Matador Review

A Quarterly Missive of Alternative Concern

Catching Up with John Christopher Nelson


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When we asked former contributors what they’ve been up to since being published in The Matador Review, John Christopher Nelson (TMR: Fall 2016) sent us this update.


"Tøsne" (H. A. Brendekilde) [1]

"Tøsne" (H. A. Brendekilde) [1]

[July 12, 2017]

It's been an unusual year for me, and an odd time to be sending an update for the Matador Review blog. As I sit down to write this, I feel like the person who avoids their high school reunion because they're ashamed not to have more to show for themselves (which is exactly why I didn't attend my HS reunion). I wish I had a little more good news to pepper into this, but I guess that's what makes life so interesting: its indifference.

So many aspects of my life seemed to be getting better in 2016. In terms of publications, that was my peak so far. I went from one in 2014, to one in 2015, to six in 2016. Which, that kind of exponential growth sort of set me up for failure, because I was thinking to myself, "Right on, I got this. I arrived." Nope. So far, 2017 has been a total dry spell and I find myself refreshing my Gmail or my Submittable to an unhealthy extent. Like, maybe it's in my spam folder, or...? It reminds me of my high school girlfriend and when I was feeling sad when I thought I was being ignored—this was before texting, so there was a lot of waiting involved with communication—and checking all the cords on the landline phone, like maybe she has tried to call but it's not connected. I've been doing the work, the writing, the revising, the reading, and have so far been submitting with more regularity than I did in 2016, but already more than half through the year, I've only had one acceptance in 2017. And that, although I'm proud of the story and the place where it's published, doesn't make me feel that much better because I know the fiction editor from my undergrad lit journal.

Couple that with all the fun real-life details that inform where I'm at right now. Starting last June, I was seeing a psychoanalyst twice a week, and last November I finally made the move—after over a decade of putting it off—to get sober. I lost almost twenty pounds, just from cutting out the beer & liquor, my blood pressure went down, the test results for my liver went from being unhealthy to well within the norm. I was saving a ton of money. Things were getting better in a way they hadn't in years. But, there was still this lingering, unspecified existential sadness.

Around May, I was told that my analyst was changing his insurance policy to out of network, so my appointments would go from being 100% provided for under my health insurance (Trader Joe's has AMAZING benefits. Oh yeah, I hadn't mentioned I work at a grocery store, even though I have a graduate degree) to around $180 a visit, which simply wasn't sustainable for me at this point in my life. That may or may not have added to the subconscious triggering of things, but one night in late May without planning it, I started drinking again. I was by myself, there was beer around, and I just went for it. And, as of today I still haven't been able to get back on the wagon. I want to, but I'm just not there.

The other big change, which I'm sure was precipitated by the lapse in my sobriety, is that my partner of three years and I split up last week, she moved out, and now I've got the apartment to myself with a rent that just doubled, and I've kind of been a non-getting-out-of-bed shut-in over the last week. The other afternoon, I showered for the first time in four days. Which is a record for me, a normally very hygienic human. I'm also typically an annoyingly tidy person and the apartment has been decidedly untidy. I haven't really been writing, but have sort of just felt defeated by all of this.

"L.A. Ring maler ved Aasum Smedje" (H. A. Brendekilde) [2]

"L.A. Ring maler ved Aasum Smedje" (H. A. Brendekilde) [2]

I'll figure it out. We are all human, we all stumble, and we all get where we need to be, by whatever means. I keep telling myself there's some kind of onslaught of good news waiting just around the corner and that gives me hope. I've also been watching The Rover over and over, which probably isn't helpful for depression but is one of my favorite, also underrated films of the last few years. Watching that definitely does not give me hope, but it feels right for now.

All that aside, I think I was told once in a workshop that you should close with positive stuff. So, the good news, since you all were lovely enough to publish "Detumescence":

My story, "Good Friday," was accepted for publication by The New Guard, and will be included in their sixth volume this summer. It should be online / in print at any moment;

I read my piece, "Signs of Alcoholism," (from Indicia's summer 2016 issue) at an Indicia / Lipstickparty Magazine event last November, where I made contacts/friends with a number of wonderful people in the Los Angeles writing community, and was pleased to have friends I hadn't seen for years in attendance;

I am currently serving as creative nonfiction editor and copy editor for the seventh issue of Stonecoast Review, the publication originating from the Stonecoast MFA program, where I earned my degree. I have served, in some capacity, on every issue since the inaugural outing back in fall of 2013. Issue Seven is rolling out soon and I'm very stoked with the content, including the CNF selection;

My flash piece, "Inroads Up Hills," is featured online at Broke-Ass Stuart and, being that it's a social commentary about a thirty-something trying to date & exist in the modern world, it ended up being an oddly prescient first publication for my year ahead as a newly single thirty-two year old.


[1] [2] Matador added Brendekilde paintings to accompany the blog.