Sunday, November 15, 2015


There’s a bit of rot been clinging to my soul
And I should really take up that rag and wipe it clean
I should surely start now before the stain sets in
(I’m not sure anymore if living’s the price or the goal)

I should really take up that rag and scrub it good
I should start right now before the pain sets in
(I’m not sure anymore what to try or how to begin)
Decay is as much a part of me as blood

I should do it right now before it starts to grow
(I’m not sure anymore who to trust and what to believe)
Decay is as much a part of me as grief
And a mildewed spirit is the only thing I know

I’m not sure anymore if living’s the price or the goal
Decay is as much a part of me as fear
But I’ve a mildewed spirit and a rag to wipe it clear.
And I’m here. That’s something. Alive, if not quite whole.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Keep Writing

There's this thing that's been happening for nearly a year now. It started shortly after my Kickstarter campaign in September. It's been building since then. Well, maybe "building" is the wrong word for it. It's like silence. A silent room can't technically get more silent than it was before, but it can certainly feel that way, like the quiet is thickening, like it's becoming more tangible somehow. Which, come to think of it is an apt metaphor...

I stopped writing.

Well, that's not fair. I'll pick at things here or there. I say I'm working on this short story, or that bigger project, or whatever. I'm researching. Story-mapping. Figuring things out.


It's what I tell the people at my writing group, or any friends who bother to ask how my art is going. (Yes, I have the kind of really cool friends who ask stuff like that. I'm blessed.) But the truth is somehow, somewhere along the way I stopped believing I can do this. I stopped believing that any of it mattered, or that anything I do or say could mean anything. Ray Bradbury once said, "You fail only if you stop writing."

Well, Ray. I've failed.

Even this blog. I didn't want to get on here and admit any of this. It feels very much like an exercise is pointlessness. Pointlessness seems to be the theme of everything I say or do or think or am these days. And when you say stuff like that, even if it's true - well, you're just a whiner. Nobody wants to listen to that pathetic wallowing existential angst shit. Get it together, woman! You're an adult. Grab the reins to your own damn life.

I don't want to climb Everest. I'm not searching for Atlantis. I'll never leave footprints in the red sands of Mars.

But I'm tired of being so afraid, and I just want to tell you a story.

(I'm going to get it wrong. I'm going to mess it up so bad. I'm a sad, stunted, small person. This story is so much bigger and more beautiful than I could ever hope to be. How can I expect anything beautiful or worthwhile to come out of the likes of me?)

So if I do this it isn't for my writing group or my friends or family or for an agent or publisher or some imaginary adoring public. If I do this, if I try this, if I'm serious about this, then it's just for me. I don't have to show it to anybody, or talk to anybody about it.

I just have to tell the best, most true, most beautiful story I can. I have to move forward despite my imperfections. I can't let the silence win.

I have to keep writing.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


You will find my bones on the mountaintop
Or buried in the depths of the sea
Maybe trapped like treasure in the tomb of a king
- no ordinary resting place for me!

They will scatter my ashes in the vacuum of space
Or toss them to the heart of a storm
I'll be lost to the shifting desert sands
- dead and gone, beyond hope or harm.

[Too long, too long
  I've played it safe
  Bound here like one enchanted
  But the quiet life
  Is not for me
  I'm a soul that withers when planted...]

My bones you can claim, this body, this dust
Once my time in this world is past
But my heart belongs forever with that mountaintop
- so that's where I'm headed at last.

Friday, June 19, 2015

On Pain

I burned my mouth very badly this week. Worse than anything I’ve done to it before. This wasn’t a “hot slice of pizza scalds the roof of your mouth” thing. This was closer to a chemical burn, and has meant that for the past several days I haven’t been able to eat solid food because anything firmer than mushy ramen noodles makes my gums and the roof of my mouth bleed.

Gross, I know. It’s getting better, but these last couple days it’s kind of consumed all of my attention. I’ve allowed the pain I carried everywhere with me to become my whole world. When not at work, I stayed in binge-watching TV shows and dolefully avoiding my pantry door.

Coming out of my internet-free bubble and getting back to society, I’ve been hearing a lot of bad news. I’ve heard from people I know and some I don’t about the difficult life situations they’re facing: battling depression, saying goodbye to a dying friend, facing the recurrence of a serious disease they thought they were rid of, losing their dream job with no backup plan and no savings. I’ve been reading the coverage about Charleston, and realizing that there are families not too far away from where I sit tonight that are carrying their own pain around with them everywhere now, a pain far worse than any I’ve ever had to bear.

Over the last several months there have been so many discussions and so many viewpoints scrolling across my social media feeds: race in America, discrimination, distrust of police, support for police, gun control, transgender rights, gay marriage, and other complex issues boiled down to internet memes and 140-character barbs. I wish in each of those cases that instead of passing along snarky blog posts and articles brimming with yellow journalism we could instead just see the people. That’s what all those issues are about, after all: people. People different than us, perhaps, but the same in all the ways that count. People who have also faced their share of pain.

It is very easy to do what I did this past week, and allow pain to consume you. To think only of your problems, your feelings and your needs, and to forget that you are one in a world of many. But it is a better and far braver person who is able to embrace pain as a lens through which to view others. People like the family members of the Charleston shooting victims, who came face to face with the killer in court today and chose to extend forgiveness instead of more hatred.

I don’t have the “right” answer in any of the debates of our current age. You may notice I don't often weigh in when people bring up difficult subjects. Most of the time I don’t know what to say. But I want to take this as an opportunity to try to be better, to try to remember other people. Because even though there is no cure-all for the problem of pain, I think probably the closest thing we'll ever have to an answer is just to love one another.

Something that simple, and that hard.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The World Is Broken

The world is broken
and magic seeps out of its cracks.
Some things once broken can't be fixed
but some things once lost might still be gained back...

It's not a certainty.
There is no guarantee.
but it is surely worth a try.
While wonder still exists
I'm going to fight for it.
The world is broken, but not I.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Twenty Nine: A Birthday Poem

Five years old and the world is buried treasure
Don't know what you're looking for
Thrilled with what you find
A marble is a priceless gem
That rusted screw a key
Five years old and life is possibility

Ten years old and the world is an adventure
Coming at you constantly
Waking or asleep
Every thought's a prototype
Every word a clue
Ten years old and dreams come true

Fifteen years and the world is a loudspeaker
Every message amplified
Emotions huge and raw
It all matters way too much,
The things I think and feel
Fifteen years and what is really real?

Twenty years old and the world is so my oyster
I’ve totally got this
Ready to rock and roll
Classes, papers, passport stamps,
Nothing left untried
Twenty and the sky’s so wide

Twenty-five and the world’s a disappointment
Bills and debts and resumes,
Pills and hermithood.
Is disillusionment a verb?
My dreams seem like a lie.
Twenty-five, and why even try?

So here I am now, on the cusp of thirty
Don't know what the world is
Don't know who I am
All I've got is stories and hopes, 
The love of friends and kin
Twenty-nine and ready to begin

Sunday, January 11, 2015


I find it sad
(well, disappointing)
that the choices
come down to:

(a) feel terrible all the time -



(b) feel nothing



Lead \ or / air.

A life
p u l l e d   t a u t
... adrift ....

No happy medium
I'd gladly
just take

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Favorite Books of 2014

I read 103 books in 2014, and here are my 15 favorites (plus a few runner ups that nearly made the list). They’re posted here in no particular order. It’s a mixture of fiction, nonfiction, YA, and graphic novels. I’d love to hear some of your favorite reads from this year!

BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott
Lamott’s poignant and practical book mixes memoir with advice for writers. The title comes from an anecdote about her brother who was assigned a school project about birds and waited until the night before it was due to start work. Her father’s advice to the panicked boy was to take it “bird by bird.” And that’s exactly how writers get things done. Rarely do you have a Jack Kerouac stream-of-consciousness days-long marathon with the end result being a complete book. It’s usually a long, daunting process to take the idea in your head and bring it into the world. Taking it step by step, word by word, bird by bird – that’s how you get there.

CALLING ME HOME by Julie Kibler
I was drawn to this book because of the tantalizing quote on its cover: “If Calling Me Home were a young woman, her grandmother would be To Kill A Mockingbird, her sister would be The Help, and her cousin would be The Notebook.” This is an assessment I found to be totally accurate. The story skips back and forth between present-day Texas, where an old woman asks her hair dresser to drive her to a funeral in Cincinnati, and 1930s Kentucky where a young white woman falls in love with the black son of her family’s housekeeper. Slowly as the book unfolds you see how the two stories intertwine, and it’s not necessarily in the way you’d suspect.

THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater
Every November all the islanders of Thisby gather for the Scorpio Races – as men mount the powerful and deadly water horses for a contest that offers as its prize wealth and prestige… if you can survive to the finish line. Stiefvater’s spellbinding novel follows the perspectives of Sean Kendrick, returning champion from past races, and young Puck Connolly, the first girl ever to enter the race. Each is driven by compelling desperation – Puck’s parents are dead and she and her siblings need money to keep their house and put food on the table; Sean’s powerful and influential employer owns the one thing Sean cares about most in this world, the water horse Corr, and the money from this race combined with past years’ winnings would be enough to buy Corr and start a new life elsewhere. This is a beautiful mishmash of action, mythology, and romance. Unlike anything else I’ve read.

Written as a series of letters to the actor Richard Gere, this novel from the author of Silver Linings Playbook tells the story of 38-year-old Bartholomew Neil in the wake of his mother’s death. After finding a “Free Tibet” letter from Gere hidden in his mother’s underwear drawer, Bartholomew thinks this must be a sign. In her final days his mom often called him “Richard”—there must be some cosmic connection. Maybe the spirit of Richard Gere is meant to help him find his biological father? Over the course of these letters, we see Bartholomew’s attempts to find a new life and family. “Jung and the Dalai Lama, philosophy and faith, alien abduction and cat telepathy, the Catholic Church and the mystery of women are all explored in his soul-baring epistles.” (Thanks Amazon!) Joining him on this quest are a struggling priest, a “Girlbrarian,” and her feline-loving, foul-mouthed brother. Together they drive a rented Ford Focus to Canada to see the cat Parliament and find Bartholomew’s father… but along the way they discover so much more.

Vaidhyanathan, a professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia, writes a thought-provoking book about one of the most powerful and influential companies of the internet age, its impact on society, and its attempts at global expansion. Despite the dire wording of the title, this isn’t a book about how “evil” Google is. (After all, Google’s self-proclaimed motto is “Don’t be evil.”) But it does ask important questions and raise some red flags, while encouraging readers to take responsibility for what we know and how we know it. Insightful, provocative, and important. I highly recommend it.

THROUGH THE WOODS by Emily Carroll
Nope, this has nothing to do with Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods or its film adaptation. Instead, this graphic novel tells five chilling tales of what happens to those who brave the path that leads…you guessed it… through the woods. Carroll’s stunning visuals perfectly merge with her spare, sinister prose to create stories that will swallow you whole, like a wolf’s sharp maw, like the twisted branches of some dark fairy-tale forest…

I’ve always loved Gilgamesh, the world’s first superhero, and Mitchell renders his story in the type of potent, poetic words that roll over your tongue like jewels.

THE ART OF ASKING by Amanda Palmer
Amanda Palmer is a polarizing figure. You either hate her, love her, or don’t know who she is. I fall in the middle category. But even if you’re one of the first or last, this book is worth a read. It raises questions about art and commerce that are extremely timely given the nature of the digital age and the rise of crowdfunding. But her central premise, the idea of asking (as opposed to begging or demanding), is not just about art but about people: relationships with friends, family, lovers, and even strangers. Palmer bares her soul and asks big questions, and I enjoyed the intimate look into her life and thought process. Whatever you feel about her, I think this book is important and I’m glad it exists.

This was one of the densest and most challenging books I read this year, but also probably the best. Dozens of short stories—some of them not very short, but all of them truly astounding. From the book’s description on Amazon: “A Bohemian farmer’s dead wife returns to him, and their love endures, but at a gruesome price. A geisha prolongs her life by turning into a cherry tree. A journalist, haunted by the half-forgotten killing of a Bosnian couple, watches their story, and his own wartime tragedy, slip away from him. A dying American romances the ghost of his high school sweetheart while a homeless salaryman in Tokyo animates paper cutouts of ancient heroes… Are ghosts memories, fantasies, or monsters? Is there life in death? Vollmann has always operated in the shadowy borderland between categories, and these eerie tales, however far-flung their settings, all focus on the attempts of the living to avoid, control, or even seduce death. Vollmann’s stories will transport readers to a fantastical world where love and lust make anything possible.”

Newman is a screenwriter for many television shows (“That 70’s Show,” “How I Met Your Mother,” and “Chuck” are among her credits), and she brings her trademark comedic tone to this account that’s part memoir, part travelogue. Over the course of her twenties, thirties, and forties, friends kept getting married and having children. Instead of joining their ranks, Newman bought plane tickets, engaged in numerous international escapades, made friends, and fell in and out of love with men all around the globe. “I say that plane tickets replacing cats might be the best evidence of women’s progress as a gender,” she writes, in reference to the cat-lady stereotype. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing of her adventures, and felt inspired to have some of my own.

 MIDWINTERBLOOD by Marcus Sedgwick
I struggled to come up with a summary that fully encapsulates this strange and haunting book, but Amazon managed just fine. So here’s their take on it: “Seven stories of passion and love separated by centuries but mysteriously intertwined—this is a tale of horror and beauty, tenderness and sacrifice. An archaeologist who unearths a mysterious artifact, an airman who finds himself far from home, a painter, a ghost, a vampire, and a Viking: the seven stories in this compelling novel all take place on the remote Scandinavian island of Blessed where a curiously powerful plant that resembles a dragon grows. What binds these stories together? What secrets lurk beneath the surface of this idyllic countryside? And what might be powerful enough to break the cycle of midwinterblood?” I cannot recommend this book highly enough.


Internet phenomenon Allie Brosh translates her blog posts and accompanying illustrations from the screen to the page. It’s cliché to say, “I laughed! I cried!” but the truth is, I did both. Brosh’s silly visual style goes well with hilarious stories about dogs and weird revelations about her childhood, but it also works to startling effect when illustrating the everyday realities of her struggle with depression (“Adventures in Depression” and “Depression Part Two”) and helping us understand in one fell swoop both the heights of glory and the depths of shame (“The God of Cake”). Definitely worth a read, whether in book form or online.

 MR. FOX by Helen Oyeyemi
Oyeyemi is a modern mythmaker. In this form-bending novel, Mr. Fox is a celebrated writer with a tendency to kill off all his heroines – that is, until Mary, his fictional muse, comes to life and transforms him from author to subject. Suddenly it is a battle of tale-tellers, with the two narrators alternating stories and using each other as characters with a vast array of interesting settings and literary tricks and twists. Meanwhile, Daphne, Mr. Fox’s wife, becomes convinced he is having an affair and finds her way into their little game. You’ll have to read to figure out who you think loses, but it’s the reader who comes away the winner—with Oyeyemi’s delightful prose and unforgettable stories as the prize.

This international best-seller is often described as a European “Forrest-Gump”-style tale, and I understand that label. We do indeed get to experience major moments in history (and meet highly regarded figures from the last century) through the life of the titular hundred-year-old man, and it has a similar heartfelt, whimsical tone. Not content to stay and celebrate his hundredth year in the quiet of his nursing home, our hero takes off on an adventure that involves inadvertently stealing a suitcase full of cash from a mobster, enlisting the aid of a friendly though lackadaisical lumberjack, and taking shelter with a woman and her pet elephant. Sprinkled throughout these present-day happenings are stories of the man’s past, in which he crosses paths with Winston Churchill, Harry S. Truman, and Albert Einstein’s brother, among others. An irreverent, funny, pleasant read.

ONE PLUS ONE by Jojo Moyes
The person who recommended this to me said, “It’s kind of like the film Little Miss Sunshine, but kind of not.” And I totally get what they mean. It’s the story of a financially-struggling mother Jess desperate to get her bullied teen stepson and math whiz daughter across the country for a competition that could be her daughter’s ticket to a scholarship and a better life. When their car breaks down, it is Ed who steps in as unexpected savior—geeky Ed, a tech millionaire whose house Jess happens to clean. Ed is plagued with the worries of an about-to-break scandal, and driving this dysfunctional family to a Math Olympiad seems like the first decent thing he’s done in ages… maybe ever. But things don’t turn out as expected for anyone involved. Sometimes one plus one doesn’t end up as two, but something altogether bigger.

Runner Ups:

B.J. Novak, actor and writer probably best known for his work on the American version of The Office, has written a wonderful, witty, and wise collection of stories that manages to be moving, surprising, and laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes all at once. (I also highly recommend his children’s book, The Book With No Pictures.) I listened to the audiobook version of this and really enjoyed it, as Novak and a talented cast of his friends made for excellent narrators.

A STORM OF SWORDS by George R.R. Martin
I keep shunting Martin’s books to the runner up spots on my lists, but I really do love them. Arya is my favorite character, though her arc is this book was not as strong as the last installment. Still, I loved so many things Martin did with characters this time around. Jon Snow and the war on the wall, Jaime’s reluctant friendship with Brienne, and much more. Note to self: if weddings are anything like this in real life, I’m never getting married!

 THE DREAM THIEVES by Maggie Stiefvater
Two reasons this is a runner-up: (1) I already had a Stiefvater title on the list, and (2) this is a second installment in a series. So really you should probably read The Raven Boys, the first book in the series, to understand the context and get to know the characters. But this is one of the best YA books I have read. Period. It’s not just the plot – which mixes mythology with present-day high school drama, plus the tantalizing idea of being able to bring items physically out of your dreams! –but the characters. Ronan Lynch is one of my favorite YA leading men (technically he’s not the main character of the series – I would argue that’s Blue or Gansey – but as the titular “dream thief” he really steals the show) and Stiefvater gives us not one but TWO brilliant antagonists in this book. Is it bad that I often find a story only as interesting as its villains? But “villain” is the wrong word for The Gray Man and Kavinsky. Both go through transformations over the course of the story that are unpredictable and yet undeniably authentic. This book has me itching to read the third installment!

THE TRAP by John Smelcer

A short, powerful story about a teenage boy and his grandfather in the Alaskan wilderness. Albert Least-Weasel has been checking his traplines alone for the past sixty years without anything going amiss. But one day when Albert doesn’t come back, and with the temperatures steadily plummeting, his grandson Johnny sets out on the snowmobile to see what may have happened. In alternating chapters we learn the parallel stories of Johnny and Albert, and see a glimpse of the hardships of life in the north.