Skip to content

Author: elizabethdonald_7o83t2

River Bluff Review

They didn’t tell me! The annual release of River Bluff Review is live, and I didn’t know. I was honored to see one short story, two poems and a photograph accepted for publication in my final year, and you can see them all here. 

“Tiny Monsters” has extra weight for me, as it is not only one of very few stories I’ve seen published with no speculative-fiction or supernatural content, but also draws a great deal from my life in the past. I found that the more I delved into literary fiction, the more I was exploring parts of my life and self, some of it deeply uncomfortable. Fiction shouldn’t be therapy – or at least it shouldn’t be only therapy, or you get bad fiction. But I was surprised by how much of myself and things I buried deep came to the surface as I experimented with this kind of writing.

Likewise, I hadn’t written any poetry since I was seventeen, because everyone writes poetry when they’re seventeen. My youthful poetry is buried at sea where it can’t get loose and hurt anyone. But then I took an advanced poetry workshop a few semesters ago, and two of those poems appear in River Bluff Review. That makes them the very first poetry I’ve ever had published. 

Finally, if you click “visual art” in the header, you’ll see my photographic depiction of “Edgar” among the other art accepted for the issue. It’s interesting that it goes live now, because I’m finishing my presentation on Edgar Allan Poe and “The Raven” I’ll be giving next week, and I’ve got Edgar on the brain.

Well, now I’ve got something to put in this month’s newsletter…

In other news, I’m signing at Writers of the Riverbend on Saturday, so if you’re local to Maeva’s Coffee in Alton, Ill., come by and see us 11:30 to 4 p.m.! 

Leave a Comment

January 2023 Linkspam

Hey, look what didn’t post! The webmaster here at Donald Media will be sacked. Wait, that’s me. – Mgmt.

Alas, the holiday break here at Donald-Smith-Gillentine Inc. was shut down on account of the Voldevirus. My husband came down with it right after Christmas, and somehow I managed not to get it or the flu, but instead something between bronchitis and pneumonia. I’d like to thank the fickle fates for choosing to hit us with this on the only ten-day stretch of the entire year when we are both off work, more or less.  It’s been a pretty quiet December, wrapping up the semester and spending the holidays with my family. Before the onslaught of the Dreaded Plague, I spent a lot of time baking things, because that is one of my favorite hobbies. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m fascinated by culinaria, both the making and the eating, and thus it’s been a delight working with Feast Magazine this year and getting to explore haute cuisine. While I am mostly doing features with Feast, I am planning to begin restaurant reviews independently on Donald Media in the new year, as well as reviving the book reviews I kind of let slide this year.  Oh, and one other thing. I sort of graduated. As you’ll recall, I finished the Thesis of Doom last summer, which was my examination of the representation of journalists in film and the final requirement for the masters degree in media studies. There was no summer commencement, so officially I graduated in December, walking across the stage wearing too much “academic bling” and figuring out how to accept my diploma and shake the chancellor’s hand while using a cane. Jim and Ian were there to cheer me on, and it really was a lovely evening, even with the silliest hat in history frantically pinned to my head because my hair rejects all hats. (Seriously, there was an emergency Walgreens stop on the way to the ceremony. It was a sitcom moment to be sure.) So that’s done, and yet I’m still here, because I have one degree to go. Much of the winter break that wasn’t spent baking or coughing was spent working on the thesis and my “Writer in the World” project, which are the final requirements for the MFA and you’ll hear more about that next month.  Until then, happy new year, and may you have a safe, happy (and healthy) holiday as we all begin another jaunt around the sun.


Publicity/Appearances

I usually try to take much of December and January off for sanity, so all we had this month was the Collinsville Holiday Market on Dec. 2. January will be quiet, with public appearances starting up again in February.  Next in 2023: • Writers of the Riverbend, Alton, Ill. Feb. 4 • Wednesday Club, St. Louis. Feb. 8 • Conflation, St. Louis, Mo. Feb. 23-25 • AWP Conference, Seattle, Wash. March 8-11 (attending) • ConCarolinas, Charlotte, N.C. June 2-4  • TechWrite STL, St. Louis. Date TBA.  • Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. July 14-16 (tent.) • SPJ Conference, Las Vegas. Sept. 28-Oct. 1 • Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Sept. 21-Oct. 1 • Contra, Kansas City, Date TBA. 

Journalism/Blogs

• Cleveland Heath returns to the classics (Feast Magazine) • Highland City Hall closed for water damage (Highland News-Leader) • One year after tornado, Amazon is rebuilding with no fines (Labor Tribune)  • Madison County to build bike trail near Highland (Highland News-Leader) • Ameren proposes new transmission line (Highland News-Leader) • Highland moves forward with road projects (Highland News-Leader) • Governor signs proclamation declaring WRA passage (Labor Tribune) • Illinois Democrats now hold widest majority in state history (Labor Tribune) • New medical clinic opens in Highland (Highland News-Leader) • 10 gifts for the adventurous foodie (Feast Magazine) • Developer to turn former printing facility into meat-packing plant (Highland News-Leader)

Note: Not all articles are available online, and some may be behind paywalls. 

Fiction

Right now I’m deeply mired in finishing a portfolio of slipstream fiction for the MFA land, and on revisions for my fiction thesis that will be going before the committee in the next few months. I also kicked off the new year by sending out every short story currently available for submission. Brace for the rejection slips!   

Patreon/Medium

• The books of 2022 (

Patreon

) • 171 pages (

Patreon

) • Poem: Seasons (

Patreon

) • The original guilty pleasure (

Patreon

) • One more in the books (

Patreon

)
Leave a Comment

A house built with love

Now that all the relatives have been informed, I am free to share the sad news that Violet “Pat” Byrd Stribling has passed away.

Grandma Pat died a few days ago, peacefully in her sleep and in the company of family. She was my mother’s stepmom and my last surviving grandparent, so the sadness I feel at the time of her passing is a selfish one, as a generation of my family is now gone, their stories continuing only in our memories.

But as Uncle Mark points out, Grandma Pat is now reunited with the love of her life, Papa Ivan. They were married in a chapel in Yosemite National Park, which was Papa Ivan’s favorite place. An Eagle Scout, he led generations of Boy Scouts to their merit badges in the shadows of Yosemite’s mountain cliffs, and took me and my sister on our first camping trip in Yosemite, if my long-thin childhood memory serves me. I remember the chill of the morning sunlight, and Papa Ivan showing me Half-Dome. 

 

Papa Ivan and Grandma Pat lived in Merced, California, the city of my birth. Whenever we would return to the hometown to visit my mother’s family, there would always be a day of adventures with Grandma Pat. I remember she had a dog that scared the heck out of me, as most dogs did when I was young. My sister remembers her ice cream floats with Tab soda, which is a memory I cannot recall, honestly. Her house was eclectic and fun, and she showered us with love. 

Pat was fond of miniatures and dollhouses, a fascination she imparted upon me. When I was three years old, she built me an amazing dollhouse – easily as tall as I was that year, three stories and entirely from scratch – no kits for Grandma Pat! 

That dollhouse became the center of my childhood imaginings. It was home to legions of Barbies throughout the 1980s, and in the 1990s became the setting for a dozen haunted-house games where I would make up “choose your own adventure”-style stories for friends and babysitting kids. It got dingy, a door vanished, the staircase disappeared, but that just added to its mystique. As I grew up and learned about miniature construction, I always had big plans for restoring it, but life and starting my own family got in the way.

Believe it or not, I still have it. It’s in my basement, carefully propped up on blocks so it doesn’t get wet in our occasional floods, and probably home to more than a few spiders by this point. Many times when living in places too small for storage and especially when moving from place to place, I’ve considered donating or getting rid of it – it really is a big dollhouse. And while I never have ascribed to gender norms and would have happily rehabbed it for my son, he never showed any interest.

But I have never been able to let it go. To do so would be more than giving up a part of my childhood – it would feel like giving up Grandma Pat. Only as an adult did I realize the work that must have gone into designing and building that dollhouse from scratch for a three-year-old granddaughter. It was a work of love, and such things can’t be cast away.

Papa Ivan and Grandma Pat had been married at least 40 years by the time he died in 2007, and she’s been on her own ever since. I have not seen her in several years, as it’s been some time since I returned to Merced. We exchanged Christmas cards and emails, and she joined Facebook along with the rest of the family, but like many in her generation, she rarely posted or responded. 

Now she is gone, and I think my mom put it best when she said, “She was simply awesome, a very unique person, a wonderful stepmom, a good friend, and she and my dad shared a beautiful marriage for many decades. How wonderful that she’s dancing in his arms once again! It’s as it should be. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of this delightful human being who was part of my life for 60 years.”

And now I am able to cry, but it is really our loss for which the tears come. 

1 Comment

Books of 2022

I really wanted to hit 60 books in 2022, more than my usual goal of Harlan Ellison’s “a book a week.” As it is, I fell short by giving up on Stephen King’s Fairy Tale shortly after Jan. 1. Sorry, Uncle Harlan.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you a synopsis of every book I read this year. I wouldn’t do that to you. I will, however, give you my top choices, with the understanding that as with the last four years, 2022’s reading list is heavily influenced by my courses of study. Six months to go, folks.
Best story cycle: The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor. Honestly, every story cycle I’ve read so far has been amazing, but this one really blew off my head. (A story cycle, if you’ll recall, is a novel comprised of interconnected short stories and a form I find fascinating.) I knew of Brewster because they made it into a movie, but I’d never seen it. Thus I was unprepared for its beauty and horror, and the writing is on point.
Best nonfiction: Wordslut by Amanda Montell. Billed as a feminist guide for taking back the English language, I was prepared for a dull examination of etymology, a word I always have to look up so I don’t mix it up with the bugs. Instead it was accessible, hilarious and thought-provoking as it examined the misogyny behind some of our language evolution and how the language continues to evolve.
Best re-read: Imzadi by Peter David, now available on Amazon as Imzadi Forever. I’m not sure why, because it turns out to be pretty much the same book as the amazing novel I first read as a teenager. I got the chance to ask Peter  about it on tour umpteen years ago – we were both signing in a dead hallway at an eerily quiet con – and he said it was still his most wildly popular book, which was more than a little awkward since it’s a love story he wrote when he was with his first wife. Regardless, it’s an incredible story and one that I always wished would become one of the movies.
Biggest disappointment: The Wastelands by Stephen King. Look, folks, I keep trying to get with the Dark Tower series and we’re past book three at this point and I just don’t think it’s going to happen. At what point does it stop being a slog and start becoming “the most amazing thing he’s ever written”? 
Biggest turnaround: Sula by Toni Morrison. I read this book first for a class on “Nasty Women,” an examination of female characters whose behavior is considered wrong or foul by society but would be lauded if they were men. Kind of. From that standpoint, I really disliked Sula, and found that her behavior would never have been lauded even if she were a man. I think I even wrote an essay about how she didn’t deserve to stand with the rest of the nasty women. But I re-read the book a semester later in the context of a class all about themes in Toni Morrison’s work, and I began to see Sula in a new light. Eventually it became my favorite of Morrison’s work, with the full knowledge I still have some of her works to go. 
Best Book Overall: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Stephen King once called it “the hole in the paper,” that moment when you fall into a book and forget who and where you are. The older I get and the further in my career, the harder it is for me to find that hole, whether it’s a book I’m reading or a book I’m writing. But there’s nothing like it, like Alice’s fall into the rabbit hole, so easy when I was young and every book was a new world. Crawdads was that book. I picked it up at the library and started reading it that afternoon, and could not stop save to refill my tea until I finished. The language paints a stark picture of the Carolina marsh and a central character that was amazingly compelling. I have mixed feelings about the ending, but that stems from the high emotions raised by this story. 
 
Full list:
Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
My Evil Mother by Margaret Atwood
The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel (graphic novel)
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson, duh
The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois (nonfiction)
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg
A Time to Kill by John Grisham
The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck
Things Left Behind by Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni (collection)
Feeling Very Strange ed. by James Patrick Kelly (anthology)
Billy Summers by Stephen King
Fairy Tale by Stephen King
Firestarter by Stephen King
On Writing and Writers by C.S. Lewis (full column pending)
A Day Like This by Kelley McNeil
The New Thanksgiving by Diane Morgan (nonfiction)
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison (literary analysis)
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Fan by Bob Randall
The Old Guard vol. 2 by Greg Rucka (graphic novel)
Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke (graphic novel)
The Shapes of Night by Mary SanGiovanni
King Lear by William Shakespeare (play)
The Sweet Science of Bruising by Angelia Sparrow
Make Art Make Money: Lessons From Jim Henson by Elizabeth Hyde Stevens (nonfiction)
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
At the Quiet Edge by Victoria Helen Stone
Creative Writing in the Community by Terry Ann Thaxton (textbook)
Flash Fiction International ed. by James Thomas (anthology)
 
Novellas:
Ten Days in a Madhouse by Nellie Bly
The Great Silence by Ted Chiang
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Jerusalem’s Lot by Stephen King
Inventory by Carmen Mara Machado
Recitatif by Toni Morrison
Sweetness by Toni Morrison
The Telltale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
Sea Oak by George Saunders
The Man Who Lived Underground by Richard Wright
 
So what was the best book YOU read in 2022? Time to fill up next year’s list – and I will get to 60!
Leave a Comment

Did you miss Blackfire? Because it’s back…

 

As I announced in my newsletter, the contracts are signed and the deadlines are etched in stone (gulp), so it’s time to talk about my four-book contract beginning in 2023 with Falstaff Books – and the return of Sara Harvey!

Not to be confused with brilliant writer Sara M. Harvey, a dear friend who kindly loaned me her name for the heroine of a novella I wrote mumblety years ago and probably didn’t imagine she’d then be featured as the heroine of a series. The real Sara has never been a Marine or fought zombies and monsters. As far as I know.

The Blackfire series began with a short novel titled The Cold Ones, originally published through Sam’s Dot Publishing, but its origins actually go back to my first publisher, New Babel Books. The amazing Frank Fradella, then owner of NBB, was putting together an anthology of novellas by the Sleepwalkers, a wonderful and sadly defunct writers’ group of midlist beginners, each tasked with writing a conventional monster in a nonconventional way. I thought Frank was going to stick me with vampires, because I was just coming off the success of the Nocturnal Urges series, and I wasn’t all that keen on trying to find a new take on vampires since I’d already done that. He gave me zombies, and I said, “But I’ve never written zombies.” Exactly, Frank replied.

I decided to try for zombie fiction that wasn’t extreme body horror, that didn’t aim for the gross-out. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! But that was the conventional zombie take, and I aimed for something else: a psychological horror stemming from some of the original legends rather than the more American takes stemming from Romero films. 

I thought, “What is the scariest part about zombies?” It’s not the brain-eating or shambling or the rotted corpses chasing you. It’s the time between being bitten and turning, knowing you will die and it can’t be prevented, and worse, you will become the monster yourself. You will become a threat to everyone and everything you ever cared about. So I did it to a warrior, and let wackiness ensue. 

It seemed to work out pretty well. We premiered the first book at Archon in 2009, and offered a free “zombie bite kit” with every purchase. We sold out the entire print run in 48 hours, and by the end of the weekend the publisher wanted a sequel. That was Blackfire, which came out in 2011, and was followed by short stories in literary magazines after Sam’s Dot closed and the books went out of print.

The latest was Yanaguana, a prequel set in San Antonio published by Crone Girls Press in 2020 as part of Foul Womb of Night, a ebook trilogy of military horror stories and later released in print as a limited-edition chapbook. 

Yanaguana coverEvery time I do a public appearance, readers will ask me when they’re getting more Blackfire. I did kind of leave them on a cliffhanger, with another book planned… and now it seems there will be even more of them.

Also pending as part of this Falstaff deal: Banshee’s Run. A blockade runner in a time of plague is pursued by a bounty hunter who believes she is responsible for the death of his wife. Wackiness ensues. I’ve played in space opera before, but this is a much bigger scope than any of those short stories and I can’t wait for you all to see it. Note: I was writing this tale of space leprosy long before COVID, but you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a COVID novel…. stupid virus. 

I’m delighted to be working with John Hartness and the fine folks at Falstaff Books, self-described as the misfit toys of speculative fiction. That definitely describes my work, and I hope you will enjoy these books as much as I’m enjoying playing with them. It is also a great way to re-enter novel publishing, as I’ve kind of set aside novels in favor of short stories and novellas all through my grad school experience. With graduation looming in May (!!!), it’s time to get the novels rolling again.

The first Blackfire release will be a compendium of all the previously released stories, including the really rare ones, and a new novella bringing the story forward to Phase 2 (see? just like the MCU!). Look for that in 2024, with Banshee’s Run to follow. 

 

Leave a Comment

November linkspam

I love the fall. Of course, I prefer it when it’s not 80 degrees, because that’s what July is for according to my Massachusetts-raised equilibrium. But the leaves turn their beautiful colors and fall on my car, we buy pumpkins for the sole purpose of cutting them up and putting them on the front doorstep, the cobwebs in the corners become “decor,” and I’m busier than I ever am the rest of the year.

If you’re a horror writer and you’re not busy in October, are you really working? This very newsletter took a week to put together because I was madly dashing about the country, and it won’t let up until December, if the calendar can be believed.

The various shenanigans at work this month will be detailed below, but a highlight for me was the news that four (4) of my submissions have been accepted by the River Bluff Review, in the last year I will be eligible to submit to them. The RBR accepted a short story (my first literary acceptance!); two poems (another first!); and a photograph, which is this month’s featured photo at the end of this newsletter.

I’m deeply honored that the student editors of the RBR chose to accept all four of my submissions, and look forward to celebrating with them and the other writers sometime in the future.

Finally… my actual diploma arrived this month from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, declaring that I have received a master of science degree in media studies as of August 2022. No take backs: I’m now The Master. (Cue the Doctor Who jokes.) I will be participating in the December commencement, which feels a little silly because Zod willing I will be graduating again in May with the second masters. But any excuse for a party!  Seriously, that degree has been finished for months now, but there’s something marvelous about the tangible proof. Two degrees down, one to go…


Publicity/Appearances

I’m happy to report our charity book sale at Leclaire Parkfest raised more than $900 for the American Cancer Society, and the leftover books were dispersed to the SIUE Head Start program, to Phi Kappa Phi for distribution to area Little Free Libraries, and the rest to Metro East Literacy to support their programs throughout the region. Many thanks to the volunteers who made it a fun, productive day!

This is a cause that means a great deal to me, moreso now than ever. If you follow me on social media or read “Under the Orange Tree,” you know that cancer took my Uncle Brian from my family at the end of October, adding yet another name of my loved ones to the cancer rolls. Thank you to everyone who has expressed their sympathy to me and my family in our time of grief; it was deeply appreciated. 

I was also happy to participate in a group signing at the Smithton (Ill.) Public Library in October, and will be returning to the Collinsville Public Library in December.

Of course, one of the highlights of my year is the annual Society of Professional Journalists conference, which took place the last week of October in Washington D.C. The travelogue began while I was still in DC, complete with photos, but the more extensive look at the historic sites I visited and photographed is pending.

Did I mention you can get all those awesome travelogues by subscribing to my Patreon? I haven’t? Well, you should totally do that, for $1 a month.

I was also quite pleased to participate in a panel on Freelancing 201 at the conference, which kind of tickled me since I still feel like a 101 level after four years. The audience was great, with good questions and they laughed at (some of) my jokes. That’s all I ask, folks!

All this month I’m running Nanowrimo for the Eville Writers, as well as the events below. The calendar for next year is starting to take shape, so if you were interested in inviting me to your local convention or book festival, speak up soon!

And for you Patrons: Anyone who subscribes to my Patreon gets a discount at the Literary Underworld booth. Just give your name (or the name you used when you registered on Patreon) to the Minion working the booth. 

Coming up:
• ContraCon, Kansas City. Nov. 11-13 
• Books-a-Million, Edwardsville, Ill. Nov. 19
• Collinsville (Ill.) Library Holiday Market, Dec. 3
• Writers of the Riverbend, Alton, Ill. Feb. 4, 2023
• AWP Conference, Seattle, Wash. March 8-11 (attending)
• Authorcon, Williamsburg, Va. March 31-April 2 (tent.)
• GRADUATION, May 5
• ConCarolinas, Charlotte, N.C. June 2-4 (tent.)
• TechWrite STL, St. Louis. Date TBA. 
• Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. July 14-16 (tent.)
• SPJ Conference, Las Vegas. Sept. 28-Oct. 1
• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Sept. 21-Oct. 1

Journalism/Blogs

• Helping books find a home for the cause (ElizabethDonald)
• Archon 45 is a smash! (ElizabethDonald)
• Changes coming to Highland’s school construction project (Highland News-Leader)
• Worker’s Rights Amendment aims to protect Labor rights in Illinois (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• City Council moves forward to annex land for school (Highland News-Leader)
• Large solar farm under construction near Highland (Highland News-Leader)
• U.S. Department of Labor awards apprenticeship grants in Illinois (St. Louis Labor Tribune)
• Highland leaders hope to expand business district (Highland News-Leader)
• Gov. Pritzker makes major push for Worker’s Rights Amendment (St. Louis Labor Tribune
• Want to know what’s going on in Highland? There’s an app for that (Highland News-Leader)
• One on One: Julie Lock of Food Outreach (Feast Magazine)

Note: Not all articles are available online, and some may be behind paywalls. 

Fiction/Photography

• Not (Patreon)
• Fright Fest (Patreon)

Patreon/Medium

• Art for art’s sake (Patreon)
• Ms. Donald goes to Washington Pt. 1 (Patreon)
• Ms. Donald goes to Washington Pt. 2 (Patreon)
• Ms. Donald goes to Washington Pt. 3 (Patreon)
• Under the orange tree (Patreon and Medium)

A nightmarish funhouse turned deadly.
A couple trapped in a futile journey through time.
A single baleful eye watching from the deep.
An assassin waiting in a snow-covered tree.
A toy that seems to have a life of its own.
A pair of soldiers trapped between death and something worse.
A tenebrous hand reaching out of the shadows.

These are the award-winning tales and terrors of Elizabeth Donald, writer of things that go chomp in the night. This new anniversary edition is being released 20 years after the first story was published, now including a bonus short story and the author’s reflections on twenty years of twilight tales.

In that space between evening and nightfall, between consciousness and sleep, the moment when the light fades and the shadows take over… These are the lands of the Setting Suns.

Signed copies direct from me
Amazon
Kindle

Leave a Comment

Helping books find a home for the cause

As most of you know, I’ve been a Relay for Life team captain for more than 15 years, raising money for the American Cancer Society. For several years, my team has organized a used-book sale at Leclaire Parkfest, a local festival celebrating the history and culture of this little village (which was swallowed up by Edwardsville sometime in the 1930s, I think?) 

It’s not a small undertaking. The books are set aside all year long by the volunteers at the St. Andrew’s Book Sale, which has about 20,000 volumes offered in a quarterly sale. For Parkfest, we have to load all the books into trucks and vans, haul them to the Park, set up at least a dozen tables and set out all the books. Then at the end of the festival, we pack up the remaining books to donate to other nonprofits.

This year books went to the Head Start program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, to SIUE Phi Kappa Phi to distribute to area Little Free Libraries, and to Metro East Literacy Project. The volunteers came from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Phi Kappa Phi and SIUE Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society foolish enough to elect me as president this year.

We had a fabulous time, and our volunteers were awesome. Want to know how awesome? Some of the books left over last year had been stored in a church member’s barn, and when we were unloading, we discovered that several of them had brought unexpected visitors. To be more specific, we opened a bin and a mouse jumped out onto a volunteer’s arm!

We have since dubbed Olivia “The Disney Princess of Sigma Tau Delta,” as clearly she can charm the wildlife.

The mice apartments, as we started calling them, were taken to a nearby wood and set free by the students. The damaged books had to be thrown away, of course, and I supposed I’m going to have to get used to sacrificing books when I take over running the St. Andrew’s sale next year. But my philosophy has always been, every book should find a good home – and we did that this year, with all but two boxes of books sold or given away to literacy causes that will make good use of them in our ongoing efforts to celebrate the written word.

The gross total for the sale was $946 for the American Cancer Society, which was actually higher than I anticipated while not quite meeting the amount last year. It will be reduced a little by expenses, but not many; now that we have Frodo the Bookmobile, we don’t have to rent U-Hauls anymore for hauling large quantities of books.

A million thanks go to our terrific volunteers, who didn’t just endure the mice and keep hauling books. They stayed, they came back to pack up, they hauled tables back to the church, and three of them even followed us all the way to O’Fallon, Ill. to deliver the last of the books to Metro East Literacy.

Here’s a few pics from Leclaire Parkfest, with my thanks to everyone involved. It’s a great start toward our fundraising for 2023, and I’m happy so many books found a home.

1 Comment

Archon 45 is a smash!

We had so. much. fun. at Archon last weekend – so much fun, indeed, that it’s taken me six days to write it up because I’ve been recovering.

Archon is always one of the highlights of our year, and it’s our home con, so it’s also a family reunion. Literary Underworld authors were out in force, including Sela Carsen, T.W. Fendley, Nikki Lanahan and Michales Joy. At any given time you might have seen any of us at the booth, or our Minions, Cole and Ian – who have actual minion badges now. We’re very proud of that. Our good friends from Pro Se Publishing and Yard Dog Press were also there, and it was great to catch up with them in meatspace. We also launched preorders for A Woman Unbecoming, a charity anthology from our friends at Crone Girls Press to benefit reproductive healthcare advocacy. Click here to preorder your copy.

And, of course, there was the Traveling Bar. As is our custom, we opened our doors both nights to serve drinks and talk shop. Jim served as bouncer with backup from our good friend Scott Cousins, and Sela was our Social Butterfly keeping the conversation light and friendly and alerting either of us if there was a potential problem. At this point, we’ve got it down to a science.

On Friday, we opened the doors at 9 p.m. and I started serving drinks about 90 seconds later. My arm literally did not stop moving until I yelled union break at 11:45 so I could hide in the bathroom and stretch my poor arms for five minutes. Then I was back behind the bar until we yelled last call at 1:30 a.m. Saturday was almost as crazy – there were a couple of five-minute spells where I didn’t have anyone asking for a drink, which did not occur on Friday.

Oh, was I tired. I’m still tired just thinking about it, and I’ve slept since then. But everyone had a fantastic time, and that’s the important part. Well, that and making a living, of which Archon is always a major part. But there’s something really fun about being the bartender at a con party, and that’s the people. Most people are happy when they come in and happier with the drink in their hand, but some people are so happy, so grateful, and greet me so cheerfully, it creates this lovely positive energy that I absolutely love. It really felt like the vibe at Archon was back to normal, or as close to normal as we can get with the spectre of the Voldevirus still looming over us.

And around the corner were our friends at SausageFest, raising money once again for cancer research. Sadly I did not get over there to try this year’s snausages, but fortunately everyone else at the con did, or so it seemed. If you want to kick in a little toward their fundraising, click here. They are the bestest neighbors.

Many thanks to all our friends who greeted us so warmly, to our customers who bought books, to our guests who drank the booze and partied with us, to the Underlords and member presses who were there or who supported us from afar, and especially to Minions Ian and Cole, who hauled all the books and booze back to the van and to LitUnd’s dungeon until the next time. (Okay, it’s a storage unit we like to call the warehouse when we’re feeling grandiose, but “dungeon” suits, don’t you think?)

And what would Archon be without the costumes?

2 Comments

Fall into terror! It’s… August.

A funny thing happens to college instructors when July turns into August: we start to panic.

With so many college instructors and professors on my social media, it’s funny watching us all begin the scramble to get ready for the new semester. I’ve spent much of this week planning my schedule for my English composition classes, figuring out my physical schedule, picking up textbooks, looking up the new Required Syllabus Language at both universities, and so on. 

I moved into my new office at The Jesuit School last month, but my computer wasn’t installed until this week. It’s a shiny shiny Mac Pro, so I’m looking forward to playing with it as soon as I can get over there. At Ye Olde University, I’m still in my cubicle in the Hall o’ TAs, hopefully with actual company this year, though most of the fellow grad students I’ve worked with have graduated by now. Because how many idiots deliberately choose to be in grad school for five years doing two degrees?

*crickets*

For those playing the home game, that’s three (3) offices for me including the home office, which is where I’ll be working three days a week when I’m not bouncing all over the world two days a week this fall. When I say “physical schedule,” I mean days I’m driving across the river or I’m on the local campus or  I’m driving all over the universe to union meetings or I’m ensconced in my home Tower. There’s a spreadsheet and two color-coordinated calendars. 

With regret, I have dropped the class in Black speculative fiction I intended to take this semester. It’s absolutely killing me, because come on – to spend a semester reading Octavia Butler and N.K. Jemison and exploring Afrofuturism and horror and get credit for it? 

Indeed, my one regret as I approach my final year of MFA Land is the number of classes I won’t get to take. Just this semester alone, my department is offering the above class in Black speculative fiction, young adult literature, African-American rhetoric and oratory, quest fiction, Black music as literature, Black women’s writing, as well as the usual lit classes. 

In previous semesters I’ve seen classes on heroes and villains in fiction, an entire semester on Toni Morrison, “inventing America through writing,” American literature and social change, dystopian/apocalyptic fiction, semester-long comparisons of Poe and Hawthorne or Whitman and Dickinson, the American dream as represented in literature, “nasty women” in fiction, and so on. 

I think I could happily sit back and take these classes till doomsday. I’ve been so delighted that the reputation of MFA programs as a) relentlessly white/male, b) abusively cruel to their students, and c) stultifyingly resistant to genre and popular fiction have been absolutely untrue. I’m sure some programs deserve the reputation, but if anything, my experience and my observations at AWP indicate that the current-day programs are well ahead of the industry itself in diversification and openness for writers and writing styles. 

But I digress, unhappily, back to abandoning a class I really wanted to take. At least I still get to take slipstream fiction, which should be a lot of fun, and I will begin my planning and research for my community project – Writer in the World, required of all MFAs, and buckle in because it’s going to be my whole year. 

Meanwhile, I am teaching two completely full sections of English composition at Ye Olde University and commuting into the city two mornings a week to teach newswriting at the Jesuit College. That’s approximately 75 students to wrangle. In addition to the Writer in the World practicum, I’ll be working on my MFA thesis novel, and my non-MFA fiction writing (more on that soooooon). 

Then there’s Donald Media, which includes my freelance work for various news publications including McClatchy, the Labor Tribune, Feast Magazine, etc. There’s keeping up with the four (4) blogs I manage, the Patreon, the Literary Underworld, attending two cons and a journalism conference, the ethics committee, St. Louis SPJ and its fall boot camp, not to mention being president of the Sigma Tau Delta honors society and gearing up to take over the quarterly charity book sale in my town that I’ll start running in 2023.

Something had to give. I mean, I have a family. I hear they’re nice. 

At least one thing will be off my plate, one way or the other: this Friday is the final defense for my media studies masters thesis. So far none of my committee have emailed me to yell that it’s a worthless piece of garbage and I have to go back to the drawing board because I’m a looooooooser. Who’s nervous? Hopefully their suggestions will be quickly feasible, as next week is my last of the summer “vacation” and my ability to give the bloody thing my undivided attention before the fall chaos descends. 

Assuming nothing goes sideways, technically I am done with that degree, and would have the right to walk in the December graduation except that feels silly when I’m allegedly graduating for good in May! 

Then whatever will I do with all my spare time?

Leave a Comment