The First Line has published my story "The Great White Way Is Where The Heart Is" in their winter volume. It's available for download on their site: http://thefirstline.com/index.htm or via the Kindle Store on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006XGLLSU or at bookstores around the U.S.: http://thefirstline.com/bookstores.htm
I'm excited to announce that The First Line is publishing my story "The Great White Way is Where the Heart Is." It's the second part of the tale of Tom and his twin sister and will be available this winter. Part one, or "The Homecoming," was published this summer, and the pdf version can still be purchased here: http://bluecubiclepress.com/TFLsummer2012.htm
I'll publish a link to the list of bookstores or to a pdf as soon as it's available for the second, more bittersweet part of the story. For a long essay about my experience writing this "novelette", please visit this link.
A Night in Brooklyn
BY D. NURKSE
We undid a button,
turned out the light,
and in that narrow bed
we built the great city--
water towers, cisterns,
hot asphalt roofs, parks,
septic tanks, arterial roads,
Canarsie, the intricate channels,
the seacoast, underwater mountains,
bluffs, islands, the next continent,
using only the palms of our hands
and the tips of our tongues, next
we made darkness itself, by then
it was time for dawn
and we closed our eyes
and counted to ourselves
until the sun rose
and we had to take it all to pieces
for there could be only one Brooklyn.
D. Nurkse, poet laureate of Brooklyn, will be reading from his poetry volume A Night in Brooklyn on Wednesday, November 14 at 7 pm at the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. This Monday, November 12, my podcast of author Warren Easley's short story "The Promise" will be available on Every Day Fiction and iTunes.
We're rebuilding here in Brooklyn, and life is slowly getting back to normal. My husband's office building, located a block from the water in downtown Manhattan, was badly damaged, but it looks like he might be able to go back to work as early as next week, which means I'll have my office back as well. Hurray!
The subways are finally up and running again, and despite the fun of an additional nor'easter thrown at us last week, the city is getting back on its feet. For most folks...However as many as 40,000 in New York City alone are in need of temporary housing. Please consider donating whatever you can to the Red Cross-- even small donations can help. Follow this link for more details here.
Thanks for your messages of support!
This past year I've been very fortunate to work quite a lot with Every Day Fiction and their sister site Every Day Poets. The feedback and insight I've received from the site's readers and editors has proved invaluable and has helped me grow in ways for which I'm incredibly grateful. Grown from someone who was half a writer, half an actor into someone who understands herself a little better and is putting all her energy into writing and nearly, finally and good God hopefully finishing up her first novel.
At first the unfiltered feedback frightened me, but over time (and this was very unlike my experience with acting), I began to welcome the comments. All of them. I really want to know what works and what doesn't, what resonates with people and what leaves people cold. That never happened with acting. With acting I just wanted to be patted on the head and called a good girl.
Writing is different. Writing makes me better and braver. I'm delighted how the process has pushed me to write about matters outside my comfort zone-- take my latest protagonist for example. He's a 38-year-old alcoholic stuck in the (not-so-distant) past, a Little Italy and a New York City that no longer exist, and his bitterness is consuming him alive. And there's also a dog in the story. A dog who was so real to me I couldn't kill him off... I did in the first draft, but, well... you'll see I hope. And let me know what you think please. Whether you hate it or love it, I'd love to hear why. Thanks for stopping by my site!
Every Day Poets is a wonderful resource for poets. Not only does it publish English language poems from poets around the world, but it also frequently posts ideas and essays to inspire poets. Recently, one of those posts was about a Japanese short-form called haibun. A haibun is essentialy a prose poem with a haiku at the end, although there's much more to it than that. I'd never heard of the form before and instantly fell in love with it. I began to study Japanese poetry for the first time in my life, and I was thrilled when Every Day Poets published the second result of my studies Monday, August 7. (The first I self-published on my lifestyle blog here). I actually spent my "honeymoon" this May and June helping my professorial sister move across country from Colorado to Maine and the second haibun, the published one, was inspired by that trip through the American heartland in summer. You can read it here.
Every Day Poets is also the site that recently published my poem "The Trophy Bride", which I wrote as an exploration of the charcter I played in the short film Michel Jean-Michel: Overexposed. More about that here.
I hope you enjoy both poems, or well even if you don't... please let me know what you think. At this point in my writing career, I value feedback more than anything.
First: don't worry! I do have news about an exciting venture I'm part of, but it's not actually called "Hear Izzy Speak". Thank goodness, right? That's just me being cutesy, because...well...because I got my library card at last this week, and I'm thrilled about it. It's no exaggeration to say I'm bouncing off the walls. My first library card in years. Yippee!
Free movies, any book I want and they'll order it, plus free foreign language conversation groups...It's an incredible resource for a big language nerd like myself if such a term exists. And why shouldn't it? I'll say it loud and proud: I'm a nerd. A card-carrying, lifelong, big language nerd. Yesterday I watched HBO's About Face about aging supermodels on the recommendation of my favorite feminist blog, and I loved what Cheryl Tiegs had to say about staying beautiful through the decades: "The key to feeling beautiful is educating yourself, always learning something new, having something to say for yourself." Yes. And so I'm back to learning Spanish.
If you've ever lived in New York, you'd understand why I'd want to although the downside is understanding when people discuss you. Two women in a bodega once called me La Blanquacita con los ojos verdes. "The very white one with the green eyes." I decided to take that as a compliment. If you speak Spanish better than I do (which most likely you easily do), please don't disabuse me.
In college as a comp lit major I tried to learn four or five languages at once-- Latin, Hebrew, Italian, Russian, Greek-- and failed at actually learning all of them. Now I've learned the wisdom of focusing on acquiring one language at time. I've been driving my husband crazy insisting on turning the Spanish subtitles on for every program. Viva los olympicos!
Speaking of focusing I just realized here I've gone on and on, and I still haven't told you the news. A bit more backstory first regarding my honeymoon this summer, or well lack of one. Instead of a honeymoon I spent two weeks helping my sister move across country from Colorado to Maine, where she's a new professor of hydrology. (I wish mere type could convey my pride in her.) We drove from New York to Colorado and back, and oh boy, it was painful doing so, packed into her vehicle with all her worldly goods en tow much like shrimp in a tin can, but on the plus side I discovered I loved reading stories aloud to my sister, and what was even better...she loved hearing me read them.
Well, my great, self-effacing, honeymoonless virtue was rewarded twice over. I wrote a haibun about that trip which is going to be published August 7. I'll have a link for you then. And also around that time I saw that Every Day Fiction was looking for people to record podcasts. Inspired by my experience of making endless, infinite Kansas cornfields whizz by simply through the power of reading stories aloud, I applied, and they said yes, hooray! First I recorded two of my own stories which you can see..or rather hear... here and here. And then I recorded two whimsical and hilarious stories written by other authors that will be up on the site and available on iTunes this August.
Barbara A. Barnett's "The Little Things", an utterly hilarious tale of the travails of internet dating, will be up Monday, August, 13 and Madeline Mora-Summonte's whimsical, clever story "Back Roads" will be available Monday, August, 20. I have to admit I enjoyed reading other people's work much more so than reading my own. I felt much less self-conscious and had a lot of fun bringing the characters to life. I hope you enjoy them, too. I'll post links closer to the dates.
I'm so pleased and happy to share that today Everyday Poets has published another of my poem's here. Everyday Poets is a site I check for daily inspiration-- not only to catch up on poetry being written by poets from around the world but for frequent inspirational essays on themes and form.
This particular poem "The Trophy Bride" came together through a funny set of circumstances. After long reflection on a character I'd played in the Funny or Die short film above-- reflection concerning what I felt I'd done well versus what I felt I could improve on after finding it surprisingly challenging to bring depth or sympathy to such a shallow character-- well, around that time I happened to read an Everyday editor's post on Greek mythology and (what with having trophy wives on the mind) wondered to myself: how might Midas's wife have felt about her husband's obsession with the finer things...? The result was this poem. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you!
Postcard Shorts is a wonderful site for fans of micro fiction. The site only publishes stories so short they could "fit on a postcard"-- so about 250 words or less. I've been exploring the Japanese prose poem form called haibun this summer (more about that here) and challenging myself to describe moments using as few words as possible. My biggest weakness in writing is self-editing. Instead of writer's block I've got the opposite, and it's an affliction just as serious. If Flaubert described good writing as finding "the one precise word" no matter the time or effort involved-- and his efforts involved spending a lot of a time in "the shouting alley" shouting his work aloud to himself-- then I am in trouble. Today I feel like I've won one battle at least, even if not the war. My first micro fiction story "Concerning a Lost Balloon" was just published. You can read it here and then enjoy paging through the site. You could spend hours: there are many stories that are like little gems on there, and I'm honored to be included among them.
I'm very excited to share with you that my flash fiction story The Italian Lesson is now available as a podcast on iTunes and Everyday Fiction. Please check it out here. I loved the experience of recording it, and Everyday Fiction has asked me to do more. Everyday Fiction is a wonderful resource for writers-- even when they reject your stories you get detailed feedback from their team of editors, and when they accept them you also get feedback from your readers on the site's forum. It's an invaluable learning experience for young writers. I'm delighted to be able to work with them in another capacity as well.
I've done a lot of voiceover work in New York, and it's been some of the most fun I've had as an actor. It's nice not to have to worry about hair or makeup or lighting, which unfortunately actors, even male actors, can become incredibly focused on instead of their craft. I worked with a famous actor once who was getting beaten to death by a gang of thugs in a fight scene. Between each take his own personal makeup assistant would come on set to touch up his foundation and fix his hair!
Please watch out for more links to stories I'll be reading and recording-- some my own and some not.
It was around Christmas last year a chance occurrence made November, or National Novel Writing Month, feel a long way off. Instead I decided to make this past January my very own Personal Novel (ette) Writing Month for a few reasons. The chance occurrence aside there was a practical element to my thinking. I was lucky enough to have almost the whole month off, and I thought a deadline might help me tackle and complete a slightly longer piece, which in turn, I hoped, would help teach me some needed lessons about structure. I needed a break as well before beginning what I knew would be the arduous, drawn-out process of rewriting my children's novel, but there was also a magical element to my decision to take a whole month and do nothing but write. In truth it was the magical element that really got me writing again after puttering around for almost six months with a completed manuscript that desperately needed a thorough edit.
And I needed a magical kick in the butt, because the decision to rewrite my children's novel before seeking publication seemed an insuperable task simply because I really had no idea where to start. Hence the puttering. And more puttering. Ad infinitum puttering. Then the puttering stopped just like that after a chance led me to a magical bookstore Manhattan this past winter. Who knew all I needed was a change in mindset? Just like that everything started to fall into place, and it was all due to luck or chance or magic or whatever your word for fate may be.
There was no reason for my change in routine, but one night, unlike other cold winter nights, while out walking my new puppy, we strayed all the way from Soho across the no-man's land that is Nolita at night all the way to the West Village where her tiny ones promptly gave out. I ended up carrying all ten pounds of her, coat and all, up Carmine Street. I had just passed Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books (my favorite-- so far as titles go at least-- bookstore in all the wide world), when my arms threatened to give out as well. We were both shivering and cold, so I ducked inside even though I'd promised myself I would't patronize another bookstore until I'd finished the other five hundred (unread) books bowing down my bookshelf, but I knew I had the extra ten dollars I keep as emergency cab fare in my jacket, and which, to date, I have misused only, and I knew cold and tired or not the lure of books over taking a cab the mile or so home would win out, I ended up purchasing two books about Philip Pullman out of a big pile on all sorts of fascinating subjects from world-travelling women photographers to Taoism.
But Pullman is one of my favorite, recent children's book authors who writes in the genre in which I've always wanted to write my first book, so two slim, little volumes of literary criticism of his magical worlds won out.
And lucky for me he did.
Because the book I read that night changed my life-- or at least it's changed a year of it. However, to take the bombast out of my own prosey sails, that book didn't inspire me so much as shame me. Completely and painfully shame me.
The book that changed my year (so far) was a collection of essays by famous authors like Michael Chabon and less famous ones whose names I can't as easily recollect, and it was called something like Motifs in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, but it wasn't just about His Dark Materials. It was really about that genre as a whole-- children's fantasy-- which is a kind of unique mixture of fantasy, myth and (in the best of it) comedy. The essays also delved into the terrible and numerous-as-the stars cliches that abound in children's fantasy books-- talking animals, psychic little girls-- that's when I realized my manuscript, my baby, was guilty, embarrassingly guilty, of many of the worst crimes. I won't enumerate them here. They're too embarassing and best simply written out of existence.
In short a massive rewrite was in order, and the thought was stupefying. I'd already spent more than four years researching and writing the 40,000 word adventure story before I'd put it aside and started my aforementioned puttering and other avoidance strategies. I did know the needy thing (as I'd come to feel about my manuscript) still needed a great deal of editing before it was worthy of submission, but I'd already done so much. Maybe, I told myself, I just needed some space. Then I'd reread it, and it would be brilliant.
Did I mention one of my avoidance strategies was pretending to be Cleopatra? The Queen of Denial.
In Zadie Smith's brilliant little book of essays on craft called Changing My Mind, she calls the style I wrote that particular ms in "micro-managing" wherein you plod along chapter by chapter, editing it as you go. It's a viable strategy (and Smith's own), but sometimes by the time you're done you just want to cry (or at least that's what Smith did). You can see the drawbacks with that approach right there for a beginning author. Giving in to feelings of utter defeat before you start is rather crippling. I didn't want to cry, but I also didn't want to look at my book again for...well forever by that point or at least for a few months. I had also thought while lost somewhere in the wonderful world of Denial that it meant at least the editing process would, in the end, somehow magically be less intense than my first draft run (or rather crawl) through. Boy, was I wrong, so, so wrong. That's what I realized to my shame that very cold, very dark winter's night.
Luckily, I think it was around about that time I received one of those beautiful, rare emails informing me The First Line had accepted one of my literary essays for publication in 2013. Feeling a bit revived, after duly fist-pumping the air, I went on to their website and reviewed their inspirational first lines for 2012 just for the heck of it to see if I'd find one of them...well... inspiring.
And that was when the last of the magical elements fell into place: I saw a paragraph I'd never noticed on the site. To whit not only would they give a blocked writer such as myself the first line to each of their seasonal issues, but if you started at the begining of the year they also had another sort of challenge-- they would review and maybe even publish a four-part story that linked each first line from each season: Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall.
That is if you managed to get the whole shebang together and submitted by February 1.
It was just the right sort of challenge and length of work that I could complete in a month. I also sensed it might help me gain a better grasp for crafting the beginning, end and middle of a longer work. Not only that but the challenge would also provide me with what Zadie Smith in another piece calls "the scaffolding" of a work--i.e. the overall structure, which the writer might keep secret or not, that helps a writer put together a house (or a novel) that could stand together as a whole. In that vein of thinking I also decided I would devote each chapter to a different member of the same family, and to make the challenge more compelling, I decided each story would take place in a different, non-consecutive time period. At any rate, magic aside, I actually quit my puttering and at last sat down every morning for a month and began to write what I planned to be a 10-12,000 word piece (each story could be no longer than 3,000 words) using The First Line's first line for each of my four chapters.
A piece that short is technically called a novelette not a novella. A novelette is generally defined as being longer than a short story but shorter than a novella. I'd never heard the term before I looked up where my word count landed me. I liked the word my search came up with: novelette. There's something very unintimidating and new about the word "novelette". I know of countless, famous and intimidating novellas from Death in Venice by Thomas Mann to The Final Solution by Michael Chabon or Robert Musil's Young Torless-- the list goes on. But I can't name a single novelette. The whole experiment was fresh creative ground for me to stomp and stumble over and to try my best to make a few coherent marks of my own on.
I'm excited to say that after working closely with the ever-patient David LaBounty, an editor I've worked with through the years and to whom I feel I owe a great debt of gratitude, The First Line is publishing three chapters of my novelette. The first two chapters are available in the summer issue as a sort of compendium, stronger than the original, much wordier versions-- I learned a lot from that lessonn (the length of this blog post aside). The story is called "The Homecoming" and concerns the fortunes of Rachel, an American misfit whose life is changed forever after learning a family secret her grandmother chooses to share only with her.The final chapter, which takes place ten years later and tells the story of Rachel's twin brother Tom, will appear in the winter issue.
Again I'm so grateful to David LaBounty and the folks at The First Line for working with me throughout the years and helping me to learn so many needed lessons along the way. Not least of which is the lesson that-- short or long-- the writing process is a challenging, arduous one, but the rewards of creating a story that might possibly (I hope) entertain other people make it all worth it in the end.
Enough! Or huzzah! Time to celebrate. Copies are available.now online or at bookstores around the United States. Please follow the links below for more information, and thank you in advance for your support and comments.