What was something interesting you learned while researching that didn’t make it into one of your books?
For Mesilla, it was a lot of stuff, to be honest: I love the history of the American West (while recognizing how problematic it has been to mythologize it in popular culture). And yet, I get swept up in all the little nooks and crannies that aren’t readily talked or written about. I had a scene I wanted to put in about feral camels in the Southwest United States—they were part of the very real United States Camel Corp, an ill-fated experiment to import camels to be used as pack animals in Texas and New Mexico territories. Once the Civil War hit, the Corp was disbanded and the camels either were sold or escaped. I loved the idea of my characters coming into contact with them, even in passing, this romantic notion that the camels have flourished out here in the wilds, no longer bothered by humans.
Grateful that my creative nonfiction piece “In a Chapel Built of Trees”—about an old growth pine forest and the dissolution of a young relationship—has found a new home in the Summer 2018 issue of Hypertrophic Literary.
And that’s what drew us there: the old growth forest, preserved pines estimated to be between 350 and 375 years old. Massive-trunked trees — some with girths of more than four feet, even! — a forest of them, untouched by man. You and I were always drawn to places like that, the serenity of those ancient landscapes. We had wandered in, gasped aloud to one another, “What was the world even like when these trees were saplings?” and stood in awe of them. The trails were quiet and we were alone. At one point, I wedged myself into the cavity of a dead jack pine, tried to make you laugh.
A mighty thanks to Lynsey, Madeline, and Jeremy—I’m grateful to be included in such a stunning issue, inside and out.
A big thanks to Ben Woodward for taking this piece.
Here’s a quick screenshot—check out the full watercolor at A+A, as well as on my Art page.
Here’s the cropped image (titled “1995”) with story/author info:
Here’s the full, original image:
Check out the essay here.
Almost no sound came out when he opened his small mouth. We touched his head, we told him we loved him. He died a week later while we were back at school navigating doomed relationships, grueling class schedules. But we never told him he wasn’t a mistake, and we regret that, still. He lay there, tucked behind us, quietly, feebly, nearing his end. All we could do was give our warmth. All we could do was be warm.
The piece features incredible illustrations by John Vestevich (see a sample below!). Plus, there’s audio of me reading the piece at the top of the story page, in case you care to hear this Midwest boy prattle on about thylacines and giant turtles and more. Eep!
I’m really so humbled—decomP has been a white whale journal of mine for some time. Thanks, Jason, for giving this piece a home.
But I didn’t realize putting these things together
created this new thing.
And I’m thinking about it right now
because I have sharp elbows, see?
And my favorite denim jacket has a hole
where elbow and denim meet,
where pink skin now shows through
A monstrous thanks to Hannah and Chloe and Teo for publishing this piece and for all that they do—Cotton Xenomorph has launched into the lit scene like a meteor and is promoting and doing such important work. Do check them out.
A big thanks to Aaron Burch for indulging my fascination with the Old West.
A few snippets (find the full pieces here):
I was overjoyed to be asked to participate in Little Fiction‘s annual contributor top ten list post. The idea for me was to write about the things that brought me great reflection and inspiration in 2017, so I wrote about thylacines and train robbers and great bristlecone pines and fancy pigeons and (obviously) denim and much more. Here’s a taste:
Check it out, and check out all of the lists (they really are, all, fantastic).
A double-dose of cool: On the heels of my nomination yesterday for my fiction piece “Holograms,” today my creative nonfiction/memoir piece “Corpus”—about violins and what I want to do with my body when I die—was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Split Lip Magazine!
You can read “Corpus” here. I’m grateful to Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice and Ray Shea for accepting the piece and being awesome in general, and again, what a cohort of talented writers to be a part of. Swoon. 🙏😍