"Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead", Anthologies, Death, Family, Fantasy, Genre, Help Fund My Robot Army, Horror, Interview, Lightspeed Magazine, Magical Realism, Nonfiction, Personal, Press, Publications, Reviews, Reviews, Slipstream, Speculative Fiction, Stories, Themes

Updates: io9 & #pitchbitch

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!

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"Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU", Death, Gender, Genre, Horror, Lists, Personal, Press, Publication, Publications, Race, Reviews, Sex, Slipstream, Speculative Fiction, Stories, Technology, The American Reader, Themes

Updates: Granta & Especially Heinous

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.

Secondly, over at Huffington Post Books, Arna Bontemps Hemenway calls “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU” one of the “best short stories you’ve never read.”

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!

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Links: Genre, Risky Reads, & the Land of the Dead

lightspeed_50_july_2014Fellow 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.

 

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My Writing Process Blog Tour

I was invited to participate in My Writing Process Blog Tour by Sofia Samatar (@SofiaSamatar), who was invited by Daniel José Older (@djolder).

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.

Well, I guess that’s it. Next week, I’ve invited Sam J. Miller (@sentencebender) and Lara Donnelly (@larazontally) to participate. Watch for their entries!

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Links: How to Write an Essay, the Library of Babel, New Fiction

Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams, on writing personal essays. Really excellent read.

E.J. Fischer on the mathematics behind the impossibility of Borges’ Library of Babel.

Haddayr Copley-Woods’ has a lovely story at Apex, “Perfect.

Also, have you registered for the Moravian Writers’ Conference yet? It’s in gorgeous, historical Bethlehem, PA (near Philadelphia) from June 6th – 8th. Laurie Halse Anderson and Ursula Hegi are the keynote speakers. I’m giving a craft talk and doing manuscript consultations! You should check it out.

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Mystery & Horror Writing, Week Eleven

This week’s theme is “Murder in the Mansion.” We have a shortened class because of the Rosemont College MFA Reading Series (more on that at the end), so today we’ll be talking about:

  • Agatha Christie’s novella “Three Blind Mice.”
  • An excerpt from “The Locked-Room Lecture,” which is a nonfiction lecture about the locked-room trope in mysteries, delivered by a fictional character in John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man.

We’ll be discussing the pleasures and pitfalls of murder-in-the-mansion style stories, and what makes them so delicious and compelling.

Only two more classes after this! It’s hard to believe the semester is winding down so quickly. Next week is the final week of lecture/workshop/discussion/readings. The theme is “Haunted Tech.” We will be reading:

Also, tonight is this semester’s last installment of the Rosemont College MFA Reading Series, which will be held in the Main Building on Rosemont’s campus at 7:30 PM. I will be reading alongside Helen Klein Ross, author of Making It, A Novel of Madison Avenue, alumnus Ben Heins, and MFA students Vernita Hall, Matthew McKiernan, and Jane McNeil. If you’re in the Philly area, come watch!

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The Hugo, Campbell, & New Yorker Press

My article “The Afterlife of Pia Farrenkopf” did really well last week, snagging mentions in Gizmodo, Time (via Dave Pell’s NextDraft), and National Journal.

Also, for those of you who are still undecided re: Hugo Nominations, my short story “Inventory” and my novella “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU” are eligible. I am also in my first year of eligibility for the Campbell award. Thank you to Rachel Swirsky, Abigail Nussbaum, Martin Petto, Jed Hartman, and everyone else who has recommended my stories or me for these awards.

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The New Yorker & Sycamore Hill

Two bits of news!

First, I have a new piece up at The New Yorker: “The Afterlife of Pia Farrenkopf.”

Second, I have been invited to attend Sycamore Hill – a workshop for speculative fiction writers – in North Carolina this June. I’m doing some fundraising to help defray the costs, so if you’re able, please consider contributing. There are neat prizes! Original microfiction/collages by me, and commissioned dinosaur drawings by Sam J. Miller.

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Mystery & Horror Writing, Week Nine

This week’s theme is “Detectives & Noir.” We will be discussing:

I am particularly excited about discussing the Chandler essay, which is a really provocative piece of literary criticism wherein Chandler takes on his entire genre. I don’t agree with all of his points, but anyone who writes any sort of genre fiction should give it a read–his ideas are worth mulling over.

Next week’s theme is “Revenge.” We will be reading:

  • M.R. James’ “Casting the Runes”
  • Dan Chaon’s “The Bees”
  • Stephen King’s “Dolan’s Cadillac”
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Mystery & Horror Writing, Week Eight

This week’s theme is “The Criminal.” We will be discussing:

  • Agatha Christie’s “Witness for the Prosecution”
  • Patricia Highsmith’s “The Heroine” (from Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, ed. Sarah Weinman)
  • Nedra Tyre’s “A Nice Place to Stay” (from Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, ed. Sarah Weinman)

We will also be sharing our urban legend adaptations and discussing how we chose to write them, their similarities, and their differences. We will also be pairing up and interviewing each other as our protagonists, in order to better understand our characters.

Next week’s theme is “Detectives & Noir.” We will be reading:

  • Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”
  • Stephen King’s “Umney’s Last Case” (from Nightmares & Dreamscapes)
  • G.K. Chesterton’s “In Defense of Detective Stories”
  • Raymond Chandler’s “The Simple Art of Murder”
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