Field Report

My book baby is nearly a month and a half old now—they grow up so fast. This launch season has been a whirlwind, but I’m thankful for every chaotic minute of it. Pre-launch, I had one event at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association’s fall conference. The whole event consisted of me sitting at a table signing books (and drinking free wine, natch). That was an utterly surreal experience. I kept wanting to ask people if they were sure they wanted my autograph—surely my terrible handwriting must devalue the book. What happened time and again at this event was a positive response to the book’s title, Siblings and Other Disappointments. Most people started laughing when they read the title, and more than a few asked me to dedicate the book to their own siblings.

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Window display at the Powell’s on Hawthorne.

My book came out the day I appeared on a panel about short stories at the Litquake Festival in San Francisco. Most of my nerves were washed away by the sheer joy of having my book out in the world. The official launch happened on October 11th. I sat on a panel at Portland State University about working writers and talked about balancing my working and writing lives and how important it is to find joy in the act of writing itself, not simply the publications or recognition—because they often come few and far between. The following night, my friend and mentor Kevin Sampsell joined me at the Powell’s on Hawthorne for a conversation about the book.

The last two events I participated in were perhaps my favorite because they allowed me to engage with other art forms and mediums for telling stories. I launched my book in Seattle at the annual Lit Crawl and was joined on stage by my dear friend, musician Ruth Bryan. I read a story and she played songs at interludes throughout it. Sitting on the stage with her while she sang and played guitar was the closest I’ll ever get to feeling like a rock star—though I held back the urge to attempt to harmonize with her.

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“Three Kids” by William Cumming at the Portland Art Museum

At Portland’s Wordstock Festival, I was paired with PNW artist William Cumming’s painting “Three Kids.” A fellow chronicler of the everyman, Cumming is said to have used ambiguity often in his work. His friend (and one of my living writer idols) Tom Robbins said in Cumming’s obituary: “Much of the power—much of the appeal, frankly—of Cumming’s work is a result of its expressive ambiguity. A Cumming painting is both personal and populist, abstract and literal, hard-nosed and romantic.”

In addition to touring for the book, I also wrote a few supplemental pieces:

This gives my new readers some background information about the book, from the process of titling my collection to its soundtrack to my favorite part I wrote, and a fun list of other short stories to read by women that feature young girls—my book pretty evenly divides between old men and young girl protagonists.

I still have more events lined up in the winter of 2017, including my hometown launch in Yakima on January 17th. For now, I’m taking a short break from touring to enjoy the holidays, spend time with family and friends, and sleep—lots and lots of sleep.

See you in the new year!

 

New Story up, and a Little Dream Come True

Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing my short story “The Girl” published over at Joyland Magazine. The story is about a married woman in the midst of an affair who becomes obsessed with a stripper at a club she visits with her lover. What tangled webs… It’s set in Portland and involves the band Rilo Kiley, two things I love.

What I love even more is that this story was acquired, edited, and published by Emily Schultz, one of my contemporary writer heroes. Schultz is the author of The Blondes, a fantastic literary thriller published last year that gave me the same creepy vibes as The Handmaid’s Tale. Emily is not only a great writer, she’s a rad person. She took great care with my work and gave me insightful edits. I felt truly honored to have her read my work and like it enough to share it with the world.

She called the story “so smart, scary, hot, and everything in between.” Blush.

You can read the story here. And you can watch the video for Rilo Kiley’s “Portions for Foxes,” which inspired and is featured in the story, below.

 

 

Blank (Gallery) Space

Last week I had the great pleasure of being the writer-in-residence at Mathew Gallery in Chinatown, thanks to a sponsorship by the wonderful Montez Press. I had intended to spend my week of writing creating a new, probably lengthy, story, but that felt ambitious in my limited time frame that included planning and executing a launch party at the gallery for one of my authors.

While talking to the residency coordinator, she inquired whether I might want to create something more visual and inspired me to make my very first chapbook. The only visual writing I’ve ever created has been by taking forms or legal documents and rewriting them creatively. I had three already created, the legal contracts “THIRD-PARTY AGREEMENT” and “INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR AGREEMENT,” along with my “Church Exit Interview.” I ended up creating one brand new piece and spent three hours one evening printing, folding, and stapling pages that eventually became Sign Here. I’ve never been involved with the physical act of putting together a book. Touching my work and folding the pages helped me connect with the visceral experience of a book. The process reminded me that a book is not simply a set of ideas but a tangible object.

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While putting it together, I pretended that I was a riot grrrl making a zine. Great feeling.

The first night I sat alone in the quiet, white-walled gallery, I felt the emptiness of the room as heavily as the emptiness of my new blank document. There was something very strange about spending hours alone in the gallery with nothing but my work. I spend plenty of time each week alone in my apartment with nothing but my work, but being in a new setting with a deadline hanging over me to finish a new piece added an immediacy to my work that I really valued. I’m thankful I had this opportunity because it forced me out of my comfort zone, both the literal comfort zone of my apartment as well as my narrative/structural comfort zone of writing straightforward short stories.

I can’t wait until the next residency, whether it’s a gallery located on a busy city street or a retreat in a coastal town. It’s important as a writer to push and challenge yourself as much as possible, and sometimes that happens simply by placing yourself in a new environment.

My First Residency

I’m back with an exciting announcement: this summer I have my first writing residency! It’s a bit different from a traditional residency experience in that I won’t be escaping to a cabin in the woods, but I suspect my weeklong adventure in the city will be productive nonetheless. The exciting and relatively new publisher Montez Press has a partnership with Mathew Gallery in Manhattan and reached out to invite various publishers they admire to join them at the gallery to host events this summer. The Feminist Press will launch our latest translation by the French feminist icon Virginie Despentes, Bye Bye Blondie, at the gallery on July 21st.

Bye_Bye_Blondie_FRONT_COVERIn addition to hosting events throughout the summer, the gallery has kindly allowed writers to stay for residencies. I am one of the fortunate writers who will be living in the gallery for a week. I will be working on a short story during my stay, what I hope to be the last story in my short story collection manuscript Hooliganism. Each story in the collection focuses in some way on female sexuality. While holed up in the gallery, I plan to reread Bye Bye Blondie, which features a teen girl being institutionalized for acting in a manner the adults in her life find erratic, but which is typical rebellious teen behavior that probably wouldn’t have landed her in this situation if she were a boy.

I plan to use the space and my reading of Despentes to inform my short story. I’m hoping that a gallery space will prove to be fertile ground for creation and that the challenge of producing a new piece in a week will be inspiring rather than crippling. I feel up for the challenge, especially knowing that near the end of my week I’ll get to celebrate by hosting the Bye Bye Blondie launch party. I can spend a week in solitude knowing a reading and wine-fueled festivities await me at the finish line.

I’m also working on lining up events for my Siblings and Other Disappointments book tour, so stay tuned for exciting updates, including information about my appearances at the Litquake Literary Festival in San Francisco!