Friday, December 30, 2011

late, as ever


So, I won. I don't know what to say about that right now: I don't think I ever will. I owe a few folks interviews, and I'm procrastinating on a deadline, but I need a poem right now. How about this one?

Poem Written in A Copy of Beowulf

At various times, I have asked myself what reasons
moved me to study, while my night came down,
without particular hope of satisfaction,
the language of the blunt-tongued Anglo-Saxons.

Used up by the years, my memory
loses its grip on words that I have vainly
repeated and repeated. My life in the same way
weaves and unweaves its weary history.

Then I tell myself: it must be that the soul
has some secret, sufficient way of knowing
that it is immortal, that its vast, encompassing
circle can take in all, can accomplish all.

Beyond my anxiety, beyond this writing,
the universe waits, inexhaustible, inviting.

--Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, October 14, 2011

National Book Award Finalist

That one, my friends, deserves all capital letters.

The little-book-that-could has been nominated as a finalist for the National Book Award. I never thought this would happen. I actually thought that I'd spend the rest of my writing days sending my book-children out into the world to be admired by a few, scorned by a dozen, and muttering to myself in this Blogger corner.

Whenever I speak to audiences about my fiction, inevitably I'm asked about rejection. How many times did you face rejection, they ask. And I tell them: many times. My first novel was dead in the water for 3 years, three years of submission and rejection, and I had exactly one story published during that time. I was working at the University of New Orleans during the years following Hurricane Katrina. Driving through New Orleans East for work, through that wasted landscape, the houses rotting and spray-painted, the empty streets, the waste from the flood still sitting where the water deposited it when it receded subdued me so thoroughly I didn't write a new sentence for 3 years. Fine, I thought, I'll shut up now. I told despair: You win. I began looking up the pre-requisite courses I'd need to enter a nursing program, began plotting my return to school, my leave from writing.

And then Doug Siebold of Agate Publishing said yes to Where the Line Bleeds. Two years later, my editor at Bloomsbury Publishing said yes to my second novel Salvage the Bones. And now, the folks at the National Book Foundation have said yes.

So many can tell you no, I tell my audience, but you only need one person to say yes.

Say yes: read Salvage the Bones.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011


My second novel, Salvage the Bones, is out today. The cover is beautiful, isn't it? I always imagined that I'd do an interview for the novel, and a special picture would accompany it: me, hair wild, wearing a tank top and cut off jean shorts, barefoot, Mississippi green wild all around me, holding a leash while a dog, big and red, stands at my feet, mouth open, teeth white. Both of us, grinning. I'm getting generous reviews and given several good interviews, but this hasn't happened yet. I'm still hoping.

This is the story of a girl growing up in a world of men, a tale about her brother and his pit bull, a novel about a family in the maw of Hurricane Katrina. This is about tragedy: this is about hope.

Go now. Buy it. Read it. You'll love it.