Though celebration in a time of chaos seems an unlikely, untruthful action, I want to pause and breathe and acknowledge a moment in my life as a writer. This week my story, "Rock Salt and Rabbit," one of eight finalists for the 2016 Nelligan Prize, was published in Colorado Review. The experience of working with Editor in Chief, Stephanie G'Schwind, and all the CR staff was amazing. To add to this honor, the story was the featured fiction on the CR website for their 2016 Fall/Winter Issue and in their November podcast. CR editor Lauren Matheny's beautiful reading of the story and CR podcast editor Kylan Rice's introductions and following interview allowed me to listen and learn even more about the characters and their world than I realized in the all the months and years of writing.
"Rock Salt and Rabbit" stands alone as a story, but is also a chapter in the novel, SYBELIA DRIVE; hence, the years of writing. It is Royal's story, set when the war in Vietnam is still going on, and when soldiers like Royal were returning home. While I have never been to war, through research and time spent writing and rewriting, I came to understand this character - his stamina, his dilemma, his honesty and generosity.
Through writing, we learn empathy. And I'd say through reading, too. I'd like to imagine that if Royal was more than a character, that if he were alive and breathing, he would be one of the thousands of veterans deploying this weekend to Standing Rock in North Dakota to "assemble as a peaceful, unarmed militia" and "defend the water protectors from assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force and DAPL security."
In a time when the world spins in mad and maddening directions, I'm grateful for this moment. I encourage everyone to disengage from the madness for an hour each day, to take in something positive, like a story. Read in order to understand, then go out and make the world a better place.
Rappahanock, Waccamaw, and Pushcart. Go ahead. Say it as fast as you can, again and again.
A lucky trio. Unlike December's rain, sleet, and snow. More like ribbons in your hair, buttons and bows down your shirt front, and bells on your boots. Go ahead and dance!
And here's why:
Buttons, bows, and bells! Join me for a spin around the floor!
“So take a day. Call it day one.”
These are the first lines of my first post for HOTHOUSE. Twelve months gone by, and suddenly it’s March again. In that time “The Poppy: An Interview Series” has grown into a true HOTHOUSE flower. My reason for creating an interview series – to promote writers and artists via conversation and in terms of where their artistic lives are leading – has become a reality. The plural WE of the interview, and the lone I, pouring over a collection of poetry, stories, essays or a script, a set of images, a succession of movements, thinking things through. And then the connection made when we exchange questions and responses, ideas and thoughts, discovering more than we’d imagined. Add to that another dimension, in which the interviews focus on, circle around, or flat out dive into the idea of PLACE: the spaces we occupy in our minds and art; in dreams and visions, in actuality; and geographically, where we have been, where we are going.
And inside this enormous year so much has happened. So many surprises, so much sadness, so much happiness, and some serious sigh-filled moments in between. Friends’ successful artistic endeavors; good-byes; finishing a novel-in-stories; too-good-to-be-true cocktail concoctions; a bitter-cold winter with bluebird skies; and yes, any day now, any day now… that moment of almost-spring when the forsythia buds and frost comes three more times.
And so, here we are. Again.
So let’s begin. Again.
“Take a year. Call it year one.”
Open your eyes and recall one large, laughing, amazing year! Serious celebration is called for. An open-your-mouth-wide-and-insert-cake kind of celebration! Because March 8th marks my one-year anniversary with HOTHOUSE MAGAZINE!
Since first reporting for HOTHOUSE from Boston’s snow-covered AWP 2013, I’ve posted nineteen interviews with fiction writers, poets, filmmakers, visual artists, and dancers. Of those interviewed, all were open to and inspired by the questions and the possibilities the responses presented. They discussed endless ways of seeing and understanding the world, whether in description and dialogue, momentum and motion, from mountaintop and coastline, in multiple voices on the dismantling of DOMA, and solo on language and memory, sadness and bliss. And inside the conversations, we always came back to place, for place is where we begin, where we find our muse. And so, I wanted to recognize and thank those writers and artists for accepting my invitations and then playing along.
Every celebration needs music and so the playlist follows – the thus-far collected hits of “The Poppy: An Interview Series” – each matched with a song. I call it “From Sugar to the Mountain,” thinking of my first interview with Natalie Young of SUGAR HOUSE REVIEW and the latest with Augusta Thomson of “Nine-Story Mountain.” Turn it up loud, laugh, go ahead, have another glass, stay a while. It’s still snowing outside. Where else do you have to go?
FROM SUGAR TO THE MOUNTAIN
– The Collected Hits of “The Poppy: An Interview Series”
Since we spoke, many of the writers and artists interviewed have received all kinds of recognition for their work. Congratulations to all! And so I asked what they felt were their greatest artistic achievements of the past year. And here is that playlist as well.
- Natalie Young comments: “Hmmm… Not shutting the magazine [SUGAR HOUSE REVIEW] down. Just kidding! I guess I feel the most accomplished about sticking to the series of poems I’m working on and getting a number of them accepted for publication. I have commitment issues – that’s why I’m a poet.”
- Yolanda J. Franklin has had two readings, one at AWP and the other at FSU for their warehouse reading series, and a publication in African American Review.
- Andrew Lam’s short story collection, “Birds of Paradise Lost” (RED HEN PRESS, 2013) won a Pen Award.
- Matthew Draughter was nominated as an American Voice in the Scholastic Young Art and Writing Competition.
- Sharon Millar writes, “My greatest artistic achievement was co-winning the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.”
- Brad Richard on artistic success: “Stumbling upon the perfect title for my next book, the title I didn’t even know I was looking for. Like the titles of my last two books, it scans as trochaic dimeter.”
- Jennifer Genest’s biggest artistic success this year: finally writing a personal essay – and having it published! And in THE DOCTOR T.J. ECKLEBERG REVIEW!
- Jamel Brinkley placed a story for the first time and what a venue! A PUBLIC SPACE!
- Tim Watson says, “Artistic success? Finishing Booker film ["Bayou Maharajah"], finding a deeper story in another film that is in progress, and unshelving another film project that has been on the shelf for 8 years.”
- Marlene Robbins was awarded an Ohio Dance Award for outstanding contributions to the advancement of dance education.
- David Covey calls his artistic achievement from this past year “surviving the renovation of Sullivant Hall [Ohio State’s Dance Department] and all the rest of the BS in the world.”
- Amy Wright had three essays accepted by journals she’s long admired – BREVITY, DIAGRAM, and KENYON REVIEW!
- A.W. Sprague II, an incredibly talented surrealist artist, and very humble, says his greatest success this past year was being interviewed by me. Thanks, Bill!
- Emilie Staat tells me that her Faulkner-Wisdom award-winning essay, “Tango Face,” was recently published in THE DOUBLE DEALER. And it’s exciting to see everyone going mad over HBO’s “True Detective,” which she worked on as the Script Coordinator.
- JoeAnn Hart says, “My greatest success would have to be the publication of my second novel, “Float“.”
- Brian J. Hauser and Christina Xydias think their greatest success of the past year was securing two tenure-track jobs in the same place, while their greatest artistic success was finishing “Nontraditional” and getting it accepted to the 2014 Bare Bones International Film and Music Festival!
- Claudia Zuluaga writes: “After eight years of revising and finally publishing a new novel ["Fort Starlight" (ENGINE BOOKS, 2013)], even with a new baby and full-time job, I’ve built enough momentum to get deep into a second novel.”
- Augusta Thomson’s biggest artistic success was completing a full-length film about Mount Kailash, Tibet – “Nine-Story Mountain.”
- And mine is, of course, this glorious collection of interviews, the music heard and stories read, and low and behold, the completion of my novel-in-stories!
The Poppy: An Interview Series
Four to six questions begin as pods, then burst open with answers, bright lapis,
black-stamened, conspicuous—ornament, remembrance, opiate.
First posted in the ARTS section of Hothouse Magazine.
What a nice surprise! A year after publication in Passages North, Issue 34 as theWaasmode Fiction Prize winner, my story "We Are Here Because of a Horse" received a great review from Lyndsey Reese in her Ploughshares blog, "The Best Short Story I've Read in a Lit Mag This Week." The story also got some love from Jill at "Best of the Looks, Best of the Books." Many thanks to both Lyndsey and Jill for (1) reading literary magazines, (2) adding style to the literary world, and (3) writing those wonderful responses!
A little sampling of Lyndsey Reese's review:
"By describing the city in detail, Davidson introduces us to a narrator who is kind, patient, thoughtful, and insightful. We get to know more about him later, but his first impression of Tulsa lets us know that he isn’t someone who comes to hasty conclusions. He isn’t obsessed with the bottom line, but instead takes a more measured and even view of the world. Considering that much of the early story is stripped of background information about him and his wife, the introduction of the city serves to reveal the narrator and ground us in a physical place."
Considering that much of my writing centers around PLACE, I'm in love with this thorough and very thoughtful review.
(Read the full review at Ploughshares).
There are more Tulsa stories out there! Check out " Imaginary Oklahoma" in the Fiction/Poetry section of This Land Press. Guest writers, from Gina Ochsner and Carolyn Parkhurst to Mary Jo Bang and Jonathan Lethem, tell stories of their own versions of Oklahoma. And the gorgeous Tulsa poetry of Markham Johnson will make you linger insideThis Land's pages.