April 2021

Just finished attending the UND Writer’s Conference at the end of March. I came for Joy Harjo, stayed for Sonia Shah, and fell in love with the work of Ross Gay. It was a great conference.

Joy Harjo is one of my favorite poets, as well as being our first Native American Poet Laureate. Here is her page on the Poetry Foundation: Joy Harjo, and here is one of my favorite poems: The Woman Hanging from the Thirteenth Floor Window, by Joy Harjo. She also recently worked on a project as the editor of a collection of Native poetry: When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry.

I didn’t really know much about the other authors this year before the conference, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of them, Sonia Shah, was a journalist who had a book about pathogens and contagion that I had had on my Amazon wish list for some time! Of course, I finally ordered it! Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, From Cholera To Ebola And Beyond.

But the biggest surprise was Ross Gay. I’ll admit I had never heard of him before, but he was the highlight of the conference for me this year. He was so upbeat, so full of joy; after the horrible year that was 2020, his optimism and celebration of the little things was just what I needed. No surprise, since two of his books are Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (Pitt Poetry Series) and The Book of Delights: Essays.

Speaking of delights and optimism, the camping registration window has opened, and I’ve started making our camping reservations for this summer. I’m a little apprehensive about how it will be, though, because our weather has been so strange. The weather has been good enough we could have started camping already. Normally, the weather now is awful. When we tried to pull our old camper for trade last year at this time, there was still snow on the ground in places and we tore up the yard due to the frost just starting to come out (causing the yard to be a wet mud pit). This year, there’s no snow anywhere and we have fire weather warnings in place. It could be a long, hot summer.

As for my writing, I’m juggling multiple writing projects right now. As I write this (in the last few days of March), I’m working on: a mid-term essay for my class; a short response to the Writer’s Conference paper for my class; a short story started last year (“started” equals some scenes written, but not even what I’d call a full rough draft yet) but now finishing up for a sub call deadline it fits perfectly; a long-ish flash piece from scratch, also on a tight deadline; and a bit of an edit on an older piece where I came up with an idea to enhance the story.

In other words, I’m swamped. But at least I’m not currently dealing with the “I don’t know what to write about” problem. In addition to all this work, I have five or six other ideas that are clamoring for attention, but like the rotten little spoiled brats they are, they are going to have to wait their turn. I’ve jotted down a few notes so that I don’t forget them and I’ll get back to them when time permits.

Here’s my short story reading list for March 2021 #500Stories500Nights

  • 1: “The Wind,” by Lauren Groff (New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice, 1-26-21)
  • 2: “Hairy Legs and All,” by Stephen Graham Jones (Nightmare Magazine podcast, 2-17-21)
  • 3: “Silver Door Diner,” by Bishop Garrison (LeVar Burton Reads, 2-1-21)
  • 4: “A General in the Library,” by Italo Calvino (Selected Shorts podcast, 2-11-21)
  • 5: “Dogs, Cats, and the End of the World,” by Louis B Rosenberg (Tales to Terrify 468)
  • 6: “Godmouth,” by PL McMillan (Nocturnal Transmissions 96)
  • 7: “Mary Postgate,” by Rudyard Kipling (The Penguin Book of First World War Stories)
  • 8: “Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself,” by Radclyffe Hall (The Penguin Book of First World War Stories)
  • 9: “Tongueless,” by Julia August (Tales to Terrify 468)
  • 10: “Writing a War Story,” by Edith Wharton (World War I in American Fiction)
  • 11: “Blind,” by Mary Borden (The Penguin Book of First World War Stories)
  • 12: “In the Tunnels,” by Pauline Dungate (The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Volume Fifteen, edited by Stephen Jones)
  • 13: “Hunger: A Confession,” by Dale Bailey (The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Volume Fifteen, edited by Stephen Jones)
  • 14: “The Dunwich Horror,” HP Lovecraft (The HP Lovecraft Archive; hplovecraft.com)
  • 15: “Only a Moment,” by Lex Black (The Other Stories 59.4)
  • 16: “The Uninvited Grave,” by Jeffrey Thomas (Pseudopod 727)
  • 17: “A Challenge You Have Overcome,” by Allegra Goodman (New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice, 1-19-21)
  • 18: “Flyboys,” by Tobias Wolff (LeVar Burton Reads, 3-8-21)
  • 19: “Prince Amilec,” by Tanith Lee (Selected Shorts, 2-18-21)
  • 20: “The Idea of Marcel,” by Marie-Helene Bertino (Selected Shorts, 2-18-21)
  • 21: “The Sin of America,” by Catherynne M Valente (Uncanny 39A)
  • 22: “The One’s Who Won’t Be,” by Martin Munks (Drabblecast 441)
  • 23: “Cannabilism in the Inhuman Age,” by Jaye Viner (Drabblecast 441)
  • 24: “Storms of the Present,” by Christopher Hawkins (Tales to Terrify 469)
  • 25: “Stew, Britannia!” by Lyman Graves (Nocturnal Transmissions 98)
  • 26: “There’s Something Crawling on Me,” by Jordan Hirsch (Daily Science Fiction, 3-15-21)
  • 27: “Digital Olives,” by B. Renard (Wicked Libraryi WIHM 2021, 2-21-21)
  • 28: “Scare Tactics,” by Gary Wosk (The Other Stories 60.4)
  • 29: “Digital Nomad,” by Koji A Dae (The Overcast 144)
  • 30: “Three Wishes,” by Robert Bagnall (Daily Science Fiction, 3-19-21) 31: “Junie Proctor’s Panties,” by KT Jayne (Wicked Library WIHM 2021, 2-21-21)
  • 31: “Junie Proctor’s Panties,” by KT Jayne (Wicked Library WIHM 2021, 2-21-21)

In addition to reading a short story a day, I read All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque. I was inspired to read it because we had to read an excerpt in my WWI class. It was good, and I enjoyed it a lot more than I’m enjoying our current long read for the class, Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. (bleh!)

I’ve also tried to be a little more consistent with my reading (or else I’m never even going to make a dent in this TBR list before I die). I’m trying to systematically go through the list of stuff I want to read. I started with All Quiet, and now I’m moving back into my nonfiction stuff.

I set aside my start-stop Lovecraft and started back with Thacker’s In the Dust of This Planet: Horror of Philosophy (Volume 1). That might have been a mistake, because it is a slog.

A small sample: “Let us call this spectral and speculative world the world-without-us. In a sense, the world-without-us allows us to think the world-in-itself, without getting caught up in a vicious circle of logical paradox. The world-in-itself may co-exist with the world-for-us — indeed the human being is defined by its impressive capacity for not recognizing this distinction. By contrast, the world-without-us cannot co-exist with the human world-for-us; the world-without-us is the subtraction of the human from the world.”

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Of course, that’s to be expected, though. Here’s the intro from his Wiki: Eugene Thacker is a philosopher, poet and author. He is Professor of Media Studies at The New School in New York City. His writing is often associated with the philosophy of nihilism and pessimism. 

There are definitely nuggets of wisdom here, but you have to put in the work to get to them.

This “album” he points to in the text is probably a good example, though I couldn’t put in the work to get to a nugget out of it. Go to YouTube and check it out yourself: Keiji Haino – So, Black is Myself. Or skip it, it’s probably all the same either way (yay, Cosmic pessimism)! I got through about five minutes of the hour-long video. Good luck to you.

After this book, I plan to jump back into the Lovecraft letters. I struggle with these non-fiction works because they require actual attention and contemplation, and I just haven’t had a lot of time for that lately. Now I’m going to try and make the time. My usual mode is I read a chapter, get busy, and then try to pick up where I left off two, three, or even four weeks later. Ask me what I did two days ago, and I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you; so I’m certainly not going to be able to dive back into a book I set down a month ago. Every time I pick a book back up again after a pause, I have to pretty much start over.

That’s it for this month. I’ve got projects calling my name. Until next month, Stay Spooky!