Reading and Writing Bosnia

Black Lawrence Press sent me Vedran Husic’s story collection Basements and Other Museums this week, and I feel moved by his work. The stories revolve around experiences of the Bosnian war and emigration to the States. The writing is packed with wise observations, mystery, lyricism, and dark humor. Here’s a striking passage from the story “Deathwinked” (available in its entirety on Electric Literature) about the city of Mostar:

Mostar, my city, you are far from me now, but I peek through the spyglass and you appear so near. In my third floor apartment, in the neverdesperate America of my childhood dreams, at my desk, armed with pencil and paper, sensitive as a landmine, fumbling similes like live grenades, I, the young, triple-tongued poet, write down the name of my birthcity like the name of a former lover. Mostar. Mostar, my city, stunned quiet. They took the Most, threw it into the river and made you unnamable. My city, one night you went dark all around me. You trembled and could not be embraced. The bombs fell on you, near-constant and heartbeatloud. I recommend war-tourism to any artist, poet especially, a month or so of up-close-death, a month, or twenty-three, of dark-houred explosions in a world maddened by sirens. You’ll never lack material, or have to account for sudden mood swings, and you’ll never lose at those drunken games between friends, intimate games, those poetic games of whosufferedmost.

I keep slowing down to read and reread passages like this one, even though their rhythms urge me forward. I want to visualize the narrator’s images faithfully while allowing space for the memories they conjure up for me.

The most recent essay I wrote is about Bosnia. It will appear in The Rumpus in a couple of months. It describes my return to Sarajevo eleven years after my family’s war-time departure. Writing it brought up the city’s streets for me, its pockmarked buildings. It brought up my grandmother’s old apartment in the Grbavica neighborhood. I felt restored after finishing the piece, and more aware of how rich the past had been. I feel honored, and a bit nervous, to share it in The Rumpus. I will post a link here once it’s live.

Good news also came from the lovely Denver Quarterly. They will publish one of my poems in their upcoming issue. I will share a link here too, once the issue is available.

Flash Publications this Week

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.

“The voice that emerged from the pages became so raw and tragic and comical and real that I wanted to kiss the pages of the book. I want to write like that.”

The gorgeous poet Alessandra Simmons recently interviewed me for her “5-9: Working Writers” series. We talked about current writing projects, perfectionism, and the need for approval. Her questions were a pleasure to contemplate, and they prompted me to think about craft more deeply. Here’s the interview!

alessandra simmons

lanaLana shared with us from her wells of wisdom a little over a year ago. Since then she’s been published in several journals. I wanted to learn more about what was fueling her so I asked her a few questions. And I’m so glad I did. Her honest self-reflection and love for the craft is mesmerizing and inspiring. Please read on and enjoy!

What have you been up to since the last time we spoke?

I’ve been swimming in flash fiction ideas. And every time I finish a new piece, I overhear a conversation between two octogenarians in the street or recall a summer-camp incident from my childhood, and off I go to start a whole new piece.

I’ve had twelve publication acceptances in the last year—mostly flash fiction—and this has increased my confidence in working with the genre. Acceptances and kind words from editors energize me to no end. I…

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