It’s back to writing now, I guess. I’m working on a near future novel that is very corporeal, a children’s book set on a remote Dutch island, an essay on my father, a surrealist short story about dancing, and many flash fictions in which my wild voices get a chance to be heard. I love words. Did I ever mention before I love words?
Photo above: Richard Serra at the Guggenheim, illustration by “Walls.”
My short story “Animal Puzzle” was published in Volume 50, Number 4, Year: 2016 of Denver Quarterly.
NOMINATED FOR A PUSHCART PRIZE.
Preview of “Animal Puzzle”
It all began on Scheveningen beach with the sea rolling toward them in long waves, leaving foam behind and broken shells and plastic scraps and what all not. You’ll see. The sun was out and the wind was in everything, blowing an air of cockles and fake coconut. Nothing reeked of death.
The family of four had arrived in the early morning to beat the coastward traffic and now, in the late afternoon, they were exhausted. Doing nothing is no joke. Mother mostly read with eyes closed, an open book in her hands. Father did something similar, reading the same page of his magazine over and over, his eyes swerving to the legs that passed in front of him. It was dizzying, so many legs there were. Closer to the water, Son and Daughter were in cahoots together building an abstract sand sculpture. Or perhaps they were trying to build a rhinoceros. (The family is a member of Amsterdam’s Artis Zoo, some fifty kilometers North.)
Green Mountains Review published my essay “The Empty Space in Front of Your Hand.” It’s a personal essay on inexplicable coincidences & the intersection of life and art. It also tells the story of how my husband and I met.
Preview of “The Empty Space in Front of Your Hand”
Michel was an old and charming man as only an old and charming painter in a Parisian atelier can be. He was our neighbor. Whenever we ran into each other in the courtyard and spoke, I let him touch my hands and in the summer even my bare shoulders. This was a huge thing for me, although I didn’t know at the time whether it meant a compromise or a victory. Michel was also my second novel.
The kind and fabulous people over at SmokeLong Quarterly are publishing a series of essays and asked me to contribute. In “Why Flash Fiction?” writers and editors explore what draws them to the form.
Preview of “Flash Addiction”
Once I wrote my first flash I was hooked. So much so that I often need to remind myself I have a novel to finish. It all began when I brought home The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis from the American Library in Paris.
My short story “Surfacing” was included in Volume 31 (2016 – The Surreal and Fantastical issue) of Folio, the lit mag published by The American University in Washington, D.C.
I’m honored and happy: the issue is a great read.
Preview of “Surfacing”
—Do you have any idea how much anger there is in you?
Nine weeks into my escape, I got noticed. My plan was to remain invisible for at least a year. But what was one to do? I couldn’t hide under a rock all my life. So there I was, sitting on top of one, facing the Phare de Gatteville, a historic lighthouse I would later refer to as a firetower (the literal translation from the Dutch word vuurtoren).
I’m from Holland, by the way, and most of this happened in France.
The air above the English Channel was lavishly blue except for a few petty clouds on the horizon. I was cobbling sentences together for a revenge letter I would never mail. Even then I knew my words wouldn’t make it out of my notebook. The point was to get them out of my head. From time to time, I glanced up from my lap at the underexciting view. The granite firetower soared up dispassionately, a seal-gray phallus incapable of seduction.
A wonderful new issue of Superstition Review was released today and one of my stories is in it!
If you like the style of this story, be sure to check out my upcoming novel, for they spring from the same source.
Preview of “Fistfuls”
“Imagine a woman in a shuttered room, serving afternoon tea. She’s playing the host to five pale women who have barged into her life, she thinks, to size it up. The air hangs heavy, thick with the unsaid, and the eyes of her visitors rove—how shabby the shack, how poor the cups.”
My personal essay “The Writer and Her Time” was published on Fiction Southeast yesterday. It’s about why and how I began writing in English: a light-hearted summary of my writer’s life.
Preview of “The Writer and Her Time”
The Writer begins when she is young. She doesn’t want to waste time. Reading is wonderful but writing feels better. After she finishes her first book, she shows it to her mother. Very nice, the mother says while underlining all the misspellings. The Writer is disappointed with herself. Even her main rabbit’s name, Hopper, misses one of its Ps.
Issue Fifty-One of SmokeLongQuarterly is out today and my story “Copycat” is featured within this great collection.
Preview of “Copycat”
That summer after Jan-Willem left me, I was after Jasper, a twenty-one-year-old surf instructor in Scheveningen who was always in the company of a tittering girl who claimed to be his girlfriend but wasn’t. Not spiritually at least, or so I told myself. She was just somebody with tight skin who happened to be dulling his solitude until a yet unnamed future would claim him.
Proud to have a story out in Matchbook this week. It happens to be one of my favorites.
“On Monday, under the weight of routine, she’s nothing but sloppy and dull-eyed, like the unhappy housewives you see pushing shopping carts in gray suburbs, even though she’s a postal clerk and unmarried and lives downtown.”
The other day, I ran into my tea seller on the street. I recognized his face immediately yet it took me a moment to place the man. How exactly did I know him? I had never before encountered the tea seller outside his teashop.
The man recognized me as well and greeted me in a shy, offhanded manner. A nod, a mumbled “Bonjour.” He was accompanied by, what I assumed, were his wife and their two children, a girl and a boy. The boy’s left arm was tucked in a caste on which his friends or classmates had written names and messages.
Seeing the tea seller with his family was slightly disturbing to me. Clearly, a tea seller has a life outside his teashop, but so far I had failed to imagine it. Do people simplify their lives, I wondered, by denying others the depth and duality they perceive in themselves? On my way home, I made a mental note to look at others from now on in a less self-centered way and see them as full-fletched people rather than flat characters who play a facilitating role in my life.
The next time I went into the teashop to buy an assortment of Japanese greens, I asked the tea seller about his son and his broken arm. The tea seller did not smile. In fact, he answered my question curtly and did not offer me a free tea sample as was his custom. His non-verbal message to me was clear: my life outside the teashop is none of your business. For his customers, the tea seller preferred to be nothing more than the tea seller.