Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Some Notes On the Present and Future Of This Blog

I'm going to open with a statement, just to get it out of the way, since what follows might sound like I'm signing off on Chicago Ex-Patriate: I'm not at all giving up on this blog. To be very honest, the thought of stopping my postings makes me emotional. As I've mentioned a handful of times, this site had very hazy, different origins. I had just moved to Washington state after a much too dragged out breakup, with no real prospects or knowledge of what I wanted to do with my life. My first instinct was to write a cute travelogue of sorts--documenting Seattle and its suburbs as I discovered what it had to offer. I was unemployed, living off the charity of my older brother, and living in a place I had never even visited before moving. If you'll glance to your right, I've already explained the (now embarrassing) origins of the blog's name, and the subsequent handle I adopted. Before writing any thoughts on the West Coast, I ended up reading a bunch of Italo Calvino works and thought it would be cool to do some literary criticism. After that, the book essays started flowing. I was slowly reading in a much more intelligent way than I used to; for an undergrad English major, I spent the majority of my twenties bar hopping and reading and writing very sporadically. The last five years' worth of essays and reviews are a noticeable culmination in my maturity and dedication to literature, literary studies, and my own fiction writing.

Because of this blog, my first college English teacher (Jeremy Bushnell) reached out to me to contribute to a music collective, and that led to joining him as he founded Instafiction. Through Instafiction, I had a very short piece published in The Chicago Reader. I've always looked up to Jeremy over the years, and we grew from old acquaintances into close friends. And not long after, he shared some great news: we were offered positions as the Fiction Editors of Longform. Around this time, after reading hundreds of short stories, I rekindled my early desire to write fiction. Taking cues from some masters both old and new, I started churning out new material. Most of it was shaky, a lot of it has been rejected, but I did have my first piece published in April, in, of all places, Hobart, one of my absolute favorite literary magazines. Where am I going with these haphazard reflections? None of it would have been possible had I not started writing my book reviews here, doing a lot of reading and dusting off the skills I had let slide after graduating from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Also, my writing has improved to the point that I'm weeks away from beginning my MFA candidacy in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University. Therefore, much of my time will be devoted to classwork, and while I plan to keep up on outside readings and Longform work, I won't be able to consistently churn out five or six full length book reviews every month. I also need to start submitting my reviews elsewhere. As much as I love having this site as my home, where I'm free to post and muse on whatever I'd like, I want to start putting my reviews in different journals. You might find that most of the upcoming book reviews might be for older backlist titles; the new books that I read will be written about and sent elsewhere, hopefully increasing my number of publications.

I may post book and writing news, but I haven't decided--most of what I discover and learn comes from writers, bloggers, and literary journals with great reputations, so it's not like I have an inside scoop. Any news I post will probably have been documented far and wide by the time I get to it.

I do have some essays in the works before I begin my first semester, but I wanted to take a moment to explain all of this, in case anyone checks this out even semi-consistently and doesn't see as much updating. I'm never getting rid of Chicago Ex-Patriate; it'll just be taking a different form while I work for my Master's Degree. And I'm hopeful that I'll have many publication updates in due time, as well as notes about my time at Roosevelt. I'm often staggered by how much I've grown since starting this space back in 2008. I never thought I'd be at this point, with the maturity I have now, and the dedication to make myself a serious fiction writer. I'm a drastically different person now, and the ups and downs of my writings here show that. And I can't wait to begin even more discoveries and growth as I have my writing praised, derided, ripped apart, and analyzed within a graduate setting. I know I'll be learning and growing so much over the next two years.

Thanks for reading. Much love and respect to everyone who has helped me grow.

-James Yates

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