Monday, December 15, 2008
Even though you wrote you results of the challenge weeks ago, I'm responding to you today because I dance to the beat of my own drum (when I feel like it). So if you won't retract the wag, I will because I'm just that cool.
On a lighter note, will you be in Chicago for AWP?
Monday, November 17, 2008
Maybe it's fear of failing or succeeding or not getting past the first page. Maybe it's the idea of breaking the lazy pattern my life has grown accustomed to. Maybe it's something I haven't thought of yet.
Whatever it is I know the story inside of me won't rest until it's out (damn you spirit of storytelling--you're like a hog weighing on my back, but I love you--you're like a needle in a haystack I can't find, but I need you--you're like a cute man with a cocked-eye, but I can't stop looking at you--you're like everything in this world that I need, love, want but I misuse you so.)
Friday, November 14, 2008
In our Letters to a Young Writer series, Narrative’s featured authors respond to comments and questions from younger authors reflecting on the nature of the writer’s work. We inaugurate this series with a correspondence between Dennis O’Reilly and T. Corghessan Boyle:
Dear T. C. Boyle,
No one can accuse you of shying away from the most onerous issues of our time. Perhaps that’s why I’m reluctant to take Ty Tierwater at his word when he says, “I’m not preaching. I’m not going to preach. It’s too late for that.”
In a culture in which the presentation of all opinions has all but eliminated rational discourse, would you encourage young writers concerned with the problems our society faces to lay it all on the line, as you have done? Or is it too late for that?
Thank you for your time—and your work.
Dennis Thomas O’Reilly
I wouldn’t want people to throw in the towel after reading A Friend of the Earth. Certainly Friend is not a book of advocacy (in fact, when I came back from that particular book tour to access my website, I was amazed to find that people there were debating whether or not I was an environmentalist), because advocacy and fiction do not comfortably coexist, though my sympathies should be clear to anyone who has read even a handful of my stories or novels. Not a single environmentalist holds out much hope for the future of our species or of the myriad other endangered species out there, given our overpopulation and destruction of the environment, the zero-sum game of capitalism that posits infinite product and infinite consumers, and our unsustainable lifestyle. The crash is coming. You’d have to be blind not to see that.
So what do we do? I am socially engaged, unlike many of my contemporaries, and I take on a whole variety of issues, yes, but increasingly I have found myself coming back to the central one of the environment, and, by extension, the meaning of our lives in the face of an indifferent universe. How and why do we master the other species? How long will our tenure be? Why have we evolved the power to contemplate our own future? Why do we exist? Why does anything exist? I write fiction in order to think deeply and to assuage my fear and my pessimism through the act of creating art. This is redemptive. And while I have no advice for any artist, young or old, other than to find his or her own way, I will say that each of us must create art in order to address the central questions of human existence—for our own sanity, and, we hope, for the sanity of our readers. (I Like this part).
T. C. Boyle
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I N B E LGI U M , I remember
they called this day White Monday. Belgium was my
home when I was learning words like God
and doubt and faith. Belgium was my home
when I entered the country called Man. There,
in that land where I’d learned to fall in love
with learning, winter always stayed and stayed,
the days too dark, the rains incessant, pounding,
pounding—and all the sleepers dreamed of sun
and shirtless days. Shirtless, shoeless days.
I remember: trains, leaves, trees. Remember
too that aging, tired woman who’d told me why
the trees grew straight and tall in rows
in Belgium’s rain-soaked earth.
I remember what she’d said: “The trees,
we planted them in rows. When the war
was fi nally won.” I pictured her young,
a handsome husband at her side. At last the war
was done! At last! And before they planted crops,
they planted trees—the trees the war had stolen
from the earth. “What the bombs had not destroyed,
we chopped for fuel. Their stumps and branches
gave us warmth. The land was bare and spent.
The earth, it reeked of guns and blood and rotting
fl esh. And so we planted trees. And as we worked
we found reminders of the war. A rifl e, empty
shells, the remains of a man, a bullet through
his chest, his uniform turning to dust. We called
the priest and blessed the bones. A boy! I knew
he’d been a boy. Belgian, English, French! Bah!
He was a boy! I cried that night for all
the world had lost—then woke and fi nished
planting. And through the years, we watched
the growing trees. Before my mother died, she went
from tree to tree, kissing leaves and branches.
‘Have you gone mad?’ I yelled. And she screamed
back: ‘I am, at last, in love!’ She smelled of leaves
and bark the night she breathed her last. The day I buried
her, I leaned against a tree and wept. I swear, I swear
I smelled her breath as I leaned against that tree.”
Today, I hear that woman’s voice as I
read the morning news—the news of bombs,
of all the deaths, Americans, Iraqis, children, women,
men. Dead. Like π the blood and bodies
run into infi nity. I walk outside, the sky as clear
as simple boyhood words mamá, papá, y agua. Oh
for a day when this would be my only task—to sit
and memorize the blueness of a sky.
Better now to study
trees that grow on desert sands than to study war.
So I begin to count the leaves on limbs
of waking trees. I know that wars are raging
everywhere. Even in my heart. Do not mind
the bombs. Do not mind them, not today.
I wander through my yard,
examining the plants. I lost some to the freeze—but
most survived. I touch and kiss the tender leaves
and speak to them, half lost, half crazed,
and half expecting trees and plants
and shrubs to kiss me back. Perhaps, today,
they’ll kiss me back. I touch a desert bush—yellow
fl owers bursting like a fl ame, spring’s fi rst blaze
of light. The dog running up and down and up
and down the yard, then rolling on the grass
to scratch her back. I laugh and speak
to her. The wars are everywhere. I’ll plant
another tree. Something to survive the torture
of the sun. Something to withstand a thousand
years of drought.
I touch a tree I planted
years ago. I touch and touch. Oh, do not mind
the bombs today. Kiss me, kiss me back.
From Dreaming the End of War
Friday, October 10, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Minutes before Mr. Homeless entered our worlds, I watched the man [waiting with me] impatiently check his watch because it was 6:59 a.m. and the store opened at 7:00 a.m. Minutes after Mr. Homeless entered our worlds, I remembered how—as the man was impatiently checking the time, I was thinking about shopping for shoes after work. We were both caught up in our own worlds of important things that mattered to us, but why did we look away? Why couldn’t we face this ugly thing that was in front of us so clearly?
I guess in some way Mr. Homeless could sense our uneasiness because instead of digging for food in the garbage, he dug in one of the bags for a skinny white women’s belt to put on. Even as a stranger to our worlds, Mr. Homeless was sensitive to our inability to experience a moment in his shoes without second-guessing the trivial things that made us impatient and/or happy a few minutes earlier. He wanted us to enjoy our happy-wednesday without having to reflect on the goodness of God’s tender mercies of not being so low that we needed the dirty leftovers of others to live. Sometimes I say we, but I’m also guilty of turning my head to ugly things in life like homelessness. In a way, I know it exists but I don’t want it to touch my world because I can’t change it. When I walk to work some mornings and see others like Mr. Homeless tucked in the hidden corners of a city that’s still asleep, I wish whatever situation that got them to slumbering in Grant Park could be reversed. I wish these things wouldn’t be, but I can’t change their lives. The only thing I see to do is just be a little more grateful than I was yesterday about what and who I have in my life.
At 7:03 a.m. the doors of Walgreens were opened. The small crowd that had gathered during our time of wait filed in the doors like shuffling schoolchildren on a bus. This made us happy and able to get on with the day. This made us push the ugly thing to the miscellaneous part of our brain. As I entered the doors I looked back for Mr. Homeless, but he had moved along to the next garbage can down the street where he dug for something good to eat. Something that was left there for him by somebody like me who doesn’t think twice about where the next meal will come.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Rom. 12:9
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Sometimes I consider my ways and seldom moods swings and wonder would he even like me? Would we talk on the phone everyday? Would we still go clothing shopping in his rushed-kind-of-way? Would we be the way I sometimes pictures us being in hazy dreams running down some unknown street to Long John Silver’s, running so we’re out of breath but laughing so hard because we’re happy. Would we hug the way we did in this dream just before entering the restaurant through glass doors? Even as I write these questions it seems like a piece of me is missing because I will never know these answers. The other night I wondered did my father know how much I loved him, even though sometimes I didn’t know how to show it—could he feel it? Those twelve years ago in April when he closed his eyes in death did he get a glimpse of my face and think to himself, I know she loves me?
The other night I cried when I couldn’t remember the last thing my father said to me or what he looked like the last time I saw him and he said goodbye. These things may seem so insignificant to some people, but the other night I needed to know these things. I said I would only keep these feelings between Jesus and me, but since I’m still dealing the guilt of not being there for my father, for not spending more weekends at his apartment, for not saying “I love you” loud enough so he can hear it—I’ll share this because it might help someone else (just maybe).
It’s silly to say that sometimes I pray to dream of you so I can do and say the things I should of when you were hear. Things like: I’m sorry for being embarrassed by you—I was young and dumb and didn’t know the clock on your life was ticking away. I was happy that day you showed up to my pre-school with a pair of blue, red, and yellow 1,2,3 skates. I was sad that day on report card pick up and you had a seizure (I was six and didn’t want you to die). I was scared the day you sat me on the lap of a white Santa Claus at the mall. I was happy every time you said ‘yes’ to my Air Jordan sneakers requests. I was scared that night you were drunk and I ran down the street and away from you. I was foolish the Sunday I skipped church because I knew you would be there, and I was lost the day I sat on the pew hearing you be eulogized.
Monday, September 22, 2008
This is me being too flaky and perhaps too picky. Is it my fault that I haven’t met a guy yet that can hold my attention longer than two blinks? (Well, there is this guy who I sometimes spy with my brown little eyes from time to time. And grant it, he may look better going than coming but there’s still something there that keeps me watching). Anyway, is it my fault that I want men to worship me? Is it my fault that men are sometimes intimidated by me? Is it my fault that these men don’t have the balls to approach me?
This is me trying to figure something out. Why is it that homeless-lower Wacker drive type guys be trying to woo me? (“Seriously,” I want to sometimes say, “you live on the street.” Is it something written on my face that says, “Ooh you dirty, dirty man, I want your love?” Is it the way I switch my hips that makes men old enough to be my dead grand papa want me? I guess I’ll never understand why these men are offended when I walk away. I guess I’ll never understand why love be making me blue. I guess I won’t figure it out until my next lunch break when I’m eating pasta and needing something to do.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
I wanted to let you know your entry "Water Mommies" made it to the final three entries in consideration for this year's Jack Dyer Fiction Prize competition (out of three hundred and eighty-nine entries). Since you were one of our finalists, we would like to offer to publish your entry (if the work is still available for first publication) in CRAB ORCHARD REVIEW, Volume 14, Number 1, which is scheduled to appear in Winter/Spring 2009.
--Hey all, I still can't believe I'm going to be published in this magazine. When I received the call from Mr. Tribble the other day I was very surprised because I had forgotten all about the Jack Dyer submission. Anyway, he made my day when he told me how much Carolyn Alessio (the fiction judge and prose editor for COR) loved the story. This one acceptance makes all the rejections that much sweeter.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Okay let me give a bit of backstory on the happenings surrounding this WTF moment. There’s this film (that is much about nothing) that played tonight at the Gene Siskel film center and my friend asked me to tag along, and I complied. So we get to the theater and are watching this film (that is mediocre at best) when there’s a scene where a white couple is chatting away with their friends, fun stuff right? Okay, one of the friends asks to hold the couple’s kid and they of course oblige and laugh when the boy starts to crawl down the holder’s leg like what—right, a MONKEY! So then one of the actors says, “He looks just like a monkey.” And at that moment, the director of the film who also played the kid’s father said the statement of the freakin’ century that there’s no way he could be mistaken as such because his skin wasn’t black. (But aren’t monkeys hair brown?)
What is so frustrating about situations like this when artists take certain liberties without adding some cushion around these ethnic sensitivities so readers or viewers are clear that these aren’t views of the creator, but a statement that he or she is trying to make about what’s still wrong in the world today. And it’s doubly offensive to viewers like me and my friend when artists like the one tonight try to switch the focus from him being an ass and not working to develop his character to the point that when I heard this remark that it would be clear to me that ‘of course this guy would talk like this,’ but instead after being confronted by my friend the director informed her that there’s racist remarks in all of his films because he hates ‘that stuff so much.’ Bullshit. It’s so surprising that he wants take up the cross of racial stereotypes and bear them for all black people, but my reaction to this scene would have been totally different if the other characters in the scene would have showed some inkling of disagreement that would have revealed something about this guy’s character (which I told him).
It’s always a fun time when you’re like two black girls encased in a circle of white people and they’re all looking at you like you have the problem. A simple question of my friend asking the filmmaker his reasoning for dropping such a statement in his film without making it clear that this is showing how politically incorrect this guy was, turned into him trying to beseech us—his brethren on how this statement was really included for our benefit and not detriment. Again, WTF! What this filmmaker (and others) doesn’t understand is that blacks and other ethnic groups take offensive when there isn’t a clear reason why racially charged language is used. As a writer, I’m all for self-expression, but I also believe that as an artist I too must be accountable for the work I produce for the world to hold in its hand and critique, like, love and hate. So after this whole fiasco maybe the director will take into consideration that maybe there’ll be someone like me in the audience and maybe be more responsible in bringing these things to light that ‘millionaires still say’. I can’t hope for any miracles, but just maybe.
Listening to: Adele “Daydreamer”
Monday, July 7, 2008
A couple of weeks ago, I sent around an e-mail with my new google address to MSU's English department, and Dick e-mail me back asking how things were going and I told him about applying to Purdue University for an academic advising position (which I didn't get bytheway), and he responded saying that he has a good friend who teaches in their MFA program, and I e-mailed him back asking if he could tell her about me because I would like to keep in touch with some local writers, and not only did he tell Sandi Wisenberg about me wanting to possibly meeting her, he also told her that I would be interested in interning at her husband's (Barry Silenski's) Another Chicago Magazine. So one thing lead to another and Wisenberg sent Dick an e-mail telling me to contact a specific person from the magazine, but after a week went by and I didn't hear anything from this contact I took matters into my own hands and e-mailed Wisenberg about twenty minutes ago and she just responded--hence this post.
So even though the internship is unpaid, so even though I will only be sorting submissions for now I'm still excited and optimistic that this will be my chance to gain some publishing experience (any way I can). And since I've been the bearer of crappy news for a while now it's time to shed some good news on this blog, and give readers something new to ingest.
Listening to: 'My Same' by Adele (Lesley introduced me to this artist and she is fantastic!)
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
First off, let me say that I don't like watermelon-- its texture and consistency just doesn't work for me. Second, let me say that the previous statement or declaration (which ever works for you) has nothing to do with why I'm writing. I'm writing because I've turned into a bitter old lady in the last month. Maybe that previous sentence might be stretching my condition, but really I've morphed into the biggest crab-cake on this side of heaven. Maybe I'm just going through the motions of being anxious and jobless. Maybe I'm tired of these famous lines, "Something's going to happen--you'll get a job--it's only been a month--can't your mother take care of you--and--keep the faith." Even though I know these things were said out of love, it seems like I'm still being a bitch when I hear them because as much as I would like this to not be so: bill collectors could give two shits about my present situation. It's just so frustrating. I think this is the most frustrated I've probably ever been. And some may be a little bit "over" my whining, but I just can't stop complaining how sucky this is.
Okay, I didn't spill my guts so I can get comments or calls that will tell me everything will be "okay." I just want authentic understanding minus any consolations that may include the famous lines.
Even though I rather keep things bury inside--to myself--I feel like I should say something because when I'm my regular smiley-self, people might think that everything is alright.
On Being a Bitch, okay I'm not saying that everyday I'm this way, but I have my days. It's not something that's even like me because I like to think that I'm fairly easy going. I have tried to think positive, be happy, and other things but when I get e-mails like "we regret to inform you ..." it's like seriously who's playing this sick joke on me. So yeah, I'm trying to be better most days.
Isn't life grand.
Listening to: The sound of cars zoom down the street.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Even today, I said yes to a morning of yells and cries and "Can you fix this?" as I waited in a baby seat, in a colorful room to join the class on a walking field trip to the fire station. Today wasn't as bad because while I wasn't doing my job and making sure no little people slid under the fire engine, I could steal some glances at some middle-aged, but very hunky firefighters. That was fun. Also, this might make me seem a bit dumber than usual, but I didn't know that there were both a fire truck and fire engine. Until 10:00a this morning, I was certain that there was only a fire truck equipped with both hoses and a ladder, but with the help of fireman Joe I learned that both the truck and engine work together as a team (along with fireman of course) to battle fires. I guess you do learn something everyday.
So after these two days of hanging out with shorties and snot, I learned that the teachers of these little people are either godsent or constantly in a serious mood to control children by yelling. My doubts about teaching grammar school was affirmed because even though not much was required of me there were times when I little voice in my head said, "Can we go home now?" Another thing that has become clear is that children are very funny and interesting in a i'm-not-sure-I-like-you-yelling-so-much-but-okay kind of way.
Anyway, for those who care--yes, I am still jobless.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Other Stuff. Yesterday I spoke with the Senior Editor for Recruitment at the Tribune, and she basically gave me the low-down on journalism jobs. It seems as though no large or small presses will look my way because I don't have any journalism experience. I'm not sure if I have journalist blood pumping through my veins, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to give this avenue a try. Yesterday I learned the harsh realities of "you need experience even though no one is going to give you the chance to gain any, you need it anyway." The Trib editor explained that even though I might have a gift for the written word that it's totally different in the field of reporting the news. And as I sat on the other end of the phone listening to her speak I contemplated the idea of "Do I want to report the news anyway?" The Trib editor said to contact some non-profit agencies and volunteer. The Trib editor said to spend some money that you don't have and come to a convention for African American Journalists and make some connections (connections with people who won't hire me anyway because I'm not a member of their club). The Trib editor said you need to figure out what it is you want to do after telling me that no large presses are hiring anyway, and if they were I wouldn't be considered over a person who wrote for their college newspaper. So yesterday after I hung up the phone and replayed the conversation in my head, I started to feel like the biggest loser. Like why did I go to grad school only to come home and be treated like I didn't graduate high school. This entire employment situation sucks major balls because it seems as though there are no teaching jobs, there are no jobs dealing with writing, and I will eventually have to follow the yellow brick road back to the Hard Rock Hotel and answer ringing phones.
Almost Good News. Today I visited some of my old stomping grounds at the University of Chicago and almost had some good news. In high school I was a participant in an college enrichment program called the Office of Special Programs (OSP for short). So I go in and talk with the director only to find out that yesterday they hired an English teacher for the summer. She was bummed and I was too that I missed the position by one day. I hadn't thought of working for the program before today when I discovered my friend had given birth just down the street on U of C's campus. It would have been exciting to work with teens in this program because I was once one of those kids who had Saturday school and had to spend their summer vacations on campus going to school. On the upside, the director said she would talk to some of her friends and figure out if anyone knew of something I would be interested in.
So now I'm at a day in my life where I'm trying to figure out what the hell it is that I want to do. In what way will I leave my fingerprint on this earth or at least a couple of people I know?
On the upside, one of my best friends just had a baby boy and that makes me smile.
I know that something will give, but right now I just want to roll my eyes.
Listening to: The security officer in the library repeat "Single file line," like the kids on the other side didn't hear him the first twenty times. Some people.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Listening to: Random library noises like whispered conversations that I can still hear, clicking of the computer keyboards, some guy outside the door talking way to loud, and the clearing of throats.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Anyway, thank you guys for all your support because I need it.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Last night, I said goodbye to a friend and it really hit me that things are changing and that I will have to leave myself in a couple of weeks. And after some minutes of weeping, I realized that even though my time is up here in Mankato (and that I can no longer live the fab life as a student), this chapter of my life is complete. What I'm about to say next may come as a shock to some, but I can be very sentimental about major changes like moving. It's funny because I had the same reaction when it was time to move to Mankato three years ago. I guess the program and the friends I've gained here can be to blame for my melancholy because you all have made this experience better than I could have ever expected. (Smile, smile).
With that off my chest, I'm ready to start the next chapter of my life. And to the surprise of a particular faculty member at MSU, this next chapter of Toni Kay will involve the writing of a novel. Yes, you read right! This person knows that I've resisted this idea for about a year, but now I will wholeheartedly admit that this format has been calling my name for some time. So yes, I am excited about the writing I will do, the jobs will work, and the next group of people I will meet. I've come from the big city to no city at all, but it's been fun and I owe it to my friends and advisors. (Live, laugh, and love).
Listening to: LIGHTS--February Air (I love this song)
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
After viewing some of my fellow MFAers blogs, I noticed that there were lists made about "5 Things I Expected/Remember/Hated about Graduation." Some of the things listed were entertaining, but I'm not going to do that here. Instead I will offer some parting advice to the first and second years that I'm leaving behind to pick up the torch and not make the dynamics of this program so damn weird. We are/were all here to write (laugh, love, fu$k, and drink liquor--in the words of Coup) so things should never get complicated. These three years for all of us should be a time of discovery, shaping, and growth as writers--human things--and artists. Basically, we should be forming writing groups and not alliances.
So now to the good stuff.
5 Ways to Survive Grad School (the creative way)
1. Learn early on how to weed out the bullshit from others (and sometimes yourself).
2. Write true to who you are. Write what you want and disregard any workshop comments about believability, commercial appeal, or whether your story will make someone happy or not.
3. Be direct.
4. Get started on your thesis as early as possible.
5. Be in love with your characters in a "Fatal Attraction" kind of way because the more you know about the people you create on the page the easier plot choices will come.
6. And this is a bonus, but remember no one writer is better than the next because everyone was accepted into the same program.
Listening to: Duffy--Mercy
Monday, May 12, 2008
Today marks the official day of "I'm done with school so now I have to get a life." Even though I don't have a job, am not madly in love with anyone, and still don't like mussels--I have to move on and become somebody or something.
As I think about the Antoinette from three years ago, I smile because she thought there was going to be some magical thing to take place that would jumpstart everything. The Antoinette from three years ago was a dreamer for the sake of dreaming. Although being a dreamer is not a bad thing, there's something different with the Antoinette of today. She knows that dreaming helps those realize what they want out of life, but it takes more than just looking up into the sky and hoping for the best. The Antoinette from three years later knows that it's going to take some diligence and time to get to where she wants and needs to be.
So with that in mind, the Antoinette from three years later will continue to write and wait, wait and pray, pray and trust that God will lead her to where He wants her to be.
Listening to LIGHTS--February Air
Sunday, May 11, 2008
I'm leaving grad school and it's time to get a life basically. I'm ready to live as an adult who contributes something that the world needs. This time in Mankato has been a growing experience that I'm so blessed to have endured. With all the good times and not so good times, I will say bye bye to go live life in the real world.