Karen Stefano

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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Tipsy-turvy and beautiful colors

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My cat is quite upset. Yesterday, I fulfilled my Facebook obligation to do whatever was asked of me by the esteemed Tuttle’s as long as they picked me up and took me to their house in order to do it. Yeah, I roll that way–if I say I’ll do it on FB, it will be done. A journalist from Buffalo Spree wants to interview them about living off the grid, so they wanted to spiff up their yard. I got to dig. I was gone all day and the cat couldn’t go in and out as she pleased, plus she knows I petted other cats–and two dogs–while I was away.

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It’s autumn and the weather has been good and the colors great. I’ve been catching this a lot–the dew point is just right so when the sun hits grass blades and tree leaves, a foggy, magical cloud appears. I find it a bit distressing–the sun accomplishing something tangible so easily and so early in the morning.

Life has been going quite well recently (knock up on wood) in the professional arena. After my interview with Karen Stefano went live, I was added to the Literary Orphan’s Masthead as an interviewer. I’ve been appointed Assistant Editor at r.kv.r.y. Quarterly and on Sunday, my Twitter feed went nuts with news that my story, “Prudence” was a Flash Fiction Sunday Edition pick. I was flattered by DeRicki Johnson ’s kind words.

I spoke at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday and plan to do so again at the next one. I really don’t want to run, but the more ignorance and tone deafness I hear from those so-called ‘leaders,’ the angrier I become and want to step in and give people a choice from the status quo. I hope these feelings pass soon. This energy would be much better spent on my writing.

That, too has been going well. I wrote past the problem I was having in the new book and got 20 pages out to the group. I came across a notebook where I listed stories that I’d roughed out. I opened up one and worked on it last night–it still needs some work, but it’s stronger and funnier than I remembered. So, that is what I’m off to work on though it’s a nice day so I might take a walk out back. Last time, I found this little guy on the creekside trail.

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Thanks for stopping by!

 

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

Fall and Other Elitist First World Writer Problems

r.kv.r.y. is open for submissions and I have my Saturday shift at the library back. The weather has been perfect for sitting out on the patio so I can listen to the creek while I have coffee with my breakfast and read the paper. The leaves are just beginning to change color. I love the fall.

September Breakfast View

I was lucky enough to interview Karen Stefano about her short story collection, The Secret Games of Words, a book I recommend highly. It will be up at The Tavern Lantern on the 28th.

Otherwise, I’m dealing up with a bunch of ups and downs. My cat had at least ten seizures one night. It was terrifying and there was nothing I could do but try to keep her safe. I really thought I was going to lose her.

So that angst went up against the joy brought to me by my incredible son and fantastic daughter-in-law. They had a healthy baby girl. Her name is a combination of middle names–mine and Connie’s. Isn’t that sweet? So is the baby.

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The garden is winding down and I’ve brought most of the houseplants back inside. I received a rejection–an inky, flattering rejection from The Minnesota Review that asked me to send them something else. Sure, it’s great, but frustrating. It’s the second story they’ve liked–but not enough… I love my problems. I really do.

Otherwise, I’m debating on the next book. I started sending “Dreaming Lettie” to the group, but got caught up on an information dump I have yet to work out. The beginning of “Life & Crimes” served as a placeholder for which pages I sent, but now I’m in a real bind.

I started a sequel to “L&C” a few years ago, but it went dark, fast and I didn’t want to write it then. Now, a lot of ideas are popping up to carry it through. The problem is that I don’t want to spend time on it if “L&C” gets no love. I don’t know. I have a few weeks before pages are due again. It’s a nice day. I may spend it out in the screened in tent on the swing far from the maddening strum of the phone that lets me know when email has arrived.

 

 

 

*These are my angst-ridden creekside reflections. Your experiences should vary.

Swift-Tuttle, Tuttle’s and a frog

Last night, I stretched out on the ground and watched the sky for half an hour or so and saw at least ten falling stars–one with a trail that remained for a second or two, and I was grateful. It was supposed to be the peak of the Swift-Tuttle meteoroids and uncharacteristically, we had a new moon and there were no clouds so I could actually see them. I thought about people who are no longer on the earth and some that still are, the beauty of the stars themselves, and distant planets.

It was nice to think of things that didn’t involve characters.

I’ve been engaged in the rewrite of L&C. Once inside Gail’s “head” I’ve found it hard to get out. I need to get through this revision and on to Lettie’s POV in the new book. I only managed five pages in the new book over the last month, so I sent the first 20 of the revision to the novel critique group this month.

“Prudence,” a story I wrote is long-listed on MASH stories and you can vote on it–and the other 46 stories there.

Literary Orphans got a fantastic shout out as being listed as one of the top 20 places for flash fiction (We’re No. 8! We’re No. 8!) Plus another one in Ploughshares. Scott gave me the go ahead to contact Karen Stefano about doing an interview, so I’m ecstatic about that. Over at r.kv.r.y. I spotted Andrew Stancek’s story long-listed on the Raymond Carver Story Contest and Joan Hanna’s poetry book The Miracle of Mercury is available for pre-order from Finishing Line Press. Go Joan! I love and appreciate working with such talented people.

Over the weekend, Husband and I attended a graduation party. He played croquet; I played volleyball. We had a great time at the Tuttle’s. It was great to see Jim and Julie, Mitzi and Paul, and Eric and Denise again. When we first got there, Jim introduced me as an award-winning author. I looked at him and he said, “Try and deny it.” It’s kind of cool that I couldn’t. The Gover Prize win was too fresh.

Husband and I are back on a District School Facilities Review Committee. The first meeting was last night. Oh, how I have not missed a few of those people, but it was great to see Joan and Linda again. There was a cute exchange with the Interim Superintendent where we were impressed with the other–she that I could write and me that she taught math.

This is a close-up of one of the frogs in my frog pond. He’s very loud.

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I guess that’s it, like I said, I’ve been in Gail’s head. I’m over the halfway mark, so wish me luck in getting it done this weekend.

Thanks for checking in!

(These are my Creekside Reflections. Your experiences may vary.)