I just found out that a story excerpted from my unpublished novel A Useful Life will appear in Crab Orchard Review‘s Special Issue: New & Old ~ Re-Visions of The American South. It’s scheduled to come out in September. The excerpt comes from the chapter about the 1878 yellow fever epidemic that decimated Memphis, telling the story of a fictional Jewish family and how they deal with the tragedy.
I titled the story “The Ninth of Av,” after the Jewish holiday commemorating the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. In 1878, Tisha B’Av, as the day is called in Hebrew, occurred on August 8. At some point while revising that section of the book I realized that was about the same time of year as the yellow fever epidemic which nearly destroyed the entire city of Memphis. I saw that for my Jewish characters there were some parallels between the two events, so I juxtaposed their personal family tragedy temporally with this important date in Jewish history.
I’m thrilled to have a story coming out in such a respected journal. It’s a big milestone for me.
Last night I posted about having writing time, and this morning I received a phone call about a residency I applied for a few months ago. I’ve been selected to spend a week in September at Writers in the Heartland, in Illinois.
It’s so great to get news like this. Although sometimes we say we’re only writing for ourselves, deep down we want some sort of validation. Having your writing selected for publication or for admission into a residency or conference is the kind of validation we don’t all get every day.
So, thank you, Writers in the Heartland, and if you’re from the midwest or have a connection to the midwest, consider applying next year.
A couple of weeks ago I spent several days in the North Carolina mountains with about 20 other writers, scenic vistas, and great food. Generous and talented authors like Darnell Arnoult and Jim Minick, and guest authors Lee Smith, Barbara Bennett, and Joseph Bathanti were also in attendance. There were daily impromptu critique sessions, I got to spend time with Susan Gregg Gilmore and to top it off, southern family-style lunch–all part of the Table Rock Spring Studio, put together by Georgann Eubanks and Cindy Campbell.
All that was great, but the best thing about the week was the uninterrupted writing time. No meals to prepare, no carpools, no laundry. Nothing to do but write. I used most of the time to mark up the first draft of my second novel, which was not nearly as fun as writing new material, but needed to be done. I also revised a couple of short stories that had been lying fallow.
Getting away to focus on one’s art is a great gift. If you get a chance, give it to yourself.