• California Trip/Nebula Weekend Recap

    Me, Cameo Wood, Maria Dahvana Headly

    IMG_9211

    I am just back from a 10 day road trip in California, and am about to hop on a plane to WisCon, where I’ll be reading my short story “Beauty Unleashed” at the Oxford Comma Bonfire with Vylar Kaftan, Michael Underwood, and LaShawn M. Wanak, Fri, 9:00–10:15 p.m. at Michelangelos. “Unleashed Beauty” will be reprinted in Gargoyle, #60, so am excited to finally get to read it in front of an audience!

    Also, reading with a host of other splendid poets such as Sofia Samatar, Amal El-Mohtar, Katherin Koehler, and more at the Open Secrets Speculative Poetry Reading, 2:30 pm Saturday, Senate Room B.

    But now, on with the CA recap! As you can see, from the pics, I had a lot of fun dressing up. I met a host of wonderful people, including Cameo Wood, a film director and producer, and Saladin Ahmed, whose Throne of the Crescent Moon was up for a Nebula and is nominated for a Hugo! My friend Maria Dahvana Headley’s short story, “Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream” was up  up for a Nebula as well (and is one of my favorite stories).

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    Me and Christie Yant, Nebula Reception

    I also met a host of other lovely people at the Nebula Award Weekend such as Carrie Ratajski, Amy Sundberg, Derek Kunsken, and the fabulous Juliette Wade.  Also got to hang a bit Twitter friend Christie Yant (whom I have adored so long–in short, because she’s full of awesome, and a kick-ass writer). Despite being exhausted from travel, Jaym Gates corralled a group of us (Sheila Williams, Greg Bossert, and Francesca Myman) to try out Single Barrel, a most awesome Speakeasy with the tastiest of cocktails.  During the con I got to catch up with NYC friends Maria Dahvana Headly and Liz Gorinsky and discovered that John Joseph Adams and I were twins separated at birth, given our obsessive love of sugar. He is the Jedi of MM’s, and reminded me that the con suite is always stocked with them. Also, stayed with the Locus peeps Liza Trombi and Francesca Myman during the convention—some of the best roomies ever, though I will still never, ever understand how Liza is able to get up so early in the morning (I was always the last one in for the night).

    Also, I got a glimpse of the cover art for Elementari Rising! Not going to post it just yet since it still needs a few tweaks, but if you’re going to WisCon, be prepared for me to whip out my phone and show you a pic.

    Now, I didn’t come to CA just for the Nebula Awards Weekend. I had people and Caliplaces to see! So, I started out in San Diego to visit my wonderfully adventurous aunt (she was in the Peace Corps in Botswana–the woman seriously rocks). I had planned on a day in the city, but my aunt’s place was nestled in Palomar Valley, and I had messed up my shoulder earlier that week so instead just rested for a few days at her place and wrote. With a few like this, how could I not?

    I then drove up to LA, where I met up with Ashleigh Ruhl, one of my ex students from the grotesque class I taught at the University of Colorado. Together we drove into West Hollywood to meet up with the incomparable Laurie Lipton, whose work I’ve written about and who is, by far, my students’ favorite artist.

    Andy Romaine, Carol Penn-Romaine, Christie Yant, Tracie Welser, me, and John Joseph Adams (aka The Shadow). Pic taken by John Remy

    Andy Romaine, Carol Penn-Romaine, Christie Yant, Tracie Welser, me, and John Joseph Adams (aka The Shadow). Pic taken by John Remy

    The next day I joined Andy Penn Romaine, Carol Penn Romaine, Christie Yant, John Joseph Adams, Tracie Welser, and John Remy to watch an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.  What a lovely visual escape into one of my favorite novels! And what a fabulously fun group to have dinner with beforehand! The next day John  R. drove me all around the Irvine area so that I could see some of the glorious beaches. I love the ocean, and it had just been too damn long since I had seen it.

    Me and Sophia

    But then, it was off to Santa Barbara, where I grabbed a quick lunch (with beach -side view, of course) with Sophia Quach McCabe and Joe McCabe, whom I first met through John Picacio at the 2009 World Fantasy Convention. Then I drove  to San Francisco (can we say whirlwind road trip?). The net day  I met up with David Edison for lunch and later, Blake Charlton  for coffee. David’s book The Waking Engine is coming out from Tor in 2014, and he is my future roommate in NYC! (more on that later). Blake wrote the Spellwright Trilogy and has just published a beautiful piece in the New York Times about defining dyslexia.

    Paxton Gaten2

    In between those two meet and greets, I visited Borderlands Bookstore and discovered Paxton Gate, the best Cabinet of Curiosities in San Francisco. I could have spent hours in there!  I could have spent a few more weeks in CA, certainly, but now I am soon off to the airport to have more adventures!

    me3

    Oh, and one more pic of me a sundress, since I’ve been promising them. 

  • School’s Out and I’m California Bound

    First things first!

    New poems (REM,” “Magadalene,” and “Drought”) are up over at Neon Literary Magazine! The REM poem coincides with the dream map that I created in Rikki Ducornet’s class back in the day. And “Magdalene” comes from the liturgical poetry series I’ve been writing. 

    Also, I’ve a brand-spanking new article on the glorious work of Michael Rees over at Weird Fiction Review (Of Men and Monsters and the Wondrous Things In Between). Rees’ 3-D animations consist of surreal hybrids that come to creepy life. 

    dress 4

    As of this week, I finished teaching my final full year at the University of Colorado. To celebrate,  dress 2I decided to take a trip up the west coast, first to see my aunt in San Diego.  Then it is on to Los Angeles on the 11/12 to finally meet the most talented Laurie Lipton (after “knowing” each other for years online) and do some gallery hopping for future Weird Fiction Review articles. Sunday night I get to watch an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere with the most awesome John Remy and Tracie Weisler and a whole merry gang of folk.

    There will also be hard-core beach time, of course, as I am from a land-locked state, and need to see the ocean at least once a year. On the 14th, I’ll drive up to San Francisco and finally do some sight seeing (which I didn’t get to do at the last World Fantasy in San Jose). Also, there is the wonderful Jen Heddle to say hi to, Megan Kurashige to grab drinks with, and general carousing to do with David Edison and possibly Blake Charlton.

    On Thursday, it’s off to the Nebula Awards weekend. Hoping to say hi to as many of my writer, art, and ex-student peeps as I can, so let me know if you’re in town! Also, you’ll get to see me in many colorful sundresses, but that is another blog post altogether.

    After the CA trip, I’m going to WisCon (May 23-27), where I’ll read a story at the Oxford Comma Bonfire on Fri, 9-10:15 at Michelangelos. Then I get to deliver a poem at the Open Secrets poetry reading at 2:30pm on Saturday at Senate B. This will be my first Wiscon, and I am excited to be staying with my Wonder Twin Sofia Samatar (whose Stranger in Olondria just came out!). And then, and then—NYC in July! But more on that later. 

    Ah, me it’s looking to be a very exciting summer, no?

  • Recap: ICFA, the big move, and new adventures

    Valya and I, image by Andy Duncan

    Valya and me, photo by Andy Duncan

    March was a month of traveling madness, first to NYC for the Armory Arts fairs and then to Orlando for the International Conference on the Fantastic in Arts. The first night there, I got to see Amanda Palmer play her ukulele and serenade the bar with Radiohead’s “Creep.” Very decent way to begin a writer’s conference.

    My reading/panel “Transforming Fact into Fiction” with Greg Bechtel lost two members to the flu, but the amazing Valya Lupescu, author of The Silence of the Trees, stepped in as our third panelist. It was only on the plane to the Florida that I suddenly realized I hadn’t told her it was a reading, too. But Valya was amazing, and read from her novel, and we had a great panel, despite the unforgivable hour (8:30 a.m.) on Thursday. The wondrous Sofia Samatar even got up early to hear us talk about about the intersection of memoir/fiction/myth/and history. It was my first time reading my work at a conference, and it was my first time coming as a writer as opposed to a scholar, so it was really a rather special ICFA.

    Sofia Samatar, Valya Lupescu, me and Kat Howard. Photo by Jim Kelly

    Sofia Samatar, Valya Lupescu, me and Kat Howard. Photo by Jim Kelly

    I also heard the lovely Kat Howard read part of the script from her collaborative project with Megan and Shannon Kurashige, “A Thousand Natural Shocks.” And then saw Dora Goss read (no! perform is a more accurate word) an excerpt from her work in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s anthology, Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells.

    I also wore a lot of cute dresses, if you can’t already tell by the pics. I’m an academic. I’m mostly covered in chalk and hidden away in a classroom, but this conference is held in Orlando, and so I worshipped the sun gods as every writer should when they get the chance.

    Sofia and me

    Sofia and me

     

    One of the highlights of this trip was finally meeting Sofia Samatar, author of the forthcoming A Stranger in Olondria, whom I had recently found on Facebook. But I knew I had found soul mate, when, at last call on our second night of the con, she turned to me and was like, “We need to buy a bottle of wine. What is up with this last call nonsense?” We, of course, closed down the bar that night. And the night after, and the night after. We also went to war for S’mores and bought magic rings our last night in town. Conferences such as this are made for adventures. 

    Kat, Maria, me, Sofia at the Saturday night banquet. Photo by Andy Duncan

    Kat, Maria, me, Sofia at the Saturday night banquet. Photo by Andy Duncan

    Speaking of which, included a possible tornado our last day there. Liz Gorinsky, Maria Dahvanna Headley, Dora, Sofia, and Lara Donnelly and I hunkered down in the Tavern (not for drinks, really, but to get away from the windows). The hotel was nice enough to bring us complimentary champagne and chips while the storm blew over. But it was Jeff and Ann VanderMeer, who rescued Sofia and I since they took the Weird Fiction Review team out to dinner in Winter Park. 

    Jeff VanderMeer, me, Sofia, Ann VanderMeer, Edward Gauvin

    Jeff VanderMeer, me, Sofia, Ann VanderMeer, Edward Gauvin

    Lovely dinner with good wine, laughter, excellent port, and snippets of conversation about a possible future conference on the Weird and Grotesque. It was so fabulous finally getting to meet Edward Gauvin, whose articles I have read over the past year. What a wonderful crew to be a part of, and I can’t wait to see what the next year for Weird Fiction Review bringsAnd serious kudos to Jeff for his book and movies deals!

    US!

    Francesca, Valya, me, and Sophia. This was pre-S’more us

    Now, there were all other sorts of glorious people I got to hang out with, including Chris Barzak, who also has a new book and a movie coming out (but this gang totally rocks). It was lovely to see Liz Gorinksy, KeffyKehrli, Liza Trombi, Francesca Myman, Ellen Datlow and a whole gang of folk that I only get to visit with once or twice a year (the NYC folk, a bit more). Hearing Andy Duncan and Neil Gaiman read was nothing short of sublime (oh yeah, did I mention Neil Gaiman was guest of honor there? And that he read from his new novel? Jealous?). So, quite the trip, and I am leaving out all sorts of grotesque stories about possums and placentas. And perhaps you are being quite thankful that I have left them out. 

    house in summer

    One last thing is that I came home and packed up the rest of my beautiful house. I closed on Thursday, and so beautiful house is no longer mine. But I now have the means to go to NYC, starting in July, for about 8 months and write like a motherfucker. What shall I write, you ask? The sequel to Elementarí Rising, for one. A proposal to write a book on the Grotesque, too. I am hopefully going to get more stories and poems published. There are  Weird Fiction Review Articles to write, and art exhibits and KGB reading to attend. We shall then see where this path leads. All I know is that I’ve finally found the rabbit hole. And I’m ready to jump in.

  • Liturgy and Speculative Poetry

    While I am typing up an ICFA recap post, I wanted to spend a few minutes talking about liturgy (because this is something every writer gal likes to talk about on Friday night). Except it happens to be Good Friday. And there was a time when I wrote a weird kind of liturgy for my church. There was a year I spent pouring over the stories from the Bible, and rather than judge them or pick them rhetorically apart or start arguing with them or using them to back up my world view, I simply listened to them. I wondered what it would be like to hammer a man’s head into the ground in order to save a battle or to have ordered the killing of another human and having to live with that decision for the rest of your life. I wondered what it was like to be the outcast, the cannibal, the other, and the oppressor. And from that year came a manuscript of these monologues, some of which have recently been published, or are forthcoming. Here a few you can read online. The “PTL, circa 1981″ isn’t part of that series, but thought you might be interested since it’s the story I came from.

    “Jael,” Strange Horizons

    “Tamar,” Strange Horizons

    Paul: An Unpublished Letter (for Stephen), Liquid Imagination (link is fixed)

    “On Eating a Child,” Danse Macabre

    “Jericho,” Danse Macabre

    “Jepthath,” Danse Macabre

    PTL, circa 1981,” storySouth

    And “Magdalene” will be forthcoming from Neon soon.

  • Dream Mapping and the Writing Process

    When I took Rikki Ducornet’s poetry class at the University of Denver, I had no idea her workshop would open up such a strange, uncanny world to me. I was, during my stint in grad school, having horrific nightmares as I processed some rather unpleasant memories. These dreams haunted me so much that I felt like I didn’t sleep but instead wandered a shifting surreal landscape that left me exhausted in the morning. Rikki encouraged me to write a poem about this dreamscape, and so during the course of the workshop I finished REM, which was published in Inklings Magazine a long time ago. She liked the poem enough to then challenged me to draw a dream map of my nightmares. So of course I did. The great thing about the map is that it all suddenly became real to me–this underground lair.

    Merea map

    In my fiction workshop with Brian Kiteley, I morphed the landscape of my dreams into a short story called Ophidia, the land underneath. At only 300 words, it wasn’t much of story, but still, it was an eerie, darkish thing. Over the years it grew and developed characters caught in a a game of No Exit. I renamed it Mereá and finally published it Bourbon Penn in 2012. Ophidia, though became a special desert place in my new novel, Elementarí Rising, which housed the the earth spirits. I rather love how my greatest fears and night terrors, once mapped out and seen, became a doorway into the fantastic.

    I now must return to edits for the novel. But if you’re in NYC, I might be headed your way for Armory Arts Week.

     In case you missed it, my poem Jael is up on Strange Horizons and my article on the ever lovely Jessca Joslin is up over at Weird fiction review. 

  • Beautiful Monsters

    cover-art-by-siolo-thompson3.jpgI start teaching again in a few days, and there is already too much to do! But oh, wonderful readers and teachers and writers and artists, I’ve got plenty of visual delights for you while keeping you updated on book news, reviews, and interviews soon to appear.

    First lovely thing: I caught a glimpse of my book cover by the wonderful Siolo Thompson, a fine artist who lives in Seattle. This is a portrait of the amazing Morgan, one of the fiercest water spirits that you get to meet in Elementarí Rising.  I hope to have a book trailer done by May that I can post here as well.

    SpellwrightSpeaking of epic fantasy, I get the chance to interview the fabulous Blake Charlton for Fantasy Matters and will be reviewing his novel Spellwright. I wish I could make every student who has struggled with writing read this book. There is something so lovely about watching the magical way that actual words come alive and erupt from the very sinews of the body in this story.

    Since you will have to wait a couple of weeks for that interview to Neil G. Interviewappear, I’m making it up to you by giving you an interview with Neil Gaiman, now out in Origin Magazine. You can purchase a print copy at most Whole Foods or Barnes and Noble, or get a digital version of the January/February issue here. Neil talks about Twitter, social media, the audio adaptation of Neverwhere, and the influence of Joel Peter Witkin. Go. Get. It.

    For Weird Fiction Review, I’ll be writing on two fabulous artists: Digital artist and sculptor Micheal Rees and Jessica Joslin, a brass and bone sculptor. Articles will go live on the 15th and 29th. Watch the video! 

    8 Legs from Michael Rees on Vimeo.

  • 2012: The Year of Dragons and Saucy Dresses

    This year was a roller coaster, the way it was for many of my friends–full of wonders and dragons, heartbreak, and ridiculously fabulous adventures.

    Saucy dress #1

    Saucy dress #1

    I started out 2012 really in December of 2011. I had just received word that two of my stories where going to get published: “A Coffin Story” and “Mereá.” I loved the coffin piece more because, well, it’s about coffins, and it was so strange and irreverent and something of a speculative kind of memoir. The Mereá piece was just plain strange, but turns out that it did quite well, eventually making it onto Lois Tilton’s  2012 Reviews in Review. I sent out a few more short stories that got published, including Evangelical Wonderland and Come to the Table,” (“fictions” which are more truth than lie). I also started writing articles on the most delicious art for Weird Fiction Review, run by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer.

    But rather than quench the hunger for adventure burning inside me, it only strengthened it. So I shot off to  NYC for Armory Arts week, went dancing three nights in a row, saw cool art, made new friends, and decided to move there within a year.

    That’s a big decision.

    me 2012

    Saucy dress #2

    Not one to make such big decisions lightly, I visited NYC as much as possible, staying at least 10 days each time and living in different parts of the city to see what neighborhoods I liked. Among the many events I attended were a Mermaid Party, KGB Fantastic Fiction Readings, an immersive play (Speakeasy Dollhouse), and a Swing Dance party (most times wearing a very saucy dress. Saucy dresses, I find, help when going on an adventure). I also researched a ton of art and visited many a gallery and museum. I hung out with DJ Spooky and decided that I was going to get him to speak at CU sometime during the year. Meanwhile, I was revising my epic fantasy novel, Elementarí Rising and sending it out to publishers, as well as attending conferences such as ICFA and Readercon.

    The fall became a turning point as I was up for reappointment regarding my University of Colorado position. Rather than apply for reappointment, I turned in my resignation letter. It felt like it was the right thing to do, despite not having a job lined up, not knowing where I was going to live, or any other kind of specific detail that would add some amount of logic or reason.

    And then, five days after that, we lost the amazing poet Malinda Markham. She had come to be one of my best friends, my ally in the fight against the black dog, and was one of the most talented writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. The weeks after that were rather a blur, full of dragons and black dogs and all other sorts of nasty creatures, as you can imagine. I regained some equilabrium with another trip to NYC in late September to give a lecture on the grotesque in art at William Paterson University (you can see some of the groovilicious art I teach in the video below). It ended with the Dumbo Arts Festival, and the most wondrous dance party inside powerHouse books (can you tell that I like to dance a lot when I get the opportunity?).

    I came back from NYC to an offer by Pink Narcissus Press to publish the novel in the summer of 2013. I just saw a draft of the cover art, and will be posting it on Facebook later this week! The year ended with the Dangerous Tea, where 11 cultural creative women gathered to share their works in progress and talk about all manner of art, writing, science, and the imagination.

    And now I have a rather exciting year coming up, with an interview with Neil Gaiman coming out in Origin Magazine, a short story about the blob to appear in Gargoyle #60 this summer, as well as the novel (and some more poetry appearing as well). And sometime in July, I’ll make the move to NYC.  There will be more dragons to face, I’m sure, and still a job to get. But oh hell, what an adventure this is!

  • A Very Dangerous Tea and Other Adventures

    December started out in fine form, since I had three poems (based on Biblical stories) published in Danse Macabre, which you can read here. I also had a poem,Tamar, published in Strange Horizons in November (and another will soon be published there as well). I have a full manuscript of these strange little snippets that I started while writing liturgy for a local church. Hopefully, I’ll get more of them published.

    Now, about my NYC adventures! I didn’t post much last month since I got horribly sick during my Boston stay, but I will say that my lecture on Fairy Tales and Art went over swimmingly well in Dora Goss’s Fairy Tales and Literature class at Boston University. It was an excellent time, and Dora’s students had really insightful responses to the artwork. If you have not checked out Dora’s amazing short stories or novella, you need to.

    dangerous tea

    Rachel Boyadjis, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, me, and Rita J. King

    I recovered a bit in between visits and came back to NYC this past week in order to attend one Dangerous Tea, the brainchild of Valya Dudycz Lupescu and I on a twitter exchange late one night.  We hadn’t met yet, but wanted to, and also wanted  to connect other writers and artists. On December 16th, ten women (dressed dangerously) gathered in Cynthia Von Buhler’s gorgeous home, Archipelago. It was a night of getting to know one another sharing stories, tea cups, talking about creative processes, and generally having the best time. There were live doves, of course, which added tothe doves the rather magical atmosphere–between the stories and candlelight and these beautiful creatures, I was transported out of NYC and into some mythical place of words and light. The other women there were Rita J. King, EVP of Business Development at Science House; Jennifer Summerfield (aka Trillian Stars), a wonderful actress; Janice Cable, a “wine fabulist” and writer who had me smiling throughout her entire reading; the gorgeous Katelan Foisy, who inherited my tea cup with all its dark history. Dora and Valya were there, as well as my friend Ilana Teitelbaum Reichert, fantasy writer and Huffington dangerous tea, mePost blogger; Rachel Boyadjis, aerial performer, writer, and assistant to Cynthia; and Stefania Carrozzini, owner of I AM (International Art Media). I dressed up in dangerous heels for the night (which were also the most comfortable heels ever–go figure). For more pictures from the night, look up #dangeroustea on Twitter, and you’ll see us in masks and our dangerous dresses. Cynthia was a wonderful host, and if you’ve not checked out her Speakeasy Dollhouse, then you really should (I wrote a review of it here). We missed having Maria Dahvana Headley (who let Dora and I crash at her place while she was in Europe), but there will be more NYC gatherings in the future!

    It was also a great time reconnecting with artist Carla Gannis, and meeting Art Critical editor David Cohen. Carla and I are notorious for our dancing nights during Armory Arts weeks, and I admire her work that delves into the New Aesthetic. Dora and I had fun running around NYC, having lunch with the ever delightful Ellen Datlow and other peeps. We ended our trip by going to a reading at KGB Bar to hear Mary Robinette Kowal and Ben Loory read and watch one of Mary’s puppet shows. Dinner afterwards was a hoot, as I got to sit next to the very entertaining Jennifer Jackson. I left NYC by way of Philadelphia, where I got to hang again with Jennifer Summerfield and her husband Kyle Cassidy.

    And what else can I say? You can see, perhaps, why I go back to NYC as often as I can. Every trip is an adventure, an education, and re-connection to all the different, glorious tribes I belong to.

  • Ray Caesar’s Uncanny Beauties

    Ray Caesar, First of Days, 2004

    If you have not had the lucky chance to view Ray Caesar’s work before, now might be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. A new exhibition, “Miles to Go Before I Sleep,” with Gottfried Helnwein, Catherine Howe, and Anita Kunzwill be shown at Gallery House, in Toronto, Canada, beginning November 29th. I have written on Caesar’s work before both at Weird Fiction Review and Fantasy Matters. If you find his work beautiful, entrancing, and disturbing, then I believe you’re experiencing the wonders of the grotesque. Here are a few sneak previews of the show. All images used courtesy of Ray Caesar/Gallery House.

    Ray Caesar, The Manager, 2012

     

    Ray Caesar, Kitten, 2003
  • Big News

    First, the big news (why keep you all waiting?): I finally get to announce that my fantasy novel, Elementari Rising, will be published by Pink Narcissus Press in 2014. I am so excited that this manuscript I’ve worked on for so long is going to be a book! If you want to check out the prologue, go visit my website (it will be up soon). You can also see what short stories I’ve published lately under the News section (with links to the stories).

    It’s been a while since I posted, I know, and that is only because of one insane semester. I traveled to NYC in September to give a talk on the grotesque at William Paterson University, and then came back and worked furiously to get Paul D. Miller to come to the CU campus in the Spring. And in a few days, I’m hopping another plane to give a lecture on fairy tales and art in Theodora Goss’s Fairytales and Literature class at Boston University. Then I’ll pop over to NYC to attend exhibits and finally go to the Quay Brothers retrospective at the MOMA.

    And there’s a new issue of Origin Magazine that has my interview with China Miéville, wherein he discusses, art, politics, and of course, the fantastic in literature. You can pick up a copy at your local Whole Foods or Barnes and Noble.

    And keep an eye out for two poems of mine that I believe will be appear in Strange Horizions this month.