Adriatic Sea, Gargano (triptych) by Hiroshi Sugimoto

A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to wander around The Museum of Modern Art‎ and, in addition to (finally) getting to check out Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World—one of my most favorite paintings in the world, stunning in person—I stumbled upon the work of photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, specifically his Adriatic Sea, Gargano (triptych):

Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 1.25.26 PM

I prattle on a lot about about my love of landscapes. To me, this is where stories start—a place, a time, maybe, but anchored in some place. This is what gets my juices flowing, how a something develops. I’m especially drawn to forests (having grown up in Michigan), and lakes and mountains, too, but there is something about the desolate landscapes (deserts, the ocean) that gets my mind whirring.

Seeing this series of photographs (from 1990), this sterile environment…my mind races. I want to write about it, I want to see it, I want to see life happening in these places. (And, thus, I want to write about life happening here.)

I was also really delighted to find out about his work, too:

To craft his exquisite black-and-white images, Hiroshi Sugimoto uses a 19th-century-style, large-format camera, exploring his idea of photography as a method for preserving and modeling time. “Endeavors in art are…mere approximations, efforts to render visible unseen realms,” he says. 

True of writers, too, I think (which explains, perhaps, why I’m so drawn to his work).

 

New essay “If I Could Ramble” in Proximity Magazine

I’m delighted to have this piece I wrote about experimenting with nonfiction writing on Twitter published at Proximity Magazine:

See, I am a Twitter apologist. I recognize its many flaws—for example, how it handles trolls and hate speech—but I think it remains, undeniably, a writer’s greatest tool. From promoting your work, connecting with the writing community, talking to editors, finding out about awards and contests, I can’t imagine what people do without it.

Eventually, I turned to the idea of Twitter as a writing medium. I wanted to recount some memories, some specific retentions that informed my writing life or my personal life in some grand way. I wanted to engage with my Twitter friends. So last year, I wrote my first Twitter essay about my love of landscapes and my distant relative Lincoln Ellsworth—how learning about his exploits as a polar explorer continues to fuel my obsession with place in my work.

Really excited about everything that Proximity Magazine is doing, and thrilled to be included. A special thanks to Dina Relles for working with me on this.

The work of Scott Listfield

One of my favorite artists I’ve discovered this year is Scott Listfield, whose paintings feature, per his website, “a lone exploratory astronaut lost in a landscape cluttered with pop culture icons, corporate logos, and tongue-in-cheek science fiction references.”

Given my love of forests, and exploration of landscapes in general, this, easily, is my favorite piece:

ello-optimized-44b4ee96

Check out more of Scott’s work on his website here.

White Oak Felled, Remembered

A massive, ancient tree being felled by lightning isn’t news in of itself. But I’m drawn to this story for a few reasons: First, Michigan State University is my alma mater. Second, I remember this tree when I went to school there. Finally, this tree existed for nearly 200 years before the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan (MSU’s predecessor) was even formed.

It’s a nice a change of pace from headlines that read “Massive white oak removed by school to make room for blahblah”—we see enough of these headlines. For me, this fascination with physical place as a starting point for memory, as something that can affect us emotionally, is hugely important to my work, my thought process. I look at old growth forests, for example, and wonder what the world was like when they were yet saplings. I wade through forests and undergrowth and am in awe of all those that came before and stood, perhaps, exactly where I stand. In this instance, I calculate how big this tree must have been already when American itself was born. I find this exercise humbling, and, for my writing, it ignites deep within me: who are we, our problems, in relation to this magnificent natural world? I tend to start with place when I write anything, I start their and branch out, so this thinking helps me put myself in relation to the world.

Per the Lansing State Journal:

A small portion of the centuries-old tree remains between the MSU Museum and Linton Hall in the West Circle area of campus. It previously shaded a stone water fountain dedicated by the class of 1900, which served both humans and the horses they rode to campus. Before that, the land around what is now West Circle was occupied by local Native American tribes, Telewski said.

You can read the whole article here. Here’s hoping they do something appropriate with the remains (on display, somewhere, perhaps?).

2016 Pushcart Prize nomination

Well, fantastic! I’m thrilled to have my story “Wolf Hunt, 1946″ represent Cowboy Jamboree Magazine‘s 2016 Pushcart Prize nominations.

My story, about a girl in 1946 who goes hunting for a wolf in the wilds of a mountainous forest, can be read online.

Really grateful to Adam and Constance at Cowboy Jamboree Magazine—means a heck of a lot. The others they nominated…I’m in some stellar company. Really honored.

ForestSpeak

I have a particular fascination with forests. I try, often, to figure out: Where did this come from? And then, I think, it’s always been because of its life—when you stand in the woods you can sense life around you: birds and bugs and the earth and, of course, the trees themselves. Thus, this TED talk gets to me, deeply:

“A forest is much more than what you see,” says ecologist Suzanne Simard. Her 30 years of research in Canadian forests have led to an astounding discovery—trees talk, often and over vast distances. Learn more about the harmonious yet complicated social lives of trees and prepare to see the natural world with new eyes.

We know so little about forests, about what’s beneath our feet—how it all works together. Figuring this out, or starting to figure this out, is endlessly fascinating—and vital. For too long we have treated trees, and plant life itself, as non-intelligent. We’re just now starting to see how wrong we were. It is imperative we understand what it is we are razing, paving, and otherwise dismantling, and how this will, inevitably, harm us beyond the obvious ways. Seeing that there is a communication at work here like we had otherwise not envisioned is illuminating.

Comic: The Terrible Speed of Mercy

Here’s something fun: uber-writer and uber-human Jeremy Bronaugh and I put together a cute little Ghost Rider comic called The Terrible Speed of Mercy. The idea was simple: How horrible would it be for Ghost Rider to go grocery shopping? Everything he touches becomes imbued with the fires of hell…what would that look like?

So, I wrote the story (wordless, which, IMO, was needed here) and Jeremy drew and colored this gorgeous piece of art. Seriously: Jeremy rocks, and I’m honored to have worked with him on this. the-terrible-speed-of-mercy-color