May 18, 2020: We are now entering our tenth week of sheltering in place, home-schooling, and all that goes with that. It’s been difficult time here, as I know it has been wherever you all are, too. I appreciate the way we have been forced to slow down, and that I now get to spend more time with me kids. But I also miss time alone, time to work, the quick pace of a day filled with writing and teaching and meetings and friends. I’m trying to figure out a way to write about all this, but in the meantime, I wanted to share a new essay I have up that has nothing to with the pandemic, but everything to do with chaos and power and whose stories get told. It’s a little odd, but I hope you’ll like it: “Another Old Man at the Bridge” up now on Hobart.
April 15, 2020: I sold my memoir-in-progress to Scribner Books, which has published some of my favorite books in recent years, include Kiese Laymon’s Heavy and Lacy Johnson’s The Reckoning, and so many more. Autobiography of Shadows is a loose retelling of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, but much queerer and, frankly, a little more exciting. Can’t wait to share it with the world.
March 18, 2020: I have an essay in this week’s New York Times Magazine, up online today. It’s about a pretty awful experience that my wife, Marta, and I went through, but also how we survived.
January 29, 2020: In case it might seem like everything is accolades right now, so I just want to share that I was rejected THREE TIMES yesterday. It seemed like every time I looked at my email there was a new one. The first was for poems I had submitted to Nimrod. They told me they liked the work, but it wasn’t right and to submit again. The second was an op-ed about hating Little Women (both the book and the movie) that I submitted to the Washington Post. There are probably lots of reasons for that rejection, but still, I have strong feels about Little Women that I think need to be heard! And then last was a story rejection from Story magazine. Again they said they liked my writing, but not the right piece, submit again, etc. The only thing I could do after all that, is the only thing we can all do: look back on your work to see if you can or should edit/revise in some way and then submit again, and again. Rejection is a way of life when you’re a writer. But it still stings.
January 18, 2020: It’s my anniversary today, so I thought I’d update you all with some good news. 1) My wife and I have been married for seven years! This means we’ve escaped the statistical mean for divorce (or maybe not: I thought it was seven years, but am seeing eight some places, but oh well, we’re still married, and relatively happy at it). 2) I was awarded an NEA Fellowship in Creative Writing (prose) to work on my second book (tentatively titled Autobiography of Shadows). That book is also currently un-agented, so if you know of a smart agent, or you are a smart agent, please reach out. It’s going to be a wild, sexy book chock-full of conspiracy theories, philosophy, and teenage drug use (once I finish writing it). And last by not least 3) my already-written book, Mine, was awarded a GLCA New Writer’s Award. This is a really cool prize in which winners in each genre are paid to visit liberal arts colleges within the Great Lakes College Association and read from their books and/or talk about their work/creative work in general. I love working at a large university, but I also miss the intimacy of liberal arts colleges (like my own New College!), so this is kind of like a dream award for me.
Sept 18, 2019: I’m on research leave from my teaching job this semester, so am mostly spending my time trying to finish a draft of my next book. That means I don’t have a lot of submission action (or really any other action) to report. But one small news item that made me happy recently: two people have sent me messages recently to let me know that they found my book at Shakespeare and Company, the famous English-language bookstore in Paris. I have no idea how it made it over there, especially considering it’s not even stocked at my local bookstore, but it makes me happy to know. Here’s a pic of my friend Kathleen holding a copy:
Also, this reminds me of an important PSA: if you love a book, ask your local library and/or bookstore to carry it. Lots of books from small presses like mine don’t have the marketing reach of books from larger presses, so readers can make a big difference just by asking folks to stock our books on their shelves. Readers can also make a big difference by leaving reviews, especially on Goodreads (which I adore) but also on Amazon and elsewhere.
June 14, 2019: Apologies for the delay in posting updates. I’ve been moving and trying to tie up the semester, so it’s taken longer than I planned to get back to here. But here is the news: some OK, some better than OK, some not so great. First up, my book was a finalist for two recent awards: the Lambda Literary Awards and the Forewords Indies. Marta (my partner) and I went to the Lambda Literary Award ceremony in New York in early June and, while my book wasn’t chosen as a winner, we had such a lovely time at the ceremony. It was filled with queer book readers and queer book writers and publishers and everyone was funny and appropriately sentimental and encouraging and I left feeling like a bit of a winner, if only because I get to be part of such a fabulous and supportive queer book community. As for the Foreword Indies Award, my book also didn’t win, but it was given the Silver Medal Award in the essay category, which I guess means it took second place and I always liked the number 2 better than the number 1, so I’m OK with that. The full list of the award winners is here.
Besides that, I have only disappointing submission news to report: A rather odd essay I wrote about Hemingway and childbirth was declined by Hobart and American Literary Review, though both said they liked it and encouraged me to send more work. And then another essay of mine–about writing a diary to God in eighth grade–was rejected from The Sun and Modern Love, two of my dream publications, so that was a bit of a bummer. But truth be told, I think the essay might still need a bit of work. So now I just need to find the time to get it some attention! I’ll update you all soon with good news or bad when I have it.
March 20, 2019: It’s my sister’s birthday! Yay for her. Also it’s 20 days after my book’s birthday. Yay for it, too!
March 12, 2019: Good news first. My book is a finalists for two prizes: the Lambda Literary Award (or the gay Oscars for books, as I explained it to my mom) and the Foreword Indies Awards. Marta and I was going to go to New York in June in Lammy Award ceremonies. In other less great news: my book did not make the finalist list for the Pen Essay award, but that’s cool. I was still pretty darn excited to be included on the longlist. And then in outright rejections: I’ve had poems rejected from both New Ohio Review and the Bennington Review recently, although the NOR added, “We wanted you to know that our readers did like your work,” and then encouraged me to submit again. I thought that was cute.
Feb 14, 2019: I read at VCU tonight with the poet Ada Limón, who told the audience that all her poems are love poems, a lovely idea. She did write one of my all time favorite love poems: “What I Didn’t Know Before.” All my essays aren’t love essays, but I did read a new essay about the short time period in middle school when I kept a diary addressed to God and I told him all about the boys I thought were “so hot.” I just started sending that essay out, so fingers crossed that it gets picked up somewhere.
Dec. 17, 2018: More good news. My book was included on the longlist for the 2019 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay, which is like the essayist’s dream award. I am pretty damn excited. But…just so you don’t think I’m getting to big for my britches, I also got a rejection for a story this week from Waxwing, and I submitted a bunch of poems to magazines, so I am sure I’ll get some new rejections soon to share. No worries there. In the meantime, happy winter break. Eat lots and be merry!
Dec. 7, 2018: Good news! I just found out my book, MINE, was included in LitHub’s Best of 2018 list, which is super exciting, and was a big surprise. Often those Best Of lists focus on books from major publishing houses, so I feel especially grateful to get some attention. In their listing, LitHub called the book “a wonder” and “deeply moving,” so woo hoo! I also have a new interview about the book up at The Rumpus with Mesha Maren, who has a novel coming out next year that you should all check out. Mesha asked some smart questions about moving from journalism to literary essays and also how I approach truth telling in creative nonfiction.
Oct 15, 2018: Two new reviews of the book are out, and they’re both positive, which is a relief. The Iowa Review talked about the book as a form of conversation, which feels really right to me. The Brevity review focuses on how the book finds “the humanity in those who are different from us” and also on the elements of ownership (and loss) in parenting. I’m so thankful to both reviewers and to the magazines for publishing these reviews.
Sept 14, 2018: Recent rejections: Creative Nonfiction said no to an essay I wrote about this house my dad built and Hudson Valley Writers Center rejected my poetry manuscript. In the good news department, Poets & Writers asked for an essay from me about my book and the writing process, and I wrote something short in which I happened to call the essay “the genre of resistance,” and they liked that phrase so much they used it as their headline. So I felt like a rock star (though really, the essay is the rock star).
June 5, 2018: The Houston Chronicle, where I worked as a reporter for two fabulous years, has just published an excerpt from Mine online, as part of their Gray Matters section. You can read it here. I’ve also set up a reading in Houston for Sept 21 at Brazos Bookstore. I can’t wait to see that city again. It’s still one of my favorite places.
June 16, 2018: My Oxford American essay about Florida is now available online. Read it here.
June 7, 2018: My essay on Florida is out in the new issue of the Oxford American, which will be available on news stands on June 12. I have long dreamed about being in the OA, so this is pretty thrilling. Also, the editors there were fabulous to work with (especially Maxwell George). We talked through several drafts of this essay, something that’s never happened to me before on a piece, and with their feedback, the piece got infinitely better. Here’s a quote from the article by Roxane Gay that I think sums up Florida: “Florida is a strange place: hot, beautiful, ugly. I love it here, and how nothing makes sense but still, somehow, there is a rhythm.”
April 25, 2018: Good news. I have an essay forthcoming from the Indiana Review. It’s another long-titled one, and also in instructional form (as was my essay “A Lesbian Granola Mother’s Guide to Having a Magical Day at Disney with Your Two-and-a-half Year Old,” available here). This new one is called “How to Explain Lesbian Baby-Making to Your West Texas Stylist” and it will come out in their Winter 2018 issue. Maybe I’ll make a book of these?
March 30, 2018: I forgot to mention that I have a new essay up at Lithub. It’s about Jack Kerouac’s daughter, who he abandoned, and also about raising kids without a father. You can read it here. As for rejections, I’ve had work declined lately by The Sun (but with a nice note), Black Warrior Review, Guernica (but with a note to send more), the Kenyon Review, and Tin House Online. Oh and Passages North. Phew. Those rejections never stop hurting, but they get easier the more I get (as long as they are balanced out by an acceptance every once and a while). So keep on keeping on if you’re out there and getting rejected too.
March 4, 2018: My book is officially available for purchase, and my first reading from it was last week in Lubbock, which felt quite apt. I finished MINE there, and quite a few of the essays take place there. For those of you considering a PhD in creative writing, I recommend checking out Texas Tech. Yes, it’s in the middle of West Texas, but all that space can be quite beautiful, and the distance from everything gives you lots of time to write.
Nov. 15, 2017: My book (it still feels strange but exciting to say that!), is now available for pre-order. You can pre-order via the publisher’s web site here, or at Amazon here. The cover photo for the book, by the way, is one that I took while we were in Spain this summer. It’s from the a tiny town called Castañares de Rioja, which is next to an even tinier town where Marta’s dad lives.
Oct 7, 2017: I’m at one of my favorite conferences, the ALTA (American Literary Translators Association) conference in Minneapolis, and I was just on a plan about “Using Literary Magazines Well.” We talked a lot about how translators can use literary magazines to get promote and advocate for the author they are translating (and hopefully eventually get a contract to translate said author’s book), but we also discussed the nuts and bolts of submitting, including dealing with rejection. I explained my strategies for finding magazines to submit to, and as part of that talk I handed out this: Submitting to Literary Magazines Handout. And afterwards it dawned on me that that handout might be a nice thing to share with the world as well. So if you are interested in submitting and/or in finding more resources for submitting to literary magazines, feel free to download and share.
Sept 15, 2017: A whole season has come and gone, and in that time I’ve been rejected so many times. I’ll just give you the highlights: Tinhouse just last week rejected a story of mine after waiting a year to respond. They apologized for the long delay and said they are trying to improve their submission processing. I also got a detailed rejection of that same story from Subtropics. Encouraging rejections for poems from The Adroit Journal and Bennington Review and straight-up rejections for poems from Copper Nickel and Salt Hill Review. BUT, one poem accepted by Puerto del Sol (it will appear in December), and I also had a baby, and she continues to accept me unconditionally, which is nice.
Feb 4, 2017: I haven’t posted in a while, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped getting rejected. Recent rejections for poetry include Plume Poetry Journal, Passages North, Ninth Letter, Gulf Coast and the Indiana Review--TWICE (they rejected me once in October but encouraged me to send them more work, so I did, and then they rejected me again in December). I got an encouraging rejection for a story from A Public Space (one of my dream journals), which was nice, but nicest of all was that, just a little over a week ago, I got news that my manuscript, Mine, WON the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize (judged by Andre Dubus III) and will someday soon become an actual book (published by U of NM Press). This (THIS!), my friends, makes all the years of rejections worth it. The Indiana Review can reject me twenty times if they like, as long as every once in a while I get news like this.
Oct 11, 2016: Lots of rejections as the summer ends and fall begins. My most recent ones include flat-out rejections from Ninth Letter (poetry), Ploughshares (poetry), The Journal (poetry), Lunch Ticket (fiction), and Copper Nickel (fiction). I also got some encouraging rejects from Indiana Review (poetry), Gulf Coast (poetry), West Branch (fiction), and One Story (fiction). On the “Yay Acceptances!” side, I had an essay accepted by the Gettysburg Review, a story by Hobart, and a poem by RHINO.
Sept 27, 2016: I have a craft essay out today on Essay Daily, one of my favorite sites for writings about the essay. It’s about hybrid bodies (mostly my own pregnant one) and hybrid works. Read it here.
June 19, 2016: The Orlando shooting last week left me depressed and angry and sure about only one thing: I needed to write. I should have been preparing for my qualifying exams in a month and a half, but I decided to spend a couple days essaying instead. The Oxford American published my response essay this past Friday online. Publishing this doesn’t make anything better, or make what happened any more understandable, but writing has helped me figure out my own feelings and thoughts about this national tragedy. The essay is here if you want to read it.
May 28, 2016: We’re in Iowa City for the summer, which is lovely. It’s nice to be a city with so many writers again. In other news, I forgot to mention last month the publication of a number of works. Most exciting is the ebook publication of my translation of Federico Falco’s novella Cielos de Córdoba (Cordoba Skies) by Ploughshares Solos. I love this little book and am super excited to be part of its new life in English. Also, I published my first poems at AGNI. They’re basically essays in that they’re “true” and they’re about figuring something out, but I guess we can call them poems because they’re written in form (and really really in form: a sonnet and a poem written in terza rima). Lastly, the Iowa Review published my essay “Advice Me,” which is a strange, monstrous essay I’d been working on for years about call-in advisors, learning Spanish, and falling in love with my (now) wife. In the rejection world, there have been too many to list. After that initial acceptance by AGNI, my other poems have been flat-out rejected by every other place I’ve sent them (about 12 and counting). I’ve also had some nicer rejections (but still rejections) for stories, poems, and essays from the Missouri Review, Ploughshares, and the Cincinnati Review.
Feb 28, 2016: I’m leaving Jack Kerouac’s house tomorrow. I’ve been in this cute little bungalow for three months. It’s where he lived when On the Road was published and he was finishing Dharma Bums. The residency is really lovely. Lots of quiet time to write, lots of literary events to attend in the evenings, lots of lakes to walk to when you need a break from writing or people. I recommend it to any of you writers out there. Here I am at my farewell reading this past Saturday.
Dec 18, 2015: My essay, “Wolf Biter” which appeared in the most recent issue of The Normal School will also be included in a forthcoming anthology of essays on the body edited by Stephanie G’Schwind, who is also the editor of the Colorado Review. I’ll post more details here when I know them.
Dec 16, 2015: I read at the fundraiser for Sweet:A Literary Confection in Tampa tonight alongside founding editor Ira Sukrungruang, the poet and editor Gianna Russo, the graphic essayist and book designer R. Claire Stephens, and others. It was super fun and a nice way to support such a great online magazine. They’re holding an online fundraiser now to help them start paying writers and expand their reach, so if you want to donate, go here.
Dec 6, 2015: I’ve arrived at the Kerouac House in Orlando, Florida, where I’ll be spending the next three months as part of their writer-in-residence program. It’s super nice here. The house is lovely, has great light and lots of places to write, and the literary community here in Orlando is surprisingly vibrant. Looking forward to getting lots of writing done in the coming months.
Dec 2, 2015: Some recent rejections: VQR, Black Warrior Review (but a finalist for their nonfiction contest), Granta, The Paris Review (but asked to send more work!), The Gettysburg Review. One recent acceptance: Sweet:A Literary Confection. Still waiting to hear from tons of more places, so I’m sure there will be more rejections to post soon…
Oct 30, 2015: Had a great time moderating the panel “From the Newsroom to the Workshop” with fellow nonfiction writers Inara Verzemnieks, Harrison Fletcher, Jennifer Latson at this year’s NonfictioNow conference in Falgstaff, Arizona.
Oct 9, 2015: My essay on covering an ex-gay conference many years back in Houston is now up at Narrative.ly. Read it here.
Sept 24, 2015: My essay, “A Ballad for You” is now up at storySouth, a really great publication with a super editor. Read it here.
Sept 20, 2015: Some recent rejections: Ninth Letter, Hobart, Word Riot, and Rattle. Some recent acceptances: The Iowa Review, Narrative.ly, and Triquarterly.
Aug 3, 2015: And now news that my first short story has been accepted, too. Yipee! It will appear in the October issue of Juked.
July 27, 2015: I just found out my first published poems will appear in the spring issue of AGNI (a magazine that’s rejected my essays at least three times).
July 5, 2015: An essay I wrote about lesbian parenting and the SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage is now up at Guernica.
April 27, 2015: I’m super excited that my essay “Wolf Biter” will appear in the Fall 2015 issue of The Normal School.
Feb. 8, 2015: I’m pleased to announce that my translation of Federico Falco’s novella Cielos de Córdoba (Cordoba Skies) will be published by Ploughshares Solos in the Spring of 2015.