EXCERPT from STILL ALIVE, a novel: Currently available at MALARKEY BOOKS

It is with extreme delight (and a touch of trepidation) that I share with you today’s hot, fresh off the press, excerpt of STILL ALIVE. STILL ALIVE (formerly STARBOI) was long listed by PANK for their Big Book contest in 2020, but it has not yet found a publisher. Not only that, but another excerpt has been accepted for publication with Cosmonauts Avenue for their relaunch.

This book is horny, and sad, and relentless, and it is the first novel I’ve written that I really, truly, am proud of. I believe, deep down, that it will find the right home someday.

Plot synopsis for the whole damn book: STILL ALIVE is an anti-coming of age story told through the fast-paced remembrances of the manic, bisexual V, as she enters a multiple-decade romantic tug-of-war with the charming and withholding LEX. Weighted by the emotional fallout from her parents’ dysfunctional marriage, mother’s addictions, and brother’s temporary escape into eastern religiosity (he’s nicknamed RICHARD GERE), V leaves the Portland, Oregon of her childhood for new roots in New York City, only to find herself further disillusioned. Her gay best friend LEROY has found happiness elsewhere and the city isn’t what it once was. After following her now wife, Lex, to Los Angeles, their relationship survives two affairs, but V ultimately realizes Lex is a person, not an answer, and chooses independence after all. STILL ALIVE is a fervent, 21st century feminist narrative with a surprisingly hopeful end. 

This section comes early in the novel, when V, the narrator (whom Leroy jokingly calls “Sophia”), runs into Lex at a club and falls slowly back into the situationship between them that neither can escape.

Read it and blush.

xo,

LJ

New Short Story: AFTER THE GAME at Words & Sports Quarterly

Cover, Words & Sports Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 3: Slobberknockers & Buttonhooks

I don’t always write about football, but when I do, I also write about the marching band.

Here’s a new little love story hot off the presses.

I posted it on social media last week – but forgot to update my site! Those who know me from way back when might recognize some details from my own life. Back in 1998, I was the smallest sousaphone player at Lassiter High School when we won the Bands of America National Championships. This story isn’t about that, but it is about young love, and growing up, and how sometimes what we are isn’t what we always will be.

Hope you like it.

LJ

New Short Story: TRIANGLES ARE NOT CIRCLES in the Winter 2021 issue of Exacting Clam

My new short story, TRIANGLES ARE NOT CIRCLES, is out now from Exacting Clam. I was flabbergasted when I received this issue and saw the names on the back — incredible to be in the company of so many writers whose work I have savored and been inspired by over the years.

The first draft of this story came out of me almost six years ago, but, like many of the stories I write, it took me a long time to both hone it into the shape I wanted and build up the confidence I needed to send it out into the world.

Stew time in the creative process is undervalued and under reported. It’s a part of the genesis of a thing, and the development of it. Too often I become critical of myself for not being able to get something done in a rush, when the fact is (a lesson I learn over and over, even in regards to simple household tasks), there is a beauty in letting our efforts accumulate, in trusting that being still with an idea, or project, is also part of the doing, and that any creative endeavor we pursue to its end will have a value of its own (whether it is ever witnessed by someone else or not).

Thank you for being one of my witnesses. You can buy this issue and read the whole story (along with some other fabulous essays and poetry and stories) here.

xo,

LJ

New Short Story: MOTION SICKNESS published in the Northwest Review

My new short story MOTION SICKNESS is out now from the Northwest Review. It isn’t currently available to read online, but if you want, you can order a print copy of the current issue here.

When I wrote it, I was thinking a lot about the writing of W. G. Sebald, and what it means to tell multiple stories at once. More specifically, I was thinking about how to treat the elements of a story as worthy of their own threads, so that place, feeling, movement, character, and voice operate almost separately while still moving forward together into what feels like an essay, but grows into a loose plot, before resolving at the end. Readers of Sebald’s non-fiction and fiction may recognize why I bring him up; he is a master at this kind of webbed and associative storytelling. Conceptually, such fiction has more in common with Coltrane’s Giant Steps than the traditional plot shape of a shark’s back. An acquired taste possibly, but one that can lead to obsession.

Short stories and novels — that is, written fiction — can do so much that other story mediums like film and photography and painting can’t, and I find myself leaning into those particular qualities of writing; they are what excite me the most. Written fiction can put you directly inside someone else’s head; it can move between past and present and future and the events and thoughts that exist across that whole timeline all at once; it can collapse the real and unreal into mirrors of each other; it can create a conversation between author and story and reader that is simultaneous while all are, in actuality, separated from each other by literal space and time. It’s magic. Playing with these pieces is why I keep doing this. It’s what matters to me the most.

Anyway – I hope you check out MOTION SICKNESS by purchasing a copy of the review. Holla if you read it, and let me know what you think.

as always,

LJ

WILD GEESE IN THE AGE OF LATE CAPITALISM

By: LJ Pemberton and Tye Pemberton

You do not have to be call-your-wife-mom good.
You do not have to walk on your knees in Guantanamo or
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting (as Weezer’s Africa cover
plays on repeat.)
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what Madison Avenue tells it to love.
Tell me about political despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on in a climate-denying march towards human extinction.
Meanwhile the sun and the acid pebbles of the rain
are moving across the dying landscapes,
over the fracked up prairies and the lost deep trees,
the mined mountains and the polluted rivers.
Meanwhile the last wild geese, high in the unclean, blue-ish air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how very lonely,
the ad world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like those last wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your temporary place
in the family of things.

If you can’t be there, help there. #Charlottesville

I condemn the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. So should you. 
Here’s how you can help:

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Image Credit: Woody Guthrie, Bard of American Anti-fascism