An Unconventional Nobel Laureate

Have you ever found yourself looking at the heteronormative sausage-fest that is the Nobel Prize lineup and said, “I wonder if the hoity-toity Swedish Academy will ever give the Literature Nobel to a genre-bending disabled lesbian children’s book author?” Funny you should ask

Chicanas in Literature

First, let’s you and me get in my time machine. . . . Suddenly we are in a world in which the Mexican-American border is being nationally debated, the Mexican-American people are being treated as second-class citizens—are punished for speaking Spanish, for teaching Mexican-American history and culture.

Good Bad Women: Goldilocks

We were discussing the character of teenage girl in a fantasy novel. “I like that the girl is not what you expect,” said one writer, “You expect girls to be sweet and innocent, but she’s strong and takes action,” he said. Huh, I thought. Do we expect girls to...

Erotic Parodies of Women

A writer and I were on the sunny plaza outside the Nobel Museum in central Stockholm and she was telling me about an erotic parody project she’d collaborated on. The project was called Fifty Shelves of Grey and involved a dozen or so British authors doing erotic rewrites of...

Violence Against Women in Fiction

Four of us writers were critiquing each other’s novellas which all happened to have female protagonists. Three of the protagonists were victims of sexual assault, which then caused these characters to suddenly and completely change. One of those protagonists became mentally unbalanced and faded away, another was rescued by...

Women in Refrigerators

Fifteen of us were watching Colin Farrell talking fast and sweet at a woman who communicated almost entirely by lowering her head, raising her eyes, and simpering. This was a few months ago and I was in a playwriting seminar with a well-known playwright that I had never heard...

Good Bad Women: Irene Adler

I’ve been thinking a lot about Irene Adler, you know, “the woman” from Sherlock Holmes. You see, I’ve been looking for good bad women in short stories. Murderers, criminals, drug dealers and scoundrels of all types. I’m on a quest, really, for the kinds of women that take active...

Writing in Tunisia

It was the last summer before the Tunisian revolution and the first summer after I got married - and I was traveling across Tunisia next to a Jesuit priest. The priest and I had become good friends because he is a devout man from the Congo and I come from a long line of irreverent cowboys.

Our tour group skipped across the country, landing in beautiful hotels with Islamic courtyards and Mediterranean tiles - charming places full of Germans. After dinner the priest and I would sit in the unlit courtyards and discuss philosophy and writing and the philosophy of writing. When we heard the evening call to prayer we stopped talking. Sometimes we didn't say anything again for a long time.


By the time we got to Hammamet I had started writing a short story. It was the first piece of fiction I had written in years and I spent a long time on the balcony of my hotel room, writing and listening to the ecstatic laughs of German children crashing down the hotel's water slide.

Over the next year I edited that story several times, making small, important, pedantic, and meaningless changes - then I submitted it to The Kenyon Review's Short Fiction Contest.

I won that contest, and went to Ohio, and today my story is being published.

I recommend Tunisia in the early summer - but if you go, remember to bring a light jacket. It can be quite windy.

I Won Literary Death Match, London!

LDM London Ep 30 Preview.jpg

The first round of LDM is competitive literature on stage, the second round is usually some kind of party game that they pretend is about literature--but is actually about charades, or dancing, or throwing something at something else. I am always up for competitive literature, but have spent my life avoiding party games. Except for whack the piñata. Oh man, I love me some piñata.

But they did not have a piñata. They had another game that I wouldn't have been able to do without tons of help from the audience and two amazing volunteers (here, and here).

After I won, they gave me a very fancy medal to wear and we stayed out late talking about what makes good literature, great European cities, and a strong marriage.

It’s enthusiasm.