Which Way We Going Now?

Good Gods! the summer is such a face slapper when you’re trying to write fiction. And yet, somehow I got stuff done–not enough by any means, but stuff nonetheless.

I’ve had summers where I’ve completely driven off the road and been unable to find my way back until Thanksgiving. Two years ago, I was on the move in a big way finishing up a novella about modern addiction after a summer of twiddle-twaddling, and out of the blue I get leveled by a ruptured disk in my lower back.

But it’s boring to hear about a writer’s actual life, isn’t it? I apologize.

Well, boring unless the writer is letting people in on some scandalous sexual tale or they are reporting on a profound addiction (with either sex, violence, or death involved), or said writer is looking to justify murder, rape, incest, grand larceny, or plagiarism.

Let’s just say after two years or so I’ve adjusted to my new body situation and I wouldn’t wish my lower back on anyone (except Donald Trump, William Barr, and Mitch McConnell).

I’ve been working diligently of late on a number of short stories and short-short stories (the term flash fiction seems like an internet invention coupling raincoat openings with internet neon and the scent of plastic lightning bolts). I’ve been shopping out a lot of these over the past few months and folks are starting to sign up to publish them. I will broadcast where you can read these as they’re posted this fall and winter.

I’ve also wrapped seven of longer stories into a book manuscript. They deal with mixed race issues and the weird personal politics of being an ambiguous person on the planet. Hopefully, they are funny or at least intriguing enough. Cannibalism is part of the mix, as is confused romance (always) and growing up partially privileged and brown.

I have to say here that I find everyone’s pre-occupation with racism in 2019 ridiculous and stupidly over-complicated. I can’t figure whether I should write comically, satirically, or tragically about what you all are doing. Language turns most of us into fuddy-duddies in the end. Doesn’t matter what tribe you think you’re in…

Mostly I’ve submitted my short-shorts (generally under 1000 words) to online literary magazines and contests. I have roughly 65 of these in various states of dress and undress. Twelve are fully complete. In a good month of September I can get to a final draft with half a dozen more. It’s weird to write so concisely and with clear edges.

I don’t like most flash fiction out there that gets published. There’s a sameness to so much of it: pathos, demented scenes out windows and alongside rivers, lots of descriptions of light and color, sometimes a prose-poetry fixation, and often very little joy. This last bothers me a good deal. What the fuck!

But “very little joy” is funny too because while most flash fiction makes you shake your head and pay attention to your breathing. And then you feel hungry.

A heck of a lot of stories I read online are in the second person (you can do that in a personal essay or on Twitter maybe, but why is it now a thing with online flash fiction?). Same with present tense stories. I’m not sure everyone here in the virtual world wants to feel quite so direct and immediate.

I have a pretty serious problem with critics, though. And that includes myself, so take what I wrote above with a grain of salt and take a slug of Tabasco sauce too. Most of the editors I send stuff to give me an “attaboy” for my work, but tell me that they don’t find my story “for them.”

Fine. That’s the ticket! I don’t want people to feel hungry after reading my stuff or laughy or sad or mad or needing to pay attention to their breathing. A smile and then feeling the need to pee is all I have ever hoped for.

Another piece of news here: I have been rolling out a novel in my head every night after I turn off the light to sleep. This thing’s already been through 19 full iterations over the past decade. It never felt like anyone would know what to do with it though every time I thought about publishing it. These days, I feel pretty confident that I know what to do with it. The worst thing about trying to get something published when people aren’t ready for it is that they think they’re rejecting or declining your work. “It’s not for us.” That’s really stupid if you’re reading something that’s good. Not know what to do with something just means the author was a fool to think otherwise.

It’s taken me years but I know enough now not to take people’s advice on my stuff. Letting people into your head is one thing, letting them into the storytelling process is quite another issue altogether. Fuck that! If you aren’t careful you stop getting near misses and the pages (oh, the pages!) begin to seem like they need to be used as toilet paper, or maybe floor coverings for standing ejaculations. When you let people put you in that position, you aren’t just lost, you’re a prisoner of other people’s opinions. You don’t want that. Every single artist in every single field will tell you the bullshit begins when you think other people know better than you.

Anyway, let’s hope I can stay healthy this fall and get further along in the real work here. Besides not letting people’s advice affect me, the secret to success is production. Well, production, understanding that writing is a slo-motion proposition, and that naps are usually the best form of physical activity.

Don’t forget that you are what you read!

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