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From the world of people who play with letters

Therapeutic Memory Reversal

Author’s Note: I’m doing my own mini-McSweeny’s, running pieces of fiction that received multiple rejections from semi-pro or professional paying markets. This story has come close to acceptance half a dozen times but I need to move on to other ideas. I hope you enjoy it for what it is.

A 300-year-old supernova remnant created by the explosion of a massive star.Ze lifts the small crystal cover with one finger and pushes the red knob underneath it. With zir other hand ze holds down a metal knob and turns the instrument clockwise one, two tight clicks, waiting for the trickle of memories to start flowing through zir headpiece. Ze braces zir arms on the counter, the room lights kept low because receiving memories is still painful, even if they get easier to acquire over time.

The sessions with Dad went too far. Well. Really ze doesn’t know what went wrong. Ze only sometimes recalls expressions on people’s faces from before the time on ship. So ze—I—sneak back here and try unlocking another piece. When the other me isn’t busy living a hellishly boring existence.

Ze—I, I, I—I will merge us.

Soon.

After the scandal and the election some people said it’s the memories that are gone, cauterized by the pulse of this evil, wild device. But ze wonders if maybe just the pathways are gone, and it can rebuild them, like a new bridge, or a portal. I have to try.

He only thinks he is happy.

Zir finger hovers over a green button. Sweat has lined up across my forehead and the back of my neck. I feel a Pavlovian lump in my throat. Before ze can change its mind, I turn the knob two more clicks. This is going to hurt. Read More…

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From My Hard Drive

Author’s Note: This is a reprint of a short story than originally ran in SPLIT Quarterly.

Underwater

He weaves the thick strips of brown leather together slowly, seemingly fascinated that they have a smooth and a rough side. On the suede he traces his index finger slowly, almost lovingly, pushing against the grain, and then smoothing it down with the grooves of his fingerprints.

She looks him over, wanting to make eye contact and knowing he’s not about to grant that small favor to her.

“Hi, honey,” she says, in as much sing-song as she can muster.

He goes about looping another strip of belt material into the snake he already created. She sees that he is making a neat pattern of light and chocolate brown leather. A bit of sweetness in this bland, quiet universe of his. His hair is tousled, even matted in a few places, and he smells a little of urine. Smelling that upsets her. She needs to speak to the staff about that.

She flinches as a man, across the floor from her, squeals at a piece of Formica that is escaping the countertop one increment at a time, near the arts and crafts station. He is suddenly obsessed, slipping his fingers under it and listening to the flap as it slaps back down where it was still glued in place. Flap, flap, flap, flap.

“What are you making there,” she asks the beltmaker.

He continues the pattern. “Water,” he whispers. Read More…

Jenna’s Rainstorm

I listened without amusement to the therapist’s clock. It was supposed to resemble an antique mantle clock, but the mahogany was a cheap veneer and the clock face was cardboard painted to look like mother of pearl, which of course, looked nothing the fuck like mother of pearl. His crappy clock sat on an actual white mantle, which was not a good match for the dark clock, come to think of it, and all of this was over an electronic fireplace with little orange pieces of fabric that “flickered” in the least convincing flamey way possible. Oh, but I was supposed to be totally authentic with him.

This was all bullshit.

Nobody even owned ticking clocks anymore. I’m sure when he checked the time it was using his FitBit. He must have read somewhere before he lost his hair and began his attempts to deceive his clients with clocks and combovers that crazy people need noise, all the time, or they’ll go even more insane. I’d rather have just sat in the quiet. I’d gone whole 50-minute sessions without speaking but then the good doctor just upped my dosage of whichever drug of the month was supposed to make me a more tolerant-of-bullshit person.

He tried to stifle a yawn, but I knew he was as bored as me. I’d burned twelve minutes ignoring him and his clock. I’d throw it in the fireplace but wasn’t a real fucking fireplace.

I sighed, shifting in my seat. At least the furniture in this room was comfortable, unlike the pissed-on, puke-stinking chairs in the patients’ lounge.

Finally he spoke. He couldn’t take it anymore. He probably loathed the mantle clock as much as I did.

“What is on your mind today?”

He was careful not to say my name because I might go off on him again. Read More…

Trans & Gender Nonconforming Reading: Moderator Notes on Trans Literature

16700461_10154658224819843_1610112469219421694_oNOTE: These remarks were delivered at AWP17 on February 11, 2017 in Washington, DC.

People ask, “What is trans literature? Is it literature about trans people or by trans people? Is it emerging? Is it literary or folk? Is it in vogue or invisible? Is it limited to a form or a genre or is it a post-modern queering of narrative?”

These questions miss the point. Further, this questioning enforces an authenticity of the poetic and the literary not demanded of cis writers or cis-centered literature. As many writers on the margins have pointed out, as Dr. Nafisi said to us Thursday night in her stunning rebuke of tyrannical, Western cultural norms that seek to delegitimize Iranian cultural production and cultural identity, the mainstream ideology never seeks its own authenticity, it can only, in a kind of Freudian compulsive repetition, work to pull down the provenance of marginalized literatures. Mainstream literary ideals continually misunderstand the value, the meaning, the quality, and the scope of trans literature.

Just last week the White House and its team of dementors and destructors floated language for a new executive order that would erase the legal foundation for trans civil rights in America. This horrendous mashup of reactionary illegal-ese written in the dungeons of the Family Research Council and the Heritage Foundation, if signed by President Hairdemort, would define for the first time, by any government in the world, that “sex is an immutable characteristic from birth.” At the exact moment that the United States is pondering the erasure of trans and gender nonconforming people from the legal landscape, we are facing an ongoing question in the literary world: “What is trans literature?” Read More…

The End of a Publishing Project

Dear Friends and Readers—

My publisher, Booktrope, is folding as of May 31, 2016, and my books will be (hopefully temporarily) out of print. I do have two works in progress: a follow up to my memoir with the working title of Bumbling into Baby, and the second in the Time Guardians trilogy, Intermediate Time Travel. The latter is further along than the former. I’ll be speaking with some colleagues in the publishing industry about my options for these two new titles and when I have an approach for them I will let everyone know.

I have no ill will toward Booktrope and I have to say I am honored to have worked with some very fine people, especially the senior team at the hybrid publisher, my editors Jennifer Munro and Danika Dinsmore, who are incredibly talented writers in their own right. (Right? Or rights? See, I need good editors.) Thanks also to Christy Price for helping to publicize Bumbling into Body Hair; I’m sure I’m still a nobody author but I was REALLY a supremely nobody author in 2012.

My plan is to republish the memoir with perhaps an author’s forward and a new cover. Expect that later this summer. Regarding the novel … well, I have to talk to a few people in the industry and see what my options are. I don’t want to leave readers hanging from the first book, although perhaps it could stand alone.

Yes, I have other projects. They’ve been on the back burner for the last six months as I’ve been working on Intermediate. If you could put in a word to the universe for something like a MacArthur Fellowship for me, feel free. (I know, it’s never going to happen. *cough cough GENIUS GRANT cough cough*) But my time is limited; I’ll discuss possibilities and then do my best.

Often, it’s all we can do. Be well, friends, fellow authors, editors, publicists, proofreaders, and cover designers extraordinaire. See you in the pages of the next project.

It was a good idea, Ken and Katherine. I’m sorry it didn’t work out.

Excerpt from Intermediate Time Travel, the sequel to The Unintentional Time Traveler

street scene from Philadelphia, maybe Center City, shortly after 1900, with what looks like a farm market, horses, customers, and horse drawn wagons all aroundWe were on day four of traveling south to Mobile, Eleanor’s hometown, and we weren’t making much progress with the horses. I knew Pie by herself would be faster than this, but Holiday was a bit older and we had a wagon full of our provisions to boot. And it seemed like every new mile was hotter and stickier. I was driving this portion, not a cloud in the sky to get between us and the sun, and the reins were tacky in my hands, leaving some of the tanning dye on my palms.

“This is gross,” I said to Lucas, who kept nodding off. How dare he try to get out of any of this.

“Mm? What’s gross?”

“This,” I said, waving one arm around in a big circle to mean: everything, dude.

“I think it’s pretty,” he said, and he closed his eyes and hunched himself up against the corner of the seat. As a final screw off to my comment, he pushed his black cowboy hat over his face.

I tried to appreciate the surroundings. Even though there was only one state between Eleanor’s state and ours, the landscape was pretty different. Here the trees were covered in thick green moss on one side, many of them tangled up in some kind of vine. The bird calls were different, too—I didn’t hear any morning doves, but I did spot a few woodpeckers. I was pretty sure we wouldn’t have any run-ins with wolves or coyotes, because all of the big predators seemed to have fled a while ago.

Pie suddenly went lame and stopped walking, snorting instead in a way that made me think he was in real pain. I tapped Lucas on his knee and hopped down to look at the horse. Read More…

Spinning Plates—Raising a Family & Writing Books

Two toddlers, one with limbs like Plasticman, the other in the throes of potty training uncertainty, one partner with a busy academic career, the other attempting to navigate the policy morass that is post-Affordable Care Act implementation, a year into a house purchase that has seen no fewer than half a dozen small renovation/replacement projects, and it’s no wonder I am struggling to stay on top of my writing schedule. Even my weekday schedule itself is upside-down: now that both children are in preschool in the mornings, my late afternoon writing time has evaporated.

But here’s the thing about being a writer—I still find time to make words appear on the screen. I might not meet my goals in a given week, but writing is something of a flexible career. That story I wrote last year finally found a home over at Expanded Horizons. The back burner project left languishing in the recesses of my brain suddenly jumps forward and then I have an essay ready for a market. The followup to my memoir, a mess of incorrect chronology and meant-for-journal-only prose at long last feels emotionally available to me, so I can restructure it and add to the 44,000-word count. If I’m lucky my editor will tell me it’s not total trash when I eventually email it to her. And then I can get back into the sequel to my YA novel and finish the first draft (I’m at 52,000 words on that one so far).

If this looks like my work is all over the place, it is. I haven’t even mentioned the speculative piece I’m working on for an anthology submission, the pitch I’m trying to write to get a column in a market for the 2016 election, or the adult novel I’ve been working on for three years that needs a research grant so I can delve into an archive on the east coast. (Please, NEA, please.) I’ve missed a couple of deadlines in all of this chaos, but that’s okay—if I can’t make the submission date, I must not have been that interested.

Call it all Writing While Gemini.

——–

It’s two days later since I started this blog post, and here I am at a desk with a vanilla latte inches away from my thirsty self, and a computer under my fingerprints that is beaming its 99% battery charge at me with something like glee. My four-hour writing window is here, so toodaloo, friends. My process is messy, encumbered with all kinds of nonsense and scatterbrainedness, but it works for me … mostly. Would that we all find our productive processes wherever they may be.

The Pointlessness of Blogging

I started this blog, lovingly named Trans/Plant/Portation to refer to my gender identity, my then-imminent relocation to the other side of the continent, and the travelogue that I’d be writing about as we drove across country (and through part of Canada). I was volunteering to give up my day job, figuring that after fifteen pretty successful years in the workplace I’d land something new and interesting shortly after unpacking my last box in our new house. Instead I blew out my left ACL three weeks prior to our trip, watched the global credit economy implode, and didn’t find work for another two years.

Everett contemplates a volcano

Somehow, the blog that was supposed to be my fun-filled journal for friends turned into my stop gap, my virtual solace-finder—one of my only outlets for my extroverted personality. Susanne was worried for me, I could tell, but she had her own anxiety regarding acclimating to her new college environment. She had to start her faculty career and sort out the myriad characters at work. All of a sudden everyone we knew was Susanne’s coworker—fine, insofar as coworkers go, but not a group to whom one can express their concerns about their Very Recent Moving Experience.

Also, the new house reeked of cat urine, the walls bulged, and the upstairs tub occasionally leaked into the kitchen, via the spotted ceiling. Read More…

Friday Fiction: Running from Zombies

I think this is a cute story (as zombie stories go), but it’s never going to sell to a market, so I’m publishing it as part of a brand-spankin’ new, occasional series of Friday fiction pieces. I hope you enjoy reading it.

RUNNING FROM ZOMBIES

Ezra walks like a drunk sailor, or how I think a drunk sailor would walk, because like I have never seen one but I’ve heard that sailors drink a lot and drinking makes people stagger around the way my little brother does, but whatever, Ezra stumbles around the house all the time. Mostly he clings on to furniture if it’s near enough to cling to, but some of the stuff that Mom Two buys on her antiques shopping sprees is really tippy, so then I have to rush up to Ez and make sure that he doesn’t bonk his head or break some fancy Louis XIV chair in the process. It gets tiring, but the extra allowance is worth it. Plus he’s cute, and so when we’re out somewhere like the arcade or the hipster park where everyone beautiful plays lawn Frisbee or whatever the hell it is, people come up to us all agog and shit because Ezra is teetering around, saying “arararar gagagaga Amuhwee” which is some apparently adorable pronunciation of my name, Emily.

Yes, our parents gave their two children E names. It is so awesome being us, let me just say. Actually my original name was not Emily. I had to convince my parents that I was really a girl. It wasn’t easy to get them to believe me, but they’re more or less okay with it now, and I have learned all kinds of ways to be a more patient person. The universe gave me my parents so I would learn how to get what I need, and then it gave me Ezra so I would continue to work out my core muscles. Thanks, universe, for looking out for me.

The phone rings. It’s my friend Iggy who is also trans and a year younger than me. He left his extremely crappy high school because of constant bullying. Iggy is funny as hell lately because he finally started hormones after years on the blockers and now he texts me every time a new chin hair appears. Seriously. I have like 126 texts from him, all about freaking chin hair. Guys are so weird. Read More…

A Little Zombie Excerpt

Here’s a little something from a story I’m working on right now…

 

Ezra walks like a drunk sailor, or how I think a drunk sailor would walk, because like I have never seen one but I’ve heard that sailors drink a lot and drinking makes people stagger around the way my little brother does, but whatever, Ezra stumbles around the house all the time. Mostly he clings on to furniture if it’s near enough to cling to, but some of the stuff that Mom Two buys on her antiques shopping sprees is really tippy, so then I have to rush up to Ez and make sure that he doesn’t bonk his head or break some fancy Shaker end table in the process. It gets tiring, but the extra allowance is worth it. Plus he’s cute, and so when we’re out somewhere like the arcade on Folsom or the hipster park where everyone beautiful plays lawn Frisbee or whatever the hell it is, people come up to us all agog and shit because Ezra is teetering around, saying “arararar gagagaga Amuhwee” which is some apparently adorable pronunciation of my name, Emily.

Yes, our parents gave their two children E names. It is so awesome being us, let me tell you. Actually my original name was not Emily, I had to convince my parents that despite what the doctor yelled out as I was born, I was really a girl. It wasn’t easy to get them to believe me, but they’re more or less okay with it now, and I have learned all kinds of ways to be a more patient person. Maybe. The universe gave me my parents so I would learn how to get what I need, and then it gave me Ezra so I would continue to work out my core muscles. Thanks, universe, for looking out for me.

The phone rings, and it’s my friend Iggy who is also trans and who also left out extremely crappy high school because of it. Iggy has been funny as hell lately because he finally started hormones after years on the blockers and now he texts me every time a new chin hair appears. Seriously. I have like 126 texts from him, all about freaking chin hair. Guys are so weird.

“What’s up, Ig?”

“I was going to hang at Gus’s house, you wanna come?”

Gus is one of those kind of asshole, kind of cool dude you can’t ever pin down. But his parents have a pool and it is close to 100 degrees outside. Read More…

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