Slow Learner

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Lake of Earth is nearly a year old. As a way to mark that, I thought I’d list some things I’ve learned over the past few years. Some of this might seem painfully basic, but they’re lessons that’ve taken me a while to get right.

1. Do the Work

I had a professor in undergrad, Rebecca Gorman-O’Neill, who told us that “writers write.” This seems like obvious advice, but I didn’t do a great job of it after graduation. From 2008-2010, I wrote very little. I’d chip away at existing stories once or twice a month or write first drafts I never returned to. I almost never submitted work. I’m not sure what I was waiting for. I told myself that I was collecting ideas, that I only wanted to write when I was “inspired.” Those reasons were bullshit. I just didn’t want to do the work. While I discovered a lot of great authors in that time (Gary Lutz, Blake Butler, and Aimee Bender to name a few), I had zero disciple, so I never got finished anything.

In early 2011, I started writing on a schedule and sending out work. Later on in the year, the work started getting published. I also began writing in a journal about what I was reading, and that kind of close analysis helped my stories. In this article about Maria Bamford, her mantra is reportedly “Do the work.” It’s good advice for all realms of life. If you want to do something well, you’re going to have to put in the hours.

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A Letter from Lake Ontario

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New story in issue five of Kilgore Quarterly! It features comics by Noah Van Sciver and Sam Spina, an essay by John Kuebler, an interview in comics with Anders Nilsen, and more. It can be ordered here.

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Clods

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“Clods” is up today at Cheap Pop. It’s a very short story about a strange concierge, grenadine, Florida, and burning to death. It’s part of a series of twenty stories called MILK TEETH. Previous installments can be found here and here.

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Valkyrie

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Valkyrie is up today at Vol. 1 Brooklyn. Thanks to editor Tobias Carroll for taking the piece. After having the idea for the story, I thought, “That doesn’t sound like something I’d usually write.” I had just finished some longer work, so I was interested in trying something different. Anyway, while reading the story, maybe listen to this?

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Reviews

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Read Three by Ann Quin, Nevers by Megan Martin, Ray of the Star by Clarice Lispector, Frisk by Dennis Cooper, and Green Girl by Kate Zambreno. Listened to A U R O R A by Ben Frost, Shallow by Porya Hatami, and Are We There by Sharon Van Etten.

Megan Martin’s Nevers is a collection of very short stories that feel like something new. Her sentences are compressed and acoustically sound in a similar way to Diane Williams’s work, but her quickly arcing plots resemble nothing I’ve ever read. The stories move from place to place with blinding speed: from gondolas to hot tubs to tree houses and back to hot tubs in the blink of an eye. It’s a smart, funny, dazzling collection. You can read an interview with Martin over at The Fanzine.

The cover of Kate Zambreno’s Green Girl is too good not to mention. The close focus, the bright, patchy glitter, the whitehead — it’s a perfect encapsulation of the writing therein. The book focuses on Ruth, an American working a menial retail job in London. The narrator (also the girl’s creator) follows her closely and is both intrigued and repelled by her. The relationship between the narrator and Ruth is similar to the central one in Clarice Lispector’s Ray of the Star, allowing us to see the bones of the creative process without being obnoxiously meta about it. I loved Zambreno’s last book (the hybrid memoir/lit theory book Heroines), and I thought this one was great as well. On the Tin House blog, Zambreno talks with Lidia Yuknavitch about Green Girl, Heroines, and a great section about the ridiculousness of “serious work.”

Porya Hatami’s Shallow reminded me of Simon Scott’s album Below Sea Level, in that they’re both startling representations of place. The acoustic and electronic elements merge with field recordings, slowly rising and falling in a way that feels strangely like weather changing. You can read an interview where he discusses his process here.

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Collar and Vessel

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Collar” is up today at The Fanzine. It’s part of a loosely connected series called MILK TEETH. More on that in the coming months.

“Vessel” is in the new issue of SAND, a literary magazine based in Berlin. It’s almost sold out, so I think you’ll have to go to Berlin for a copy. Haven’t you always wanted to go to Berlin? It’s alright, I hear the weather’s just fine.

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Reviews

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Read In the Devil’s Territory by Kyle Minor, The Chronology of Water by Lydia Yuknavitch, and Niceties: Aural Ardor, Pardon Me by Elizabeth Mikesch. Listened to I Was All You Are from Birds of Paradise. Watched Killing Them Softly and Under the Skin. Notes on some of these after the jump.

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Bliss and Constriction

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Bliss and Constriction is up today at Spork. It’s about a couple that travels to Brazil to join a cult. Also featured: reliquaries, windshields, beaches.

Thanks to Joel Smith for taking the story and for the solid edits. Spork has been on a roll lately, with great work from Matt Bell, Jac Jemc, and Elizabeth Mikesch.

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Reviews

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Read Tripticks and Berg by Ann Quin, Endurance by Alfred Lansing, Speedboat by Renata Adler, and Kind One by Laird Hunt. Watched The Place Beyond the Pines and Nebraska. Listened to Antecedent Conditions by threethings, The Machine Stops by The Frozen Vaults, Where Shine Bright Lights by Tara Jane O’Neil, and July by Marissa Nadler.

Reviews of Tripticks, Berg, JulyAntecedent Conditions, and The Machine Stops after the jump.

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Natives

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“Natives” is in the 10th and final issue of Pear Noir. It can be preordered here. It’s a story about child thieves and a town that gets caught up in it all.

Partway through writing this story, I lost direction with it. I had a draft that wasn’t working, but couldn’t pinpoint the problem. I sent it to my sister Rain, and she helped to identify the issues and brainstorm some solutions. Her assistance was invaluable, and I greatly appreciate it.

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