Boys, Widow, and The Zen Thing

The past month has been a season of workshops and rewrites. I’m close to completing another version of one of my short stories for my creative-writing class; it’s a piece that I’ve been working on for pretty much most of the semester. I’m also planning my summer living arrangements, (hoping, praying, begging the universe that things just magically work out and that I can stay in Louisville), and working on my mating call rituals. So far, no one has explicitly stated that they want a creative writing student to take care of. I guess I should show more leg.

Another story I’ve been working on got selected for a master class with Michelle Latiolais, an author and professor from the University of California, Irvine, so the vast majority of this past week has been somewhat of a blur as I’ve had to read and scribble my thoughts on my fellow writer’s manuscripts, both for my creative writing class and for the master class. When I found out my work was selected for the master class, I was at a cross between excited and scared, proud but humble. I’m unsure if getting selected is a measure of potential quality or a measure of pity. Either way, I got some good feedback from the visiting author on the piece that I submitted and my goal is to do at least one more draft of that story before my current semester ends as well.

Most of my reading lately has been for workshops, so I haven’t been able to dig too deep into any of the short story collections or anthologies that’ve been piling up around my apartment. The Norton Introduction To Literature has also occasionally yelled at me from my desk in my sleep, but I’ve not had the time to pick it back up. I was right in the middle of a Karen Russell story when I emo-quit reading the book at the beginning of this year. I plan to pick it back up soon.

Since Michelle Latiolais was visiting the University of Louisville, I spent two bucks on the digital version of her short-story collection, Widow, a few weeks before the events. Normally, I’d buy the print, but I was a bit tight on money and I wanted to read more of her work before I went to the fiction reading event that took place before the master class. I regret purchasing the digital version. I look at my stack of books on my desk (I still don’t have a bookshelf) and wish that I could see Widow lying there with them somewhere instead of in the consciousness of my iPad’s Kindle library.

The first story of hers that I read was actually an assigned story from my professor called “Boys”. I think it was assigned because it served as another example of what the story “Moonwalk”, by Susan Power, did with the historic event of the moon landing. In “Boys”, Latiolais wrote about a well publicized murder case as the narrator sat in a male strip club and pondered the news stories and events, as well as her own problems. In a way, “Boys” countered “Moonwalk” because Power’s story changed the history of the moon landing by adding a fictional element. “Boys” didn’t really change the murder case, but used it to sort of help the reader answer some questions about the narrator, like what the narrator was going through with her lover who was sitting beside her at the strip club.

Once I downloaded my copy of Widow on my iPad, I read the title story. I can see Latiolais’s powerful abilities in this story. Her attention to poetics as well as form/line breaks give the piece a wonderful edge that is enjoyable even for a man like myself who doesn’t really know or have a big interest in knowing what it’s like to be a woman, physically. I’m going to take my time with finishing Latiolais’s collection, mostly because I’m lazy and I’m more interested in getting caught up on television shows like Arrow, Gotham, The Flash, and Once Upon A Time. I did manage to get sidetracked with a copy of  The Pushcart Prize Best of the Small Presses 2015. I purchased it a few months ago for an extremely new set of models to look at to help me with my own writing, but I haven’t really had time to dig too deep into it, either. I managed to read the first story, “The Zen Thing”, by Emma Duffy-Comparone. It made complete sense, from beginning to end. A cast of well rounded characters, a snapshot of a moment in time of one woman’s perception of the reality of her family at the beach. As a creative-writing student, I was unable to figure out how to make it better.

I’ll have to get through the rest of this semester before I’ll probably have time to finish Widow or continue the plunge into The Pushcart Prize 2015. I’m almost there, just a few more weeks. I’m going to do some more writing, and forage for food and berries to make it through the last month of college before I have to find a rock to crawl under for the summer.

You’ll see me around,

Eric Shay Howard

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