Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Best of 2016

Hi everyone,

Once again, I'm posting a few links to essays I've published this year in order to keep "Crenshaw Seeds" going. I wish you all a safe and happy 2016.

1) Entropy Magazine: "After the Essay"

2) Entropy Magazine: "Looking For America with Simon & Garfunkel"

3) Catapult (community site): "The Unknowable: Writers On Death" This essay includes my thoughts on Jenny Diski's column in the London Review of Books about dying of lung cancer (and about her relationship with novelist Doris Lessing). Since the essay was published, two relevant things happened. First, Jenny Diski died. Second, her LRB essays on dying were collected and published as In Gratitude, one of The New York Times' 100 Notable Books this year. Despite having thought much about death, I still don't know what to say about it. I admired Jenny Diski's writing. I'm glad that her book was well received. I'm sorry she had to die, and that we all do.

If it seems that I wrote few essays this year, that's in part because I was working on finishing my first novel, which I am now sending out to agents and publishers.

As for reading: I read Katie Roiphe's The Violet Hour which, given my own thoughts and writing on death, was exactly what I wanted to read. Then, inspired by Roiphe's book, which described John Updike's death and the way he treated death in his writing--the book also did the same for several other writers--I read Updike's Rabbit novels, right up through the novella, "Rabbit Remembered," which continues the story beyond Rabbit's death. That novella particularly interested me because in writing my "death essay," I had imagined that one of the ways a work of fiction could treat a mortal protagonist's inevitable death was to continue the story beyond it. And that, as I learned in The Violet Hour, was exactly what "Rabbit Remembered" did. I have enjoyed both the experience of reading the Rabbit books and, now, the feeling of having them in my head. I am also glad to have read books that I know my dad likes and to be able to share that appreciation with him.

Take care in 2017, everyone!

"Katie Crenshaw"/Ashley P. Taylor

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Best of 2015

Hello, everyone. Happy 2016! As evidenced by the fact that I have not posted on Crenshaw Seeds since January 2015, I have been ignoring this blog. The reason for this neglect is that is that I have been focusing on having my work published by other outlets, preferably those that pay and have helpful editors. I worked with many such editors last year and am grateful to all of them. Here are links to the 2015 stories of which I am most proud along with some notes on each.

1. "Peter Pan: the Ultimate Alt-Bro," The Brooklyn Rail, April
This essay, comparing forever-young Peter Pan to "alt-bros" (young men who live in the imagined future and, in the present, refuse to commit), may have seemed out-of-the-blue when it was published in April; however, the idea came to mind soon after Allison Williams starred in Peter Pan Live! on NBC, in December, 2014. The characters in Lena Dunham's Girls, in which Williams played the neurotic-yet-floundering Marnie, are also like "alt-bros" in their struggle and sometimes refusal to grow up, and so I thought it ironic that Williams went straight from Girls to Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up.
2. "Public Art," LUMINA Online Journal, May
I started writing this essay, about how others see us in ways that we can't see ourselves, in the summer of 2012, and it was a long, rejection- and doubt-filled haul to publication almost three years later. Through "Public Art," I received to my first letter of acceptance from Submittable, the software that literary journals use to process submissions, so it was a milestone in my writing career. It was also a personal milestone, since in writing it, I did some very important reflection about how being born with a medical condition has affected my life. In publishing it, I made the decision to no longer hide, or leave unacknowledged, my health issues.
3. "Middles," Vol. 1 Brooklyn, August
I workshopped this piece about how my attitude toward mortality has changed throughout my life in a Sackett Street Writers' Workshop in fall of 2013. Like "Public Art," it faced many rejections, despite my conviction that it was as good if not better than other pieces I'd written. Persistence paid off in this case.
4. "Crying: An Exploration," Brain Decoder, December
In which I gave myself an assignment to write a longform essay on a topic of interest, vague unease, and curiosity. I am grateful to Brain Decoder for accepting my pitch for this essay so that I could focus on it as a bona fide assignment, rather than writing it on the side.
5. "Down the Rabbit Hole," Catapult, December
I decided to write this piece, in which I reflect on my various and notably unliterary associations with Alice in Wonderland, during what was called "Alice in Wonderland week" in NYC (one filled with Alice-themed events in honor of the book's 150th anniversary) hoping that the news hook might lead to publication. I ended up self-publishing it with Catapult, which has both a self-publishing platform, Catapult Community, and a curated site that is professionally edited and produced. I had read that Catapult sometimes selected pieces from the community site to feature on the editorial one, but since this did not happen right away, I decided that my piece had not made the cut. Lo and behold, an editor contacted me some time later--the news hook long gone!--and asked to feature the piece on the editorial site, where it lives to this day. I had a great experience working with the Catapult editors and was thrilled that my whim to take time away from paid journalism to write a short personal essay turned into a publication.
6. "Seeking Grace," The Brooklyn Rail, December
Though I didn't think that Sarah L. Kaufman's The Art of Grace was a great book, I was not sorry that I read it. It was stimulating, and I enjoyed reviewing it.