yeah?), and I’ve been doing background reading and research which has involved a day spent working on a farm and touring the evil St. Louis-based GMO corporate citadel. My feelings on them are perhaps best captured by these tortoises.

This photo is actually a bit of a lie. I took it in 2012 when we were in New Orleans. It does, however, accurately convey the full effect of running in St. Louis this past week. Except now I have a full beard. Lies upon lies upon lies… why do you even believe a word I say?

The other thing I’ve been doing back home in St. Louis? Sweating. A lot. Summer in the Midwest is not for wimps. I, unfortunately, am a wimp. And I will go on and on and on about the heat when I’m in it. Dear gods on high, I hate the heat.

But if I’m going to be miserable, I want to at least be entertaining. Hence, this conversation I had with my friend and colleague (and wicked awesome writer) Sierra this week.

Me: It’s hotter than the hinges of hell in St. Louis and every time I go outside I think I’m going to turn into nothing but a puddle of sweat and a few bones.

Sierra: lol, your misery is funny
you shouldn’t make your misery so funny

Me: Hell, someone’s gotta get a laugh out of it!

Sierra: And it’s ME

Me: See? EVERYBODY’S A WINNER! Well, except for me, who’s wilting. BUT! If I stand outside for ten hours straight, I’ll probably sweat so much that I’ll finally hit my goal weight! I’ll also die, but glass half full!

Sierra: OMG, you are CRACKING ME UP

I’m so sorry it’s so hot. Wait, no I’m not. This is too entertaining