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Snowy run

Thursday 12/17/20

Been sending out a nice pitch pertaining to the Negro Leagues to do a piece with an angle that no one else will have. Also have taken Longer on the Inside: Very Short Fictions of Infinitely Human Lives to a few places. What is exciting about this book is, well, a lot. It's a new kind of fiction. I don't know what you call it. These are not shorts, they're not short stories as we think of them. They're like compressed novels that don't feel compressed. In 800 words. 1100 words. 650 words. The innovation aspect is exciting. Notable. On the artistic front. But they're also so digestible. If we want to say that attention spans are limited--I don't believe that, so much as I believe people are offered few things to capture and hold their attention--then this is the perfect fiction for right now. Simply put, you hit so hard on the "ooh this can be popular" side and you also hit so hard on the "ooh, this is super arty" side. I've changed so much as a writer in my journey. I couldn't have written these works three years ago. You have to make characters instantly felt and known to the reader, like you have a shared past relationship. That first moment of meeting on the page must not feel like a first meeting. It must feel like you've known them for years. I don't anyone else can do that, frankly. But that's what this book is built on. I need someone with some vision to say, "My goodness, what have we here?"


I'm also going to apply for a National Endowment for the Arts grant. It's $25K, so that would relieve some pressure in the short term financially. Applications are due in a few months, but I have pulled up the forms already. I can apply in fiction or nonfiction, given that I do so much of both. There's a lot of snow outside. I may try a snowy run before getting back to work. Do Zulu warriors not run in the snow? Of course they do.


I was talking to someone the other day who I like and respect. I don't use those words liberally. They're a writer. They're in my corner. And they told me that if they're being honest, they're very jealous. This was rare moment of candor, in part because of its nature. I deal with a lot of jealousy. It's part of the reason why success--quality of work, a notable publication, stack of notable publications in short periods of time, the publishing record--leads to resistance for me. Barricading. That someone who likes me could say this to me, who wouldn't stand against me as a result of this feeling, is telling. That's someone who likes me. And yet this component is still there.


A lot of times, the theme of my career, when I bring a great new work to someone, a work like "Girls of the Nimbus," is that they know what I do, they see what I do--and some of the recent things that have been done are conveyed in the cover letter--and they think, "Right, not on my watch, his roll stops here." Because of what they don't do, and how acutely they feel that ordinarily, and how extra-acutely I bring that out. It also makes a difference if people are banging the drum for you, if you're known as someone that just has to go in because that's how it works, with your name. It's sight unseen, practically. Because of the feelings I engender in these people, there is not a person among them who bangs the drums, let alone thousands. And I show up with the achievements, the matchless work, the insane production, the seemingly impossible range, and I'm polite, and I write a gracious letter, and there is no fair work and career-based reason to then act as the person will almost always act. They feel no risk, because it's done to someone with no support whatsoever. The power is also important--the power they perceive that they hold in that moment. They hurt their product by not taking the opportunity to improve it, and they could be in on something big, historical, impactful, consequential for this world, and well beyond the sphere of publishing and literary person culture. But they don't think about that. They don't care about that.


***


I had my snowy run. Three miles. Pace was glacial. But it's good to run in the snow, a better workout, and easier on the legs than the pavement is.


I tried to send a nice pitch about book covers to someone I used to write for who is now at Poets and Writers. I think my relationship with book covers is unique among authors. Also what I believe they should accomplish.


This is a new piece I wrote for JazzTimes on Duke Ellington and The Nutcracker.


The cover idea I have for Longer on the Inside is so cool.


And lastly: here's an actual Duke Ellington Christmas card. Neat-o.