There is No Path

The hardest thing, I’ve decided, about publishing is that there’s no path. A lot of people are trying to do a similar thing, but everyone kind of figures out their own way to do it and the way they did it may or may not be available to the people who come after them.

I read a post today by an agent who was answering a question from a writer. The writer had had pretty good success with her first book at a smaller publisher which then went out of business. But the success had been good enough to put her on the radar of her second, bigger publisher, but bigger publisher didn’t promote her second book and it didn’t do so great.

The writer asked if she was done or if she should query under a pseudonym.

The agent’s advice was basically, yes, she was done and she should find smaller presses because no agent is going to want her. Her only choice, if she wants to stay in the big fish pond, is to write a blockbuster that will force the industry to change their minds about her.

It just has me wondering how long I should query agents on the novel or if there comes some point when I should start looking at small presses. I mean, frankly, I want to write the kinds of things I want to read. I don’t need to write books as my career and I’m not looking to be a full-time writer at this point.

I read a book this weekend, which I’ll leave nameless, which I liked a lot, that came out of a smaller press. I think my novel is that good. Should I send it to that publisher?

How do people decide what kind of press to approach? Am I doing it wrong?

Ha ha ha, lord, that’s the question that just permeates publishing–Am I doing this wrong?


One thing that is screwy about writing is that you have to learn to hear “no” a lot and you have to keep persisting. (I guess interesting things could be written about this and rape culture, not that I’ve phrased it this way, but I’m not talking about that.)

I think, though, that a lot of under-represented groups in publishing have been socialized for our own safety to pick up on subtle cues about where we don’t belong and where we might be unsafe. A “no” is a stop sign. It means, “holy shit, do not proceed. For your own safety, do not proceed.”

So, I wonder how–especially when it’s really not safe to proceed, when the culture is racist, when the editors treat fat women writers like an impossible anomaly, when it feels like you have to be in New York to get anywhere, etc. etc–you work up the nerve to proceed.

Obviously, some do. But I wonder what kinds of stories we’re missing out on because others are like “Hey, that sign said ‘do not enter.’ Okay, I will not enter.”

I Did Some Stuff!

I sent the Metallica story off someplace. If they don’t want it, I’ll send it someplace else!

I worked a little on my October stories.

I wrestled with this afghan, for which there’s never enough yarn. But I’m loving it. I love how the white circle looks. I like the bright colors. I’m excited about my idea for how to connect the squares in an interesting way. I think I have a neat border to try.

I didn’t, however, do any weeding. I’m just not feeling like gardening and I’m not sure why.

The new kitty brought a rabbit in the house last night and ate it. She must be so fast and patient. And tired of our crappy cat food?

But why doesn’t she use her hunting skills on the mice that get into the kitchen? I don’t understand.


This morning, I read the Metallica time-travel story to the Butcher. When I finished, he said, “Yeah, that’s good.” Each word with its own weight.

He did make me change it from “that interloper Robert Trujillo” to “that dude from Suicidal Tendencies Robert Trujillo,” but that was the only thing.

I don’t know why I’m so nervous about sending it out. I know it’s a good one. I guess because I’m in complete violation of all my writing superstitions. But man, I’m happy to just sit with liking it and I need to get to submitting it.

Books, Stories, Fun

Yesterday, I sat around, ate Thai food, talked about book publishing stuff, and the Metallica-time travel story I’ve been working on. Then I got to tour Third Man!

It was awesome. The Butcher is right. I’ve been too in my head lately. I need to get out and do some stuff even if I feel like I’m too busy to do anything. I feel tremendously better.

I tried to convince the folks at Third Man, after seeing how into old equipment they are, that they should head over to the Masons’ Grand Lodge and see their stage set-up.

I told them they could drop my name if they wanted to, though they wouldn’t need to.

Then they asked me if I was a Mason, and, of course, being a woman and someone who likes hanging out with gay people, I am not. Illuminati all the way, here. But on my drive home, I got the giggles thinking about the fact that literally the only people in town who might be “Oh, Betsy Phillips sent you? Um, okay, sure, come on in.” are the Masons! And possibly the Tennessee State Library and Archives–though, again, obviously, anyone can already go there.

But also, I think that I’ve figured out my discomfort with the Metallica story. The plot of the story is “scientists invent time travel, immediately decide to make young Metallica fight old Metallica over old Metallica’s audacious plan to get old and change.” So, it would seem that the climax of the story would be when the Metallicas confront each other.

That should be where the emotional oomp is.

But I think the emotional oomp of the story comes right before that, when one scientist is remembering the first time he saw the video for “One.”

The plot-dictated climax isn’t the emotional climax. And, on the one hand, I think that’s fine, because it’s a story about nostalgia and how the past is and isn’t connected to the present. It’s supposed to kind of peter out just when you want a brawl.

But man, on the other hand, it feels weird to me every time I read it, like it’s just not shaped right.


It’s funny to me how much whores are looked down on in our culture, while at the same time, a woman who doesn’t look like someone a bunch of people would want to fuck is so devalued. I mean, I know it’s because women are devalued period. But there’s something really fucked up about how much of our culture is “You are bad or evil or fucked up or victimized if someone gives you money to fuck you,” while at the same time being “Well, sure, of course we give more money to women who people will want to fuck.”

Like where’s the line? Of course there is no line. But god damn.

Anyway, this from EW:

Still, you can’t count on selling a book on the writer’s talent alone—so while factors like being photogenic or savvy with social media won’t make or break a deal, they can definitely sweeten it. “I actually knew very little about [Sweeney] when I bought The Nest,” says her editor at Ecco, Megan Lynch. “I didn’t know that, for example, she knew Amy Poehler well enough to approach her for a blurb. That was a happy bonus.” Lynch stresses that while she would never “decline a book I loved because I felt like the author wouldn’t be able to handle an NPR interview, it would certainly affect how determined I might be: Am I going to hang in for another round at auction, or drop out?” Herr, for her part, acknowledges that an author’s appearance can affect an advance — “We look at all of that stuff” — but insists, “We would have paid her the same money if she weighed 500 pounds and was really hard to look at. That’s my firm belief.”

I can’t really express how this makes me feel. It makes me mad in every sense of the word. I want to believe, have to believe, I’m getting rejected because my story is just not what people want and that the next story could be better, could find a home.

But I can’t become the kind of woman you want to look at, if you don’t already find me pleasant to look at. And the idea that my work is fine, but someone has looked me up on the internet and seen me and made the same judgement that the fucking Pith commenters make about me every day, that men in my family have made about me, that the whole fucking world every day… it just makes me feel insane. Like, what am I even doing, striving for something that the people who can give it to me literally think I am unworthy of?

Intellectually, I know that, when someone tells you that you’ll only be worthy of something once you achieve some arbitrary, unrelated thing, they’re intentionally trying to keep you from the first something. They’re trying to improve their odds of getting love or being successful or whatever by slamming the door in other people’s faces.

I know that.

It still sucks. This is the only body that I have. This is the only face I have. And I’m only getting older. This is literally as good as I get. To think that might keep me from success as a writer sucks.

Story Just for Me

I’m so happy with how “Jesus Has Forgiven Me. Why Can’t You?” went and how much people like it (and will hopefully like it some more when it comes out) that I thought it might be fun to write another thing based on people in my life.

I started this story about a pastor who befriends an alien.

I’m going to finish it. And then I’ll have to change it pretty substantially if I ever want to try to publish it. Because it has ended up being sad and uncomfortable.

Whenever I saw writers talking about writing stories “just for them,” I used to roll my eyes. But, I get it now. Sometimes you write something because you have to.

It doesn’t mean anything has to happen with it after that.

Poetry Sucks!

Last night, Sara and I went out to Oz to the Poetry Sucks event. It was awesome. I continue to wish I had a word for how I feel about Rita Bullwinkel’s writing, where I want to both force her work into the hands of everyone I know AND I burn with jealousy, because who would read me once they’ve read her? If you ever seem me walking through the streets of Nashville in an incandescent yellow flame, you can be sure it’s rage about something the legislature has done.

But, if you see me burning in an incandescent white/blue flame, it’s just my jealousy over Bullwinkel’s talent. Where is her book contract? How is she not famous? How is she not Nashville’s Kelly Link? I don’t understand why she’s not exploded over the nation yet.

Ciona Rouse was amazing. I’d like to see her read again.

But I was most surprised by Todd Dills, who I’ve known on and off, but not well, for a few years, but who I’ve never seen read. He utterly transforms. It’s like watching a man possessed. His facial expressions are different, his voice booms in a way it normally doesn’t. You feel like you have been moved physically, like three inches to the left.

It was amazing.

And then Chet announced we’re doing another one in August and he pointed everyone at me. So, hey, I guess we’re doing another Poetry Sucks! in August and I’ll be reading at it.

More details as I know them. I will probably read from my F&SF piece which is a blasphemy full of derogations, so that will be fun.

Music in Fiction

I got to meet Ed Tarkington last night! He was just like you’d hope he’d be. We talked for a minute about writing about music in fiction and I told him how much I admire his ability to get at what music does for a person, or, at least, what it meant to people my age when we were younger, the way it created a kind of private space for us to make sense of ourselves.

I tried to talk him into the new Ray LaMontaigne album, which, though I am not a big Ray LaMontaigne fan, I am massively in love with. It is an album, I think, meant to invoke the private relationship between a listener and an album.

And I told him about the Metallica time-travel story and it tickled me because, yes, anyone our age immediately sees the rightness of trying to bring young Metallica into a situation where they can fight old Metallica.

Which means I have doubly broken my own superstition.

Oh well, these are weird days. You lose someone everyone loves, the  world feels shakey, like it’s not clear if the connections will hold without that one, awesome knot.

Writer Superstitions

I have this superstition that I shouldn’t talk about any short story I’m working on except in the most generic of ways unless I know what’s going to happen to it.

So, if I’ve sold a story and I know it’s going to be published, I’ll talk about it a little more concretely than I will if I’ve just written a story.

I had been blathering on about my Metallica time-travel story because I thought the premise was actually hilariously dumb and, if anything came of it, it would be that I posted it here in October. So, no harm, no foul. I knew what was going to happen to it, it was fine to talk about it.

But I actually think it might be pretty good. Oops. Maybe I should try to sell it first, before assuming it’s an October story.

It got me thinking–how do you decide which stories are good enough to shop? Obviously, everything you write is not going to be great. I probably spend too much of my life organizing things like a wrestling card, but it’s a useful system for me.

You have a roster of ideas. Down at the bottom of your card are ideas too new to be any good yet and old ideas you’re not ready to let go of. Sometimes interesting things can happen if you slam those new ideas and those old ideas together. Then you have your mid-card–ideas you know are pretty good, stories that are fairly solid. Maybe, with some work, they could become superstars, maybe they’re not. Hard to tell sometimes.

Occasionally, you just have a headliner right off the bat. Both stories I sold that are running this year, I knew when they were done that they were something–“The Four Gardens of Fate,” which Apex recently published (they were the first place I submitted it), and “Jesus Has Forgiven Me. Why Can’t You?”, which is going to be in F&SF in July (which I submitted to four places). And don’t get me wrong. It sucks to be rejected, but some stories you just know in your gut are getting rejected because you haven’t quite found the right editor.

But I look now and I see that I only submitted “It Came from the Sunny Side of the Mountain” to three places before I gave up and decided to use it as an October story. And why? This is what I’m getting at. I had a feeling “It Came from the Sunny Side of the Mountain” was a strong mid-carder. I wasn’t sure it was a headliner. But I knew “Jesus Has Forgiven Me. Why Can’t You?” was good. So, sticking with it was easier.

I’ve written two stories this year (not counting the stuff I’ve been half-assing for October). One, until I looked just now, I could not remember for the life of me what it was about. Ugh. Probably a mid-carder then. And then the other is this stupid Metallica story, which, maybe, I underestimated.

Fannish Boy

I have a rough draft of my time-traveling Metallica story. It still needs some tweaking, but it makes me happy. It ended up not being so much about the band, but about fans of the band and what we want from artists with long careers and such.

I was telling the Redheaded Boy about it and I realized, though he’s younger than the fans in my story, he is exactly the kind of person I was writing about. He knew every iteration of the band. He has opinions on when and how they’re doing their best work. He is vague acquaintances of Dave Mustaine and told me Mustaine has the presence of an old lion.

I think I’m going to need to read this story to the Redheaded Kid to make sure I have the fannish stuff right. And I am, I find, a little nervous about that.

Less is More

There’s this moment, if you’ve ever had the unhappy opportunity to sit through Taking Lives, when Angelina Jolie is wearing a robe and it slips open to reveal her upper thigh. I could probably find fifty pictures of Angelina Jolie wearing less than that on the internet in the time it’s taken you to read this paragraph.

But it’s still a moment I find really charged and erotic in ways it’s hard for me to completely understand.

I was reminded of that when we were watching Spy and there’s this moment at the end when Jason Statham takes his arm out from under a sheet and again, it’s just his arm and it’s not like you don’t see his arm in every movie. But *pow*.

I’d like to understand more about what’s going on there. It seems probably like more a poet’s concern than a story-writer’s concern, but it’s still fascinating to me. Are there certain things–a flash of thigh a well-crafted shoulder–certain words, even–though I don’t know what those would be–that short-cut straight to the brain and set off an “Oh, my, wow” response without needing more than just those fleeting glimpses?


I finished this baby blanket and I tried a new border on it and I love it. It’s the first time I’ve experimented with back-post double crochet, but it’s awesome.

I also finished a story. I don’t think it’s very good. It’s not very bad either but I’m going to have to come back and look at it later.

I keep getting rejected, too. I feel like we’re not supposed to talk about rejection, but it’s weird not to. It’s an enormous part of writing. “Hey, I wrote this. Do you want to do something with it?”

To me, and maybe this makes me kind of snobby or something, but that’s the real difference between writing as a hobby or a pastime and being a writer. Not whether you’re published, but whether you’re being rejected. It’s easy enough to call yourself a writer if you write in such a way that you never have to feel the teeth-kick of a “no” you really wanted to be a “yes.”

It’s hard to feel like a writer when you’re being rejected. Do you suck? Does your story suck and you just can’t see it? Should you give it all up and sell baby blankets with cool borders to tourists but no one will tell you  because they don’t want to hurt your feelings?

But it’s in being rejected that your identity as a writer is forged, I think. “No.” Okay, what are you going to do about it? If your answer to that question is “I’m going to send it out again” or “I’m going to write something they will want” or “I’m going to write something better and when it wins a big prize, in my acceptance speech, I’m going to say, ‘Fuck you, all the “no”s’,” then you’re a writer.

And if you hear “no” and never write again, then you’re not.

Some Amazon Stuff

As I was eating my breakfast, I wandered over to File770–as I do every breakfast–to discover the tweets I tweeted about this item over there had been collected into this item over there.

The two main points I was trying to make in a short space are as follows:

  1. University presses try to get their metadata to places like Amazon as early as possible, even before things like pub dates have been firmly nailed down. We put placeholder pub dates in the metadata and update it later. (Not that books aren’t published on the first or fifteenth of a month, but a good indication that you’re looking at a placeholder pub date is if it’s on the first or fifteenth of a month. At work, all our pub dates start set as the fifteenth of the month we’re hoping to hit.) For many reasons, some of which are baffling and some of which are just that Amazon huge and we are small, the pub date updates don’t always make it into their system or they get into the system but don’t update correctly. This is not just Amazon, but every place that gets metadata. Finding that, say, Barnes & Noble lists a pub date for something as 10/15/16 but then the publisher lists a pub date of 2/13/17 only tells you that, at some point, probably way back before the book was even in copyediting, a marketing person optimistically believed books would come out in October.That marketing person was wrong and the place you’re looking hasn’t updated the metadata recently. That’s all it means.
  2. Trade publishers may be able to accurately predict what Amazon is going to do in any given case, but I haven’t met a university press that can. We get our books from the printer and then set a final pub date four to six weeks in the future from the day we get books in. This is to give the books time to get to various fulfillment centers and then into stores. We want the pub date to be the date consumers know, for sure, they can get the book. Many retail outlets will get a book in stock and then not put it for sale until the pub date. Some retailers get the book and put it out for sale, pub date be damned. What will Amazon do? No one knows. Sometimes they’ll put the books for sale as soon as they get stock. Sometimes they hold it for the pub date. I regularly have both happen and my metadata is set up the same, so it’s not something the Press has any control over. In the past, we’ve tried to use the “on sale date” field to control when Amazon puts the book for sale, but we’ve found that Amazon doesn’t update that field, so, if way back at the dawn of a book’s life, you said, “Pub date: 10/15/16” and “On sale date: 10/15/16” because you wanted Amazon to not sell the book until the pub date, you may find that, no matter what you do, Amazon considers that book’s pub date to be “10/15/16” because they don’t update that field. (Now, it’s possible that Amazon has fixed this glitch, but we were burned very, very badly on this in the past–a book that hadn’t even gone to the printer showing up on Amazon as already published even though we’d been regularly updating the metadata to reflect the slippage and rightfully angry customers wanting to know why Amazon said the book was out and they hadn’t gotten their copies–that we don’t use that field at all anymore. Like I said, it may have been fixed, but I’m not going to risk it to find out.)

So, there are many reasons a pub date at Amazon might be wrong. Normally, this doesn’t matter, but, as in the case of Diana Glyer, where it’s affecting her Hugo eligibility, obviously, it matters quite a bit, since it appears that at least some of her books entered the marketplace before the end of last year, even though her pub date wasn’t until early this year.

The best thing to do would be to go by the pub date the publisher sets. Otherwise, university press authors are always going to be in a weird, unfair position, because university presses don’t work like trade publishers and they don’t have the same ability to make Amazon (or other retailers) work the way that people seem to think publishers can make Amazon (and other retailers) work. We can’t control when retailers sell books the way trade publishers can.

An author should not be at a disadvantage when it comes to an award because she published with a university press. Nor should people treat Amazon like an infallible authority. They’re very, very good, but, ultimately, not perfect. Books, especially university press books, enter the marketplace early. But the pub date the university press sets is the date everyone can get it. That’s the date that should count.

Another Lovely Review

Here’s a cool review of “The Four Gardens of Fate.” I’ve been having such a crisis of faith about my writing this week that I am especially glad to see this.

It’s not that I think I suck as a writer. No, that anxiety seems to have subsided, only to be replaced by the anxiety that I’m a crap submitter. I don’t have the skills I need to sell my good shit.

The brain. Bleh. It will always work to undermine me in stupid ways.

It looks like

Jeff VanderMeer

We went to see Jeff VanderMeer speak at Vanderbilt last night. It was really interesting. He was speaking as a part of some kind of ecology series, so his talk was a lot about writing about nature and global warming.

One thing that I thought was especially provoking and that I intend to make time to talk to the Professor about is that he argued that it’s important for fiction writers to engage with philosophy and, especially, to not get it, to flounder and be mistaken about it. To fall short and be wrong. I would go so far as to say that he sees it as equally valuable for writers to read philosophy and be mistaken about it as it is for them to read it and understand it. That as uncomfortable as being wrong is, that there’s value in wrestling with something you can’t get.

He is currently wrestling with Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects (which, go, Minnesota!) which is about how things like global warming, which are literally too big for humans to wrap their minds around, are causing all sorts of breakdowns in philosophy and such. VanderMeer put up a slide that had some of Morton’s ideas about what a hyperobject is–huge, atemportal, not located any specific spot, but having specific instances, beyond comprehension, etc. (I didn’t take notes, so those aren’t exactly right.) But, basically, “what is a hyperobject?” is the same question as “Where is Tanis?”

I haven’t read VanderMeer’s Southern Reach books yet, and I intended to buy one before the speech, but didn’t and then, afterwards, the talk was so good, I bought all three. So, oops.

I’m also going to try to get my hands on Ancient, Ancient by Kiini Ibura Salaam. When I learned she won a Tiptree, I was like “Then why don’t I recognize her name?” But she won the same year as Caitlyn Kiernan did for The Drowning Girl, so that explains where my attention was.




When the Bad Reviews are Right

This weekend I read Marisha Pessl’s Night Film, which I loved. It was, I think, what I hoped True Detectives would be. The interesting thing for me was when I saw that it had a bunch of bad reviews on Good Reads and I read some. They were all right. The complaints people have about the book are accurate complaints. Most of them were even things I noticed when I was reading.

I just didn’t care. Those things didn’t seem very important to me.

The role of the reader and what the writer and the reader are doing in the text and to the text are not easy to figure out.

I mean, if I made you a chocolate cake with butter cream frosting and put cherries on top, some people will like it. Some people will think it would have been better with chocolate frosting and lose the cherries (and they might be right!). Taste matters. But, at some point, you make the cake you’re going to make and the people who wish you’d made a different cake either have to wait and see if I’m going to make another cake or try to make the one you’d like to eat.

So, are the negative reviews useful to this particular author? Do they really say something about whether the book is worth reading? I think only to the extent that your tastes line up with those reviewers’ tastes.

Third Man Books

The Third Man Books first anniversary party was incredible. One thing I really admire about Chet’s ability to set a vibe in a room is that the vibe is “Let’s enjoy this.” No nitpicking, no cooler-than-thou ironic stances, no eye-rolling, just show up and be open to things.

I admit, that’s hard for me sometimes. My cousin, A., keeps lecturing me on what I think she sees as the barrier I put up between myself and genuine compliments, but it’s not just genuine compliments. I think I have a hard time openly enjoying things without also wanting to hide a little of myself from it. I’m trying to be better about it.

Rita Bullwinkel was there in the audience and I got to say “hi.” She does such good work. The Parnassus people were there and they’re so giddy about Stephen King coming that it made me happy for them. I got to say “hi” to Robert Gordon, who I haven’t seen in ages, so that was nice.

It was just such nice energy and it was invigorating to be sitting in a room full of really creative people all delighted to see what other creative people are up to.

It was also my first time in the Third Man building and it was very lovely. The women’s bathroom was cold as shit, though. It seemed like an aesthetic point, but I’m not sure what the point was. Again, maybe it was just the vibe of the night, but there was something nice about “oh, here is very cold.” “Oh, here is warm and toasty.” The building is definitely set up to make you feel like everything has been considered for the effect it will have.

Also, apparently, Third Man is going to start publishing some fantasy & science fiction. So, I slipped a note to Chet telling him to publish Bullwinkel, because, whoa, Christ, of course he should!


I guess I’m not done thinking about The Black Tapes or Tanis yet. I want to learn the trick they use all the time of leaving a kind of blank space of innuendo for the reader/listener to collaborate in the story with them.

It’s there in the “affair” Strand and Alex may be having/may have had, which is never alluded to in the text of the show, but happens wholly in the inflection of the text. Like, they create this unspoken something and they leave vague signposts pointing to it and then they leave it to their audience to decide what’s going on there.

And, like we talked about yesterday, there’s something similar going on in the way they set the stage for the assumption of Alex’s possession.

And like, with Tanis, I think this trick is even more explicit. Nic goes…someplace, right? But then he can’t remember what all happened while he was there. So, we’re again circling around something unspoken and trying to guess what’s in that blank spot based on all the clues surrounding it.

To me, the hardest part of this trick has to be that you need to know where your story is going and you need to rightly judge which parts you can count on your audience to fill in, but you need to leave plausible signposts along the way that clue them into what you might not be saying, BUT you need to not make those signposts so obvious.

I appreciate that the people making the podcasts are playing it straight–like those really are real podcasts and their involvement is as real, non-fiction podcast makers. But man, I would also really love to know who they are because I would LOVE to ever hear them talk about their craft.


I had a bunch of errands to run and I got busy and neglected the old blog here, but also, I was kind of hiding from the thing I wanted to write about.

The response to my Napier piece has been overwhelming. In a good way, mind you. But, usually, when I write something, I feel like it’s me yelling across a canyon and not being sure if anyone heard it (especially since I’m not reading comments). Sometimes, people will email me and tell me that they liked something or tell me in person and that’s super great.

And I really like the Napier piece. Of course, like any writing, seeing it in print, I wish there were things I’d finessed better (like, did you notice one of the Napier kids vanishes? I say William Napier raised his five kids here, but then I only account for four of them? I could have just explicitly said that the fifth kid died.) and things I wish I’d been able to do–like get into the Napier collection at Fisk.

But it seems to me like a pretty okay piece. Not my best, but pretty okay. I’m proud of it.

I would not have guessed at the flood of emotion the piece brought forth in people. I didn’t anticipate how it would move them or how much it means to them.

I’m not sure how to feel about it. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m deeply honored and grateful. But I wonder, if I had known ahead of time how much this meant to people, if I would have written it differently.

It’s hard to talk about the ways that being white makes you kind of oblivious to the meaning and implications of your actions. From my perspective, there’s just a lot of history out there, a lot of sources, a lot of ways to finagle some kind of understanding about people’s lives.

And, from my perspective, there are a lot of stories of a lot of people that don’t get told, that we have a tradition of overlooking. As big a feminist as I am, if someone came along and told me that we really don’t understand Nashville history because we don’t understand how, say, Charlotte Robertson was really running the show, I wouldn’t be surprised, and I’d be excited to hear how. I’d want this new perspective.

But the truth is that I don’t feel robbed when I discover something about white women or white people that was heretofore unknown to me. I mostly feel like “Oh, those dumbasses trying so hard to sell the future a lie.”

It’s very easy for me to not have to know how black people in Nashville didn’t even get a lie. They got deliberately erased, every step of the way.

I kind of hate the term “privilege” for many reasons, but it is a privilege to assume that your history just lies to you. The truth isn’t gone, just covered up.

Because a lot of history is gone and deliberately so.

I failed to appreciate how powerful saying “Look, here, none of this stuff is lost” would then be.

So, as proud as I am of the piece, I also am kind of embarrassed about that failure.

What Do I Do With My Hands?

Well, I think “The Four Gardens of Fate” has been a lovely success. People seem to really like it. No one’s been so off-put by the tense change that they’ve complained. And someone on Twitter called me a “national treasure” (granted, it was a person I’ve known online for a while, but still!).

I have all these happy feelings. I don’t know what to do with them. I want to high-five everyone who likes it. I want to hug them. I want to take a bow.

Like, that’s the thing I kind of don’t know what to do about. I do something, people acknowledge it, I… do something. Bow, end-zone dance, leap into the arms of my teammates.

But I don’t think there’s anything for me to do when people like a story.

I find that awkward.

But thank you for liking it.


I don’t know why I’m so nervous about everything coming out this week, but I am. I’ve been trying to think of something to type here, but it’s literally just “Doot, doot, doot, hope I didn’t fuck anything up too much.”

Both things I was working on this weekend are, I think, about as done as they’re going to get in my present state of mind, but I’m going to sit on them until this evening before handing them over to the proper authorities, just to look through them one more time.

I also have a buttload of errands to run next weekend and I’m already stressed about how to get them all done.

I’ll be fine. I just want my work to be good. I want people to like it. I want the non-fiction stuff to honor the dead. I want the fiction stuff to entertain the stuffing out of you.

I just want the metaphorical skies to open up. That’s all.

Ha ha ha. Just work that Shackle Island magic again. That’s all I want. Ha ha ha.

Lord, when the most popular thing you’ve ever written is about a wide spot in a creek, you know you have a weird writing career.