Category Archives: Fiction

Peter Stamm on Guernica

I’m quite drunk at this point. I’m thinking he could do anything to me, and then straightaway I’m ashamed of the thought. He’s so young I could be his mother. I’d like to run my hand through his hair, press myself against him, and protect him in some way.

Peter Stamm has been getting a lot of acclaim lately. A couple of weeks ago, he was in The New Yorker.

And this week, he’s in Guernica. Read “Expectations,” and you’ll see why Stamm is so lauded: the stories tend to be deeply ordinary, about ordinary things, but they’re closely observed. It’s not the plot, but the form.

I wanted “Expectations” because the woman narrating it tells you so much about herself, her loneliness, without ever directly addressing it.

I’m thinking it might be one of the best stories we’ve ever run.

I’ll be Giving a Reading on the 17th

The people at InDigest have curated a reading on Nabokov. I’ll be reading an essay about visiting Nabokov’s childhood home in St. Petersburg (where I went on a scholarship to a writers’ conference).

 

From Indigest:

April 22nd is Vladimir Nabokov’s 112th birthday and, to celebrate, the InDigest 1207 Reading Series is throwing a party. Why? Because Nabokov is awesome, that’s why.

The celebration will feature readings from Nabokov’s work and original pieces inspired by him. Readers include Nicole Callihan, Sasha Fletcher, Meakin Armstrong & Dave Haan.

The party starts at 7 PM on Sunday, April 17th at The Gallery at LPR. Come down to eat some cake, have a drink, and help us commemorate the birth of everyone’s favorite multilingual Russian novelist/short-story writer/literary critic/lepidopterist/chess genius/synesthete.

Faulty Plug-ins and Fiction Editing

A faulty plug-in crashed my site and left it a total wreck. It was awful, but all is fine now.

In the intervening period, I’ve been editing a short story collection from a Canadian writer that’s set in the area just north of Detroit.

I’m also preparing for a new job: writing a piece about a Renaissance family that’s far more interesting “family” than New York’s Colombo Crime Family; compared with them, the Five Families look like the Brady Bunch.

I Have a New Short-Short Fiction Piece on Wigleaf

I have a short fiction piece in the latest issue of Wigleaf.

Wigleaf is one of the top journals of super-short fiction (fiction of the very sort that Guernica, by the way, does not usually run). I love Wigleaf—the stuff in there is consistently good.

And I was very well edited, too. They made the story better than it had been.

Lullaby
We lived above an auto repair shop in that part of town where they kept the warehouses and strip joints. Every morning, we awoke to hammering and clanging. When they were painting a car, a fine mist wafted through the bathroom vent and turned our tub, toilet, and sink murky blue.

Wordnik Likes My “Halter-Top”

I wrote a story called “Power Ballad” a while back. I wrote it as a joke, really: it’s about a guy trying to pick up a  heavily tattooed woman.  .  . in a haltertop. I’d spelled it, “haltertop,” but my editor changed it to “halter-top.”

That’s fine.

More than fine. . . Because Wordnik. the online dicitonary, chose my word usage for its entry, “halter-top.”

By the way, the story is meant to be a bit funny–it’s by no means a serious work.

I’m in the dictionary now!

Reading in Union Sq Today

Park-Lit has a simple concept: writers read from their work,  outside, in a public park. Today at 6:30 on the 21st, Guernica (in association with Park-Lit and Open City magazine) will be having a reading in Union Square Park. (On the south side, right in the thick of things, near the Washington statue). I’m not reading but acting as the MC for the event. The readers will be:

The readers:
Joshua Kors (nonfiction)
Terese Svoboda (poetry)
Alexander Chee (fiction)

More about the readers and who they are (they’re fabulous, by the way) at the Park-Lit site.

Writing: Should You Outline First?

I just ran across this piece by Nancy Rawlinson (who is a contributing editor at Guernica ) on the outlining debate. She says that yes, you should. You should outline your fiction. I have to admit that I sometimes do, and sometimes don’t. If the piece is short, within the realm of flash fiction, then I don’t. If it’s long, then yes. Absolutely. But the outline itself is also a form of fiction, because I don’t follow it all that closely.

But I outline after I’ve done a bit of writing. I struggle to find my opening, then outline it if I think I’ve got a solid opening.

When I feel like there’s a firm foundation to build something upon, then I make sure that I’m going to build it right by outlining. But only then, because if I do it too early, the enormity of what I’m about to undergo disheartens me.

Right now I’m writing the beginnings of a novel or novella  (I’m not sure which). I’m writing 50 pages, first. If the first 50 look like they’re good, then I’ll decide what it is. Or even if it’s crap.

The hardest part of writing (for me) is remembering why I’m writing the piece in the first place, and even worse—staying in love with it. It’s so easy to decide that a piece of fiction in its early stages is terrible, boring, and unfixable. (A journalist I used to know once said fiction writers were weak, because they complained all of the time. She even wrote an article about it, mocking them. But this journalist was wrong: fiction writers aren’t weak complainers. Not at all—we’re inventing a whole world, which is a difficult thing. And the slightest bit of grounding for us—like an outline—is a godsend.)

Procrastination is:

Procrastination hits us in so many ways. Writers probably get hit with it worse than others. Or maybe we just worry about it more.

I’ve many deadlines today, so after watching this video, I’ll have to move on .  .  .

By the way, I don’t like inspirational writing books at all. Except for The War of Art.

I read it out of a sense of obligation. And ended up inspired. It’s the ultimate anti-procrastination book.

Buy it. And don’t put it off.

Advice: 10 Tips for Writers

Janet Fitch author of the novels White Oleander and Paint it Black has some advice for writers, whether they write fiction or nonfiction (although the advice is directed at fiction writers).  Many of these tips were already given to me by Jim Shepard (back when I studied with him), but they’re worth repeating here. I’ll give tip number one below. The rest is at The Los Angeles Times site.

1. Write the sentence, not just the story
Long ago I got a rejection from the editor of the Santa Monica Review, Jim Krusoe. It said: “Good enough story, but what’s unique about your sentences?” That was the best advice I ever got. . .

As far as copywriting goes, I thought this article in Website Magazine was equally good. And like Fitch’s advice, it’s all-purpose.

Reading: Hosting Park-Lit in Union Sq

Park-Lit has a simple concept: writers read from their work,  outside, in a public park. At 6:30 on the 21st, Guernica (in association with Park-Lit) will be having a reading in Union Square Park. (On the south side, right in the thick of things, near the Washington statue).

The readers:
Joshua Kors (nonfiction)
Terese Svoboda (poetry)
Alexander Chee (fiction)

More about the readers and who they are (they’re fabulous, by the way) at the Park-Lit site.

My Posted Clips

I have about a third of my clips up on this site: they’re broken into three categories: my recent Fiction, Editorial Clips and work I’ve done as a Copywriter. The Editorial Clips and Copywriter pages include a rundown of what I can do for my clients as a freelance writer, SEO copywriter, or ghostwriter.

Eventually, there will be slides and all sorts of stuff. Eventually. Right now, nothing’s too fancy around here. It’s like I’ve just moved into a large, messy house and the construction workers haven’t quite finished with the plumbing and painting.

Except I’m the guy doing the plumbing and the painting; I’m doing this thing myself.

It’s a fun thing to do: I’m learning WordPress more concretely (Guernica is on Movable Type, so I’d previously known that CMS better than this one)

Still Working on This Site

It’s a slow process, but I’m putting PDFs of my clips onto this site.

Click on “Editorial Clips” for my freelance writing/journalism and “Copywriter” for my ad-driven writing. Eventually, I’ll also have my all of my fiction up, and information on readings and events.

Right now, clips are also available here: http://www.mediabistro.com/MeakinArmstrong