Book Contract! Plus: Stories, and a New Website

Recently, I signed a contract with Harvard Square Editions for my first novel, Hot Season. To say that I’m excited would be an understatement.

I’m thrilled. Stoked. Absolutely flippin’ twitterpated.

But in recent weeks, I’ve discovered an unfortunate fact: because I’m publishing my book with a small press, there’s no money for things like a book tour, a book publicist, or a book launch.

And as I contemplated the inanity of going into debt to promote a book that’s unlikely to repay that investment, it occurred to me that if I’m going to establish a career, I’m going to need more than a book anyway—I’m going to need real relationships with readers over the long term.

That’s why, in honor of the thirty years I’ve been writing fiction (really—since I was eight years old!), I’m going to be releasing one original short story each month exclusively to my subscribers, for as little as $1/month, through a crowdfunding platform for artists called Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/susandefreitas.

If you’re reading this blog post, there’s a good chance it’s because you subscribed to this blog.

Maybe you did that because you know me. Maybe you did it because you came across something I wrote on the web and thought, “There’s a voice I’d like to hear more from.”

Whatever your reason, I can honestly say that, as an emerging writer, it has meant SO MUCH to know that someone, anyone, is listening. Writing is such an incredibly solitary pursuit, with such a long apprenticeship period, and there are times when blogging can feel like shouting into the abyss.

So, first of all, thank you.

Now, I’d like to ask for your support as I move forward.

One dollar a month isn’t so much on your end—I’ll bet you lost more to your couch this month—but it will go a long way toward helping me fund my book tour, hire a publicist, and generally launch my debut novel in a way that gives it a fighting chance.

You can follow the link below and pledge $1/month (or more, if you feel so moved) as one of my patrons. The website bills your credit or debit card on the first of the month, and on the second, my latest short story arrives in your inbox.

Here’s the link: https://www.patreon.com/susandefreitas

The short stories you’ll receive will range from realist to speculative, which means that some of them take place in the real world, and some of them take place in a version of the world that’s slightly askew; they’ll all clock in between 2,000 and 5,000 words, which means you’ll always be able to read them in ten minutes to a half hour; and they’ll be accessible in both a text and audio format.

You can find out about some of the inspirations and influences behind these stories on the Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/susandefreitas

As ever, your support means everything. Please feel free to share this campaign with anyone who enjoys short fiction.

Thanks!

Susan

PS. I’ve also got a spanky new author website! Check it out: http://susandefreitas.com, and subscribe to my mailing list if you’d like to stay posted on the novel, upcoming events, and all things SD related.

The Long, Hot Summer of 2015

Children Play in Yard of Ruston Home, While Tacoma Smelter Stack Showers Area with Arsenic and Lead Residue, 08/1972. (Via Story Mag/US National Archives)

One day in the middle of June this summer, something ugly happened: a young white man walked into an historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, joined a Wednesday night prayer group, and then opened fire on those gathered there to pray.

In the days following, it felt as if an old wound at the heart of this country had been ripped open, revealing the sickness within. In the days that followed, it seemed possible that wound would never heal.

One person filled with hate had done that.

For a few days around the end of July this summer, something beautiful happened: protesters dangling in harnesses from the St. John’s Bridge–and gathered in kayaks on the Willamette River below–stood in the way of Shell’s Fennica icebreaker. The ship was headed north to begin exploratory oil drilling in the Arctic in the midst of the hottest year on record.

This direct action protest actually managed to turn back the ship, albeit temporarily, and for a few wild, bright moments, it seemed possible that we might yet be able to turn back the disaster of even hotter years to come–the imminent threat to our children, to the web of life that supports us.

A few people filled with love had done that.

It’s not easy to watch from the sidelines, to swing between such emotional extremes over the course of a single season, even as the mercury soars. (Yesterday, it was nearly a hundred degrees in Portland.) But it’s easier, I imagine, than what it feels like to be a black American right now. It’s easier than what it feels like to be a farmer in California, in the midst of an extreme drought and brutal fire season.

More and more, I’m reminded of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sowerthe story of a black family pushed north from L.A. in the midst of a not-so-distant environmental collapse.

More and more, I feel called to action, both as a person and a writer.

More and more, I’m realizing that my undergraduate education helped to prepare me for all of this, long ago.

The poem in nine parts I wrote for the victims of the Charleston Massacre appeared first here and then on STIR Journal. Now Melanie Bishop, a former teacher of mine from Prescott College, has pulled them together in a single article she wrote for the Huffington Post, in which she called on me to keep writing poems like this.

Maybe it’s function of the kind of teachers I had at PC, the way they challenged and championed us–the way they saw the best in us and pushed us to confront the overwhelming challenges of our time. Whatever the reason, Melanie, I want you to know that I take that call seriously.

The article is entitled Helpless in the Face of Senseless Violence, and you can read it here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/melanie-bishop/nine-livesnine-eulogies-1_b_7804956.html

Years ago, in a class I had with another teacher at PC, I discovered flash fiction, and I wrote the first draft of something I called The Terrible Child. But it was so raw and intense, so hot to the touch, that though I sent it out time and again, no one would publish it. It wasn’t until I came to Portland that I found the distance, the stance, that rendered it cool enough to touch.

Story Magazine held the piece for nearly a year before they decided to publish it, but publish it they did–and I’d like to dedicate it, here and now, to those terrible children, those rainbow warriors, those fabulous fools, who dared to turn back an icebreaker in the midst of our hottest summer yet.

You can read The Terrible Child here: http://www.storymagazine.org/2015/08/03/the-terrible-child/

Publication Round Up, Summer Edition

Friends, thanks so much for the kind words about my series of poems over these last few weeks. I’m pleased to say that STIR Journal has picked them up for publication. If these poems have meant something to you in the wake of the Charleston Massacre, I encourage you to share them with others via STIR, which will be posting one poem a day from the series during this week and next.

I also have new work online from VoiceCatcher, Portland’s journal of women’s voices, alongside some fine local writers. The story featured there, “Concentric,” is actually something I drafted as an undergraduate student, though it’s about a woman the age that I am now.

The ecological issues addressed in that original draft, circa 1999, aren’t any less pressing now, though many of them seem dwarfed by the issues that have since emerged. I certainly found it harder to connect with the quasi-mytical revelations arising from form and pattern in nature that the narrator of this story (and, by extension, my twenty-year-old self) was experiencing. But at the same time, this time capsule of a story reminds me not to forget how mysterious the world really is, and at what a great scale it operates.

Also, for those of you in the Portland area, I will be reading at the end of the month with VoiceCatcher at Ford Food and Drink on July 31st at 7pm. Please do stop in! I would be absolutely delighted to see you.

July-31-flyer

 

Fiction Benediction

Fiction-Uncovered-006For my birthday this year, I got a story accepted to Forest Avenue Press’s anthology of fantastic fiction. I’ve got another story in the Clackamas Literary Review (available here!) and another coming out this summer from VoiceCatcher.

Anyone who writes knows how much struggle it involves, and 2015 has had its share of personal struggles as well. That’s why, in keeping with my general philosophy of Throw Yourself a Party!, I’m celebrating victories great and small today–and dedicating this poem to everyone committed to the craft. Cheers!

 

Job Counseling

If you are a liar, and cannot seem to stop lying,

consider fiction.

 

If as a child you were like an adult.

If as an adult you are like a child.

 

If you have a lot of imaginary friends,

and those friends have friends of their own.

 

If others are amazed at how little you’ve managed to accomplish.

If any question regarding this requires lengthy explanations.

If people occasionally have a hard time following.

 

If you’ve always loved poetry,

but poetry won’t have you.

If you’d often rather eavesdrop.

If you’re prone to reading in bars.

If a hot date with Middlesex is your idea of a good time.

If you tend to wind up in a corner at the party

discussing Lady Chatterly’s Lover with some earnest young nerd

while others bump and grind.

 

If you require so much psychoanalysis that you could not possibly afford to hire a shrink.

If you have irrational aversions to certain words, but not what those words refer to:

flesh, for instance, or pink.

 

If you guard the truth ruthlessly then spill it when you’re drunk.

If you’ve got some alarming heirlooms packed up in a trunk.

If mortifying memories are precious to you.

If you cannot help but imagine the worst.

If your dead relatives haunt you.

If remunerative occupations bore you.

If you have a history of heartbreak in your family.

 

If you’re always in character,

no matter who you are.

 

Sit back and consider:

madness, depression, melancholy?

Might not be so bad. What we’re suggesting,

obviously, is a last resort. Say,

if no one can talk you out of it.

Throw Yourself a Party!

tiny partyFriends, something extraordinary has happened: I’ve received a royalty check. Not for $10. Not for $20. But for $30 whole dollars. And it’s all because of all you folks who purchased my fiction chapbook Pyrophitic.

Thirty bucks may not seem like a whole lot to my younger self, who dreamed of literary fame and fortune (such dreams being an occupational hazard of nearly anyone who writes). But I’m reminded of what Pauls Toutonghi, a writer I admire, told me at a recent reading: Virginia Woolf threw herself a party for selling as many copies as his NYC publisher considered his latest book a bust for. I told him that “throw yourself a party” is basically my literary M.O. these days.

And why not? In today’s publishing climate, victories of virtually any type are hard-won in the extreme.

So, yeah–I threw myself a party for publishing a 30-page chapbook. Now I’m throwing myself a (virtual) party for having amassed $30 in royalties. And you know what? You’re invited. In fact, you’re the reason there’s a party in the first place.

And if you’ve got some tiny hardwon victory to celebrate, consider throwing yourself a party too.  I’d like nothing better than to party with you. =)

Here’s a round up of fresh publications and appearances I have coming up:

  • The first story in my novel-in-stories Hot Season is featured in the Spring 2014 issue of Weber: The Contemporary West. “The Circus on 2nd Street” appears alongside some truly excellent poetry, prose, and art, including an interview with Pam Houston. It’s available for $10 as a back issue under the Rate Information tab.
  • The story that finishes Hot Season, “Dead Man’s Revival” has been accepted for publication in the debut issue of Milkfist, a print and online magazine “dedicated to showcasing the abscessed underbelly of literature, poetry, art, and nonfiction” (so, you know, my work fits right in). The piece will appear in their roughly 100-page perfect-bound print journal (and in ebook form) in the spring of 2015. More on this later.
  • A literary sci fi story of mine, “Love Potion #369” (which some of you read an excerpt from on PDXX) has been accepted for publication by the Clackamas Literary Review. I’ll let you know when this becomes available.
  • I’ll be the featured writer in Conversations with Writers on Monday, November 24 from 7:00-8:40 PM at the Hillsboro Main Branch library on Brookwood (Hillsboro, OR). I’ll be performing poetry by Emily Dickinson and Pablo Neruda as was all some of my own. I’ll also be talking about the many pleasures and benefits of memorizing poetry (your own and that of other poets) in the digital age.
  • It is with the greatest of glee I announce today that I will once again be an attending professional at Norwescon, the Northwest’s premier gathering of sci fi and fantasy geeks. Lemme know if you want me to say hey to George R. R. Martin and Boris Vallejo, yo!

Now as ever, thanks for partying with me.

Publication Day Surprise! (Heart Attack Edition)

bookcoverbetterIt’s pub day for your first book. It’s a small book, but important to you–there was a point at which you’d given this project up for dead, but lo and behold, here it is, with an ISBN number and everything. That’s when you realize, with horror, that there’s a typo in your book. In the title.

Correction: the entire title is a typo.

Oh, and this is important: you’re a professional editor.

Did your gut drop even just a little whilst reading that, dear one? Because mine certainly did, yesterday, when I found myself in this situation exactly. My fiction chapbook, Pyrophitic, had finally gone on sale online, and on a whim, I googled the title.

When I originally searched for this rather unusual word–which refers to plants that require fire to germinate–I found page after page of scientific papers and books cited with both pyrophyte and pyrophite. I’d decided on the latter. But this time around, Google revealed page after page of nothing more than one guy’s Instagram posts and asked me, in bold, at the top of the page, if I meant pyrophyte.

I emailed the publisher in panic. Sadly, she told me, there really wasn’t anything she could do.

I am normally a person who accepts my own mistakes as part of the educational, not to mention creative, process. I am also sort of a congenital Pollyanna (just ask my husband). But yesterday, I journeyed far and deep in the valley of darkness, friends. And here is what I decided, ultimately: this will not be the last book I publish. It is, in fact, only one part of my first novel, and this novel is only the first of many. Someday, I’d look back at this and laugh. So I might as well just go ahead and laugh right now.

Then, just for the hell of it, I googled pyrophite on a different browser. This time, I got my original results: page after page of respectable scientific folks using the same spelling I’d chosen. WTH?

Recently, one of my friends who’s into astrology circulated a link that indicated there’d be some strong influence this month from Pluto, the cosmic trickster. You will make a fool of yourself, the astrologer predicted, but in a way that actually shows you something important.

I’m big enough on magical thinking to believe that cosmic forces may be at work here. And big enough on human psychology to realize that making a fool of yourself probably aways shows you something important.

At this same time, I’m really, really glad that I didn’t just publish a book with a typo for a title. =)

Here are the links! Pyrophitic runs $2.99 for the ebook (it’s free if you’ve got that whole Kindle Unlimited thing) and $8.99 for the print edition.

Ebook:

http://www.amazon.com/Pyrophitic-Afternoon-Shorts-Book-2-ebook/dp/B00MCU21SU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407434023&sr=8-1&keywords=pyrophitic

Print book:

http://www.booknook-eljpublications.com/store/p17/Pyrophitic.html

(You can also get the print book from Amazon, but this one is the better deal.)

And to every one of you who has accompanied me on this journey, who accompanies me still, and who cares enough to purchase this little book–thank you, thank you, thank you.

Oh, and while we’re at it, thanks for helping me pick the cover image! I’ve had nothing but compliments so far. =)

Blurbing the Chappie

When I returned from AWP this spring, there was good news in my inbox: my longish short story “Pyrophytic” had been accepted by ELJ Publications. Yay! This tale of love, lust, and monkeywrenching gone awry in a radical college town has long been close to my heart, and now it would be coming out as an ebook via their Afternoon Shorts series.

I suppose I didn’t realize that it would also be coming out as a print book, though–so I was a bit stunned when the gracious Ariana Den Bleyker of ELJ contacted me recently for artwork and a back-cover blurb.

That’s right, a blurb for a short story.

What was there for me but to hit up my mentors from grad school? One was too busy in a very real way–she has a small child, teaches full time, and is currently heading up a search committee at her university. One was too busy in a “I’ll-be-busy-until-next-year-because-I’m-working-on-my-novel” sort of way. And the third? Well, bless his heart. David Long wrote back to say, hey, I’m busy this week at this grad school residency, but I’ll blurb your story upon my return. Oh, and tell me again–what is it, exactly?

It’s a book, I told him. A very little book, but a book. My first. =)

In the meantime, I’ve got a couple ideas for cover art. Which one do you prefer, dear reader? Please let me know in your comments!

Option 1:

In this story, students tend to get around on bikes. I thought this image might speak to the that, as well as the comedy-of-errors that comprises the romance.

stock-illustration-17230209-bike-path

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Option 2:

In this story, the main character, Rell, is studying pyrophytic plants–those that require fire to germinate. She’s also recovering from having had her heart broken. I though this image might speak to that.

stock-photo-vintage-grass-plant-on-summer-morning-sunrise-142728217