Sorry for the radio silence.
The BMR crew all went into hibernation over the holiday, which really isn’t what you might think. We were reading, writing, planning, and resting up for a new semester which is now in full swing.
Suddenly, we look around and January 1 is 25 days in the past.
However, it’s better late than never, we think, to put our writing plans into words of their own, plus share with you the books that we can’t forget from 2015 or the books we’re excited about in 2016.
Of course, we’d love to know what your writing goals are, and what books you’re looking forward to this year.
While you think about that, check out the following thoughts by Blue Mesa Review editors and graduate readers.
And, of course, Happy New Year!
Brenna Gomez, Editor in Chief:
My most anticipated book for 2016 is Hunger by Roxane Gay. Like many of you I’ve been reading Roxane’s Tumblr for a long time. I’ve found the pairing of recipe and personal essay that Gay often employs to be startling and beautiful. I’m betting the book is similar. In the Entertainment Weekly feature on Hunger, Gay said, “This is not a book about triumph.” I think it will be refreshing to read a memoir about food and weight that isn’t a guilt-inducing list of self-improvement tips for other women. Gay’s book will be raw and real–everything I look for in a good memoir.
Writing goals: I have serious writing to do in 2016. In May I graduate from UNM’s MFA program. In late March or early April I will need to defend my dissertation. There will be eight or nine stories/essays in my collection. I have drafts of all but one of these pieces in varying states of completion: finished pieces that I’ve submitted to lit mags, pieces that are one draft away from completion, messy middle drafts. I foresee lots of late nights revising and editing in my future. I don’t want my dissertation to be the only writing I do though. I want to start a new project this year. I have no idea what that project will be, but I’m looking forward to it.
Ana June, Associate Editor:
The book I was most excited about for 2016 debuted on January 12. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi, is a memoir written by a neurosurgeon who was diagnosed, in the last year of his medical residency, with stage IV lung cancer. I finished it in one stretch of suspended time, and feel both bereft of words to describe this marvel and filled with them. This is a stunning work, especially considering how sick he was while writing it. I don’t often cry over books, no matter how incredible they are. This one did me in.
My goals for writing this year were a lot more clear on January 1 than they are now. That day I vowed to write 2016 words every single day. I wrote more than that on the 1st, but that count has fluctuated fiercely ever since. Now, I’m primarily focused on preparing a few essays for submission, after which I’ll turn back to the two memoirs vying for my attention. Which will win the race to my dissertation? I seriously wish I knew.
Cat Hubka, Nonfiction Editor:
With just three semesters left here at UNM’s Creative Writing program, I resolved to buckle down with my own writing. I made a commitment to write for three hours every day. It’s not as important what I write so much as that I write. I know that when I reserve the time for writing like any other commitment in my life, I get a lot done. So this year it’s all about me and the page, three hours every day.
Aaron Reeder, Poetry Editor:
One of the most inspiring books I read last year was hart island, by Stacy Szymaszek (Nightboat Books). Within these pages is a fascinating examination of place; the images are rich and potent. The deeper the reader goes, the more alive hart island becomes, and we see both the history of a place and the personal wrestle with one another. One of the many strengths of this book is the juxtaposition of the long poem form and the short line; it works as a symbol for a history that is long and requires an intense focus. I think any writer who is interested in writing about a particular place should give this a read. And really, anyone appreciates good poetry should give it a read.
As for resolutions, I want to be a little more disciplined, which I think also translates to forgiving myself a little more when I don’t write or read or edit as much as I intend to. I’m not advocating being lazy, but I’ve noticed that when I beat myself up for failing at my own requirements the writing just doesn’t come.
Jason Thayer, Fiction Editor:
My most anticipated book of 2016 is Aaron Reeder’s poetry chapbook, Dawn out on Orange Monkey Press. He’s doing some really far out and important stuff with language poetry. A must read for anyone who likes reading experimental and often surreal poems.
My writing goal for 2016 is to be more open to sharing my work with non-writer friends who say, “Hey let me read one of your stories.”
Steve Howe, Graduate Reader:
2015 was a landmark year for me because it’s the year I committed to a writing life and entered the MFA program at the University of New Mexico. What is inherent in a writing program is reading, a mountain of it. And the book that stood out to me in 2015, which I keep mentally and physically coming back to, is Gabriel by Edward Hirsch. It was assigned for a workshop focusing on trauma and grief in the spring and I simply haven’t been able to shake it since. The entire book is written in three-line stanzas, each one capable of standing on its own, but together they tell the strikingly raw and honest story of the death of Hirsch’s son. This book has shown me ways to engage a reader that otherwise wouldn’t have occurred to me. There is no fat, no flowery language, but that is not to say it isn’t beautifully written. It’s direct, deep, painful, and wonderful, and I’ll be hard-pressed to find a work that will top it in 2016, but I’ll be giving it my best shot.
For 2016, to make my goals attainable, I’ve decided to keep my resolution simple. I resolve to become a better writer. Not better in the sense of suddenly writing Pulitzer quality work. I’m talking about becoming better at the act of writing. I want achieve more discipline and commitment. I want to write every day with a purpose. It may be fixing a troublesome transition or making a flat character more vibrant, but I must consciously pick something to work on each and every session. When I get that level of focus, then I’ll start making Pulitzer resolutions.
David O’Connor, Graduate Reader:
In November, I decided this was The Year of The Short Story, so I vowed to read one every day. Today, I just read my 145th, yes I have been reading one a day, sometime up to seven, over the holidays. I powered through Lori Ostlund’s collection The Bigness of The World, which leaves me super-pumped for her spring fiction workshop here at UNM. Then I jumped into Barry Gifford’s American Falls and George Saunders (an old faithful) CivilWarLand, both gripping page-turners. I am also powering through Best American Short Stories, in reverse. I just picked up 2013, hope to reach 2008 by May, although a problem arises when I find a good writer, like Jess Walter, Craig Davidson or Will Mackin; I want to read everything they have ever written, even their grocery lists.
Now I am slowly revisiting Colum McCann’s first collection Fishing The Sloe-Black River, which regularly leaves me with goosebumps thinking–how can a man be so damned tender and sincere? Being an Irish immigrant, the green-pulp was shoved down my childhood throat, so obviously I rebelled. Since picking up John McGahern’s Creatures of The Earth and discovering Kevin Barry (I can’t wait to get my hands on Beatlebone, John Lennon is the protagonist.) I feel like the rebellious phase is over and the homecoming is glorious.
As for writing, mums the word. Till published.
Crystal Zanders, Graduate Reader:
When the lottery reached 1.4 billion dollars, I bought a ticket. I told myself I was paying $2 for the opportunity to dream and for those two days after I purchased my ticket, I gleefully mentally spent that money. Well, I didn’t win the lottery, but I wasn’t overly disappointed. I know that the rejection wasn’t personal; it just wasn’t my turn to win. My writing resolution this year is about treating submissions like a free lottery ticket. Yes, the chances of being selected are very slim, but someone is going to make it into the magazine. And as those rejections roll in, I am not going to be disappointed or discouraged. I want to take it as it is not my turn yet, but one day.
I left the ticket on my refrigerator to remind me to take a chance. Who knows?
This one might be a winner.