When you think writer, pajama pants and nubbled sweatshirts may hop to mind faster than haute couture – but clothing is a hugely important mode of creative expression. I had an absolute blast chatting about shedding harmful misogynist beliefs about fashion, and embracing the storytelling potential of the outfit, with the charming Marcelle Heath for her Apparel for Authors projects. Check out my feminist/fashion/Ms. Frizzle rambles on Instagram here, and scroll through her feed to see how authors and writers worldwide relate to the garments they hang on their bodies.
In the wake of the literary world’s recent upheaval over That Article (and the comforting, salient-point responses from literary agents and established industry pros like Chuck Wendig and Malinda Lo), I wanted to take a moment and acknowledge a bit of common publishing wisdom, and how ignoring it was surprisingly liberating for me: Never read your reviews. Click to continue reading.
2018 was truly wild: between the publication of my debut novel, getting married during a freak polar shift, returning to UT Austin to teach fiction writing, and curtseying in a vintage ballgown at One Story’s Literary Debutante Ball, I got to hear legendary LeVar Burton read a break-up story of mine aloud to a packed house at Austin’s historic Paramount Theatre. You can listen to the episode – including a follow-up interview with me and LeVar – for free here. (2019, you’ve got a lot to live up to.)
The holidays! They’re stressful. They’re expensive. They transform every parking lot into a sixteenth level of Hell and every casual grocery trip into a guarantee you’ll have “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” stuck in your head for days. But you are no ordinary citizen. You are a lover of literature, a true superhero of feeling. And even though you’re broke and frazzled and maybe can’t afford to buy a book, you want to support authors in the holiday season. Friends, this guide is for you. Click to expand.
Career news! I’m overjoyed to return to UT Austin this spring as its Visiting Fiction Writer. It’s an enormous honor, and I can’t wait to get back in the classroom and continue aggressively telling young writers to love themselves and their work. Here’s to a spring semester of growth and creativity.
I’ve done National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, exactly one time. I was a sophomore in college, a creative writing major with energy and (in the icy, prefinals abyss that’s November in Massachusetts) time to burn. I dreamed up my plot. I typed up my words. I sent my characters spinning deeper, day after day, into my world. It was a disaster. more
…that I ever dreamed it could be, and more. Enormous thank you to everyone who came out to LeVar Burton Reads Live! at the Paramount on Sunday – it was beyond inspiring to share the stage as the guest of legendary LeVar Burton, and to meet so many fans of his work. Click for more.
DEARLY BELOVEDS IN THE MIDST OF THE STRESS-CLOUD THAT IS APPLYING FOR BIG AND SCARY THINGS. For the past several years, I’ve had the privilege of screening fiction applications for a high-ranking MFA program. So here – because I love you and am rooting for you very hard – are a few notes on how to put your best foot (or avoid putting your worst foot) forward when applying to MFA fiction programs, residencies, and grants. Click here to read.
When I was a college student, no family Thanksgiving or Passover or Christmas was complete without a well meaning uncle or second-cousin asking, “What do you do with a creative writing degree, anyway?” At the time, I responded by talking about passion, by citing statistics about the tenuous link between college majors and careers – all answers that were equal parts valid and earnest. I don’t regret those conversations, which made me think about what I wanted out of life – but I do wish I could go back in time and hand-deliver a photo essay to my younger self of all of the truly weird and wonderful stuff that’s happened to me in 2018 – culminating in “LeVar Burton is going to read a fantastical breakup story of yours at the Paramount and then have you join him onstage for a conversation about weird fiction and heartbreak.” Click for more.
I had a beautiful time at last weekend’s Texas Book Festival, and met so many wonderful readers and authors. After attending the festival as an excited fan for so many years, it was really stunning to take a walk on the other side. I learned a lot – click to keep reading.
At the end of her week with us at the Clarion workshop in 2016, certified genius Kelly Link challenged us to come up with professional goals lists. I call mine the Vanity List. It lives in a folder on my desktop, and I’ve quietly checked things off (publish an audiobook, appear on the legendary BookPeople marquee, appear in the New York Times in a vintage ballgown, etc). This month, I’m over the moon to achieve one more fierce dream: appear as an author at Austin’s magnificent Texas Book Festival. Come hear me and brilliant YA authors Carrie Fountain (I’M NOT MISSING) and Maurene Goo (THE WAY YOU MAKE ME FEEL) discuss Not Your Everyday Teen Problems in the YA HQ tent on Sunday, Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. Come on over. Let’s chat.
I spoke with the luminous Maggie Cooper at The Rumpus about how feminist stories change the world, teen girls as (in the words of Samantha Hunt) “superheroes of feeling,” and one book that might make the world a better place if our president were made to read it. Read the interview here.
Sometimes a nice blog asks you to write 200 words about whether your book passes the page 69 test, and you submit an introvert manifesto about how our society implicitly privileges extroversion more than any of us realize, and they publish it anyway. A thousand blessings upon the head of The Page 69 Test, here.
Hole in the Middle is out and in the wild! Come celebrate at BookPeople in Austin, TX on Friday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. Wine! Bundt cake! Reading! Doughnuts! Other toroid tasties! Can’t wait to see you. xx
Hole in the Middle is out in the world, and golden-voiced bibliophiles Carrie and Jake at the Love YA Like Crazy podcast released an episode delving into the good, the bad and the Archie! Light spoilers and swearing abound. Listen here!
Sometimes your publisher asks you to do an interview, and you end up talking about how your novel began as a voice in your head that wouldn’t shut up and also shouting in all caps about how therapy is genuinely lovely, and your publisher is nice enough to share it on their website without gently suggesting that these two things might be correlated.
The US edition of Hole in the Middle (now with extra Raleigh and a luscious hard cover) is available to preorder! Please find preorder links (plus reviews and more) here.
Springtime in Texas is a rare phenomenon. We suffer through summer from late April to early November (really! 95 degrees on Halloween isn’t uncommon). The shoulder months – my favorite months, March and November, when everything is cool and shifting and lovely, and just going outside makes you feel like anything is possible – disappear in a gorgeous blink. Click for more.
Wiser people than me have spoken out about the value of self-promotion and celebrating your work. In the midst of a year where many of us felt less like we were writing than like we were simply surviving one page to the next, this feels especially important. We made it through. We lost heroes. We did not experience this year so much as endured it. But we found a way, still, to make art – to rise every day in an atmosphere of ugliness and terror and keep hammering away at the painful things that matter. Continue reading.
I’m absolutely thrilled to share that HOLE IN THE MIDDLE has found a US/Canada home with Soho Teen! I’m delighted to be working with editor Dan Ehrenhaft to bring this weird, wonderful little book to my home shores. Coming to America in hardcover and audiobook in fall 2018.
In addition to surprising me with a hole-foods-themed book launch party (doughnuts! fudge rings! gummy “book” worms!), my heart-explodingly wonderful coworkers put together this story about my childhood determination to be an author, the truly weird origin story of HOLE IN THE MIDDLE and the process of writing a novel. Biggest and brightest thanks to writer Taryn Franklin and photographer/designer Ruth Silva, who are better than this world deserves. Read the story here.
On the eve of my book release, Lyz Lenz at The Rumpus was kind enough to let firecracker teen librarian Gretchen Alice and me put together a reading list of books for/by young women who are using their voices to fight back in a pussy-grabbing world. Girls, your voice matters – now speak (and read!) out. Check out the list here.
The JWA’s Emily Cataneo and I dug into the potential of YA literature to smash the patriarchy! Also discussed: the power of minority representation, tips for young feminists, and the ways we teach girls their bodies are flawed and all the ways that’s damaging. Read the interview here, and check out Emily’s beautiful, dark and dreamy stories here.
How writing a novel is like trying to carry an armload of spaghetti up the stairs: an interview with FLAPPERHOUSE
In advance of the publication of my debut novel, I talked with FLAPPERHOUSE’s Maria Pinto about discovering characters, wanting to back-up dance for Of Montreal, and how writing a novel is like trying to carry an armload of spaghetti up the stairs. Read the interview here, and preorder the novel here.
This summer I published a gender horror story called “Octopus vs. Bear” with Lightspeed Magazine. This was the first story I wrote at Clarion. Elements of it had been bouncing around in my head for a while—the strange, sticky trap of the patriarchal bargain that makes being female-bodied in public a dual pleasure and liability; frustrating conversations with well-meaning but misunderstanding male friends; a growing fatigue with rape culture and street harassment—problems that I wanted to solve, and in doing so, rid them of their ability to trouble me.
This is getting real: my first novel is now available to preorder on Amazon. Buy a copy for someone you love! Or for someone you hate, if they are unnerved by fierce girls and body positivity and metaphors disguised as doughnuts.
Clarion was a whirlwind and has opened my mind in one million directions. I’ve always haunted best the strange middle spaces between magic and reality, and after six weeks of intensive speculative fiction reading and writing with some of the world’s greatest minds, I’m delighted to start sending weirder pieces out into the world. This spring, look for new original fiction in Lightspeed and Apex, and a reprint of “Asymmetry” in PodCastle.
Wondrous news: my debut novel has a cover, and I love it. It feels free-wheeling, as contemporary and strange and indie and somehow collapsing-in-on-itself as the novel and its protagonist. These are the things, dear ones, that keep us up at night: a deep and thrilling joy.
See the full cover and (kindly) add it to your to-read list on Goodreads.
HOLE IN THE MIDDLE will be released on July 7, 2017. Preorder information forthcoming!
In the midst of the sleepless and wondrous lifestorm that is the Clarion SFF workshop, I’m elated to share that my debut novel has found a home with Atom Books, an fabulous imprint of Little, Brown UK! Look for it in summer of 2017. A short pitch of the book can be found here.
Published by One Story in the summer of 2015, this Pushcart Prize-winning story explores the life and mind of a Vietnam veteran whose PTSD and complex relationship with language mire him in a world of uncertain fictions. The piece will be reprinted in the 2016 Best American Nonrequired Reading, at which point the author will spontaneously combust from happiness.
Writing a cover letter can seem daunting. How do you address it? What do you put in your bio? Should you use emojis? Well, never fear: the Cover Letter Generator is here! Simply enter the name of the journal and the title of your project, and you’ll receive your very own customized, shareable cover letter (that you should never, ever send to a magazine).
Published by One Story in the summer of 2015, this story explores the life and mind of a Vietnam veteran whose PTSD and complex relationship with language mire him in a world of uncertain fictions.
I’m immensely excited to share that I’ve been invited to attend the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop in San Diego, where I’ll learn about the art of genre-writing from masters of the form Kelly Link, Ted Chiang, Andy Duncan, Victor LaValle, Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner.
My capstone project at the School of Information was a 160-hour, semester-long practicum in an elementary school library. All of my past work had been with teenagers–I had never done a storytime, didn’t know the names of any picture book illustrators, and felt (frankly) embarrassed singing in public. I was unbelievably lucky to land under the wise wing of Barbara Nichols at Casis Elementary, who took me by the hand and immersed me in the wonderful world of children’s librarianship.
During my final year of graduate school, I worked as a Connected Youth intern with the Austin Public Library, facilitating technology and craft programs for users aged 8-18 in libraries across the city. This year granted me an appreciation of the real-world experience of being a public youth librarian as I helped kids with homework and Minecraft, made friendship bracelets and perler beads and shrinky dinks, ran Lego labs and video game freeplay events, performed readers’ advisory, and more.
An interview with writing blogger Nancy Christie and Broad’s founding editor Heather Lefebvre about the woes and wonders of writing short fiction, and what it means to run a magazine that exclusively publishes women, trans* and genderqueer writers.
The final project for my Database Management was to create, in a group, a functioning database on a subject of our choice. Deciding to select a topic that would keep us engaged, our group chose to create a database of cute animal videos that users could search by animal and video length.
A conversation with Smokelong Quarterly’s Ariana Calvo about the quiet desperation of hipsterdom, iPhone culture, and the tenuous “you” of second-person short fiction.
I had the opportunity to read in the I Scream Social series at the wonderful, independent shop Malvern Books in Austin, Texas during South by Southwest. It was ominously stormy and gorgeous, and there was free ice cream, and the hosts shot this video of me reading a fabulist flash fiction about breasts and “Leonardo or Lenin or Princess Diana,” a short story about dead pets, social anxiety, and the strange, small homes of miracles.
An interview and story hour with the deeply talented Matthew Anderson, who reads “The Week of Small Apocalypses,” “Three and Half Billion Chances,” and “Things We Believed When We Were Small,” and graciously lets me ramble about writing, magical realism, and the regional rivalry between North and South Carolina.
In the fall of 2015 I processed, with a partner, an archival collection about Dr. Freddie B. Dixon, an east Austin civil rights leader and influential African American reverend in the Methodist church from the late 1960s to the present. Over the course of several months, we inventoried Dr. Dixon’s personal papers, applied preservation intervention when needed, and created a curated, arranged collection that made Reverend Dixon’s life and work available to researchers and community members.
A gorgeous review by writer Tabitha Blankenbiller of The Girl Who Could Only Say ‘sex, drugs, and rock & roll’: “Open me up, the hand-sewn ivory cover beckoned. You’ll only be a minute.”
The lovely and talented poet-human Georgia Bellas (with the help of her famous stuffed bear) reads aloud a handful of my stranger, sadder love stories: Things We Believed When We Were Small, The Monster Under Your Bed, Asymmetry, and Three and a Half Billion Chances.
I have a wee magical realist chapbook and it is now in the world. “The Girl Who Could Only Say ‘sex, drugs, and rock & roll’” is a queer, magical love story about the hazy dreamworld of adolescence and the ways language reveals–and constrains–us. Palm-sized and beautifully handbound by independent Austin-based publisher Awst Press.
In which I talk with the wonderfully named Liz Blood about my new chapbook, The Girl Who Could Only Say ‘sex, drugs, and rock & roll’; strange fiction; and the creepiness of being in love.
In the summer of 2015, I created a school library at Skybridge Academy, a private school in Austin. With some donated shelves, an ambitious spreadsheet and a $500 budget, I undertook collection development, thrify acquisition, and processing for an up-to-date, relevant library for students grades 6-12.
A conversation with the brilliant, dynamic writer Lesley Arimah about magical realism, mothers and mermaids.
A Q&A about Things I Know To Be True, a story about mental illness and a veteran finding solace in books.
As a teacher, a youth librarian, and the editor of a magazine founded to promote the work of female and genderqueer writers, the empowerment of young women is a matter of vital importance to me. In the spring of 2014, I developed a program called REAL GIRLS, REAL BODIES for a Young Adult Materials class at the University of Texas’ School of Information.