Two Sides of The Slush Pile

While I was revising my second book, The Supper Club (update on that soon), I spent a lot of time last year reading and writing short stories and poetry. I wasn’t quite ready to delve into the next novel, and I wanted to sharpen some skills and exercise writerly muscles I hadn’t used in a while, so I wrote poems and short stories, flash fiction and prose poems.

In the second half of 2013, I began to submit work to literary magazines, something I haven’t really done since graduate school. My recent experience with literary journals was from the opposite side of the slush pile–with Conclave: A Journal of Character, the literary magazine I founded back in 2008.

You can read the Foreword from the first issue of Conclave on my tumblr account. But I wanted to quote one part of it here:

“When we decided to create Conclave: A Journal of Character, we knew that our focus would be on character-driven writing and photography, so we sought out a name for our literary magazine that would reflect the assembly of all those characters, as well as the artists and writers who dream them up. We chose conclave because it means a gathering, a private chamber, a room that may be locked. It has the Latin roots of com(meaning “with” or “together”) and clavis (meaning “key”).”

With a really wonderful volunteer staff of more than 20 people, we put out two issue before I came to the decision to sell the magazine. I was spending more time editing than writing, and I wanted to be writing. While I loved having a place to publish these great character-driven works, I didn’t really have the time to keep it going. Fortunately I sold the magazine to a brilliant writer who had been published in our first issue, Savannah Thorne.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Conclave recently because Electric Velocipede published its final issue this month. Founding editor John Klima published 27 issues of the award-winning journal for more than 12 years before he decided that it was time to cease publication. You can read John’s final editorial note here.

   

Magazines like Electric Velocipede and Sybil’s Garage inspired me to start Conclave in the first place. I understand the kind of sacrifice and dedication Matthew Kressel and John put into their issue, the same kind of energy that Savannah devotes to Conclave today. When it boils down to it, most of these journal and magazines, online and in print are labors of literary love.

Savannah has done an amazing job with Conclave, better than I could have done. With the help of many of the editors from our first issue (Tom Gill, Michael von Glahn, Rebecca Kyle, and others), she has built upon the idea of a literary magazine with a character focus, and Conclave continues to feature new and seasoned writers and terrific photographers. Their work is full of provocative, powerful, unforgettable characters. I’m so proud to be a part of its history, and I’m really excited to see where she takes Conclave into the future.

You can buy the current issue in electronic and print format on Amazon, and I encourage my writer-friends to check out their guidelines.

After submitting, I’ve finally started to receive notices of acceptance. This year, I’ll have work forthcoming in Abyss & Apex, Fickle Muses, Mythic Delirium, Scheherezade’s Bequest, and hopefully more to be announced soon!

This month, I have one poem, “Daughters of Melisseus” in Abyss & Apex, and two poems, “For collectors not children” and “Singing the Dirge” in Fickle Muses.

I’m excited to publish shorter writing as I get to work on book #3, and it’s nice to be able to point people to my work online. Plus poetry is a passion of mine–the evocative imagery, the music of the words, the rhythm of the lines. Reading poetry is such a joy; and writing it…is like being engulfed in a sensuous maelstrom of language.

Talismans

Writers have creative and quirky rituals when it comes to working on our books. I find the routines fascinating. One writer I know creates complex collages on poster-board with mounted photographs of her characters and settings; another assembles diagrams of his plots posted onto the walls of his office.

Hemingway would get up with the sun and write until he had “said what he had to say,” and then he was done.

Wordsworth read everything he wrote aloud to his dog.

Nabokov wrote Lolita on index cards while standing up.

Before editing, Joan Didion would have a drink to remove herself from the pages.

E.B. White would write in the living room, in the middle of everything going on around him. He once wrote, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

I have a related interest in the places where other writers write. It’s one of the reasons I love Kyle Cassidy’s project Where I Write: Science Fiction & Fantasy Authors in their Creative Spaces.

Like E.B. White, for me that place is often in the middle of everything, although I do cherish the silence in the house when everyone has gone to sleep.

I have found that wherever I’m working, I like to anchor my book with a few objects that capture the spirit of my work-in-progress. For The Silence of Trees, my most important talisman was a small black rock I had picked up on the shore of Lake Michigan and carried with me everywhere while I was writing.

I started thinking about this because it’s time to clear off the space atop my desk where I assemble these objects, in preparation for a new book. Here’s a peek from my collection for The Supper Club:

SupperClubDesk1

Hope and Harmony

In January, I finally finished revisions on my second book, The Supper Club. It took longer than I would have liked, but last year was full of juggling: the Fuller Award for the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, work on the comic book, the death of an old friend, and the decline and death of two of my grandparents. Mixed in were creative moments and misadventures with the kids, coffee and wine with friends, and time spent writing.

I vowed that I would finish the rewrite of The Supper Club by the end of 2012, and I did at 4am on January 1st,. I gave the draft to my readers for a quick read through, then I revised accordingly.

forelornhope
Forlorn Hope 2011 Ost-Intrigen (more information at: http://forlornhopewines.com/)

The night I finished The Supper Club, I opened this bottle of wine given to me by a friend and signed by the winemaker, Matthew Rorick. It seemed a fitting way to toast the trials and triumphs of the past year.

Trillian Stars with the kids. Photo by Kyle Cassidy.
Trillian Stars with the kids at Casa del Lobos. © 2013 Photo by Kyle Cassidy.

The new year continued with visits from some of my favorite people: Maura Henn, Kyle Cassidy and Trillian Stars, as well as a party in their honor  that included a house concert by Bittersweet Drive.

Bittersweet Drive plays at Chez Lindsay's. © 2013 Photo by 8 Eyes Photography
Bittersweet Drive plays at Chez Lindsay’s.
© 2013 Photo by 8 Eyes Photography

You can read Maura’s account of the wonderful weekend on her blog. A few of us also participated in the Chicago chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America’s all-day reading of Pride and Prejudice on the 20oth Anniversary of the novel’s publication (orchestrated by the amazing Debra Ann Miller). It was fun to read Mrs. Bennet for an hour and be a part of the event which included readers from the Jane Austen Society, Terra Mysterium, local writers Jody Lynn Nye, Lawrence Santoro, Victoria Noe, and others.

"Pride and Prejudice" Readers for Chapters 18-23: (left to right): Valya Dudycz Lupescu, Victoria Noe, Maura Henn, and Madeline C. Matz.
“Pride and Prejudice” Readers for Chapters 18-23: (left to right): Valya Dudycz Lupescu, Victoria Noe, Maura Henn, and Madeline C. Matz. © 2013 Photo by 8 Eyes Photography

So it’s 2013, and I am back to writing in earnest. As I try to carve out a routine that works, I keep thinking about the idea of “finding balance” in life. As I try to squeeze everything into my day (and night), it’s a recurring theme.

When most people today talk about balance, they use the metaphor of scales: life on one side of the scale and work on the other. The challenge lies in making the two sides balance.

Perhaps it’s the wrong metaphor for balance. It’s not the right one for me. I prefer the image of a mobile, like those of Alexander Calder, with many different parts of my life suspended and in motion, swinging around as I shift my position and my focus. That sounds a lot more like my day-to-day: elements swirling around, moving in and out of the foreground.

One person’s chaos is another’s harmony.

"Streetcar" by Alexander Calder
“Streetcar” by Alexander Calder at the Art Institute of Chicago