2017 Pushcart Nomination – “Corpus” (Split Lip Magazine)

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. 🙏😍

2017 Pushcart Nomination – “Holograms” (Little Fiction)

I’m honored and thrilled that Little Fiction has nominated my story “Holograms” for a Pushcart Prize!

The story, about a young woman trying to find her place in the world while working a crummy summer job at the Michigan International Speedway in the early 1990s, can be read online here.

Really grateful to Troy and Beth at Little Fiction for their great care in accepting and editing the piece, and for including me in such a wonderfully talented cohort of nominees.

New story “Holograms” at Little Fiction

I’m overjoyed that my story “Holograms”—about guns and summer jobs and the Michigan International Speedway—has been published by Little Fiction, which you can read online: 

“Anyway,” Zach said. He popped open the gun’s cylinder, rolled it along his palm back-forth. “I took this class and we talked about the holographic principle of the universe.” He waited, looked at Caroline. “You know what that is?”

Caroline shook her head no.

“Well, basically, it’s this idea that none of this”—he waved the gun ahead of him, parted the grass—“is real. It’s all a hologram.”

“That’s stupid,” Kelly said.

What’s a hologram?” Caroline asked. She scrunched her face. “Like, I know what a hologram is. But…?”

“The whole universe. None of this is real.” Zach carefully popped out a single round from the cylinder and studied its brassy glare. “You, me, this grass. Nothing.”

Little Fiction is a tremendous publication, and they’ve been a white whale of mine for years. I am so grateful that this piece was picked up, and for Troy and Beth’s excellent editorial guidance. Delighted, delighted!

New CNF piece “Corpus” in Split Lip Magazine

Split Lip Magazine has been a white whale publication of mine for a long while, and I am deliriously overjoyed that my creative nonfiction piece “Corpus”—about my proximity to a Stradivarius violin and accepting that we can’t control what will become of us—is in the September issue, which you can read online:

I want that to be played on a hot summer’s night in some backyard. Maybe there’s a charcoal grill blazing, an unused children’s playset overgrown with grasses, blown seeds stuck clumped in the wooden seams like white fur, children playing and swimming with bright orange foam noodles in a blue above-ground pool. I want to be played in that backyard, a soundtrack for the suburban crepuscular, a nocturne relishing the length of days.

A huge thanks to Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice and Ray Shea at SLM for publishing it and being wonderful to work with. I also participated in their Now Playing column, where I talk about what I’ve been listening to lately. You can read that here.

Workshop — Iowa Writers’ House

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be teaching a workshop at the Iowa Writers’ House in Iowa City, December 1-3.

My course, titled Our Available Wilderness: Using Personal Experiences and Memories to Elevate Fiction and Nonfiction, will look at how we can strengthen our writing, both fiction and nonfiction, using our own memories and experiences, as well as all of our senses, to elevate our work to a publishable level.

The line-up of workshops and faculty this fall is…stunning, and I’m honored to be among them. Early bird registration is open now—I am told spots move quickly—and I cannot wait to teach this class.

For more information on my workshop (including pricing and registration), and information on all the IWH workshops, click here.

New CNF piece “Doldrums” in Pithead Chapel

Overjoyed that my creative nonfiction piece “Doldrums”—about my fascination with The Shakers, being becalmed in my 20s, and a pretty terrible apartment complex I lived in during that time—is in the May 2017 issue of Pithead Chapel, which you can read online:

Earlier, I had been watching the Ken Burns documentary The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God. It chronicles the Shakers’ rise, their history, their eventual fall. Celibacy was their undoing. Many could not sustain their faith, what was asked of them, but ultimately, yes, the celibacy was what did them in—they couldn’t keep their numbers up, they could no longer find joy in these daily rituals. In one Shaker community called Pleasant Hill, in Kentucky, an eighteen-year-old named Polly committed suicide by hanging on September 13, 1815. The narrator recounts the impassive words of the community elders that had been written down about her death: that Polly killed herself above the kitchen in the sister’s shop. That she was naturally agreeable and good, but that she spoiled it all.

A special thanks to nonfiction editor Katherine Gehan for the encouragement and excitement about this piece—and to all the editors for taking it! Pithead Chapel has long been one of my favorite journals, and I’m delighted to again be featured in an issue.

New CNF piece “In a Chapel Built of Trees” in (b)OINK Issue Four

Grateful that my creative nonfiction piece “In a Chapel Built of Trees” is in the newest issue of (b)OINK, which you can read online: 

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 big thanks to Robert Vaughan and everyone at (b)OINK for publishing the piece. A seriously jam-packed issue, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

No Magic Trick: Disappearing Forests

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)


Deforestation is not a new concept in America, and yet each year we discover further benefits of forests (and trees themselves), as well as the ramifications of removing them en masse.

And yet, as the Denver Post reports, it may be far more grim than we realized:

A new study of satellite images taken over 10 years starting in 1990 shows the rural forest canopy disappearing. Forest space disappeared from the United States in such big chunks that the average distance from any point in the nation to a forest increased by 14 percent, about one-third of a mile.

The story (a great read), paints an obvious but overlooked connection. In cities, where trees and green areas are often congregated around and protected, this preservation has kept the greenspace (mostly) intact. But, in rural areas, it’s overlooked:

One of the findings of the study is a twist that Yang, a graduate student, and Mountrakis, an assistant professor at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, didn’t expect. The disappearance isn’t happening in cities, where people often complain about the uprooting of trees for development. It’s happening in rural America, where trees are falling and hardly anyone hears.

Who shoudl care? Well, I’ve written about that previously, but the short answer is, of course, everyone:

It alters the local climate, decreases biodiversity and leads to soil erosion. “This is the major driver – we can link the loss of the isolated patches to all these environmental degradations,” [Mountrakis] said.

New story “She Lit a Fire” in Passages North Issue 38

I am beyond delighted that my story “She Lit a Fire”—which was the 2016 Waasnode Fiction Prize Honorable Mention—is in the new issue of Passages North, a journal I’ve long-admired and am thrilled to be a part of:

I turned back to the squirrel. “First thing you have to do is get it wet so the fur doesn’t stick to the meat. You don’t want that.” I dunked it in the shallows of the lake, splashed the water over it. I laid it back across the rock and looked at Sam who had her arms crossed, that expression of hers I hated. I wanted this to be a big success, this whole trip, but I knew Sam was right. Even still, there was still so much we had to do and I had to be careful. Couldn’t afford to give up, to let things go to shit.

I let the air idle between us a minute, said, “So next you cut a little slit under the tail here, like this.” I cut and could feel her eyes on me. “You don’t want to go too deep, though. Don’t want to puncture the meat.”

Judge Tiphanie Yanique had this to say about my piece:

This story is written smartly from the first person perspective of a father who is witnessing his transgendered child’s transition from male to female. Though the father is a dead beat and the child an angsty young adult, the reader feels for both of them as they navigate the American wilderness on an impromptu camping trip. A darkness at the heart of the trip keeps the reader feeling on edge. Ultimately, it is the dad who undergoes at least a couple of transitions over the course of the story.

This is a seriously excellent issue—I’m sharing pages with some amazing talents—and I can’t recommend checking it out enough.

And, again, you can read “She Lit a Fire” here.

29 Palms by An-My Lê

A long time ago, I used to I live in Los Angeles. While there, I wrote a draft of a screenplay called Twentynine Palms. Clearly, nothing happened with it, but the film, a western, was set in the area around real-life Twentynine Palms, California. I’ve long held a fascination with deserts—owing to, I’m sure, growing up in verdant Michigan—so, I was delighted to recently discover (and fall in love with) An-My Lê’s photo series, 29 Palms, which you can find in its entirety on her website.

The borders of natural spaces—specifically National Parks—fascinates me. Saying that, here at this spot, marked by this fence, is now the start of “preserved” land…it’s mind-boggling, cordoning off land like that. Necessary, sure, to protect it, but this breakdown of space, where it ends, begins, all of it melting together…is utterly captivating.

We, as humans, don’t want to be bothered by our green spaces, generally. We want them to work for us.  (Thinking here of roads, cutting across the landscape, disturbing deep green forests.) So this series by An-My Lê is especially striking in that regard: photos of training exercises just outside of Joshua Tree National Parks (complete with missile launches, fake raids…you name it), showing the beautiful and arid landscape, but also humans and their training drills punishing it.

Her work goes deeper than this, of course, but this was my first take away. Exploring the meaning further (from an interview with An-My Lê at Art21 in 2011):

I just wanted to approach the idea of war in a more complicated and more challenging way” says artist An-My Lê, whose photographic series and film “29 Palms” (2003-04) explore the training exercises and desert landscape near Joshua Tree National Park as a staging ground for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An-My Lê’s photographs and films examine the impact, consequences, and representation of war, framing a tension between the natural landscape and its violent transformation into battlefields. Suspended between the formal traditions of documentary and staged photography, Lê’s work explores the disjunction between wars as historical events and the ubiquitous representation of war in contemporary entertainment, politics, and collective consciousness.

Can’t recommend this, and An-My Lê’s photography in general—beautiful, compelling, desolate, thought-provoking.