AWP Minneapolis 2015.

Just returned from AWP Minneapolis.  I usually do a brief recap post along with a picture of the many books I brought home.   Short version of trip recap: ate delicious Vietnamese food with Nick Mamatas, met with the Critical Creative Writing Studies group, went to Matt Bell’s excellent pedagogy panel, manned The Account table (new graphic-focused issue drops soon), saw more friends than I can name (Ruth and Sean from Breadloaf, all my UIC people, many mentors) and spent my last night in Minneapolis dancing past midnight.   This year I’ve also recapped a panel for Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies. Fabulous times all around.

I’ll be posting my contribution to Entropy’s collaborative novel project next week.

And here’s the book pic:


Don’t read the comments.

“The blog for Dean is not a journal or journalism nor a literary form. It may be something like the letter writing of a pre-modern era, which was meant to be circulated beyond the named addressee. It is a sort of technique of the self, one that installs a gaze that shapes the writer. But there’s an ambiguity as to who the writer is visible to. For Dean, this gaze is not that of the Big Other, but of that other creature of Lacan-speak, the objet petit a. In this version, there is an asymmetry: we are entrapped in a kind of visibility. I see from my point of view but am seen from all points of view. It is as if I am seen by an alien object rather than another person. I receive no messages back specific to me and my identity. Ego formation is blocked.”  –from I cite.

New(ish) stories, new essay.

Usually I’ve done a brief celebratory blogpost whenever a new story or essay comes out, but I’ve been remiss of late.  I’m behind by several stories.  My story “Griefbunny” came out in Apex Magazine back in December, when I was in NY visiting with James’ relatives and on the computer less than usual.  Apex has published some of my very favorite stories over the years (Genevieve Valentine’s “Armless Maidens of the American West” comes to mind) and was helmed by one of my all-time favorite authors (Cat Valente) for several years.  It also received a very kind write-up in Tangent.  Good work, little story!

My Writers of the Future finalist story, “A Spoke in Fortune’s Wheel” *finally * found a home, after much revision, at The Dark Magazine, a relatively new and very shiny dark fantasy and horror market.  All the stories in the issue are worth checking out, and their archive is splendid and growing: I particularly liked Helena Bell‘s flashfic.


Finally, I have work forthcoming (soon!  so soon!) in DIAGRAM.  This is perhaps the best single work I’ve ever written (IMO), and I didn’t actually write it: it’s an erasure piece about the suicide of my boyfriend back in 2005.  It was the cornerstone of my dissertation defense, helped me get into Breadloaf, and was part of the job talk that led to my position at UNI. One of my new colleagues, Rachel Morgan, has a gorgeous prose poem in an earlier issue, alongside the omnipresent James Franco (!).  I’m a little sad we weren’t in the issue together…me and Rachel, not me and James (Franco, not Brady). Anyway, DIAGRAM is the best thing going for experimental nonfiction, and I’m ecstatic to appear on their site.

I’m still loving life in Iowa, still battling bizarre and unnecessary arm-wrist-shoulder pain/numbness, still fighting for a pain-free writing/exercise routine.  After three years of trying everything from medication to physical therapy (and on and on), I’m starting to wonder if pain management is the best I can manage, if “pain-free” isn’t in my future.

I plan to write anyway.

Everything all at once.

I haven’t blogged in forever because life happened so hard that I became unable to keep up with documenting it. Too busy living it. I still haven’t fully processed this magical, tumultuous year. Tl;dr: what happens when you get everything you ever believed you wanted, all at once?

I went to Breadloaf. I’ve wanted to go to Breadloaf since I first learned of it back during my M.A. program at NAU. My mentor went there, and it opened all kinds of doors for her (granted, she’s fabulously brilliant, which helps, but still), and so many people talked about it in tones of hushed awe that it acquired a near-sacral mystique. It lived up to the hype. I learned things about my writing, confronted old tics and bad habits, had that workshop epiphany where you can see the path you need to travel down, the question is are you brave enough…


Also it was stunning there. That Vermont sky. I walked nearly every day, weather permitting. All the lectures and readings are up on iTunes, too, making it easy to relive the experience, or get a taste of it anyway (except that there’s no re-creating that sky).


Photo credit: Lisa Schapiro Flynn

The Breadloaf campus is dotted with Adirondack chairs. It was mostly too damp to sit in them (this was apparently the wettest ‘loaf in years).  I was welcomed home from Breadloaf by the UNI campus, which looks like this:


A bit of comforting synchronicity, these chairs.  This is the campus where I work now. I’ve moved to Iowa, where I’m an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing, and this is the stately building that houses my office:


Oh, and this happened back in June:


So that’s where I’m at. Newly married to a man I love to write beside; teaching excited, exciting students in a brand-new town; hiking along the riverside. Every day I wake up astonished that this is my life.

Well, it’s not quite the perfect idyll: At month’s end I’m visiting a neurosurgeon in the continuing investigation of my nerve pain, which could please go away any time please.  Still.   I have never felt so lucky.

I have a new blogpost up at the North American Review blog. My essay “Dissection” appears in their Fall issue (it’s the first piece in the magazine, and they put me on the cover!).  It’s a great issue, with work by Denise Duhamel and Mike Antosia, among other luminaries. Consider picking up a subscription.

I think that’s all? Many new publications are forthcoming, and I’m a finalist for something I’m fairly certain I’m not supposed to announce yet, but I will save those agenda items for other, future blogposts.  This one is already full to bursting with happy news.

A review of Aimee Parkison’s The Petals of Your Eyes.

My (slightly delayed) contribution to the Wreckage of Reason II blog tour is here. Backstory: I met Aimee Parkison at AWP this year. She put together a panel on experimental women’s writing and invited a handful of people from the anthology to take part. I’d written a paper about the slipperiness of defining “experiment,” and she wrote a fascinating piece that defined experimentalism against mass market/genre literary production. If you know me at all, you know that I disagree emphatically with the elision of those two terms.  I believe that the devices used in so-called genre fiction are wildly useful, and not to be confused with market-based fiction (I agree with Brown’s distinction in this piece). I ended up throwing away half of my prepared remarks and speaking extemporaneously in response to Aimee’s piece. It was an invigorating Q & A session, and she was kind and forgiving of my spontaneous rant, and in the end she gave me a review copy of her book.

Backtracking a bit: I’d actually heard Aimee read the night before, as part of Starcherone’s offsite AWP reading (with Alissa Nutting, Brian Oliu, Cris Mazza, Andy Farkas, and a bunch of other authors whose work I follow). I’d very nearly bought her novel–picked it up, petted it covetously, set it back down sadly–but I’d already spent a horrifying amount of $ on books that day (much of it at the Starcherone table). So having a copy fall into my lap was…well, that’s the serendipity of AWP, which, for all its tradeshow pomp and circumstance, does have these fleeting bright moments of meeting other writers and expanding one’s reading list.


Five months and several rereads of Aimee’s book later, I have a sort of review/meditation on it up at Entropy, the new blog launched by Janice Lee and Megan Milks (among others). If you’re looking for an excellent new literature/film/SF/fantasy/gaming blog, they’re the place to go. Very pleased to have work up on their site.

Blog revamp.

To state the obvious, there’s been a change of theme around this place.  My friend Benjamin Gemmel does digital art in his spare time and was willing to take on the project of making my sad blog a little less sad.  Girlwonders, new and improved, with 100% more Cthulhu!  Ben blogged about his process — he based the original concept on a few of my stories, let me weigh in on multiple drafts and was generally dreamy to work with.  We’ve been batting the header back and forth for a few months now, and I’m very pleased with the final result.  Thanks, Ben!

Never a day without pain.

I’ve stopped posting about my wrist and arm pain.  Partly because I was sick of my own whining.  Partly because I feared the professional repercussions of going on the job market while publicly “broken.”  But Cat Valente has as usual written the post that sums up what I’m feeling.  I’m doing better than a year ago, and much better than she is, from the sound of it.  But this week, when I’m grading 70+ essays by hand to help out a colleague who’s on leave thanks to recently becoming a father, after spending the morning reviewing, also by hand, a hundred or so compositions by incoming freshman so as to place them into an appropriate introductory writing course, well…I’m not getting much of my own writing done, and it kills me.  Every day I do what I can, and usually more — far more — than I should.  I return too many emails too conscientiously.  Every day it’s a battle between my desire to work, my ability to tolerate pain, and the sure knowledge that if I push myself too hard, I’ll shut down completely (which is what happened in June-July of 2013).  Braces help.  Dragon helps.   I’m beginning to understand that I’ll never be fully healed, and that the writing process that has produced my very best work is too brutal on my body to sustain over the arc of a career.  Slowly I’m piecing together a kinder, gentler, slower process.  It makes me want to scream.