2021

2021 was very different than any of my other writing years since I started dedicating to it in 2013.

The only flash pieces I had published were ones queried for little side efforts and I’m not sure I’m remembering all of them. The main difference here is that it just wasn’t my focus this year, publishing individual stories.

I had one that ran on the Flash Flood. It’s called Distortus, and I wrote it for the Flash Monsters based on one of their prompts. It’s okay. Mostly just having fun with time-travel and existentialism. A riff.

I liked this line:

It’s not like the future me tells me what I want to know, what I don’t want to know. No. It’s more nuanced. It’s eerie. It’s a goddamned poem.

I had this one called Man on the Street, which appeared in our special issue in New Flash Fiction Review, honoring Meg Pokrass. The issue was great. This story was one I wrote quite a few years back, but I felt it was more in the Meg like space we were trying. I like it. It’s ekphrastic, based on actual answers a couple guys from an insurance company gave in town to a man on the street question about the stimulus and my exercise was to think of what kind of guys would give answers like these. It was also inspired by an actual co-worker who truly did use to tell us wise shit while we walked the skywalks on break:

Charlie and Mitch had a little extra kick in their step from how smart Bob was and how surely it had to rub off on them. After Bob retired, they walked downtown alone, but eventually life felt as normal without Bob as it had been with Bob. 

I wrote this one for a series on my friend Constance Malloy’s blog. This was fun to write. A micro about the memories of the holidays. It’s called Luminaries. It was fun honoring some of the memories of Christmas with my parents.

The biggest and craziest thing that happened this year of course is that I had two chapbooks come out. Two!

Off the Resting Sea from above/ground press.

The Tony Bone Stories from Ad Hoc Fiction.

After working so hard the last several years trying to just get one, and here I had two. And they came out kind of close to each other a bit? I wouldn’t recommend that if you can avoid it! It felt like they competed for attention with each other. It felt like I was competing for attention from my friends and readers. It was exciting, but it also was a little bit of a letdown in ways that are hard to explain. It’s not the magic end all that you can build it up to be when you haven’t had one published yet. Even then you know it’s not an end all, of course it’s not, but it’s still a surprising feeling when it’s not as changing as you have built it up to be. Maybe that’s just me. Maybe it’s also impacted by what I went through with Red Bird. And how, that was satisfying to pull my manuscript back from them, because I held ground on what was an acceptable way to be treated, I also didn’t have faith that they would even publish it in the future, that they will come back, and that they wouldn’t end up just doing the same thing they were saying they were sorry about doing. So yes, it felt good to say no to them, but it still meant the manuscript wasn’t going to be published. So here I am, with two published in 2021, lamenting that, and lamenting that a third one isn’t going to be published!!! Argh!!!

Another strange thing that happened, was with Off the Resting Sea, letting folks know I had a chapbook come out. No one in the real world knows what a chapbook is. They quickly turned it to Al has a book coming out. And then, I think, there had to be a reaction about how small it was, and maybe even a few utterings: “Al, that’s not a book.”

Maybe again that’s just me. Maybe that didn’t happen. But it feels like it did.

I loved these two projects. Both presses were awesome to work with. With the projects themselves I have nothing but wonderful thoughts. I’m only lamenting the post-publishing blues. I’m super proud of the works and I did things with them I hadn’t done before. I took the flash arc and stretched myself. I stayed with the same characters. I did some of the same legwork I believe it takes to write novels. They were just still short. They still benefited from compression versus the responsibility of elaboration. They showed me what was possible, but I’m also not interested (yet) in writing another novella in flash. With the three of them, I feel like I’ve given it my best shot for now.

All of these feelings led to me the current state of my writing mission. I want to write novels. I don’t care how long it takes to write them. I don’t care if I spend years working on a project that never publishes.

So, I’ve spent the majority of 2021, and all of the second half of it, working on novel project. At the end of 2021, I went over the 200 page mark, and first draft has 50,806 words. The first draft work should end maybe in February? And then 2022 will be The Year of Revision.

I’m looking forward to it.

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