6/29/2020

SmartPig Chapbooks Series, #1, "Dog is My Co-Pilot"

I'd never heard of, or thought about, chapbooks before learning about them while at Goddard, in pursuit of my MFA.


Chapbooks are simply tiny books. They're normally 20-40 page collections of poetry, fiction, essays, or some mix of a couple of things. I've decided to release a series of chapbooks based on an assortment of short stories that I love, but that haven't, to date, fit in any of the full-length books I'm working on.

My original plan was to follow an older chapbook tradition of printing, binding, and distributing the books by hand (well, by printer, stapler, and coffeeshop anyway), but Covid-19 got in the ways of those plans, so I'll be producing and distributing them through Amazon's KDP (Kindle Desktop Publishing).

I've gone this way with a number of my books for many reasons, the main ones being:
  • zero initial outlay of cash
  • ease of publishing in print and ebook formats
  • reach for readership
I continue to hear horror stories about writers talked into paying thousands of dollars to publish their work, boxes of which end up living in their basement, only appreciated by mold and mildew and mice. It takes very little time and effort to set up your new book for FREE using Amazon's publishing tools, including a free ISBN for your book.

At the end of the process, you upload a pdf or doc document, formatted to their specifications, and can have it produced in print, ebook, or both.

The real winner for me, as I imagine it would be for most writers, is the reach that Amazon, the 800-pound gorilla of the publishing world, has to offer for you and your book. My first book, Here Be Monsters, has sold about 10,000 copies worldwide since publication in 2013. I got feedback from a reader in Australia who was reading the print version within a month of hitting the "SUBMIT" button on KDP, and one day a few years ago sold a few dozen copies in Amazon's Indian market (I like thinking about a huge bookclub in Delhi discussing my Adirondack Murder Mystery).


I've gathered nine stories that I love into a collection for the chapbook, and have put them together in a preliminary ordering for my beta-reader to look over. The collection, as it stands now, is seventy-seven pages, a touch long for a chapbook, but if all nine stories work together and feel right to me and my readers when we're done, I won't worry about it.

My aim is to produce this chapbook, to learn about the process and feel through experimentation, and then to follow this one up with three more short collections of short fiction that all share some common theme.  My plan is to produce and sell the chapbooks through Amazon for under $5 for a print copy, and for 99¢ for the ebook version.


The cover above was produced using the KDP "Cover Creator" software, which is free and formats the text and images to fit the cover size that you select for your book... I'm a big fan because it's free, it's relatively easy to use, and I think it yields nice looking covers (disclosure: all of my books have made use of the KDP cover creator, and I like the way they look).

If you're interested, and/or have questions about the chapbook or how I use KDP, please feel free to get in touch with me... I'll try to answer your questions, and if they seem to have a broad appeal, I might address them in a blog entry.

Thanks for reading! - JS

6/10/2020

My Ten Things....

My Ten



I recently read an article about Yo-Yo Ma, and how he's getting through the pandemic and isolation... it's a brilliant piece and he's an astonishing man, gifted and generous and kind and compassionate and thoughtful in multiple senses of the word.

(picture from NYT)


The article is titled: "Yo-Yo Ma Tries to Bring Us Comfort and Hope" (click the link to check it out).

A part of the article was his discussion about ten things that have helped him through the weeks, and months, of isolation and stress... I liked his list, and the thought behind it, enough that I worked to generate my own, which I'm sharing below.


  1. My family. Starting and ending the day with my wife, checking in with my son throughout the day, talking with my sister and parents on the phone… all these things make me feel secure that in a world I have very little control over, my social cornerstones are still there.

  2. My tortoises. I live with five tortoises, a Redfoot Tortoise, a Hingeback Tortoise, a Black Mountain Tortoise, and two Russian Tortoises. Without me, specifically, they’d die; that’s an awesome responsibility in every sense of the word. The daily and weekly routines associated with their caretaking grounds me.

  3. My Dogs. Puck and Olive love me. They think I’m a much better person than I am, which constantly pulls me towards that better Jamie. Gail and Ben could (and often do) care for them, so in a very real sense, the dogs give me much more than I give them. Puck normally sleeps spooned up with me (he’s the big spoon), and Olive checks in on me on a schedule of her own devising throughout the day and night, delivering kisses and flea-bites as she perceives that I need them.

  4. My friends. I’m not as good a friend as I should be. I always mean to do better at the little things that maintain friendships, but they fall out of my head before long. As a result (possibly by unconscious or subconscious design), I don’t have a lot of friends. The ones I have managed to keep over the years are special and interesting people all over the world and hearing from them via FB or email or Teams meeting or the occasional phone call keeps me tethered to “The Outside World” in a way that the previous three things cannot. Friends are the $20 bills in your jeans pockets that mother-time steals when you let her do your laundry.

  5. Music. Spotify is one of the drugs I use to maintain my sanity in the sea of craziness that the USA has become at the intersection of pandemic and race-riots and our idiot-king. I curate and steal and hoard playlists like a junkie, secure in the knowledge that this one or that one will come in handy when my mood jumps (or is pushed) off a cliff. I firmly believe that music can help to reprogram my mental state and body-chemistry.

  6. Cooking. I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in the kitchen since we locked out the rest of the world. A sourdough pretentiously named Prometheus has been a big part of recent experiments, but I’ve also been making pizzas from scratch, a Mexican hot sauce based on a Korean hot sauce, and fermented foods and drinks of all kinds. It’s a pleasant and useful distraction from worries about the things we all worry about, and utilitarian, since we can’t go out to eat (it’s amazing how much we used to eat out or order in).

  7. Writing. Of course, who knows why I waited until number seven to talk about writing. I write every day, some for sharing online, some for future publication, some just to let off steam from a pressure valve that otherwise might sail past the redline and end up in some cartoony explosion. I’m working on a novel along with a quartet of novellas, a quartet of chapbook collections of shorts, and a couple of individual stories that don’t fit anywhere else.

  8. News Aggregators. I read a lot of news. Lots of the news these days is depressing or fake or horrific or repetitive, so I use a number of news aggregators to filter and sort my news for me. I like reading a bit about Covid-19, a bit about the POS-POTUS, along with lots of articles about the environment, tortoises, cooking, writing, TV/movies, and a number of areas of interest… I get these things in nearly the perfect proportions from the apps I use.

  9. Reading. Besides news, I read a fair amount of fiction (not as much as I should, or would like to, but I keep meaning to fix that). I’ve found in the COVID months that I enjoy re-reading stuff I’ve enjoyed in the past. Good stories are a shelter I can climb down into and hide for as long as necessary, letting the words wash over my brain, soothing things, letting the lizard-bits at the base of my skull do the repaired necessary to keep me functioning another day/week/month.

  10. Drinking. I drink a lot. Certainly more water than anyone you likely know (thanks to Sj√∂gren's Syndrome), probably more coffee than you’d think, and perhaps less bourbon than you’d guess. The act of bringing liquids into my body is control, controlling metabolism and health and mood and energy with a simple sip or swallow.


I'd love to hear from you about what things (ten or otherwise) have helped you through the recent months... thanks for reading!

Be safe and healthy - JS

2/07/2020

Housesitting Writing Retreat How-To

I'm trying something new. 

I'm on a writing retreat in someone else's house; I didn't break-in, they invited me (I'm like a vampire in that respect, I only enter other people's places when invited... in other respects, I'm not at all like a vampire).


It's a lovely house near Boston... lots of room, lots of light, lots of privacy and quiet. I love writing in my home for all sorts of reasons, but sometimes enjoy writing someplace else for precisely those reasons.

I find things to do besides write. I noodle around in the SmartPig kitchen. I play with the dogs. I watch TV and cook with/for my family. I do laundry or dishes. I feed and soak and measure the tortoises. I go grocery shopping more frequently than seems absolutely necessary. There are lots of ways to distract myself from writing when I'm at home.

When I go to Starbucks or my parents' house or to Goddard to watch friends graduate, I generally get a lot of writing done. It occurred to me that I could make a habit of periodically finding a way to get out of the house for a few days of writing.

The next thing that occurred to me is that I'd like to find a way to do that without having to spend a ton of money to do that writing... I found a way.

Trusted Housesitters is that way, for me. I found their website and joined and tried to find a couple of housesits close by, in case they were a scam (they weren't). I'm staying in a person's house for four days while they're away, taking care of their cats, Taz and Mack.


Trusted Housesitter is the middleman, connecting a person in need of place to stay with a person in need of a person to stay in their house and take care of their beasts. They have them all over the world, and it seems like it could be a great way to travel.

I love staying in AirBnbs because you avoid the lifelessness of hotels, but with this, I get to stay for free and to hang out with animals (if you don't like animals, this might be a downside, but since I do like animals, a lot, it's an upside). I get to live, for a while, in a neighborhood, as a local. I can cook my own meals, walk around and get a feel for someplace new, and most importantly... write, in peace and quiet and private and for free.


The house I'm living in this week is spacious and lovely and has several places to write and read and lounge.


It has a lovely and functional and well-stocked kitchen. I've mostly made coffee so far, but also a few meals, and there's a beautiful grocery store a few minutes walk away from the house that I'm dying to explore for treats/rewards for myself for the excellent writing days ahead.


Another living room at the front of the house, on the quiet street. I've done some reading there as well as in the living room back by the kitchen.


Between the two, there's a room with a piano in it, and while I'm horrible on a piano, it's fun to noodle around on it, and the cats aren't judging me (out loud at least).


The house is filled with lovely and spacious bedrooms with great light... I could probably sleep in a different one every night, but that'd be more cleanup for me in the end (I want to leave the house, and cats, in good shape so that the owner will give me a good review upon their return so that I can get more housesitting gigs in the future).


The bathrooms are lovely and modern and make my shower-singing sound even better than usual... the cats don't agree, but that's fine with all of us.

I periodically look up from my writing to find the cats staring at me with murder, or at least distrust, in their eyes but as long as I'm opening cans for them every twelve hours (and scooping litter once a day) I'm pretty sure they'll restrain themselves for the duration of my stay.

If you're interested in Trusted Housesitters (and honestly, why wouldn't you be, even if you're not looking for a writing retreat), you can follow one of the links I've scattered throughout the blog above and check out the site. The bonus is that if you use the link I posted, you'll get 25% off their annual fee of $109 (adjusts to $81.75, if you were wondering)... on first look that might seem like a lot for a middleman website, but I figure mine's already more than paid for itself with this first stay (probably with the first night).

In the spirit of full disclosure, if you sign up with TH, I get two months added to my membership, but that's not why I'm sharing it... I'm sharing it because I think it's a wonderful idea, a wonderful service (for both parties), a wonderful way to explore the world while staying out of hotels, and a wonderful way to get some writing done.

Anyway, I wanted to share what I'm doing this week, and what I hope to be doing more of in the future... TH has housesits in Egypt and Iceland and Mexico and Australia and Scotland and Italy, and I want to try them all!

I'm working on my next novel, "The World Beneath the World", while I'm here, and so far, I've been getting some good writing done.

Jamie

1/14/2020

Plans for 2020

Welcome to the new year!

My latest book, a collection of short stories, is doing well on Amazon and in some of the indie bookstores I've been working with for a while. I've gotten some good reviews online and through word of mouth.

I've heard from a few people who loved the Tyler books that they didn't love this collection... that's OK. Not all books are for all people, not everyone has to like everything an author publishes. I like the stories in the collection, a lot, and think they provide readers with a clean window into what I'm writing and thinking about or was at the time I wrote them.

I'm currently about 20k words deep into my next book, a mystery novel, and am excited about the way this first draft feels. I'm hoping to finish my first pass in March, then start the process of rewrites and edits through the spring and summer, with an eye towards publication in the fall or winter.

I had a great visit to Goddard last week. I went primarily to see some members of my original cohort who were graduating a semester after me, but also to enjoy a few days of writing retreat with a friend and fellow MFAW graduate. Both were fantastic!

I'll be going to the AWP conference in San Antonio in March, representing Goddard, and remembering the Alamo. It's something I've looked longingly at previously but never been able to talk myself into before now.

I've got my CV in for a number of teaching jobs, fingers crossed, but will keep pushing for more and different work and writing options and opportunities.

Thanks for reading, and for spreading the word.

Jamie

11/04/2019

New Short Story Collection Published!


My latest book, titled No Man is an Island... Except Me, just went live on Amazon and is available through them, via your favorite local bookstore, or you can get a signed copy by sending me an email.

It's a collection of short fiction. Fifteen stories about people who are square pegs in a round hole world; a writer’s dozen of people and places where unusual is the norm, where odd is ordinary.

I had a wonderful time writing the stories, exploring those places in my mind (or soul), and hope that you have a fun time visiting them as well.

Remember:



Thanks for your support and I hope you enjoy the stories.

Jamie

9/14/2019

The importance of big "W" versus little "w" writing in the life and times (and sanity) of a writer

"Write Every Day!" - This advice is casually tossed around in any and every discussion of Writing and Writers. from the moment you start filling notebooks with ideas and poking at a keyboard, visions of sharing your stories with the world dancing in your head like wordy sugarplums... the way it's normally given, normally meant, normally received, is wrong, is bad advice.

Luckily, you found this article, so you can be SAVED.


The worst possible interpretation of that dreaded advice is to literally force yourself into a chair every day and work on your novel, or poem, or creative non-fiction (if you believe in that particular unicorn)... cranking out continuous streams of words like piece-workers on an assembly line.

I think of that as little "w" writing... it's best suited to filling out forms or meeting deadlines on high-school essays. It's of necessity, a part of our lives, but it shouldn't be a part of our endeavors as creative writers.

No forced marches of storytelling, if the muse (or whatever facilitates your creative writing) is not available for comment or help on any given day, wander in some other, USEFUL, direction.

This is what I call big "W" Writing... an all-inclusive term that extends beyond stringing words together to make some new and creative assemblage of words to any activity that supports your writing and life as a writer.


It could, and should, include reading and taking notes...



It should also include blogging (along with making use of other forms of social media to check in with your audience and support/enhance/clarify your brand) and storyboarding or planning your writing projects...

Not only are these activities vital parts of your life as a writer, but they will also occupy the parts of your brain worried (or just thinking) about your work in progress, giving the subconscious the time and space it needs to do some heavy lifting, so that when you are ready to sit down and work on your latest creative piece, the words flow out in a meaningful and rewarding way, giving the world something it's never seen before.


I'm at a friend's wedding this weekend, officiating for the first time in my life... I'm nervous and my thoughts are, rightly, occupied with doing right by my friend, the woman he's about to spend the rest of his life with, and all of they're assembled friends and family.

I had a few hours this morning before the ceremony, so I wanted to do some writing, but my brain isn't geared up for working on the novel I'm currently writing, so I've been doing some big "W" Writing:

  • I read first thing in the morning, a mystery in the same vein as the one I'm working on
  • I checked in online, sharing some articles and answering emails related to my life as a writer
  • I wrote an article for a nerdy website I'm curating on tortoises
  • I wrote this blog, which will also be published on Medium
  • I drafted a letter to the subscribers to my newsletter (it's somewhere on the margin of my blog), offering them an early chance to grab my new book (a collection of short fiction) at a discount in exchange for an honest review of the book as soon as they finish it
Doing this, spending a morning in this way, gives me the room I need to take care of all manner of things important to my writing and my life as a writer, without going crazy trying to force myself to write on days when being creative, when forcing the creativity out through my fingers, would be very difficult.

While all of the above was happening, some thoughts and worries about my current WIP were tumbling around in the back of my head like that noisy rock polisher I kept in my closet as a boy, and I think I've got some ideas about how to write my way out of a few corners I painted myself, and my protagonist, into... we'll see on Monday, when I sit down to see whether I'm ready to Write  or write.




8/21/2019

13 Books for Writers, by Writers, about Writing


I was recently speaking with a friend who's also a writer, and we got to talking about the things we do outside of working on our current WIPs (works in progress for those who collect acronyms) to support our growth as writers, our sanity, or our connections to other people and other writers.

My answer was that the most useful and enjoyable piece of "Homework" that I give myself every month is to read a book in preparation for leading a discussion with a writers bookclub at my local library. The bookclub focuses on books by writers about writing. We have a great time reading and discussing the books, learning about how other writing professionals approach the art and science and life of writing.


We get together at the Keene, NH Public Library, which is a nice central spot for the group of regular attendees (by which word I mean they attend every month, most of aren't regular in any other sense of the word), but when I lived in the Adirondacks, before moving to New Hampshire, I ran another similar bookclub and we met in a local coffee shop that was more than happy for the business.

The important thing isn't the location, it's the books and a group of people engaged in writing sharing their thoughts about those books... I come away from every meeting refreshed and invigorated and eager to bring the new items in my writing toolbox to bear on my work the next morning.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of books that you could read and discuss with your bookclub, but the list below contains books that we've read in the last few years that those of us participating in the bookclub enjoyed particularly (my favorites are bolded).
  1. Zen In the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury
  2. The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron
  3. Wired for Story, Lisa Cron
  4. The Writing Life, Annie Dillard
  5. On Moral Fiction, John Gardner
  6. Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
  7. Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
  8. On Writing, Stephen King
  9. Bird By Bird, Annie Lamott
  10. Writing Magic, Gail Carson Levine
  11. Steering the Craft, Ursula LeGuin
  12. The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp
  13. Writers on Writing, Collected Essays from the NYT
I'd love to hear from other writers, or bookclubs, that have read and discussed books in the same vein, to hear which books you really enjoyed.


Thanks,

Jamie

5/15/2019

MFA Winding Down... What's Next?

I heard from my advisor yesterday... she's happy with my thesis.

{imagine the release of a breath held for months, a breath I'd not been aware of holding}

The collection of stories that I'll be submitting to the archives and archivists at Goddard College went from 27 stories to 15; I think it's a much tighter collection, more in line with what I wanted to serve up to readers, and with the revisions all of my readers helped me to find my way to is very close to the stories I had in my head when I started each one.


More than anything, I've learned that my writing needed, and needs, more (and more thoughtful) revision than I had previously done (or even considered). I've never had a problem with writing productively, but before my time at Goddard, I was unwilling to push myself to edit my work to the degree I've become accustomed through the last two years.


This semester was far and away the most challenging at Goddard, for me. 

I found myself wallowing in fear and self-pity after a sobering review of my first thesis submission by both my advisor and my second reader. It wasn't that they said the work was horrible, far from it, but they didn't love the still-rough stories so much as I wanted them to. This was a hard pill for me to swallow and process (rationally).

Taking their advice for tuning, and in some cases chopping, my stories was a freeing process though, and one I mixed in the feedback from another collection of readers I was able to take a step back from my fear and ego and hubris and address the shortcomings of my work. 


The result is a better collection, and 15 stories that are all objectively, markedly, improved since February. Through my editing and revision process, I've considered them singly and together and played with ordering how a reader experiences them to hopefully craft a better overall effect.


With the help of my family, I was able to carve out three days to disappear into northern Vermont to a tiny cabin in the middle of nowhere to give the work a final read-through shortly before handing in my "final" submission (""s added because although I'm finished with the thesis/collection so far as Goddard is concerned, I'll likely give it another round of polish before either shopping it around or self-publishing it). 

The quiet and time away from (my admittedly pretty idyllic) life allowed me to dive into the stories and collection and swim around in the ideas and people I wanted readers to experience when they pick up the book... it bolstered my confidence in the work at the same time it illuminated a few more changes I wanted to make.


Starting the day I first turned in my thesis and then recommencing after the final submission, I've been shopping some of the individual stories around to various magazines... to date four of the stories have been picked up (and I'm hopeful for more in the coming weeks). 

Graduation is in June. I'm working on my CV and looking for teaching gigs in the region; in the meantime, I'll be working on my next novel as well as evaluating and polishing some of the hundred or so stories that didn't make it into No Man is an Island... Except Me.

I'm excited for what's next and grateful to all of the people I worked with during my MFA at Goddard, who helped me improve my approach to writing.





2/20/2019

My thesis will be finished. Not yet, not soon, but someday, and looking at the collection of stories I've put together in the semi-final stages makes me proud, and happy, and excited ... for what's next.



I found my way to Goddard two years ago, hungry to change my approach to writing, eager to improve and professionalize my stories and the way I produced and shared them with the world. My take on me was that I was more storyteller than writer, and what I wanted to get from my time at Goddard was to slide further along the continuum towards being a writer, while not losing the storytelling.

Goddard's been nearly perfect for that, for me, in that it gave me what I wanted as well as what I needed. The magic of Goddard exists in two areas: intellectual freedom, focused on learner desires and outcomes; and a community of people to learn with who are brilliant and engaged.

I was able to define my goals, choose my path, and make my own way, comfortable knowing that my teachers and advisers would support me and help me with course-corrections as needed along the way. Living and working and learning with a vibrant and vital community of motivated thinkers and creators only served to pull me higher and faster, along narrow paths to summits I'd never visited before.


My process has been to read and write, supported and nurtured by my peers and faculty. With their guidance, I've read and annotated an eclectic mix of books (fiction, poetry, and books about writing by writers), many of them titles and authors I never would have encountered on my own. Before, during, and after reading these dozens of books, I wrote ... and wrote ... and wrote.

Since starting at Goddard, I've written between 80 and 100 short stories ... lots of them pretty horrible. Some of them, however, were informed by something I'd read, a discussion I'd had, or a seminar or workshop I'd attended during one of the residencies; these stories are generally the ones I circled back to again and again to tweak and polish and prune and graft.

Of those many stories, I sifted and sorted about two dozen that I felt were both representative of my work and growth while at Goddard, seemed to hang together as a collection, and also meant something to me on a personal level.


One of the joking/not-joking taglines at Goddard is to "Trust the Process" ... the process of becoming a writer, or at least my process of becoming a writer, involved reading a lot, writing a lot, talking with smart people who enjoy both reading and writing, and drinking lots of coffee.

Goddard has supported me, and my growth as a writer, in all facets of this process.

For me, that process included finding the time and energy to love editing and revising my work more, much more than I had previously done. As Storyteller-Jamie I loved the creation, making something from nothing; as soon as I was done with the initial creation I'd be ready to move on to the next thing, only grudgingly editing and revising my work as a necessary evil.

Post-Goddard, more-of-a-Writer-Jamie still loves the creation, but sees, and acknowledges, editing and revision as a part of the creative process ... that the creation isn't whole until it's as good as I can make it. That probably seems like a subtle difference to anyone still reading this interminable blog entry, but it's made a big difference to my writing, and to me.


Long story still long, I picked 27 stories and submitted them to my advisor and second reader at Goddard.

The feedback is still coming in, but I agree with what I've consumed and digested so far:

  • a number of the stories don't work as well either on their own or with the collection as a whole, so I'm dropping five (my advisor lobbied for a couple more, but I know what the stories can be, and I'm trusting myself to get them there in time for my final submission)
  • I need to work to polish and reorder the remaining 22 stories to present them in the best possible light ... only then will they, and the collection be done.

I can feel "what's next" floating out there, in front of me, stories waiting to be told ... but I'm not done writing these ones yet, so I'll wait, they'll keep. 

{a detective novel, a fantasy novel, another collection of short stories, more Tyler stories, a cookbook, etc.}



Thanks,

Jamie
Westmoreland, NH

1/22/2019

MFA, Short Story Collection, and what I'm working on this morning ....


  • Why is a guy who's written and published four novels back in school pursuing an MFA?
  • Why is that same novelist laboring to produce a collection of short stories for his thesis?
  • Where is he in that process ... it's been a long time since he published anything?
  • What's next ... why ... when?
Those are all excellent questions, especially the first two, and rather than Sir Edmund Hillary-ing my answer, let me try to think my way through them in this blog entry ... if you promise to read it, I promise to write it thoughtfully.



I went back to school (yet again, some might say) to get my MFA in Creative Writing at Goddard College because I felt that I was more a storyteller than a writer. This may seem sophistry or pretense, and perhaps it is (I've been accused, and guilty, of far worse), but nevertheless that was the fulcrum I needed to get myself back in the classroom (on the student side of the lectern, at least initially). Over the course of the MFA program I think I've stretched and grown as a writer ... trying new things as well as getting better at things I was already doing.

I felt confident in the structure and process of the four Tyler Cunningham novels, and had concerns that while I could likely produce another novel, it wouldn't stretch me in the ways I wanted to be stretched in an MFA program. A novel is one example of a thing, one chance to practice new strategies, one opportunity for growth; I wanted dozens. To that end, I wrote a gazillion (nearer to 100 actually) short stories; two dozen (ish) of which will be in the collection that is my thesis project: "No man is an island ... except me, I'm definitely an island".


Having the luxury to write, and subsequently select from, a large number of short stories, I was able to pick both my favorites, and further, from among those was able to pick a sampling that all seem to row in the same direction when taken as a whole. The stories (including the title piece) are all about people both outside of human society and aware of that outsideness, and (I hope) explore the condition from a new, or at least interesting, perspective.

Last week, upon my return from my final residency at Goddard, I took the time to make a final  selection of the stories that will be in the collection ... final-ish, it may be that after my advisor and second reader take a look at the collection, they suggest I drop or pickup a story or two.


I printed out all of the contenders, reread them so as to climb back into the various worlds presented, and then tried to establish a reasonable order in which to offer the stories. some of the strongest works at the beginning to grab readers, an undulation of pacing and type and mood throughout, and another of my favorites with which to end the collection. Three of the stories have been published in literary journals (so far, I have hopes for a couple more being grabbed, including two submissions to The New Yorker ... why not dream big?), something I had previously thought was verboten, but have learned actually makes the collection more attractive to potential publishers.


My plan for the rest of the semester, including this morning once I've finished this blog entry, is to polish the stories and the collection within which they float. In a few weeks I'll send it to my advisor and second reader for their thoughts and guidance. I have some administrivia and paperwork to do for Goddard in the assumption that I'll be graduating in July. Once I hear back from my advisor and second reader (and any other wise eyes I ask for help with the collection), I'll spend the intervening time trying to deal with bumps in the road that is my collection. I'm a big believer (now) that editing and revisions are never done, just due.

Although I'm mostly focused on the completion of my thesis and MFA, I am looking beyond Goddard and this collection of shorts to what's next. I've got two thirds of a very rough draft of my fantasy novel, Oasis, written, and that's calling to me. Readers of the Tyler Cunningham series have been (mostly) patiently waiting for three years for the next installment; I have a couple of stories waiting to come out, possibly novellas, possibly interwoven as a novel. I've also gotten to know a new detective duo who have set up shop in the back of my head, providing an amusing distraction when I'm stuck on other projects; they have a lot to offer, and feel as though they'd be great fun to work with, so I'm tempted to open with them. A (the?) cherry on top of future projects is a cookbook that's not a cookbook, something more along the lines of a lifestyle and gadget and gift guidebook for the kitchen adventurer; I've never done non-fiction writing, never worked with graphics in a book, never formalized/organized my explorations in the kitchen beyond fun and a love of food and drink.


It should make me nervous or scared, but really I'm just excited ... I hope you'll come along with me on the next steps, and the ones after that ... I'm really looking forward to sharing these stories, and the next ones, whatever they are, with you.

Thanks,

Jamie