Pop n’ Crawl

This summer I was named one of the finalists in the Lit Pop contest sponsored by Matrix Magazine and Pop Montreal. What a thrill! And sure, it would’ve been even more of a thrill to win the whole shebang, but making the shortlist is still pretty awesome.

And while I didn’t get to go read at Montreal Pop, I will be reading here in town at the Seattle Lit Crawl.


I went to this event last year and had so much fun; it’s exciting to be a part of it this time around. Here are the details:

Three Jennys Walk into a Bar…
Sam’s Tavern, 1024 E Pike St.
Jenny Forrester (co-editor of The People’s Apocalypse and 2011 Hugo House New Works winner), Jenny Hayes (Unshod Quills, The Northville Review), and Jennifer D. Munro (The Erotica Writer’s Husband & Other Stories) read tales of lust, loneliness, and the American West. Seattle Writergrrls’ Jenny Neill hosts.

There are a ton of amazing readings happening in the 7 and 8 PM slots too, plus an after-party at 9. So even though my daughter thinks the name sounds too much like “lip crawl” and seems creepy, like a disembodied lip crawling through the streets of Seattle … wait, where was I? Oh yeah. COME TO LIT CRAWL.


A few spring things

It’s about time for some new news, no? Luckily I have something to tell you. My story “Words in Black Marker” recently went live in Printer’s Devil Journal, Vol. 3 No. 1 (Spring 2012).

Printer's Devil Review

You can download a PDF of the whole shebang, or just my piece–here’s a wee snippet:

Someone enters the kitchen, and for a wild split second I think it could be him. But it’s just three girls, all looking fashionably disheveled in a way that clearly took effort. One of them brushes past me to get to the refrigerator. I notice a word on her hand, written in black marker.

“FEISTY.” I read it out loud. “You’re feisty?” She shrugs, reaching into the fridge.

“I’m tasty,” one of the other girls says. She shows me her hand, with TASTY scrawled across it.

I look at the third girl. “What about you?”

She sighs and holds her hand up. OBLONG.


“Fuck if I know,” she says. “Stupid Rob.”

The other massive event in my recent writing life was going to the Sirenland Writers Workshop in March. I applied back in October on a crazy whim — not really thinking I’d actually end up going. But when I learned (on Christmas!) that I had a spot, I decided it would be crazy not to seize the chance to spend a week in Positano, Italy devoted to writing.


Positano was beautiful. The hotel was luxurious. The attendees were a more charming, soulful, and talented bunch than I could have imagined. And the workshop itself was fantastic. Ten of us met with Karen Russell each morning (two other groups worked with Jim Shepard and Dani Shapiro) and had what I can only describe as a fantastic time. Each of us came away inspired, invigorated, and ready to get to work and dig deeper into our stories. Rather than attempt to convey more about how magical it was, I’ll direct you to a few blog posts from my fellow Sirenlander, the talented and charming Ian Williams. The first two are even hand written (and drawn!) — one from a couple days in, one as the week came to a close. And then a month later, he described the process of coming back down to earth.

Aside from all that amazingness, I got to eat pizza in Naples on the way there, and got a dive bar tour of Paris on the way out. Basically, it was wonderful.

And now I’m happily back at home, keeping the good writing juju going, hitting a few yard sales, and appreciating Seattle. Last week was Syttende Mai, which if you don’t live in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood and aren’t Norwegian, you probably don’t know is Norway’s Constitution Day (May 17). Ballard has what’s supposedly the largest Syttende Mai parade in the world aside from Oslo (so bigger and probably crazier than everywhere else in Norway).


I took my daughter to the parade and she scrambled to collect candy as we took it all in. Kids on unicycles reenacting Pac Man. High school marching bands playing “Crazy Train,” “Walk This Way” and “Gangnam Style.” The Greater Icelandic Club of Seattle (which was something like three dudes). Elderly Scandinavians in sweaters and long skirts. Frisbee-throwing robots. Grizzled clowns carrying cups of beer. Lecherous pirates firing cannons. Viking hats on everyone, including someone in a gorilla costume. A man wearing a giant clam. A large orange octopus riding a truck. Drill teams and beauty queens. ’50s cars and Nordic Fjord Horses and motorcycle cops riding in coordinated circles.


It was a good time. And a nice reminder that where I live is pretty awesome, in its own peculiar way.


Bowie, burgers, and beer

Sounds like the makings of a good time! It’s also a quick summary of what I’ve been up to lately. (At least in writing matters. I will remain silent regarding my personal consumption of all three.)

Let’s start with a nice cold frosty brew: My story “Damsel Drinks A Beer” appears in the beer-centric fiction anthology A Six Pack Of Stories: Short Stories to be Read with a Beer in Hand. It’s so hot off the presses that I haven’t even seen a copy yet! Can’t wait to check out the other contributions.

As for the burger, I have an odd little prose poem, “Tarnished,” in issue #2 of the wacky and fantastic Seattle-based zine You Have Been Eaten By A Hamburger. There’s a zine release party happening next Thursday, Dec. 13th at 7pm at Couth Buzzard Books (8310 Greenwood Ave. N., Seattle). My piece was written for their “summer vacation” theme — I’ll be reading it and maybe some archival material (read: crazed scribbled notes and/or diary entries) from summer vacations of my youth.

Last but certainly not least, the chapbook based on my 8th grade Bowie story is in the works! Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs (of fantastic bands such as The Finches and Bouquet) has created accompanying artwork that frankly blew my mind when I saw it. I felt like I was looking at the actual (fictitious) letter from 1981. Here’s a tiny, TINY glimpse:

There’s still work to do before the book materializes in hold-in-your-hand-able form, but the masterminds of Unshod Quills/Old Heavy Press are gonna make it happen. It should be available early next year. I can’t wait!


Waywardsville, CA

How do I even write about what happened in Plumas County, California a couple of weeks back? It was part writing retreat, part public reading, part family road trip, but more than anything it felt like a reunion: most of us had never met in person before, but after having been in session after session of Ariel Gore’s School for Wayward Writers, reading each other’s work, commenting, shooting the shit online … well, in this day of online connections you probably know how it goes. When we met in person it already felt like we were old-time friends.

I’m still amazed that we actually made this happen. Seven of us writers, a couple of spouses, and a posse of kids all gathered at the mountain home of Margaret Elysia Garcia — crashing the spare room, camping outside, or house-sitting down the road. The highlight of the weekend was a reading at the Taylorsville Tavern, where our posse came close to outnumbering the locals who ventured in to hear us tell our tales.

Wayward Writers at Taylorsville Tavern
Back row: Margaret Elysia Garcia, Bonnie Ditlevsen, Rebeca Dunn-Krahn,
Michelle Gonzales, Kate Dreyfus. Front row: Jenny Forrester, Jenny Hayes

I started the evening off by reading my middle-school David Bowie letter/story along with a couple of unpublished pieces. Kate Dreyfus gave us a selection of poems that touched on the funny and the profound, sometimes at the same time. Bonnie Ditlevsen, editor of Penduline Press, read a steamy tale — “It’s fiction!”, she reminded us more than once — from the upcoming People’s Apocalypse anthology (edited by our Wayward cohorts Ariel Gore and Jenny Forrester). Michelle Gonzales read two fantastic selections from her memoir, Pretty Bold for a Mexican Girl: Growing Up Chicana In a Hick Town. Our hostess Margaret Elysia Garcia read pieces that danced the line between memoir and poetry, one of which featured a hilarious imitation of her mom’s outgoing answering machine message with morbid-sounding Emily Dickinson lines read in a listing drone. Rebeca Dunn-Krahn told a tale of knives, fishes, and deception that had us all at the edges of our seats. And Jenny Forrester, the only one who I’d heard read her work before, capped off the evening with a couple of riveting fiction pieces and a soulful story of visiting the small town of her youth — how it’s changed, how it’s stayed the same, how it’s beautiful and dangerous and impossible and inevitable all at the same time.

All in all it was a wonderful weekend. Yes, there were forest fires and ash in the sky and inter-kid squabbles and minor episodes of stage fright and power outages and searingly hot temperatures. But there were also homemade tortillas and thirteen-word horror stories and jugs of gazpacho and new kid friendships and a hidden watering hole and a bagful of ice cold popsicles that kept us all from melting in the heat. Some of us brought food and some of us cooked and some of us mixed gin-and-organic-tonics and one of us snuck money to the waitress to treat us all to breakfast. We all made it home safe and we’re even talking about trying to do something similar next year. Maybe even with a few more writer friends joining in from their wayward places. Will we pull it off again? Who knows. But I’m so grateful that we did it this time.

On the drive home I was thinking about the day I first signed up for Ariel’s class. I loved her books and had thought about doing it a few times before, and for whatever reason this time I took the plunge. Doing so turned out to be a great decision; it changed the way I write and the way I think about my writing. But it’s also funny to look back at a seemingly-simple choice, one that could have gone either way, and see how things came from it that I couldn’t possibly have foreseen. I took this trip and met these people, all because I signed up for a class a couple years back. It wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

I’m really glad it did.


Whatever, hairy guy

My story “Chasing the Ferret” has been published at The Northville Review.

Quack, went my computer. My officemate Tara and I always tried to outdo each other with the dumbest alert sounds, like fart noises or snippets of awful songs, but even the funniest ones got old fast. The decrepit-sounding duck meant I had new email. It was from my manager, Renee.

I’ve been a big fan of The Northville Review for some time now. They publish some amazing writing; I couldn’t ask for a better home for this story. It’s one that is near and dear to my heart. Maybe because I once had a job like that, and an apartment like that, and a neighbor with a ferret, although that’s pretty much where the resemblance to reality ends. It was fun weaving in all kinds of odd little scenes and details into this story.

After another twenty minutes of checking boxes and clicking OK, I decided to call it a day and catch the early bus home. It was already pretty full and I had to sit next to some hairy guy reading a paperback. I tried to see what it was, but he gave me a look. Like I know you’re looking at my book, but I don’t want to acknowledge it, so I’m just going to glance your way for half a second and then lean away from you, you inappropriately nosy person. Totally passive-aggressive. Then again I’d probably do the same thing if that guy was staring at my book.

I hope you’ll go read the whole thing!


Goths and babies

Dang, it’s been a while! I kept thinking about posting, but … well, there is nothing more boring than someone talking about why they haven’t blogged in so long, so I will get right to it.

First off, I had a short piece published in Penduline Press’s Spellbound issue: The Goths.

The goths are mysterious and ethereal and moody but also bold and bawdy and hilarious. They are impractical, some more than others, though none of them would ever spend their last few dollars on cleaning supplies or milk or parking tickets if it meant going without black eyeliner. The goths don’t have pets anymore, though one of them once had a lizard and one had a little brown rat named Albertine.

In the time since that piece was published, the Spellbound issue has come and gone and now the excellent Dastardly issue has been posted. And Penduline is taking submissions for an upcoming Ohio-themed issue — a subject on which I sadly have nothing to say. I have never been to Ohio, and my impressions of the state mostly come from reading Winesburg, Ohio and Knockemstiff. This probably isn’t an entirely fair view of Ohio, but on the other hand … it seems possible that it’s not too far off.

Here’s something I just learned while looking for that last link: there’s a band called Knockemstiff! I don’t think they were inspired by the book, which is probably a good thing — that would be one scary-ass band. I can’t quite wrap my mind around how the Ramones ended up on this list of bands they cover.

I will say that this random Internet find isn’t quite as amazing as the time a web search led me to discover a Malaysian band called the Misfit Ramones. (I had been looking for this.) One of their songs is called “Your Breasts Are Big (I’m Going To Sue You).” It’s a pretty catchy little number.

Wow, I am easily distracted when I haven’t blogged in a while! I think I was going to say more about some writerly things I’ve been doing. I took another session of Ariel Gore’s amazing Literary Kitchen online course, which was fantastic (as usual) — came out with a couple of stories that need just a bit more tweaking before sending ’em out into the world. I also took a one-day course with Lidia Yuknavitch at Richard Hugo House that was inspiring and fantastic.

But the most exciting thing that happened in the past few months was the birth of my niece, Matilda, on Valentine’s Day! I got to see her just a few days later. She was born at Alta Bates hospital in Berkeley — the same place where my sisters and I were all born. My sister Lily, Matilda’s mom, was born in a sort of alternative hippie birthing wing of the hospital. Our whole family got to hang out and be there for the birth. I was twelve and kept a running account in my journal while everything was happening. Basically, I live-blogged it, except that it was 1981 and that wasn’t even close to being a thing yet.

My dad submitted my account of it to an “intergenerational anthology” called Across The Generations, and it became my first published piece of writing.

I’m not sure my style has changed all that much from this time (though I’m a much more ruthless self-editor). That aside to Amy (my other sister)? Classic. And this train-of-thought digression about beanbags (plus a whole lotta parentheses) — perhaps you can see the roots of this rambly post right here …

I love seeing this glimpse into my twelve-year-old mind, with its mix of grossed-out observations and sheer excitement.

Sure, there’s lots of waiting around, and sisterly squabbles, and bloody guck. But what it really comes down to is Lilylilylily! Babybabybaby!

I wrote out her full name, date of birth, and astrological sign below that.

There really is nothing like a new little person coming into the world, someone you look forward to getting to know for a long time to come, someone you already love.

Matilda! MatildaMatilda! MatildaMatildaMatilda!



Back in October I saw a call for submissions to an online journal called Unshod Quills. They had not one but several themes for this issue: Love, Coffee, David Bowie, Joan of Arc, Enough Rope, Childhood, and Dancing About Architecture.

I started thinking about ideas for a Bowie-inspired piece — I mean, all those themes have great possibilities, but there was no question in my mind which one I wanted to tackle. I kept thinking about listening to CHANGESONEBOWIE in the early ’80s. It seemed like everyone had that record in 8th grade … a time and place that I’d been thinking about using for a fiction setting. Some characters and storylines were already rolling around in my mind, and in one of those lightning-flash moments — perhaps in this case a flash of painted-over-one-eye lightning — everything merged into an idea for a letter written in 1981 by an 8th-grade girl while listening to that album. It ended up being one of my favorite things I’ve written in a long time.

I was thrilled when the Unshod Quill folks liked it too! The issue went live in December with my piece: Dear Rosie AKA Ro-Ho-Zee AKA Rosarita Refried Beans.

October 12, 1981

Dear Rosie AKA Ro-Ho-Zee AKA Rosarita Refried Beans,

HI! Sorry your new school is so bunk. You aren’t missing much here, everything is pretty much the same except that Erica got a perm and so did Leslie Stang. I have Ms. Stanford for History AGAIN!!! I thought I left her ugly face behind in 7th grade but I guess she teaches 8th too. My English teacher seems pretty cool. Everything else is just blah.

Hold on I am going to put on a record, wait isn’t it funny that I just wrote “hold on” when you haven’t even gotten this letter yet? DUMB! I bought “CHANGESONEBOWIE” at Pellucidar and it’s hella raw. I am going to write you while the songs are playing and that way it will be like we are listening together!

Click over to read the rest, and to see my amazing (if I do say so myself) 1982 school picture. And then be sure to keep on clickin’ … there’s a whole bunch of goodness there, Bowie-inflected and otherwise. Though I think it’s distinctly possible that, via some kind of metaphysical time-and-space oddity, his hand drifted over and threw magical glitter dust over the whole shebang.


What I did in November, and at a Ramones show in 1984

Last month I decided to finally start writing the new novel that’s been fermenting in my mind for a while. I had this great opening scene in mind and everything … but once I actually started writing it I was confronted with how much more fumbling and awkward my words often are when they’re not just in my head anymore. I figured I could use an outside force to keep me motivated so, five days into November, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month and swore a solemn oath to crank out 50,000 words.

I did NaNoWriMo once before, way back in 2002. That experience was amazing — I would even say life-changing, cheesy as that may sound. Up until then, every time I’d start writing fiction I’d always get discouraged by how lame my writing was. I somehow expected it to come out great the first time–the awful feeling when it didn’t was overwhelming, and I’d figure today’s not my day, or this isn’t the piece, and put it aside. But in November 2002 I felt all that stuff and kept going anyway. It was exhilarating! And eventually, with a lot of work, that 50,000-word outburst turned into an actual nearly-completed novel, something that I am really proud of.

This time around, I knew I could hit the word count, even with my five-day delay. (I type fast.) It was not as magical as the first time around, but it was still a great experience. There were a few parts where I went YES! But there was also a lot of crap. So, we’ll see what happens … something will come of it, but it may not resemble this “novel” much at all. Which is fine! I don’t think anyone should expect to come out of NaNoWriMo with something that anyone would want to read on December 1st. It’s definitely one of those “journey, not the destination” things. Even if I secretly hoped I’d end up with something frighteningly awesome.

By the way, how is it that I just now realized that “November” shares its first four letters with “novel”? I don’t think that’s why they picked that month, though. If it was, they might have named it something like “Novelmember,” and that just sounds wrong.

Even aside from all the novel-spewing, November was swell. I met a bunch of local writers who are super nice and supportive! I saw Nicole Hardy, Kevin Sampsell, and Sherman Alexie read at Hugo House with a couple of swell friends! And I had a sweet Thanksgiving with family, followed by a day-after leftovers party at a friend’s house. Four of them, including the one hosting, had grown up in various parts of Central and Southern California, but I don’t think any of them knew each other then. There was a discussion of shows they had seen and clubs they had frequented, and two of them discovered they had been to the same Ramones show at the Rollerdrome in 1984. An original ticket stub was produced, along with the Clash’s autographs on an airplane barf bag (my friend lamented that it wasn’t the real Clash, only Joe Strummer, the other guys were fake Clash). I grew up in Northern California and am a few years younger, but I went to see the Ramones at the Kabuki in San Francisco that same year. I don’t have my ticket stub, but I do have a bunch of paper menus that my friends and I scribbled on.

I made a list of the songs they played. This was during the phase where I decided it looked cooler to write dates out the Euro way, with the day before the month.

That reminds me, another thing I did this November was karaoke. I sang “The KKK Took My Baby Away.” I am still baffled that they had this as a choice. It’s actually a pretty good karaoke song. Afterwards, a drunk woman named Tex staggered over to me and said “Man, I didn’t know they took anyone’s baby away!” Then she did a medley of “Hello, I Love You” and “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This,” which mostly consisted of her holding the microphone out to various audience members.

But back to the Ramones show! We also used those menus to make fun of people.

Many of our comments concerned this one guy who must have been wiggling up a storm.

And some of them dealt with other pressing matters.

And now, things are getting all Christmassy. What can I say, I’m a fan of presents and cookies and tinsel and merriment and all that stuff (except for candy canes, blecch). And Christmas music, which I know is hated by many, but if you don’t you should wander over to Mr. Hayes’s blog for some choice selections. There’s even a bunch of depressing Christmas songs, if that’s more your speed. My current favorite is the rockin’ one, since it has a version of “Do You Hear What I Hear” that is actually good. (Even liking Christmas music, some songs tend to suck and that is one of the worst offenders.)

So I will be spending much of December listening to festive songs and gettin’ merry … and will take another look at that Novelmember business with fresh eyes in the new year.


Books I like in my pants

I was thinking about writing a bit about some books I’ve recently read and liked. Then I heard about this thing where you add “In My Pants” to book titles. In some cases, hilarity ensues. (“In your pants” supposedly works too, but I think my pants are funnier than your pants. No offense.)

So here are some books I’ve enjoyed over the last year or so … in my pants.

Okay, that last one I’ve just purchased and haven’t actually read yet … but come on, that’s too good not to include.

Digging a bit deeper through my bookshelves, I thought these two could combine to tell a story:

And these three had me cackling like Beavis and Butthead:

Yes, I am setting the bar high for intellectual discourse. Welcome to my blog.