Last night, a friend let me know that a blurb from my NPR review of John Darnielle’s amazing new novel Wolf in White Van is on page 53 of the October 13th issue of The New Yorker. So exciting! So I just spent half my morning hunting down a copy. I finally found it, and was a huge nerd and had a librarian here at Moravian take my photo with the magazine.
My review of Peyton Marshall’s debut novel Goodhouse is up at Los Angeles Review of Books.
Also, Philly-area folks: I’m giving a reading alongside Julianna Baggott tomorrow (Thursday, October 9th) at 7:30pm at Rosemont College as a part of the Rosemont College MFA Reading Series. More information, including a link to the event on Facebook, here.
My review of John Darnielle’s debut novel, Wolf in White Van, is up at NPR Books.
I have a new story out with Yalobusha Review, the literary magazine from the MFA program Ole Miss: “Ekphrasis.” It’s a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story, for you adventurous types.
I just sold an essay, “A Girl’s Guide to Sexual Purity,” to the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Quarterly Journal.
Lastly, there’s a new speculative anthology in the works, Latino/a Rising, and their Kickstarter is running now! I’ll be contributing to the anthology, and I’ve also donated to the reward tiers. For a $200 pledge, you can get a manuscript critique/consultation from me or a number of other amazing writers. Donate today!
K. Tempest Bradford says lovely things about “Please Help Me Follow My Sister Into the Land of the Dead” over at io9:
This story is a reprint from the anthology Help Fund My Robot Army!!! (edited by John Joseph Adams) where all of the stories take the form of crowdfunding pleas. The concept is interesting but I had my doubts about whether or not it could be pulled off without seeming gimmicky. I should have known that Machado’s story would be brilliant and work exactly right, given that she’s already proved her skill at spinning great tales through unconventional story structures.
Also, my interview with Estelle Tang about pitching and writing literary criticism is up at #pitchbitch. Check it out!
Two bits of news! First of all, my story “The Husband Stitch” will be appearing online at Granta around Halloween, alongside their fall issue, “Fate.” I absolutely love Granta and am honored and excited to have my work appearing there.
By turns funny, disturbing, canny, and inventive, this novella takes the form of fictional episode summaries of the famous show (but if the show, as one reader puts it, were directed by David Lynch). Machado, another new voice in American fiction, manages to create an engaging, strange, and wholly original story that draws into conversation sexual violence, popular culture, and our own weird-feeling relationships therein.
Thank you, Arna!
Fellow writer and friend E.J. Fischer has a brilliant map of the rhetorical relationships between genres up at his website. It’s great for anyone who teaches fiction writing and is available under a creative commons license for use in the classroom.
My essay “Michel Faber’s ‘Crimson’ Gave Teen A New Sense Of Possibility” is up at NPR Books as a part of their PG-13/Risky Reads series.
My Kickstarter-shaped story “Help Me Follow My Sister Into the Land of the Dead” is out in the brand-new anthology Help Fund My Robot Army!!!, and can also be read at Lightspeed. My author interview is full of thoughts about formal conceits and crowdfunding.
What are you working on?
I’m one of those writers who always has multiple projects going. I wish I could say it’s because I have SUPER AMBITION, but mostly it’s because I have trouble focusing on one thing at a time. I’m currently working on a novella (which I hope will be the final story in my collection Her Body and Other Parties) titled “The Resident.” I also just completed a (very rough) draft of a novel, tentatively titled Venus Would Freeze. And I have a couple of personal essays at various levels of completion–“Exposure” and “A Girl’s Guide to Sexual Purity.” And notes/scenes for a few more stories without titles. And some freelancing projects. And I’m writing a couple of college-level fiction-writing courses.
How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?
Such a loaded question! My societally-ingrained humility is currently murmuring nothing, nothing in my ear, but if that were really true, why would I bother writing? What would I have to offer?
I think that my work is a distinctive, unique blend of specific elements: formal constraint/structural conceit, eroticism, complex female and queer protagonists, social commentary, lyricism, surrealism/absurdism, modernism, post-modernism, magic. Basically, if there’s an element I crave in the fiction I read, I also try to incorporate it into my work.
Why do you write what you do?
I wish I could say that I woke up one morning with my fiction as it exists now inside of me, but that’s not true. When I first started writing stories, I was young. They were mostly imitations of what I’d been reading–a very specific sort of realist short stories. I like realism, and I even occasionally still write realist stories (though usually tinged with non-realist elements), but when I got to my MFA program I was lucky enough to have other writers around me who sensed what I was trying to do, and encouraged it. Read Kelly Link, they told me. Read George Saunders. Read Kij Johnson and Karen Russell and Kevin Brockmeier and Italo Calvino and Georges Perec and Jane Bowles and J.G. Ballard and on and on. It was like I’d run the length of a particular house hundreds of times, and then during one lap someone pushed open a door I didn’t even realize was there.
Since that moment–since I wrote a story in the spring of my first year, “Difficult at Parties”–I’ve come more and more fully into what I realize is my voice. It’s been a really incredible process. And now I can’t imagine writing any other way. I am eternally grateful to the other writers in my life–fellow students and teachers alike–who exposed me to those influences and ideas.
How does your writing process work?
I’m a freakishly fast writer. It’s not that everything I write comes out fast and flawless, but I do have a tendency to just sort of rip through a project. The challenge is then sitting on it long enough for edits, and making it the best version of itself. Probably the most extreme example of this is when I wrote my story “Inventory” at Clarion in three hours, workshopped it the next day, edited it that afternoon, put in Strange Horizon’s slush pile that evening, and had sold it three days later. Some stories of mine come out like that: more or less complete. Others–like “The Resident,” which I’m taking with me to Sycamore Hill because I’m totally stuck–I start, get to a certain point, and then I don’t know what happens next and I have to sort of freewheel until I figure it out. When it comes to those stories, I try to take the “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach. This is also how I’m writing my novel, which is the first novel-length work I’ve written in my current writing phase.
I’m also sort of an idea machine. I was one of those kids who you’d find hunched over a mishmash of Barbies, dinosaurs, Fisher Price people, and block, muttering dialogue and sound effects under my breath. If I wasn’t reading 0r writing down stories on my father’s stationary, I was constructing a wild, soap-opera-esque narrative about my toys. (Even when I was probably too old to do so without looking weird.) As an adult, that manifests as a 23-page, single-spaced Word document with all of the ideas, titles, images, formal conceits, characters, and lines that just sort of pop up in my brain. People who know me well have seen me stop mid-sentence, my eyes widening a little, and whip out my notebook or phone to jot down an idea. I also get tons of ideas in the shower. I wrote half of “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU” in the shower. Whenever I felt stuck I got under the water and then, bam, there it was. That’s how the girls-with-bells-for-eyes were born. In any case, sometimes I look at my idea list and realize that things that I’ve come up with separately are actually parts of the same story. But unless I live to be a thousand years old I’ll probably never do everything on that list, which grows constantly.