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

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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

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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:

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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.”

The Slush: FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES

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And I think many published writers are no better than the unpublished.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.

 

New with Guernica, Two Stories Every Two Weeks

For years, I made sure that Guernica ran at least one story, every two weeks.

Doing that worked well (very well in fact, we won many awards and published many top writers). But—and this was important—there were so many other stories we couldn’t publish because just didn’t have the space.

But now that’s changed: now we publish at least two stories, every two weeks, for a minimum of four stories a month.

This issue: fiction from Jamie Quatro; a story from evangelical America. A man suffering from depression gets an “anointing” of sacred oil.

And “Debriefing” from E.C. Osondu (who we’ve published before when he won the Caine Prize for African Writing). E.C.’s story is wonderful: it’s advice for illegal immigrants from Nigeria on how to make it here.

 

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 . . .

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.

Ghost-Blogging, Twice a Day, Every Day

While also working for other clients, I’ve been blogging for a [confidential] client, twice a day, every weekday, for the last 4 months. Given that I was doing this while blogging for The Atlantic on sustainability—and working for other clients, too—I couldn’t do much else, sometimes not even the laundry.

The project is ending in a few days. I love having work and I love the client. But I also love being able to have the time to work on my novel.

My novel! It’ll be good to return to working on it intensely, for hours on end.

Fiction | Nonfiction