Cats get in the way.

20150105_154806-websiteWhat cats lack in size they make up for in sheer bloody-mindedness. Nothing, least of all an inelegant primate such as I, will interfere with their quest for the perfect perch, preferably on paper still warm from the printer, stacked in a box just a bit too small.

Which is to say, cats get in the way.

Recently I sent my publisher a revision of my forthcoming novel, in preparation for its fall debut. I went through the manuscript page by page, scribbling notes. I was at it for weeks, the loose pages corralled by a plastic box at my side. Usually there was a cat in that box: Percy, short for Perseus. Percy the cat is blind in one eye and suffers no fools.

He obstructed my progress throughout this revision: Wait, where is that page I need? Oh, there it is, under the cat. Shoot—I need to look back a few pages, but they’re all…under the cat. The notepad I was JUST writing on? Yup.

My kind-hearted teen son insists that Percy loves me and want to stay close. He likes the feel of paper. But I know that, with his one good eye, Percy sees straight into my worst self-doubt. You’re right, he purrs. You give this book to the world and you give yourself. Better to let me hide it, hide you.

Cats are not without mercy.

So if cats get in the way, maybe it’s because we need them to. For a while. Maybe we need the writing, the revealing, to go more slowly. We need to take our time and work hard for it. Maybe it’s not contrariness but compassion that leads a cat to curl upon a stack of unpublished work, smooth with sharp edges, full of possibility and potential disaster.

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Thank you for hearing me.

This year I wrote an essay about my failure. I wrote about the years, two decades ago, that nearly did me in. I lost a marriage, a literary agent, a job. For years I did not write. In this essay, I wrote about redefining success, celebrating the work of writing, publishing small pieces, connecting with those who get what I mean. I was thrilled when this essay, “Believe It, She’s Tried”, was named a finalist for Cobalt‘s 2014 Creative Nonfiction Prize. (It will be published in Cobalt‘s Issue 3, available for pre-order here.)

And then, the best news. My novel, Not on Fire, Only Dying, a book I have believed in and worked on for years (and years), found its perfect home with Twisted Road Publications. It debuts next Fall. I can’t wait to show it to you.

It took awhile to sink in, let me tell you. Hearing Yes, after so much No.

Of course, no year is entirely wonderful. Loved ones face illnesses. There is worry and grief. There is the daily grind. But you owe it to yourself to raise a glass, make some noise for what is right at the end of another year. Personal or professional, no matter how small. Allow yourself a moment of gratitude and pride. Fill yourself with it.

Thank you, editors, for publishing my work. Thank you, readers, for reaching out when something stuck with you. Thank you, writers, for your words. For your stories and books that remind me I’m not alone. The world is filled with people who get what we mean. We just have to be patient. We will find each other. And when we do, let’s say thanks.

Twitter is good for writers. No, really.

This morning, someone Favorited this piece of mine, published in Feb. by @escarp. It reminded me, in my sleepy suburban outpost, of how grateful I am for the internet and how it makes much of my work available for viewing 24/7/forever. For those of us who did time submitting via snail-mail, publishing in tiny journals no bookstore carried, this is endlessly wonderful.

Sure, not many people have responded to this piece (yet), but it’s one of my faves and, like any writer, I’m encouraged whenever I receive even a small gesture of appreciation. It means you reached someone with your work. And that’s the point, right?

I’m proud of this little piece because it encapsulates what I try to do in all my writing: it tackles issues I have feelings about (the ubiquitous McMansion, ostentation) and distills it into a few precisely chosen words that engage the music in language. I try to do that always, even in my forthcoming novel.

So yes, Twitter can be a distraction. It can be silly Vines and semi-wise quotes and noisy hawking of self-pub’d material. It can be armchair slacktivism and cute pictures of baby sloths. (Not going to lie, I love baby sloths forever and always.) But it can also be wonderful exercise for writers, a way to keep the the writing muscles flexed. In addition to @escarp, I’ve published Twitter prose with @CuentoMag and @7×20, and some of my #cnftweets have won @cnfonline‘s daily Tiny Truths contest.

Where do you submit your briefest work? Let’s make more of it. Let’s flood Twitter with morsels of dense, delicious lit.

 

 

Recent News

My debut novel, Not On Fire, Only Dying, will be published in Fall 2015 by Twisted Road!

New video work, “Lust for Love (5),” appears in the latest issue of Interfictions

“Believe It, She’s Tried” was a Finalist for the Cobalt 2014 Frank McCourt Creative Nonfiction Prize. It will be published in their print Issue #3.

New flash fiction, “Things Break Easily in My Big Hands,” published by Luna Luna  and cross-posted at Ravishly.

Announced: Wigleaf‘s Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions of 2014. My story “Some Kind of Comfort” made the Longlist.