March 2017: the Happenings

Hi all! I decided to start a new feature wherein I use this blog to round up all my writing-related news each month--and, perhaps most importantly, to talk about all the great books I read every month in my quest to read 70 books this year (I know, it's not THAT much for a writer, but, I work full-time, so cut a girl some slack). 

March 2017 is a particularly splendid month to start, given that I recently announced that I've placed my first collection of short stories with the publisher JournalStone, and that it will be coming out in May! The book is called Speaking to Skull Kings; it contains ten reprints and two original stories, and you can preorder it here. I wrote all these stories between 2012 and 2014, a time in my life when I was obsessed with abandonment through death or otherwise. In those years, my beloved grandmother, who made peanut butter sandwiches for the squirrels so they wouldn't starve in the snow, died before my eyes at my parents' house; my other grandmother died four months later. My first boyfriend, who I'd dated for four years, dumped me; subsequent adventures in dating proved no less painful. My college friends left Boston, and I made new friends and they left too. I was in this crucible when I crammed all these emotions into fever dreams of old Europe and haunted New England and wrote these stories. They are laced with all the feelings that made me into a (sort of, loosely speaking) grownup. I hope you enjoy them. 

In other news: I placed two stories this month. The first, Seven Steps to Beauty for a Girl Named Avarice, is coming out in John Joseph Adams' Nightmare sometime later this year. This story is a twisted fairytale that I will synopsize thusly: "What if witches, but also murder?" But really, this story stemmed from me mulling on female beauty standards, and the trope of the old witch woman losing her beauty and committing magic crimes to get her beauty back and then getting punished hard for it, and the way that ladies' bosoms are always shifting beneath their dresses in fiction, even now in the year of our lord 2017. This is my give-no-fucks story and I hope you will give no fucks too and read it. 

The second story, Evangeline and the Forbidden Lighthouse, lives very close to my heart, and is perhaps one of my favorite stories I've ever written. Oh, and it got me into Clarion last year! It takes place in a seaside community on the coast of Maine, a part of the world where I've spent much of my life, and it tells the story of a friendship between a girl who vacations at the beach every summer and a girl who lives there year-round. It's about this fraught, intense relationship between the two girls, and the sea, and growing up and fate and choice and of course ocean magic. The story will appear in Interzone in May of this year, which, I would just like to point out, is a magazine that once published Angela Carter.

On the non-fiction side of the tracks, my interview with Loren Coleman of the International Cryptozoology Museum went up in the Financial Times this month. You can read it here. Loren is a fascinating fellow: since the age of 14, he's been researching, writing about, and chasing cryptids (animals unknown to science, such as Bigfoot or the yeti). I spent about three hours with him at his museum up in Portland, Maine last October, during which we talked about topics ranging from the Feejee mermaid to the creepy clown epidemic of 2016. 

Finally, I read six books, many of which I loved!

First, Alexander Chee's Queen of the Night, a meta-opera Second Empire/Third Republic Paris extravaganza of intrigue and brothel and velvet. My Clarion friends described this book to me as "Emily catnip," and boy, were they right. This book is so over-the-top that it makes Phantom of the Opera look like a restrained, hyper-realistic work of minimalism. By which I mean I LOVED it.

Second, Leaving Lucy Pear, by Anna Solomon, a historical novel about two women's interconnected lives in 1920s Massachusetts. Points for portraying the travails of New England assimilationist Jews and for dealing with oft-untouched historical topics such as contraception, sexuality, and mental illness. Points off for not being weird enough for me, and for a pretty problematic plot twist. Overall, though, a perfectly pleasant read.

Third, Difficult Women, by Roxane Gay, which is Gay's new short story collection. I loved this book, as I love pretty much everything Gay touches. It was funny, and heartbreaking, and so compulsively readable, and the characters were so human. Highly recommend. 

Fourth, Margaret the First, by Danielle Dutton, a stylized account of the life of Margaret Cavendish, an influential female writer of the 17th century. This book is another one of those historical novels that's written with inventive prose and deep interiority; Wolf Hall comes to mind as another one in this category. I found the book perfectly enjoyable, and it certainly deals with an important topic, but also, I finished it like two weeks ago and can barely remember it, so that probably doesn't say great things about it. 

Fifth, In Persuasion Nation, by George Saunders. Confession! I had never read George Saunders until I opened this tome! I wasn't sure if I was going to like it, and to be honest, the first story did nothing to assuage my fears. But I'm pleased to report that I did, in the end, like it! George Saunders can write a mean dystopia-that's-hilarious-but-also-makes-you-want-to-cry. It is a skill I greatly admire in an author. 

Finally, Eileen, by Ottessa Moshfegh, a "literary thriller" about a misanthropic 24-year-old woman living in a small Massachusetts town in the 1960s who gets sucked into a CRIME. I'm not sure what a "literary thriller" is--I think it's just, like, a thriller, but it's okay for literary people to like it? Whatever, marketers. Anyway, I won't hold that label against it: Eileen was great. I loved reading about a female character who was really, truly, deeply unlikeable, who was 24 and unmarried and didn't have her shit figured out at all. I mean that both literally and figuratively. Read the book. You'll see what I mean. 

Anyway, that's all this month, my friends. Here's to surviving and fighting the current political climate, to good books and spring.