That’s What “They” Said…

You can now use “they,” instead of “she” and “he,” the AP says.

They, them, their In most cases, a plural pronoun should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them.They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and-or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers. We do not use other gender-neutral pronouns such as xe or ze.

Interviewing Etgar Keret

imagesHe’s Israel’s top writer, a man whose work I adore—and I got to spend two hours with him for Guernica

In America, where writers are preoccupied with the craft of writing, I always try to introduce this concept of the badly written good story. Turning the hierarchy around and putting passion on top and not craft, because when you just focus on craft, you can write something that is very sterile. It looks beautiful, but soulless.


Essay on Emanuel A.M.E. Church and the Charleston Shooting

2928014507_1c7c581bbe_zI lived in Charleston, SC from when I was around 11 to 20 years old. I went to a private, all-white elementary school right next door to “Mother Emanuel,” Emanuel A.M.E. church. I wrote an essay about the #CharlestonShooting — and about a stupid childhood prank I played on that church.

And how kind they were to me.

The essay contains some paragraphs like this, too:

Both sides in this race war (and it is a war, the longest in American history) have been fighting for generations. White people are in denial of it, perhaps because it’s too hard for us to see it. And when we we’re told about, we wish it would just go away. We find it a boring topic because our privilege allows us to be bored by it. It’s our privilege to be bored. And yes, it bores me. It’s boring because people like me swim in privilege, like a fish swims in water. Often, I only see the hard work that got me where I am, not the extra boost I got along the way because I am white.



The People’s Pervert: John Waters

Waters-John-c-Greg-Gorman-CARSICK_TOPI interviewed John Waters for Guernica.

Now at sixty-nine (“an embarrassing age,” he said at a recent appearance in New York City, “I don’t even like the sex position”), John Waters seems to have a career on the upswing: he’s in development for a TV series, and he has a bestselling memoir, Carsick, the story of how he hitchhiked across America in 2012. His traveling stand-up show, This Filthy World, packs the houses on a regular basis.


A New Flash Fiction Piece Up at Joe + Gigs

I wrote a flash fiction piece for the online journal, Joe + Gigs.

Joe + Gigs is an ekphrastic site: all stories are in some way about paintings. For no reason at all (other than I’d given myself about an hour or so to write the piece), “This Country” was inspired by that famous dogs playing poker painting series . . .


PEN World Voices and an Evening with Guernica: Bravery and Gender in “Confessional Writing”


Guernica is a regular participant in PEN World Voices. This year, we’re conducting a panel on “brave” writing.
Wednesday, May 01, 2013, 7:00pm
Panelists are:

Tickets: $20/$15 PEN/Museum Members and students with a valid ID   | Buy tickets »


Guernica at AWP









Going to AWP, the massive conference for writers? I’ll be there with Guernica at Table P12, Plaza Level Exhibition Hall B.

How AWP describes itself:

Each year, AWP holds its Annual Conference & Bookfair in a different city to celebrate the authors, teachers, writing programs, literary centers, and independent publishers of that region. The conference typically features 550 readings, lectures, panel discussions, and forums, as well as hundreds of book signings, receptions, dances, and informal gatherings. More than 10,000 writers and readers attended our 2012 conference, and 600 exhibitors were represented at our bookfair. AWP’s is now the largest literary conference in North America. We hope you’ll join us in 2013.

More on AWP here . . .

Look for the Guernica banner, hopefully towering over all. It’s our logo:


Most of This is True


I wrote this brief memoir piece called “Most of This is True” about my life in Charleston, South Carolina  during the 1980s: nightly parties, filth and despair, people having orgies on my living room floor, a roommate who stabbed me in the hand, and this:




“I noticed that Craig was hogtied to the chair and had peed in his pants. The chainsaw that had been painted flat black was at his feet.”


We try to have at least 30% unsolicited fiction in Guernica, meaning we get a lot of our fiction stuff from the slush pile.

In fact, we’re about to publish our FOURTH publishing debut this year.

I believe in doing this because my own writing has been published from the slush. And someone once took a chance on me.

And I think many published writers are no better than the unpublished. It’s just that once a writer has been published (and lauded by someone) their fiction is given a great benefit of the doubt. I wrote about all of that that before, here and here.

But the trouble with slush from an editor’s point of view: we don’t know you.

If you have typos in your cover letter or if you don’t follow the submissions guidelines, we don’t trust you. We think you’re not a careful writer—that means you’re not a committed one; you’re an amateur. That means we will bail on you.

More on that at Gabrielle Edits. That means:

1.) Read the guidelines.

2.) Re-read the guidelines.

3.) Follow the guidelines.

4.) Read the magazine to see if you’d fit in. If you don’t—don’t submit your story. Editors remember names. We remember the fools and the rude people most of all.

5.) Don’t assume you know the magazine. (Example: Guernica is NOT looking for political fiction: did you know that? You did if you read the guidelines. And you could have also figured that out, if you actually read the magazine.)

6.) Shorter stories are easier to place than long ones. It’s less of a commitment for an editor. Just a tip.

7.) But if you read the Guernica’s guidelines, you know that we’re not looking for flash fiction (not because we have anything against it—in fact, I write it myself). Flash just isn’t our mission. We publish INTERNATIONAL FICTION.

8.) Pay attention to your cover letter. Don’t be rude. Don’t treat me like I’m your servant. If I’m in a bad mood because of your sloppy, condescending note and your story isn’t the best I’ve ever read, I’ll reject. Why? Because in my slush, there are maybe 50 stories as good as yours. It’s likely that you’re a better writer than I am, sure. But it’s also likely other writers are better than you.

9.) Don’t try to go over my head. Jerks often try that. And jerks are more likely to be rejected.

10.) Understand the marketplace as best you can: it’s tough; that’s the short answer.

11.) And again: FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES. FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES. We love unpublished writers. We dislike amateurs.  That means: FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES.

New York: I Still Love You Best

No one who was in New York on 9/11 will ever forget that day. I still well up when I think of the firefighters a few doors down from me and how they lost half of their crew.

Even now, images from that day come back unannounced. All I can do is allow it all to wash over me.

I wrote about some of what I saw and felt 11 years ago in a blog post for Guernica during the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy, two years ago.

The piece was a bit controversial. I was vilified on Twitter. But there you go: the price of doing business.


Fiction | Nonfiction