Some new things

A few new things, in this time of variants, tentative returns, heartache, snatched joy, beers out back by the fire, long novels you never thought you’d read, hawks watching for movement from the tops of trees of heaven, dirtbikes on 28th, emails, swabs in the nose, little prayers, steamy-breath laughs.

“Trying Not To,” on what’s going through this writer’s head when he’s trying to write.

I guess it’s OK to admit that I’ve always wanted to be a part of an anthology. Coming out this summer is A Lovely Place, A Fighting Place, a Charmer: The Baltimore Anthology. I was lucky enough to have selected my essay from River Teeth about The Dizz (we miss you), the best bar.


Brood X Is Here

Some of you may be familiar with the humor website that kindly rejected this because they’d recently run something similar. But Brood X is here, and I saw some parallels.

17-year Cicada or 17-year-old Boy?

  1. Has just woken up from sleeping for a breathtakingly long time
  2. Comes out of room extraordinarily reluctantly
  3. Spends 99.5% of time in dark hole sucking on tree roots
  4. Spends 99.5% of time in dark hole playing video games
  5. Has red eyes
  6. Provides a momentarily limitless food supply
  7. Will eat a limitless amount of Sweet Chili Doritos
  8. A lot of them make up a brood
  9. Broods a lot
  10. Shatteringly loud when with friends
  11. Has a postclypeus, a large, nose-like structure that lies between the eyes and makes up most of the front of the head and which contains pumping musculature
  12. Should shave upper lip
  13. Really fucking horny

17-year Cicada: 3, 6, 8, 11

17-year-old Boy: 4, 7, 9, 12

Both: 1, 2, 5, 10, 13

A book, a year on, some hope

I’ve finished this novel, about a year after I finished the first full draft. And it’s been about a year since we all began getting to know our homes a lot better, since we’ve shut down so much of our lives. This time last year, I was packing up my few things from the studio at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, a haven of a place in the rolling Virginia hills where a few dozen artist-types can work on whatever they want. And, in the evenings, have dinner together, and have a drink, and listen to some poetry. We were aware of the virus then, but in a distant way. As if it were Montana, or the moon: something that existed but which would not touch us. I think they shut down the place, like everyone else did, maybe a week after I came back home.

I was going through some notes from last February. The idea of spending a few evening hours with such people, now, is a luxury too outrageous to dream about, almost. Like touching the moon.

A supremely talented flutist and jazz composer from New York who plays for us, one night, a composition on the lodge’s huge stereo speakers. Two composers of a musical being who were using the theater students at the small liberal arts college across the road as a way to work out ideas. A Washington Post columnist. A professional poker player and nephew of Norman Mailer. A soulful and funny essayist who had recently left a tenure-track job teaching Persian at Harvard. A stripper from Brooklyn who was working on a memoir. A writer on Netflix shows. A photographer from National Geographic who makes weird and beautiful art. A short-story writer with a desk next to the actor Paul Dano up in New York who is working on a novel about soul-switching best friends. A terrifyingly smart poet who translates Chinese poetry and who, some nights, around the fire, recites whole poems from memory. An artist who is good at dealing poker and who makes beautiful photos by somehow merging printed words and mountains and clouds.

A year, a book, I hope, and, since then, unfathomable loss, everywhere. And I miss my parents, my brothers. But I’m glad Magan’s around.

Not a novel

Mostly, these days, I read novels. It used to be memoirs. And of course I read a ton of things online: the right amount of features, the right amount of essays and short stories, but too much news, too much sports. But, lately, I’ve read some nonfiction, and this one, from 1991 and by the great Dennis Overbye of the New York Times, is about the heavy lifting that happened in the postwar years that defined the universe–in all its weirdness–for us today. It’s half astronomy, half profile, and if you’re into backstories about things we take for granted (plus, you know, stars, man), this is a solid book.

Thank you for submitting to our literary journal, but you weren’t even close

Thank you for sending us your work. Although we appreciate your interest in our literary journal, we are unable to publish your submission at this time. Writing is a tough business. So tough that, frankly, you were not even close.

We’re aware that writing is hard work, and that often these form letters do not reflect the time and care put into your submission, but other writers who are more talented than you have also submitted their work, and theirs was much, much better. There’s accepted for publication, which is not you, and then there’s close to being accepted, which is also not you. Also not you: anywhere remotely close to being published with this particular literary journal.

You may have gotten the point by now, but in the event that you have not, we will continue. We were very pleased with the quality of the submissions for our upcoming issue. Just not yours, specifically.

We thank you for thinking of us. Other writers who have thought of us include virtually all recent Nobel winners, every Booker Prize winner who is still alive, and Joyce Carol Oates.

In fact, every year, we receive 14×10398 submissions, of which we are only able to publish 0.7 every other year. As we’ve indicated above, you are not in that group of 0.7.

If we may, in closing, we’d like to suggest some of the things we are looking for. These may not apply to your specific work, but they probably do. We’re looking for writing that shines. We’re looking for writing in the sixth person. We’re looking for writing that ikhgdx. We’re looking for writing consisting entirely of active-voice pronouns.

So, while we don’t feel that your writing is right for us at this time, we encourage you to submit to us again!


The Editors