Jane Eaton Hamilton

"It was her mouth that had a hand over it, not her eyes." -Jane Eaton Hamilton

Tag: short fiction

The little bubbles of a short story for your reading pleasure

 

This short fiction Phosphorescence about love, pregnancy and beluga whales from Room Magazine’s Queer issue, now online.

Phosphorescence

Autostraddle, and Room

Imagine my good luck to appear in the Bad Behaviour series at Autrostraddle, and in Canada’s oldest feminist journal, Room, in their queer issue, all in one month, alongside the grooviest writers (people I’ve admired far and near for years), and, might I add, the most amazing visual artist, Ness Lee. (Their cover is above.) The former magazine is online, and the latter is available at your favorite independent bookstore or from Room, link below.

My essay about being non-binary, ‘The Nothing Between Your Legs,’ appears here, but check out the awesomeness of the entire series at Autostraddle here.

And a link to my short story, ‘Phosphorescence,’ in Room.

Growing Room grows room

Growing Room Festival

Where Does the Page Stop and the Body Begin: Writing the Body
l-r: Casey Plett, Samantha Nock, Amber Dawn, Mallory Tater, Kim Clark
Moderator: Mallory Tater

This weekend, while I was busy with Growing Room Festival here in Vancouver, and indeed listening to this informative, intelligent panel, above, two other womxn in my sphere made disclosures that blew me away. Not because I wasn’t familiar with the bones of what they needed to say, because we are social media friends and have intersecting bios, and they’ve talked about these disclosures in other ways over time, but because of the unique and brave ways they chose to bring sensitive information into the public.

Sometimes I can only stand back, jaw dropped. Wow, you two. I want to have half your courage when I grow up. I thank you with all of my being.

Thinking about this panel, above. When I read the phrase in the program “Where does the page stop and the body begin?” (a play on Amber Dawn’s poetry collection title) I wondered not for the first time where the page does stop and my body begins, and then I imagined the pages of my writing as a kind of external skin, a body suit I can climb into (is it always ill-fitting? Do I never get the seams sewn tightly enough? Was I smart to use a reinforcing stitch? Is it going to unravel anyhow?) Where does my body stop and my page begin? [And is that creepy? Can you stalk your own writing? If you text it too many times, will it stop responding? If you get in there with a scalpel, is it going to faint? Can you kill it? What if all you can bring back from your body is a translation, an approximation, a waned hope, a cataclysm?] Where do poems live? Do they live there, in your spleen, in your arteries, in your thyroid, in your ignored middle toes? I mean, Do you fuck your heart? Do you even have the ability, ever, to write your heart? What if your heart wasn’t born now? What if your heart only makes cave drawings? What if your heart is a crabbed ugly dessicated thing? What if it’s thick and messy and too hot? Where do poems live before they appear? Where do your characters live in the globe of your brain? Do they hang out in the right, left hemispheres? Is that an outmoded way to think about creativity/creation/the formation of theory? In the parietal lobe? In the pons, in the medula?

Seriously. What delimits us?

What is our personal scaffolding? Poverty, education, racism, homophobia, ableism?  Wealth, white skin, straight skin, an able-body. How have people treated us? How have we treated people? What is behind our scaffolding? What is our skeleton? How was it made? With generosity, banquets, kindness, bequeaths? The opposite? When we are composing poems, or essays, or novels, or stories, are we stripped bare, are we under our scaffolding, are we in our bodies then, are we in all of our bodies, are we in the parts we’ve never thought of, that small vein that feeds our baby finger? Deep? How deep? Real? How real? Is our marrow sucked clean? What survives?

I’ve been fighting my own cowardice for years. I’ve been using alternate means to tell stories slant, hinting around the edges, disclosing fragments, being circular and allusive instead of immersive. I’ve let people who’ve terrorized my time with them continue to terrorize my time after them.

This panel and the panel that followed it at Growing Room Festival, What Binds Us: Sex, Bondage, and Fetishes, with Amber Dawn, Kim Clark, Lydia Kwa, Samantha Nock and moderator Sierra Skye Gemma, were fascinating. These are intelligent, probing authors who have thought deeply about such matters for decades and have translated much of their thought into literature and, with the help of good, well-prepped moderators, knew how to communicate the act of having done so. The audience members too asked questions that probed for deep answers.

I’ve been excavating childhood experiences, putting mud on the wire structure of some of them, or building the structure under the wire of some others. Trying to pin the Jello of distant memory into words that will stay the course. In this process, I’ve also been trying to find a deeper understanding of metaphor–as a lyrical author I’ve worked with metaphor for 35 years–as a language I can open to parse experiences I’ve had down far inside systems such as ableism, such as homo and transphobias, such as rape culture/misogyny. I’ve been using braids for my exploration. My writing, I see, gets increasingly experimental and fragmented as it goes forward.

These panels (and other events) took place this year in the ambient light of Me Too and Times Up. Over the years, I’ve worked behind the scenes (as disability and circumstance allowed) to change things for the next generation, all actions that are in their own way brave, some of them shading into foolhardiness. Last year, I named one of my rapists, a man who raped me in Ontario when I was 18. If I had named him then (and hadn’t been laughed out of a police station), how many womxn could have been spared rape? One of those women would have been my mother, because some years later, he attacked her, too, in an attempted rape. The act of naming him has been interesting and anxiety-provoking. Of course I have questions about what my responsibility is. If it was (is) my responsibility to name him to save others, isn’t that downloading his criminality onto me, blaming the victim? Yet always the pit of my stomach churns (has churned) at the idea of others.

I’m old, I’m feeble, I’m done like dinner. I have more recent offenders, both a batterer and a rapist, I don’t name. I am shit-scared to associate their acts with their names. I refuse to stay silent about violence–the acts were illegal and remain illegal. The blame for the violence belongs to the criminal. I’m sure they both just got on with their lives, wiping the old slate clean, while the repercussions for their actions bequeath to me.

Why am I so scared? I don’t even know. I fear financial annihilation? But I have physical evidence. I have contemporaneous accounts. In court, these two would lose–lose something, I don’t know. Status. Money. Freedom. Perhaps everything. It would offload the burden of their crimes to them. It might feel great, the shucking of lodestones.

But, still. Still.

I am a feminist, and I don’t name them. I don’t believe I have the resources to fight them. I believe fighting them would kill me. Figuratively? Literally? I don’t know. I only know I’m scared, so scared, every day I’m scared of them. When people have proven themselves happily vicious, it’s hard to stop worrying they’ll go there again.

I watch the womxn I mentioned in the first paragraph name their offenders. I watch these acts of great or foolhardy courage. I ask myself whether these womxn are somehow protected by their education, by their literary or career success or other things I don’t know about? Are they less protected by other things I don’t know about? Are they just fuck brave fuck wow? Wow. Wow. Wow. Would they have been disbelieved two years ago? Does Me Too give them protection of a sort? Do we believe them now? Do more of us believe them now?

I want to live in a world where womxn are not silenced, where being the victim of an assault is given priority over the sensitivity of the offender. I hope someday I get to.

Lately, I’ve been watching high schoolers Jack and Shay in Ontario who started this initiative which may become viral across the country, changing our literature forever: Rethinking Diversity in CanLit. I’ve been watching the kids in Florida and more widely in the US be brave and insistent–and make change. I’ve seen how doggedness and anger can be forces of great good. I’ve watched disabled activists storm DC, I’ve watched water activists, watched Black Lives Matter, watched WOC take apart white feminist bullshit.

I bow down to the power of womxn and men and youth to reshape the dialogue and change the reality. Thank you, thank you. I salute your courage and fortitude and wisdom. I imagine sometimes that you don’t know you are cherished, so let me say that: In this faulty heart, you are cherished. I say this to the panelists from Growing Room, as well: You are cherished, for your work but for your abilities, also, to talk to the deep and dark sides.

You make me know my small pieces of intersectional activism are worth it. The fight is still worth it, that the fight is indeed the only thing that ever brings about change.

Lately some focus for me has been disability activism. Disability activism is hard because its practitioners are ill and disabled–health concerns intercede. Actions equal stress equal months of physical repercussions.

I am weak and I am flawed and I am uninformed and I am clumsy. But within my capacities and lack of capacities, I’ve been analyzing, and working in, disability activism for a year or two. I’ve started to excavate my 32 years disabled–what I’ve experienced, what happened to me because of my condition in the medical community, but also at home and with friends/family, and in my career. I’m rooting out my tumour of shame at being disabled (which stems from when I was a bald and bullied six-year-old), and replacing it with solid political analysis.

I understand, as I have since the early 80s, while I write essay after essay, and novel after novel, and poem after poem, and short fiction after short fiction, that the personal is still political. If it is not my personal, but rather a character’s, it is nevertheless political.

Always and forever.

I hope the womxn who performed in and/or experienced Growing Room this weekend are about to write with all the power and strength of their minds and hearts and blow CanLit open. But I also have wishes for you, if you’ve read this far: I send you courage. There is a fight ahead. If you are new to activism, I welcome you. If you are not new, then every one of you political feminists made my life more bearable. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

 

“I want my cup of stars.” -Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen and I go back a bit, and I’m finally reading her collection My Body and Other Parties, and, so far, adoring and admiring it, and I’d like to see if she’ll agree to an interview even though this is not a going-concern blog and even though she is much much too busy, but in the meantime, here is a great and sparkly interview with The Atlantic’s Joe Fassler. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson haunts me still, so I understand how she got riveted. Jackson’s idea that she could transcend the many limitations of her lived life by entering other worlds, much as the disabled quite often do, in fact, and the stunning skills with which she brought her points home, still flabbergasts and inspires me. We need her in the world, and now we need Machado, too.

How Surrealism Enriches Storytelling About Women

YOSS: Year of the Short Story

2018: The Year of the Short Story!

Okay, okay, we who practice this form declare that every year is year of the short story because of their singular pleasures, and today is the last day to submit to CBC’s yearly contest for them, so it’s a good day to declare a YOSS. We who write in this stunning form want editors, marketing board and publishers to welcome them and not to demand they link and not to say, like broken records, they don’t sell. If they don’t sell, help us change that. Buy them, read them, re-read them, love them. You won’t be sorry. I can tell you that at my house, my short fiction collections get pride of place and take up the most space on my shelves. And are my first and strongest love. I write novels because I think I have to (that great rah-rah), and poetry when it makes me, but I LOVE SHORT FICTION. I have two collections and enough stories here to shape two more– with a lot of rewriting.

Here’s Ayelet Tsabari waxing enthusiastic.

Surrey International Writers’ Conference

photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton

Out presenting at Surrey International Writer’s Festival this past weekend, I popped into a workshop held by Meg Tilly to help improve writers’ reading skills. Here she is sitting on a participant’s feet. There’s probably a great story behind that, but I’m not whispering it.

photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton

Finish your goddamned book

Yonder at Terrible Minds, here’s the not-so-terrible truth about finishing your novel, by Chuck Wendig.

Here’s How To Finish That Fucking Book, You Monster

“Matthew Klam’s New Book Is Only 17 Years Overdue” and other tales of failure

 

the new book

Over at Vulture, Taffy Brodesser-Akner has a terrific feature about Matthew Klam’s career and his new book. Every writer should read this. We all deal with self doubt and castigation, I think. The article is a really a good look at Klam’s early fortune; about how just as he was deciding he’d quit writing, he got a yes from Dan Menaker, editor at the New Yorker, for one of his stories. (My stories got lots of comments from Menaker in my time, and once we even moved into editorial, but I never quite got the yes. The story that came closest was published in the Alaska Review.)

The world opened for Matthew Klam, and his list of early awards and honours was daunting. He had it all except for a second book. As the years passed, he still didn’t have a second book. He wrote continually, he tossed continually, he taught instead for its anonymity.

For me, the world never opened, and my talent, which was substantial but wanting, withered from lack of support. I didn’t have an MFA program to weed out weaknesses. I learned slowly. Sometimes folks went mad for one story or essay, but when they wanted more, the more was always so different they didn’t like it. This is a problem with range and writing across genres (and letting my heart have its way).

I needed an imprimatur I didn’t have. A Menaker imprimatur, maybe. Once Ellen Seligman at M+S spent six months telling me yes, telling me no, telling me I don’t know, I go one way, I flop the other way, and I wonder what would have happened if she had said yes eventually, whether that profound novel about child rape in the world of wild mustangs I was then working on would have come to fruition. All these years later, I’m still curious about what would have broken out of me if by chance I had just been valued and nurtured, and really had to work to an editor’s expectations. I would have risen, I know, because I am like that, but in what way, to what end?

What literature did I not produce because I:

a) wasn’t quite good enough?

b) wasn’t repetitive enough?

c) there was discrimination (even inborne and unacknowledged) against certain categories of writers (disabled/queer/feminist)?

d)  wasn’t from the US?

What would those stories and books have been?

I was low-income and a sole-support parent a lot of those years. And of course I asked the same questions Matthew Klam asked himself: What does this matter? Who needs another story? Another novel? To what purpose? To win a prize and still be unable to pay the bills? I certainly never cared about a postmortem reputation–that and $5 I’d get a plastic glass of latte at Starbucks to set on my gravestone.

I won the CBC contest a couple times. I published in the NY Times, the Sun and other strong periodicals (back then and again this year). But no successes ever built, no one ever tucked me under her mentor wing. I still write in my self-propelled bubble without much response. I certainly write now without any hopes at all for the marketplace–really, only to please myself.

I had my perfect form and lost it. I quit writing stories and nobody noticed. I quit writing stories and only a friable piece of my heart noticed. I struggle to write novels, but I am no novelist. I am no novelist.

Maybe Matthew Klam is. I look forward to reading Who Is Rich?

The Vulture

 

 

National Coming Out Day

JEH nude 2016

painting Jane Eaton Hamilton 2016

It’s National Coming Out day. If you’re feel safe and protected enough in your circumstances to do so, I hope you’ll join us as out and proud people! It can be uplifting, unnerving, relieving, and thrilling to take that step.

Many, many of my short stories are queer, as are many, many of my poems and my novel WEEKEND. Here are some of my short fictions specifically about coming out:

Smiley, by Jane Eaton Hamilton, not yet collected: A young man in Cape Town works up his courage to tell his mother he’s trans.

Hunger, by Jane Eaton Hamilton from the collection HUNGER: A young runaway tries to escape the clutches of her older Vancouver lover.

Territory, by Jane Eaton Hamilton from the collection HUNGER: A woman leaves her husband for another woman.

Kiss Me or Something by Jane Eaton Hamilton from the collection HUNGER: A butch partners tries to get pregnant with her sometimes-straight woman partner.

I hope you’ll help me identify more short stories by other authors which celebrate coming out by responding to this post!

Here are the responses so far:

“Angel” by Elise Levine

“This is What You Get” by Benjamin Alire Saenz

“Ashes” by Nancy Jo Cullen

“From the Gloria Stories” by Rocky Gamez

“No Bikini” by Ivan Coyote

“My Marriage to Vengeance,” by David Leavitt

“Brokeback Mountain,” by Annie Proulx

“Smiley” by Jane Eaton Hamilton

“Her Thighs” by Dorothy Allison

“Fisherman” by Nalo Hopkinson

“Am I Blue” by Bruce Coville

“A Dad Called Mom” by Anne Fleming

“Skin” by Racquel Goodison

“Aye and Gomorrah” by Samuel Delaney

 

 

International Day of the Girl

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Over at LitHub, Kait Heacock has compiled ten stories about girls I know you’ll want to read for those only-a-story-will-do moments in life. On a train, in the bath, in the coffee shop. Read Naja Marie Aidt, Monica Arac de Nyeko, Clarice Lispector and Helen Oyeyemi.

Lit Hub

 

Junot Díaz in conversation

I urge you to read this conversation VOX has with Junot Díaz:

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“We’re in a period of rabid privatization, and a period where it seems that people believe all specific and social functions, and all specific and social spaces and institutes, should be run like corporations, and that there are no such things as common goods; everything is a site of profit extraction. Given that context, for me, that’s where we’ve got to begin these questions: by sketching out the forces — political, economic, and social — which are distorting our ability to have a reasonable conversation.

“In a universe where everything is governed by the logic of market, that’s not a conversation about the importance of the humanities. It’s already so prejudiced that you can’t even have a fair hearing. That’s primarily what’s happening when we attempt to think in a future-looking way about the humanities, is that the idiom of the culture is so prejudiced against life-specific values, like social and common good. And without those, the appeal that we make about the humanities — it’s not that they don’t even land; there’s no space, in a society that’s entirely market-driven, to have a reasonable creative discussion about where the humanities are.”

VOX

50 books by Canadian women of colour

What a celebration! The good folks at Room Magazine have put out a wonderful list of books for all tastes and styles. Much better fare than last night’s debate! Full of energy and humanity and hope. Full of talent and skill. Full of familiar names and books, and new-to-you names and books. Happy reading!

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Room Magazine

Joyland: Would You Like a Little Gramma on Those?

JEHGinko

falling ginkos, Jane Eaton Hamilton, 2015, pastel painting

I am pleased and proud to have this story up on Joyland Vancouver. Thank you, Kathryn Mockler!

Tip: Joyland’s site will put the masthead over the text unless you make your viewing window half-width.

Joyland

 

 

On Writing Across the Curriculum

Magnolia2JEH

magnolia: Jane Eaton Hamilton, unknown year

Instead of asking me to repeat myself, why don’t you challenge yourself to expand? I am not ever going to make myself smaller, my talents fewer, my range tiny, in order to garner your praise.

Junot Díaz

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“Whatever privilege we had, we were fucking ravenous about pursuing it. Unfortunately, pursuing privilege crimps your humanity. That’s something that takes a while for you to discover … every exercise of your privilege reduces your sum total of your humanity. I wouldn’t have noticed if my art wasn’t predicated on the sum total of my humanity. I kept coming up short as an artist and I had to look for the leaks. Where the fucking leaks are, it’s being a fucking asshole–you’re a fucking asshole, your humanity shrinks.”—Junot Díaz in conversation with the New York Public Library

New York Public Library podcasts

Mary Gaitskill and the Life Unseen

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‘Mary Gaitskill and the Life Unseen’ is an article in the New York Times Magazine, by Parul Seghal. She

The New York Times

Here is another interview on The Rumpus (from 2013) by Suzanne Rivecca, called ‘What Men Talk About When They Talk About Mary Gaitskill.’

The Rumpus

The Atlantic

‘Your Duck is My Duck’ by Deborah Eisenberg

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I’m lucky to own Deborah Eisenberg’s collected, which came out in 2010; I’ve been following her delicious work since the 90s or possibly earlier. This story first appeared in “Fence” and I was glad, tonight, to reacquaint myself with it. I appreciate her crisp, calm, New Yorker’s prose.

Your Duck is My Duck

Lionel Shriver reads TC Boyle

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Lionel Shriver, asked to read a favourite story from the New Yorker for the New Yorker fiction podcast, chose TC Boyle’s “Chicxulub,” from 2004 and joins fiction editor Deborah Triesman in a discussion.

I’ve been a big fan of TC Boyle since the 80s and a fan of Lionel Shriver’s since “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” a book much beloved and admired. Wonderful to pair the two.

Lionel Shriver reads TC Boyle

Wresting the Giller Down to Earth

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The big guns were overlooked, but oh, what wonderful pistols have gone off. Celebrate Canada’s writers, folks, with the 2015 Giller Prize longlist:

Flannery O’Connor’s short work

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Flannery O’Connor’s wasn’t a long writing career; she died of lupus in the early 60s, at the age of 39. In this introduction to The Complete Stories, where her 30-odd stories are gathered, Robert Giroux talks about being her publisher.

The Complete Stories

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