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Story Faerie

I had a productive night of sleep last night. Upon awaking I had the bulk of a short story called "Nacho Cheese" written. This has happened quite a few times. "Jacks," which is the last story of my new story collection, Cheer Pack: Stories, and which ran in the Michigan Quarterly Review, was written this way. "First Responder," "Old Pyke" were also written this way. The person who was the deputy editor at Harper's had wanted to publish those. He did edits for each. Then the editor in chief at the time said no. That's unusual, when the deputy/de facto fiction editor wants something, for the EIC to overrule them. In one instance, I had written the EIC, thanking that person for reading the story, saying I had enjoyed working with the deputy, which was true. Because I dared to write this individual, they got angry, complained to the deputy, and rejected that story--"First Responder," as it were, which Ralph Eubanks published when he was at the VQR--as a result. "Old Pyke" ended up in Cincinnati Review. They still owe me the money. Both stories are in Cheer Pack. The title story of that book is as strong as anything I've written in my life, as enjoyable and as enriching as anything I've done, and I know people would love it. Because of that, it is hard to get placed. An editor at Tin House wanted it, but she was voted down at their meeting. Also wrote "Dark March" while I was asleep. So it's pretty common.


I went for a three mile run, working some more on the story, then sat my royal Boston arse down in the AC-less Starbucks at the end of Fleet Street, and sat and thought and basically finished it, save for the typing. It's a three step process, really, for me these days. Most of the story simply comes to me. That's step one. The characters are very real. They're going to work the story out, and I'm simply going to be told it by them. They are more more real than most people out in the world, and knowing that about them, I know all I need to do is hang out with them for a bit. Then, step two, I'm going to write some words down on a page, or a napkin that is one of my bookmarks for whatever I'm reading. To someone else, this would look, at best, like a skeleton key. A few words, in list form, not much else. But that's not what I see. I see the entire story when I look at those words. I read it as one reads a story, because it is taking me into my own mind, where the full text has largely developed. Then, it's time for step three, which is like playing a piece of music from what a jazz musician would call a head chart, atop of which I improvise, compose, as it were, as I go along, like I'm a pianist at a piano, the piano being the keyboard, playing along to something that exists in my mind, rings in my mind, is visible in my mind, is feelable in my mind. Now I'm also creating in the moment, open to anything that might develop, which I instantly incorporate, because it is natural, given the truth and legitimacy and realness of what already exists. That's how I'm doing it now, anyway. There have been stories--many stories--I've sat down at the keyboard and invented entirely on the spot, having sat down with nothing. What is very hard is the knowledge that before you've formally composed that first word, you know you have something that is awesome, that millions of people would connect with and be entertained by, and because of that, because you're not doing MFA pretentious sloppery that sucks, bores, and matches other pretentious MFA sloppery, it could be hard to place in journals that few people have heard of or care about. Journals where you're largely going to be hated going in because you just published ten pieces in fifteen days and these people tend not to like that, because they do very little.


Anyway. Work will be out in the next few days in The Wall Street Journal, Salon, Slate, The Barnes and Noble Review, The Daily Beast. The subjects: op-ed, Beatles, film, film, baseball. I came up with a new Rolling Stone idea today, sent another pitch to The New York Times op-ed people about Laura Ingalls Wilder, who is getting grotesquely shafted by a lot of ignorant, character-less, morally bankrupt hypocrites right now.


I saw a former editor of mine today on social media boasting about how woke they are, how woke their journal is, complete with link to a three part essay/commercial about how woke and intellectually inclusive they are. Right. Same editor once told me to "de-black" a piece.


I love the employees at my regular Starbucks, they're really kind people, but the AC situation is making it tough to go there right now. It's as hot as it is outside, if not hotter. I felt pretty good on my run. I'd been dormant since Sunday. The Monument was closed for climbing. I can usually workout just as well in the heat. This was so much sweat, though, for just a three mile run. You can't even shower right away, because your body is not done sweating, which you pretty much just have to wait out. So I sat on the steps for a while, making a puddle on the ground.


Heat aside, I sat at Starbucks for a while, making my list for the new story, listening to the Vaccines' Combat Sports, the Who at Swansea in 1976, and Hank Mobley's The Turnaround. Kind of a diffuse record for Mobley. Not as sharp as a number of his other Blue Notes. I have a meeting tomorrow out at the Coolidge about these seminars I'm going to be doing there. I was going to go to the Brattle tonight for a screening of Race with the Devil, but screw this, it's too hot. I went to the Aquarium this afternoon, and though that's just down the road, I sweated through my shirt, so I was done, cooked. I envied these guys: rockhoppers! Because they could just treat themselves to a refreshing dip!