A Bit of News & Announcements

I’ve been in a quiet place lately, lost deep in the next book and a rough draft that surprises me every time I sit down to write. But I wanted to pop in to tell you about a couple of new developments.

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I’ve joined the faculty at Regis University’s Mile-High MFA, a low-residency program in Denver, CO. Twice a year, I’ll be in Denver for a nine-day residency period where MFA students get to immerse themselves in workshops, seminars, and readings. The rest of each semester, I’ll be working remotely one-on-one with students as we come up with a curriculum tailored to their specific writing projects, needs and interests. I love the low-res model because I’ve always felt it reflects what the writing life is really like—a balance between finding a community and carving out a place and time in our own private lives for our writing. Applications are now open for the 2016 year. To learn more about the program or apply, visit the Mile-High MFA website.

Also, starting March 24, I’ll be teaching a 6-week literary fiction course in Austin, TX, called Writing a Literary, Page-Turning Novel. A short preview of the description:

“It’s time to throw the myth of the literary navel-gazer into obscurity. Learn how to write a literary novel that feels both true and compelling in this six-week writing course that will focus on the intersection of creative expression and gripping storytelling.”

If you’re in the Austin area, I’d love it if you joined us. It’ll be a small class with no more than 15 students, and in addition to craft lectures and writing exercises, we’ll also workshop each others’ work. Learn more about the class and how you can register here.

Oh! And while I’m on the topic of announcements: I’m traveling to these book festivals this spring and would love to see you there!

March 14 & 15: Tucson Festival of Books, Tucson, AZ

April 11: San Antonio Book Festival, San Antonio, TX

But enough about me…what’s new with you?

xoxo

 

 

Why I won’t stop buying books (even when I can’t read them right away)

Image-1Looking through my library this weekend , I realized something: I haven’t read all these books yet, and I may not for years (or never, because the piles will only keep growing). But I’ll keep buying them and stocking them and often wish I had more time to read them all. Maybe it’s not about finding time for all the books so much as it is about trusting you’ll read one at the right time.

How End-of-Year Book Lists Prove We Lack Diversity

book stackIt’s the time of the year when everyone’s coming up with Book Lists. Best ofs and Favorites and Most-Anticipated in 2015. Most of the time, I love them. I usually use them to add books to my TBR list and inevitably only get around to reading a select few.

The rest of the time, they become itemized proof of what our reading culture lacks. Book lists are supposed to call attention to works we might’ve otherwise missed, but lately I’m caught off guard by how much they make the list-maker’s homogenous worldview glaringly obvious.

Like Graywolf Press’s “Looking Ahead” to 2015 made up solely of 11 men. Or this list of 60 Books Everyone Should Read Before They Turn 30 that left me wondering: where are the Latino voices, the Asian or Pacific Islander voices, the African or Native American voices or Middle Eastern voices or LGBT voices or anything outside of mainstream American or British voices?

I read these lists and I think, Wow, they’re really missing out. It makes me sad—not just for writers who are constantly overlooked, but for readers whose stacks and stacks of books they’ve read are lacking in ways that are completely invisible to them.

It’s not about broadening our perspectives; this implies these writers and voices are somewhere out of reach, when in fact they’re everywhere. It’s not even about diversity; we are not here to add flavor or color to any list—we are here because we are here, too. 

This is supposed to be a time of year where we reflect and look ahead. Why not let our lists do that? They’re not just suggesting to us what to read. They’re showing us what we haven’t.

So here’s my end-of-year challenge to you: Make a list of all the books you read in 2014. What are you not seeing? What voices are missing? Start there in 2015.

 

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14 Things I Learned in 2014

In no particular order…

1. How to use a table saw and miter saw.

2. That I’m allergic to saw dust.

3. Numbers can be manipulated; story wins every time.

4. Sometimes, the people you least expect are paying attention do.

5. On perception in social media: those outside of us see only the best, while (inside) we dwell on only the worst. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle.

6. If you want it done right…find someone who does it every day for a living and pay them.

7. But if you want it done meaningfully—complete with mistakes and lessons and moments of “look how far we’ve come”—do it yourself. (The tricky part is knowing the difference.)

8. All the Harry Potter books, totally worth the hype.

9. Just because you haven’t experienced something doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

10. Happiness does not mean a lack of sorrow. Sorrow does not mean a lack of happiness.

11. From a reading with Maaza Mengiste: “We connect the dots and find the gaps, the lacks in the story. That’s where fiction starts.”

12. The best part was not the book that launched; it was the people who celebrated it with me.

13. That my very first memory is the same, yet completely different from what I’ve always thought it was. That they call memories recollections because they change as we remember.

14. Ignore the signs: jump in the bounce house anyways. Grown-ups, especially, need this.

Where I’m at Right Now: Middleland & Poetry

A few things that have resonated with me in a big way lately, that I thought I’d share with you.

I’m in the middle of the first draft of a new book. I’ve been saying I’m only just starting it for so long now—almost a year, really, until this month I gained some serious momentum—that I hadn’t realized until this week that I’d crossed over into the middle.

I know not just because of word count. It’s in the way I can’t step away from it, even on days when writing’s the most difficult thing I do (note: this is most days). It’s in the way bits of dialogue come to me as I’m brushing my teeth or shredding junk mail, and that one line opens up a new scene. When my curiosity in how a story will take shape becomes a faith that it’s already become something and now I just have to write it (small detail, yes?) I begin to feel safe. Not safe in a comfortable, predictable way. Safe in that I know I can trust this.

A few days ago on Instagram, my friend Julia Munroe Martin shared a quote from Zadie Smith about this part of the process. She and I are usually on similar wavelengths, so I wasn’t surprised by how much I could relate:

A few days after that, I was texting my sister. I meant to type, That’s close to where I live. But auto-correct changed this to That’s close to where I love. I thought about this and tweeted:

To which my friend, Andrea Beltran, responded:

And so I read this poem and watched the poet, Jamaal May, perform it, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

So that’s where I’m at right now, loving/living in the writing.