I’ve applied for a few Stegner Fellowships in my time, and inevitably found myself looking at the biographies for the current Stegner Fellows. Supposedly the fellowship takes people from all walks of life, with different educational backgrounds. The website for the Stegner Fellowship states that a degree is not a prerequisite for the program. And yet, fellow after fellow had matriculated in an MFA program, and published in all the “right” prestigious literary magazines, and was neither terrifically young, nor that old — probably most in their thirties. Most were white or white-passing. I would also bet that the vast majority were straight and cisgender, and hadn’t dealt with PTSD or mental illness.
I wish it wasn’t so, but most creative writing graduate programs suffer from the same lack of diversity the Stegner Fellowship does. It’s no wonder the fellowship is populated with the same people.
This is a problem which has been commented on a great deal, so I won’t bore you with the standard “but we must have more diversity and it begins with changing our gatekeeping practices” shtick. We know that. Of greater concern to me (and to the literary community of the U.S.) is the impoverishment of literature under these conditions.
I’ve been writing shorter fiction this summer, while I’m on a break from my main manuscript. This excerpt is from one of those pieces of shorter fiction, titled Queer as Love. The story follows a married couple as one of them transitions from female to male. This part comes after the narrator, who is the cisgender spouse, has begun to seriously contemplate divorce. This is a rough draft, so it’s not finished, but the idea is there.
But these fantasies dispersed, like ash. And then I thought of you. As you were, as you had been. I saw you in all your beauty. I saw your strength, and my pride in that. I remembered our first time, in that little hotel room, when you abandoned your towel and clambered right in my lap, straddling me, sinking down onto me while our breathing roared like an avalanche. I thought of our wedding at the courthouse, and how you said “fuck” and made the clerk blush. I remembered our first fight, bitter and spiteful and wounding because we didn’t know how to fight, and how you came running for me and threw your arms around me, and through tears, kissed me and said you loved me over and over. I remembered when Ash was born and there were three of us in the room. There was a new life between us and we were so in awe we were silent. I saw how mean you could be, how cutting and cruel with your words. You were good at that. I saw your childishness, the adult tantrums of pouting and sulking when you didn’t get what you wanted. They way you could and would emotionally manipulate me. How you hated to compromise. The way you didn’t put your shoes away but just let them lay all around where I could trip on them.
You told me once, when you were trying to explain a painting to me, that sometimes what was beautiful was also ugly, sometimes gross or scary.
I saw you in all your beauty.
Today my short story, “The Blind Tattooist”, came out in issue three of |tap|. This story is important to me for a few reasons. It is that it is the first publication I’ve had in the two years since I began submitting short stories professionally, since I decided I would only submit to paying markets. And it is that this is the first time I’ve been paid for my writing.
Incidentally, this story came out of Chuck Wendig’s Flashfiction Challenge about a year ago. Wendig gives a list of titles, provided by commentors to his blog. The idea is to choose one of the titles and then write a story of about 1,000 words to go with it. I wasn’t expecting the story to go where it went, but here we are.
The story follows a young trans woman, Lucky, and her journey of recovery after surviving a horrific attack.
You can read “The Blind Tattooist” here.
I finished the second draft of my novella, Bloom. It’s just under 57k. I may have to do some tinkering with the third draft and consider designating it as a novel.
I do feel accomplished, but I also feel relieved. I’ve been chasing this ending for what feels like forever, and I am ready to be done with this draft.
On the other hand . . . I have never completed a second draft of any long piece of fiction. So this is a big victory for me.
I’m going to put it away for at least a month and go work on short stories. But when the time comes — look out third draft.
So day two of #writelifemay is “WIP”, aka, work in progress.
I wasn’t sure what to post and so settled on posting an excerpt from my work in progress.
The official blurb for my current work in progress is:
“Men ought to love men, and do.” Ben, a straight man, falls in love with his best friend, a gay man. Ben must navigate the precarious waters of friendship and love while exploring his sexuality.
In this excerpt, Ben has just kissed his friend, David, for the first time. Ben is, as per usual for him, having a “freak out”. Seeking guidance, he calls his sister Jess. This scene, which takes place at a small bistro, is between Ben and Jess. There might be typos and the like, since this is an unrevised draft.
I am five chapters from finishing the second draft of my book. It will be 11 months and a little over 50,000 words of work on this draft.
Edited to add: I will have written far more than 50,000 words for this draft. The 50k words are the words which survived editing and pruning to make it into the final draft.
This came out of a poetry exercise, in which I was supposed to use nonsense words to write about love. It didn’t really work out that way, but I am pleased with the results nonetheless.