Bio & Biblio
BuzzyMag, Perihelion, Daily SF, Albedo One, Penumbra, Journal of Unlikely Entomology, American Literary Review, StoryQuarterly, Wet Ink, Clarkesworld Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Oxmag, St. Ann's Review, Weird Tales, Shenandoah, Cemetery Dance, Crab Orchard Review, Arts & Letters, North Dakota Quarterly, Phoebe, Clackamas Literary Review, Night Train Magazine, Literary Review, The Bear Deluxe, Literal Latte, Confrontation, Sycamore Review, Mid American Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, New York Stories, Virginia Quarterly Review, International Quarterly, Witness, Beloit Fiction Magazine, Alaska Quarterly Review, Ms. Magazine, Massachusetts Review, Short Fiction by Women, Crosscurrents, The Boston Review, New Virginia Review, TriQuarterly 77, Kansas Quarterly, Clifton Magazine, Carolina Quarterly
Online: Oxmag, Fantasy magazine, Pedestal Magazine, Serpentinia
"Thick Water," Year's Best SF #17 (2012), edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer
Best of the Web, 2009
Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2009
"After Images" in Phantom, 2009
"Down on the Farm" in Bandersnatch, 2007
"Jubilee Dreams" in ParaSpheres, 2006
"The Snakes of Central Park" in Serpents, 2003
"Me and My Enemy" in O. Henry Prizes, 1998
The Made-up Man, Livingston Press, Dec. 2011
Journey to Bom Goody, Livingston Press, May 2005
The Soft Room, Livingston Press, 2004
The Other Door, Univ. of Missouri Press, 1995
- Finalist, 2009 Shirley Jackson award in short fiction
- Finalist, The 2004 Bellwether Prize
- Second place, Night Train Magazine’s 50/50 awards
- Honorable Mention, Serpentinia short story awards (online)
- Short-Listed Story, 2001 O. Henry Awards
- Special Mention, Pushcart Prize 2000
- 1998 O. Henry award
- Finalist, 1993 Iowa Short Fiction Awards
- Semifinalist, 1992 Nelson Algren Award
- Honorable Mention, 1987/88 Kansas Quarterly award in short fiction
I was born in Brooklyn in 1949 and spent my early childhood in the Sunset Park area. It was a working-class neighborhood, with a great mix of kids, who spent the days outside playing stoop ball, johnny-on-the-pony, and stickball, who jumped copings and ran to the park to roll down Dead Man’s Hill. I was the second of four children, and the six of us lived in a four-room apartment.
When I was eight my parents bought a two-family house in Bensonhurst, a quieter neighborhood with no street games. I attended Catholic school (which I hated) and read a lot—at least there was activity in books.
I wrote my first novel when I was 11. I wrote it in longhand, skipping two lines, and leaving the back of each page blank but counting it. It has luckily been lost to the ages.
Books always figured in my life. I even built an altar out of books—which were the bricks of my life, apparently. I said my night prayers in front of it. Religion, imagination, books, dreams—everything seemed to merge in my mind. There was a sermon one day about Satan tempting the godly, and I was terrified for months afterwards that Satan would try to tempt me. Religion made everything seem personal and direct. A few years ago I wrote a story about Satan visiting a little girl, and what she does about it.
I’m an agnostic now, but early religious training left me with a mass of symbols and references and an ongoing literary interest in gods and beliefs and assumptions and facts, and most particularly, in exclusion and inclusion.
While "The Soft Room" doesn’t deal with religion, it does pick up on those last themes. There’s a certain kind of grandioseness that can strike people when they feel they’re not like everyone else (and who doesn’t feel that at some point?). Since Meg can’t feel pain, it’s natural for her to feel superior, but that’s only if she can continue to believe that she’ll survive everything. And a sense of superiority always raises a question about how valuable one would be without the special talent, the great looks, the impressive intelligence. What would she be without this gift?
And while Meg believes she’s better than everyone else, it’s Abby who actually sets her limits. Meg needs Abby. And it’s obvious that Abby will be better off without this twin she must always protect and defend. Abby forces Meg to be responsible, and with that she learns morality as well.
Moral tests hover throughout the book—not merely Meg’s actions, but animal testing, money for research, how to make a difference in the world. Abby is the center of the moral world, so it’s no surprise that Abby takes over for Meg in so many ways. She’s Meg’s conscience.
I became a vegetarian while taking freshman biology at Long Island University (we had to dissect a fetal pig). I majored in English and later got my Master’s degree there as well. My undergraduate years were a bolt of excitement—the discussions, the readings, the teachers were a radical departure for me. It was the late sixties, and the world was changing, and we all felt we would have a hand in what it would become. I marched on Washington, marched in antiwar rallies around the city, went to the sit-ins, the be-ins, the happenings. We felt empowered and morally superior and invincible. But those years passed, and I had to work and the world didn’t change very much.
I dropped out of school for a year and worked on Wall Street. I went back, finished my degree, worked at Dell Publishing’s crossword department for a year, then went back and got my master’s degree in English. While I was in school I worked odd jobs, at bookstores and import shops. I lived in the East Village and kept finding cats to rescue. I moved into publishing jobs, staying for a few years to pay off my debts and then quitting to have time to write. But I wasn’t really writing anything interesting.
I wrote a few novels that were high-minded and static and sat in a drawer and then I began writing short stories. I loved Dostoyevsky and Bronte and Austen and Marquez, and it was Marquez’s freedom that influenced me the most. In his world, people levitated. Literature was moving out of Minimalism and into Magic Realism, and that’s where I was moving too, whether at the front of the crowd or in the rear didn’t matter.
I began publishing stories in the mid-80s. I would work on a novel and then switch to stories as I let the novel simmer in my head. I loved short stories—the form seemed perfect for me, the piece of reality where a character’s expectations soared or went sour. And I began to love the long pace of a novel, the way it stays with me for a few years and the way I can meditate on it at odd moments—driving, walking, sitting, staring. It’s an alternate universe that takes on more tangibility over time. It takes 2-3 years for me to get from idea to finished novel, and the amount of time involved allows for a lot of idea development, a lot of testing out plots and endings.
I’m more a plot person than a character person, so The Soft Room is unusual in its detailed examination of the twins’ lives, My next book, Journey to Bom Goody, leans more to the idea-driven, plot-driven, anything-is-possible world, which is where I like to be. Apparently it suits me.
In 1995, my first collection of stories was published by the University of Missouri and the New York Times review called it "haunting and quirky." In 1998, one of my stories won an O. Henry award. In 2003 an anthology on snake tales included a story of mine, and this year one of my books was a finalist for Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize. I’ve published over 30 stories and I have a lot more. The world surprises me; and I write about it.