When agents say no and no and no and…

Text banner that says, "I'm sorry to say that OFELIA AND NORMA is not a match for my list. Please remember that the publishing industry is very subjective, and another agent may feel differently."

A year ago I began querying agents to represent my recently completed novel OFELIA AND NORMA. In the book publishing world, an agent is the first tier of gatekeepers, the ones who decide which manuscripts to select to submit to the next tier of gatekeepers, the editors at publishing houses who then decide which to…

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The PALABRA Archive—what it is and what it means to me

Library of Congress page that features recording of writer Donna Miscolta

Like most writers, I submit stories to journals, apply for residencies and fellowships, and query agents. I get far more rejections than acceptances, and sometimes feel as if I’m writing and speaking my words in an unlit corner of a vast empty room. And then one day out of the blue, without having to submit,…

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On Not Writing About Death

Book title in white letters on black background, The Art of Death

For my 69th birthday in June, one of my sisters gave me a book called The Art of Death by Edwidge Danticat. The subtitle is Writing the Final Story. It’s from The Art Of series edited by Charles Baxter and published by Graywolf Press. In it, Danticat examines death scenes from works by Toni Morrison,…

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Flamingo Prayer

Baby wearing onesie with "kindbaby" printed on it

My newborn granddaughter is leggy with long feet and long toes. Her wingspan gives her the appearance of a flamingo, her long fingers the mechanisms for flight. A group of flamingoes is called a “flamboyance.” But Malaya on her own is flamboyant as she crosses one thigh over the other and throws an arm above…

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Turning sixty-nine

Woman with glass and bottle of wine on table in front of her

Partly from nostalgia for a more youthful me and partly from bemusement at having arrived at the age of 69, I tried to remember what marked each of the years of my life ending in the number nine in terms of my writing. Age 9 – It was the year and month of the Cuban…

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How much do I suck at selling my books?

Table covered with a Mexican blanket upon which are displayed books for sale

When the invitation came in my email to participate in a community book festival in Long Beach this April, I thought, why not. My last book was published in September of 2020, over a year and a half ago. Okay, call it two years. My book came out during the pandemic so any events I…

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My AWP 2022: All real, all true

Headshot of five women standing next to each other

AWP – that annual mega writing conference that some abhor and others adore, or at least like well enough to attend when they can and feel a pang of regret when they can’t. I last attended in 2019 in Portland, canceled my plans for 2020 in San Antonio as the pandemic loomed, and tuned in…

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My Naked Face, My New Way of Seeing

black and white image of eyes of a woman

When I was in kindergarten, sitting cross-legged with my classmates at the foot of our teacher’s chair, I dreaded being called upon to name the animal in the picture she pulled like a mean magician from the deck of flashcards. The lines were imprecise, the colors bleeding into each other. I squinted to make sense…

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