Book list May 2019 to December 2020

  1. Alien Virus Love Disaster, Abbey Mei Curtis
  2. Kill Creek, Scott Thomas
  3. The Hidden Machinery, Margot Livesey
  4. Ghostographs, Maria Romesco Moore
  5. Other Cities, Hal Duncan
  6. Mothers and Other Monsters, Maureen McHugh
  7. Motherhood, Sheila Heti
  8. Sundial, Shirley Jackson
  9. Stone Sky, N.K. Jemison
  10. Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones, Micah Dean Hicks
  11. Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019, ed. Carmen Machado
  12. Creatures of Will and Temper, Molly Tanzer
  13. How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, Alexander Chee
  14. The Girls, Emma Cline
  15. Things We Lost in the Fire, Mariana Enriquez
  16. Orange World, Karen Russell
  17. Thus Were Their Faces, Silvina Ocampo
  18. Six Gun Snow White, Catherynne Valente
  19. Gingerbread, Helen Oyeyemi
  20. The Temeraire series (9 novels), Noami Novik
  21. Salem’s Lot, Stephen King
  22. Gerald’s Game, Stephen King
  23. The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl, Theodora Goss
  24. Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir
  25. Sol Majestic, Ferrett Steinmetz
  26. Lush and Seething Hell, John Horner Jacobs
  27. The Twisted Ones, T. Kingfisher
  28. Wounds, Nathan Ballingrud
  29. Amnesty, Lara Donnelly
  30. Songs for the Unraveling of the World, Brian Evenson
  31. Forest for the Trees, Betsy Lerner
  32. A Little Stranger, Sara Waters
  33. Growing Things, Paul Tremblay
  34. House in the Dark of the Woods, Laird Hunt
  35. Monster Portraits, Sofia Samatar
  36. The Byline Bible, Susan Shapiro
  37. On Immunity, Eula Biss
  38. Fever Dream, Samanta Schweblin
  39. In the Dream House, Carmen Machado
  40. The Hunger, Alma Katsu
  41. Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead
  42. Salvation Day, Kali Wallace
  43. Poison Thread, Laura Purcell
  44. The Grip of It, Jac Jemc
  45. Best Horror 2019, Ellen Datlow, ed.
  46. Mere Wife, Maria Dahvana Headley
  47. Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle
  48. The Only Harmless Great Thing, Brooke Bolander
  49. Long Way Down, Jason Reynolds
  50. 300 Arguments, Sarah Manguso
  51. Meander, Spiral, Explode, Jane Alison
  52. Suicide Woods, Benjamin Percy
  53. Best of the Best Horror 2010-2019, Ellen Datlow, ed.
  54. Make It Scream, Make It Burn, Leslie Jamison
  55. Dead Girls’ Club, Damien Angelica Walters
  56. Exhalation, Ted Chiang
  57. Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix Harrow
  58. Ninth House, Leigh Bardugo
  59. The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones
  60. Survivor Song, Paul Tremblay
  61. Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno Garcia
  62. Everything Change Vol 2, an anthology of Climate Change, Angie Dell, ed.
  63. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, Grady Hendrix
  64. Survivor Song, Paul Tremblay
  65. The Only Good Indian, Stephen Graham Jones
  66. Finna, Nino Cipri
  67. The Magical Writing Grimoire, Lisa Marie Basile
  68. Revenge, Yoko Ogawa
  69. Luster, Raven Leilani
  70. Piranesi, Susanna Clarke
  71. Some Kind of Animal, Maria Romesco Moore
  72. The Book of X, Sarah Rose Etter
  73. Harrow the 9th, Tamsyn Muir
  74. A Deadly Education, Naomi Novik
  75. A Widow’s Story, Joyce Carol Oates
  76. Leave the World Behind, Rumaan Alam
  77. In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson
  78. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, Sherman Alexie
  79. Errantry, Elizabeth Hand

List is incomplete, partially because I’m sure I’ve forgotten some books, and partly because I go through phases where I list books I’ve read for work, and then phases where I decide those shouldn’t count, so I don’t record them. Also missing: reading for the Vonnegut and Terry Tempest Williams Prizes for North American Review (around 2,000 pages per prize). And reading friends’ manuscripts: I read five or six of those. Am trying not to feel shame about this list. I always feel I should have read more, but it’s so hard on top of all the other things need doing. I had a baby halfway through this list and stopped reading the month before her birth (too anxious; couldn’t focus) and for about five months after. I read a ton of short horror fiction, and many books by friends and acquaintances. My grad school friends formed a casual reading & discussion group, and that helped motivate me.

More news: my paper, “The Ellen Datlow Endings Project,” was accepted for this year’s online International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts. Excited to finish working through my ideas. I have a draft–I attempt to categorize the endings of around a hundred horror stories appearing in recent Ellen Datlow anthologies–but I have one more anthology to finish and add to my data set.

Holiday cooking to complete: wild mushroom soup, apple pie, pumpkin pie.

Publishing news 2020/2021, with bonus other thing I made this year

I received tenure in 2019 and spent academic year 2019-2020 in Arizona on PDA, my university’s version of sabbatical. I went into my leave of absence with grandiose reading and writing plans, but instead unexpectedly got pregnant. My daughter Maeve was born in April, a pandemic baby (I so need to write an essay about that…) Then we got stranded by the pandemic, unable to return to Iowa. We’ve been living with my parents for almost two years now, which has been a bizarre but fun way to spend my late thirties. I’m remote teaching for UNI, an absolute blessing, and I’m having a fabulous time with my online classes, though I’m anxious to get vaccinated and get back to Iowa.

Somehow, amidst all this, I’ve had a quantity of new things come out.

At Essay Daily, a pedagogy piece about Carmen Maria Machado’s brilliant memoir In the Dream House: “Instructions for Building a Dream House.”

At The Rupture, my short-story “Cornell Box, “Untitled” (contains Bluebeard, Tin Soldier, et al.)” is forthcoming in December 2020.

At Bloomsbury, my DIAGRAM piece has been reprinted in a gorgeous and necessary new textbook, Advanced Creative Nonfiction, edited by Sean Prentiss and Jessica Hendry Melson. I plan to incorporate this new textbook in my 3710 course as soon as it’s out; my current much-beloved textbook (Dinty Moore’s Writing the Personal Essay) has been out since 2010, and I have to let go sometime.

At Inscape Literary Journal, my short story “Miranda, Miranda” will appear sometime in Spring 2021.

A new issue of Grimoire dropped, and it is beautiful as ever. My favorite pet project.

I’ve submitted a paper to the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts. It’s a meta analysis of endings in short-stories selected by Ellen Datlow across multiple anthologies, and I really hope it gets accepted, because the paper is almost finished! It also gave me an excuse to buy Edited By.

And there should be a new issue of North American Review coming in the spring. I just finished reading for the Vonnegut Prize, judged by Kij Johnson, and I’m hoping to get through all the outstanding nonfiction submissions as soon as possible, before it’s time for Williams Prize reading. Jane Alison (of Meander, Spiral, Explode fame) will be our 2021 judge.

This rarely updated blog has become a clearinghouse for my occasional publishing news, so I can remember what needs updating on my academic CV when annual faculty activity reports come due. And that is a just fine use for it for the moment.

This is the other thing I made this year. Photo of my actual child as creepy china doll who awakens at the witching hour to murder you. I love her to distraction.

Newest works, news, the works.

Grimoire issue two is live!  The issue also contains a video project I’ve been working on with James — I am no film artist, let me tell you.  My friend the poet Annah Browning (who has been blowing up lately…) jokingly suggested that our magazine needed an advice column called Resident Ghost, wherein we summon a spirit to answer reader questions.  So, this is that.  We had far too much fun with the Holiday Special edition.  I also wrote a riff on Angela Carter for the issue, if you are as in love with her work as I am.

My latest erasure went live at Diagram at the beginning of this month, and I am terribly pleased.  The entire issue is fantastic: Gina Alexandra’s “Heirlooms” is a particular favorite (it must be howling, it must be calling its cubs…).  The issue prior, an all-erasure issue, featured wonderful work by many erasure writers I admire, including Jen Moore, as well as work that comments on different kinds of erasure, as in Tariq al Haydar’s fabulous “The Emperor’s 13 Colonies and the Ghosts of Breakfasters.”

I’m almost done with Heloise&Wulf, the video game I’ve been working on; we previewed it at Bitbash Chicago back in October (we took part in their Halloween spectacular), and art from the game appears in Grimoire as the header art for the Billy’s Dream interpretation column.  The people who playtested it were very kind about our odd duckling of a post-apocalypse card game.

I have two new stories forthcoming: “An Affectionate Silence,” in Lethe Press’s anthology Survivor, edited by Maryanne Mohanraj and J.J. Pionke; and “Seven Devices for Dispelling Demons,” from Wild Musette.

And I finally finished a downdraft of the memoir, which has only taken me 10 years to figure out how to structure.  I’m returning to Ghostwitch, the novel I finished back in June, so as to teach myself a better process for long-form revision before I go breaking the memoir with my cluelessness.  Wrote 150K on those two books alone last year, not counting the (very lengthy) script for Heloise&Wulf.  I owe it all to James, who lends me his hands when mine let me down.  The wrist pain comes and goes (I will never be a regular blogger, ha ha ha grr) but we manage.

Hopefully 2017 will bring more of same, productivity-wise (and in NO OTHER WAY).  The world seems dark and terrifying, and everything I make turns nightmarish, but perhaps that’s only reflection.

I’ll be at AWP this year with my Grimoire co-editors, dressed in black with my witch’s hat on.  Stop by for a Motherpeace tarot reading, some Grimoire shwag, or an ankh stamp to bring you back to the glory days of ’90s era gothdom.

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Grimoire.

The Secret Project is no longer secret!  Last week we launched Grimoire Magazine into the wild, where it immediately made friends with all the sharp-toothed beasts of the forest.  I’m working on a few more features to be rolled out soon — an advice column called Resident Ghost as well as a review or three — but I’m so pleased at the positive reception Grimoire’s had thus far.    We launched the magazine while James and I were traveling in Arizona, just two days after we spent the night at the haunted Grand Hotel in Jerome.  It’s all felt terribly thematically appropriate.

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Novel-T.

Novel is done as of last night. Came in at 77.5K words. We lost a few weeks to traveling to see family, plus I’m heading to a 2-week novel revision camp (this weekend!), which meant pausing at the top of Act 3 to put together a synopsis and clean up the first few chapters for the workshop’s consumption. I wish I were faster; James and I started the 90-Day Novel back in January (so, more like the 150-day novel, oof) and we began trance-writing pages back in early March. Still, this is the most hopeful about long-form writing I’ve been since my wrists decided they hated my career choice.

I’m hoping to return from novelcamp with a completely overhauled synopsis, ready to redraft this sucker, though probably not until next January…want to let it rest so we can see it afresh. Now it’s James’ turn to novel: we’re planning to brainstorm his book together in July, and then I’ll work on my never-ending memoir plus short form (stories and essays) while he’s pounding out word count.

Today we went on a bike ride through the nature preserve (very flooded, but also gorgeous with green) and ended with a fancy lunch downtown to celebrate. Our 2-year wedding anniversary is coming up while I’m away at revision camp. It’s been five years since Clarion, which is the anniversary of when we met. Pretty much since then, James & I dreamt of writing together — it’s something we both wanted, but we had such different processes and styles, it felt impossible, and early attempts ended in fire&tears. It took my wrists saying NO to the writing life — funnily enough, it was at this same novel-camp three years ago when things got bad enough for me to quit my daily wordcount goal completely and let myself heal.  It took his willingness to give up some of his writing time to type for me.  It took a lot of grief&pain for us to get this thing we’d always wanted.  So often, horrible things I’ve been sure would destroy me have turned into twisted little gifts.  This novel seems like another one of those.  I still can’t believe it exists.

June 17, 2016. Novel down draft complete. Even if we never do anything else with this particular manuscript, today I am so, so happy.  Thanks, love, for being my arms.

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Wiscon Schedule 2016

I’ll be at Wiscon in Madison, WI, this weekend, taking part in two panels and a reading. Excited to see old friends and make new ones, which happens every year.  I do believe this is my fourth Wiscon.  I feel slightly sad I missed the Nebulas in Chicago this year, but hopefully Wiscon will make up for that.  Details of where I’ll be when:

The Art of the Book Reviewer: Fri, 2:30–3:45 pm
As blogging has become more and more important, how have the duties of the book reviewer changed? Are traditional book reviewing venues (hard copy or on-line magazies) still important? How does the expected audience for a book review affect what the reviewer should say? What are some of the best places to go for reviews of science fiction and fantasy?

Genre Blending: Fri, 9:00–10:15 pm
Whether it’s a steampunk fairytale or an end of the world love story between science and magic or a Hong Kong-style revenge space opera, stories are spilling over the edges of genre. When is it done well? What is left to explore?

Lonely Monsters Reading: Sun, 1:00–2:15 pm
The unloved, the lonely, the monster left behind. Join us for a reading featuring Zombies, Dinosaurs, The Goblin Queen, The Girl Who Makes Pet Tongues, Horrible Hair, The Mix-Tape Monster, and a Self-Storage Service for Loneliness. Come hear their monstrous tales of woe.

I’ll also be participating in the short-story workshop, and I never miss the clothing exchange and the Floomp…should be a busy but lovely few days.  Hope to see you there!

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Lately.

I haven’t blogged in ages because hands. Random nerve pain hasn’t let up; I still can’t write with anywhere near the consistency I’d wish, but I’ve stabilized. Or at least I’ve developed some strategies for minimizing wear and tear on the parts that hurt. The body and I maintain an uneasy truce: it lets me do my !@#$ job and I don’t expect it to sit at a desk typing for more than a few hours a day.

New projects: I’ve become enamored of collaboration, by necessity. A few friends and I are working on a secret project. I’ve been making a post apocalyptic story-based videogame. I’ll soon be taking part in Entropy’s collaborative epic poem Birdwolf. I will have a new essay (a set of erasure book reviews) out in DIAGRAM sometime this year. I’m also at the 25K mark (end of Act 1) of a YA novel set in Jerome, AZ, the draft of which I plan to take to a novel revision workshop in June.   James brainstormed the plot with me, and he’s typing it while I dictate. It has ghosts and witches in it, so it seems appropriate that it’s being written in trance state. I get to play medium, nightly channeling The Spirits that power our novel. And of course I’m still working at UNI, which remains a daily pleasure. I love Cedar Falls, and teaching, and I have a fellowship this summer that will fund both the CSSF workshop and a research trip back to Jerome.

When I line it all up in a paragraph, it doesn’t seem so terrible, though I’ve felt brutally unproductive in the year and half since I moved to Iowa. I’ve had zero patience with the sheer disruption of major life transitions: wedding/graduation/new state/new job. Only in the past few months have I hit my stride again as far as making things and putting them out in the world. Blog redesign is part of that.

Future posts: I hope to blog a bit about the process of writing this novel, simply to document what’s working and what isn’t, since the whole Spiritualist trance-state process has proved so fun and weird and intimacy reinforcing. Plus I’m teaching an advanced nonfiction workshop in the fall (exciting!) that I plan to run as a long-form/memoir class, and I want to build my own textbook for it, since the ones I’ve run across have been lackluster. I may post sample exercises/prompts as I go; I’m curious to see how my students will feel about producing a Nanowrimo-like quantity of words in a single semester.

No AWP for me this year, but have fun in L.A., everyone! If you’re at Wiscon in May, I’ll see you there.

I spent Spring Break in Chicago, and a brilliant writer-designer friend was kind enough to do a playful photoshoot with her super-sweet camera (the new header is from that shoot).  Just for fun, here’s one of the discarded possible blog headers.  The photo above I refer to as Demon Eyes.  The photo below is Dead Extra on True Detective, Season 1 (with rings):

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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:

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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.

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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.