Saturday, November 9, 2013

Kitty Grief-Watch, Publishing News, and Poetry: A Gateway Drug?

We’re going to keep it on the upbeat side at the Good Typist this week, after last week’s sniffly pet-loss story. For those of you who read it, thank you, and I’m sorry it was such a downer. Home doesn’t feel the same without Zoe, but we’re all doing our best to adjust. The boy cats are hanging out together a lot more now, and they’ve stopped wandering around looking for her. We’re watching them for signs of kitty grief and depression, but after some initial confusion and sadness, they seem to be holding up okay.

In better news--the long short story that I wrangled with all summer, “Cheesehead”, has been accepted for publication and will be honored as the Story of the Month on Fiction on the Web! You’ll be able to read it when it comes out on November 19th. I’ll post a link as soon as it’s up.

And, “The Acme Employee Handbook” is getting closer and closer to publication! You can see a sneak preview here. The publisher is still sorting out some changes to the cover and doing a final edit, but it should be ready to go to print very soon.

Way back in August when Mr. Typist and I went to Montana, I started writing notes for what I was determined would be an epic narrative poem about the Yellowstone River, Calamity Jane, hawk medicine, ancient geysers, and spiritual and emotional cataclysm. The notes have been sitting on my desk for months, and I finally felt called to dig them out today and start working on it.

I journaled for almost an hour, but my beautiful, sweeping vision for the poem simply wasn’t coming together. Everything felt out of tune and disjointed. I couldn’t “hear” the music of the poem and I felt like I was engaged in an endless verbal taffy pull. I kept writing through it, and as I did, the vision suddenly re-formed itself in a flash that left me breathless. I realized with a jolt that I couldn’t write the poem because it’s not a poem. It’s a short story. As soon as I recognized that, the entire narrative fell into place, and I knew exactly what I needed to do. My fingers got that itchy, excited feeling, my palms filled with energy, and I heard the sound and rhythm that felt “right.” I’m excited to start on the story, but I’m still left with a bit of sadness, because I had been looking forward to writing poetry again, and was hoping this would be the idea that started that idling engine back up.

It may be that poetry was simply my gateway drug into exploring other forms of writing, and that I won’t ever go back to it. It may be that I need to continue writing fiction for a while before poetry returns to me. I don’t know. I just keep remembering the John Steinbeck quote, “Don’t think of literary form. Let it get out as it wants to. The form will develop in the telling. Don’t make the telling follow the form.” So, that’s what I’m doing—just trying to get my visions out there in whatever form they want to be expressed in.

“And how,” you are no doubt dying to ask, “is the novel coming along, Ms. Typist? After all, it is National Novel Writing Month!” It’s fine, thank you. I hate all of my characters and my plot is falling apart and it’s fist-gnawingly dull and not nearly as funny as I’d hoped, and it’s all just a big mushy mess and I suck, I just suck and my novel sucks and I never should have even given birth to the monstrosity, but it’s fine. It’s just…fine. In fact, it’s so fine that I haven’t had to do any work on it all in days and days and days. And I’m going to keep not working on it just a little longer, because that’s how confident I am.

--Kristen McHenry

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