Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Post-AWP Post, or the Publishing Trifecta

The universe threw me a ball last week. Not a curve ball. Not even fast pitch. More like a lob that said, Hey, are you still in this? I caught it. Here are three very awesome things that happened at AWP last week:

The Carve Magazine Esoteric Award: This year's theme was LGBTQ. I found out Thursday morning that my story, "Angels," was one of four winners. This is huge for me. Not long ago, I told Georgia that I really wanted to win a queer award soon. As someone whose first book is maybe two-thirds queer, this is nice recognition, a reminder, and acknowledgement.

I had the pleasure of meeting Matthew Limpede, the editor at Carve, who told me in person that not only did the story break his heart, but that they were shocked to find that the story -- whose main characters are both male -- had been written by a woman. That made me happy. Not because I want to masquerade as something other, but because that balance is important to me. I like to disappear inside of fiction. So what he said reinforced that it's possible.

my very first MR
The Mississippi Review 30th Anniversary Issue. I lost sleep over this baby. I knew it was coming out, and did not know until I saw it whether or not I would be included in it. Of course, MR launched my career. Without Frederick Barthelme's complete faith in me, not only would my publishing have occurred at a slower pace, but I would have spent more time doubting myself. I know no one so gracious or inspiring.

So, before I knew I'd been included, I grabbed my old grad school friend, Barrett Bowlin, editor now of Memorious, and told him to come with me, because if I wasn't in it, tears were imminent. Barrett's tough. He's a dad and a husband. He's seen some tears. When we got to the MR table, though, editor Elizabeth Wagner handed me a copy. Take one, she said. You're in it.

No tears. In fact, it was much the opposite. This is a huge anthology, and tremendous company: Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Raymond Carver, Rick Moody, Amy Hempel . . . to name just a few. MR's been a huge part of my writing life, so it's great to see Rick's tenure there properly recognized, and compiled into such a beautiful book.

Ocean State Review.  A day after the MR 30 and "Angels" flurry, I walked over to the Barrow Street table, to see if the new Ocean State Review was out, and they were handing out flyers of recent contributors. My name was on it. I grabbed it. Wait, I said. Wait.

I just about drove the intern crazy.

Um, that's me, I said.

Oh, he said. No one told you?

We went back and forth. Apparently, not only had they accepted my story, "Knoxville," but there was, as editor Peter Covino said, a buzz about it.

This story had come close -- been named a finalist -- the year before at American Short Fiction, but ultimately lost. It's a hard story, one I worked on for over a year, hammering through the old song, Knoxville Girl -- a murder ballad so old, no one knows its exact origins -- and fleshing out the boy, Will, and the poor roving eyed girl, only to kill her all over. I love this story. It's violent, and terrible. Biblical and trashy.

Needless to say, I was thrilled.

What are you? Fiction or poetry?
poems, mostly.
Some other highlights from AWP: I was totally on about the lace tights. You couldn't avoid them. The men have begun to look less scraggly and more Mad Men. The women, influenced by Downton Abbey. Seriously, AWP fashion is a big deal. I saw more Edwardian looking buns than I have since a Merchant Ivory film.

In the meantime, I'll be home in my own lace tights, trying to catch up on writing. Of all the pins and stickers handed out at book fair tables -- including my usual favorite Lets Make Out -- there was one that simply said, Remember who you wanted to be. That's always the benefit of AWP for me.

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