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My Early Summer Break is Over

Well, it wasn't a break, really. It was an intensive seven-week period in which I went through two sets of teaching search committee interviews, obtained a puppy, lost my husband temporarily to a burst of Silicon Valley controlled chaos, and adjusted to getting up before 6am (see: obtained puppy). 

Truth be told, the pre-6am thing is a work in progress. But I'm getting the hang of it.

More to come, and soon, in this space, both linked to The Loyalty of Water and my own musings. In the meantime, have a dog. May your week be this unabashedly joyful.


For Just a Short Period of Time

A very small group of people began to believe that we were not subject to the greater forces of nature, the planet, the universe. As one of their descendents, I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to let this illusion go, what process we will have to follow, and what we, and our world, might look like at the end of it all.

But I still slip--it's more "the" world than "our" world. We will need a new mythology, a new stack of stories, to help take this all in. I've been wondering if maybe that's where a writer can do her most important work.

More to come on this one. A lot to think about. 


An Interview with Kim Golden, Author of Maybe Baby

Kim Golden has already had a busy year. She released her most recent full novel, Maybe Baby, began her new serial novella Maybe Tonight, and is currently at work on a third book in the series. If you don't usually read women's fiction, now is the time to begin, and Kim is where you want to start. Maybe Baby follows Laney, an American expat in her thirties living in Stockholm with her Swedish boyfriend Niklas. Laney has just realized that she'd like to have a child, and Niklas has just revealed that he's had a vasectomy that he doesn't want to reverse. With that, Laney's off to Copenhagen to check out a sperm bank with some slightly unorthodox methods, which is where she meets Mads.

Think you know what's going to happen? I admit that I did, too--until I started reading. 

What makes Kim's success even more compelling is that she publishes under her own imprint and does the vast majority of the work--which extends well beyond writing the actual book--herself. Kim lives in Stockholm, where she is the love refugee of her husband Tord. You may recognize her and her writing from an earlier post in The Loyalty of Water; read on for a glimpse into her process, imagination, and plans for the future.

Interview edited for clarity. 

Emily: First off, it's been really exciting to see from here how well Maybe Baby has been doing. Did you expect this? And where is it today? What's been the best placement on Amazon?

Kim: No, I didn't expect it at all! I hoped that people would like it, but I was more worried that people would hate the infidelity storyline.

Today it's at #18 on the Kindle Bestsellers List for African-American Women's Fiction. The highest it's been was #8. I think if I do a bit more marketing, it'll be back up again.

Emily: You know, that's not a reaction I ever had...even though I would in real life. Have you run into that before in anything else you've written? 
Or is that something that's often a third rail with readers?

 For me, at least, part of why it didn’t bother me was just how Niklas was drawn. I did feel his pain, but it was also apparent that he had been living his life without making any real effort on behalf of Laney for a long time.

Kim: People who read romance novels often swear by these unwritten rules and one of them is that the hero or heroine must not cheat. But, since Maybe Baby isn't a romance, I didn't care about that rule. There were still some people who bitched about it. With Snowbound, there were readers who completely flipped out about the infidelity there.

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The Loyalty of Water: Towards Another Manifesto

I remember distinctly a particular fall afternoon during my freshman year of college. It was one of those perfect admissions brochures days, early enough so that the weather was still warm and finals held far less weight than the dining hall closing time. I was sprawled out on a lawn with a book and my bag, alternating between reading a few lines and turning my face towards the sun. And yet, as it was fall semester freshman year and none of us had solidified our social spaces, I was also keeping a sharp eye out for anyone I even slightly knew.

That's why I saw her. She wasn't anyone I'd seen before. She was tall and slim, with brilliant red hair, walking across Old Campus with the kind of ease I tried, and failed, to fake. Watching her I remembered that I had always kind of wanted red hair. It was less gentlemen-preferred and conventional than my own blond head (which I refused to dye out of a loyalty to an authenticity that I couldn't quite articulate). And I was immediately jealous of her completely, jealous with the kind of ferocity that you can only really pull off when you're eighteen and in a new place and completely out of your depth. I wanted to be her, and I knew I never could.

But it only lasted for that moment. As soon as I lay back down and looked up into the canopy of the tree above me, my envy vanished into the deep green overhead, and I understood. We were just leaves, she and I, leaves on the same tree, each a beautiful, singular expression of life. 

Liz Green talked about compersion, a feeling that's the opposite of jealousy, and that's what I felt so suddenly and clearly that afternoon. I've been feeling it a lot lately, too. I wouldn't say that I'm growing less ambitious with age--probably the opposite, truth be told. But I'm definitely growing less competitive. One thing I've always loved about creative work is that, whenever we can put aside the frequently uncomfortable fact that we're often competing for the same scarce resources in the form of fellowships or contests or jobs, what I do in my work in no way detracts from what any of these other guest writers have done. This isn't to minimize the very real limitations that exist, but it is to say that the community that we build is more frequently valuable, more sustaining in everyday life, than what we gain by focusing on those competitions.

There will always be someone, whether an individual or institution, ready and willing to place the emphasis on exclusivity, on some arbitrarily set boundary, on fostering a sense of scarcity. It's the dominant narrative of our culture, even as new media begins to chip away at it, ever so slightly, in certain places. I feel more and more strongly with the passage of time that part of my mission as a writer is to push back against that narrative, to stop myself when I begin to think about my peers as nothing more than my competition, and more than that, to insist in my work that each life is valuable. Each life is worthwhile. To remember that we all tell stories, and live lives, each as beautiful, singular, and necessary as the curving edges of any one leaf.

What's a leaf detached from a tree, after all, set aside on its own but cut off from the source of life? Dried up, brittle, and crumbling into dust. 

All this is to say that my community of writers sustains me, keeps me whole, and allows me to do the work that I do in this world. All this is to say, in at least ten times as many words, what the poet I came to adore during the spring semester of my freshman year puts so well:

Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?


The Loyalty of Water: What's in a Name?

Guest post by Martha Gale

To my surprise, the most common question I got after publishing my first novel, Knowing Place, was not “how did you get the idea?” or “is it autobiographical?” It was “why did you use a pseudonym?”

It seemed obvious to me. My day job as Marti G. Parker is research and scientific writing. When I sit down to write fiction as Martha Gale, I change gears. Some people have a special pen or teapot, others have a writing shirt or muse socks. I take on a different name.

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