Category Archives: Writing

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 . . .

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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.”

Pessoa’s Birthday and Soon: Off to Lisbon

Happy Birthday, Fernando Pessoa

Life is an experimental journey undertaken involuntarily. ‎It is a journey of the spirit through the material world and, since it is the spirit that travels, it is in the spirit that it is experienced. That is why there exist contemplative souls who have lived more intensely, more widely, more tumultuously than others who have lived their lives purely externally. The end result us what matters. What one felt was what one experienced. . . One never lives so intensely as when one has been thinking hard.” – The Book of Disquiet

Pessoa is a favorite writer and his birthday is in line with what’s going on with me: I’m heading off to Lisbon shortly to speak at the Dzanc Books/CNC DISQUIET International Literary Program, July 1-13 as a Guest Editor.

Meantime, working on some more of those infographics I’d posted about earlier . . .

Blogging About Sustainability

I’ve been hired to blog about sustainability issues for The Atlantic. It’s a lot of work, of course. And complicated. I’m posting twice a week until the end of the year. I’m also “vlogging” (god, I hate that word) twice a week.

I’ve learned that my footprint is already low—I ride a bike everywhere and otherwise use public transport. But I’ve been finding out there are so many small ways that we can change things—and how difficult and complex the issues are. Like the Jevons Paradox: saving energy might make us use more of it.

AWP Assessment: I slept in the Best Whorehouse in Minsk

I’ve just gotten back from AWP, held this year in Washington, D.C. AWP is an annual conference, a gathering of writers from every skill level, jumbled together like a rat’s nest in DC’s Marriott and Omni hotels. The beginners and the pros–hundreds of them, clogged the lobbies, on the way to panel discussions and meet-and-greets.

It was tiring, but also valuable: I booked a few writers for upcoming issues of Guernica, and found some magazines that say they’d be interested in my own work. I also had a reunion with many of the my fellow 2007 Bread Loaf waiters.

But now: I’m truly exhausted. Read more about the AWP experience elsewhere, such as on Electric Literature ‘s blog.

My own hotel room was so hilariously awful, that I can’t not comment upon it: high stairs were required to enter the bathroom (it was some 3 feet about the floor for some reason, and jammed against the ceiling.

My room was also raised above the floor (and forced up against the ceiling). Furnishings: brown tones, accented with chrome. The bed was crammed into a tiny alcove.

Overall, the place was like a whorehouse (that is, how I imagine one to be) in Minsk. But is was the best one, I decided, because it was (thankfully) clean, and far away from the madness of AWP.

New Fiction on Guernica: Melissa Ann Chadburn

Guernica‘s fiction intern found this story (she gets the credit, not me, although she says she’d rather remain nameless). I accepted Melissa’s “Loose Morals” for publication, because liked how it was confrontational from the get-go. And how it’s certainly nontraditional.

Sometimes, we (or rather, I) can get caught of in that traditional stuff, wherein there’s an epiphany of some sort at the end of the piece. The epiphanic style is my usual choice for Guernica, but sometimes, you know,  you’ve got to break boundaries (and so on).

Anyway. . . this story will wake you up, right in its first sentence.

Blogging Again for The Atlantic

I’ve been working on a sponsored blog for The Atlantic, where I find links, write, edit, and so on. I’ve been finding out about such topics as cloud computing.

The experience reminds me of my first job: I was an editorial assistant/proofreader at PC Magazine, way back when it was still a print publication and the latest system was (I think) Dos 4.1. I used to go home with my head swimming with such terms as ROM, C> Prompt, and 8086. Now it’s a bunch of acronyms and terms such as BPM, Network IPS MQ, or just plain IT.

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.

Pleasure is the Business

I love this comment “strober” wrote on the Delta piece I did for the The Atlantic’s website:

great feature here – only way to do business is to mix in a bit of pleasure. Thank you for the tips!

That’s exactly it, strober–while you might have meant something else in your comment, I still think it’s important to give the potential customer something interesting.

Maybe then, the message will get through. And by the way, that’s the trend, the cheap tricks aren’t working anymore. But I wrote about that before here and here.

Is SEO D.O.A.?

In a posting for PaidContent, Ben Elowitz writes that SEO is dead–killed by by “SMO,” or Social Media Optimization. He says readers are now going to content sites, not because of a search, but because of a link provided by a friend on Facebook. He then rhapsodizes how this could lead to a time when good content is what people are after–not keywords and the like.

Over the past five years, Web publishing has been so heavily dominated by search engine optimization (SEO) that, to many publishing executives, the right keywords have become far more important than their sites’ actual content or audience. But this movement toward SEO has been dangerous, as it’s moved publishers’ eye off their most important job of creating great content, and onto the false goals of keywords, hacks, paid links, and technical engineering that their audience doesn’t know or care about.

I hope he’s right, but it’s best to remember that there’s that thing Lewis Mumford called the Myth of the Machine: we always think the latest invention will lead to our finally becoming less vulgar (when TV was invented, we thought it meant we’d all watch cultural programs–HA HA HA).

The death of SEO could also mean (given that Elowitz’s conjectures on where traffic will be coming from is correct) that we’ll be living in a hall of mirrors: only our friends will give us news. Personally, I get my news through Google Reader, a different kettle of fish in many ways (although Reader has a social aspect). I’m not sure where that lies on the matrix. And, while Facebook is what everyone talks about, Twitter is better on click-throughs.

The death of SEO has been predicted before. The last one I recall said Google Instant has killed SEO. Maybe SEO will die like that final scene in the 70s movie, Murder on the Orient Express: everyone is killing it, because it deserves to die.

My Google Maps Piece is up

As noted earlier, I wrote a piece for The Atlantic, using Google Maps.

It was a highly complex project and difficult to execute–I wrote pithy listings for some 125 spots all over the world. I also provided the client with Google map locations and art work (I volunteered for that, a bit to my shame).

It damned near killed me (there were many, many sleepless nights while I worked on this project), but the results look great. And it’s a popular feature, too!

You can find my Google Maps feature on The Atlantic Website.