Monday, January 28, 2019

TBR: Things You Won’t Tell Your Therapist: Stories by Colleen Kearney Rich

TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe! 

Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?

THINGS YOU WON’T TELL YOUR THERAPIST is a collection of flash fiction about people with secrets. Everyone in the book has something to hide and the reader gets a glimpse into their private moments.

Which story did you most enjoy writing? Why? And, which story gave you the most trouble, and why?

The story that was the most fun to write was “Petty Cash.” I wrote the first draft in a Kathy Fish online Fast Flash workshop. What I love about those workshops is that you are writing fast and don’t have time to do a lot of second-guessing about the story’s viability. It came out pretty much intact, and I love that. I wish they all just flowed like that and that I knew immediately where the story was going.

The title story gave me the most trouble. I have always wanted to write a list story, but I just couldn’t make it work in that form. I’m very happy with the resulting story, but I still haven’t written a successful list story. Maybe this year.

Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.

The highs are probably also the lows. I submitted the chapbook to a lot of contests and had to recompile the manuscript each time to meet the contest’s submission rules (page counts, table of contents, etc.). It was finalist in in the Black River Chapbook Competition at Black Lawrence Press and on the short list for the Santa Fe Writers Project awards. I didn’t win. These are two of my favorite publishers, and I would love to work with them one day. It was really rewarding to know some people out there liked the book enough to make it a finalist.

While I was at the Hambidge Center in Georgia for a writing residency, I decided to submit it during Finishing Line Press’s open reading period. They were interested in it. They are primarily a poetry publisher, but the format works with flash. Several of my stories are a single paragraph.

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?

Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style still has some of the best writing advice there is. One I live by is: Omit needless words. Writing “tight” in both fiction and nonfiction is critical. Omitting needless words and tightening up other’s writing is a big part of my day job as a magazine editor. I know it is heart breaking to have to “kill your darlings”(another great piece of writing advice from William Faulkner), but it is necessary if you are writing for an audience. Readers don’t have a lot of patience so I feel it is important to not waste their time. One of the things I love about writing flash is the paring down of the text so that every word matters.

I am a fiction editor at Literary Mama, and I think overwriting is what causes a lot of stories to fail. Sometimes I can see the bones of the story that the writer is trying to tell, but they are writing all over the place.

My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?

I was surprised at how many dogs show up in the book, and I am still really puzzled by it. I don’t have a dog. I am more of a cat person. In fact, my elderly cat is sitting here with me as I type this. Good thing she can’t read. I need to write more cat stories.

How do you approach revision?

For me, getting distance from the work is a big part of revision. I do like putting things away for a little while. When writing, I am so immersed in the scene that I really can’t see typos or missing words. When I take a break from it, it breaks that spell and I can see everything so much clearer. I also have a writing group that I rely on. It is really valuable to have those early readers to flag things that they are confused by and get a general reaction to a piece.

Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)

Belgian waffles! In one of the stories that takes place at a diner. But, like the woman in the story, I don’t make them at home. I have recently shopped for a waffle iron but haven’t taken the plunge yet. Do you have a waffle recipe? I would like to find a good one.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: I don’t make Belgian waffles, but I swear by the classic waffle recipe in The Joy of Cooking, my go-to cookbook since the olden days. And let the record show that I’m afraid to use that whole cup of butter…half a cup feels daring enough. Recipe:




Monday, January 21, 2019

TBR: Meteor by C.M. Mayo

TBR [to be read] is a new feature on my blog, a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe! 

We don’t expect an elevator pitch from a poet, but can you tell us about your work in 2-3 sentences?

Meteor is a pocket-constellation of persona poems. In other words, these are not memoir but confections of the imagination. They are also— to steal part of the title of an anthology in which the title poem appeared— my goodbye to the Twentieth Century. (That anthology was American Poets Say Goodbye to the Twentieth Century, edited by Andrei Codrescu and Laura Rosenthal.) I think of this collection, starting with “Meteor” and ending with “The Building of Quality,” as my song to and of the twilight of the Pax Americana.

What boundaries did you break in the writing of this book? Where does that sort of courage come from?

I don’t know if there is a boundary between poetry and fiction, but if there is I broke it. Many of of these poems I had originally considered flash or micro fictions, and indeed a few were originally published as short stories— but then I had too much fun chopping up and arranging stanzas! Does this take courage? Yes and no. Yes, because making any art takes courage; there is always the risk that someone, for whatever bizarre or valid reason, may attack your work. On the other hand, no, this does not require courage. I’m old enough to realize it’s just sad that someone who would attack my work doesn’t have anything better to do. In my experience, those who attack other artists are even better at attacking themselves.

Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.

It was mostly low, as in deep down in the salt mines, nicely preserved. These poems were written by a younger poet who moved on to writing tomes of nonfiction and an epic historical novel and, somewhere in there, edited a literary magazine and a collection of Mexican writing in translation. From my informal polling of published poets it can take many, many, many and multitudinous submissions before a book of poetry gets published. Let’s just say, that sounds believable to me. In the poetry world a common path to publication is to submit your manuscript to a contest to be judged anonymously—your name and address and any other identifying information stripped off the manuscript. I submitted the manuscript to contests, but irregularly, lackadaisically. About a year ago I decided it was time to make this happen and, bingo, it did. Linwood D. Rumney, author of Abandoned Earth, who selected Meteor for the Gival Press Award for Poetry, and whom I look forward to meeting one day, I send you showers of lotus petals!

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?

If you want to do it, you’ll do it. If you want to watch TV and scroll through social media, you’ll do that. You could train a giraffe to ice-skate, if you really wanted to. Now whether there’s a market that wants to fill a stadium to watch your ice-skating giraffe, that’s another question. And the market isn’t everything. Sometimes the market is just stupid. I’m thinking of Roman entertainments. They liked to watch giraffes getting gored by rhinos.

My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?

The same thing that has surprised me in writing all of my books, that there is a door in consciousness that opens.

Who is your ideal reader?

Someone who can contemplate nuance and ambiguity and, above all, see with the heart.

Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes* I might share?)
No, but I will be delighted to share my recipe for baba ghanoush. Roast a bunch of eggplants whole. When cool, peel off the skins. With a fork, mash the eggplant with tahini, lemon juice, salt, pepper, olive oil, and plain good quality yoghurt. This will look like a nasty grey mess, but that’s OK, it tastes great. Sprinkle parsley and paprika on top for both added flavor and color.



READ A POEM FROM THIS BOOK, “In the Garden of Lope de Vega”:

NOTE: Look for C.M. Mayo at the AWP Conference in Portland in March!

March 29 ~  Gival Press 20th Anniversary Celebration Reading event, 7 PM

March 30 ~ signing at the Gival Press table in the bookfair, 10 AM - 11:30 AM

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Plan Ahead for February!

Another class I'm excited about, especially since it's in my own town of Alexandria at the beautiful Torpedo Factory arts center!

Thursday, February 21, 2019
CBAW + Torpedo Factory Art Center Creative Writing Workshop
Hosted by Community Building Art Works and Torpedo Factory Art Center
6:30 PM ~ 8:30

No creative writing experience required! Join Community Building Art Works for our monthly community building creative writing workshop in partnership with the Torpedo Factory Art Center. February's workshop will be led by author Leslie Pietrzyk. Doors at 6:30, workshop begins promptly at 7 pm.

About the Workshop: Scene-Building: Making Your World Real
Learn some tricks and tips about how to create lively, interesting scenes that will make your readers feel right there with you. Appropriate for prose writers at all levels of experience. (And poets who want to play with prose!)


Friday, January 11, 2019

January Prompt Class at Politics & Prose

Join me! This class is always fun and productive...beginners welcome, as are more experienced writers.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019
6:30-9 p.m.
Right Brain Writing: People
Politics & Prose Bookstore
5015 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC

Explore your creative side in this session, one of a series of stand-alone classes with prompts designed to get your subconscious flowing. Through guided exercises, we’ll focus on writing about the people in our lives—the people we know, the people we think we know, and, of course, the deepest mystery of all: ourselves. No writing experience necessary! This is a great class for beginners and also for those fiction writers and/or memoirists with more experience who might be stuck in their current projects and are looking for a jolt of inspiration. Our goal is to have fun in a supportive, nurturing environment and to go home with several promising pieces to work on further.  Please bring lots of paper and pen/pencil or a fully charged computer.

More information/registration:


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.