Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado on being an adjunct:

I don’t want to give away my expertise for so little. But I don’t want to stop teaching, and I don’t want my students to be afraid to reach out to me after we part, either—I don’t want them to do what I would have done. I thrive on their news: they’re heading to graduate school, or they’re submitting work to be published, or are publishing, or have a new project. I don’t only want to teach; I want teaching to be a career, something that I can afford to keep doing.

Illustration by Rachel Levit

ICYMI, this week on Catapult:

Carmen Maria Machado recounts some of the more memorable all-nighters of her life, from 24-hour dance marathons to seemingly never-ending drives across state lines.

In new fiction from Emily Flamm, she captures tiny moments in seven super short stories.

For her last pick from the Quick Fiction archives, Marie-Helene Bertino brings you a mysterious short story by Rachel Yoder.

Sara Majka serves coffee to Karl Ove Knausgaard and thinks about the “imaginary selves” that populate her favorite fiction books.

In “Birds 101,” Anna Journey explores the seven “narratives of longing” that can move a person to create taxidermy.

I went to AWP this year with a fair amount of dread. Isn’t that kind of inevitable, with all the “How to Survive AWP” listicles floating around? But I surprised myself: I enjoyed it. Yes, I was exhausted by Saturday night and ready to be home and in pajamas, but I got to see old friends and meet new friends, and I actually introduced myself to writers I admire with a minimal amount of anxiety. It was so great to read with other amazing Sacramento-area writers, too—thanks to those of you who came to our early morning panel. Another unexpected thing that happened: I got to visit the Story Magazine table to pick up a copy of the new Migration Issue, which happens to have a story of mine in it. Surreal—the story, and the experience—especially because the issue also features a piece by Stephen Dixon, and I spent much of my college-era internship at McSweeney’s transcribing End of I., from typewritten manuscript pages to computer, by hand. Isn’t there a better way to do that, I wonder now?

Here are some of the things I wrote down in my notebook and/or tweeted during panels:

Your real concerns come out naturally when you’re paying attention to words on the page. (Brian Evenson)

LA is a short story; the La Brea Tar Pits are a novel. (Amber Dermont—I loved the thing she read for the Long and Short of It panel. Hopefully it’ll end up published somewhere. Also: SHE IS A SLOW WRITER TOO!)

Writing a story is like stealing a car, driving it fast as I can, crashing, & walking away unscathed. Writing a novel is like buying a car with a low-interest loan, driving around in search of something. (Kevin Wilson)

Replace “plot” with “movement,” something felt and actual rather than contrived. (&) If stories get sucked into the novel and then get sucked out again, that’s okay. Do whatever keeps you interested and keeps you moving forward. (Ramona Ausubel)

Precision of language is beautiful. (Carmen Maria Machado)
The Moon Over the River Lethe | Carmen Maria Machado
Dance marathons, interstate driving, lust, Allen Ginsberg, forgetfulness, and other reasons to stay up all night.

I could have gone to bed. Or, I could have sat at the table in the kitchen and watched the scene from behind the windowpane, but that, I thought, would be like putting this night in a museum—removed, too-soon forgotten. I wanted to experience it. Sit with this, I thought. Don’t forget this is happening. Tomorrow, you will probably push this away. But here, remember.

I come back to this essay a lot because I remember so many similar moments myself. Tiny moments in the middle of a fight or crisis when the wrongness of it all would take my breath away before I would be swamped with a very functional kind of forgetting. They were always isolated, like the light of streetlamps in the dark, little pools of amber that never touched. But they were there.

In the morning, the woman who made me ill with fear brewed a pot of coffee like nothing had happened. And, as if I’d slept, my day started all over again.

I would always forget, or pretend I did, if forgetting proved impossible. Because those moments when I knew what was actually happening hurt too much to hold on to.

Ordinary sleep bookends waking: Eight hours of slumber lops off the end of one day and births another. But late-night, all-night, is liminal; it is interstitial; it is duty-free. It is time travel. It’s a space where you don’t belong.

Carmen Maria Machado on memories of Chuck E. Cheese:

“The interior smelled like a roller rink, a pungent fusion of sweat and grease. The pizzas were homogeneous discs of cheese, rubbery and uniform and completely unchallenging in any way—to my eight-year-old mind, perfect. The arcade seemed like a gateway into some pseudo-adult universe.”

Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty

The Boy Scouts’ Image Problem

In 2012, donations to the Boy Scouts dropped to $27 million from over $61 million the previous year. Carmen Maria Machado on why corporate sponsors are abandoning support of the organization:

“Large, publicly traded companies must contend with a simple economic equation: public support for gay rights is consistently climbing, which means that gay people’s buying power—not just their own, but that of their friends, families, and allies—is growing. … By extension, the same appears to be true of nonprofits.”