Hearing Michael Martone Read from His Book, Michael Martone, Doublewide +

Fort Wayne is 7th on Hitler's List, The Blue Guide to Indiana, Alive + Dead in Indiana, Pensées of Dan Quayle, + others.

Today LB and i drove down to hear Michael Martone read at Notre Dame, and as usual, he was funny, entertaining, clever, the whole 4-movement symphony. i sent him a text (he asked all of us in the audience to) that said:

This is your mother.
Drink your water.

Which he did, though, not because he'd read my text.

While i was there, i chatted with Steve about science fiction, who i still call tom sometimes, i talked with William about his pile of slush from last year that he is only now sending rejection letters for, i talked about binary translation fallacies with Joyelle, being a mom, her 2 books coming out with fence and tarpaulin sky press, then i ran into Valerie, and i gave her a short update, later i ran into Megan the ndlf organizer extraordinaire, and Laura Fox, who is probably one of the most impressive, put together (and cute) undergrads i've met in years--we talked about Simon + Schuster and i think she knows Ginny Smith. que pequeño es el mundo, cabrón.


I have to say, it felt so good running into these people. they reminded me of what i love the most about my experience at notre dame, and it filled a small void in me to be able to talk books for a few hours, something i complained about ad nauseum last year, but that i can appreciate in bursts like today.

I hope i get to have coffee with Valerie, Steve, and William in chicago in the near future, and as Michael Martone requested, i'm definitely going to email him and pick his brain about writing. maybe, just maybe inshallah, if i'm really lucky, Michael Martone will actually read defiance of objects, the manuscript i submitted for the FC2 innovative fiction prize, but that's probably wishful thinking. on verra. . .

Stats Don't Lie, Motherfucker

Since I'm leaving Sobe probably for good, here is a final tally of my productivity stats:

I'm gonna leave sobe in 2 days having written:

1. A complete 434-page novel
2. Sixteen new pieces of creative non-fiction
3. Twenty-six new pieces of flash fiction
4. Six new short stories
5. One really terrible napkin poem
6. Nine little hip-hop single review blurbs so far like this one

And i've published a bunch of stuff too, which is cool.

Okay, now, time to pack, and time to move back to my city. CHITOWN! CHITOWN! here i come. . .

Disengaging Myself from this MFA Program

Looking forward to completely disengaging myself from this MFA program in 6 days (exceptions for bee, lily, tom, tim, lynne, colby, v and ls). i'm just not giving more of my sacred time and energy to some of these insecure, childish, unforgiving and selfish people anymore. the karmic bitch slap leaves a bit of a sting my friends, but i'm not going to be the one doing the slapping.

Passed the 400-Page Mark

So it's true, i'm now on page 403 of my novel, and i think i should be completely done with this draft before next week--something i didn't even dream was possible. i pretty much just banked on finishing The Amnesia of Junebugs in chicago, but now it looks like i'll be able to finish this draft, send a copy to valerie before i move, and then sit on it for a couple of weeks before revising it into shape. man, i'm so happy about this. it's amazing how when you're writing alot, not just everyday, but when you're writing copiously, you get high off the fumes of artistic creation.


I'm on the last real chapter of my novel (which is actually, the beginning) and it's coming along beautifully. right now i'm at on page 386, and i think it's gonna be around 400 pages, but that's cool. i'm hoping to finish this draft of my book by the end of this week, or the weekend, giving me enough time to revise 2 stories and 1 memoir this weekend so i can print them out with my surplus printing balance at the library next week.

Also, I checked my grades today and i got another 4.0 leaving my cumulative gpa at 3.96. what this really means is, i'm gonna graduate, and that's so fucking sick.

Working on Last Chapter of The Amnesia of Junebugs

Well, i'm def not done at all, but i'm now officially working on the LAST CHAPTER of my novel. i can't fucking believe it. i've been working on this little bastard since first semester of my first year (August 2005). a few things i've accepted about it:

1. it's gonna be around 400 pages. there's just no way around it.

2. it's cooler and much more flawed than i thought it was gonna be.

3. once i'm done with this draft, i need to sit on it for a few weeks, and then revise the hell out of it.

4. and then, send it to lynn nesbit.

5. writing a novel is simultaneously the most natural thing i've ever done--far more natural for me than writing a short story which reminds me of someone trying to fit all of his clothes into a tiny suitcase--and by far, the most demanding and intense thing, artistically i've ever done.

6. writing a novel, even more than a collection of short stories, is the very definition and essence of h. bergson's theory of élan vital, no question about it.

7. this novel is gonna be fucking big man.

Now, i really need to take a shower and think about something else.

Rejections Make Me Listen to Gangsta Rap

I went on a marathon walk up st joe's river, near iusb, then i turned around, walked on the east race boardwalk, which i didn't even know existed all the way to the end and then back home, and i did all of this listening to glock-obsessed rap music that put some attitude in my head nodding. This put me in my gangsta mode to deal with this shit. . .

I know this is the name of the game, but frankly, this past week i've been getting so goddamn sick of rejections. i don't even understand how the worst story in the whole world--statistically speaking--could get rejected that many times, morever, a really good story. the numbers aren't in our favor, but still, sometimes, i still have to keep asking myself, why is it so fucking difficult to publish an awesome short story of mine, and why do i keep reading stories in journals that are like hmm, or ho-hum, and sometimes, oh nice, but almost never, holy shit. i mean, i haven't read one short story in one journal that is technically perfect yet, and that's normal, and my stories certainly aren't anywhere near being perfect either. but why can one of those great but imperfect short stories be one of mine? it's annoying the shit out me and putting me in a really bad mood today. . . hence, the ghetto star rap i've been enjoying so much. i understand now, more than ever, why there are more literary journals than there has ever been in america. paradoxically, there aren't more lit journal readers, there are just more journals, and why? cuz writers are sick of rejections. there can't be another explanation. one day, another writer says, you know what? fuck this, i'm gonna start my own shit.

I must have received 5 or 6 really encouraging rejection letters from Missouri review, but i just can't seem to get a yes from those fuckers. okay, i luv the Missouri review, but i really wish they'd finally publish one of my stories. literary publishing is like the greatest cock tease/drive by of all time.

Finished with My MFA

I can't believe it, i'm all done with everything. go aji go!!!


my mfa thesis reading
my japanese oral exam
my written japanese final
my mfa thesis
a gazillion quizzes and tests
a 100 kanji later

I'm all done with everything. i'm gonna graduate and everything. i'm so stoked about this. i can't possibly tell some of you how excited i am to have closure on grad school after having to leave yale when i was too poor to finish, this really means alot to me. and i had to work so damn hard to get here, to get accepted into a mfa program when i was a americorps volunteer living on 700 bucks a month and foodstamps in chicago, and to graduate, and it's been worth every moment and i'm so grateful. in two to three weeks, i'm gonna sit down, look at my diploma that came in the mail, and say, yo, i have a masters degree now. and that's so fucking rad for me. it means the world to me. and if there's truly a spirit world, it means everything to my obaasama too.

Now, i just have to pack, and work on my novel. i have 2 weeks to pack, 2 weeks to finish my book, and around a month or so--give or take, well, another month or so--to revise before i send lynn nesbit my finished draft. i think this summer is gonna be rad. i can barely contain my joy.

Sunlight Drowns the Best Excuse

When i was talking to kpg yesterday about why it hurt my feelings that no one went to my b-day party, she had a list of excuses for everyone, and i was like, ho-hum, some of those are legit, but a lot of those are really bad fucking excuses, and as she was talking, it made me realize how good we are rationalizing things when we don't want to do something. we all are. and that helped me understand that people didn't ditch me cuz they necessarily dislike me, though some do i' m sure, but because i'm not a priority to people. and now that i understand that, it's simplified my life in this program immensely. i don't hate the peeps in the program for marginalizing me, i just know it's not the place i wanna donate more energy to. my energy, my mind, my creativity, my time--they're sacred.

Paperwork + Soba Noodles

Today i drudged through hours and hours of formatting hell with my book after i decided to add my photoshop cover to my novel in progress, which, for some inexplicable reason, changed the columns in my dual narrative chapters and created random space in one chapter. i wondered why i suddenly had an extra 10 pages. anyway, this final assis chapter is coming along, but not even close to done yet. i'm looking foward to finishing this and writing my 3rd and final split screen chapter this week, and next week i'll hopefully start the final chapter.

I got an email from lynn nesbit's office a few days ago that said, sorry, we had a misunderstanding. the consensus here--in the new publishing world, god i wish--is that you're a very good writer (chin up kiddo) but we need a complete manuscript before we can decide whether to take you on as a client. in a way, though, this was the perfect impetus to finish my novel cuz now i have someone to write for again now that i'm 3 weeks from graduating and ditching this school cafeteria.

My rejection from 9th letter was depressing. even after i became friends with the cnf editor, Juan Sanchez, who's a cool dude, i still couldn't publish my piece. no luv from the cnf putos.

My consolation? Yakitate japan anime (i'm sad that i only have 6 episodes left--a sure sign of my addiction). Also, I bought these great frozen soba noodles, and with a good miso base and some okonomi sauce, it's really quite something.

1,001 Nights, Junot Diaz + Asobi Seksu

Tonight has been just like 1,001 nights. my frame narrative subsumes all these little minnie narratives until i've forgotten what the frame narrative was. it was like this:

I was fucking around online, and thought i'd go to the website of this japanese singer i really like--遊びセクス--when i thought, hm, i should compare the shipping costs of having this cd sent overseas from asia with the costs of having it sen via amazon, so then, i'm on the amazon website, and before you know it, i'm looking at new ds lite videogames, rpg, yoshi's island, final fantasy 3 reviews that i've already read before, and then somehow i ended up looking up anime dvd's, which led retroactively to manga, and before i knew it, i found my way back to music, and there was asobi seksu's eponymously named album, and sure enough, it was cheaper. well, i was about to buy that, and then the amazon add said, spend, i dunno, 18 more dollars Jackson, and shipping is free. well, i thought, that's not alot, so then i took a peak at other cd's, and i found feist's new album that comes out 1 may, and i thought, okay, i wanted this anyway, and i fucking luv her shit, so i'll just buy this and that should do it, but because amazon is selling it so cheap, i was short by like 2 dollars for free shipping, so then, i ended up back where i started, video games, anime, lit magazines, manga, and then, after looking up legal drug, i realized, i really want to order issue # 2 of that one manga, what was it called? i couldn't remember so i plopped down in front of my vent, near my other manga, freebies from my hachette internship and japanese books, and before i knew it, i forgot ALL ABOUT THE WHOLE POINT OF SITTING THERE, and i ended up reading two short stories by Junot Diaz i'd never touched before, "edison, new jersey" and "boyfriend," and it was only when i was flossing in the bathroom, that i realized, oh shit, that manga's called "eternal sabbath," so then once i was finished, i came back to my computer, my order in waiting, was still, well, waiting, to be ordered, and then i found a 2nd issue of eternal sabbath, and FINALLY placed my goddamn order. that has got to be the most complicated things i've ever done online, besides try to send a complete stranger porn in saudi arabia.

There's not doubt in my mind that Scheherazade would have been proud of me.

Winging the Short Story

I read a great story by celeste ng in one story. Despite its weak ending, it made me realize that i really don't have the slightest idea how to really write a story. or, said another way, i feel like all fiction writers wing it, and that's why sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't cuz we don't really know what we're doing (or we have to figure it out for each new story we write). And though a collection of paragraphs doesn't constitute a story necessarily, sometimes we hit just the right note. creatively, i'm at a good place, but technically, i could def improve. ng's story made me realize that.

Working on The Amnesia of Junebugs

I can't write anymore tonight. my forearms and eyes are fucking sore man. but, truth be told, my novel is coming along. i just finished the last Suzanne chapter, now i have one more Assis chapter, a few short flashback chapters and the ending and i'm done. at least with this draft. god, i'm gonna be so elated once i'm finished with this piece of élan vital. i'm already on page 348, but i've still got probably another 40 pages to go. really, when i think about that, that's nothing. 40 pages. but in some way, the last 20 matter the most. i will spend probably the next year revising just those last 20 pages. but for now, onward! just 40 more pages or so, and then i'm all done . . . i can't even explain the joy and delight that will take place inside my heart when i can say that, even about a well-written draft.

Chuck Wachtel Gives Me Some Props for The Amnesia of Junebugs

Yo, I'm so happy. i want these words framed and put above my bed. this is what chuck wachtel, the associate professor of fiction at NYU who judged this year's sparks prize entry wrote about my submission:

Selecting this submissions as the first prize winner was easy. i was quickly engaged in the fast-paced cinematic prose, the humor, the vigorous motion of the plot. the narrator tells the story in a scatter-shot through controlled voice that at times brought junot diaz's stories to mind, at times, the earlier novels of lois-ann yamanaka. there is a surprising emotional accuracy, thus a genuine pathos: the work of this young author is already possessed of a genuine fictional beauty.

Every time i'm sad, discouraged, uninspired, self-destructive, professionally lost, creatively mercurial or just feeling like shit, i'm gonna re-read that quote and remember that for one moment, someone saw my writing exactly as i was trying to write it: cinematically, beautifully, with bursts of controlled intensity reminiscent of junot diaz. for one single second, i felt like a shorty that just met a man who understood her perfectly. if it's possible to be in love with the critical remarks of a stranger, then surely i am. in a continous flash flood of rejections, jeers and insults, it's good to have these little islands to gather strength from.

Winning the Sparks Prize

I can't fucking believe it. I won the sparks prize. i really did, i won it. i keep telling myself this over and over again cuz i don't really believe it. for those of you not at notre dame (i.e., the rest of the civilized world), the sparks prize is a competition open to 2nd year MFA students in notre dame's creative writing program and the winner gets 20k and has no comittments except one public reading of his bip (book-in-progress). it's the sweetest deal ever and i never thought i'd really win it cuz it's so unpredictable.

Unofficially, i'm planning on moving back to chicago, and coming down for some of the Lula readings, some of the guest fiction readings, and some of the football games. i most def. want to have a stronger presence on campus than the past 2 winners--no disrespect to them at all. and i think chicago is a perfect compromise: it's close enough for me to still be part of notre dame but far enough that i get breathe in urban culture, eat thai food more often, and--imagine this--possibly date again.

Perhaps even cooler than this prize, is just the love and encouragement from my fellow writers and friends. when coleen called me, i thought i was having an out-of-body experience. no, for real. i think i almost stepped out of my body i was so stoked. coleen's excitement was so touching, i almost started crying right there. and then when some of my peeps wrote me, and told me "jackson, you deserve this," god man, that moved me so much, that almost meant more than anything else. i mean, if they approve of the prize in any way, then i feel like, hey, maybe i do deserve this as much as anyone else.

Today is the literal antithesis of yesterday: yesterday, it was 73, i was wearing a t-shirt, and i found out the JET program rejected me. today, i was wearing my winter coat, it was 37 degrees, and i found out i won the sparks prize--the complete reciprocal image of yesterday in every possible way. wednesday has always been the day of change for me, a period of transition between energy fields. but i never expected it to work out THIS way. not in a million years. a humdulilah.


In the next couple of weeks, i'm gonna write up a daily schedule for the next year that includes some or all of these things:

yoga and meditation
exercise (e.g. biking and or jogging)
read 2 hours of fiction, non-fiction and poetry every day, both journals and books
write AT LEAST one piece of flash fiction each and every day
submit manuscripts every single week to journals, both online and print
research and attend at least 2 conferences (one of which, should be AWP)
find an agent if Lynn Nesbit doesn't bite
write for at least 4 hours everyday
try to publish 10 new stories in the next academic calender year

Well, that's just the beginning, but that's the basic idea. i'm totally gonna take this prize seriously and give it the honor and respect and hard work it deserves, otherwise, i don't deserve it.

No Rice for You

You know, i can deal with this. i mean, i'm still kinda shocked and i think it's kinda ridiculous i didn't get a JET assignment. But honestly, tangibly, constructively, what the fuck can I do now, except:

keep writing
travel when i can
devote myself to becoming a better fiction writer
publish my novel
help people
yadda yadda

I know it doesn't look like it right now since i've gotten nothing but rejections since the year started, but 2007 is gonna be a good year, i just know it. i'm just waiting for the universe to agree with me.

Who Is Zis Man?

I just had the strangest interaction. i got this email on my notre dame account from eduardo corral--hi eduardo, como estás?--that said, i've been reading your live journal entries and i totally feel what you're going through. at first i was like, who? who is this guy? turns out, he's a talented latino poet. . . i did some research, found a rad poem of his about frida kahlo on a web del sol chapbook. he has this one image of the curtains moving like honey in a jar, and i was like, yo, this guy's got it going on. he's a really good writer. so far, so good. but there is where it gets weird: yesterday, i got my rejection letter from colgate, and the painfully generic reject letter said: Our fellowship in creative writing for 2007-2008 has just been awarded to the poet. . . you guessed it. . . eduardo fucking corral. okay, they didn't swear, but i'm gonna. what are the odds? the person who randomly emails me is the same dude who ends up winning the colgate fellowship, and i get BOTH letters on the same fucking day. mathematically, let me just say, that's uncanny.

And then the hits just keep coming. i decide to do a little counter e-stalking if you will, and learn more about this Eduardo Corral: turns out, he has degrees from iowa and arizona state, he's been published in some decent journals, and he's a talented, emerging latino poet. then, once i find HIS blog, i find out, not only did he win the colgate fellowship, but he also recently received a goddamn YADDO RESIDENCY. basically, this guy is doing almost everything i wanted to do this year, except, maybe, write reviews about judy garland. amazing stuff.


I walked to the post office today to send my ninth letter submission to juan, the non fiction editor who's slowly becoming a friend of mine since we met at awp. i revised my lyrical essay and now i hope he likes it enough to take a bite.

As i was about to walk back, it started raining and i kinda loved it. i mean, i just stood there under the awning of the post office, waiting for the rain to stop, held captive by that perfect moment, forced, willingly, to stand there and just count the streaks in the sky. it was like waking up in the desert, forced to count the shades of blue until the sun eats away at the constellations: the mistake was more beautiful than the intention, that's what was so great about it.