Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New story type thing at The Murky Fringe

I have a new story type thing up at The Murky  I sent my piece over because they noted they like "Pieces created in joy and/or madness, pieces scribbled on the backs of hands, pieces fretted over into the wee hours without consideration for an audience, without that secret hope that “this piece will lead me to success."  And surely my piece will not lead me to success.

Check it out here, though please note that easily offended Christians my want to give it a pass (and yes, that may include a goodly portion of my family):

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Check out Duotrope's Digest

I don't believe I've mentioned this website before (and if I have, it's worth repeating), but for writers aspiring to publish, Duotrope's Digest should be one of your top bookmarks.   It's a virtual clearinghouse of information on journals and lit mags.  You can search by genres and subgenres (mystery, sci-fi, literary, etc.), styles (realist, experimental, humorous, etc.), payscale, medium (print, online, audio broadcast), submission type (print and/or email submissions accepted), and more.

So before submitting to the Missouri Review, you can learn that they accept less than .25% (and yes I mean that period there) of submissions (and also yes, I know this is a percentage of people who report it on Duotrope's Digest--it's possible that the percentage is much lower--think of all the people who submit and don't even know they can report it on the Digest).  So newbie writers might stop and think--hmmm, less than 1 in 400 submissions is accepted.  Maybe this isn't the place to send that story you just wrote for your first creative writing class.

Information such as how soon you can expect to hear from a journal (average 2.6 days for Bananafish, average 309 days for McSweeney's Quarterly) and the aforementioned rate of acceptance (.23% for Missouri Review, 91.43% for Daily Bites of Flesh 2011) goes a long way to helping a writer get some publication credits (I know where I'm sending my next horror microfiction "bite of flesh").

Another useful feature is a list of upcoming theme deadlines.  This can also be a great place for new writers looking to break in.  My guess is that not so many people are writing stories about Australian Vampires, Adopted Chinese girls or What a Woman of 45 Ought to Know (all theme issues currently looking for content).  I like to peruse the list and see if there's anything I've written that fits themes.  If you're written about aliens, the aftermath of 2012, or the American dream; science, slumber, or secrets; creation, the courtroom, or yes, even cat crimes, there is presently a journal or anthology looking for your work.

There's a lot more worth describing, but it's a fun site to explore, so go take a peek.

Friday, September 03, 2010

It's begun

It's been a while since I posted anything.  Spent the past few months moving a few times, first from Humboldt up to Josephine County, Oregon, for a few months living off-the-grid in a little cabin in the woods on the Illinois River; then slowly making our way all the way down through California to San Diego.  Then came searching for a place to live, moving in and getting settled--setting up kindergarten and baby sitters and a writing space and so forth.

Well, I just finished my first week in San Diego State's MFA in Creative Writing.  Wednesday was the orientation where I met a number of my first-year colleagues, as well as second and third year students and some faculty.  Looks like a good group of people I'll be sharing words with for the next few years.

For Fall semester, I'm taking 3 courses: a fiction workshop with Prof Hal Jaffe, a prose poetry/flash fiction workshop with Prof Marilyn Chin, and a lit class on contemporary American fiction with Prof Stephen-Paul Martin.  I read books by all three this past year (Martin's The Possibility of Music, Chin's The Revenge of the Mooncake Vixens, and Jaffe's Guerrilla Writer's Guide to Post-Millenial Culture) and though their styles are quite different from each other (or rather because their styles are so different), I feel I can learn much, so I'm looking forward to each class.

So, yeah.  After talking about this for, what, ten years?  and having gone through the whole application thing 4 or 5 years ago, it's finally happening.  I'm in a space where I can focus on my writing--and worries such as how to pay for it will just have to wait.  For now, the writing's the thing.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Movin' South

Back in February, I posted that my time at the Redwood Hostel was coming to an end, and I was planning on starting an M.F.A. in creative writing--provided I got accepted somewhere, of course.  Well, I was 1 for 2 in the admissions game (I guess batting .500 is not so bad--but if I got one less hit, I would have been out of the game entirely). So I will be heading to San Diego State University in the Fall, to start a three-year program (more info on what it is here).  I'm excited to work with the faculty there--they seem very open to both experimental and political works.

Also, two weeks ago, I completed Humboldt State's MATW program--Master of Arts in Teaching Writing.  All I had to do this semester were two 25-page papers, an 80-page thesis, and read about 20 books.  So my brain is a little sore from all that exercise. I enjoyed it, but I'm looking forward to the program in San Diego, as academic writing is not nearly as much fun as short stories and novels and so forth.

In other news, two of my "Slugdalas" (Banana Slug Mandalas) have been published recently.  One in Cabrillo College's 25th anniversary issue of Porter Gulch Review (the release party was earlier this evening), and the other online in Mandala Journal's Cosmopolitanism issue.

So yeah, if anyone has a lead on a great cheap apartment in San Diego, please let me know.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Not one, but two stories today...

Sure, one's only 77 words, but today I have two more stories out there in the world.

I've yet to make a living as a writer, so it functions perhaps more as a hobby.  That said, I probably send out 10-30 "things" (stories, poems, essays, artwork, etc.) every year.  In a good year, I get maybe 3 acceptances out of those.  So I was quite happy over my Spring Break here at Humboldt State to receive 4 acceptances in the span of one week.  And two of them went live today.

The first was a short little thing called "Rent."  It was just a snippet of an idea, but when I heard that Short, Fast, and Deadly was looking for fiction of no more than 420 characters, I sent it out.  And would you believe I was 5 characters over (I didn't realize that line breaks counted as characters). Read it here in Short, Fast, and Deadly, issue 16.

Second was a short story of roughly 1000 words, which had been rejected 12 times before, so 13 was my lucky number with this one.  Previously, I'd received some positive feedback on it, with a few editors taking time to tell me they thought it was well-written and made them laugh, though they didn't feel it was quite right for them.  Anyhoo, Daniel McDermott, the editor of Bananafish magazine, had some very nice things to say in his email notifying newsletter subscribers of that week's content (they feature one story every Sunday):

This week on Bananafish: "Roommate From Hell" by Ryan Forsythe.

Wallace Stegner said, "Hard writing makes easy reading." And Ryan Forsythe's writing perfectly illustrates this concept.  Most readers - those used to professionally written books and articles polished by professional editors - take for granted the ease with which their eyes float from one phrase to the next.  But such a feat is not easily accomplished.  Take it from someone who reads hundreds of literary submissions each month.  Unfortunately, most writers, even good writers, insert a transitional hiccup or two in every paragraph - a tempo-crushing grammatical instance or word choice that causes the reader much brow-bending confusion.  Ryan Forythe's work, however, is brilliantly structured and therefore easy on the eyes - genius masquerading as simplicity.  Nowhere in reading "Roommate From Hell" do I find myself bogged down or yearning for alternate word choices, and that's saying a lot considering the many esoteric, underworld monikers attributed to Ryan's Hellish characters. Perhaps I'll temper my evil, judgmental mind the next time I see a group of cloaked individuals with red-stained lips.
Thank you for your kind words, Daniel.  I guess I'll keep at this writing thing.

By the way, the aforementioned Daniel, who published my story at Bananafish today, was one of the 5 other artists featured with me today in Issue 16 of Short, Fast, and Deadly.  Coincidence?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Movin' on...

A little over four years ago, I finally made up my mind to get that MFA in Creative Writing.  Had already been thinking about it for a few years by that point.  So I researched 100+ programs, narrowed it down to 6 that I really liked, took the GRE and ordered transcripts and wrote the six different personal statements (250 word, 500 word, 2-page, 4-page--they all wanted something different).  Filled out the online applications and picked my writing samples and sent it all out.  And then I waited.

And during the wait to hear if I'd get in, something funny happened. A friend called and told me there was this job that might be perfect for my wife and I.  Well, I know that writing is pretty subjective, meaning that even if my writing was stupendous, an admissions committee could think "nah--not interested."  Could be they just read six first-person stories about a kid stealing milk on the way to Grampa's 90th birthday party and mine is the seventh.  And that's it.  Rejection.

Knowing the chances were pretty good that I wouldn't get in anywhere, we went ahead and applied for that job--managing a hostel in Redwood National Park.  Got an interview and then we were offered the job before I heard from any of the six programs.  So we had to make that choice: say no and hold out for grad school, say yes and then back out if I get in, or commit to the job.  We took that last choice and packed up that short UHaul for the drive to the Redwoods.

And wouldn't you know, a few weeks later my top two choices called to offer me a spot in their Fall 2006 MFA classes. By that point, we were already here and loving life:  free lodging and a salary to boot, to welcome people to a 100-year old pioneer homestead just a 3-minute walk from the Pacific Ocean and minutes from the world's tallest living things.  I wondered if I would kick myself later when I had to say no, but our time here has been amazing.

Unfortunately, the hostel is now closing due to the National Park (which owns the building) not being able to put in the estimated $1.6 million it needs (and we're a nonprofit--we barely break even each year, so we don't have any spare change of that magnitude).  Even if the hostel wasn't closing, it would still probably be time to move on to a new adventure.  It's only for so long that you can answer the same questions with a certain level of enthusiasm that makes the guest feel like they aren't the 1000th person in the past 3 years to ask "What's your favorite trail?" or "So how did you get this job?"  (More on the hostel closing here and here.)

While here at the hostel, I started taking classes part-time at nearby Humboldt State in their Master of Arts program in Teaching Writing.  Three years later, I'm just about done--should be graduating May 15.  But the focus is on teaching, not writing.  And even then, the teaching is of basic composition (i.e. English 100), not short stories and novels and screenplays and poems and so on.  So I've applied again for the MFA in Creative Writing.  This time I only applied to two schools--the programs that I absolutely want to go to.  I should be hearing from them sometime in the next 2-to-6 weeks.  So, yeah.  Wish me luck.

And by the way, I will not be applying for any jobs before I hear back from those two schools.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Super Dog now available

For a while my son (who's now 4) and I have been writing and illustrating our own books.  From this collaboration has emerged classics like "When I Grow Up, I Don't Want to Be President" and "The Zebra Finds the Squirrel and the Giraffe" (for the latter, I thought the title gave a little too much away, but Rory won out on that debate).

He's just completed the first in which he did all the words and illustrations as well (I assisted with the transcribing, as he can only spell a half-dozen words or so right now).  We decided we wanted a more professional copy, rather than the stapled-together construction pages of previous efforts.  And since we had our copies made through, there was that check box where we could make it available to the world.

So, world, join me in congratulating Rory on his fifth book and first available online: Super Dog  Super Cat  Super Sheep  Super Squirrel.