B L O G

  • Tin House + New Story Out Soon + Harvey

    The Link Crew

    Hello out there!

    It's been a busy summer, and now it's already the middle of September! Here is a quick rundown of what's been happening lately:

    • Tin House- I was lucky to have the opportunity to attend the Tin House Summer Workshop in July, where I got to work with Kelly Link and attend lectures and readings by some of the best writers and teachers out there. Workshops themselves can be hit or miss, but ours was full of smart, talented, kind writers, and Kelly was a wonderful and brilliant leader. As always, it was hard to be away from Margaux, but I came home from Portland ready to work. I'm currently seeking representation for my novel (officially! Cross your fingers for me!), so I've spent the last few months working on short stories while I wait to hear back.

    • New story coming out!- Speaking of stories, I have a new story coming out in Post Road this winter! I'm thrilled. I'll post a link where you can read or buy when it's published. 

    • Hurricane Harvey- There's so much to say about what we've experienced here in Houston in the past few weeks. It's been scary and inspiring and devastating--and now heartbreaking to watch people in the Caribbean and Florida live through the same thing with Irma. Margaux and I evacuated before the storm, but Josh stayed home to monitor the situation and help where he was needed. Our neighborhood is near a bayou and in a flood plane, but we miraculously avoided flooding in our home, and we are so thankful. I've been defending Houston for years, telling people that it's not what they think it is, that it's diverse and exciting and full of kind, strong people, and while I hate for this to be the reason why people have come to realize what I've known for so long, I'm glad that everyone else is seeing why Houston is such a special place.

    Reunited after Tin House!

    Sporting her new Powell's Books shirt!

  • Hello again!

    WELL. Here’s my one blog post for the year! Haha. But I have a good reason! Last summer I was given a grant to write a novel, and so that’s what I’ve been doing. I started it last June and have spent just about every free minute I’ve had in the last twelve months working on it. And now I have a complete first draft! It has a beginning and a middle and an end and characters, and they do terrible things and good things and go places and talk to each other. It’s only the first step in a very long process, but it’s a complete thing even in all its messy first draft glory, and I feel proud of that.

    I haven’t shared any details about it on this blog, but I wanted to write a little bit about it here because you never know, someone out there might stumble upon this and be interested in learning more. Strangers things have happened! So here’s a quick glimpse:

     When it comes to cults*—if a person is in proximity to one or living within the confines of one—there are only a few choices she can make: She can stay. She can leave. She can join in, or she can run far away. My novel follows three women across time who find themselves facing these decisions, fighting against the chains that hold them, finding their places, their voices in a restrictive world. There’s Rosemary, who lives with her husband in a fundamentalist cult in a small town in Texas, Harriet, the first wife to her community’s great man in upstate New York, and Alice, a young woman fleeing the predetermined course of her life as a nice suburban girl, as a future wife and mother. Using the lives of these women and the cults that hold them back as a microcosm of our society, the novel examines the damaging effects of patriarchy and the danger of misplaced beliefs. 

     Among the many works that have inspired me, both thematically and structurally, are The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Girls by Emma Cline, and The Hours by Michael Cunningham.

     One other writing related thing:  I got into the Tin House Writer’s Workshop again, and this summer I will actually be going (last year I had to choose between Kentucky or Tin House)! I’ll be working with Kelly Link in short fiction. If you’re interested, read my favorite story of hers here. I’m already super sad to leave Margaux for a few days, but I’m looking forward to being around a group of writers again.

     

    *My sister was recently telling someone about me, and the conversation went like this:

    Her: She’s writing a book about cults.

    Him: Colts?

    Her: Yes, cults.

    Him: A book about colts?

    Her: Yes. Wait, what do you think I’m saying?

    Him: Colts? Like baby horses?

     HAHA it kills me every time I think about someone thinking I’ve been writing a book about baby horses. 

  • Just a quick update!

    Margaux reading Mama a story :)

    Hi! Since it’s been a good long while since I’ve written anything here, I wanted to give a quick update about what’s been going on for me writing-wise.

    1. First, my story “Lots of Rooms to Fill” is in the current issue of Indiana Review. It’s a story about motherhood and connection and disconnection and, naturally, a little ghost. I’d love for you to read it…you can buy the issue here!

    2. Lately I’ve been working on what I’m calling a collection of “tales,” all of them a little fabulist in nature. My stories in Indiana Review, Ploughshares, and CHEAP POP are all in this collection, and I’m getting closer to having a completed first draft. Which is exciting! I think I have some good stories in there, but with that said, I’m branching out a little and taking on another project too—I’m working on a novel. Which is exciting! But also terrifying! I spent my last semester at VCFA working on a novella, and a few months after I finished it, I began thinking about expanding it into a novel. I’ve been thinking about it and thinking about it, and I finally decided I should give it a chance even though I have no idea what I’m doing. The novella/novel-in-progress is about a married couple in a cult in Texas, and I’ve been doing a lot of research into other cults and communes in American history, and I’ve been loving it. Cults, man. They’re the gift that keeps on giving. Well, not if you’re in one, I guess. But you know what I mean. I think. By the way, are y’all watching The Path on Hulu? We just finished it, and I’d definitely recommend it.

    3. Because I’m working on a novel, my former advisor at VCFA Bret Lott encouraged me to apply to a writing retreat/workshop in Kentucky for emerging novelists who are also Christians. I found out a few days ago I got in, so I’ll be heading to Stanford, Kentucky in July for a week of writing. During a time when it’s been hard to feel like a writer—or much else besides Margaux’s mom—this acceptance has been a great encouragement.

     

    That pretty much covers it! I’ve been reading a ton, too, and I’d like to share what my favorite books have been recently, but I’ll save that for a future (probably far future, let’s be honest) post. :) 

  • Whee!


    Look! There I am!!

    Two exciting things on the writing front!

    First, my story “Always One More Way” is officially out in Ploughshares! You can buy the issue here, and I hope you do. It’s an incredible honor to be in their pages. 

    Second, one of my stories will be in the upcoming Ghost-themed issue of Indiana Review! Every acceptance has been incredibly exciting, and this one feels really special for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a story I wrote after Margaux was born. I was genuinely worried I would have a baby, do what I needed to do for my MFA, and then never write again. For the first few months of her life, I was working almost exclusively on my novella, but in the last six months I’ve been back to writing short stories, and every word I’ve gotten on paper has felt like a small miracle. The fact that I have managed to write enough words to make a story feels like a giant miracle.

    My transformation of person into mother has, as it has since Margaux’s birth, dominated my thoughts, and it keeps coming out in my writing. I worry that it’s boring for other people to read about, that people will roll their eyes when they see yet another woman writing about—well, domestic things. Women things. I’ve always written about marriage, and I worried about that then too, but babies seem like they run the risk of being even more boring. I’ve struggled to reconcile my identity of mother with my identity of writer. I’ve been afraid that when I had my baby, I turned in my artist card, that I register now as a non-entity in the the circle of writers and artists. I know, too, that so many women feel the opposite—that their womanhood is invalid because they don’t want children—and I hate that for all of us.

    Recently, an essay by Claire Vaye Watkins in Tin House has been making the rounds, and though all of it is worth reading, one section was particularly resonant for me. She writes:

    About a year ago I had a baby, and while my life was suddenly more intense, more frightening, more beautiful, more difficult, and more profound than it had ever been, I found myself with nothing to write about.

    “Nothing’s happening to me,” I bemoan to Annie. “I need to go shoot an elephant.”

    Annie replies, in her late-night Lebowskian cadence, “Dude, you’re a mother. You’ve had a child. You’re struggling to make your marriage work, man. You are trying, against your nature and circumstance, to be decent. That’s your elephant!” Yet when I write some version of this down it seems quaint or worse. I thought I had enough material for a novel but when it came out it was a short story, and one that felt unserious. I tried a story in the form of a postpartum-depression questionnaire and it felt quaint. Domestic. For women. Motherhood has softened me. I have a tighter valve on what I’ll read and what I’ll watch. I don’t want to write like a man anymore. I don’t want to be praised for being “unflinching.” I want to flinch. I want to be wide open.

    I do too. I want to remember what a gift it is to see the world with the eyes I have, to write through the experiences I’ve had, as an artist, as a mother, as the particular person I get to be. And I want the same for you! I want to celebrate the flinching and the vulnerabilities and the delicate little lady feelings I have about the world. The things I have been writing after Margaux was born have felt important to me, and the fact that one of those pieces, a story about motherhood, caught someone’s eye in the slush pile out in Indiana is an encouragement that other people feel they’re important too.

     Anyway, my story in Indiana Review will be out in their Summer 2016 issue, and please check out the most recent issue of Ploughshares!  

  • What I've Been Reading, Part 2

    Once, pre-baby, I read on this beach. It was delightful.

    Here are the top four books I've read recently! 

    4. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro- Ho boy. This book made me ugly cry. I just want to put that out there before you start to read it just in case you’re feeling fragile. Beatrice and Axl are an elderly couple in a post-Arthurian Britain where knights and dragons and pixies roam the hills and swarm the riverbanks. But the country is also being overtaken by a kind of fog that robs people of their memories. In the haze of forgetting, Beatrice remembers that they have a son living in a neighboring village, and the two set off to find him. Their relationship is tender, and it’s this tenderness, the love and loyalty they share, that raises the stakes for this story—we don’t want them to lose each other, but even more, as the slow recovery of their memories threatens to undo the life they’ve built together, we don’t want them to lose their love for one another. Honestly, it’s a bit of a slog at times, and if you’re a Monty Python and the Holy Grail fan, it’s hard not to read the dialogue in a mocking, silly k-ni-gits sort of way, but overall, it’s haunting and lovely. And sad.

    3. The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante- This is the second book in the Neapolitan series, and I can’t say much about it without spoiling things in the first one! But I will say I enjoyed this one more—I knew the characters better, understood the complicated dynamic of Lila and Elena’s friendship, felt the tightening grip of life in Naples and the desire to escape it. Book three is up next!

    2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie- You’ve probably all read this by now, but in case you haven’t, I loved it! It’s one of those novels that is Serious and Important, full of incisive observations about what it means to be a human, but as compelling and entertaining as any light-hearted beach read. It’s a smart examination of race, a critique of the society in which we move--and it’s a good old-fashioned love story. Ifemelu and Obinze grow up in Nigeria and fall in love with each other as teenagers, imagine their future lives together as rationally as any two adults, love each other for the people they are and who they will become. But Ifemelu goes to America for college, leaving both Nigeria and Obinze behind, and her early years there are so horrifying and demoralizing that she finds she cannot let herself reach out to Obinze, and the two, separated by continents, by an ocean, by experience, drift apart. Adichie tells their stories—Ifemelu’s, as a “Non-American Black” in America, and Obinze’s, first as an unwanted immigrant in England and then as a powerful, dissatisfied man in Nigeria—with wit and wisdom and authenticity.

    1. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff- This is the story of Lotto and Mathilde, the story of a marriage, of two people together and apart, the narrative split in two, one part his and one part hers. Part One belongs to Lotto, whom the Fates have touched, both for better and worse: he is born into a wealthy family but becomes fatherless, he is ugly but becomes beautiful, he is sweet and simple but becomes successful, he is a man who loves beauty, who pursues it in all forms, in all women who possess, he believes, at least one beautiful quality, but he becomes a husband. Part Two is Mathilde, a cipher in Lotto’s story, removed and nearly sphinx-like, and here, she is raging; she is the action, the movement, to Lotto’s luck. There are overlapping moments in the sections—something small in Lotto’s story, for example, is explained further in Mathilde’s—but they are separate stories, separate people moving together, inhabiting the same space in different worlds. The language is both dreamy and simmering, the characters endearing and infuriating and heartbreaking. Go read it!