2nd Piece Accepted in 2017

My short story about class/race in Humboldt Park, "Guide to the Other Side of the Universe," which is part of my short story collection, Geography of Desire, was accepted yesterday in the Angel City Review, an awesome LA-based literary journal.  Stay tuned for more deetz!

5th Piece Accepted in 2016

Today, I got the great news that a chapter from my novella, The Laws of Rhetoric and Drowning, was accepted by Hobart, which publishes fantastic fiction and interviews, among other things.  I'm really happy to see this piece put in the public eye!  Stay tuned for more deetz.

4th Piece Accepted in 2016

I just got the awesome news today that my lyrical essay "Obāsan in a Cup," which is part of my experimental memoir Dream Pop Origami, was accepted in the always-awesome Guernica Magazine.  Even more shocking, it will be published tomorrow.  Many thanks to the smart, perceptive, and insightful suggestions from Raluca Albu, the CNF editor at Guernica.  Stay tuned!

3rd Piece Accepted in 2016

"Castaways and Worry Dolls," one of my self-contained chapters from my novella The Laws of Rhetoric and Drowning was accepted today by Joyland magazine and will be published in October 2016. While you're there, check out my friend Bonnie Nadzam's piece "4 Ghost Stories."

The Spaces in Between

The period between March and June has always been, and will probably always be, a dramatic time in my life.  Most of the best (and also worst) news I've received is during this time frame.  For example:

1.  Winning the Sparks Prize

2.  Getting rejected from the JET program (for being too old)

3.  Getting accepted into SC's PhD program in Literature and Creative Writing

4.  Hearing back from all the tenure track jobs you applied to, where they gush about what an insanely large and especially talented pool of candidates there were, which made their job especially difficult

5.  Seeing my short story on Tin House's website

6.  Getting accepted in Notre Dame's MFA program

7.  Visiting Rome, Hong Kong, Macau, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Tokyo, and London

8. Finding out whether I'm getting (re)hired at UC Irvine after an exhaustive application process

9.  Getting married to LB, something I never thought I'd do and something I never wanted to do until we fell in love

This list could go on.  If we were at a café, this list would go on.  But the point is, shit always goes down this quarter.  Sometimes, it's bad.  Usually though, it's good.  But it's always crazy enlightening (and crazy dramatic too).  So, it's with immense curiosity (and slight trepidation) that I wait to hear the state of the world for me in 2016.  Stay tuned, people.  Shit could get crazy.

 

AWP Conference 2016 (LA)

Remarkably, it's been ten fucking years since I've been back at AWP.  The last time was in Atlanta in 2006, back when I was a confident, driven, ambitious, but also paradoxically naive, trusting, and hyperidealistic MFA student whose only aspiration at the time was to publish short stories and essays in the best literary journals possible.  The idea of publishing novels was fundamentally foreign to me for the simple reason that I hadn't written a novel yet, nor a collection of short stories.  There was no lofty expectation because there was no product.

Ten years later, I'm both amazed, horrified, and also humbled by how differently I look at the publishing industry in general and at my literary ambitions in particular.  Unlike ten years ago, I have a bunch of stories and essays published in a number of legit literary journals, but it's no longer enough for me anymore.  Also, unlike ten years ago, I have several manuscripts that are ready for publication.  I have more than a few realistic publishing possibilities with several awesome indie presses (though they remain merely possibilities until those manuscripts become material objects of art for public consumption).  I have--I always seem to have--several agents and a senior agent at a major New York publishing house reading my novels.  I have two rad lecturer positions at UCI and CSUN teaching literature, writing, rhetoric, research, and creative writing.  I have probably too many advanced degrees now, but whatevs.  I have a network and a community of friends (many of them APIA writers, but certainly not all of them).  I have some fans who follow me on Twitter because of the things I've written.  Most importantly, I feel--possibly irrationally, possibly delusionally--that I finally have momemtum in my writing career.  So, I apologize for this self-indulgent recollection, but the point I'm making here is that I see this conference in such a different way than I did before because I bring a different emotional and professional technology than before.  I feel like I can almost touch my future, as absurd as that sounds.

Among other things I did at this year's AWP, I got to:

1.  Attend readings from Claudia Rankine, Eula Biss, Jonathan Lethem, Geoff Dyer, Leslie Jamison, Maggie Nelson, my friend and mentor Percival Everett, Shonda Buchanan, Judy Grahn, Joyce Carol Oates, and Peter Ho Davies, which were all pretty amazing.

2.  Attend a fascinating (and inditing!) panel by Adam Atkinson, Lillian Yvonne-Betram, and Sarah Vap (an SC student) that presented the results of its survey and data collection about race and racial representation within PhD programs in Creative Writing.

3.  Talk to editors of several of my favorite indie presses and do a tiny bit of politicking (almost all of it unplanned and unintentional)

4.  Make new writing friends and also do some networking (which never hurts in this business)

5.  Most importantly, meet up with and reconnect with former professors and old friends from my MFA and PhD years, many of whom I haven't seen in years and whom I've missed, sometimes terribly, including Steve Tomasula, Marc Irwin, Joshua Bernstein, Chris Santiago, Lily Hoang, Gwendolyn Oxenham, Casey and Denise Hill, Heather Dundas, David St. John, and Percival Everett (who hugged me and then said, "What's going on, brother?")

6.  Buy a shitload of books and literary journals from indie presses

7.  Remember again why I'm a writer, a writer before I'm anything else in the professional and artistic domains

Good Rejection from the Missouri Review

Dear Jackson Bliss,

Sincere thanks for sending us " . . . " for consideration. Your work impressed the editorial staff with its unique blending of Spanish and English. Though not selected for publication, the piece makes us hope we'll see more of your writing in the near future.

Sincerely,

The Editors

Going All Out

After a concentrated two weeks where LB and I saw both our families back to back, I'm finally getting back in the groove with my writing, revising, and submissions.  And today I've realized that I'm going all out.

Recently, a bunch of my friends have been getting agents, then two-book contracts, thereby fundamentally changing their literary careers in the span of literally one year.  A boy can only dream . . . Of course, because I'm human, I've been waiting by the phone too for the same phone call, waiting for the same miracle to magically transform my writing career into a solid object, but so far, I've been mostly stood up by publishing industry (literary journals have been much kinder to me).  Agents are happy to tell me how talented I am, but their rejections are always about the fit.  Truthfully, it's hard not to feel bad about yourself, especially when you stroll through the local bookstore and you see straight up shit on the coop.  But I'm an eternal optimist, obviously delusional, and also very stubborn, so I'm not giving up.  Not when I'm so close.

This leads me to the whole point I was making before I digressed earlier.  Now that I'm back in action, I'm going all out, man.  I'm submitting queries for NINJAS to a bunch of new agents soon (I'm still waiting to hear from three agents who are reading full manuscripts, but the longer time passes, the less hopeful I get).  If Kaya rejects AMNESIA (they're taking their sweetass time, by the way), I'll send a query for it to fifty agents the next week.  I just sent out several novella manuscripts to Plougshares and the Massachusetts Review.  I'm also sending one of my best (and fave) short stories to several literary journals.  Lastly, I'm sending my memoir to a few indie presses that I think would be a good fit aesthetically, conceptually, and structurally.  Instead of staggering my submissions as I was forced to do during the school year, I'm now going full force.  And that's not even including a screenplay I'll start revising/continuing this weekend about two bike messengers in DTLA.

And it don't stop . . .

 

 

1st Piece Accepted in 2014

Today I got the best kind of email.  Simon Waxman, the managing editor at the Boston Review, contacted me to publish my lyrical essay,"The Day I Lost Rock and Roll," at the BR.  So, of course, my day became fucking awesome.  This essay is part of my high-concept memoir, Dream Pop Origami.  Be on the lookout for my essay in the near future!

Taking A Break from Journal Submissions

Getting rejections from literary journals is no big thing anymore.  As an emerging fiction/nonfiction writer, you have to make your peace with rejections because you're gonna get a shitload of them.  There will be times when you'll get nothing but rejections for months and months and months.  More than you can possibly imagine.  One year, I got over a hundred rejections.  And what will fuck your idea of normalcy in this industry is that one day, one of your talented writing friends will get something picked up in a journal you've sent like a millions manuscripts to, and then you start to think:  shit, maybe it can happen.  Or:  well, why not me?  And writers need a certain among of unjustified faith to push through the inevitable rejection.  They need something to keep them moving forward when the evil voice inside their head says, "maybe there's a reason why you're not publishing anything.  Maybe you're just not good enough."  So, a certain amount of unjustified and unbridled faith can be fucking crucial in the biz.  Otherwise, we'd just give up.

I've published enough short stories and lyrical essays in enough legit literary journals and also received quite a lot of positive editorial feedback to know I'm certainly talented enough for this game.  But, for the past couple years, I've been struggling with a complex feeling of appreciation and exasperation with the good rejection standstill.  There are a bunch of journals, some of them very prestigious, that keep sending me good, sometimes even great rejections.  And I'm incredibly grateful for them.  I really am.  At the same time, while I used to think that eventually I could turn a good rejection from a great literary journal into an acceptance (as I did with Fiction), I'm now starting to feel like the good rejection has replaced the acceptance letter.  In other words, I'm starting to think that some editors are never gonna accept my shit, and the good rejection is actually a modern day consolation prize for the wall separating me from more famous authors with recognized agents.  I mean, good literary journals are only publishing 2-4 stories in any given issue anyway, most of them submitted by agents or solicited from the editor herself/himself.  The way the math works, some editors are simply never gonna publish you.  Ever.  And the rejection letter is as much a note of encouragement as it is a mea culpa for the stacked odds against you.

Maybe, that's cynical of me.  Maybe, I've got it all wrong.  But as it stands right now, I feel like I have to focus my energy of finding the right agent for my memoir and the right presses for my novels.  Nine years ago, I'd be ecstatic with my publication history.  Now, I'm like:  meh.  Not because I don't appreciate it, but because my best work hasn't even been published yet.  It hasn't even grazed the future readership it'll have someday once my books are all finally out there in the world, ready for public consumption.

Good Rejection from The Southern Review

I know the slip is crooked (I know I know), but I appreciate the brevity of this good rejection.  I only wish I could make out the hieroglyphic editorial signature.  Either way, this short story has gotten a shitload of positive responses, so I think it's only a matter of time before it gets picked up.  This shit is gonna happen, whether people like it or not.

Forcing the Paris Review to Have a Sense of Humor

While I admire the Paris Review quite a lot, I've always found the journal a bit sober, for lack of a better word.  And since I'm a punk, a documented brat + I like fucking with people (in the sweetest way possible, man, not in a douchey way), I decided to give them a much cooler SASE so when they rejected me--so fucking predictable!--I could at least laugh at my own envelope + maybe force the intern to shake his head disapprovingly.  This envelope also makes me laugh because I can picture the fiction reader (probably some NYU/Columbia MFA student + Paris Review intern) shaking his head at my caption, thinking how lame it is.  We all know the Paris Review would never send an author such a silly rejection envelope, which makes it even funnier for me that they stuck a (lame) form rejection inside this cute little masterpiece.  To give you some historical context, this isn't the first time I've pulled off shit like this.  Back when college students used to send in FAFSA postcards, I'd write embarrassingly personal/dirty messages to myself, which the Department of Education would have to send back to me to confirm they'd received my completed application + I would laugh my ass off imagining a DC bureaucrat shaking his head at me.  Sometimes I do the same shit when I enter a short story contest that asks for a stamped, confirmation postcard.  I dunno, that's just how I roll I guess, forcing sober bureaucrats + iconic literary journals to be way sweeter (cuter) than they clearly wanna be.

Moving Forward, Always Forward

Today I decided I'm not waiting any longer for destiny to call.  I've waited long enough, been a patient + understanding writer, taken my disappointments with enough grace, licked my wounds + played the patience game as best as I know how.  I think most people would have folded  by now, found a different vocation, taken out life insurance.  To be honest, I don't begrudge them at all, I understand where they're coming from + why they stop setting themselves up for heartbreak.  But writing is the one thing I'm awesome at + I won't give up.  I just don't know how.  This is why I can't wait any longer for journals + literary agents to get back to me, I've already given them enough of my time.  I've paid my dues.  Now, I'm moving on.  Something in the future will work out.  As for the past, I'm not convinced that's where my future is anyway (excuse the temporal paradox).

After waiting for a small eternity, deluding myself into thinking that patience was akin to loyalty, I've decided I'm gonna send out a flurry of new query letters + fiction manuscripts this week.  I think the best response is to keep moving forward + not look back, because we all know what happened to Eurydice.  I'm looking at Gary Shteyngart's + Patricia Engel's agents, I'm looking at the Virginia Quarterly Review again, at The Paris Review, the Missouri Review + the New Yorker again, I'm considering every option now.  I think I've waited like a champ, stuck to the positive (irrational), hoped for the best.  But not anymore.  It's time for my next move, wherever that takes me.  Ultimately, I want what every aspiring literary fiction writer wants: artistic materiality.  Or said another way, I wanna see my writing in print.  Besides that, I guess I want readers, passionate readers, I want snarly critics trying to outstylize my own novels with blistering manqué book reviews, I want online interviews, a flirty movie option that never comes to be, I want a date on Fresh Air, a little name recognition in an indie bookstore + some annoying fan letters written by readers obsessed with my characters.  A book tour would be nice too, maybe a free lunch now + then, a master class with a few undergrads.  But for now, I'm cool with just seeing my writing in print.  That's the only thing I actually need.  That's my future.  That's the uncanny dream.  So now I'll dream it as hard as I can + not look back in anger.