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“Jen Michalski’s second novel is an intense emotional commitment, but a worthwhile one.” – Ploughshares


“Jen is an astonishingly sensitive writer.” – HTML Giant


“Jen Michalski excels in subtlety that is made possible by her nuanced understanding of voice.” – The Rumpus


“Jen is a writerly heavyweight.” – Nate Brown, American Short Fiction


“We’re lucky to have Michalski before the rest of the world discovers her. But they will.” – Baltimore City Paper

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Some recent pubs, what I've been working on

I’ve got some short fiction out or forthcoming in Necessary Fiction, Ghoti, PANK (print), Johnny America, and Gargoyle (print), and the good Paula Bomer and Ryan Bradley are reprinting “Algorithm” from Close Encounters in the augural issue of Sententia.

Links:
“I Remember James Dean as Brought to You by Google and Other Haphazard Forms of Research,” Johnny America
“Neighbors,” PANK
“We Don’t Normally Do This,” Ghoti

I finished the novel THE SUMMER SHE WAS UNDER WATER and am sending it out to agents here and there. I’ve also begun work on a new novel (untitled), and a new novella (working title May-September) about an affair between and a much older-woman and a much-younger one. I’ve included a bit of the first chapter draft here:

Alice would come shortly. She waited for her in the breakfast room, wiping her fingerprints off the laptop, the crumbs off the table. She had chosen slacks because it was not quite warm yet and her legs quite pale, speckled with brown, brown balloons or geese or Braille telling an incomprehensible story in a cracked sky of white.

The blog was her daughter Andrea’s idea. A blog for Beatrice and Elvin to read about her life before she grew cotton for brains and peed her pants. No, she did not have Alzheimer’s, she would assure Alice. But she was at the age where anything could happen. Jack was not at that age and it had already happened, and it had happened to many of her acquaintances already. One must be prepared.

The memoir pleased her. She had always written as a girl, she would tell Nora, here and there when Andrea was born and Jack was still alive.

The blog did not. An idea from a women’s magazine, surely her daughter’s entire life was molded by Women’s Day and McCalls (although she had discovered while at the bookstore posting her ad on the community board that McCalls was long in the paper pulp). How to baste a turkey. How to have better ex. How to not feel guilty about being a failure.

Her daughter hated her. She was sure, she would explain to Alice, for good reason. She had not been the best mother. But she went to the computer store and she bought a computer and some young man came who looked at her shoulders, not her face, and set it up in the breakfast room of her condo, where there was a lot of light and far enough from the Steinway that she just wouldn’t scoot over and start tapping on the keys instead of the keyboard.

She sat at the table in the breakfast room, the laptop so quiet, nonjudgmental, awaiting her story. Her secrets. The yellow-lined notepad was filled already with her thoughts, a scroll blue and small and wound so tight it could break. The computer hummed patiently, waiting for the contents of her labor.

Andrea tried to talk her through the process on the phone, setting up the account, adding pictures, typing entries and labeling them and organizing archives and she said yes, yes, yes, all the while knowing she would never do these things, remember these things. And she wished she would die and leave the grandchildren nothing but her money, no stories, no strings. And when she hung up with Andrea, full of assurances that her first post would be forthcoming in hours, days, oh, but soon, she turned away from the friendly little void and played some of Chopin’s etudes, the delicate notes coughing out of her frustrated fingers.

Alice would hear her playing the Chopin and be comforted by her stature. She imagined Alice would be relieved she was not some crazy widow whose house smelled like coffee and rot. She had posted the ad at the bookstore, the coffee shop, near her condo. Once a week help writing memoirs on computer. Handsome reimbursement. She was embarrassed. It sounded weak, desperate. Irrelevant. A few calls came. A veteran of World War II, a contemporary of her father almost, who had even less computer experience than she. A female science fiction enthusiast and part-time wiccan. And then Alice.

Alice was young. There was no doubt of it. Her smooth, melodic voice on the phone, slightly upturned, inquisitive. Insincere. Eager for handsome reimbursement. Alice was in between temp jobs, had an MFA. Would love to help with editing, ghostwriting. Humoring an old woman at nine o’clock on Saturday mornings.

Yes, she specified the time. Nine o’clock. She didn’t want some young woman who went to bars or dancing on Friday night. Someone who wouldn’t take handsome rewards seriously. Take her seriously.

She sat at the table in the breakfast room, trying not to feel guilty about being a failure. There was not much to tell Alice, truth be told. She had jotted down two pages. Regrets. Alice would not be judgmental. A friendly little void, transcribing the contents of her labor. She would play Alice a little Samuel Barber, Beethoven, and explain her true love. How she had dreamed of being a concert pianist. Alice was young. She would understand dreams. Not like Andrea, who never wanted to hear. Alice, hunger for handsome reimbursement, would like music. Alice would hear her playing Chopin and would compliment her. It was 8:58. She had made a pot of coffee but thought better of it and boiled water for tea, too. She smoothed her pants and wondered whether she should have worn a skirt.

Alice was young. Her rap at the door soft, hesitant. Not hesitant for handsome reward, perhaps, but for the contents of her labor. But she needed Alice; surely Alice knew that. She was at the age where anything could happen.

She opened the door.

Mrs. Holiday? Alice straightened her glasses with her thumb and forefinger. I’m Alice.