I saw a number of writing friends in Tampa last week during the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. They are creating essays, novels, journalistic articles, short fiction, and poetry, and they spoke of their projects with such enthusiasm that I felt my own creative endeavors infused with energy. We drank and ate at restaurants, walked the streets, and caught up over coffee in shops. I had finished a new short story before heading to Tampa—a surreal piece where the setting keeps shifting to the astonishment of the protagonist—and I have started sending it out to magazines with new vigor.
Giving an off-site reading with my fellow IU MFA alums during the conference was also a pleasure. We read on the back deck of an Irish restaurant at dusk, as the winds blew about, and it was fascinating to hear the new work of fellow writers I’ve followed for years.
This week, also, my article on filmmaker Paul Shoulberg came out in Indiana University’s The College Magazine. The issue also features some great work by writers Chad Anderson and Raymond Fleischmann. Paul and I had an enlivening three-hour discussion about his life and work. He spoke about his films and his reasons for creating art. You can read the entire piece here.
Cold January left me feeling disconnected from my writing—on top of the weather, I had an endless case of the flu—but I’m slowly starting to feel like myself again. The flu even generated a vivid fever dream that I am turning into a prose poem. I have also started writing about Bosnia again—a short story from the perspective of an aging couple—and it feels significant to revisit the spaces of Sarajevo now. They are providing me with a deep sense of comfort, and they are generating childhood memories, as well.
I have not been finishing pieces, really. Rather, I’m endlessly changing, tweaking, and molding things, and also starting new work. It feels good to work without pressure or expectation.
Press 53 also notified me this week that they will anthologize a story of mine, “On the Dalmatian Coast.” I initially published the story in a small literary magazine and am excited to give it new life. It is a piece I wrote while in the MFA program seven years ago, and it meant a lot to me at the time. The piece will appear in volume three of the anthology Everywhere Stories this fall.
I also have an article about filmmaker Paul Shoulberg coming out next month in IU’s The College Magazine. Paul and I met at a coffee shop in Bloomington and had a lengthy and invigorating conversation about his creative work and views on life. I will link to the article here when it comes out.
In terms of readings, several of us former MFA’s from Indiana University will have a reading in Tampa during the AWP Conference in March. The reading will take place at Four Green Fields restaurant on Saturday, March 10th, at 5:00 p.m. So look to forward to being with these gorgeous writers and friends in a relaxed setting!
On April 22, I will also participate in a benefit reading in Bloomington, Indiana. This will be a Punks Give Back event, which will feature five to six writers and two bands that will play in between readings.
I’m so grateful for all these waves as they come. It’s such a pleasure to connect with other creative people and to examine my own inner spaces again through my work.
My poem “Rose Horn” is in the new issue of Zone 3, and it is a piece that weds my connection to Buddhism to a memory from my Bosnian childhood. Copies of the issue can be ordered here. The gorgeous cover art is by Billy Renkl.
I’m thrilled to announce that my flash fiction piece “Shifted,” which was based on a real break-in, appears in the new issue of Front Porch. It is available online. My nonfiction piece, “Sarajevo on the Phone,” is also available this week from Storm Cellar Quarterly (in print or e-book format). The piece initially appeared in my chapbook earlier in the year.
I’ve recently started working on my novel again and may give short work a break for some time. The novel takes place in my native Sarajevo, and I’m loving the process of revisiting streets and buildings on the page.
In an attempt to reconnect with writers who have influenced me, I googled Mary Gaitskill’s name today and came across a 2015 New York Times article about connection and loneliness in Gaitskill’s work. In the piece, literary critic Parul Sehgal teases out some of the complexities that lie beneath the surface of Gaitskill’s behavior and writing.
The article left me wanting to slow down as a writer and to dig more deeply into silence, awkwardness, discomfort. To explore character traits I avert my eyes from in real life. The entire piece is available on the NYT website, but here is a short excerpt about weakness:
We are phobic of weakness, we treat it like a contagion, averting our eyes and hoping for the best. But Gaitskill puts her fingers in the wound. Even among other artists attracted to weakness as a theme, she is rare in being able to look at it on its own terms. She doesn’t treat it like a curiosity, like Diane Arbus, or a chink in the armor that might let in faith, like Flannery O’Connor. She isn’t afraid of it, like Muriel Spark; nor does she insist its depictions rouse us to action, like Sontag. She looks — just looks — and sees everything: how weakness is despised, how weakness can be cunning, how victims aren’t merely saints or dupes.
Earlier this year, I was invited to a local grade school to talk to a class of fifth and sixth graders about being a war refugee. I discussed my Bosnian childhood with them, as well as my family’s move to Spain and ultimately to the States. Something unexpected happened during this session, and my reaction to the event too was unexpected. I wrote a personal essay about it, and I am happy to say that the piece was accepted for publication by the international journal of the humanities War, Literature & the Arts. I feel honored by this acceptance, since this journal puts out work that is both beautifully written and highly perspective-giving. I will announce the publication of the piece here once it is out.
I’m delighted to have one of my new poems, “On the Balcony,” in the new issue of Cider Press Review. In other exciting news, Zone 3 has accepted a poem I wrote about my grandmother’s house in the Bosnian countryside. The poem will be available in their next issue. I’m so grateful to be included in these two magazines and to be such wonderful company.