Category Archives: writing

What are you working on?

working

I try to hold a few blocks in my weekly schedule sacrosanct for writing. Between work, home life, and Mud Season Review editorial duties, it can be tough. Sometimes it ends up less sacro and more sanct. But it gives me some regularity, and a steadyish stream of writing throughput. So what am I working on with this time?

  • Blogging– My target is to post something once a week, and keep it to 500 words or so. I try to set aside Monday lunches for this, though, practically speaking, it can slip to some other weekday lunch as scheduling requires. This is going out on a Wednesday, for example. In any case, it’s going pretty well. You’re reading it now, aren’t you?
  • Poetry– Pervasively, there is something poetry-related I can be working on at any given time, so I reserve one lunch hour a week for this. At this given time, I have a handful of new poems from the last year that I’m working on revising, and a new poem that I accidentally wrote last week which I have to transcribe from my journal to a typed version. Most of my poetry is kind of accidental bolt-from-the-blue initially, and usually comes out longhand in first draft.
  •  Full-length Screenplay– The damned thing is untitled. I’ve been working on the damned thing for years. I currently have a block of a few evening hours a week I set aside for it. The good news is, there’s light at the end of the tunnel- I’m probably not going to make my target of getting to final draft by end of year, but early next is eminently achievable. I really love the damned thing, but it will be good to have it done. Then it can start going out to make its way in the world, and I can work on an unfinished novel and a short story idea or two that is rattling around.
  • The Unknown– These are my current projects. I have half-baked glimmers of inspiration on an ongoing basis, though. Most don’t pass the threshold to “I actually want to work on that.” But sometimes, without warning, something- an idea for a personal essay idea, a sestina, a short story, etc. will appear and say “You WILL work on me NOW!” I plead in vain about all the regularly-scheduled projects and the time they require, but there’s no reasoning with my Muse when she’s in that mood. So you never know what could be on the list next week…

How about you, fellow writers? I’d love to hear what you’re working on!

Let’s talk about someone else for a change…

Rottenecards_1149199_kkdt69n3n5Well, my goal of updating my blog once a week is off track, I could talk about reasons-work, vacation, blah, blah, blah. But the best way to get back is just to do it! I could also talk about something I’ve been up to creatively, my latest thoughts on writing, publishing, etc. But one of the things I really like about living in this area of Vermont is that there’s such a strong writing community here. And several members of that community have had some neat news recently, so I’d rather talk about that!

Andrew Liptak is the dynamo behind Geek Mountain State, a promoter of creative geekery in Vermont in all its forms, and the weekend editor at io9. He recently shared on his blog about how he is leaving his day job to focus more on his various pursuits, and maybe start a new thing or two. I’m always excited when any of us can pull this trick off, doubly so since he’s a friend , and makes such wonderful things in the world. Well done Andrew!

Angela Palm is one of the first writer-folk I met when I moved here, courtesy of her own dynamo-like involvement with multiple local presses and writing organizations. Her memoir Riverine is coming out early next year from Graywolf Press as a result of her winning their nonfiction prize. And she recently had an excellent essay published at Parent.co about the challenges of balancing work, kids, and marriage with really launching her writing career. I appreciate how she’s unblinking and honest about the impossibility of doing it all, and the cost of making decisions about the trade-offs involved. It’s sobering, and yet at the same time really inspiring. If you’re struggling with any of these issues yourself, you might want to check her essay out!

Michelle Watters is one the poetry editors I work with on Mud Season Review, and also a creator of some beautifully darkling poetry that I adore. I’ve been totally inspired by how much energy she’s poured into getting her poetry published over the last year, and the honesty with which she shares her ups and down around it. On her blog she recently talked about her bitter disappointment when she didn’t win a Poetry manuscript contest she had high hopes for. And then just a day or too later had some poems accepted for publication, and talked about how that turned her mood around. And also noticed that white butterflies seems to have something to do with literary acceptances…

The thing about being a writer is, it’s hard work. Not just the writing itself, and the emotions around that, but the constant ups and downs of the work it takes to put your stuff out there in the world. Hearing about successes (and struggles) from some of the others who are strapped in to the roller coaster of the creative life with me totally keeps me going. So thanks guys!

A Few Thoughts on Literary Masquerade…

masquerade

This isn’t what I’d planned on writing about this week, but sometimes current events overtake us!

If you’re a submitting writer (especially if you’re a submitting poet) you’ve probably heard about the recent literary kerfluffle wherein the very white Michael Derrick Hudson got a poem published in Best American Poetry using his literary pseudonym, Yi-Fen Chou. Quote Mr. Hudson: “As a strategy for ‘placing’ poems this has been quite successful … The poem in question … was rejected under my real name forty times before I sent it out as Yi-Fen Chou (I keep detailed records). As Yi-Fen the poem was rejected nine times before Prairie Schooner took it. If indeed this is one of the best American poems of 2015, it took quite a bit of effort to get it into print, but I’m nothing if not persistent.”

The Atlantic has a thoughtful musing on this whole situation here, including the viewpoint of Sherman Alexie, the guest editor of the anthology who decided to leave it in even after discovering the subterfuge. Therein, he talks about his own bias. This has kicked off a lively online dialogue among the current and past poetry editors of The Mud Season Review. This has taken part in a series on online postings, but I wanted to collect a few of my thoughts from that dialogue here.

First off, a truly blind submission process obviously eliminates this, beyond what might be gleaned, correctly or not, from the content of the poems themselves. For MSR, I pointedly do not read the bio, or any of the other reviewer’s comments, before doing my first read, precisely because I don’t want to be swayed by anything beyond the poem itself. The one thing I can’t help but see in Submittable, though, is the poet’s name.

And honestly, if the name indicates that the writer is a woman, or a person of color, sometimes my “ears” do perk up. I am more sympathetic to/interested in seeing what may be coming from an underrepresented viewpoint, not to mention a viewpoint different than my own. When the push comes to the shove of final selection, I don’t think this interest overcomes quality standards. And I won’t ever say I think a poem is good that I don’t really think is good, no matter what outside consideration. But it definitely can make me a little more open on a first read.

Interestingly, as far as the “nepotism” theory goes, this makes me more of an anti-nespot. But that’s a bias in itself. Despite being a straightish middle-class culturally Christian white man, my whole life I’ve felt more comfortable around, and in sympathy with, people who are on the contra side of many of those identities. We could go into the psychology and personal history of that, but, like I said, it’s there, and it’s a bias.

Now for true confession: I also have some understanding for the poet who did this! In despairing moments, I have sometimes thought, “Getting publisher’s attention would be easier if I were telling these stories as____.” Different things pop in to the ____ depending on the moment: an immigrant, a woman, a gay person, etc. However, I recognize that as a “despairing moment” thought, and am rather suspicious of its accuracy, given all the many, many ways I benefit from my class, my race, my sexuality and my gender.

Despite my understanding of motive, I don’t care for this kind of personal misrepresentation when anybody does it. Think James Frey (passing off fiction as memoir), JT Leroy (not an actual person with an actual biography), Vanilla Ice (never heard shells dropping and got out of there fast), etc. On the other hand, it wasn’t unheard of for female authors to create male pseudonyms in the 20th century to break through the power structure. And I feel much more okay with that. I think this must have something to do with power relations between who’s doing it, and what structure they’re doing it in. Mr. Hudson is not on the side of the angels in this regard.

Meanwhile, in one of the better responses I’ve seen, my friend (and fantastic writer) Caille Millner Twitter-posted a link to the Poetry Foundation’s overview of actual Asian American poets. It’s a great list, which further delighted me by including one of my favorite contemporary poets, Aimee Nezhukumatathil. She’s gotten in to the Twitter scrum on this story herself:

Aimee

That’s a fitting last word here. But I am interested in hearing your thoughts!

Burlington Writers Workshop Retreat!

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When my wife and I decided that life in the Greater Boston area wasn’t compatible with continued health and sanity and we were examining other possible New England locales, one of the key criteria for me was the local writing community. We liked all kinds of things about the Burlington area, but the presence of a really strong local literary community was definitely high on the list.

When we did actually make the move, I very quickly got involved with the Burlington Writers Workshop, one of the things that caught my eye in our pre-move evaluation. This has turned out to be a great idea! The group started out hosting free writing workshops for its members in Burlington, and has now added workshops in Montpelier and Midddlebury as well. Meanwhile, BWW has branched out to putting out an annual “best of” publication of pieces from the workshops, starting a literary journal that’s already making a name for itself (Mud Season Review, where I am incidentally co-Editor for Poetry), holding seminars on various aspects of writing and publishing and, starting this year, hosting writing retreats.

I got to participate in one this weekend, at Camp Abnaki a ridiculously picturesque (see above) old camp ground on North Hero island in Lake Champlain. It was only a day (in keeping with BWW’s ethos that what it does is free for members), but it was so helpful. In between a morning intro, lunch and potluck dinner, I got a solid day’s worth of writing, where I was able to:

  • Gather screenplay revision notes from several locales (my phone, e-mails, two different computers, written notes on a draft) into one place and organized them into a revision plan for the final draft
  • Work on revising several poems, including finding the right form for one that has been bedeviling me (decasyllabic ballad, as it turns out)
  • Start to revise a short story based on feedback notes from a BWW Middlebury workshop a few weeks back

I’m a pretty happy writer after this weekend. Also, i learned that Grand Isle County has that laid-back beach person vibe I had so missed from California and Gloucester. I can’t wait to go back!

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Five reasons you shouldn’t be afraid of (Literary) Rejection

kamikazeI think a lot of us let fear of rejection keep us from taking the risks necessary to move toward our goals. I am certainly no exception. This doesn’t only apply to literary endeavors, of course. And I still work on it in many areas of my life. But one area where I absolutely don’t sweat it anymore is literary rejection. If I want to get published, I need to submit. If I submit, I’m going to get rejections. It’s just the price of admission. And, fortunately, it’s not so bad. Here are a few things I’ve learned in the course of submission and rejection that help soften the blow. I hope they encourage you to get your writing out there:

1. It’s not personal. Some of the fear comes from the idea of receiving an ego-destroying comment in the dismissal. In reality, you probably won’t receive enough content for your ego to latch on to in any form. Here’s a rejection I just received, stripped of the identifying information:

Dear <X>,

Thank you for sending us your work. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, the piece is not for us.

Thanks again. Best of luck with this.
Sincerely,

<Y>

Since being on the accepting/rejecting side of the equation as the Poetry co-editor with Mud Season Review, I’ve actually developed a lot of sympathy for this. For most of the places you’re submitting to, sheer volume doesn’t allow for personalized response. They won’t have time to get nasty!

2. You may not hear back at all. I’ve been keeping stats on my submissions since 2008. So far, I have not heard back on around 28% of my submissions. Some of these are from the last 12 months, so they’re probably still in the consideration pipeline. But many of them are years old. I figure they probably aren’t going to get back to me if they haven’t by now. It isn’t good form on the literary journal’s part, but it does happen. Once again, no ego-damaging blow. Although the eerie whistling void can be just as unnerving…

3. Because of #1 and #2, when you do get feedback, it’s usually good. In between the form responses and non-responses, when they do feel moved enough to respond, it’s probably because there’s something about your submission they responded positively to. I’ve come to really appreciate the “this is strong, but not quite there”, “it was a semi-finalist, and we encourage you to submit again”, and “it felt like aspect X could have been developed a little more”, Not quite as encouraging as an acceptance, but these kinds of responses do keep me going.

4. It’s tough for them too. More than once, I’ve gotten an e-mail, or (gasp!) a piece of real mail, that I thought was a rejection notice. Instead, it was a literary journal thanking me for my support and reporting that they, sadly, are folding up shop. Or even soliciting me for donations! There are some journals that are hot right now, and other marquee names that have been around for decades. But, more commonly, lit mags and journals are underfunded labors of love run by unpaid or lightly paid staff, doing this because they believe literature matters. Which is what you believe as a writer too. It can feel like we’re the plucky stowaways trying to sneak aboard their luxury liner. But it’s more often like we’re all in a leaky rowboat together.

5. You can do surprising things with semantics. I mean, come on, we’re writers, right? At a certain point, the “rejection” tally on my tracking sheet started to bum me out. Not the number of items under it, but the word “rejection” itself. So I changed it to “nonacceptance”, which felt a lot more value neutral. This has worked for a surprisingly long time, but it’s starting to lose some of its effectiveness. I may change it again soon. “They missed the boat on the greatest lightly published writer of his generation” is a little ponderous, but something like that. I’ll keep working on it.

How about you? What have you found that helps lighten rejection’s stinging blow?

Do you remember your first? Acceptance/Rejection, that is…

vicdef

One of my major sources of inspiration as I was retooling my blog and website was taking a workshop on social media for writers from writing and editing powerhouse and truly lovely person Angela Palm. She had a ton of ideas I incorporated, and along the way also suggested some possible blog post topics once the site was once again ready for weekly positing. One of her suggestions that particularly struck my fancy was collecting stories from my fellow writers about their first literary acceptances and first rejections. Because we’re all in this struggle together, and some perspective always helps!

Let’s start with the gory side. I always knew I should be a writer, but I lacked the confidence to really latch on to this dream and follow through. Still, it rattled inside me. Thus, my Junior year at Berkeley, even as a seemingly cut-and-dried Political Science major, I found myself taking a poetry writing seminar. Encouraged by the weekly feedback in the class, I ended up submitting a batch of poems to a campus literary magazine, whose name I can’t even recall. I do recall scanning the acceptance announcements (in those days a literal piece of paper tacked up on a bulletin board) when they were posted. My name, alas, wasn’t there. And I rallied by…not submitting anything else, anywhere, for the next 15 years. Sometimes a plant has roots too shallow to bloom.

The idea never fully left me, though. Through years of graduate school, diving in to the turbulent world of international business, going down in addiction and washing up in recovery, marriage and divorce, I continued to scratch out poems and stories in my journals from time to time. Finally, in 2003, freshly into post-marital separation, I came back to what I had always know. I started taking writing workshops again, going to readings, and writing regularly, no matter what. One of my delights in this early period of returning to writing was stumbling across the darkling wonderful true tales of the unseemly and strange that Loren Rhoads was publishing in her magazine Morbid Curiosity. These were the kinds of stories i wanted to hear about, and to tell. And so, in 2004, I submitted my true tale “Kissing Girls in the Dark” to her, which I was delighted to learn was accepted. It came out in 2005. Morbid Curiosity is now sadly defunct, but you can read the story here. You shouldn’t stop there, either- Loren has put out an excellent collection of some of the highlights from the magazine over the years, Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues, and has several fiction and nonfiction works of her own you should check out.

My subsequent record has faded a bit from my initial 100% acceptance rate. It also took me a few years to get sufficiently tooled up to be as disciplined about regular submission as I was about regular writing. But I’m glad I did, because that’s the price of admission. For every acceptance for publication, there’s a rejection. Or ten. Or a hundred. (In my case, about a 6%-7% acceptance rate over several hundred submissions, so far.) Which is why, in retrospect, I’ve come to really appreciate my first experience of each.

So that’s me. I’d love to hear your story!

Launch! (And mid-year check-in)

launch

Just a brief post to officially say hello to you here at my new writing web site!

Between setting this site up and that distracting thing known as life in general, there haven’t been any new blog posts since January. But now that we are back in business, and I’ve moved my blog over here with the rest of my writing, I aim to return to a blessed state of regularity.

Speaking of regularity, my writing goal for the year, as mentioned in an earlier blog post, is to average 5 hours/week. Excel informs me that my average for the first half of the year has been closer to 1.13 hours/week. I feel really okay with setting ambitious goals and falling short, since you still end up way ahead of where you would have without them. I’d like to fall short by a little less than 4.5:1 though. Better pour it on in the second half!

On the submission front, fortunately, I’m at 25 regular weekly submissions so far this year, which leaves me well on track for beating my 2014 pace of 43. Current lifetime stats since I began regularly weekly submissions in mid 2008:

Capture

So that’s me. How’s your writing and submitting going? Drop a line and check in!

Five Things I’ve Learned as a Poetry Editor

In May of last year I started working on the Mud Season Review, a new online (and soon coming out with our first print edition!) journal. The journal is an outgrowth of the Burlington Writer’s Workshop, itself a fantastic community resource for writers here in my new homeland. The journal strives to bring some of the workshop’s sense of writers supporting and in dialogue with each other into the literary journal format, and I’m super-proud of what we’re doing.

I started out as one of two Assistant Poetry Editors, responsible for reviewing what’s passed on by our readers, and then participating with the senior editors in their final decision process. Through various perambulations, I’ve now become a poetry Co-Editor. Having spent a lot of the past few years on the “submitting” side of the process, it’s fascinating to now be on the other end, and I wanted to pass on a few key things I’ve learned to my fellow submitting poets out there:

1. It is such a high-volume business, rejections don’t (necessarily) mean you’re bad: I get discouraged by my literary rejections sometimes, for sure. And I knew, intellectually, what the numbers were like. But now, from the other side, I really appreciate it. In the six months since we started, we’ve had around 570 poetry submissions, usually of 3-5 poems each. And we’ve put out five online editions so far, with maybe 5 poems in each. Math tells me that (5*5)/(3*570)= 25/1,710= 1.47%. The numbers for Mud Season Review are not atypical-many journals publish more pieces, but they also get more submissions per issue. In other words, your poem could be in the top 2% of submissions an editor is receiving and still not make the cut-off of what they have room to publish.

2. You need to bring your best work-every detail matters: See above- given that you can be in the top 2% of what a journal receives and still miss the cutoff, what you submit needs to be your very, very best. Send your favorite poems, not your “maybe this will work”. First (or even second or third) drafts probably won’t get you there. That misspelling that you missed, or awkward line that you know doesn’t quite work, but it probably doesn’t matter? It might. Knowing this now has actually sharply re-focused me on the quality of submissions I send out.

3. Form is really important: By which I mean the physical form of the poem. Having read literally hundreds of poems every month, I’ve noticed that one of the primary things that can throw me off is the format of the poem. Even if I really like the poet’s voice, and am intrigued by the content and appreciate the imagery, word choice, etc., a physically difficult format can keep me from connecting with it. Things like line breaks, regularity of structure (even if the structure itself is unorthodox, does it at least have internal consistency in how it’s working?), and spacing or other devices to keep the flow of reading going make a big difference. Again, knowing this leaves me chastened about some of my submissions over the years, and has got me thinking about how I can improve.  

4. Your cover letter probably doesn’t matter, so don’t spend too much time on it: We use Submittable, which separates out the content (i.e. the poems) from the personal note or cover letter that accompanies them. So as not to prejudice my reading, I usually don’t look at the letters until after I’ve read, ranked and made my comments for the team. Talking with the other editors, they generally do the same. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate a good cover letter, but it’s not going to influence my read, so it shouldn’t be a major focus of your time and effort. Short and sincere will probably more than do.

5. There are a lot of really good poets out there: Since I wasn’t a first-line Reader, I didn’t read all of those 1,700 poems myself. But I did read a significant number of them, and it turns out there are a lot of really good poets out there. And they aren’t necessarily the established poets. I won’t name names, but I have often appreciated the work of new or lightly-published poets over people with impressive-looking credentials. Since it is such a numbers game (see #1 above), you may need to submit a lot to get your work out there. But don’t give up- there are so many good poets whose work deserves to be read. You could be one of them!

  

My Year in Writing

Do you remember NASA’s “faster, better. cheaper” venture in the 90s? It was based on the idea that by designing smaller missions that could launch more quickly, the agency might get more done, more efficiently, than if it pursued grand initiatives. Some of the missions fell down and went boom, but it did get NASA moving again after a decade of relative lethargy. Well, in that same spirit, I’m continuing on my mission of getting out at least a blog posting a week this year, even be they quick and dirty. And so on to this week’s theme- my writing track record in 2014.

A few years ago, I settled on the goal of making a publishing submission per week. Short story, essay, poetry, whatever, just submit something to a journal, offline or online, once a week. That would, of course, be 52 for the year, which has never happened yet due to holidays, hectic work weeks, feeling under the weather, what not. My operating theory is that having the target probably gets me delivering more, even if I miss, then if there was no target. Turns out that 2014 was my most submittingest year ever, with 43 total submissions, as attested to by my tracking spreadsheet:

My tracking spreadsheet also informs me that I’ve had two acceptances so far from things I submitted in 2014. One should be coming out in the Spring, and since I have a superstitious peasant mind, I don’t want to jinx by saying any more. The other was two poems that appeared in Misfit Magazine in October.

I also had several “near-misses”, i.e. places that wrote back to me and said something wasn’t quite right for them, and why, or that I was a semi-finalist but not a finalist. I actually find these to be nearly as motivating as acceptances. They’re kind of proof-of-concept of being on-track, and provide a lot more feedback than the form “Dear [insert name here]” rejections one usually gets, or the even more unnerving whistling silence of places that never answer back in any form. 

In addition to the regular weekly submissions, I’ve also been submitting two larger works to presses and prizes: my unpublished poetry collection Pushing 40, and my unpublished novel Out in the Neon Night. I sent out the poetry collection ten times last year, and the novel seven. I’ll keep you posted on further developments…

My other major writing focus over the last year was to get more regular and disciplined about writing time, always a challenge for me given full-time work, a full-time relationship, recovery, other interests (including serving as a Poetry Editor at Mud Season Review), etc. In other words, life. Shout-outs to Tarin Towers for telling me “shut up and do it” (it was phrased more elegantly than that, but just as firmly) and my talented and lovely wife for helping me brainstorm about the how/when. I targeted 6 hours a week. And came not even close!

Excel informs me I ended up with 65.76 hours of writing time, which works out to an average of an hour and a quarter a week. Again, though, I have to believe that aiming got me further than winging it would have, and resulted in less of a sense of anxiety and drift. So what does 65.76 hours get you? In my case:

  • Completing the (hopefully) penultimate draft of my full-length screenplay
  • Revising a short story to get it down to a word-limit that will work better for submissions
  • Starting a new short story
  • Writing a personal essay looking back on Generation-X as seen through the lyrics of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” which I’m quite pleased with and currently submitting hither and yon
  • Completing a challenge to write 40 poems in 40 days
  • Writing a sestina, because the idea intrigued me     
For 2015, I’m aiming for 5 hours a week, on the theory that if one wrote for an hour a day every weekday, that’s what it would equal to. Because, math. We’ll see how I do, but for this week I have one hour down, thanks to writing this post for you. So thank you! 

Ten Years Gone By…

I just has a birthday this past Friday, which always gets me in a “looking back” kind of mood. Since I was born in 1970, this particular birthday also has me hoping that I’m about to discover the secret to:

That’s not what I’m here to discuss today, though. But I have, in fact, been thinking a lot about life. Being on the leeward side of 40 has made me wonder about the twists and turns my life has taken, what might have been, what might now be too late, etc. I don’t necessarily recommend this crazy-making line of thought, but it does lend itself to looking for the narrative.

And as it happens, one of the biggest turning points in my life recently had its own birthday, and has everything to do with narrative. In April 2002, the uranium pile of my first marriage had finally hit critical after a two and a half-year meltdown. This was a crisis I bore no small measure of responsibility for, and I was already going through a process of wrenching change and self-examination in trying to address the issues that had brought it on. Between that and the general void the collapse of a twelve-year relationship leaves in its wake, I was struggling to rediscover who I was and what I wanted from life.

One of the things I had put on the shelf about ten years before that was a lifelong interest in writing. Even as a kid, I had written short stories and movie scripts. I started keeping a journal and writing poetry in my teens, and kept it up all through my early 20s. Then, as I was gearing up for graduate school and working life after that, I stopped. I can’t even tell you why, exactly, but it went away, and was replaced by more “grown up” concerns. Not at all coincidentally, I think, addiction and darkness started ramping up at the same time.

Back to post-separation: alone, shaky, and rebuilding, in the summer of 2002 I decided to take an “Intro to Fiction”  course led by Junse Kim at the Bay Area’s excellent Writing Salon. I’d already started keeping a journal again in the last year of the marriage and the workshop further re-awakened literary stirrings. By late August I had realized, “You know what? I think I’m supposed to be a writer!” I began work on a novel.

So here we are, ten years later. I’m still writing! It doesn’t pay the bills, but it remains the core of how I think of myself: I’m a writer. Sometimes, though, I wonder if I have “enough” to show for it. The part of me that does this because it is my truest and deepest calling in the world gets mixed up with the part of me that wants it to have some kind of concrete outcome in terms of recognition and success. Well, for both those parts, I’d like to bear witness to what I have produced so far:

  • First (and perhaps foremost?) I ended up doing 7 drafts of that novel that I began in 2002, Out in the Neon Night, before finishing it in 2006. I ended up sending out queries for it to 27 agents in 2007, 3 of whom requested a look. While none ended up coming through, I do from time to time consider doing another round of queries, or even e-publishing and promoting it myself. In the mean time, you can read a sample chapter.     
  • My essays “Kissing Girls in the Dark” and “Watch the Skies!” appeared in the 2005 and 2006 issues of the late, great compendium of true tales of the unseemly Morbid Curiosity. I will always be grateful to Morbid‘s editor (and darkly wonderful writer) Loren Rhoads for publishing me for the first time.
  • My confession of my mid-30s discovery of a love for heavy metal, “I Sold My Soul to Rock and Roll” appeared in the 11th issue of the sadly departed “Magazine For People Who Think Too Much” Kitchen Sink in 2005.
  • While I was engaged in endless rewrites of Neon Night in 2005-2006, I started a much more lighthearted “new novel” to have something fun to work on in the midst of revisionitis. It eventually petered out at 20 chapters, and I set it aside in favor of other things. But I’ve been feeling some enthusiasm for resurrecting it recently… 
  • I wrote several articles on arty (and boozy) aspects of San Francisco life for Metrowize.com in 2007. 
  • SoMa Literary Review published my poems “untitled” and “Twelve Steps to the New Israel of the Beats” in 2009. Sadly, their online back-archive is currently in search of a host, but I can send you copies if you want to read them!   
  • Slouch Magazine published a short prose piece of mine, “relapse in 26 lines” in August 2009. 
  • My prose poem “Young Karl Marx” was featured on Opium Magazine’s website in late 2009. 
  • In 2010, my essay “Bachelors of Armageddon” appear in When I Was There, an anthology of tales of student life at UC Berkeley.
  • From 2007-2011 I finally pursued a lifelong interest in film-making as a member of the Bay Area independent film co-op Scary Cow. During a four year-period I worked on 13 short films in a variety of capacities, including 6 that I wrote or co-wrote. You can get more of a description, and links to several of the films I helped write, produce or direct, here   
  • Even my bad adolescent poetry has had its day in the sun, being read on stage as part of the Mortified reading series in San Francisco and Boston multiple times from 2006 through 2012. 
  • My Short Story “Ave Maria” was published in 2012 in the anthology Warpaint, available from Amazon on Kindle, and in several other electronic and print formats from the publisher, Zenfri. Meanwhile I have three more short stories making the rounds of submissions. They vacillate between despair at ever seeing the light of day and feeling terribly encouraged by Ave Maria’s success.   
  • Earlier this year I completed the first draft of my first full-length screenplay. I’ll be revising and finishing it over the next year, and then confronting the intriguing sell/make decision… 
  • I also just finished revising a collection of 40 poems (written between 2000 and 2010) which I am now starting to submit to publishers and prizes. 

So there you have it. Looking back, it doesn’t seem like such a bad output for my first ten years (re)devoted to being a writer. That belief wavers a little whenever I hear about a 20something author’s big debut. Then I remember that Raymond Chandler didn’t publish his first story until he was 45, or his first novel until he was past 50. And the truth is, should success come sooner, later, in a form I can barely recognize, or even never, it doesn’t really matter. I have to keep doing this. I’m a writer!