Beth Gilstrap

Here I go, name-dropping all over the place…

I’m back from AWP in D. C. and had the best time while I was there!

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For a long time, my novel critique group has been saying, “We should go to a conference together.” Well, things fell into place and after I spent the night at Gina’s house on Tuesday, Mary showed up and we drove to D. C. We got there Wednesday afternoon, checked into the hotel, registered with the conference then we had dinner with the brilliant writer, Pamela Erens.

Up early on Thursday, I went to a 9am panel called, “Demystifying the Business Side of Writing and Publishing.” Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum led it and I learned great things from him, Whitney Davis, Carmen Gimenez Smith, Paula Munier, and Joshua Shenk.

From there, I went to “Time, Space, and Community,” led by Jac Jemec. The ins, outs, and quirks of residencies were discussed by Rebecca Makkai, Rachel Cantor, Erinn Beth Langille (I ❤ her!) and Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan. You know what’s fun? To know one’s underpants are part of this equation.

From the bowels of the Marriott Marquis, I went to the Book Fair and hit my prime targets. I tried to meet Paul Vega and failed. I did meet Kurt Baumeister—author of Pax Americana—and James Reich from Stalking Horse Press. (Talk about a thick business card!) I also tried to see Robert Vaughan at the Word Tango table and P. E. Garcia at The Rumpus, but all I got was an awesome tee shirt and mug that each say “Write Like A M-F.” (Sure, by M-F, I did mean mushroom finder. We can work with that, but I took a picture.)

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Mimi Schwartz, Phillip Lopate, Richard Hoffman, and Laurie Stone did a fantastic job of letting me know when real names were important or not during their panel called, “I Didn’t Ask to Be In Your Story: When Real Names Matter and When They Don’t.”

The next panel was awkward for the match up. I mean, ROXANE GAY was there—my hero! During “Beyond the Deadline: Surviving (And Thriving) In Magazine Publishing, it felt like  Katelyn Belyus was doing a great job but her panelists weren’t the target people to ask the questions she was asking. It was fantastic to listen to Chip Blake, Sy Safransky and Ms. Gay and watch them keep their cool.

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“Women’s Fiction: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It,” explained the reason why some agents requested comp titles. Thank you Dorian Karchmar!

Meeting up with Mary at the VCCA group meant I got to meet interesting people like Randon Noble. The conversation turned to food, which led to my first time eating Korean food. After that, I also had my first Uber ride with a guy who played a Mr. Rogers YouTube video and I fell a little bit in love with the whole idea of Washington, D. C. as a “city.”

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Friday meant Gina and I had breakfast together at the Washington Plaza near the pool. We attended the “Second Blooming: Women Authors Debuting After Fifty.” It was interesting, but I couldn’t help thinking that the people present kept saying they entered multiple contests, which required many dollars to enter so tier success seemed money driven and that bothered me. Does it mean only old people can be published IF they throw down thousands of dollars to win a prize? I didn’t raise my hand to ask Ellen Meeropol, Paulette Boudreaux, Jeanne Gassman or Cynthia Bond because I left there a bit early to call Husband.

From there, I went to “Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Organizing and Structuring Story Collections, but I couldn’t find the archives room on the map, and you know me with maps—I ended up in Salon F for “The Shape of Fiction: A Look at Structuring Novel Length Prose.” I sat down and Cliff sat on the end. A woman came in to claim the seat between us, but Cliff said, “Why don’t you sit in my seat and I’ll sit by my friend.” (Yeah, that’s right, Cliff Garstang referred to me as his friend!) Anyways, Christian Kiefer was the moderator and he was funny. It was an interesting panel with Jeff Jackson, Esme Weijun Wang, Janet Finch and Kristin Chen.

 

I then attended “From Flash Fiction to Microfiction: How Many words are Enough?” What an excellent panel! Pamela Painter, Sherrie Flick, James Thomas, Nancy Stohlman, and Grant Faulkner talked about prompts and results. Walking over to introduce myself to Grant, I ran into Len Kuntz! He was there with Robert Vaughan! They invited me to their table at the Renaissance for later that night.

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After that, I hit the Book Fair again. I saw Gina who was going with Mary to see Emma Straub & Ann Patchett speak in the Ballroom. I thought about going but decided I needed some alone time. At the hotel, I texted Jimmy and arranged a night out with him. He picked me up and we drove to Arlington to pick up his lovely fiancée, Lindsay. From there, we went to the El Paso Café for margaritas and quesadillas. The drive back into Washington was beautiful—multiple monuments were lit up. At the Marriott Marquis, we attempted to find Mary, but couldn’t find her. We popped into the Sewanee Writer’s Conference Reception. I did find Cliff, but it was so loud, we left.

At the Renaissance, we found a table populated with the brilliant Robert Vaughan, Len Kuntz, April Bradley, Karen Stefano, David S. Atkinson, and Robert P. Kaye It was such a great time. Jimmy and Lindsay left after one drink because they had to drive home.

Mary texted, then came to the bar. As that collection was breaking up, Cliff and my new best friend Jody Hobbs Hesler came round and we went to the next bar and before I could believe it myself, it was last call. I toddled back the many blocks to my hotel and in my effort to be Best Roommate Ever, I took off my jacket, blazer, and shoes before I went into my room so not to disturb Gina. Well, I left my blazer hanging on the next door’s knob. I woke to see Gina gone, my blazer missing and vague memories from the night before—a few captured on my phone.

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(This last one was from Mary’s phone. Thank you Mary!)

Anyway, after quizzing Mary, I went downstairs, asked at the desk and got my blazer back. I went to the Book Fair, bought Robert’s Vaughan’s Funhouse and he signed it. At the Word Tango table, I got to chat again with the lovely Jennifer Kircher Carr and meet Elizabeth Pettie. I ran into David S. Atkinson and he handed me his book, Apocalypse All the Time, for possible review. I picked up the free book I’d won in a drawing by Writing By Writers. I was supposed to wait until 4 p.m. but as I was leaving, I was able to choose The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch.

I saw Pamela on the way out to meet Gina and Mary. While waiting, I saw the guy from the first panel and had a chance to talk to him and exchange business cards. Such a circle, huh?

It was lovely fun. I’ve left out meeting Gay Degani in the hall just before a panel and getting a hug…not having to feel bad about missing Kim Chinquee’s off-site reading…receiving Mia Avramut’s lovely message…randomly bumping into Claudia Cortese on the sidewalk…finding P. E. Garcia’s voice fine, not strange…getting to meet Paul Vega later on…Beth Gilstrap recognizing me…and a thousand other details that were fabulous though not as fabulous as you for having read all the way through!

THANK YOU!

It’s great to be back though I did have to have my picture retaken at the Board of Education meeting on Monday night and the weather returned to winter and it looks like this outside:

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Ah, home…

*These are my creekside reflections. Your experiences should vary.

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Good. Golden. Overwhelming.

Since last you read, amazing things have happened in my life:

Awesome Niece Rachael announced she is going to visit us in August.

Nancy Leone stopped by and we had a lovely morning together discussing writing.

I had a strange-but endearing-meeting with a person who will henceforth be referred to as “Trouble” about Matt’s presidential campaign.

The play by Donna Hoke I directed was performed by three amazing women (Shirley Reeves, Marilyn Heary and Jeanne May.)

My interview with Beth Gilstrap about her short story collection, ” I Am Barbarella” was accepted and went live on The Tavern with the support and care to detail that only Scott Waldyn and Mike Joyce can provide.

Kim Chinquee–the Queen of Flash–gave me, Gina, and Mary a tour of her awesome home before our novel critique group meeting.

The zinnias are blooming.   Displaying IMG_20150723_103133.jpg I WON THE GOVER PRIZE!

I know, nothing like burying the lead, is there? Anyways, I’m working on yet another revision of my book on the off chance the prize encourages an agent to contact me. Take care of each other until next time!

(These are my creek side reflections; your experiences may vary.)

I was Vanderwalkered in a Schoolhouse

I’m still catching up on the laundry from the family reunion in Essex over the fourth. I think it was Angela who summed it up best for all of us who aren’t blood related:

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“Champy,” the monster of Lake Champlain, was spotted and photographed.

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I tried to visit the library in Essex–which is right beside a creek, like mine is–but it had funky hours.

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We also toured Edward Cornell’s Art Farm.

Last night, as I was speeding down old 219 toward home after the “Donut Hole” rehearsal and a B.o.b. campaign meeting, three banging songs came on the radio–all in a row. “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem and Rihanna, “Come With Me Now” by the Kongos, and “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode. Different channels, but still. Anyways, careening around those curves at dusk, volume up, I was in control–but going too fast. It flashed that this is the way my life is going right now and I couldn’t be more delighted.

I’m juggling a lot of things and if I blink, I’ll have added a new chainsaw to the rotation. If you ask if it’s too much, I’ll tell you I’m fine. I am. I know this will peter out or a crash will happen, but until then, I’m “alive” in a way I haven’t been in a while.

I have the 10 minute play by Donna Hoke I’m directing which is going well, but that’s over on Saturday. The campaign didn’t raise enough funds so the Iowa trip has been delayed. I’m preparing the second round of questions for Beth Gilstrap‘s interview for The Tavern about her book, I Am Barbarella. I participated in a writing “joust” and had a ton of fun with that. I’m cranking out new flash pieces since being invited into the “Hot Pants” office in Zoetrope, plus writing a new book in 20 page increments. The garden is weeded and if the rain stops, I’ll get the weedeater going.

Right, so I should be getting on with it. Maintaining swiftness and busyness is a temporary thing, but while it’s going on, I am enamored with that sense of power over my own life. Yes, I know that’s delusional, but it is a nice delusion to have.

 

(These are my creekside reflections. Your experiences may vary.)

Stops, starts, strange changes, and such…

With the addition of Kim Chinquee to our novel critique group, both Gina and I decided to submit new work instead of continuing with the books we had been working on. The next time pages are due, I’ll be busy with travel and appointments so I’ve been working on my pages. I have a good start on this new book and I know where it ends, but to get there is going to be interesting. Coming out of the flash workshop adds to my delight since I can take my time and explain things instead of compressing every nuance. Thank God!

 
The library’s summer hours began, so I’m out of there until September and yesterday was my last day mentoring. It worked out beautifully as I was able to attend the concert where Isabella and her friend Amy played. I am going to miss them—and being mistaken for a substitute teacher. Yes, the double loss of free Wi-Fi spots is going to suck, but I’m playing with the idea that the loss will make me concentrate on the new book and revising the last one. Hey, it’s possible.

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The water lily in my frog pond bloomed. Thank you, Christy! I see frogs on there all the time, so I’m thanking you on their behalf, too.

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Otherwise, the garden is doing well. Peas are growing and soon I’ll need to thin out the squash plants.

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Husband reworked the sides of the driveway bridge this weekend and we have a plan on how it will look when we’re done.

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Eck! I don’t want to get into the ineptitude—let me correct that by saying the continued ineptitude—of certain Erie County departments and car dealerships, so I won’t. I’ll try to resolve those issues before I vetch about them here, but really, I am angry that people are more interested in making excuses than solving problems. I mean, if it’s your job to fix things—fix them. How hard is that to understand?

 
Whatever.

 

By the by, I hope everyone will join me in a toast to XO Man and his new bride. Cheers to them. I was thrilled we were invited to the ceremony, sad we couldn’t make it, but so happy for them both. Mazel Tov!

 

I’m having a fun time reading an advanced copy of “I Am Barbarella” by Beth Gilstrap. I have the privilege of interviewing her soon for The Tavern. I swear I love my job.

 

That is not the only thing I’m reading of course, but that one I’ll be posting about in the future—and I was on her site today—she gave me ideas on how to spruce up mine.

 

So, I guess that’s it for this post. Some things have wound down, others are ramping up—life. I guess that’s how it goes.

Thanks for stopping by to read my Creekside reflections. I trust your experiences will vary.