I found out today that my novella, The Laws of Drowning and Rhetoric, is a finalist in Curbside Splendor's Second-Annual Wild Onion Novella Contest, which is fucking amazing and wonderful (though I won't let myself get too excited because the other three finalists are all talented and worthy). For those of you not familiar with Curbside Splendor, it's one of the best indie presses in the whole goddamn world (it's true). And what's even more awesome, Curbside Splendor is a Chicago joint, which makes me happy and proud to be part of this contest since Chicago is and will always be my hometown. The winner will be announced in the beginning of December, but I'm not gonna lie, it would be fucking incredible to win this contest. It would be a dream come true. It would help build my career. It would help me stay connected to my city forever. It would be incredibly encouraging too. And considering that I've been working on this novella for ten years since I started my MFA, it would be life-changing for all the work I put into this manuscript. But for now, we'll have just have to wait and see. Fingers crossed, man. Fingers crossed.
I agonize over my own workshop pedagogy now that the mic is in my hand. This agony comes partially from memory: I remember the completely avoidable trauma I experienced in my own MFA program as a hapa fiction writer whose racial and cultural legibility was confusing at best and dismissed at worst.Read More
Matthew Salesses runs and directs an awesome column at Pleiades about workshop craft and workshop pedagogy and I'm happy to say that my essay "The Velocity of Flying Objects" about my own workshop methodology will be published soon on the magazine's website. Stay tuned.
My short story "The 12-Step Program for Yuki Hiramoto," which is part of my second collection, Atlas of Tiny American Desires, was published this week in the Santa Monica Review. This literary journal has always been one of my faves in the whole country (and has been for many years now). I remember as a MFA student flipping through copies of the SMR in the creative writing office and thinking how someday I'd love to publish one of my short stories in it. Now, I can scratch that off my list of things to do. Baby steps, bro.
I'm at Powell's right now, sitting in the café and looking through the window across Burnside. This is a view (dream) I've enjoyed many times in my life, especially the three years I lived in Portland, back when my only dreams concerning my writing, was publishing my short stories in great literary journals and someday getting into a legit MFA program. Eleven years since I was here last, I can't help but take a personal inventory of my life, noting the achievements I've fulfilled and those that I'm still trying to achieve. Among other things, I realize that:
1. Contrary to what I assumed in 2003, when I took my first fiction workshop at the age of 28 at Portland State, publishing a short story in an excellent journal, even publishing a bunch of short stories in many respected journals, doesn't mean you've "made it" at all as a literary fiction writer. Or maybe it did once, but then you begin moving the goal posts with each tiny success
2. Getting accepted into a legit MFA program doesn't mean you've "made it" either
3. Ditto with a legit PhD program
4. Ditto studying with famous authors (all of who have tried, each in their own way, to get their agents to pick me up as a client)
5. One of my biggest fears since the day I realized I wanted to be a literary fiction writer, was not publishing my novel, short story, and memoir manuscripts. My second greatest fear was being one of those professors who teaches writing, but who hasn't published his books. Right now, these two fears resonate with me, not because I think I'll never publish my manuscripts (actually, I think I'm incredibly close right now because I have many agents reading my first and second novels and just as many indie presses reading similar and different manuscripts), but because before you're a published author in the book sense of the word, you're nothing. Or at best, you're simply a published author in the literary journal sense of the word, which isn't the same thing.
6. As I was talking to my good friend Leigh, two nights ago, at this vegan trattoria, it hit me that as a fiction writer trying to make a career publishing his novels in hard copy, I'm essentially fighting for a lost world. A world that doesn't even exist anymore to anyone except literary fiction writers
7. I need to find an illustrator and a coder and then finish my electronic novella, Dukkha, My Love, as soon as possible because I can still leave my mark in that medium, regardless of how long it takes me to publish my other work
8. On the flip side, at the cost of sounding smug, I'm happy with life right now. I'm in love, I'm married, we have a bomb loft apartment in DTLA and two small dogs that we absolutely adore. I have an awesome gig teaching hybrid class of lit, creative writing, rhetoric, and comp, at a great school (UC Irvine). Besides that, I'm healthy. I get to travel with my boo at least once every year. And with the exception of this annoying reoccurring red patch on my cheek (that is either eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, or rosacea--and makes me feel like an angry lush clown), I think I look pretty good for my age.
9. I think I'm at a very major threshold here. I'm hopeful, shamefully, possibly even unjustifiably hopeful about my future. My hope is that in a few years, I get to come back here to Powell's not as a customer, but as an author. Until then, I keep fighting, keep submitting, keep improving my manuscripts