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What I did on my summer vacation


This summer, I have been awash in the fiction world. At least, as awash as I ever get, which is probably a bit more like a Wet Nap dabbed lightly over my brow.

In June, I attended Writer Camp in Indiana once more. Last year’s was so magical that I couldn’t resist applying, especially when Lynda Barry and Dan Chaon were up for return appearances. Also, Jean Thompson! Whose writing is near and dear to my heart and whose sharp prose I admire immensely. It was touch and go, however, with scheduling because the small conference had the annoying reality of scheduling Lynda Barry’s workshop at the same time as Jean Thompson’s workshop. I mean, I’ve worked with Lynda Barry before and she is amazing and seriously, up there next to Mr. Rogers in my sacred shrine of human deities, but Jean Thompson? How could anyone decide between these two fantastic writers? Unpossible!

I made a rash decision when I applied, deciding that it would be foolish to forsake a new experience just to bask in the magic that is Lynda Barry once more. It’s a bit like feasting in front of starving people, after all, to soak up all the Lynda Barry awesome for myself and leaving none for others. I put the X in the box for Jean Thompson’s workshop, with Lynda Barry’s workshop as my second choice, and then put no further thought into the matter. I think perhaps I was hoping they would change the conference schedule to fit my mental anguish and offer the Barry workshop during a more convenient time.  For me, of course.

They didn’t. And while it was painful to see those people hunched over their spirals in Lynda’s workshop (including Mr. Chaon himself) while I passed by and turned into our cramped little conference room, I do not regret this decision.

I do, however, regret that there was a time slot of the Writer Camp agenda given soley to the purpose of crafting journals. Not writing journals, dear reader, making them. With glue. By folding papers. I mean, I know I jokingly call it Writer Camp but arts and crafts? Really? With all due respect to the organizers and the leader of that class, it was heartbreaking that journal making had the luxury of a time period all to itself while Lynda Barry and Jean Thompson were fighting it out, gladiator-style, on the agenda. And I’m sure that there was some grand master plan of evil genius (because again, I am greedy and I recognize this), but still. Gluing stuff. I fled that class in the middle of the first meeting, I’m afraid. While I found it interesting on a Martha Stewart level, I had taken an entire week’s vacation from my day job to focus on writing fiction and I decided not to spend precious minutes of that time gluing shit to cardboard.

In the Thompson workshop, my story (“Where She Went”) was the first on deck for Day One. I got fantastic feedback from Jean and helpful comments from the class, specifically from a few individuals who turned out to have enjoyable treats for workshop themselves. It’s so funny how that always happens, but I guess it makes sense.

As things always happen, I had submitted the story to a few places when I was getting it cleaned up to send with my application for Thompson’s workshop. And last week, that older version of the story was chosen by the fantastic Per Contra. I have since sent them the tweaked post-Thompson version, which I think is tighter and more agreeable.

Which reminds me: I need to update my BASS database, as well as run some new numbers on the Top BASS Markets and whatnot. I just got the new BASS last week (Shout out to the rock star Roxane Gay! Can’t wait to read your story! Congratulations on hitting the big show!) That will be forthcoming, although admittedly it’s on the backseat until I come to a procrastination point in the novels that I’m working on. I’m also cleaning up my published and unpublished short stories for publication in a collection, sort of a one-two punch with the novel. And it’s already the end of July, which is distressing, as I’d like to have everything set by the end of the year. Oh plans, plans, they are such attractive things.

Which reminds me (part two): the enchanting Paper Darts (see my AWP blog post) has selected my first ever flash fiction story “Lower Midnight”. I was able to read about a paragraph and a half during one of the many Writer Camp readings and gave a plug for Paper Darts to the conference attendees, sight unseen, but seeing it published is even better than I expected. I am in love with the illustrations. Gorgeous work. I bow at the feet of the illusionists behind Paper Darts and moan “I’m not worthy!” and then scuttle off to the corner to stroke the curly smoke pictures when no one is looking.