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Friday, November 25, 2016

#PretendImYourFriend in #PeopleMagazine (@people) and #EntertainmentWeekly (@EW)

Pretend I'm Your Friend: Stories has launched with some very cool reviews in People and Entertainment Weekly! People puts me next to Ms. Carly Simon and EW gives both me and Michael Chabon a B+.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Speaking to STCC Students on the First Day of #TRUMPNATION

I spoke to two different groups of students at Springfield Technical Community College on Wednesday, November 9. It was very heartening to talk  to young people who are working so hard to get an education, especially after such a rough election night.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Today I Am Thinking About the Late, Great #GracePaley: #Shortstory #Genius

Here's a memory of mine published over The Story Prize Blog about Grace Paley. What a writer.

Paley offers this advice for you today:

  1.  Have a low overhead
  2. Get a spouse/bf/gf/lover who has some regard for you work
  3. Learn to tell the truth all the time
  4. Watch out for being trendy
  5. Work, work, work
  6. As you work, you'll get better or worse. If you get worse, get out of the business
Watch this amazing video about her (which didn't know existed) called GRACE, so you can see her chewing gum for yourself.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Something #Original For You: Experimental Animals: A Reality #Fiction by Thalia Field

I know that this is story month here at LROD, but I've come across something so new and original (a reality fiction) that I felt I had to post it today. Thalia Field's Experimental Animals is a book about humans and our treatment of animals. Karen Joy Fowler (author of the best-seller We Are Completely Beside Ourselves) calls it “A beautiful and thought-provoking collage of a tale of rescued history and a sobering tribute to some of its victims.”

The experimental novel revolves around a moment in modern science when a choice was made to base human research on the bodies of animals. As you all know, I'm a medical writer by (paid) trade, getting my start when HIV/AIDS was a nascent topic of scientific study (but mostly because my friends were dying), so I am fascinated by this topic, as will you be. Here's what she has to say about the book:

When did you first start writing this novel?  I've been working on this book in fits and starts for 20 years. I had no idea where it would lead me, and no idea how it would be in its final form until long into my later drafts.

How is this novel different ( the same) as your other writing? What makes them fit into the category of “experimental” Experimental Animals shares some genetic material with my last book, Bird Lovers, Backyard. Both involve history of science and a range of narrative forms, a combination of fiction and non-fiction. I think my work is innovative in that I don't rely on previous styles or forms with each project... in other words, each book, every piece, finds its own "way of being" that is pretty unique.

How many revisions did you write? The first draft that felt like it even approached what would be the whole book was over 800 pages long! It wasn't in the form the book finished in, and it didn't have the same focus. Over the course of a few more years I worked very hard on shaping and cutting and forming the final manuscript, at about 1/4 of the length. It was devastating to get rid of so much amazing material, but... for the sake of the novel's success as a novel, it had to happen.

Who read your drafts? A select group of writer-friends read drafts once it was in a readable form, in other words, pretty close to what I was willing to show and send out. It's a lot of work to ask someone to read a draft and give feedback, so I tend to limit that request until I'm desperate, and also until I really know what I'm asking that reader for in particular.

Did you use an agent? If not, why not? I have no agent. No agent will take me, it seems.

How long did it take to find a publisher or the collection? This book took a few years, which is about my average. My work is deemed difficult, and since each book is unique and different, it seems like it takes awhile to find the perfect publisher. But I've lucked out with Solid Objects, they are amazing and have incredible literary insight and follow-through.

What is your worst rejection story? I have so many...from horrible rejection letters telling me "you must not know anything about literature"* to the harsh rejection by editors who cite their marketing departments. Horrible.

What is your best rejection story? I'm not sure what's the difference between worst and best... It's always pretty hard to hear someone hates your work. I guess sometimes people try to be kind, but...not really. There's a weird amnesia that seems to overtake they forget what it feels like to put work out there...

Where were you when you received the offer for the book to be published? Aww... I was teaching at the Vermont Studio Center... what a great day!

Has your philosophy on getting published changed? I think small presses are the best, especially for literature. They give an artist time to develop an audience, and they don't rely on marketing departments to make their decisions for them.

What words of advice would you give to a writer on the journey toward story and story collection publication?  I always try to remind my students that you can't base a life's work on any one book, or story, and that it's impossible to know where one is heading next. Getting published is important, but going only for name-brand status is not. The smallest publishers are so often the ones doing work that eventually goes into the mainstream. It's worth always considering the smaller presses.

*Thalia Field is a professor of Literary Arts at Brown University.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Allegra Hyde on Her #Debut #Story Collection, Of This World

Allegra Hyde is the winner of the 2016 John Simmons Short Fiction Award. Her debut story collection, OF THIS NEW WORLD (University of Iowa Press), is our feature today. She is young, fresh, and ready for you to buy a copy of her book, which offers a menagerie of utopias: real, imagined, and otherwise.
Q. What was your process for putting together this collection? 
A. Of This New World emerged organically from my longtime fascination with utopian communities. I’ve always been drawn to groups of people seeking to live out an ideal—groups like the Shakers or the hippie communes of sixties. No matter how well planned these utopian endeavors are, conflicts inevitably emerge. This is ripe territory for a fiction writer! Of This New World starts with a retelling of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden and ends in a Mars colony. The collection includes stories told using conventions of science fiction, historical fiction, realism, absurdism, and other modes, but every story offers a different way of considering the utopian experience.

Q. How long did it take from start to finish to complete the collection? 
A. I wrote “Free Love,” a story about an uprooted flower child, back in 2009. The story was later published in the Bellevue Literary Review—my first appearance in a print journal—and this publication gave me the confidence to keep going. The rest of the stories emerged in the subsequent years, the last one being written in the spring of 2015. I received the news that Of This New World would be published in January 2016.

Q. Who read your drafts? 
A. My husband, Alex McElroy, is also a writer. We met in the MFA program at Arizona State University, so you could say our relationship was born from a fiction workshop. For better or worse, we work closely as writing partners: exchanging draft after draft of our stories. Alex has read my book, Of This New World, more times than either of us can count.

Q. Did you use an agent? If not, why not? 
A. I didn’t use an agent. Conventional literary wisdom seems to be that agents avoid short story collections, so I decided to go the contest route. There are actually quite a few contests out there, including the Iowa Short Fiction Award series run by University of Iowa Press, which I ended up winning.

Q. What is your best rejection story? 
A. A few years ago, I wrote a deeply personal story called “Bury Me.” I showed it to a professor who suggested several literary journals as possible homes for the story, though he said specifically that The Missouri Review probably wouldn’t be interested. After unsuccessfully submitting “Bury Me” to numerous journals and contests, I started to believe the story would never go anywhere. On a whim, I submitted to The Missouri Review. Several months later, I received an acceptance letter from TMR’s editors. Even better: the story was later selected for inclusion in The Pushcart Prize anthology.

Q Where were you when you received the offer for the book to be published? 
A. I was actually living in Bulgaria when I received an email from Jim McCoy of University of Iowa Press. He wanted me to give him a call, but I had to wait about six hours for our time zones to align. Those were a long six hours!  

Q. What words of advice would you give to a writer on the journey toward publication?  
A. I must turn to Anne Lamott for this one: “I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.” 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

My Life As An Animal by Laurie Stone

Here's the first interview in our new series this month, which I'm calling: October 2016 is Short Story Month. Laurie Stone has a lot to say about her new short story collection, My Life as an Animal (Triquarterly Books), which is due out this week (October 15th). Plus as a bonus, you can read a story excerpt from the collection here.

WR: When did you first start writing the stories in My Life as an Animal?
Laurie: They developed from a writing practice I began ten years ago when I met Richard Toon at an artist colony. We got to know each other by trading stories, and we still write at a café every day when we are together. We pick a subject, work in our notebooks for 30 minutes, then read aloud to each other. We agreed when we started that each piece would be a scene or a meditative essay. No diary or journal entries, no reviewing the day, no summary or analysis. We practice narrative techniques—dialogue, a sense of place, sensual detail, and most importantly shaping a narrative voice that thinks in two time frames. Something happens, the narrator reports a response at the time it happened, and the narrator also weighs in on the incident now—at the time of the telling—whether the look back is five minutes later or 20 years later. Animal developed from this practice.

WR: How are stories different from (the same) as your other writing?
Laurie: Pretty much everything I write these days is a story. The pieces in this book and elsewhere are dramatic narratives. I am not especially interested in things that happened because they happened. I am interested in whatever I find sexy, scary, surprising, strangely ordinary, or ordinarily strange. My work incorporates elements of fiction (scenes, dialogue, the build-up of dramatic revelations, etc.), memoir (some of the stuff happened in some form or other), criticism (my narrators enjoy thinking about art and politics), and nonfiction (some of the reporting is journalistically verifiable).

WR: When did you feel it was a collection?
Laurie: The stories are linked, and they have the same narrator, so it’s not a collection in the standard sense. If you think of a novel as bowl, and you throw it against a wall, the shards are these stories.

WR: How many revisions did you write?
Laurie: Hundreds. Stories emerge slowly for me, and I work at the level at the sentence, no prewriting or planning. Something has to happen while I am thinking about language.
WR: Who reads your drafts?
Laurie: This is a good question. I think you have to protect your work from people who tell you to make it better by writing like them. I want to know if something is alive or dead. Richard makes great suggestions, also my sister and another friend who are not writers but have learned to read experimental, hybrid, and fragmented pieces.
WR: What is your worst rejection story? 
Laurie: I'm curious why you ask this question, and I am going to answer in a way you may not like. Every life is filled with disappointment and rejection.  This is not a special category for writers, and to make it a special category disrespects other kinds of disappointment. You have to love what you do.  The value of writing has to come from that. I need recognition from the world. I want to be part of the public conversation, and that means a lot of the time someone says to me, "No thanks," or "Get lost." At this stage of my life, I think about whether they are right and I need to make the story better.
WR: Actually, I quite like your answer. LROD was started in 2007, and a lot has changed in the literary world since then, and a lot has stayed the same, too. Writers seem to accept disappointment and rejection more easily as part of the gigthanks in part to the ongoing discussions here and elsewhere. It's a learning process, isn't it? But, changing the subject, what advice would you give a writer wanting to publish a story collection?
Laurie: Believe in the short form if that is how your mind works. If an agent or editor tells you to shape something for commercial ends, leave that person. I used to make a living as a writer. I don’t anymore. I don’t know how you are going to support yourself while you write stories, but find a way. I have a follow-up to this book called The Love of Strangers. It is even more fragmented and hybrid than Animal. I’ll let you know if anyone bites. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

A #Literary Tribute: 13 Amazing #ShortStory #Collections Being Published in October

Dan Wickett co-founder of Dzanc Books posted on his FB page that there are 13 stories being published this month, including Pretend I'm Your Friend.  Many of them, as you see, are small press books, where interesting experiments are taking place. I am, therefore, declaring it Short Story Collection Month here at LROD. I will get some of these books featured here with author interviews in the Victory Over Rejection label, as many as I can. Perhaps you will take part in the month and buy a few to read and give as gifts, as 'tis almost the season.

Here is a list of books, authors, and publishing companies:

Sunday, September 25, 2016

New #Book Happy Dance--#PretendImYourFriend

When you get to see the final page proofs of your new book--only 51 days until #bookrelease!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Second #Book--Or, Why I Am Having Trouble Getting My #Promotional Ass In Gear

Listen, I'm the one who whined for years and years about not being able to get my books published, and now here I am on the verge of publishing book number two, a linked collection of stories I wrote quite some time ago, I must admit to a little ennui. Mice: Have no sympathy, empathy or compassion for me. You can even stop reading right here if you are rolling my eyes at my stupid feelings. I am, however, going to discuss this issues as a human phenomenon, which is really no excuse, more like a sociological/psychological anecdote of the crazy that is my head.
     Here's what I propose: When you put so much of your professional worth into a single novel and a follow-up book of short stories, and then try for a decade or so to get someone (anyone!) interested in publishing it, you probably cannot achieve the kind of results that will live up to the weight of your career hopes and dreams. (I use professional and career to also stand for identity and self worth, unfortunately.) This is not to say that I am disappointed in the results of the novel; I was in People Magazine as a pick of the week with Stephen King and Annie Lamott, for shit's sake. It's just that somehow I thought it would all amount to so much more, or a different me, or something. And so approaching the launch of book number two (pub date: this November), I am finding it hard to make such a huge investment. Is that wrong? Of course it is, but I don't think anything will really do what I want it to do. I need a spiritual awakening or a spiritual practice or something that does for me what a published book will not.  Anyway, just thought I'd share.  I will get my ass and gear and this too will pass. Just seems kind of ironic to feel this way after all the LROD complaining, right? Well, maybe it's just today. At least it is raining in the Northeast; we need it for the trees and gardens.
     Life never ceases to amaze, does it?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

What Does This #Librarian Actually Think? #Literary #Book #Review #Assistance Needed, Please!

I got my first review for Pretend I'm Your Friend from Kirkus Reviews, always so prompt and proper. I love me some librarian brains, and this is a very intelligent, thoughtful, evocative review, so I am grateful. The only thing is that there's not really a single extractable blurb in there, and, you know, it makes you wonder if those discerning librarian reviewers go out of the way to avoid giving a compliment, which of course, the publisher is looking to use for the back of the book. Though, really, people, since when is it about compliments; why must I fall prey to the capitalist mind-set of wanting only to sell books. I mean, we strive to have our work taken seriously, collected in the great halls and libraries of this great nation, not to have our egos stroked, right? Right.

Therefore, I submit to the mice nest, The Review for your consideration. Would this review make you want to read the book, buy the book, or see it on your library's shelf? Also, compare it, please, to this review, which did have one good word about the craft, namely "polished."

Okay, but anyway, who am I to judge?  You, please, be the judge, for me, if you will, micycles, so that I will know what to think:
Kirkus Review: Pretend I'm Your Friend
Short stories that frequently touch on endings—of love, relationship bonds, even life itself—link back to one another in surprising ways in this collection.

In “People Say Thank You,” Violet’s gift of extrasensory perception carries surprising consequences. During an argument with her husband she blurts out, “Oh, go to Georgia,” without knowing she’s essentially sanctioned his affair. “Hands of God” follows two friends on a vacation; Helena hopes to distance herself from her boyfriend’s affair with another couple, while A.J.’s attempt to get lost in a one-night stand only reminds her of an inescapable past. Caschetta (Miracle Girls, 2014) sets scenes in one story that evolve in later ones. A family makes complicated arrangements to bring a dying man to a wedding only to become stranded in a snowstorm in “Alice-James’s Cuban Garlic”; what’s known about their history turns out to be only a small piece of the story, revealed during the ceremony in “Marry Me Quickly.” Another pairing begins with a woman’s cancer diagnosis and the shameful wishes it inspires; later, the same character is in hospice, and it’s her family’s reactions as she dies that shape the story. Dialogue between characters is seamless in its realism, heightening the tension in uncomfortable exchanges. “A Line of E.L. Doctorow” traces Lorena’s emotional journey from betrayal to jealousy as her husband makes a move on the nanny she’s grown possessive toward; the couple use the children as chess pieces or forget them altogether, and the terse exchanges between the points in this triangle are chilling.

The confrontations and losses can be gutting, but the ways they tie to one another create a strengthened bond among the survivors; there’s hope amid the ruins created here.

                                                                                                           --Kirkus Reviews

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A #Retrospective on #Blogging, Or Why All These #Literary #Rejections Are Important

Something occurred to me this morning: totes random, for sure, but still worth sharing. For years on this blog, smart alecks from all corner of the InterWebs told me that I should stop blogging (read: complaining, moaning, bitching, and whining) and get back to writing my opus. The sentiment behind the dig was: "Why do you spend ALL this time blogging when you COULD BE writing."  I consistently rebuffed the implied insult by saying, "I spend plenty of time writing, thank you." And in truth, I am always writing to deadline for my paid consulting gig as a medical writer, and in my spare time I am always writing as fast as I can on my own creative projects. How else would I have a published a book of short stories (okay, granted: when I was a mere child of 28) and then a published novel (okay, so I'm slow: nearly twenty years later when I was 47) not to mention the collection of linked stories coming out in the fall?  I barely even dare to mention the unpublished book of essays no one wants, the nonfiction travel book at a silent retreat and spiritual journey that I can't get any traction on, and the book about being disinherited that is kicking my ass: I'm on version 5 and I STILL don't like it (That's right: version five; tone is everything in this book, and I'm getting closer, I think.) So, yeah, I write plenty. I happen to be fast at it, even though the publishing has come slowly.  And also, here's something I learned recently, all those years of so-called "wasted blogging hours" (that someone was always pointing out to shame me) WERE contributing absolutely to the ultimate success of my so-called literary career. I mean, people LOVE a literary genius (if you happen to be one, which I am not) but they don't come looking for you, and they surely don't let you sit around and be brilliant without dusting off the old dog-and-pony show and taking it on the road virtually and IRL.  So, in essence, though maybe the whole enterprise is pretty insignificant in the world of the written word, I don't regret a single minute I spent on this blog. Especially because--this is important--it is hard to find community and comfort and consolation as a writer, or just a regular person, in this culture. And I found that here with all the patchy, scratchy, and sometimes illustrious mice who came around to complain or boast or start a fire.  I really needed you guys on my darkest days, and on most of my light days, too. So, thanks, you all, for being part of LROD. Even the trolls who used to drive me crazy and don't come around any more.  I miss the days when blogs were relevant, and maybe they still are. Surely, I still come around to write a word or two here, even if you can find literary rejections and iterations of this dumb idea all over the floor of the Internet. I guess, you could say my work here is done in the initial sense of pulling publishing out of the closet and into the light a bit.  Or whatever the hell this is.  That's all for now.  Keep writing and plugging away and sending your work out and believing in yourself (even when you don't...and especially then) because before long you will look back and see that it amounted to something very important: your life. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Little #Book #Trailer, #Anyone?

Wait...why does it look so sucky when I use the blogger video feature?  You can see what it really looks like here.


Someone told me no one does them anymore and no one watches them. Guess I'm always 10 minutes behind the literary fashion.  Typical.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Hundreds of #Literary #Rejections Later, Yet All Is Not Lost #Pretend I'm Your Friend

How far we've come from the days when the stories in my ill-fated (until now) collection were roundly rejected by everyone in publishing town!  Remember?  Do your mammalian minds reach back as far as 2007? I sent those stories out individually, and as a collection, and then as two collections, and still nobody wanted them.
"Publish a novel," they said. "Then someone might care about your collection."
"But these stories are special," I said. "They're linked!"
"Who cares about rejection?"
It didn't matter, though, because those were the days of rejections, so many of them, adding up to years. Now I can look back at them fondly because they are in the past. At the time, though, as you know, I wailed and lgnashed my teeth and pulled my hair.

Finally I published the novel in 2014. And, guess what, mice: they were right! As you can see above I now have advanced reading copies of the linked story collection, which my publisher calls "entwined."

The advanced reading copies arrived on Saturday to my front porch. I took the above picture as proof that there can be a pay-off to hanging in there and being persistent.  Like a cockroach, a literary cockroach.

There are worse things. Never say die, right?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Little Advanced Praise? #PretendI'mYourFriend @elizmccracken

It may be true that I've lost my LROD edge due to the very act of having to promote another book, as I've been so accused just this morning, but here I am again.  Call me soft, but this blurb from my all-time favorite story writer, made me cry big cartoony tear drops:
"There are, I suppose, stories full of brilliance, hilarity, and longing—the stories in MB Caschetta's terrific Pretend You're My Friend are full of all these things—but I can't remember when I've read a collection so full of life. Actual life: the bad jokes, the astounding velocity, the sweetness and darkness. You will love the characters here the way you love your own family: complicatedly, with tenderness, understanding, and consternation. The only difference may be how willing—and eager—you are to introduce them to friends. Good heavens, this book is good." --Elizabeth McCracken
Elizabeth McCracken!!! Dang, Mice. That doesn't happen every lifetime now, does it?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Originality & Impact: When Other #Blogs Rip You Off Without Knowing It #thievingblogs

You know you are a Sarah-Palin-style maverick when everyone blogs your content without giving you any credit. This is particularly amusing because the same originality is what makes it impossible (nearly) to get published these days. You anonymice all remember back in the day (2007) when we started this blog, yes? No one thought it was a good idea to post, let alone discuss, rejection letters. They called us names; they sent threatening legal notices; they wanted to shut us down. It was unseemly for an artist to air her dirty laundry.  Now, not so much any more.  It is fun, expected, and entertaining--almost everywhere you look.  I suppose that is progress....or something.

Check out all of these:

Huffington Post
Mental Floss
Click Hole
Flavor Wire
The Atlantic
Thought Catalog
Business Insider
Buzz Feed
The New Yorker
Go Think Big
Open Culture

Plus, so many, many more....

I don't even really blame these dudes for not giving credit where credit is originally due. Who can go back that far when everything is an iteration of an iteration of an iteration of an iteration? There's a huge hunger for content on the World Wide Web, so much so that it's just like manufacturing cheeseburgers. People like to know exactly what they're getting, something they know pretty well already.  

Friday, January 22, 2016

From me, A New Book Out This Fall 2016 #PretendI'mYourFriend, #Fiction, #Shortstories, #EngineBooks

Remember all my moaning and groaning about not being able to get my second short-story collection published? Remember how everyone in the publishing world said, "Write a novel first. No one cares about a second collection unless you've written a novel"?  Well, guess what, Mice? Those bastards were right! Coming this fall to a book store near you is my second collection of short stories entitled PRETEND I'M YOUR FRIEND.  Yes, sirree.  I wrote and published those suckers individually when I was a mere third-gendered lad/lass of 30, for the entire decade of the illustrious 1990s. (Some even won some fiction prizes, and all ended up in sweet literary journals...good ones).  Alas, I am now a lot older than I was in my 30s, so when I go back to edit the stories (which are linked by character cycles), I am rather surprised at what my mind was like back then. Mostly it was filled with sex. The stories are very obsessed with the topic, but I guess that makes sense on certain biological and social levels. Well, so, hold onto your hats for a new book from me this coming fall.  By the way, it is also fantastic to have this book come out at long last. The stories are pretty good.  Also, mice, it is the same publisher who put out my novel, Engine Books.  So I am a lucky, lucky literary ducky. What do you think of the awesome, retro cover design? I'm kind of excited, myself