Archives For reading like a writer

Why should only poetry get its own cruelest month? The Emerging Writers Network, which declared May ‘Short Story Month,’ has declared June ‘Novella Month.’ This makes me very happy because for me, June is ‘Submit My Novella Month.’

Novellas are getting great blog coverage (see links below) in terms of quotes, definitions, recommendations of novellas past and present, proclamations of affection, and discussions of current activity in the publishing world. Because I’m submitting my novella for publication, I’ve had to find the presses that publish novellas, which is not the easiest of tasks. Where I’ve found the most success? Poetry presses. I think this is because poetry presses are not afraid of publishing full-length books that are only 80 pages long. They’re also not afraid of white space, which may help me in my quest to publish my novella of short, flash sections.

One thing that I’ve learned in Novella Month is that my novella falters on the issue of “revolv[ing] around one or a few characters” (John Madera – he’s not prescriptive about this; in fact he says “usually” not “always”). I’ve got five main characters with two other POVs that pop in briefly. I think my novella is actually five short stories that happen to share the same time (July 4 weekend) and place (Fallingwater – image below). And those stories are presented as alternating flash fictions.

My novella is called Liliane’s Balcony after the middle balcony that extends out beyond the others. Before it belonged to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, it belonged to one of my characters (Liliane Kaufmann). Her adjacent bedroom is where she overdosed on pain pills. Her balcony is where the tourists in my novella have their respective crises.

Anyway, my contribution to Novella Month is the following, in-progress list of presses that publish novellas.

Non-exhaustive, non-alphabetical list of presses that publish stand-alone novellas:
(Feel free to drop me a line to make the list more exhaustive. I’ll keep updating this. N.B. – these are book publishers, not literary journals, some of which do publish novellas, but that’s another list.)

Four Way Books
Black Lawrence Press
Melville House (link removed; see 6/9/10 post regarding % of women published)
Mudluscious Press

Hotel St. George
Milkweed Editions
Persea Books
Spire Press
Autumn House Books
Miami University Press Novella Contest
Main Street Rag

And then there are presses that publish novellas as part of story collections:

University of Pittsburgh Press – Drue Heinz prize
Univ. of North Texas – Katherine Anne Porter Prize
Prairie Schooner Book Prize
Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction

Bloggers blogging novellas:
(Dear bloggers listed below, I tried to alert a couple of you that I linked to you, but blogger wouldn’t verify me. If you want to be removed from the list, let me know. Better yet, if you know of links to add, let me know those too.)

Emerging Writers Network
David Abrams/The Quivering Pen
John Maderas
Joseph Bates/The Nighttime Novelist
The Fiction Desk

I just read Joanna Kavenna‘s second novel (third book), The Birth of Love. I was skeptical about the description of three or so different narrative threads–past, present, and future–about birth and its requisite processes. (Ew.)* But I was and am so madly deeply in love with Kavenna’s first book, Inglorious, that I didn’t hesitate to pick this one up.

The book confirms my love, but admittedly, it feels like the relationship has settled. We’re no longer–er, I’m no longer–in the throes of infatuation (though the flame is easily rekindled when I return to Inglorious). Rosa Lane of Inglorious has a mind burdened by literature and philosophy and all the ways they do not, cannot bear out in daily life.

What connects the two books is a thread of madness and the theme (explored and described by Michael Stone, the writer-character) of the “difference between the lone figure…and the many”:

Perhaps the many are so confident–dogmatic–only because they are among the many. Not because they have really thought–truly thought–about what they say. The solitary man must either say nothing…or shout to be heard.

In Inglorious, Rosa Lane, whose narrative begins when she quits her job by sending her boss an email, is surrounded by people who seem perfectly able to do what is expected on a daily basis. But she can’t cope with her mother’s death, make sense of billboards, maintain her relationships with men or women, pay Sharkbreath at the bank, or, generally, buck up. She constantly rewrites the same list of things to do (which serves as a lovely refrain with subtle variants), from Hoovering the living room to reading the comedies of Shakespeare, and “Plato, Aristotle, Confucius…and the rest.”

Both the madness and the lone figure motifs are heightened in The Birth of Love, though they don’t quite feel as heightened because they are also diluted, dispersed. I’m so very invested in Rosa Lane in Inglorious–in her accelerating madness and her lonely aloneness–and a tad less so with the historical Semmelweis and his present-day recreator Michael Stone and the prisoners in the year 2153, though I suppose I could have been if the book had been entirely about, for example, Semmelweis and Stone. Plus the more interesting madness and solitary-figure-vs.-masses themes compete with (and lose to) the birth/love themes. Ah well.

I’m also fond of her nonfiction book The Ice Museum, described as “an account of a poetic tour through northern lands,” which I had on hand when I traveled to Norway for the first time.

*Been there, done that.

Four Lectures by Gertrude Stein

University of Chicago Press (1935/1969)

I just bought this beautiful book in its sassy sturdy slipcover on eBay. I was going to actually read it before I wrote about it here, but two pages in and I can’t help but start quoting…

on literature

…most literature is narrative that is in one way or in another way the telling of how anybody how everybody does anything and everything. (2)

on america

When they asked me when I came back to America do you find America changed I said no neither America nor Americans after all when you say changed how could they change what after all could they change to, and when you ask that of course there is no answer. (3)

on the english language in america vs. england

It is going to be very interesting and it is very interesting and it has been very interesting to see how two nations having the same words all the same grammatical constructions have come to be telling things that have nothing whatever in common.

…Always before the language of each nation who had a narrative to make a story to tell a life to express a thing to say did it with a language that had gradually become a language that was made gradually by them to say what they had to say.

…the story must be told will be told can be told but they will tell this story they tell this story using the exactly same words that were made to tell an entirely different story and the way it is being done the pressure being put upon the same words to make them move in an entirely different way is most exciting, it excites us who use them. (7)

Oh that slip-slidy language! Those brilliant theoretical ideas put in everyday words! She’s talking about deconstruction and differance when Derrida himself is a four-year-old.

There will be much more to say about this…