The Best One-Armed Waiter in the West

I’m thrilled to have my story, The Best One-Armed Waiter in the West, included in Issue 21 of Sequestrum. Special thanks to the editors for pushing me to make this story its best possible version.

Note: for the whole story, you’ll need to create an account.

There’s also a brief interview with me.

Fall Publications: Delayed Gratification

In our world of instant everything, it is both frustrating and refreshing to have to wait for a story to be published long after it’s been accepted.

I was notified in Nov 2018 that my story, “The Best One-Armed Waiter in the West,” was accepted for publication by Sequestrum.

They had some welcome suggestions to make the story stronger and by the time those were done it was Feb 2019. The publication date was set for Issue 21, Fall 2019. (I hope the cover is as cool as Issue 19, at right.)

I don’t know exactly when the story will come out. So I try to put it out of my mind while constantly refreshing my email for the announcement.

While I not-so-patiently wait, I’m putting the finishing touches on the rest of the stories for my next collection, also titled The Best One-Armed Waiter in the West.

The collection will consist of 16 stories; six have been published, and the two above accepted. I’ve sent out three other stories and we’ll see if those are accepted before I submit the manuscript to publishers. Fingers crossed.

Busy month & thank you Greater Columbus Arts Council!

I had wanted to live-blog or at least delayed-blog about AWP but I was so busy having a good time–and working on my stories–at the conference (friends! new friends! panels & readings! Colson Whitehead!) that I didn’t have the time or energy.

Flash fiction version: It was amazing. Colson Whitehead is funny, woke, and wonderful. Erica Jong is still the bomb. Press 53 (my publisher) has the coolest, most talented authors.

Then I spent almost half the month on a work trip back in my home state, California: fun, exhausting, inspirational.

The, last week, wonderful news. I’ve received a grant from the Greater Columbus Arts Council to cover my expenses for next year’s AWP conference! San Antonio in March sounds great!

I know at least one other writer who received a grant from the Arts Council this grant period. It’s so heartening to live in a city that supports art and artists.

I admit, when I first moved to Columbus nearly 11 years ago, I wasn’t sure that a midwestern city really cared about art. It’s been a pleasure to be proven wrong!

Thank you Arts Council and the City of Columbus!

I’m back, baby! Back at AWP.

I was lucky enough to attend the AWP Conference in 2011 and 2012, coinciding with the publication of my first book of stories by Press 53. This year, everything aligned so that I’m able to attend again.

This year, the conference is being held in Portland, Oregon, which is where my parents life (well, Washington state, but close enough). And that’s why I’m able to attend this year – free lodging.

I’m also delighted to be helping out at the Press 53 booth with fellow author Cliff Garstang. Our publisher, Kevin Morgan Watson, can’t make it in person, so Cliff and I and dozens of other Press 53ers will take turns staffing the booth and spreading the word about Press 53.

You must read this book.

There is so much to be excited about: Keynote Speaker Colson Whitehead. Hundreds of panels and speakers and workshops. Friends to reconnect with. Work to be away from. But most of all: writing.

I came into town a few days early to see my parents before they left on a cruise. I’ve already had a day and a half of time to myself to write. So I spent yesterday working on a story I’ve been NOT writing for years. One part of it is based on something that really happened and I’ve been putting off writing that scene for years. And yesterday, through sheer talent, was able to put it off again.

So that is my assignment for today. To write that which is most difficult to write. Literally no excuses. When I write a blog entry tomorrow, I plan to be able to say I did it.

New story out: Yorba, Yorba

I had the great opportunity to be interviewed by Jordan Blum, the Editor-in-Chief of The Bookends Review, on the podcast Cover to Cover. It was definitely a pleasure to talk to him but I can’t say I took pleasure in listening to it afterwards. I know I’m not the only one who can’t stand to hear themselves on tape – voicemails or recordings, etc.

The occasion for the podcast was the publication of my short story, Yorba, Yorba, in Bookends.

I am thrilled, as always, to have a story of mine out there in the world!

This story was born when I was fortunate enough to travel to Israel with my husband’s family. One (long) day, we drove from their home on the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea.

Endings are Such Sweet Sorrow

Usually when a story comes to me, I see the beginning and end clearly. It’s the middle part that might give me a tough time.

The stories that give me the most trouble are the ones where I feel I have a great idea but no idea where or how to end it. I can write pages about what the characters are doing and thinking. But then I get to a point where it feels like someone turned out the lights and I’m groping around the room for an exit.

What ends up happening is that I give up and pull the emergency cord: I just stop writing.

This failure has been painfully evident lately as I work on stories for my next collection. I have about 20 stories planned for the book. Seven have already been published. I look at these now as “the easy ones.” As if they weren’t each difficult in their own way.

Three more are done (so I thought) and I’ve been submitting them for the last couple of years. Another seven are in the writing process. And still another three to five stories are on the horizon.

It’s the ones I’ve been submitting and currently writing that have been giving me fits. And while rejection is never fun, two editors recently told me WHY they rejected the stories, and of course, it’s the ending.

We found a lot to like here, but readers were confused by the ending.
– My epitaph

One editor asked me to review and resubmit a story I’ve been writing for a few years. No guarantee that they will publish it even with the revision but what a great opportunity to see the story through someone else’s eyes. The actual final paragraph was a great way to end, they said, it was just too abrupt.

So I spent a week revising and it is so much stronger for it. Even if they don’t publish it, I have confidence it will find a home.

The more recent rejection encapsulated my problem:

“Thank you for the opportunity to read your work. We won’t be accepting The Jumping-Off Point for publication, but invite you to consider sending us other work in the future. We found a lot to like here, but readers were confused by the ending.”

I believe it comes down to basic plot or, really, the lack of a one. The stories that come easily have a moment where something happens. It’s not always big and dramatic, but there is a moment that, when you finish the story, that’s what you remember.

The ones I struggle with have a common problem – nothing happens. It’s so elementary when I acknowledge it but what a relief that someone outside of me (and my husband) pointed it out. 

Back on the Submitting Horse

So my writing mojo was MIA for quite a few months. It’s back and I’m very excited. And a bit nervous.

For about two months I haven’t had any stories out there for consideration. No need to check my email like I’m waiting for that special someone to call. I thought it would be relaxing not worrying/waiting for a rejection. But turns out, it’s the opposite. As long as I have a story out there in consideration, there is hope.

A typical first draft

A typical first draft.

That’s what probably spurred me on more than anything – missing that hope. I have three stories ready (I think) for public consumption and more ready to be written. I need to get them OUT THERE. So between yesterday and today, I’ve sent out two stories to two lit mags each.

I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but those who submit stories or poems know how much work it takes to find just the right place to submit a particular piece to: does it seem like a good fit, are they open for submissions, do they charge a fee (I’ll pay if it’s $3 or less and I feel it’s worth it; most often I don’t)?

And some magazines still only accept printed and mailed submissions, bless their hearts. So I have to find enough postage.

I’ve flipped-flopped back and forth but have finally landed on yes, I’m putting together another collection of short stories. That has also brought my mojo back: the thought of a deadline.

Here is the table of contents (I’m writing it down for accountability) for the new collection. Title is TBD.

Published:

  • American Gothic Getaway
  • The Poles of Inaccessibility
  • Moonlighting
  • Not Dog People 
  • Sex Addict Rehab: Confidential 
  • The Uncluded 

Written

  • The Best One-Armed Waiter in the West
  • On the Occasion of Going to the Hospital to Meet a Baby 
  • Yorba Yorba
  • The Gorge
  • Captivity 
  • Worry Tank
  • Apartment City

Drafted

  • The Milkbone Deposition
  • The Epic Quality of the Ordinary (aka the Prague story)
  • The Irrational Constant
  • Salmon Creek
  • The Lemon Lady
  • Untitled Vegas Story
  • Through the Side Door
  • Always Late to Flowers