Keep it Clean.  I.E., Puns Welcome

Monthly Archives: January 2013

Yikes: A Multiple Choice Test

Home Alone (film)

Home Alone (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A student whom you do not know, on the recommendation of another student (whose name you do not recognize) sends, for your evaluation and commentary, a piece of writing that is almost certainly the SINGLE MOST EMBARRASSINGLY REVEALING SEXUALLY EXPLICIT paragraph you have ever read in your entire life.  You should:

A.  Disinfect all surfaces and  change the locks immediately

B.  Fix him up on a blind date with a friend

C.  Change professions

D.  Offer writing tips in exchange for photos of said experience

E.  Give him an MFA

Along with your answer, please include a case of brainwash.  I need to remove certain images from my head.

He Lied About the Girlfriend, She Lipsynced

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 3.24.22 PM

And in the week’s most important news, after a month of serious slacking and marginally abysmal nutrition, I got myself back to the gym this morning. A most neglected theme on this blog is “My Trainer Derek,” and if for no other reason than to keep myself motivated on the treadmill and disciplined in the snack aisle, I intend to pay a lot more attention to this topic in the months ahead.


Time Selector

Time Selector (Photo credit: Telstar Logistics)

I started my January class at the MFA Program by offering the “least restrictive alternative” rule for narrative organization.  Setting aside the borrowing of that name from special education (and the fact that there’s little that is analogous between my rule and school policy), the idea is that unless you have a very good reason for doing so, it’s a good idea to start at beginning of the story and tell it to the end without changing the sequence of events.

The Battle is Set


Upon the publication of Heathens, I received exactly four editorial suggestions from Bill Truesdale, the founder of New Rivers Press. I do not remember whether these came in the form of a letter or if we did them face-to-face in the then offices of the press, in the Ford Building in Minneapolis. Probably both.

The Name Game: Editorial Problem #2

David Bowie's star at Holywood.

Naming characters is hard.  The last name of the characters in my novel-in-progress is “Placeholder,” and rereading a recent draft, this actually started to seem like a good choice, and as it happens I’m out of ideas.  In my many books and stories, I’ve already used up all the names of the neighbors on the cul-de-sac where I grew up, many of the monikers of the sixth graders I used to teach, and I’m tired of playing phone book roulette.

What, You Mean This Novel Isn’t Perfect the Way it Is?


It’s fate: getting the editorial letter from New Rivers in this same week that I am preparing for the spring semester at SMU.  This is the letter that contains the recommended substantive changes from the editorial team at New Rivers, the things that they would like to see revised before the book heads into the printing process.  Fated, in the way that it reminds me of what it’s like to for my students when they get my letters to them about their draft fiction.

I Have Been Paying Attention in the Poetry Lectures

Carrot Loaf

Carrot Loaf (Photo credit: jazzijava)

Ode to a Terrine

Oh, carrot loaf

You beckon seductive

Yet almost whole

Your secrets key to your lingering loneliness

Steamed from below, ogled from above

Ultimately passed by for your

Saucier, beanier neighbor

It is your density that repels

How your surface aggressively occludes what you possibly might be,

And whoever thought you were a good idea in the first place.

What color is that anyway and why does it not recur in nature?

That green shit, sprinkled: what’s up with that?

Perhaps, instead, it is the mystery of your origin that compels the chunks in my throat,

This morning’s biscuits and gravy, to rise at your similar visage

Or is it the violence of your conception

Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays side dish, ground, shredded,

Dismembered in the Cuisinart’s indifferent maw

Tongs clenched in an overfed fist

Reach for you, tentative

Reflected by your shiny glazed blanket

Mayo and cream

Glassy as placenta

Step away from the buffet, porky

I order myself

Get your ass back to the elliptical

It is day nine of the residency and I need a laxative.


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