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To the Reader

Every year, thousands of extremely talented people don't get accepted into Master's programs for creative writing... or at least that's what all the rejection letters say.

In that regard, I'm merely another face in the crowd. So while stelle cadenti may be in my name, I'd love for it to function as a sounding board for anyone who wants to organize his or her creativity--or watch me make a mess of trying to organize mine. To that end, please don't harbor any reservations against commenting, watching, or joining and posting (or not posting) as you wish. There's a reason I've separated this from my personal journal, and hopefully sketches, vignettes, scenes, "complete" stories, and WIPs from me and from others will come to life as a result.

As for me, I'll be updating regularly as I spend the coming months working through what it means to have thought of myself as a writer--and where to go next.

things that haven't been done


The appearance of this icon must come as quite the shock...

Anyway, if you're reading this, and are so inclined, please tell me about a story you've always wanted to read but aren't sure exists (i.e. not the name of an existing book that you've been meaning to get around to reading one of these days).

Other than that qualification, your answer can be as particular or as nebulous as you desire. What is it that you feel attached to?


I've been wanting to read this again. I read it through twice more immediately after finishing it the first time, but not since then, and I lent out my copy of the book in which it appears--in the hopes, as it turns out, of disseminating this very story. The book won't be easy to retrieve anytime in the immediate future.

I hadn't expected to find this story's full text online, since the story compilation is still fairly recent, but apparently "the kidney-shaped stone..." was published as a standalone in the September 26, 2005 (hah!) issue of The New Yorker. So here you go.

Don't take this as an indication of what I'm trying to emulate in my current project (that would probably result in a mash-up of Murakami and Orhan Pamuk, which seems untenable). Instead, if you're reading this, please do try to imagine what you would say about it at a workshop session. Author bias aside, this is one of my favorite short stories in recent memory, and I guess I'd like to see if it speaks in a similar way to other readers-slash-writers.

"The Kidney-Shaped Stone that Moves Every Day," by Haruki Murakami

Jun. 5th, 2007


There was a long and directionless rant about too-perfect characters and authorial intent in here, but after leaving it somewhere short of complete for four nights running, I got the feeling that I was never going to get through it.

So, the short version is that I've gotten it in my head to begin experimenting with a number of characters that I find unlikeable, which hopefully means less didactically slanted prose and more of my dealing with one of my most annoying narrative roadblocks: getting inside the heads of people whose motivations I can't agree with and whose actions I probably wouldn't condone.

(I feel a little guilty updating Stelle with something so succinct: it's not my usual style. Whenever I begin to talk about writing, or even when I think about it, I'm really just casting a lazy eye over the ocean, meandering about without any real way of knowing how to tackle the expanse in front of me. From where I'm sitting, it just all seems too much even to dive--or fall--in. I'm beginning to understand how naive it was to expect to succeed in everything, even though the realization means having to fight against the first, oh, dozen years of my life. But as I was never a storyteller until after I was finished being an infallible child prodigy [*rolls eyes*], it might all be for the best. No one is born to be a professional writer.

If only I didn't have to repeat that to myself every hour.)

I've grown lazy and less serious over the past months. My reading a novel--the first one since Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss--is supposed to signify some sort of resurgence, and indeed the first few tentative lines that I've written since opening the new book sound good to my ear, but who's to say, really? I was always impressionable when it came to reading and writing in tandem. I'm sure I've sounded like different authors at different times, which isn't all that surprising when my personal style amounts only to a certain dependency upon commas and semicolons.

First things first


Without much fanfare or preamble, this is the first actual content post in stelle cadenti--by that I mean the first that isn't ten years old or just there for the sake of toying with formatting. It's about time, too. I spent the whole night staring at the various ways that the bottom placeholder entry shifted and changed with every seemingly gentle alteration in the code.

Strictly speaking, I'm not yet a complete MFA reject; as I write this, I've heard back from five schools, with the verdicts still out on two. (Since I'm so enamored of sports analogies, I like to refer to it as a five-game losing streak on this seven-game road trip.) A month and a half ago, when MFA acceptance season began in earnest, I'd already learned from reading the Speakeasy forum at Poets & Writers that many programs telephoned their acceptances, and some sent theirs by e-mail. I prepared myself, waiting in front of this very monitor with an e-mail program open day and night and the cordless phone receiver always close at hand.

It turns out that the acceptance rates for these programs are infinitesimal. In November, when I was still doing research on programs and deciding where to apply, I made a somewhat joking aside that this process would be "about six times harder than getting into undergrad." After all, my school's class of 2006 came in over sixteen hundred strong at an acceptance rate of one in eight, and the MFA programs at which I'd looked had given statistics approaching one in fifty. Still, I began March with some reserve of quiet confidence.

When the first letter came, from Cornell, I didn't tell my mother that I'd received it. It was the first outright rejection I'd ever received from a school, and its contents were sobering, to say the least: sobering enough to make me want to hide its news from someone who had been so proud of me five years ago, as she'd come home holding a huge envelope from the university I would eventually attend and graduate from. I was lucky to have skirted such hollow niceties as a high school senior, but in a sense my lack of effort finally caught up to me in its karmic pursuit--and the point has only been further driven home with the arrival of subsequent form letters.

These days, I still go outside in the early afternoon each day to check my mailbox and intercept any letters addressed to me. It seems pointless; after all, there's no way to conceal my not leaving for school in August or September. Still, the question--what happens from here?--has never really changed through all of this. I now, though, have a better idea of what isn't going to happen, at least not in the foreseeable future, and that realization is probably what prompted the creation of stelle cadenti.

In a way, it hasn't been so terrible to find out that I'm not among the top two or three or four percent in a selected population, because I have lots of company. But it does mean that I've had to quickly get used to disappointment, and all my life I've always been quite mortified at the possibility of any sort of failure, let alone the realization of its coming to pass.

So now I'll see what this all really means to me.

stelle cadenti

Italian for falling stars, and adapted from the name of the final episode of Gunslinger Girl. The subtitle should be self-explanatory.

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