Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bone Worship: The Book Trailer!

Yay! Check out the book trailer for Bone Worship!!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bone Worship in

In conjunction with We Are All Iran, has published an excerpt from Bone Worship here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Great Review in Booklist!

Booklist says of Bone Worship:

"A realistic and heartfelt depiction of a young woman at a crossroads wondering “What’s next?” Eslami’s debut deftly limns a young woman’s exploration of her roots, her attempts to understand her father, and how, to her own surprise, she finds a way to navigate both the expectations of her parents and her own burgeoning desires."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Totenbein in Natural Bridge

You can read my short story, "Totenbein," and lots of great fiction and poetry in the current issue of Natural Bridge, available in bookstores and libraries everywhere.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

We Are All Iran -- San Francisco Public Library

If you've looked over at the cover of Bone Worship lately and wondered if A)it looks somewhat different and B) if you've gone somewhat crazy, don't fret. The cover has indeed changed slightly, but I love it just as much. (I hope you do too! :)

In other news, on December 12th, I'll be reading from my novel with several wonderful AIAW writers at the We Are All Iran event at the San Francisco Public Library. I'm thrilled to be the company of such an excellent group of writers. If you're in the Bay Area, please come and join us.

Sat, Dec. 12th, 2-4 pm - SF Public Library
We Are All Iran: A Literary Reading to Mark the 6-month Anniversary of the Iranian Elections
The June 12, 2009 Iranian presidential election put the international spotlight on Iran and the courageous acts of its citizens who filled the streets of Tehran to protest the election results. The days and weeks that followed June 12th--when ordinary citizens took to the streets to protest, to raise their voices-- inspired people around the globe..
As the months have dragged on and media coverage has waned, the U.S. news headlines have refocused on Iran's nuclear ambitions--and by doing so have minimized the spirit and energy of the Iranian people in their efforts to challenge their government.
To remember and bear witness to the extraordinary courage of the Iranian people, Bay Area writers from the Association of Iranian American Writers (AIAW) will share their literary work at the San Francisco Public Library.
Bay Area poets and novelists will read from published and recent work and invite members of the community to share with us as we remember the courage and sacrifice of those in Iran struggling for democracy, human rights, and to have their voices heard.

Authors to read include:

Persis Karim (introduction)

Laleh Khadivi
Esther Kamkar
Elizabeth Eslami
Ari Siletz
Anahid Hojjati
Farnoosh Seifoddini
Tissa Hami
Katayoon Zandvakili
Angella Nazarian

Date: Saturday, December 12, 2009
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Where: San Francisco Public Library

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Official website now up!

Read about the book and buy a copy at my shiny new website.

Bone Worship Reviewed in Library Journal

Bone Worship just got a really nice review from Library Journal! Here's an excerpt:

“First-time novelist Eslami gives us the perfectly titled story of Jasmine Fahroodi, an aimless college dropout seeking direction in her life… Her discovery of what she feels passionate about is compelling and authentic. Another thread in the story is her Iranian father's determination to arrange a marriage for her. While it's a bit puzzling why a man who rejected his homeland and family and married a very American wife would seek such a traditional solution for his daughter, the resolution of this story line is immensely satisfying. The novel is full of wonderfully drawn characters, especially Jasmine's awkward, gruff father. And there are some lovely stories about the father's childhood… VERDICT This debut's real strength lies in its treatment of the Fahroodi family's complex relationships and of Jasmine's journey into womanhood. Recommended for readers who enjoy immigrant family dramas, such as Monica Ali's Brick Lane and Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake.”—Evelyn Beck, Library Journal

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Odds, Ends, and Litfest

Hi everyone,

Just a heads up that you can check out my story, "Everything Gets Mixed Together at the Pueblo" now in Crab Orchard Review's current issue, Cultural Heritages in the 21st Century, available in hard copy everywhere. This story also received an honorable mention in Glimmer Train's Fiction Open.

In the social media department, don't forget you can now follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Red Room, in case you didn't notice all the razzmatazz down below.

And finally, it seems the book tour for Bone Worship is finally taking shape! Yay! There are several readings lined up in Eugene and the surrounding area in January -- more on that later -- and, excitingly, I'll be at the famous SMU Litfest in Dallas in April. Mark your calendars! :)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Richest Hill on Earth

My favorite city is not Paris. I’ve been to Paris. It was cold, rainy, and full of aggressive street vendors hawking miniature Eiffel Towers. When they tried a sales pitch in French first, and then English, I pretended to speak German.

It’s not Zurich either. A beautiful city, full of cobblestones and cathedrals, but one in which the public restrooms seem to be constructed from the refuse of an original Star Trek shoot. When I got locked in one of these restrooms for over twenty minutes, I tried to read the instructions in German first, and then English, until I realized I didn’t speak the lavatory-Swiss German of: “You’re screwed.”

I wandered through these cities in a permanent state of awe and confusion. I gawked, spinning around like a top stuck in a sidewalk grate. A top, you realize, has no business being in a sidewalk grate. I’m not sure exactly what does belong in a sidewalk grate, but I certainly didn’t. Those cathedrals are meant to tower over carelessly chic, peripatetic, polyglot Europeans who stroll arm in arm under crouching concrete gargoyles and stiffly postured saints, not a dork with a twenty pound backpack and some rusty high school Spanish. That’s when I realized. When I tasted the truth of it, bitter as Turkish coffee.

My favorite city is not one of these magical places. It’s a place where I can stand still. Where I speak the language, which can only be described as a cross between rancher and miner, with some base metals on the tongue. Butte, Montana. A stone of a place that manages to get down inside you and rattle around your skull so much that, when you’re not there, you actually miss the noise.

When I first visited Butte, a dirty city carved into a cluster of denuded, mine-scarred hills, my husband and I were looking for a place to settle in Montana. We had narrowed it down to Butte and Dillon, one a city of 30,000 and the other a town of 4,000. We had a hard time deciding, so we did what we always do: we looked for ice cream. It was August, and we stood around – there were few outdoor tables at this particular establishment – with chocolate cones dripping down our wrists. The guy next to us, born and raised in Butte, said: “Ice cream is good on a day like this. Of course, come winter, we’ll all wish we were somewhere else.” He had a look like he was seeing the future, our future, in the reflection of the glass window, just behind the Go Bulldogs sign, and it wasn’t good.

Afterward, we wandered up and down the streets, all with names that function as testaments to the copper boomtown Butte was until 1920 or so. Mercury. Granite. Quartz. The hot wind blew up dust devils that raced past our legs, and we strolled on, staring at the grand old Hotel Finlen, at brick buildings with the shadows of bankrupt business names stenciled above the windows, worn away by decades of snow. We kept squinting; something blew in our eyes.

“Could you live here?” my husband asked. “I don’t know,” I told him. “The grit in my eyes is keeping me from saying yes.”

When we checked into the Capri Motel to deliberate, a man emerged from a back room, a TV dinner still warm in his hands, and gave us the key. We started our laundry, went back to the room to look at a map, and when we returned, someone had stolen my underwear.

We never did end up living in Butte. Dillon won out. But as anyone who lives in Dillon knows, if you have any emergencies or need anything important, you go to Butte. So we came to know it. We’d drive an hour up through the Pioneer mountains –sunrise, sunset, bighorn sheep crossing the road – to conduct business at a little copy shop full of kind ladies. Their pug, Pearl, sat in the window, frosting it with her breath. We had lunches at the Hanging Five diner, which I thought for years was the Hanging Umbrella diner, not realizing the “umbrella” was an upside down 5, our car parked precariously on an ice-covered hill in the parking lot. Once during Knievel Days, when Butte’s own Evel Knievel family is celebrated raucously, I waited for a mechanic to bring my car back to life while motorcycles flew over the car dealership and flames shot out of pyrotechnic equipment positioned in hollow trash cans in the street.

We flew in and out of Butte, with half of our outgoing flights cancelled from blizzards. We didn’t mind. It seemed a better deal to be in Butte, even if it just meant wandering along Blacktail Creek trail. Sometimes, flying in, we were given the option to stay put in Salt Lake or risk a flight with the world’s bravest pilot (sorry, Sully Sullenberger) through blank-white skies and clouds like speed bumps to get back home to Montana. We always chose to take the risk, and as we’d come down, a cemetery on one side of the airport and a bowling alley on the other, we were never sorry.

I love Butte and its contradictions. In the winter, the cold freezes everything, and the bitter air gets down in your lungs like metal, but ice crystals fall from the air like some kind of miracle. It’s a poisoned place, with arsenic and lead left behind from copper mining days. It had the longest running brothel in the United States, but its inhabitants also built a giant, 90 foot Our Lady of the Rockies statue out of donated material, which juts out of the mountains like a toenail. It was built, they say, to honor women.

Butte is not pretty. The biggest tourist draw is the Berkeley Pit, what remains of the largest truck operated pit mine, a toxic brew so full of heavy metals that, a few years ago, three hundred unfortunate geese made the mistake of using it for nesting grounds and perished. Almost alone among U.S. cities, Butte allows open containers of alcohol on the street.

If you go to the brand new Butte-Silver Bow website, you’ll see a pretty picture of the county courthouse. You won’t see the ramshackle buildings, the ice cracked roads. The website seems to suggest that Butte needs – and is getting – a city’s version of an Extreme Makeover. It says, as a selling point, that Butte is “…located halfway between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, which makes us a natural stop.” It’s like the most the city can ever be is the cultural version of a rest area.

I disagree. When you drive over the Continental Divide in fall, the mountains yellow with aspens and red with mining scars, you know it’s a place worth stopping for. That it has earned its hardness, and that it demands the same of you.

Butte is a hard, ugly diamond of a city. Maybe it could use some polishing, starting with cleaning up the lead and arsenic in its rivers. That I can get behind. But I don’t want Butte to become Disneyland or Times Square. I don’t want it to be anything but rough and cold to the touch. It’s probably selfish of me, I know. But in the end, I want “The Richest Hill on Earth” to stay the same, or at the very least, to hoard all its strange riches for myself.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Piece in Matador Travel

I'm thrilled to be featured in the current issue of the wonderful travel magazine, Matador! As part of a new series that looks at how authors take a story from field notes to final form, I reflected on how my real life experience at Acoma Pueblo helped shape my short story, "Everything Gets Mixed Together at the Pueblo," appearing now in the current issue of Crab Orchard Review.

Check out my piece in Matador here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My baby, in the flesh.

“Remember this moment,” my husband wrote today. “Remember this day.”

I told him via IM that the first ARC copies of my novel, Bone Worship, had arrived, brought up to the front door by our perpetually angry looking mail lady. (“Why was she angry?” he asked. “Probably because she’s a mail lady,” I told him.) We had waited so long to see them we had begun to give up hope. It seemed that everyone else had a copy to review, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, but I still had not seen one. It was like in one of those bad movies where a woman gives birth and nurses whisk away the child, never to be seen again. What did my baby even look like? Maybe it wasn’t a book at all. Maybe I had given birth to a fish.

But I saw it, so it was real. It did exist.

The angry mail lady walked briskly, dodging the flower bed, the rain puddles, clutching the package in her hand. The white padded envelope. Probably it was something else, I thought. A forgotten Amazon order. One of those weird, free pseudo-Christian novels you find wedged into your mailbox, the kind proselytizing people leave around at gas stations. “Thank you,” I said, as Sad Mail Lady (the anger now subsided, dampened by the cold rain) handed the envelope to me, along with our cable bill and some other assorted, pedestrian correspondence. Strange how it arrives this way, the end result of seven years of your life, your work, just slipped in like any other thing. No shaft of light, no heavenly music, no friendly UPS man in autumnal brown micro-shorts asking me to sign a form. (Although it did seem to happen in something close to slo-motion.) The mail lady told me to take care and backed away from the door. I didn’t say anything. I stared at the envelope.

I went inside, placed it on the table. It couldn’t have been anything else. I squeezed the envelope, felt three, maybe four copies inside. I could not open it.

Remember this moment, the whole day. All that came before and all after.

Before, what was I doing? I took a break from a full morning of story submissions and article writing to have lunch. A banana, half of a PB&J sandwich. I turned on the television in the background, and there was a show about meth addicts on MTV, people in rehab with blue lips. On CNN, Wolf Blitzer stood in the gilded, technological prison of The Situation Room.

After the envelope? My heart pounded, I paced. I washed the lunch dishes, took the dog out to pee in the rain.

I moved the envelope from room to room, letting it get acquainted with everything. Like a pet.

Recently I read author Mahbod Seraji’s blog about the first moment he opened an envelope containing a copy of his debut novel, Rooftops of Tehran. It was a moving and funny account involving a flight from Iran and the actress Annette Bening. Seraji wrote about weeping when he held his book in his hands, and I wondered if, when my moment came, I would do the same.

Instead, I found myself thinking about babies.

Once I went for a physical, and a nurse asked me a series of questions from a clipboard. Did I have children? “No.” (She glanced up, as if to ascertain my age.) What did I do? (This question, I think, was not on the clipboard, but rather a matter of curiosity, or an attempt to make the general experience of being in the doctor’s office less terrifying.)

“I’m a writer.”
“Oh, like a journalist?”
“No, a novel and short stories. Well, some non-fiction, here and there.”

After this, somehow the subject of children came up again, though I can’t remember how or why. She said something that involved this phrase: “When you have children.” To which I quickly responded, not wanting to be coy when one’s health is under discussion – “Actually, I don’t plan on having children.”

Immediately the nurse asked, almost reflexively: “Is there a problem? Have you been trying?” Images of defective ovaries danced through her head, twisted sperm, ill-fitting plumbing, a general reproductive breakdown. “No, we just don’t want them,” I answered. (Though I have always wanted to say, “like” instead of “want,” but have never been brave enough to do so, mostly because one is looked at like a monster when unmoved by the cuteness of children.)

“Ah, I see,” she said, after what seemed like an inappropriately long pause. She laughed nervously. “Perhaps your books are your children, then.”

She went on with her business, the physical came and went, but those words stayed with me. And the pity behind the words. And believe me when I tell you there was pity. As if one’s creative endeavors, one’s novels and poems and stories, have all become the literary equivalent of the mangy cats that spinsters allegedly keep for company in the drafty attics of their empty houses. Surrogates for families. Poor substitutes for flesh and blood.

Perhaps she was right. It may be that there is something pathetic about me in this moment, standing around, staring in awe at the fresh copies of my novel on our kitchen table. They don’t seem lifeless, even though they’re not crying, not spitting up. There’s a story inside, moving all around. In them, I can see fragments of the writer I was when I began, the writer I became by the end, all of it recorded in their pages.

Four copies. They’re so beautiful, just resting there.

Like a new mother, I hardly know what to do with them.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Four Years in Montana

I have a theory that the state of Montana is enormous for a reason. That its vastness is a test, each highway a reticulated part of a puzzle. You have to work hard to get there. Whether it’s 15 North, winding from the lunar hills of Monida Pass across to wind-scraped Great Falls, Interstate 90 from hip Bozeman to rimrocked Billings, or the hi-line from Cut Bank to Wolf Point, where blizzards seem to blow up out of the road itself, travelling through Montana is a test of your patience and of your character. After all, what else can you expect from a place famous for the size of its sky?

It is easy to be swallowed up in all that space. Easier still to pretend that you’ve tamed it by driving Going-to-the-Sun road or having your picture taken next to the Missoula airport’s stuffed grizzly. In order to really understand Montana, you’ve got to adjust yourself to the rhythms of the rivers, the snow. The golden flicker of aspen leaves. If you let it, Montana can shape you. As Annick Smith, smitten with the Bear Creek Valley near the Big Blackfoot River, once wrote: “If I lived here, who would I be?” It can make you – better yet, show you how to make yourself – carving the promise of you out of millennial rock, like the pipe organ formations that hang over the highway south of Dillon, the whole land worthy of worship. You can’t rush through Montana, however much you might want to – though, truthfully, I’ve never wanted to – and if you’re not open to it, you won’t be affected by it. It’ll be just a blur outside your cold glass window.

Recently I overheard two friends talking about how bored they were driving through Montana. Their conversation was peppered with Unabomber jokes, and they insisted on calling the gritty city of Butte – a place where the hills were leached for copper, a place with its own pit, for chrissakes – “Butt.” Ha, ha. I refrained from telling them the whole of Butte, with its jagged edges of ice in winter, everything metal cracking at -20 degrees, could probably kick their collective asses. They didn’t mean anything by it, of course. Montana wasn’t their place. Maybe their place was Texas or Florida, or even Hawaii, which has always seemed to me like a land of perishables – fragile flowers, endangered cultures, and a bunch of slovenly tourists who sprawl on the beaches, their hearts and minds elsewhere.

Do people still have places anymore? That’s what worries me. Does anyone consider it worthwhile to relocate because they love a place? Nowadays, people move for jobs, for houses, for the low price of gas. Tell someone you’re moving to a place you love just for its placeness, and they look at you like you’re nuts. (Much less a place like Montana, plagued by meth, a scarcity of jobs, and unremitting low incomes.) Tell someone that and they think you’re a fool, a romantic. And maybe it’s true; it’s just a silly romance. No maybe about it. I’m in the midst of a love affair with the state of Montana.

I blame Rick Bass. My evidence for indictment is Winter: Notes from Montana, his glorious account of a frozen winter in the Yaak valley. I read it when I was 22, about to start grad school, and then I convinced my mother to accompany me to Missoula. We rented a car and drove through western Montana, from the Bison Range in Moiese up into Glacier, stayed in little hotels shaped like teepees with photographs of grizzlies on the wall, and when we weren’t seeing our first bighorn sheep or navigating the snow-packed, cliffside dirt roads around Lolo and Libby, I was reading about Rick and the Yaak, reading enough to know that two weeks in hotels, however quaint, wasn’t going to cut it. I had to live in Montana. I wanted to be, again quoting Annick Smith, “that woman chopping her wood.”

Two years later, MFA in hand, my boyfriend and I packed an aging Ford Taurus before sunrise, loaded up our year old lab mix, mosquitoes taking shots at all of us, and drove from South Carolina across the country to Dillon, Montana. Our foolishness astounds me now; we had no jobs, knew no one. We’d only ever driven through Dillon once, for about fifteen minutes – that’s about all the time it takes to drive through Dillon – on the way back from Yellowstone. From Butte, we came down 41, from Twin Bridges, called “Twin” by everyone as we’d later learn, through pastures with distant mountains jutting up in the background, their peaks dusted ominously with snow. It was August. The drive was blazing hot at first, and we let our dog splash around in the Beaverhead River to cool herself off. She had never been in a river before that day, but since then, she has been in almost all the major rivers in the country. That’s another thing about Montana – it shapes dogs too.

We lived in a half-brick duplex on a dead-end street, with the Blacktail Creek flowing nearby, a rickety foot bridge leading into town. In the spring, we’d stand on the bridge and wait for the season’s first ducklings to float under, gently swept along by the Blacktail. Sometimes in summer, walking our dog, I’d spook a Great Blue Heron, either walking the handrail of the bridge, lifting its feet like a can-can dancer, or standing on pencil thin legs in the creek below. Flapping tremendous blue wings, it seemed like something between a dinosaur and an angel. In the winter, we walked down to the bridge at night, when the snow muted everything, our footsteps, our breathing, and we’d stand on the old nails and joints and eat snow off the rail, chomping our frozen lips into four inches of fluffy snow limning each plank of wood.

For four years, we lived in Montana, and it lived in us. If I’m being romantic describing it that way, I apologize, but only in the way that two lovers apologize for getting caught kissing in a grocery store aisle, by which I mean to say, I’m not really sorry at all. We grew up there, grew into each other, married each other and then married the land. There are parts of us there even now, long after we moved away. Once upon a time, we climbed mountains and wrote love letters and set them free in the frozen wind; the scraps of paper got caught in cattle fences where, I believe, they will stay forever. Our dog chased rabbits for four years, carving tracks into the Beaverhead Mountains, the Pioneers, kicking up wild iris at Lemhi Pass, and she came to know who she was, even if she never caught a single rabbit. We watched a porcupine by moonlight on an ice covered mountain, turning over and over a piece of bark in his claws. We were, as I said, in this world, and it in us.

We no longer live in Montana. That is an illness that plagues us. Norman Maclean wrote about being haunted by Montana’s waters, and I don’t think he was being romantic in the slightest. I understand how he felt. That yearning for a place that becomes a part of you. Of course Montanans, native ones anyway, would probably laugh at such thoughts. One thing we learned was, no matter how long one lives in Montana – four years or forty – if you weren’t born there, you’ll never be considered a Montanan. You can’t fake it. You were born of the long, bitter winters and short, blazing summers, or you weren’t. It’s pretty simple that way. They’ll be nice to transplants – indeed, some of the kindest people we’ve ever known are native Montanans – but you’ll never really be one of them.

True Montanans are practical people. They build their pipes so that they don’t burst in -40 degree weather, and they shoot gophers to keep their horses from falling into their holes and breaking their legs. Real Montanans work two and three jobs, are good at everything, and still roll under barbwire fences when they are 80. They have no patience for movie stars who spend easy summers on their land, nor do they suffer poets, unless you are a poet who also knows your way around a fly rod. In the four years we lived in Montana, someone must have squinted at us half a dozen times and asked “Why the hell would you want to move here?” Sometimes it seemed like no one wanted to be in Montana at all; other times it seemed like the whole state consisted of a private club of ranchers, a league of men who knew a secret they could not or would not share with you. Somewhere in all those acres of pastureland was a password passed down from grandfather to grandson, some word we’d never know. That’s okay, I always thought. If I lived here, I’d be proprietary about it too.

In the years since we’ve been gone, I have always tried to say that one place is as good as any. I do believe that, in some sense. I’ve always found beauty in the places we’ve lived. But then, if I’m honest, really truly honest, I have to admit that, for me, there is no better place than Montana. It’s okay if you don’t see it that way, if you like Michigan or Vermont or Iowa. Those are all nice places too.

I know that Montana is not finished with me, nor I with it. It’s a long, slow process, the carving, the creating. Perhaps it won’t be over until I’m an old, white-haired lady with a stooped, white-haired husband, surrounded by dogs, making our way along the Big Hole River, finding all the familiar trails and re-learning them, committing them to muscle memory.

We go back sometimes and walk into the woods, and it all feels fresh again. The song of the black capped chickadee, the magpie, the summer grasshoppers on the dry, yellow grass. We drive into the smell of sagebrush, and our dog becomes alert again, even though her muzzle is not the muzzle of the Montana puppy she once was, but is now speckled with white fur. Her legs tense, as if she is remembering it all, the four years, the mountains, the sky, all at once. And when we start walking, the sage rubs against our legs, marking us, claiming us, and it seems if we listen hard enough, we might, at long last, hear the word.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"It Is All Getting Away From Us" in Segue

To read "It Is All Getting Away From Us" (and a description of the process behind it) in the online journal Segue, click here.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Medicine Wheel in Weber: The Contemporary West

When I got up this morning, I thought the rain -- our first in several months of a long, dry summer -- was surprise enough. But what should appear in our mailbox but (well, a wasp, but never mind him) a copy of Weber: The Contemporary West! It's a gorgeous issue, edited by Elizabeth Dohrer, with an India/Postcolonial theme. In addition to my story, "Medicine Wheel," you can find work by Samir Dayal and Lyn Lifshin, as well as lots of great fiction, poetry, interviews, and essays.

The Fall 2009 Issue of Weber: The Contemporary West (Vol. 26) is available in hard copy now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

At least I ain't one of them black holes.

This week, I'm a Red Room "Rising Star" -- which probably means this is my last 15 minutes. ;)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Red Room Author Page

Hi everyone,

You can now find me here. As a Red Room author, I get to (theoretically) rub shoulders electronically with the likes of Salman Rushdie, Dorothy Allison, Susan Orlean, and, um, Stephen Colbert. Yes, that Stephen Colbert. Plus the President himself, though I kinda get the feeling someone else is updating his page while he busies himself with health care reform.

Anyhoo, they've asked me to blog there as well, so if you're not yet sick of me, you know where to go for more ramblings about homicidal clowns and stuff.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I'm happy to announce I'm now a part of the Association of Iranian American Writers, a wonderful organization headed by writers Persis Karim and Manijeh Nasrabadi.
Check out the AIAW and a profile of yours truly here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Let the social networking commence.

I'm now a Goodreads author.

my read shelf:
Elizabeth Eslami's book recommendations, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Don't get too close.

Just back from a wonderful trip to Germany and Switzerland. We're still marvelling at all the European quirks, including but not limited to: twin beds pushed together for married couples, two hour meals, all-purpose shampoo/hand soap/body wash, mannequins with nipples, tiny cars driving on sidewalks, aggressive shopping, pay toilets, a paucity of washcloths, dogs in restaurants, pink jeans for men, a paucity of bras, an open appreciation of writers and artists demonstrated on currency and in the naming of streets, and lots and lots of fashionably dressed people engaged in gratuitous PDA. But hey, if you look that good, why not?

From Frankfurt to Zurich and everywhere in between, we saw things beautiful, magical, and just plain strange. Perhaps nothing more so (on the disturbing end) than the clown featured above. Yes, he's real, though he pretended to be animatronic, getting his jollies by grabbing young children as they walked by. And they actually seemed to enjoy this. Go figure. I thought he was just about as terrifying as The King from the Burger King commercials who assaults you in your sleep.

Vielen Dank, Constance. For everything and a good jolt.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Snow in July

A handsome but testy badger from the Historic Quarry Trail at Fossil Lake National Monument in Wyoming, and a peek at the still snowy (!) peaks of the mountains around Laramie. On July 4th, we managed to escape parades, fireworks, and children by driving through stunningly lonesome cattle ranches, a full moon casting its yellow light over the snow. After days of driving in 92 degree weather, we put our hands to the windows and felt cold glass. There was still snow by the side of the road, and fat, black and white magpies bouncing around in it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Idahoan Curiosities

The world's biggest quail, just on the outskirts of Glenns Ferry, Idaho.

Friday, July 3, 2009

From the Road

Scenes from gorgeous Yachats, OR - official location of my Badger's special 30th birthday trip. A fresh water river meets the Pacific, a view from the top of Cape Perpetua, and yours truly getting blown around at the Devil's Churn. (No devils sighted, but lots of churning water!)

Meanwhile I'm blogging from a hotel in Burns, OR, at the beginning of a long journey across the country. We're Southward bound, but I must say the true pleasure of a trip like this is driving out of the verdant green of the Willamette Valley, past the Blue and McKenzie rivers, out into the desert of Western Oregon. Sagebrush land. We could smell it immediately, bringing back memories of Montana. Plus, the big, black pooch gets pretty darn excited in this kind of terrain. Excellent rabbit chasing and all.

Friday, June 26, 2009

ARC Cover of Bone Worship

You're looking at the front and back ARC covers of Bone Worship! (ARC being, I think, publishing lingo for "advanced readers' copy." Or something thereabouts.) Pegasus Books will be sending out five hundred ARC's of BW (how's that for acronym overkill?)to libraries and independent bookstores across the U.S. in anticipation of its release everywhere in January.

My thanks to my fellow writers (and friends) who were kind enough to offer advance praise -- Joan Silber, Meagan Brothers, David Haynes, and Janet Peery. I hope I can repay the favor someday.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"Everything Gets Mixed Together at the Pueblo" To Be Published in Crab Orchard Review

As the kids say, Boo-Ya!

After getting honorably mentioned a couple weeks ago by Glimmer Train, my story "Everything Gets Mixed Together at the Pueblo" has been accepted for publication by the prestigious Crab Orchard Review from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. It will be part of a special "Color Wheel: Cultural Heritages" issue.

FYI, I'm pretty proud of this story, particularly because it explores some interesting racial issues between Native Americans and whites. While also making a gratuitous reference to The Bachelor. :)

The Summer/Fall 2009 Issue of Crab Orchard Review (Vol. 14, #2) will be available everywhere in September.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Summer Lament

Summer – and is the living easy, you ask? No, the living is hot, mosquito-y, and full of charcoal grilled meat and the skirls of small, snotty children. Ah, summer. Full of my least favorite things. Sweat, bugs, fireworks. Shorts. Naked toes. It was only a few months ago that I was knee deep in rain, longing for the impossible (a suntan), and here I am lamenting this time of barbecues, biting flies, and potato salad.

You’ll have to forgive me for being a summertime curmudgeon. I’m much more a winter gal, a fan of fall. I like cold weather, curl-up-with-a-book-weather, write until your fingers thaw… weather. Everything about the chillier seasons seems, well, better. Fall, my editor tells me, is when the “serious” books come out. All the good fiction, especially. It’s when the Oscar-bait movies show themselves in their celluloid glory, the Meryls and the Seymour Hoffmans and the Winslets. Kids buy shiny textbooks and fresh notebooks and head back to the halls of academia. (Sure you kind of dreaded it back then, but who doesn’t love new school clothes? Unless of course you shared my pious fate and had a new Catholic school uniform to look forward to, made of a burlap-polyester hybrid.) Fall. Even now, I can taste it. Pumpkins. Halloween. Pie. (Okay, a perennial favorite.) And yet it seems so far away.

Just as the rest of the world breaks out their cursed grills and releases their annoying children from school, the writing world shuts down. Agents and editors disappear to, well, wherever it is that agents and editors disappear to – perhaps a sun-bathed island where their pale skin, free from their dark, cocooned Manhattan high-rises, can be irradiated by actual sun rays. Literary journals close up shop because all their student readers and professor/department head/editors have gone home to blacken meat and enjoy family barbecues while their children shoot off fireworks, terrifying dogs everywhere.

Why does summer suck? Why do people get excited about bad popcorn movies and flimsy fiction, the brightly colored tomes with skinny, cartoon women in bathing suits and/or tin foil-covered thrillers about the Vatican? When did baking yourself (and your brain) on the beach become a vacation? Are we not supposed to think during the hot months? What, will we melt? I know, I know. I’ve officially become the cranky old person down the street.

So sue me. I’m going to miss the literary seasons. No more trips to the Post Bot to mail submissions, no last minute re-writes. It’s the lazy, crazy, smog-hazy days of summer, and now that my NEA fellowship paperwork is in order (fingers crossed!), my book has found a home, and my stories are all out there collecting dust on desks in empty universities, I’ll have to wait out the fallow time. Do a little travelling, see the country, see the folks. Maybe I’ll even do some long-postponed joining and get with Facebook and Goodreads. (And no, that adorable cheerleader on Facebook named Elizabeth Eslami, from Iowa, is not me. You could’ve knocked me over with some lightweight chick lit fiction. I have a doppelganger? You mean I wasn’t the only person with an Iranian name in rural America? Did she too endure the endless Salamis and Islams?)

Whatever happens during my literary hibernation, here’s hoping for a quick, painless season. I plan on gritting my teeth til the leaves change again. And in the meantime, if you see someone awkwardly standing on a patio while holding a charred hot dog and flailing at mosquitoes, that’ll be me. Just don’t ask me if I can recommend any light summer reading.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

An Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train's Fiction Open

My story, "Everything Gets Mixed Together at the Pueblo," just won an honorable mention in the Glimmer Train Fiction Open. Dang. Close, but no cigar.

Still, apparently my piece was in the top 5% of over a thousand stories, so I guess that's something to celebrate, right? Check out us honorables here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

"Hibernators" in The Minnesota Review

It's been out in print for some time, but now you can also check out The Minnesota Review online with my story "Hibernators" and lots of excellent work from writers thinking big thoughts here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Luminescent Lopez

This luminous form immediately to your left is the magnificent writer Barry Lopez, whom we listened to last night in a state of awe. After he finished speaking, he passed within a couple feet of us, and I'm ashamed to admit I was too chicken to approach him. While I trembled in abject terror, my better half courageously managed to shake his hand.

In the first clandestine photo, he's on the left, looking a little more recognizably human. I only say a little more human, since he is, after all, a god. :)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Now I know where to get business cards (when I can actually afford them.)

Everyone knows that an important part of being a writer is learning to use your time wisely. Writing should be treated like a proper, hands-in-the-dirt nine-to-five job, at the very least to contradict all the people you meet at dinner parties who, when you tell them what you do for a living, smile condescendingly and imagine you sitting at a window, waiting to be visited by a romantic, winged, pixie dust-shedding muse. Like Sharon Stone in that Albert Brooks movie, or Carol Kane in Scrooged. (For my own part, if I gaze out my window, I am far more likely to see our neighbor walking down the driveway, looking left to right before dumping a dead squirrel in the street. If it’s a good day, he’ll be wearing pants. If not, well, you don’t want to know. In any case, he doesn’t look at all like Sharon Stone.) Sure you may sit down for four hours and force out the beginning of a story only to delete it all the next day, but hey, you wrote something. Maybe you can even cannibalize what you didn’t use for a later piece. (In truth, this never happens with me. But I do really enjoy using the word “cannibalize.”)

When you’re not writing, you should be attending to the boring nuts n’ bolts of things, like finding places to submit your work, actually submitting said work, and seeking out contests, fellowships, and anything else that might afford you all those envelopes, paper clips, and stamps you’ve been using. The short-term goal here is to publish in a decent enough (read: paying) magazine or win a contest that will cover the gas you’ll need to drive to the Post Office. (While we’re talking about the P.O., don’t get me started on the Post-Bot, the postal robot that mails your packages and prevents you from standing in line with postal employees. Love him, I tell you. A robot that allows you to avoid human interaction and mail story submissions at eleven at night? I see the future, and it is the Post-Bot.)

Sometimes you end up incredibly busy when you least expect it. Over the last few days, I’ve been trying to incorporate my editor’s final edits on Bone Worship before it goes to galley, proof-read and make changes to my story, “Medicine Wheel,” which will be appearing shortly in Weber: The Contemporary West, prepare a non-fiction piece on literary agents that’s going to be published in The Willamette Writer, and squeeze in the last few story submissions before the Literary Journal World shuts down for summer vacation. Plus, this happens to be the season when they tell you whether you’ve won one of those coveted contests. For instance, I’ve been obsessively checking the Crazyhorse Fiction Prize web page for days now in the hopes that they’ll hurry up and post the winners, even though I’m just as likely to win as I am to see Sharon Stone chucking a dead squirrel in the street. Oh well.

Maybe the lesson here is that sometimes, for your sanity, it’s good to waste time. Especially if it involves Google. In a rabid attempt to keep from crashing Crazyhorse’s page, I went into a Googling frenzy this morning, starting with “Bone Worship.” And, in doing so, I had the unexpected pleasure of finding Michael Fusco Design. (Michael Fusco is the super-talented guy who designed the cover of my novel, among many others. He and his wife Emma Straub design for Sony/Columbia, Doubleday/Random House, and of course Pegasus Books, my publisher. Their work is gorgeous, and if I can ever afford them, I know who to go to for some kick-ass business cards.) Most exciting for me – and well worth the time I spent not harassing literary magazines – was the fact that they've posted two alternate versions of the book cover that didn’t make the cut. Of course, they look pretty damn fantastic to me, but I still love the ultimate one the best. Check them out here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Lopez! (Not to be confused with the one from Kids in the Hall.)

On May 8th, I'm going to see National Book Award winner (and Oregon literary legend) Barry Lopez read at The Hult Center here in Eugene. It's for a good cause too -- the McKenzie River Trust -- which I confess I don't know much about, but if it's an Oregon cause, it probably has something to do with helping the environment.

But never mind that, people, it's Barry freakin' Lopez! Author of Arctic Dreams and Of Wolves and Men. He's a brilliant writer, he and his wife once raised a wolf hybrid, and he's helped cut out the heart of a narwhal. (With biologists, of course, in the name of science.) Need I say more?

I'll pass along any clandestine pictures and/or locks of his snow-white magesterial beard. In the meantime, you can check out his pouty visage here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


It felt pretty good when I first noticed a Wikipedia entry for my name. There I was, linked in the Wiki-sphere to other writers and various Iranian-Americans. (Intriguingly, Wikipedia makes a point of saying that Iranian-Americans are among “the most highly educated people in the country.” No elaboration on whether that includes Iranian-American JAG actress Catherine Bell.) Plus, because I’m a Sarah Lawrence alum, I was alphabetically positioned snugly next to SLC grads Cary Elwes from The Princess Bride and White House Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel. Not too shabby! However, just as I was getting comfortable with my sudden Wiki-presence, I received an email from the very person who generously established the entry on my behalf. It was a sincerely worded apology for my entry being deleted.

I was gone, vamoose, with only my name and some ugly lines about my entry being unsubstantiated (was I a ghost?). Initially, I shrugged. It’s not like Wikipedia is The Best American Writers of the Century. Heck, anyone can make an entry for anybody, ensuring that their cat’s bio is preserved for millennia, right? Or so I thought. Turns out you’re not supposed to put just any ol’ body in the Wikipedia directory – not your boyfriend, not your band, not your pets. In fact, there are vague but general criteria for having an entry. For writers, you must be “notable”-- meaning you have a book published, or stories published in notable journals, or you have won awards. (I’m still working on that last one.) Naturally, I was confused. I had stories published in notable journals. I have a book coming out. These things aren’t notable?

Because I don’t know when to let things go, I asked my friend why my nascent Wiki-self came to be extirpated. And the answer was disturbing to say the least. While I imagined a team of people in serious, drab business suits with an intricate system of rules and regulations deciding my fate, instead there was a guy named, let’s call him “Yellow Bill” (not his real name). Yellow Bill, it seems, has no real qualifications or standards for his vigorous, surgical deletions; indeed, from what I can tell, he spends his days and nights trolling Wikipedia, deleting people with wild abandon when they don’t meet his (personally ascribed) definition of “notable.” Interestingly The G.W. Review, an international literary magazine, is notable because they have a Wiki entry. So is The Minnesota Review. Yet despite having work in both, I’m not notable. (I hope my un-notableness doesn’t rub off on them.) Perhaps it’s my association with excellent magazines like Weber:The Contemporary West (un-notable despite having published literary god Rick Bass) and Coe Review (which manages to be un-notable while showcasing the lovely work of Pimone Triplett.) Quoth Yellow Bill: “Even my wife was published in Coe Review. That doesn’t make her notable.” (Way to take a crap on your wife, Bill.) Worst of all was YB’s contention that despite having a contract, despite thousands of dollars (okay, a very few thousand) changing hands, and just because there’s a publication date (January 15, 2010) for Bone Worship, it doesn’t mean my book will actually come out. Is that a threat, or is he like the Nic Cage character in that numbers movie and has calculated the future?

In the end, it turns out there’s not much I can do. Maybe when the book comes out – or if I win an Academy Award in the meantime – somebody out there can try to re-establish my page. If our irate cyber cop still doesn’t find me notable, however, he’ll blackball my name forever from the annals of Wikipedia. I don’t know what I did to you in a past life, Yellow Bill, but I promise, no hard feelings.
When the book comes out, I’ll even send you an autographed copy: From Notable Author Elizabeth Eslami.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Clubs that would have someone like me for a member.

Thanks, Groucho.
I am now a member of Willamette Writers and the Association of Writers and Poets. You can check them out here and here.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I (Kind of) Get Political

The Minnesota Review, edited by Jeffrey J. Williams, has long been known as a politically-charged literary journal. Operating out of Carnegie Mellon University, TMR specializes in fiction, poetry, interviews, book reviews, and critical theory with all manner of cultural loose canon philosophers and writers.

And now I'm in their company!

My story "Hibernators" -- about a couple who decides to live underground -- is featured in The Minnesota Review, Issue 71-72, out now in bookstores. Link to follow...
Obviously I'm fond of all my stories that I haven't shredded, burned, or deleted, but I admit to being quite partial to this one. Even a year after writing it, I'm still pretty darn proud of it. Plus it doesn't hurt to have my work included among pieces about Geopolitical Translators, Pack Consciousness, and Studs Terkel.
Hmm... maybe someone made a mistake?? ;)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pre-order the book!

No, that's not an order.
But it has come to my attention (thanks, Heathe!) that you can now pre-order Bone Worship at Amazon and!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Farsi Disclaimer

Lately I’ve been wondering if my novel might set off a few cultural landmines in terms of criticism. I guess if Bone Worship inspires any kind of controversy, that’s a good thing. Publicity being publicity. But it still makes me nervous. Am I going to face several irate Iranian-American readers at book signings, poised to point out what I got wrong about Iran? Will I be excoriated for not being Iranian enough? What is Iranian enough, anyway?

In writing Bone Worship, I wasn’t trying to write a book about race. I wanted to explore ideas of love, familial and romantic, of growing up, finding your voice, and ultimately using that voice to ask the necessary questions a young person has to ask: about who your loved ones are (as real people) and about your own identity. In doing so -- and by writing about an Iranian-American protagonist in the midst of an arranged marriage -- I have managed to, er, accidentally write about race, along with a lot of other things. Ultimately though, I just wanted to write about a Georgia girl who goes to the University of Chicago, falls in love with science (and with one of her teachers), flunks out, and returns home to her mysterious, confounding parents. And the possibility of an arranged marriage. Indeed there are a whole lot of landmines to be triggered there: feminism, racism, May-December romances, North vs. South.

Of course, I have to navigate those mines in other ways too. Is it okay for me to join a group of Iranian-American writers when I wasn’t born in Iran, when I don’t speak Farsi? Am I allowed to write a book with several scenes in Tehran when I’ve never been there? Is there some kind of test I have to pass to be a legitimate Iranian-American writer? What about the simple fact that I look so darn white, that I have traces of a Southern accent, that I hardly seem – to those who know me – “ethnic” at all? Expatriate writers, exiled poets and playwrights – these people we should listen to about matters of race. But there is also something to be said for our own experiences. Those experiences are valuable whether you are native-born of a country, second generation, bi-racial, or whatever cultural mix you happen to be. All have a story to tell.

Perhaps, in the end, what matters is the writing. To have written a good first novel. To be in a group of writers-of-a-certain-ethnicity first because you’re a writer, and second because you have a cultural heritage. We’re all just a jumbled mess of voices after all, right? (For that matter, I’m a soon-to-be member of the Willamette Writers of Oregon, even though I’ll always be a Montanan in my heart.) I might be criticized for a lot of things when this book comes out, for the notion of a modern girl even considering an arranged marriage in the first place, for failing to capture Iran’s complex beauty. But I hope I won’t be found guilty of not having an authentic voice, an authentic experience. Because finally, including race and going beyond it, what it comes down to is telling stories. All worth telling.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Publication News

Segue, the online literary journal of Miami University-Middletown, will publish my short story, "It Is All Getting Away From Us." It also happens to be the title story of my second book, a collection of short stories I hope to have published after Bone Worship. Link to follow...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Editorial Board Divided By "Hyena"

(Well, not by an actual hyena. Now that would just be plain silly. And terrifying. Though it probably would expedite the submission process.) The hyena in question is my eponymous story, “Hyena,” and the editorial board is that of the Blue Mesa Review, the University of New Mexico’s excellent literary magazine.

BMR has published such luminaries as Joy Harjo and Leslie Marmon Silko, both of whom managed to unite a perspicacious but contentious board of readers. You see, I figure I’ve spent several of these blogs waxing rhapsodic about the 1% of story submissions I’ve sent out that have been accepted for publication, and the rest of the time lamenting outright rejections, form letters, and editors who read my work and subsequently bled from the eyes. But I’ve neglected to discuss the in-betweens, the limbo land of a jury divided.

Probably because it’s a new experience for me. This may be the first time, in fact, that I’ve queried an editor about my submission status – in this case because they’ve had “Hyena” for just under a year now – and been told that the editorial board was split. What does this mean? Half hated it, and half drooled over the story of a couple vacationing for a month in South Africa, during which their safari guide is partially consumed by a leopard? Or some cross-section just shrugged, feeling ambivalent about animal maulings and a marriage on the brink?

Naturally I’ve come to my own paranoid, delusional, sexist conclusions. A-ha! The board must be divided along gender lines. Clearly the men hated a story told from a female protagonist’s point-of-view! (But she was a desperately flawed character – can’t the women-haters get on board with that?) Bingo! The women readers hated her because she rejected her adopted baby! Everybody hates baby-haters! (But wasn’t her rejection a poignant moment, one in which she at least becomes partly sympathetic?) Maybe it’s neither of these. Maybe some contingent saw through my thinly veiled attempt to fictionalize an "Anderson Cooper character" in honor of my celebrity crush, and being Sean Hannity fans, has decided to penalize my ever-lovin’ CNN self.

Oh well. Maybe the board will unite in the end and decide to publish “Hyena.” I hope so, if only because The University of New Mexico and BMR have a permanent place in my heart. My husband and I spent a wonderful summer living in Albuquerque, roaming the campus, hiking the Sandias, braving the Aerial Tramway, and enduring a trial-by-fire introduction to the red versus green chile wars. (Not to mention a strange, beautiful, transcendent moment I shared with an orangutan at the Rio Grande Zoo.) Whether BMR rejects my story or not, I sure miss you, New Mexico. I can’t lie. It would be an honor to be associated with UNM’s fine literary journal. But it's equally great just to have grazed past, if only for a moment and if only by association, Bill Richardson’s lush beard.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Blogia Apologia

I’ll admit it.

This whole blog business still feels a little strange to me, and not simply because it took me three days to select an actual photograph of my head, and then expand my head so that it fits in a slightly more visible space above the shamelessly promotional “ABOUT ME” sidebar. (Don’t laugh – the photograph selection process is harder than it looks. If you choose to go with the default photo size, you will appear roughly the size of a pocket gopher. Fine if you’re not Heidi Klum, right? Problem is, if someone should dare click on gopher you to expand the photo, something out of The Ring happens to your face, and you become blurred, demonically distorted, and new, unfortunate moles appear on your face. To avoid this depressing turn of events, you can post an enlarged photograph of yourself.) Sans a glamour shot by a professional photographer, you’ll have to go it alone and seek out something where you’re centered, all parts are represented – it’s amazing how many Hannibal top-head-sheared-off pictures exist of me – and where you don’t have, at least in my case, an angry smirk. Which is, if you must know, my “resting face.” At present, I exist in a somewhat washed-out looking state, but I figure that’s okay, since I’m currently an Oregonian. It goes along with the nougat and the hemp pants.

Once you deal with your mug, it’s on to the blogging, wherein you do your best to strike the right tone of geniality and humor, intelligence and wit. Or none of the above. In a futile effort to learn exactly how to blog, I consulted the blogs of several writers I admire, only to learn that A) none of them actually had blogs, B) they considered blogging the direct antecedent of the recession and/or subsequent death of professional journalism, and C) the ones who do blog do so with a snarky, venomous vigor that single-handedly defines and deconstructs the zeitgeist, and basically scares the crap out of me.

How did I get here? Why am I doing it? Can I say “crap”? Does anyone, save my friends and family, even read this thing? More importantly, can Oprah sue me for the Favorite Things/sex toy analogy?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but I do know this: When my editor tells me it’s in my best interest to start blogging, to introduce America to my voice and my wheat-colored head, I say how much, how loud, and yikes, maybe I should get a haircut. When she tells me to build my brand, I pump a fist into the air and shout “Yes!” while wondering how exactly Nike is going to fit my head on the side of a tennis shoe. I’m still struggling to find my voice, to not get sued, and to find a way, in the end, to make people excited to read Bone Worship. I hope I don’t offend sensitive bookstore conglomerates’ collective eyes with my blogbastic ramblings. I hope no one holds this thing against me when it comes time to throw out some names for the Dylan Thomas Prize. Ultimately, to quote Stefan from Top Chef – and probably some well respected, albeit severe German philosopher whom he’s paraphrasing – “It is what it is.” It’ll have to do.

At least until the website. ;)

Monday, March 2, 2009

"Totenbein" called Nabokovian

99.9% of the time, when a writer receives some piece of correspondence from a literary journal in her mailbox or inbox, it's a rejection. Of course, what you want is something personalized, with some concrete, albeit arbitrary, reason why they couldn't publish your work. Something like, "It was brilliant, it blew us away, but it was just too long." Hopefully it's polite. Often it's a form letter, with no handwritten response at all. Even these can be valuable. If The Paris Review sits on your story for two months instead of two weeks before rejecting it, you can consider that a minor victory, because somebody from the freaking Paris Review actually moved his or her eyes across your words.

Other times, however, literary journal responses are downright weird, or frustratingly vague. Some of my personal favorites include "Fascinating, original work with compelling, poignant characters, but ultimately not what we were looking for." Okay then. I'll send you my cliched work with hackneyed characters next time. Or "Loved the voice, intrigued by the plot, but just couldn't get excited about it." I think my all-time favorite was one that was simply my cover letter, with the word "Sorry" scrawled across the bottom. I actually felt pity for them! Once there was just a "No." Which I imagined as being more akin to "Noooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!" A kind of nightmarish rejection written as they dragged themselves away from their desks.

Imagine my surprise when I received an email from Natural Bridge -- the University of Missouri-St. Louis literary journal -- indicating not only that they want to publish my story, "Totenbein," but they found it "masterful" and "entertaining." As if that wasn't wonderful enough (and quite the improvement on "Nooo!") a 14 person editorial jury and writer/editor Inda Schaenen called my story "Nabokovian." As in Vladimir. Consider me wildly undeserving of such praise, but also immensely flattered. (Frankly, I'm amazed they would want to publish a story about a world expert in mummification. Thanks for the chance, Inda!)
It'll be a while before the story's out, but in the meantime, here's the website for Natural Bridge.

While Nabokov rolls in his grave, I hear that Humbert Humbert has responded, calling me "A little long in the tooth, but eminently tappable." ;)

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Book Tour. Really?!?

There are a few harsh realities that a debut novelist has to come to grips with, or so I've been told. The sooner you realize these things, the faster you can move on with producing your second book, and/or scouring the job listings for a comp. teaching job to help support you while you write that second book.
What are these realities, you ask?

1) Your family won't quite have the reaction to your newfound author status that you hoped for. By this I mean, they will continue to see you as a five-year-old child, albeit a child holding a freshly published novel. When you stand before them -- and before a room full of beautiful Barnes & Noble patrons -- their eyes won't mist over, and they won't be staggered by your brilliant prose. It'll be more like "Looky, me make pretty thing."
* An addendum to this is what reactions you will inspire, and that is (mark my words), every person you've ever known or met will think they are in your book. Even your dentist. And even if you are writing about a chicken coop.

2) You won't be chosen by Oprah. Just get used to it. Maybe it's karma for your mixed feelings about her "Favorite Things," which has always sounded to you like a confusing cross between The Sound of Music and sex toys. Whatever the case, she won't choose you. You won't make it to her couch, no matter what. Instead, patiently observe and catalog every author she does anoint, and vow to kiss up to them should you ever encounter them at the airport.

3) In the category of "Things I Thought I Knew About Authors From Movies," forget as well the notion of a book tour, unless of course you're writing about Jesus, vampires, or sick dogs, in which case, well, you'll be going home to one of your three houses, so does it matter, really? Book tours have gone the way of the dodo -- for debut novelists, at least. After all, we're in a recession. For that matter, nobody knows who you are. Besides, I don't look nearly as scruffily sexy as Ethan Hawke in Before Sunset.

And yet, here I am, blogging about the possibility of a book tour for Bone Worship. Granted, at this moment, it's months away. It's like a little spark that I, my agent, and my editor all have to fan with Tom Hanksian vigor. It's creatively financed, meaning that I will be spending most of my nights on friends' and family members' collective futons instead of sleeping in four star hotels or above Parisian bookstores with French cats, a la Mr. Hawke. (At least that's what I imagine once I tell them that I'm coming with a box full of books to sign.) Indeed, it's a speck on the horizon, but it's in the works, and you should know about it. Heck, if you ask nicely, maybe I'll come to your city and sleep on your couch. But only if there's the promise of a cosmopolitan pet of some sort.

** Tentative book tour locations include: Seattle WA, Portland/Salem/Eugene OR, San Diego/Los Angeles CA, Missoula/Bozeman/Butte MT, Louisville/Lexington KY, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charlotte/Asheville NC, and Greenville/Spartanburg/Gaffney SC.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Winter Reading

I don't know about the rest of you, but outside my window, it's cold, rainy, moss-covered, and Bleak House bleak. In other words, it's Oregon in February -- enough to make you crave sunburns, pray for sand in your bathing suit, and even brave possible pirate attacks. Well, maybe not pirates, but you get the picture. Winter's beginning to wear on me. And this from a person who used to celebrate -28 degree weather in Montana, so you know I'm not kidding around.

How to endure? Read good fiction, for starters. Better yet, read it in struggling literary journals. You think the newly downsized New York Times has it rough? Imagine being a tiny lit mag produced by a staff of volunteer students. Now that's tough. They can only endure if you subscribe and keep reading. They're cheap, they're chockablock full of great literary fiction, and they'll get you through to May, I promise. Here are a few I highly recommend -- and not just because they've been gracious enough to publish my work.

1) Bat City Review. Straight out of The University of Texas at Austin, this journal is known for its excellent roster of poets and fiction writers, including Dean Young and Steve Almond, just to name a few. You can find my story, "Inheritance," in Issue 4 (2008).
Here's their website:

2) The G.W. Review is George Washington University's literary magazine. It boasts an international list of contributors. My story, "Softy," appears in Vol. XXIX (Fall 2007), along with powerful work from Polish and German writers, among others. Jean Valentine and Gloria Naylor have had pieces published in The G.W. Review, along with lots of heavy-hitters who intimidate and awe me.

3) Beeswax Magazine. Last but not least is this gorgeous, handmade magazine produced by Oakland, CA editors John Peck & Laureen Mahler. If you think I'm waxing hyperbolic when I say "gorgeous," you have another thing coming. Issue 5 -- with my story "The Cougar in the Lilac Bush"-- is linen covered with hand-sewn Japanese block binding, people. I don't even know what Japanese block binding is, but it's dang pretty.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

An Interview and Story in Neon Magazine

If you're interested in watching me narrowly avoid an international incident while discussing robots, cyber sex, and dead ants in short fiction, check out my story and interview in the exceedingly edgy British literary journal, Neon. I still feel guilty about making fun of celebrities' kids' names. I don't, however, regret pioneering the renaissance of the word "meathead." Enjoy!

Bone Worship...The Cover!!!

In January 2010, Bone Worship: A Novel will appear in print! In the meantime, gazing meaningfully at this lovely cover will have to suffice.
That is one gorgeous eyebrow, no?