2019 in review: seeking taxidermy for mountain homestead

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Dear friends and readers,

I didn’t realize how long I’d gone without updating this blog. Since April! When so much has happened!!

The biggest change is that I accepted a tenure track position teaching creative writing at Young Harris College in North Georgia. So I’m tenure-track faculty and I live in the mountains now, looking to invest in a wardrobe that is entirely plaid and tweed, plus some Twin Peaksian taxidermy for my new place. This also means I’ve moved three times in the past three years. Same old. I drugged my poor sweet cat and ferried him and all my belongings four states south to a lake town in the Appalachians. My wonderful parents helped, of course. The following text from my dad sums it up pretty well:

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(**tears**) I love them so much.

Even after the fall semester, I’m still adjusting. I miss my Allegheny folks (and the laxer schedule I had there), but I’ve gotten to know some seriously earnest and talented students at Young Harris, as well as some fun, nerdy, open-hearted colleagues. I don’t know what the next few years will look like for me, but this is a beautiful place to be, and it’s filled with good people. I’m driving distance from family and I don’t have to worry about whether or not I’ll lose my job year to year, and it frankly just FITS better, being back in the South.

I mean, I’m a lot happier when I’m not digging my car out of a snow drift every other day. Big improvement in my mood.

Also! This past October, (thank you, Julie Wernersbach for bringing me aboard!) I was on a sci-fi panel at the Texas Book Festival in Austin this year with the incredible Nicky Drayden and Christopher Brown. Please check out their work; they are brilliant sf writers. And–for being a panelist I got to see my humble short story collection sitting under the big tent among bestsellers. How cute it is there! That little stack! 😀

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I stayed with my dear poet friend and Austinian (Austinite?) Leanna Petronella, whose own gorgeous book debut came out this past year. Please buy it! Read it! She’s a searingly amazing poet and her cat is the best. Five stars for her book and her cat.

ALSO! This past November, I was able to make my triumphant return to the University of Missouri to read as a Visiting Writer! Returned to Ragtag, saw good friends and mentors, ate crab and drank craft beer and had the BEST EFFIN’ time. Reminded me how far I’ve come and how lucky I am, that I didn’t do all this on my own.

Writing-wise this year, I fully dedicated myself to a novel I kept telling people I was doing “for fun,” alongside the Totally Serious Novel I felt I was supposed to be writing. My attentions are not longer split and I’m happier for it, and from the friends I dared to show drafts to (I was so scared to show this beast to anyone) I’ve received the best feedback and encouragement. So this is my project. I’m sticking to it. I don’t care if it’s fun. One time, I was in a class where a writing professor told us we were “doing it wrong” if we were enjoying ourselves while we were writing, and I think that really screwed me up. That’s actually terrible advice, kids. Don’t listen to that.

In between novel drafting, I’ve been revising some old stories and experimenting with flash fiction. Struggling to submit finished work on anything other than a completely haphazard schedule. A few successes. 🙂 In case you missed it, this year I published pieces in Liminality Magazine, JuxtaProse, Jellyfish Review, and SmokeLongQuarterly.  “Flyover,” the Smokelong piece, was just nominated for Best Small Fictions 2020. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

There’s probably more I could say, but I’ll leave off here with the highlights. The spring semester has already started like a hurricane, and I’m looking forward to AWP 2020 in San Antonio this coming March. Not on a panel or anything. Will just be there to walk around and eat Tex-Mex and see friends and spend money at the book fair. Hope I come across some of your lovely faces!

 

Stay strange, my friends!

J

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