Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Byline Extravaganza!

Newsy/statusy post. Deep-thinking post probably soon.

This has been an extremely difficult month, for emotional reasons that are inappropriate to describe here. As well as the flu. As well as all the deadlines and bylines and accompanying promotion. As well as missing friends because I'm too frenzied to see them or answer their texts, but being in the awful position to consider them irritations because too much on my plate. I'm excited to say so-long to February and hello to March, in which I will be exchanging good criticism for good pay at least once, and in which my heart won't be cleft so bloodily in twain.

Depicted: Beatles fans and a security guard who forgot his earplugs.
Their noise = my brain. 

In the meantime, I opened a Ko-fi. This is a small-change donation site where you can chip in $3 for my Fund To Not Get Thrown In Debtor's Prison. The idea is that you're buying me a coffee. I appreciate any generosity you toss my way, but you're certainly not obligated to contribute. I've been blogging for free since, oh God, 2006? and don't plan to stop anytime soon.

I'm hoping to assemble a long-distance writing workshop for mid-March over Google Hangouts. I don't know how I'll do this, but so many people in places other than Los Angeles have told me they want to work with me that I don't want to put off any longer trying to make that happen. If anyone has insights on how to assemble a multi-person Google Hangout, or if you want to be part of a beta test team to see if it even works, PLEASE get in touch. I'm ready for any advice/help at all.

I believe I'll do How to Get Unstuck. I have plans to teach The Unwritten Scene and The Heroine's Journey, but because the tech will be new, I thought teaching something I've taught previously would be wiser.

Out in the world (it's a lot this time, but there'll be even more in a week, which is why this post isn't deep-thinking, because I didn't want to wait any longer to have time to think deeply in fear of overloading this section even more) (wow, parenthetical much?):

My review of Kingdom of Women by Rosalie Morales Kearns. Probably the best book I read in 2017, and I am pleased beyond measure to have placed my review in VIDA. It's still a bit surreal; even though I've had a lot of bylines in the past six months, the ones that have meant something to my nerves and bones have been rarer, and this one is like that.

My review of The House of Erzulie by Kirsten Imani Kasai in the Adroit Journal. I loved this book as a reader more than I loved it as a reviewer (it was right up my personal alley, but that's not a wide alley). I tried to communicate that by not being as rapturous as I felt about it but still indicating what the intense pleasures of the novel were. If you like Gothic lit and/or melodrama, this is your book, but if you don't, you won't like this.

Books I Hate (and Also Some I Like) with SAMANTHA FUCKING IRBY. I wish this byline indicated that we had met in real life, but as the title of her book promises, that will probably never happen.

"The First Snow" was published in Storm Cellar. As my work goes, this is pretty straightforward short fiction. In my dotage I grow increasingly grumpy about short stories, whether reading or writing, and I shouldn't make predictions that are unlikely to come true, but it feels like I won't be writing another short story for a damn long time. I wrote this two+ years ago, and I haven't felt called to short fiction since. So I hope you like this one. There's a paywall, but for the PDF it's pretty low.

My review of Anca L. Szilágyi's Daughters of the Air. Locus published it in their paper magazine last month and in their online arm this month.

A personal essay on Medium in the form of a letter to my teenage self, who was anorexic. I believe in this essay, even though certain parts of it are sentimental and other parts are controversial. Over the years it's been rejected by every single place I thought would want it, including a few once-prominent mags that have since folded or lost their good reputations. That's how long I've been sitting on this thing. So up it has gone, at long last, on Medium, on the first day of 2018's National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Share it, please, with #NEDAwareness. You never know who will need to hear it.

Thursday, February 15, 2018


Part One

I secretly love figure skating. A lot. I don't know anything about it technically and I can barely keep my own balance on ice, but I love watching it almost as much as I love watching Fred & Ginger dance. I haven't been watching the Winter Olympics live (ain't nobody got time for that), but I have been watching highlights on YouTube. Someone posted a video of the gold medalists in pairs skating, Germans, Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot. Here is that video.

In case NBC takes it down before you get the chance to read this, they give an astonishingly beautiful program, and then, at the very end, this happens.

The way they both collapse bears no kinship to the beauty and strength they displayed for the prior four minutes. Thank goodness she's smiling when she turns over, because in watching this loop again and again, he really does kinda drop her. But I understand why. The feat they've just performed is astonishing and they need a moment to not be using muscles. It all just runs out of them.

I love this loop, made a gif out of it, because you almost never see Olympic-level athletes surrender like this. It's wonderful. It's relief and triumph and and joy and exhaustion all wrapped into fifteen seconds.

I thought of three things simultaneously when I saw this clip. One, Annie Dillard, from The Writing Life:
I asked [a joyful painter I knew] how he came to be a painter. He said, "I liked the smell of the paint." 
Two, Cheryl Strayed, from a 2010 Dear Sugar column:
To be down low. To be of the earth. To be on the ground. That’s where I went when I wrote the last word of my first book. Straight onto the cool tile floor to weep. I sobbed and I wailed and I laughed through my tears. I didn’t get up for half an hour. I was too happy and grateful to stand. 
Three, The Cutting Edge (look, shut up, it was a beloved film of my adolescence), a conversation somewhere in the middle of the film. Kate, a wealthy and driven figure skater, finds a picture of Doug, a middle-class ice hockey player, smelling the ice after the rink has been zambonied. She asks him about it, and he says he loves the smell of the ice. She says she never really thought about it.

In the same paragraph as the paint-smell thing, Dillard retells a story which I'm sure I've related on this blog, the thrust of which is that if you want to be a writer, you should probably like sentences. Which I do. Sometimes you have to take a moment to smell the ice. Let it all run out of you and lie down breathing.

I want to perform a feat before I collapse like that, but the feat might be getting through Februrary of 2018.

Part Two

Talk is easy. To-do lists are great. Time is unforgiving. From a forthcoming book, Maps Are Lines We Draw, by Allison Coffelt:
Beginnings, middles, ends: this is the stuff of stories we tell. We write our personal and political histories with order in mind, choosing what goes where. Meanwhile, the sections bleed into each other. And time makes everything into a past that informs the present. 
I don't know what to say other than that. I have a fever and I have applied for two residencies and a grant just this month and have seven deadlines yet to fulfill before the end of February and my throat hurts so bad but I'm not sick enough to be flat out on the couch with the TV on, so I'm procrastinating writing the weird thing and the awesome thing and the chore things, reading the exciting thing to do the other exciting thing, and cleaning up the damn apartment, which is beginning to resemble the verb form "strewn".

Forgive me. The tarot told me this would be a month of celebration, but I'm not feeling it - not really. My best friend is getting married at the end of the month, so maybe I should just write off the idea that it's me who gets to be celebrated. Should just be as happy as I truly am for him. Mostly I am sad, that kind of sad where you want someone to comfort you right up until you want them to go away. I honestly think I am sick now instead of in December, when everyone else was, because now I am sad and my body is like, no, this we can't weather.

Count your blessings, Kat. Only thing to report about being in the world is a bit of a doozy: a review of Tim Kreider's essay collection I Wrote This Book Because I Love You, because I love him, in Another Chicago Magazine. The editor worked so hard on this piece with me and I am grateful to her.

A handful of bylines are set to drop in the next couple of weeks, which means I really need to update my website. Not that that's making me sadder, because yay for me! bylines!, but the subsequent need to update sure is a bummer.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


First (click to embiggen):

What I hope is the first of many yoga/writing workshops I will teach with the amazing Alicia Easter. Get in touch if you're in LA and you want to come. I'd love to see you. Facebook event is here.

I'm writing this post to warm up toward writing a review I don't really want to do. The book has been getting praise from all kinds of reliable sources, and the audience for the outlet I pitched fits the book like Legos locking together. But I'm dubious about the book. I'm not sure whether what it says is worth saying. I'm not sure why the narrator is worth rooting for; not that likability is necessary, but there has to be something redeeming or at least positive about a narrating character and I'm not sure that's the case here.

This morning I quit a book I was reading for review after 50 pages. I feel super guilty, because I made a bit of a fuss about getting the book and I had a great idea for a venue that would pay me for a review, but it's an even worse fit for me than the book in the prior paragraph. It's almost Victorian in its explanatory quality, in the plainness of its style, and I kept wanting to pick up a red pen and slash through whole paragraphs.

I didn't think I could afford to be picky at this stage of my work, but walking through mud sucks.

It's okay. The stack of books I have to read/review is still 10+ tall (including commissioned reviews, the existence of which in my wee life is slightly beyond belief to me). I haven't asked for any new ARCs in some weeks because of the backlog, and because I can't keep this up; the stack of non-review books I want to read is now alarming and I really want several weeks to hole up and read for fun instead. I can't keep reviewing at the rate I have been and still continue to enjoy reading. I don't know how this conflict is going to settle out, but that is how my life has been going for the past few weeks: in a pickle and not knowing how to dill.

My new obsession is the small press The Operating System, from which I bought a quartet of chapbooks after reading the wonderful book The Science of Things Familiar by Johnny Damm. The chapbooks are terrific, small and well-made, experimental and heartfelt.

Other parts of my life are interfering with writing, or possibly writing is interfering with other parts of my life and the other parts are retaliating dramatically. 2018 did not begin well, personally. The huge Tarot spread I did on New Year's Day tells me better things are ahead in February, but I'm unsure whether I'm supposed to be taking action or not. This is why trusting stuff like Tarot is so risky: you start to wonder whether the cards are interacting with your proactive efforts, or if you're supposed to sit still and let the world work.

Out in the world:

An essay about work, which I wrote over a year ago and which kept getting rejected. I knew it was oddly shaped and unparallel to itself, but I didn't want to change it; I wanted it to wind, like a story. Gayle didn't want to change it either, which is why I'm so happy that it's on Lady/Liberty/Lit. The title is a reference to The American Way of Death, which has become obscure, I think, even though no books have come along to replace it that I'm aware of.

A Books I Hate interview with Tomas Moniz. He is a very nice man and a fine writer.

Victorian Spam columns three, four, and five.