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amy wallen

Question of the Month: Untangling Necklaces

by Susan Henderson on March 3, 2014

Ever tie your story or novel into a knot trying to revise it?

disneyland

My parents took me and my brother to Disneyland when we were three and five. I have foggy memories of twirling inside a tea cup and floating past singing pirates, though maybe these are not memories but only associations I’ve made from photos I’ve seen and songs I’ve sung.

All I know is that on that trip, I got my favorite necklace ever. (The closest I could find to it was this photo on Etsy.)

smallworldnecklace

The necklace was a little Dutch girl made of painted wood. She even had little painted braids that fit into holes in the sides of her head, and long after one of the braids fell out, I continued to wear it.

tangled-necklace

Have you ever thrown a bunch of your necklaces into a jewelry box, and then on the day you want to wear one, you open that box and find that they’re all in a knot? That’s what eventually happened to my little Dutch girl necklace. I tried to work the knot apart using fingers and toothpicks, trying not to break the chains. All the while, I considered which necklaces to sacrifice in order to save the ones I loved best.

I bring up this story because the revision on my latest book has felt like untangling necklaces. Staring at knots and wondering where to begin. Sacrificing one thing in order to save another.

How did these knots happen? During my revision, I changed the opening, reworked a key relationship, tightened this, cut that, pulled this plot thread over here, added a big new event and a character to go with it, gave the setting its own plot arc. And in most ways, the story dramatically improved. In fact, I’m very, very excited about this one because I’m trying to write the book I’ve always wanted to read.

But there was a giant knot.

I’m being kind to myself. There were many giant knots leftover from the revision, and I pinned the stuck places up on my bulletin board and stared at them for days with no idea of how to move forward.

tinkerbell-2

In a strange way, this is my favorite part of editing. It’s where the magic happens but only if you’re able to risk the whole thing collapsing. It’s that close-your-eyes-and-jump moment.

But like someone who stands on the high dive for too long, feeling the fear and anticipating all that can go wrong, what got me stuck was not so much the knot itself. True, to untangle it, I knew I would have to throw out ideas I liked and discover parts of the the book I had yet to conceive.

I stood there, frozen. Rather than thinking, This could be fun. I’ve done this before. I wonder what I’ll discover? I started wondering, What will so-and-so think if I take a step here, or here? And I could imagine the distrustful sighs, the lack of faith, the poorly hidden disappointment.

I began to be tepid. Fearful. I took baby steps. I made safe but uncreative choices. I didn’t trust the magic. Or me.

Do you have a voice like this perched on your shoulder?

This is a long post. Sorry. I’ve saved it up and that’s what happens… too much to say at one time. But here is what happened with my plot-knot. I finally reached out to a friend.

I don’t reach out very often. I come from a long line of cowboys. We are stubborn. Loners. Work horses. Never weak or needy, or if we are, we don’t admit it. But I reached out, thinking I needed editorial feedback. What I got instead was a giant pep talk and help kicking the gloomy and doubting voice off my shoulder.

The next day I was writing so fast I couldn’t keep up. I made daring changes and let the ripples begin. I wrote about things that I’m emotional and obsessed about. I scrapped parts of the book that were good in order to reach for something that made me giddy.

Am I done? No, but I’m on my way and feeling good about it.

ball chain

If I could go back to my little Dutch girl story for a moment… I was never able to rescue that necklace, but I did free up a ball chain and then hung a pocket knife to it, and that became my new look. It took being blocked from my original goal to discover something brand new. My new look was little more fierce, and probably more genuine, as well.

Amy Wallen, Rick Moody, Melora Wolff, Susan Henderson, and in back, Eber Lambert.

 Amy Wallen, Rick Moody, Melora Wolff, me, & Eber Lambert.

Speaking of revisions, I’ve been reminded recently that our stories and our processes for discovering and revising them are so personal and varied. Talk to the writers you know. Think about the writers you wish you could know—Marilynne Robinson who publishes a prize-winning book every twenty years, Jodi Picoult who publishes a big concept book every other year, Alice Munro who stays with short stories no matter who says they’re an unpopular genre. This process and this very personal time table, to me, is as  fascinating and valuable as the final product.

Over a long dinner a few weeks ago with the fine group of people you see above, we talked about revisions and finding a book’s opening and the glorious inaccuracies of memory. We talked about novels and non-fiction and movies and music and bridge closures and everything under the sun. Not the greatest picture but the only one of an exceptionally lovely night—a shot in the arm, a safety net appearing below, all the best parts of being with incredible and creative friends.

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If you haven’t taken advantage of this free contest, please consider it: Salt Cay Writers Retreat Merit Scholarship Contest.

And if you haven’t “liked” my FaceBook Author Page, just click here and then click LIKE.

Okay, let’s hear your revision stories! It’s good to have the company.

 

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Question of the Month: That Urgent Voice

by Susan Henderson on May 2, 2011

What is the urgent thing you need to say that’s at the core of the story you’re currently writing?

You don’t have to answer here, but see if you can distill the idea into a single sentence. And then read that sentence every time you sit down to write.

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In March, I took a trip to San Diego to speak at Writers, Ink, and later at Amy Wallen’s Savory Salon, both fabulous experiences for writers. One of those talks turned out to be surprisingly emotional, and the tears had to do with the idea of this urgency at the core of our work.

You know I like to keep my posts short, but it’s going to take more words than usual to tell this story right, so get yourself a cup of coffee, and stay a while. I think this trip helped to clarify a lot of the anxiety and sorrow and desperation that many of us have experienced as we’ve workshopped our stories and submitted them for publication, and I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Have your coffee now? Good!

So I land in beautiful San Diego with all of its color and Craftsman architecture, and I’m so glad to see my friend, Amy, who will be interviewing me at SDwink as well as hosting the Savory Salon at her house. We spend the afternoon walking around her town and end up at her friend, Carolyn’s, who makes us kumquat mojitos.

I never had a kumquat before this trip, but now I’m obsessed with them, especially when they’re soaked in rum.

Okay, so that night, we go out for phở with Frank DiPalermo, and then I stay at Frank’s house and fall asleep with his dog, who’s usually not allowed on the bed. I wake up to a full breakfast—scrambled eggs with onions and sundried tomatoes, and we spend the day at the zoo. I threw my back out right before the trip so this is like the geriatric version of hitting the zoo, but wonderful catching up with each other and talking about the books we’re writing.

In the evening, we head to San Diego Writers, Ink, where I’m surprised and so glad to see my friend, Shauna McKenna, as well as folks I’ve known for a long while but have never met in person—Richard Cooper, Bonnie ZoBell, Andy Roe, and Heather Fowler (both pictured below).

We get started, and Amy begins by asking me to tell the story of getting my book published. Regulars of LitPark know it was a long and winding road full of rejection letters and waiting and editing temper tantrums, and I worried, as I was telling the story, that I’d totally killed the audience. Strangely, many were inspired by the very story I consider so embarrassing and depressing.

The next morning, Frank cooks the most fabulous French toast in the world, and then we head to Amy’s for what we don’t know yet will become a 10-hour literary salon with many, many tears and so much nurturing.

We go around the room for introductions—folks say what they’re are working on, where they are in the process, what other workshops they’ve participated in—and right away I hear the hurt and the frustration that was so much a part of my own process. So when Amy asks me if I’ll re-tell my publishing story, I tell something very different than the night before, something much closer to the vest, a grief I was only beginning to be able to put into words.

All the while, I should add, Amy is guiding our discussion and serving the pies she baked. There is a Lemon Shaker Pie with a Whole Wheat Crust; Chicken Pot Pie with Thyme Cream Sauce and Lemon Crust; mini Orange & Lime Cream Pies with Macadamia Crusts; and my favorite, the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten in my life, a Persian Beef Stew Pie with Eggplant, Lime, and a Seedy Lavosh Crust. (Amy, can you send the recipe… or maybe just move in?)

But back to the grief. It’s not the one I expected—not the wear and tear of trying to get a foothold in this business. It has to do with that initial and urgent impulse to write and finding how far our work has slipped away from it.

So I tell my publishing story with much less emphasis on the business side of things and much more on the actual process of writing. Maybe this story will feel familiar to you.

It begins with something that haunts you, taps at you from the inside, or simply won’t let go of your subconscious. For some it’s the memory of a specific event, for others it’s a build-up of many events or simply a strong feeling with no particular sense of why it’s there. But this is the place where your urge to write comes from—that place inside of you that cracked, or nearly cracked, that place that is at the root of your fears and vulnerabilities, but also your compassion and wisdom.

Fast forward through several drafts, and we feel our poem or story or novel now has a shape to it and speaks to something we’ve needed to say, and so we take it to a workshop for feedback. And here is where the tears flow, talking about what happens when we invite others to critique our work… and it’s not what you think because none of us are delicate flowers who get defensive about tough feedback or believe our work can’t substantially improve.

So we form a critique group, whether it’s online or in real life, whether it’s with people we know or strangers we paid to be in the company of; and we pass them this story that we’ve edited and re-edited. And, of course we know there is much work to do on this draft, but something begins to happen as we receive all the marked-up copies of our work, all the ways it’s not right, not dramatic enough, too lazy-paced, how it doesn’t begin with enough of a bang, and how this part has too much internal monologue, and how you can cut this other part entirely and really speed up the scene.

We start fiddling—cutting, moving scenes, adding action, changing points-of-view and so on—because, well, because many of these comments are on the mark, and also because we feel like stupid failures and because we suck and no wonder we’ve never made it.

We turn in a next draft to this critique group, and we’re told it’s much improved—it’s more groomed, faster paced, a much tighter and more exciting read. Except…

Something doesn’t feel right in the gut. We can’t place the feeling, not at first, sometimes not for a very long time about why this groomed, faster-paced, more exciting thing doesn’t interest us anymore. Or why we wake up in the morning and can’t make ourselves write. We numbly move sentences around or maybe we don’t get out of bed at all. And what the hell happened?

What happened to the story we were so obsessed about? How could it be so much better, and with input from successful and famous people, no less, and yet we’ve completely lost interest?

And then we make the terrible discovery: we’ve edited out the story’s beating heart. That urgent thing that made us need to write it in the first place, that thing that was so present in our messy first drafts, is gone. And this is what we talked about, and cried about. What was that urgent thing we had to say, and how do we find it again?

And maybe the answer has to do with what Amy taught us—to have a day built around comfort and nurturing and pie. I’m honestly not sure how she did it, but I think most of us left transformed, and I hope all of you sign up for one of her salons and experience the magic. (Amy’s story of our Savory Salon is here.)

A number of us went out afterwards and spouses came along. I was literatured-out (can you tell from that special look in my eyes?), so Amy’s significant other, Eber, and I talked a lot about football and music. And here’s a tip, if anyone gets the bright idea of asking the entire table to go around and tell a story about your best and worst job ever, I will always win the worst job contest, and no one will really feel like eating after I tell it.

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A few announcements: UP FROM THE BLUE launches in the UK this month. And I’ll be on a panel with both my agent and my editor at the Backspace Conference on May 27th.  I also have a number of links to share… here’s video from the BookMania conference (click on the link called “FIVE @ 4: The Grand Finale” to see my panel discussion with authors Elizabeth Berg, Joyce Maynard, Martha McPhee, and Michael Morris); Rosie O’Donnell’s blog talks about my appearance on Rosie Radio; I did a Rhode Island radio show called Reading with Robin with Robin Kall on 920 WHJJ; the San Francisco Book Review had some very kind words about my book, as did the book blogger at More Than It Seems; I have a small piece over at The Laughing Yeti, where Shome Dasgupta is compiling quite a collection of reading experiences; and someone brought this very old slide show on NPR to my attention.

In other news, Mr. H is busy designing the set for Oscar Wilde’s THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST and just signed on to do sets for CAROUSEL; and last month he and his students (he’s Chair of the Drama Department at his university) played some Vietnam era songs for the vets. The boys and I volunteered at TEDxTeen, and here’s some of the music they’ve been involved with: My 9th grader and the other School of Rock All-Stars played Pink Floyd’s THE WALL in its entirety at B.B. King’s in Times Square; my 8th grader did a workshop and got to play the song “Welcome Home” with Travis Stever, the guitarist for Coheed & Cambria; and the boys and I are in this School of Rock ad (my 9th grader is playing keys on the soundtrack, which he recorded in studio with Rocky Gallo and Dave Tozer).

That’s it for May. Looking forward to your comments!

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Monthly Wrap: More Human than Hero

by Susan Henderson on July 10, 2009

We talked about heroes this month, and every time I think of the word “hero,” I get that Mariah Carey song stuck in my head.

I heard that song constantly when I worked as a counselor at a rape crisis center because one of my teenage clients loved to sing to me. She liked over-the-top songs: “Hero,” the theme to “The Titanic.” Oh, she was an awful singer – I suppose she couldn’t help it because she was hearing impaired – but what she lacked in pitch, she made up in emotion.

When you’re a counselor, people come to you with expectations that you’ll be some kind of super hero who can save them from the complicated pain they’ve been living with, but you know better. And your clients will find out soon enough: You’re just two human beings sitting in a room together and hoping for the best.

Downstairs in the waiting room, week after week, were the parents of my singing client. They’d adopted her when she was a malnourished orphan living on the streets. They gave her a home, took her to a doctor to get hearing aids, found her a school, and brought her to me when she was date raped.

Heroes? Maybe not.

Imagine you’re a 25-year-old counselor who looks like you’re going on twelve, and it’s the day your singing client tells you that those parents in the waiting room have been molesting her. As you’re riding down in the elevator, you’re trying to find the right words, words that will become part of the court case, to explain why their daughter can’t go home with them, and what they can expect when the investigators get in touch.

If you think there’s anything heroic about stripping a girl from her family and sending her into the nightmare of group homes, there isn’t. The thing about group homes is that the workers and the residents there have that same quality as counselors and adoptive parents and all the rest: they’re human. Sometimes beautiful. Always flawed. Capable of great good, great evil, and mostly, great mediocrity.

Maybe the word “hero” can only truly describe a single moment, a single courageous choice that happened to get good results. Most times, there are no heroes, nor even heroic moments – just people trying (or not trying) their best.

If you’re wondering how the girl’s story ends, I don’t know. Counselors share a tiny room full of painful secrets and brave recovery for just a brief time. And then you just hope the kid’s doing okay. You hope she still sings.

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What I read this month: A whole lotta research books for the novel I’m writing, plus Naseem Rakha’s THE CRYING TREE (I’ll talk more about this beautiful book very soon), Zora Neale Hurston’s THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD (What took me so long to read this book?! It’s glorious), and John Connolly’s THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS (Two beautiful opening chapters about death and fairy tales and WWII before it becomes, much more clearly, a children’s book. I read it through anyway, hoping the ending chapters would hit the same notes as the first two, and I’m glad to say they did).

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Thanks to my July guest, novelist Lance Reynald. Thanks to all who played here, and to everyone who linked to LitPark: She Writes, Georgia McBride Books, joannamauselina, Mots Justes, Side Dish, Tayari’s Blog, Rachel Kramer Bussel’s Amazon Blog, Stet, Alpha FEmale Mind, acparker, EllenMeister, spacedlawyer, lancerey, marilynpeake, artbizlaw, kmwss2c, BklynBrit, redRavine, LitChat, TerryBain, LanceRey, lorioliva, PD_Smith, nicebio, and zumayabooks. I appreciate those links!

Okay, off to dinner in the West Village with Amy Wallen, Eber Lambert, Neil Lambert, Rebecca Friedman, Rachel Shukert, Kimberly Wetherell, and Mr. H. Looking forward to it!

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Question of the Month: Heal

by Susan Henderson on May 4, 2009

Say you come across a kid who hurts the way you did as a child. Tell me what you’d say or do that might make a difference to him. Or, to put it another way, what’s the thing you wish someone had done for you?

Wednesday, Lac Su will be here to discuss his memoir, I LOVE YOUS ARE FOR WHITE PEOPLE, and I’ve asked him this question. I hope you’ll be back to hear his answer.

Oh, and P.S. I’m reading at KGB with the marvelous Kim Chinquee Friday, May 22nd. Hope to see some of you there!

One more P.S. I know there aren’t a lot of TV watchers here, but if you happen to watch American Idol, one of the remaining contestants, Adam Lambert, belongs to friends of LitPark, Eber Lambert and Amy Wallen. Feel free to vote for him on Tuesday!

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DimeStories

by Susan Henderson on August 6, 2008

For all you NPR junkies and short story lovers, get ready for DimeStories! To tell you what it’s about and how it began, please meet my friends and the hosts of the show: Amy Wallen, a bestselling author who has been described as “Eudora Welty on speed,” and James Spring, who has, among other talents, the ability to laugh me out of every bad mood. (Including when I’m on-the-air!)

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Amy Wallen: Susan has given us this space to chat about our national public radio feature, DimeStories, which will premier the end of this hot month of August. I’m Amy Wallen, co-host with James Spring. And, DimeStories are compelling narratives that measure just three-minutes long. Whether fiction or factual, the best DimeStories are visceral – they incline the listener to laugh, or to cry, or to think.

James Spring: And it all began with my motorcycle.

Amy Wallen: Motorcycle? There were no motorcycles, James.

James Spring: I distinctly remember my KTM 525 EXC being the whole reason this gig got going. It was all me.

Amy: Maybe you’re referring to the sound of your voice reading prose. It is somewhat reminiscent of a glass muffler. But really, it was all me. DimeStories had a different beginning than what you seem to recall. Here’s the true story of my life before you and your microphone showed up:

James: [eye rolling gesture]

Amy: Four years ago, an organization called San Diego Writers, Ink asked me to host an open mic. Prose only. They’d heard me grumble about the open mic readings where anything goes. You know the ones—where there’s inevitably a reader who gets up on stage and reads for close to 45 minutes and you want to drink roach piss they are so bad, but you have to wait it out because your friend is reading next, that is, if this narcissistic memoirist will ever give up the mic.

James: I’m a memoirist.

Amy: Sorry about that. I mean, sorry about what I just said. Anyway, I told San Diego Writers, Ink yes, I’d host an open mic under one condition: a time-limit. Only 3 minutes.

James: Tell how you came up with that idea of 3 minutes, so we can get to the part about my motorcycle.

Amy: I’m a writer-in-residence at the New York State Summer Writers Institute

James: William Kennedy, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Ondaantje, Marilynne Robinson? You hang with those big time folks? Pulitzer Prize winners and National book award fellows? Are you sure they don’t have you confused with another more literary Amy? Maybe they think you’re Amy Hempel.

Amy: No, she’s there too. I think it’s a diversity thing—

James: You’re their token redneck.

Amy: Anyway…they do a student reading every summer where each student has only 3 minutes. I thought it was brilliant, so I stole the idea.

James: Don’t you steal all your ideas? You’re like a writer pickpocket.

Amy: Whatever. This isn’t about my life of crime.

James: Apparently it is all about you though.

Amy: This is about how I became known as the Time Dominatrix.

James: Please don’t torture us with that visual of you in your leathers.

Amy: Everyone balked at the 3 minutes.

James: I didn’t balk at the 3 minutes. I have always kept my readings under three minutes at all the DimeStories Live events.

Amy: That’s right, you figured out a better way to get more than your fair share of the spotlight. You showed up with your fancy microphone that no one’s allowed to touch, along with that roll of hunter-vest orange tape to keep the cords in place. You told everyone something about how you were going to do an NPR show about us. You thought you were becoming a radio star.

James: I was already a radio star. At least I had all the equipment, but I got my break on This American Life, and I got friendly with Jay Allison producer of This I Believe, and that’s where my motorcycle comes in.

Amy: No motorcycle yet. But for the last 4 years, every month in San Diego I’ve been hosting the prose-only Open Mic on the first Friday of the month—DimeStories Live. In the beginning, probably for the first year, maybe even two, I had to inflict several lashings with my cat-o-nine tails before folks believed that I meant it about the 3 minutes. Or maybe writers are just sadists. But soon everyone came to realize it benefited us all.

James: You mean, you had everyone scared into submission.

Amy: Whatever it takes. The pieces were tight, the evening fast paced, strong writers found their voices. And a special bonus, the bad readers are off the stage in 3 minutes.

James: Maybe you should have an even shorter time limit for bad writers.

Amy: Now that you’re a radio star, you’re such a writing snob. Three minutes is just enough time to get a complete story in. Don’t believe it? It happens every month over and over in San Diego.

James: I’m going to talk about my motorcycle now.

Amy: No. I have more. DimeStories Open Mic became so popular that last year we produced a compilation Best of CD.

James: That’s when my motorcycle showed up!

Amy: Jay Allison, This I Believe host and producer from Atlantic Public Media, heard a few pieces off the CD and he suggested we do a radio show.

James: That’s supposed to be my line. This isn’t all about you, you know.

Amy: Okay, you’d had a few pieces on NPR and had been schmoozing with the likes of Jay Allison and Ira Glass. You were always sending out some email about some NPR show you were going to be on. “Listen on this day…” Blah, blah, blah.

James: This is why nobody likes you. You’re lucky I offered to let you be famous with me.

Amy: If it weren’t for my timer and my disciplined hostessing of the open mic, DimeStories would never exist. You’d be limping around asking folks if they’d like a free copy of your memoir about being a stripper in Guatemala. Or was it a gaucho in Bolivia?

James: You talk big for someone with so little to say. One little LA Times bestseller and suddenly you’re like… Truman Capote. But with a more grating voice. That book ruined you.

Amy: MoonPies and Movie Stars, which just came out in paperback in June, by the way. But none of that matters, we’re radio stars now. We never have to write another word.

James: I’ve been doing public radio for three years now, which is, of course, very, very sexy, And it’s as decadent as you’d imagine. I think it was Robert Siegel who summed up the whole NPR party vibe in two words. “hookers” and “heroin.”

Amy: You’ve done This American Life, Stories from The Heart of the Land—little shows like that. You’re like a rap star.

James: I’m like MC NPR.

Amy: Give ‘em the motorcycle story…

James: Finally. Last winter I rode motorcycles in Baja with Jay Allison and he heard the CD compilation from our live events in San Diego, and he said, “this would make a great radio show.”

Amy: That was it? You were excited to tell THAT story.

James: What?

Amy: That’s the least compelling story I’ve ever heard.

James: What do you want? It’s the story of how you got invited to be on the radio. You weren’t going to be invited any other way.

Amy: I’m certain that it’s because of my deep resonating voice that I’m co-hosting. Or maybe it’s just the way I look on radio.

James: You can wear your leathers on radio. It’s safe for our eyes.

Amy: Well, I will definitely bring my timer and whip and make sure the pieces we select for the radio show don’t go over 3 minute limit. That’s why I like what we are doing—inspired by This I Believe pieces, DimeStories will be 3-minute stories inside a 1-minute candy-coated co-hosting.

James: These capsules of story will be used in various ways—when a program manger needs to fill a small time slot after All Things Considered, say, or MarketPlace.

Amy: Maybe This American Life is working on a show with the theme Eyebrow Threading, and we just happen to have the perfect piece.

James: What are you going to buy with all the money from the public radio gig? I’d like to buy a hyena.

Amy: Hyenas are good pets—if you don’t like upholstery. Me, I’m going to pay someone to write another novel for me so that I can quit thinking the first one was fluke.

James: People inside my head have been asking about the Oscars, for public radio, and what I would wear, and if I would have to attend with you, or my wife, or if, maybe I could bring hookers. What will you wear?

Amy: I’m going to wear my leathers, of course.

James: Where will you put your Public Radio Oscar trophy?

Amy: I believe on public radio it’s NOT an Oscar, James. It’s called an Elmo.

James: Speaking of… I hold in my left hand an envelope from Mr. Jay Allison. I bet it’s our first check.

Amy: Or a signing bonus.

James: It’s a letter. And it says, “James & Amy, we were able to get enough funds from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to greenlight the first two shows. We’ll have just enough money to pay writers, and for some studio time and production…”

Amy:

James:

Amy: What does that mean?

James: I think it means that we don’t get paid.

Amy: Wow.

James: I heard they treated the Muppets the same way.

Amy: Figures. You’re just like Kermit.

James: And you’re like Miss-

Amy: -Don’t even think it.

The first season of DimeStories is in production, with stories by Lydia Davis, Jack Handey, Susan Henderson, Elizabeth Crane, Richard Rodriguez, Emil Wilson, Meredith Resnick, Katharine Weber, and more… For info about submission guidelines, the radio show, and the live traveling showcase events, visit www.DimeStories.org.

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P.S. A shout out to Denis, owner of the KGB Bar, for hosting the NYC DimeStories reading!

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BIOS:

JAMES R. SPRING has lived much of his adult life in Latin America. From slumming as a charter boat captain, to running contraband across borders, his careers have taken him to some of the most remote pockets on the planet. He has contributed to This American Life, heard on National Public Radio, and has been featured in radio expeditions for Atlantic Public Media on NPR. His radio assignments have ranged from ’embedding’ with the Minutemen at the border, to covering the Baja 1000 off-road race – to motorcycling solo through Mexico’s Sierra Madre where he recorded his experiences with Tarahumara drug traffickers. He previously served as a foreign correspondent for Cox Newspapers. He resides in San Diego.

AMY WALLEN has received rave reviews from the Los Angeles Times for her best-selling novel, MoonPies and Movie Stars, which reached #10 on the bestseller list. Amy is a writer-in-residence at NYSTate Summer Writers Institute, and she also lectures and teaches creative writing across the country, including the University of California, San Diego Extension, as well as private workshops. In addition to writing book reviews for the Los Angeles Times, Amy is the host of DimeStories Live, a popular monthly prose open-mic night and showcase reading series. Her third novel will be published by Hyperion.

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