Sandwiched between a 48-hr form rejection and a 328 day form rejection, this little alumni spotlight came out from one of my various Alma Maters. When I noted the context of its publication on Social Media, sort of half humble-bragging my butt off, they threw my own words right back at me.
“That’s part of the game. If I could give any young writers advice, I’d say, ‘Just dive in, just do it, take your lumps.'”
I stand by that quote and also all my lumps. Do as I say AND as I do. Shoot your shot, writers. Always.
If I’m being totally honest, I certainly didn’t expect the most memorable experiences of my Iceland Writers Retreat to occur indoors. In my defense, the reasoning seemed obvious at the time — it’s the “I” of IWR — but I still hesitate to admit it now. I was so impressed with the sharp minds and incredible writers at IWR that I don’t want to embody the quip, so often misattributed to Twain, about what happens when fools open their mouths. And yet, here we are.
The promise of the Icelandic landscape initially drew me in. In part, this can be attributed to the total dearth of photographs of hotel conference rooms in Iceland’s tourism adverts. Though, probably more of it has to do with the fact that I am only semi-domesticated. That I feel so much more myself with grass underfoot and foliage overhead in place of carpet and fluorescents. I’m happy to say that this part of me was not left wanting as we traveled the Golden Circle on my first day of the retreat. From Geysir to Gullfoss and Thingvellir, my eyes (and camera) feasted. And then, each clear night thereafter, I got to watch the northern lights dance until my toes threatened to secede from my feet…Read the full post.
It has been an active 2019. Mostly from the “life” standpoint. On the writing front, the only thing worth reporting is that I’m preparing to move my desk halfway across the country.
Above is a little teaser for a small retrospective post about my excellent time at Icelandwritersretreat.comwith a couple of my photos for good measure. Check it out.
And so begins a new year. This household rang in the event by working on various Powerpoints or story drafts until about 10 PM and then headed to bed like the responsible adults we pretend to be in front of our parents’ friends. (I was still reading by the time the totally unnecessary fireworks went off. So, you know, I’m not a total square…)
This month is a busy one. My show, Convergence: Challenging Anthropocentrism opens on the 4th. Details for the reception can be found at Convergence: Opening. If you’re in the neighborhood for Tulsa’s First Friday, come on down and chat me and my co-curator up. For those that can’t make it, the exhibition will be up all month long. There will also be some cool programming after MLK Day. Such as:
Animal People— Lecture I will give a lecture on how my work with apes, and my education by animals, led me to writing. Science just couldn’t encompass all the truths I found in nature.
HumanNature— Photography and Writing Workshop For those who would like a more active event, I’ll also be leading a workshop wherein we explore the urban landscape and the ways nature rebels against our efforts to exile it from our human centers. Through photography, we will train presence, which will then be used to generate short written pieces questioning the human/nature binary.
Mural Design and Creation— Yatika Starr Fields My co-curator, Yatika, will be leading a mural workshop throughout the week. He, along with participants, will create a permanent mural exploring the themes of the show. Join in on this collaborative work and leave a (literal) lasting mark on the McKeon Center for Creativity.
The Development of Complex Tool Use Among Chimpanzees— Lastly, perhaps the real treat of the whole month, join us for a lecture with the smart, incredible, illustrious, beautiful, [superlative] [superlative] [superlative] Stephanie Musgrave to discuss her research on the development and transmission of chimpanzee tool use in Central Africa. I’m biased but I can’t recommend enough letting this woman learn you something.
In what I wish was the beginning of a joke, I ate so hard during the Thanksgiving holiday I may have injured my esophagus. Probably a gift from my trip to Vietnam, where one of my anti-malarial pills got stuck in my throat as I went to bed. Suffice to say, I was in quite a bit of discomfort and in the market for some good news when, lo and behold, I was contacted by the Iceland Writers Retreat.
I’m happy to share that I’ve been selected to receive one of five Alumni Awards to attend this workshop. My fellow award winners look to be doing meaningful work, and I am very excited for this opportunity. As a side note, I was a finalist for this award last year, so I recommend that anyone interested in this experience to persevere and keep applying.
For more information, you can find IWR’s release here and see just a few of the amazing people I’ll have the pleasure of meeting this coming April.
I have a lot to be grateful for, always, but especially in the last month. And, as there is no lack of need for more gratitude in this world, I will take this opportunity to quickly and insufficiently outline mine here.
I recently traveled to Vietnam with my Father (johnmusgraveveteran.com) where, for the first time in 51 years almost to the day, we visited the sites of his war. It was a complicated experience, and my mind is still buzzing with the swarm of implications, emotions, and sensory details of it all. In the next little bit, I hope to find some clarity that will enable me to share this journey and what it meant/means.
Since returning, my upcoming multi-disciplinary art show, Convergence, has finished its call for artists and selected an incredible variety of works to exhibit. I cannot thank the artists who submitted work enough. It was humbling and invigorating to see the many ways people are engaging with both the perceived human/animal divide and the very real effects of the Anthropocene.
And just this past weekend, for Veterans Day/Armistice Day, my Father and I were humbled to put on a workshop/reading/conversation for veterans and their families. It was an intimate and powerful experience. I thank everyone who came out, shared their stories, and listened to our perspectives on how to use writing to convey experiences that can often be difficult to translate into words for the benefit of both the veteran and those who love them.
Both these events were made possible by the support of the Center forCreativity and I look forward to doing more work with them in the future.
Lastly, my Father and I were interviewed for Words on Air, by the OSU Center for Poets and Writers. We each read a bit of our work and spoke, briefly, on what patriotism and service looks like to us and how racism is antithetical to both (though no less common for it). I’m excited to share it with you as soon as it is live.
Thanks to everyone who made these events possible. And thanks to you for being interested.
I recently mentioned (here) that an interview I did with Susannah Sharpless of Graywolf Press would be airing on the new series “Words on Air” from Oklahoma State’s Center for Poets and Writers. Well, that episode is now live. It’s a casual introduction to publishing and the value of small presses like Graywolf.
Also, I’d like to note a recent feature from Mvskoke Media on the upcoming interdisciplinary, multi-media art exhibit I’m co-curating (mentioned here). Liz Gray did a great job accurately and efficiently introducing the show and some of the original thinking that led to its creation. I’m thrilled and grateful for the feature. And, more and more, I’m growing excited to see the work being submitted, though I know when it comes time to make selections, I’m going to have to make some very tough calls.
I just got done signing the contract for a flash fiction piece that will be appearing in Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading this fall. Early indications suggest that it’ll appear in vol. 33 in October. One could bet their butt that I will announce it and link directly to the story once it’s out in the world.
The story draws heavily from my time working with captive apes and is another in a long line of attempts where I try to use fiction to capture elements of the personhood of nonhuman beings (apes here) that I couldn’t doing science. I demoed this story in February, opening for George Saunders for a reading here in Tulsa (mentioned in this post).
If anyone is interested in seeing what kinds of work EL’s Recommended Reading publishes, check out the fantastic, little post-apocalyptic flash piece, told in a single sentence, by my fellow TAFwriter, Simon Han, “How to Eat Well at the End of the World.”
The spring and summer of 2018 have been more focused on creating and submitting proposals for events and projects as they have been about actual writing. And as such, I’ve had little to show, publication-wise, for the year, but I’ve been able to create and participate in more events with my community here in Tulsa. That may not inflate my sense of writer-legitimacy, but I think it soothes the soul by bringing meaningful work to audiences who may or may not otherwise have access to it.
That said, another of the projects I’ve been preparing for has been announced and this one is near to my heart.
After Action Reports is a joint reading/workshop for veterans and their families that I will be facilitating with my father, John Musgrave (recently featured in the Ken Burns Documentary The Vietnam War). This reading comes from two sources: my father’s writing (available here), which has always been a means of healing and processing for him after returning from Vietnam; and my strange relationship to his war, having grown up both utterly disconnected from it and yet intimately shaped by it. After Action Reports hopes to offer tools for how to make writing a viable tool for for veterans and their families, through the combined perspectives of a Marine Infantryman and his adult, civilian son.