I didn’t realize how much time had passed since the last update to this blog. Mostly this was to do with needing to finish my PhD, which I did — a year ago. I suppose the interval since then has been about recuperation. The PhD was an intense experience, not least because I did it part-time in less than three years while holding down a full-time teaching job on the other side of the planet. So there’s that.
Where writing and publishing are concerned, here’s what’s new:
I have been shopping my novel Inhospitable to select literary agents and presses. There have been nibbles, but there’s no news on that front just yet. Although I can and will publish it via Signal 8 Press if no other opportunities come along, I’d prefer for professional reasons to go with another press.
My previous novel Murder in the Cabaret Sauvignon will remain in the trunk for the foreseeable future. I have no interest in going back to it at this time. The story’s actually pretty good, if I do say so myself. There’s something there. But it’s a first-drafty first draft, and there are other projects I’d rather focus on.
Reviews for A Garden Fed by Lightning are still trickling in. This one from the Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University is amazing: http://coloradoreview.colostate.edu/reviews/a-garden-fed-by-lightning/
Although I have continued to work on short fiction (and have made a sale I can’t announce or discuss just yet), I’m focusing on academic work as well. I have two papers finished and in the early stages of submission to journals. One of them is a look at the very misunderstood topic of writer’s block and how it pertains to academics who also maintain a creative practice. My contention, and this is one I will revisit in other work, is that when we teach (and for the sake of intellectual honesty and academic rigor in general), we need to demystify what we are doing and not promulgate the notion that writing is some kind of metaphysical communion with the muse, or with the divine, or whatever. If there are people who experience it that way, that is fine, but within the academy, we owe it to ourselves to separate the empirical from the superstitious. There’s a lot of the latter in the writing self-help books, and creative writing is a young academic discipline, so there isn’t exactly a ton of research out there to draw from. The second paper is derived from my PhD thesis: it takes a look at two sets of ghost stories from different points in literary history, the classic 19th century ghost stories of MR James, Sheridan Le Fanu, EF Benson, and others; and the zhiguai ghost stories of Qing and late Ming Dynasty China. There are interesting similarities in the way these two groups of stories deal with ghosts and the invocation of fear. With luck, these will be published without too much revise-and-resubmit.
I am also shopping an academic book proposal. This will be a monograph on the subject of the disconnect (and in some cases, disdain) of creative writers toward the academy. Although there are legitimate criticisms of the way creative writing is taught in higher education, and I think those of us who teach it owe it to ourselves to be familiar with them, I find the “MFA wars” very peculiar as well. It’s the ultimate expression of a great many popular misconceptions about what writing really is and how it works. The whole idea that writing can’t be taught is ridiculous. It falls apart under scrutiny, and I have my own slant on this. I won’t say anything further, but that’s kind of where I’m going with it.
Here in Hong Kong, I’ve also taken up the reins (along with Daniel Bird) of running the local chapter of Liars’ League again. If you’re in town on one of the nights there’s an event, you should check it out!