My AWP Schedule! Hope to see you!

Books & BoozeI’m excited that AWP is in L.A. this year! Yay, for warmer weather than we typically have to deal with at the annual AWP conference! I really hope to see as many friends as possible this year, but it’s a huge conference and I’ve come to expect that I won’t get to see everyone I want to. Here’s (roughly) where I can be found:

Thursday, March 31st

I’ll be arriving with my daughter and checking into the J.W. Marriott and the conference. No specific plans until the afternoon, when co-author Robert Vaughan and I will meet with Brad Listi to do the Other People Podcast. Thursday night may involve dinner & drinks with friends.

Friday, April 1st

Book Fair

10:00 – 11:00 I’ll be signing books at the Matter Press / Journal of Compressed Creative Arts table (831)

11:00 – 12:00 I’ll be signing copies of RIFT at the Cossack Review Table (1236)

(“free” time…I may be working the Unknown Press table (1442) for awhile, selling Rift and other Unknown Press titles)

Off-Site Readings

4:30 – 5:30 The North/South Short Shorts Reading (Passages North & New South) Pyo Gallery, 1100 South Hope Street, Suite 105, L.A. 90015 (featuring Zach Doss, Megan Giddings, Michael Martone, Kelly Magee, and myself)

5:00 – ??? Hot Pillow Reading hosted by Joani Reese, Ginosi Figaro Apartel, 1361 South Flower Street, L.A. 90015

Reception

6:30 – 8:00 Literary Colorado Reception, Diamond Salon 8&9, JW Marriott LA, 3rd Floor

(Join the literary communities of Arapahoe Community College, Colorado College, Colorado Review, Colorado State University, Conundrum Press, Lighthouse Writers Workshop, Lithic Press, Mile-High MFA, University of Colorado, Western State Colorado University for refreshments and a chance to socialize and network.)

Later Friday evening, may be attending a BBQ/Reading, but I anticipate collapsing early that night. We’ll see. I may get a second wind!

Saturday, April 2nd

May be spending some time at the Unknown Press table in the morning before the book fair closes up?

“Free” time.

Reading

7:30 – ??? Books & Booze, hosted by Alternating Current Press, Los Angeles Center of Photography, 1515 Wilcox Avenue, L.A. 90028

Join us for Alternating Current’s #AWP16 Offsite Reading Event at LACP! $3 LIQUOR, WINE, & BEER. Free snacks. No cover charge (Donations always welcome.). Readers include: Sunil Yapa, Matt Bell, Eric Shonkwiler, Will Chancellor, Kathy Fish, Ben Tanzer, Ryan Ridge, Andrew F. Sullivan, Ashley Farmer, Carmen Lau, A. Jay Adler, and Tabitha Blankenbiller. Mayhem will ensue. Fun will be had. Booze will be consumed.

Some thanks and three of my micros/prose poems up at Fictionaut

Last night’s reading at the Mercury Cafe went really well! Huge thanks to uber talented Katharyn Grant, who hosted the evening and who also very generously read a couple of my stories and did them more justice than I ever would. Thanks also to Sally Reno, who read a fantastic story of her own before giving the kindest introduction, ever. The F-Bomb series that Nancy Stohlman curates is a fun, interesting, flash fiction only event and I was glad to be a part of it. So thanks also to Nancy for the invitation! I think I read better than usual last night, so maybe with practice I’ll come to really enjoy giving readings. Anything can happen!

I want to talk a little here about the intersect between microfiction and prose poetry. How do we tell them apart? Is it even necessary to distinguish them? For myself, prose poetry is more imagistic, metaphoric, and well, poetic. It doesn’t require the arc that flash fiction does (and some would argue even flash fiction doesn’t require an arc, but I would say, it should at least give the sense of an arc, if that makes any sense). Prose poetry, to me, is pure sound and image and language and rhythm and flow. I like to write it. I like to get out of pure storytelling mode sometimes, though I don’t consider myself a poet at all.

So! I’ve started participating at Fictionaut again and I’m having a lot of fun. Just throwing up whatever strikes me to get new readers to the work and also reading all the fantastic stories and poems on there. Jane Hammons is posting her work again and do go and find her, she’s a genius.

Anyway, here is a link to three prose poems/micros that appear in my Matter Press chapbook, WILD LIFE. They are…strange, be warned:

Three Micros.

Life In, Life Out: A Conversation with Avital Gad-Cykman

front_cover copy 2My friend, Avital Gad-Cykman, has a collection of flash fiction published and available now with Matter Press, entitled Life In, Life Out. She is an award-winning and internationally published writer with a uniquely beautiful style and voice. I cannot recommend her work highly enough. I wanted to talk to Avital about the book, her life and her writing life. I started by asking her to talk a bit about her background. So, without further ado…

ani gader copy

When I look back, now that Kathy has asked me to tell about my background, I find it has had an ambiguity about it all along. I grew up in a small town not far from the Negev Desert in Israel, and I remember with longing the small house surrounded by a few others like it, open fields, golden dunes and then the beach. Later, I came to realize that because most of us children who lived there so freely, almost wildly, were the sons and daughters of holocaust survivors, there was a kind of tempting but cruel deep shadow right beside us, between us and our parents and between us and the world. I wrote about it in my story Islands of Salt that appears in Per Contra.

Still, I have fond memories from that town and then another by the beach, until the time my father passed away and everything changed. Someone told me that the coincidence of that loss with my then age of twelve is unfortunate, because my feeling that everything about me shuttered and yet hardened then is typical to many people who led uneventful life at that age but feel they left Paradise and entered (an adolescent) Hell just then.

Anyway, I had written poems and tiny plays since I learned to write, and after losing my father I moved to writing down poems full of my quarrel with God, when I wasn’t busy thinking about boys. Then, from the age of sixteen I lived on my own. My mother, too, became sick and passed away. It’s almost ironic that my parents’ constant worry for me turned around and was realized in their own absence from my life.

I couldn’t speak about it, not much, but since I had to express the fierce pain somehow, along with the passions and longings, and the absurd of the co-existence of pleasure and loss, I wrote diaries, and when they did not satisfy me, I tried this and that until I turned away from facts to imagination and wrote one short story–a flash as it’s called today–when I was already living in Brazil with my own family, and a friend from Canada and another from Australia, people I met in my early living through the Internet, both told me I should write more of it, and I did and became deeply involved with fiction.

fall copy

Kathy: What went into some of the choices you made for the book, i.e. why that title, why structured in two parts, why the titles for the two parts? To me, it feels like the first half of the book has more magic realism elements, the second half more straight realism. But I feel like more went into the chosen structure, so if you could talk a little about that…

Avital: It took me a while to come up with the title because the collection deals with war, strife, resistance, parenthood, childhood, passion and longing. While some flashes go into the psyche, others have their feet set well on the ground. I finally realized that they light a certain life, or a moment in life, and move on to another and another. So there came Life In. Life out.

The first part is more surrealistic. It’s titled Sudden Changes after one of the more dramatic flashes, because many flashes speak about that confrontation with the uncomfortable, unexpected and even bizarre. The second part, Minute Life Length, is more realistic, though there are moments in two or three flashes that are borrowed from the mind rather than from an earthy existence. I included in this part the flashes that played into one another in a slightly chronological way of a lifetime, which feels like a brief one.

Kathy: Who are your literary heroes or influences? In terms of flash, who are your favorite flash writers?

Avital: I love so many writers that if I imagine them as my heroes what comes to mine is a whole army of literary guardians, my superpower…From the times before I became a writer and still used to reread books I fondly remember David Grossman, whose Hebrew prose is magnificent, Mikail Bulgakov whose irony and passion create unique semi-existing worlds, Jean Genet whose provocative, sensuous writing questions everything, and Gabriel Garcie Marquez whose stories are worlds of their own. I am painfully aware of the fact that I didn’t have any female author whose books I followed, collected and devoured. I did read and reread Doris Lessing’s Golden Notebooks, but not her other works. Anyway, I have since became an avid reader of women authors, among them the insightful, sharp and varied Margaret Atwood, the intimate, psyche researcher Elena Ferrante, and the genius short story teller Alice Munro. There are so many other authors I love I simply can’t list them all. I should add rapidly a few from the younger generation: Amir Gutfreund who writes beautifully about my childhood and my Israel, or so it seems, Aleksandar Hemon who writes with humor and pain about exile among other things, and Jhumpa Lahiri whose short stories astound me with their exquisite storytelling. I am also blessed with friends: writers whose writing I adore and admire, but they are many and I’m afraid to start counting.

I can’t say I seek flashes over other forms of writing, but I love it. Many of the authors I’ve already mentioned write it beautifully. A master of it, however, is Julio Cortazar with his surreal worlds that may just be the world in which we live.

Kathy: I definitely see the influence of Marquez and Lahiri in your work, Avital. What are the themes you find yourself returning to in your writing? Over and over in your stories, mentions of war and peace, past wars, current fears, the idea of invasion and these I know are drawn from life, family, history and culture.

Avital: It is hard for me to determine my themes, because it seems to me that I write about whatever sparks my attention, an intense moment, emotion or situation, an intriguing idea, humorous or dream-like or words that encapsulate a story in them. However, when I read my flashes for a conversation about them and about the female body in literature written by women in general, I suddenly realized how lovers, pregnant women, mothers and others had a visceral sense of the world through their bodies. Then I read it to edit it, and I was struck by the thread of war that goes through them, along with emotions of resistance and dread. So, I guess that it depends on the readers (including me) and on their state of mind to find the persisting issues.back_cover (1) copy

Kathy: Avital, thank you so much! Your collection is stunning. Readers, you may click HERE to order Life In, Life Out. The book is also available for order from Amazon.

BIO: Avital Gad-Cykman is the winner of Margaret Atwood Society Magazine Prize and The Hawthorne Citation Contest. She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a finalist for Iowa Fiction Award for story collections.

Her stories have appeared in magazines such as The Literary Review, Glimmer Train, McSweeney’s, Prism International, CALYX Journal, and Michigan Quarterly Review. Her work has also been featured in anthologies such as Sex for America, Politically Inspired Fiction, Stumbling and Raging, Politically Inspired Fiction, and W.W. Norton’s International Flash Anthology. She was born and raised in Israel and now she lives in Brazil. Contact her at avital.gc@gmail.com

Some New Things: Interview with Brad Watson, Jeff Landon flash, & Lauren Becker's book…

Brad Watson is apparently a kindred spirit:

“I’m old-fashioned and believe that the writer’s only real job — day jobs aside — is to write, and to write the best work one is capable of writing. I’m happy to go out, give readings or talks, visit classes or clubs — when and if anyone is interested — but even that is pretty distracting, work-wise. It interrupts work you’ve inevitably already begun on something new. I don’t really believe anyone knows for sure, yet, whether or not using social media to promote yourself works all that well. Maybe it does in those rare cases when someone does or creates something that, as they say, “goes viral.” In any case, my personality is not a good fit with self-promotion.”

I, too, have always felt uncomfortable with self-promotion and don’t like spending too much time on social media because I resent the time it takes away from real life and writing…however! I’ve made wonderful contacts with other writers that I wouldn’t have without it and for that I’m forever grateful. Writing is a tough and lonely gig. Read the rest of Watson’s interview in Fiction Southeast. Watson is the author of Aliens in The Prime of Their Lives, a collection of short stories I really liked and recommend. watson book

I was thrilled to see new flash fiction by a favorite writer, Jeff Landon, in Wigleaf. It’s called “Bobs” and here is an excerpt:

“We drink bourbon and beer, gobble pizza puffs, and watch the slide show of our gone lives with Amy: Bad teeth Bob with Amy on the boardwalk, her hands in his hair gone now from the chemotherapy. We watch the pictures and we are kindred and moony and Bob.”

Anyway, go read the whole story and Jeff’s accompanying postcard here and you can read a whole bunch of Jeff’s stories in Truck Dance, his collection of stories published by Matter Press. If you’re a fan of and/or writer of flash fiction, I can’t recommend it enough. Jeff’s writing is like none other, beautiful, heartbreaking, and funny.truck dance

I recently read Lauren Becker’s novella + story collection, published by Curbside Splendor books, If I Would Leave Myself Behind and it’s fantastic. I highly recommend this smart, edgy, vulnerable, exquisitely written collection. Here’s a taste:

“Tuesdays are quiet. If you don’t make them louder, you invite the tiny, final earthquake that turns cracks to holes.You should remember that early Tuesday nights are different from late Saturdays and maybe go to bed instead. The fault line shifted when he left, right after, like always. Sometime in the night or morning, I emptied the condom I found in the trash and made it irrelevant.”

if i would leave myself behind

Lastly, I have sort of quietly begun offering my services giving editing suggestions and feedback for flash fiction. Are people interested in this? I am considering putting an actual page up on this blog with a form to fill out and everything, so it all looks legit and professional. Stay tuned and let me know if you’re interested! Thanks.

Moments of Grace ~ from Dani Shapiro

Still-Writing-by-Dani-ShapiroHere, in Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, Dani Shapiro speaks of flawed, unpredictable, risk-taking, rule-breaking prose (my favorite kind):

“These instances of creative daring are moments of grace. They are moments when we get out of our own way. They break the rules, and break them beautifully. They arrive with no fanfare, but there is no mistaking them. They glide past our hesitation, our resistance, layers of reasons why we can’t, we mustn’t, we shouldn’t. They are accompanied by an almost childlike thrill. Why not, the whole universe seems to whisper: Why not now? Why not you? What’s the worse thing that can happen?”

I admit I’m reading and rereading this book like a bible. Somewhere along the line, I got in my own way, I think. I stopped taking the sort of thrilling chances that made writing such a blast for me. It started to matter too much what other people thought. Now, I’m writing things and not sending them out and not sharing them in an attempt to get back to that. I’m having fun again. I’m getting out of my own way.

Readers, stay tuned, as soon I’m going to post a recent conversation with my amazing writer friend, Avital Gad-Cykman, who has a beautiful flash fiction collection coming out from Matter Press. She herself is fascinating, so it stands to reason that her stories are, too. And her work exemplifies the sort of fresh originality and risk-taking that I so admire and attempt in my own work. I can’t wait to share the interview with you!

Microfiction: The Cartoonist

Child-hand-drawing

The supper: Mashed potatoes with bits of beef and gravy mixed in. Large tumblers of cold milk. Your father’s bald head bent over his food, filling his cheeks like a squirrel. Birthmark shaped like the state of Maine on his forehead. Nobody talks, except for “pass the. . .” Your mother, looking weary, bags, actual pieces of luggage, under her eyes resting on her cheekbones. Your baby brother, banging his spoon, his smile too big for his face. A crow flies down through the chimney and enters the dining room, ruffles its feathers on the buffet table. Evil, triangle shaped eyes. Your mother rises, grabs the broom, shoos it out. Furrow her brow. The bird flies back and forth, slamming against the walls, the windows. Feathers drifting down over the table like confetti. Your mother screaming, swinging the broom. Exclamation points all around her head. Your father’s words: sit down you lunatic, in a bubble above the steamed peas. Big brother in the shadows, slumped against the doorway, his baggy jeans and sleepy eyes. Smaller than everything and everyone else.

(originally published in the sadly now gone elimae and featured in my flash fiction chapbook Wild Life from Matter Press)

Smokelong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years Anthology available now

SLQI have always felt very proud and honored for my time as fiction editor of Smokelong Quarterly. This journal gets better every year and remains one of the most respected venues for flash fiction around. Edited by the brilliant Tara Laskowski, “The Best of the First Ten Years: 2003-2013” anthology is now available from Matter Press. Here is the description:

SmokeLong Quarterly, one of the oldest and prominent online publishers of flash fiction, has collected the “best of the first ten years” in this anthology of 56 pieces, each one a smoke-long. Also, after each piece, the editor/guest editor who chose that particular story for the anthology explains why s/he chose it, including past editors Kelly Spitzer & Kathy Fish, Founding Editor and Publisher Dave Clapper, Senior Editors Tara Laskowski & Nancy Stebbins, and staff editors Gay Degani, Josh Denslow, Ashley Inguanta, Beth Thomas, and Brandon Wicks.

Get it!

Kathy Fish’s Flashes of Life: A Review of Wild Life

Many thanks to Randall Lahrman for this lovely review of my chapbook with Matter Press, WILD LIFE, at Litconic, where he says, among other nice things:

“The stories are short, intelligent, and linger. Although capable of being experienced in small doses, these are not stories to be rushed through. This is a book to keep at the kitchen table and read one story during breakfast, and then spend the day with it roaming through your mind and dissecting the meaning until you get home and read it again to verify your discoveries.”

Read the rest of the review here:

Kathy Fish’s Flashes of Life: A Review of Wild Life.

Also, Randall asked me a lot of very smart questions here.

Some Good Things

1. I am bundled, or rather, my book Wild LIfe is bundled, with Jeff Landon’s book, Truck Dance for the low, low price of ten bucks plus two dollars shipping. I’ve read Truck Dance and can tell you, it’s superb. So go get ’em, at Matter Press!

2. I’m so happy to have a stamp story in the latest edition of Wigleaf, with so many fantastic writers. Read all the stamp stories here: Stamp Stories. This is to introduce the now available Mudluscious Press Stamp Stories Anthology, which I’m also proud to be a part of. And you can get that here: Get this book which contains the work of these fine people:

James Tadd Adcox, Jesse Ball, Ken Baumann, Lauren Becker, Matt Bell, Kate Bernheimer, Michael Bible, Jack Boettcher, Harold Bowes, Jesse Bradley, Donald Breckenridge, Melissa Broder, Blake Butler, James Chapman, Jimmy Chen, Joshua Cohen, Peter Conners, Shome Dasgupta, Andy Devine, Giancarlo DiTrapano, Claire Donato, Elizabeth Ellen, Raymond Federman, Kathy Fish, Scott Garson, Molly Gaudry, Roxane Gay, Steven Gillis, Rachel B. Glaser, Amanda Goldblatt, Barry Graham, Amelia Gray, Sara Greenslit, Tina May Hall, Christopher Higgs, Lily Hoang, Tim Horvath, Joanna Howard, Laird Hunt, Jamie Iredell, Harold Jaffe, A D Jameson, Jac Jemc, Stephanie Johnson, Shane Jones, Drew Kalbach, Roy Kesey, Sean Kilpatrick, Michael Kimball, M. Kitchell, Robert Kloss, Darby Larson, Charles Lennox, Eugene Lim, Matthew Lippman, Norman Lock, Robert Lopez, Sean Lovelace, Josh Maday, Dave Madden, John Madera, Kendra Grant Malone, Tony Mancus, Peter Markus, Chelsea Martin, Zachary Mason, Hosho McCreesh, Alissa Nutting, Riley Michael Parker, Aimee Parkison, David Peak, Ted Pelton, Adam Peterson, Ryan Ridge, Joseph Riippi, Adam Robinson, Ethel Rohan, Joanna Ruocco, Kevin Sampsell, Selah Saterstrom, Davis Schneiderman, Zachary Schomburg, Todd Seabrook, Ben Segal, Gregory Sherl, Lydia Ship, Matthew Simmons, Justin Sirois, Amber Sparks, Ken Sparling, Ben Spivey, Michael Stewart, Terese Svoboda, Sean Ulman, Deb Olin Unferth, Timmy Waldron, William Walsh, Rupert Wondolowski, James Yeh, Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé.

3. I am still thinking about Michael Kimball’s book, US, which pretty much wrecked me, in the best way. Review to follow. But I highly recommend it. Here’s the Goodreads page for this book, published by Tyrant Books: Us

4. I’m going home to Iowa, the day after Thanksgiving to join in the celebration of my brother, Tom’s, 60th birthday. He’s the one who saved me from drowning when I was three years old, so, well, I owe my life to the man.