Thursday, April 27, 2017

Right Here, Right Now: April


T.S. Eliot claimed April is the cruelest month, and in many ways he was right. The last few weeks have been a roller-coaster - full of ups and downs, highs and lows, abandoned plans, new goals, and a whole lot of pollen. We planted our spring garden at the end of March and in many ways that set the tone for April. It's been a month of growth beneath the soil, laying the groundwork for things to come. More on all that later. For now, here's the rest of what's been keeping me busy these past few weeks. 

Reading


White Tears, by Hari Kunzru. It was my book club pick this month, and it was wild. At first, it's about two white boys who love the blues so much they end up appropriating it for their own commercial success. Half way though, like flipping a record to hear the B side, it turns into a ghost story about race and retribution that goes places I never saw coming. The structure was ambitious but Kunzru pulled it off beautifully. This book will haunt me (but in a good way!) for a long time.   

Eating


Leftovers, mostly. I'm convinced they're the unsung hero of the kitchen, and am always happy when I can get two nights of meals out of one night of cooking. Embracing leftovers also helped us finally get our grocery budget under $400 a month, which has been a long-time goal. Hooray!  

Watching


Nurse Jackie. The whole series (80 episodes!) is on Netflix and we've spent the last month or so working through them. It's about a talented and passionate ER nurse with a drug addiction, and it's really, really good. Funny and dramatic and sad and exactly 25 minutes long, which is the perfect way to end a long day. Plus Edie Falco, who plays the eponymous character, is a graduate from my alma mater, SUNY Purchase, which is pretty neat. 

Drinking


Peppermint tea. In an effort to trim our booze budget and also cut down on booze in general, I bought a box of peppermint tea. I realized that a evening glass of wine or beer had become more about the ritual then a desire to drink every single night. Replacing that ritual with something equally delicious and "special" tells my body it's time to relax without risking my budget, my body, or my brain. (Hangovers in your 30s are no joke.) 

Writing


30 minutes a day. A few months ago, I finished another draft of my novel-in-progress and handed it off to a few good readers. In the meantime, I've returned to short stories. In April I committed to writing for 30 minutes every morning before work, a good habit that had gotten away from me. I managed to meet my goal most days, and it's already paying off! I just placed a story with a journal I love (see you in July, Joyland!) and I'm excited about some new drafts. Oh! And I forgot to mention this, but I published two things in March - "Anatomy Lesson" appeared in Cleaver, while storySouth published "Dark Matter." Overall, it's been a good season for my fiction. 

Finishing


Outdoor projects. Nathan and I love starting projects, but we're not always the best at finishing them. This month, thanks to a few pockets free time, we finished a ton of them! We got new chicks, which spurred us to improve the coop. We already built two new top bar hives for the bees we ordered over the winter. We rearranged the kitchen and cleaned out some junk drawers. We sold a bunch of stuff on Craigslist and organized things for a yard sale. The start of a new season is always inspiring, but there's something particularly energizing about spring. I'm glad we were able to take advantage of the momentum and make so much progress in our home and yard! 

Planning


An overhaul of this blog! Regular readers might have noticed that I don't blog nearly as much as I used to. I've been thinking a lot about what I want to do with this space - mostly, how to keep writing about my life in a way that balances my desire to tell stories with my need for privacy. I think I've figured it out, and I'm looking forward to kicking off May with a new design, a new URL (!), and a new focus. I'll still write about my life (I couldn't stop if I wanted to) but I think a fresh focus will give me the motivation and enthusiasm I've been lacking. Stay tuned! 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bringing Home Our Newest Chicks

Chickens are funny creatures. First you have four. Then, suddenly, you have eight. Before you know it, you're up to 12 (give or take a rooster). Now, as of Easter Sunday, we've got 17. Yup, we expanded our flock yet again. But really - can you blame us?

Seven tiny little birds!

Believe it or not, Nathan was the one pushing for new chicks this time. We got our last little ladies two years ago, and Polly, our oldest chicken, just turned five. (Of the original four, one was a rooster we re-homed, one died mysteriously in the night, and one had a run-in with a possum. Keeping chickens gets real fast.) The best part of having birds is the abundance of delicious eggs fresh from our backyard, and Nathan wanted to make sure production didn't lag. Chickens don't lay forever - most breeds begin to slow down as they get older, which is why bringing younger ladies into the fold is important. We've landed on an every-other-year schedule, which is working out pretty well. 

Cute fluffy butts.

The other reason we decided to get more chicks is because we've been letting the older girls free range in the backyard. Our chicken coop is pretty big but I'm always worried about space and comfort. Seamus, our older dog, didn't appreciate the chickens and would snap at them, so it wasn't safe to let them out in the yard. After Seamus passed away in February, we decided to see how Calvin handled the birds and it turns out he could not care less. I'm not sure if he's afraid or just lazy, but either way he keeps a friendly distance.

So why was I reluctant to get new chicks? Because the first few weeks are the most time-consuming. Chicks need a lot of care and attention. You have to keep them inside, under a headlamp. You have to make sure they haven't pooped themselves (pasty butts can be deadly!) You have to clean out their food and water multiple times a day, because they like to poop in it. Mostly it's just a lot of poop. Then again, it's also a lot of cute, fluffy chicks. In the end, the pros outweighed the cons.  

The nursery. Already counting down the days until they move outside.

Over the years, we've acquired chicks a few different ways. We hatched our first ones with the help of my in-laws, who brought us fertilized eggs from their farm in Illinois. Since then, we've gotten chicks from the farm store, the hardware store, and Craigslist. These little ones came from a backyard farm south of us. The breeders were an older couple who lived down a long dirt road and had quite the operation - rabbits, ducks, chickens, goats, pot-bellied pigs, and catfish. We landed on their ad because, in addition to selling some common, reliable breeds, they also had two silkies. Silkies are ridiculous looking chickens known for being friendly and docile. They aren't the most productive layers (about three eggs a week, in their prime) but when you look like this you can get away with that. 

photo credit

We also got some Rhode Island Reds and two Marans, which are known for laying eggs that are a deep chocolate color. One of my favorite thing about keeping a mixed breed flock is the variety of eggs we get. They come in all sizes and colors, and I can usually tell who laid which egg. Plus I love looking out and seeing the rainbow of chickens wandering through out backyard - AKA "Chicken TV." I can't wait until the new chicks make it to prime time. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Race Report: Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon 2017


On March 25th, I ran the Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon for the fifth year in a row. I used to race quite a bit, though I've never been that fast. These days I run one race a year, and Wrightsville Beach is it. 

I love this event for a few reasons: the start line is less than fifteen minutes from my front door, the course is flat and pretty, at least one friend usually shows up to cheer me on (I see you, Kat, Katie, and Dory!) and my marketing agency runs the race's social media accounts, which means I can retweet my own victorious photos. Hey, it's the little things. 

Every year I say I'm going to train really hard for this race and PR, and every year I am full of excuses. While I didn't break any records during this event, personal or otherwise, I managed to have a pretty good training cycle. For the last three months, I did my best to make running a priority. I actually did speed work, and I made time for long runs on the weekend., which resulted in three 8-milers, one 9-miler, and one 10-miler. I mostly ran alone, as my best running partner moved away last summer and Nathan works weird hours. It had the potential to be lonely, but I didn't mind too much. I like running by myself, and never bring music or podcasts with me. Just silence and my own thoughts, which is a rare treat. 

There were a few changes with the race itself this year, too. The course had been altered due to some construction, and instead of ending at a large, outdoor mall, the finish line was located on the UNCW campus. This was a huge improvement! UNCW is beautiful and running past buildings I'd once studied in was way more fun than running past a bunch of stores I preferred not to shop in. The new finish line also meant the course covered some new ground, including a part of the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail I'd never been on. 

The morning of the race was warm. We (I) decided to save money by skipping the shuttle and parking my car at UNCW, then driving Nathan's truck to Wrightsville Beach for the start. This went off without a hitch and we had plenty of time to wait in line for the bathrooms. The bathroom line, however, was really long. In fact, we were still waiting for it when the gun went off! Luckily the race is chip timed, so it didn't matter when we started running. The only downside was that I didn't get to run with the two-hour pace group. Oh, well. Nathan and I stuck together for the first part of the race and we kept a steady pace - right around 9:07, on average. I felt okay but not great. 

Mile 1: 9:18
Mile 2: 9:12
Mile 3: 8:52
Mile 4: 9:05
Mile 5: 9:05
Mile 6: 9:12
Mile 7: 9:19

At mile 7, we finally left the Landfall neighborhood, which is a super rich and gated community. Think big McMansions and wealthy people drinking mimosas in their front yards while waving at the runners trudging by. Entering Landfall is always a novelty, but after four miles or so I'm ready to escape. Once we were back in the regular world, Nathan decided it was time to run his own race and was soon out of sight. Without him or the two-hour pace group, I was left to my own devices and started to slow down. 

Mile 8: 9:30
Mile 9: 9:32
Mile 10: 9:30

By the time I reached mile 10, I was done. I had a huge blister on one of my big toes (like, the biggest one ever - I took photos but I'll spare you). It was much warmer than it had been at the start. I was tired. I'd only run ten miles in training and could feel every step beyond that. I wasn't having fun anymore and I just wanted to be finished. I didn't take any walking breaks and managed to run the rest of the way, but it wasn't pretty. 

Mile 11: 9:59
Mile 12: 9:43
Mile 13: 9:52

The last quarter mile of the race was a straight shot down Chancellor's Walk, UNCW's main drag. This was really nice because I could see the finish line in the distance, which was super motivating. I finally dug in and ran as fast as I could, passing a number of people along the way. Since I hadn't done much passing during the rest of the race, I relished those last few minutes. 

Mile 0.1: 8:08

And then it was over! We hung out at the finish line with our friends for a bit, had a beer at the after party even though it was only 9:30AM, and then hobbled back to our car, where we realized we had BROUGHT THE WRONG KEY. My car was at UNCW and Nathan's was at the beach, and we had Nathan's key with us instead of mine. We also had no phones, no money, no house keys, and we'd already parted ways with our friends - they were long gone. So we did the only thing we could do. We found some runners who were driving back to the beach to get their car (they'd done the same thing we had, but with the right keys) and begged a ride. They only had room for one, so I got to spend an hour in car with strangers new friends, while Nathan drank another beer and waited for my return. All in a day's work, I guess. 

My final time was 2:04:15, with an average pace of 9:30. Next year's race will take place on St. Patrick's Day, and I'm already telling everyone how hard I'll train, how fast I'll run, and how I'll beat my PR into the ground. Honestly though, as long as we remember to bring the right key, I'll feel like a winner. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Do Something

How about another political post?!


Like most people, I've been overwhelmed by everything our new President has been doing, saying, and lying about. Every day there's a new travesty, whether it's a completely incompetent cabinet nomination, unconstitutional bans on particular religions, or the rolling back of laws that protect our most vulnerable. It's easy to feel helpless, and it's hard to know how to deal with it all. ("Autocracy: Rules for Survival" by Masha Gessen has been very instructive.) I've been trying to be proactive and do what I can, but it never seems like enough and I don't actually know if my daily phone calls and monthly protests are making a difference. I'm also trying to conserve my energy. Outrage is exhausting, and I still have to live my life - go to work, be good partner, friend and ally, take care of my animals, take care of myself, write. 

Something that's been really helpful is the Action Now newsletter by Mikki Halpin, in particular the one titled "Do something. But you can't do everything." You should read it yourself so I won't recap the whole thing, but I will share this one section, because I've been thinking about it daily. She basically says we should direct our energy and action and avoid burnout by making three choices:

  • One thing to be a leader on ​
  • One thing to be a follower on 
  • One thing to make a habit of 

I've taken this to heart, and I'm starting to make progress in each direction.

One thing to be a leader on: 

This year, for the first time ever, I helped organize my local precinct for the Democratic Party. I'm not sure how it works in other states, but in North Carolina our neighborhoods are split into precincts, and these are the building blocks of the Democratic party. Precincts have elected officers, they represent your neighborhood at county, state, and national events, and they help guide the party by offering suggestions about what we should focus on, getting people talking to each other, and raising money. (I actually wrote a beginner's guide for my local activist group, which got shared and republished in a few places.) Precinct work is about as grassroots as you can get, and as it turns out my precinct has been unorganized for the last few years. So I, along with another woman, decided to change that. We went to a few training meetings, made a few hundred phone calls to our neighbors, and held a successful meeting in February. It was a little bit terrifying (I don't like calling strangers on the phone) but our success made it all worth it. We managed to raise three times our funding goal, passed two resolutions, named 15 delegates, and elected five officers. I was actually elected chair, which is pretty awesome. I'm excited to see what kind of difference I can make right here in my city, and to learn more about the political machine in general. 

One thing to be a follower on: 

I joined a local progressive group of mostly white women (facts are facts) who are doing a lot of work helping to organize and direct the post-election energy and anger of our citizens. By working with them, I've taken part in some direct action movements and been able to reach out to and get involved in other groups in town, like the NAACP and the Interfaith Refugee Ministry. I even attended the Moral March in Raleigh in early February, which was really wonderful and gratifying. Over the next few months, I'm going to do a lot of listening to these groups, figure out how I can help them accomplish their goals, and donate as much time and energy as I can. I plan to follow their lead, since they've been working hard for years and I just showed up. 

One thing to make a habit of: 

I have called my Senators and Representatives more times in the past month than I have my own parents. I also set up recurring monthly donations to Planned Parenthood and the Nature Conservancy. These are small things, and they might not make a huge difference, but they keep me engaged and help me feel as if I'm making a small difference - especially when combined with all the other small actions others are taking. Stronger together, right? I sure hope so.

Have you been doing anything differently, big or small, since the election? I'd love to hear about it! 

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Goodbye, Dear Friend

If you follow me on social media, you've already heard the sad news. If not, then I will tell you now: Seamus, our beloved dog, passed away a week and a day ago. 


He was twelve and a half years old - ancient for a dog his size, and he acted like it, too. We knew he was slowing down. A few years ago, we had to start lifting him into the car for rides - he could no longer make the jump. A few months ago, he began having accidents in the house - just number one, and we have hardwood floors, so it was just annoying rather than catastrophic. A few weeks ago, he developed a strange cough - he'd gag for a few seconds, followed by a loud cough and some wheezing breaths. I took him to the vet for a checkup, and after a full senior panel, which included blood and urine tests, the vet informed us that Seamus was simply getting old. The gagging was mostly likely caused by some paralysis in his larynx, which could be fixed with a very expensive surgery - or the surgery could make it worse. After talking it over with the vet, Nathan and I agreed to skip surgery, make sure Seamus was comfortable and happy, and revisit the issue in a few months if things continued to get worse. We knew our boy wouldn't be with us forever, and we prepared ourselves for tough decision sometime this summer. For now, we'd enjoy the time we had. 


Then, just a few days later, Seamus made the decision for us. After a morning walk with Nathan and Calvin and a few hours laying in our sunny backyard, he went inside to take a nap on the couch - his favorite place. An hour later, Nathan came inside to check on him, and realized he'd passed away. 

The next few hours were awful. Nathan called me, I rushed home from work, we cried and dug a hole and said our goodbyes and cried some more. We spent the rest of the weekend grieving, keeping Calvin close, and breaking down into tears every time we walked by the empty couch. This was not my first experience with death, and Nathan is a paramedic, and we knew he was winding down, and yet his passing stunned us. We were completely unprepared to say goodbye. We kept repeating, through our tears, that we thought we'd have more time. We wanted to give him one last good day and then say our farewells properly. We felt as if we'd been cheated. 


Later, when the grief had begun to subside, we realized what a blessing Seamus had given us. We didn't have to watch his quality of life get worse and worse. We didn't have to struggle with an impossible decision, wondering if we were keeping him alive out of selfishness or letting him go too early. And a long, drawn out goodbye - that would have been for us, not him. He would have known something was wrong. He would have been scared. It would have been awful. Instead, he settled in a for a nap, on the couch where we spent countless nights as a family. When Nathan found him, he first thought Seamus was simply asleep - that's how comfortable, how natural he looked. Who could ask for anything better? Who could deny our dog - the best dog in the world, the dog who spent 12 years by our side - such a dignified end? 


As much as these thoughts comfort us, it's still impossibly hard to lose our dog. I was 22 when we brought Seamus home, a recent college graduate who had just moved to Texas to be with her long-distance boyfriend. It's incredible to think about all Seamus experienced with us - road trips, camping trips, four homes, three degrees, a second dog, a million friends, a thousand fights, a wedding. He was more than a dog - he was family. Now that he's gone, we're learning how to be a family of three. We're remembering how he lived his life - with loyalty, love, enthusiasm, and a big dose of bossiness - and we're grateful, always, for the time we had, even if it wasn't nearly enough. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

#WritersResist in Wilmington


Yesterday, I took part in Wilmington's Writers Resist event. Writers Resist sprang up a few weeks ago, after Trump's election. Since then, it's become increasingly obvious that we, as Americans, need to uphold the values of free speech in order to protect our democracy. One of the most disturbing parts of this whole election is the many, many people willing to dismiss the wildly offensive and disturbing things that come out of Trump's mouth. "Oh, he just said that to get elected. He won't actually do that." Or "You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.” Or rumors that Trump wants to kick the press out of the White House. Or the rise and cries of Fake News, and the unwillingness to believe anything that doesn't align with your own ideas and prejudices. 

Words have power and meaning. Language is a tool that can oppress or liberate. There are many ways to resist Trump, and writing, reading, sharing, thinking - on the page and out loud, in public and alone - is one way. 


To that end, some writers in Wilmington organized a reading, which unfolded in our small town at the same time as over one hundred other events were taking place across the United States. Some events were huge, starring Poet Laureates and bestselling writers. Others charged a nominal fees for tickets and donated the proceeds to charities. Ours was smaller, including local writers and speakers who simply wanted to share and be a part of the movement. But small can be powerful. Small can be everything. Small is not so small, especially when you're surrounded by a vibrant, intelligent, smart, and passionate community of people who just want to make the world better. 

Photo credit: Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams

I ended up reading two original pieces, which were both loosely about women and girls and the world we live in. I ended with this quote by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, from her book We Should All Be Feminists. Thanks to Adichie for lending me the words, and thanks to the organizers of our event for helping Wilmington raise its voice and join the resistance. 

"Gender is not an easy conversation to have. It makes people uncomfortable, sometimes even irritable. Both men and women are resistant to talk about gender, or are quick to dismiss the problems of gender. Because thinking of changing the status quo is always uncomfortable.

Some people ask: "Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?" Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general - but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem acknowledge that." 

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Best Books I Read in 2016


2016: not a great year. I think we can all agree on that. One of the relentlessly bright spots, as usual, was the refuge and joy I found in reading. While I didn't read as many books as last year (33 versus 39) I'm happy with my final tally. I read widely. I read diversely. I read a number of books in translation. I read (almost) every book club pick. In these small ways, it was a good year. 

My trends from last year persist. Out of the 33 books I read, most of them were written by women. A third of them were penned by POC. Two-thirds of them were novels. When I was thinking about this post, I felt a twinge of disappointment, because I couldn't think of a book from 2016 that truly knocked me over. To be fair, I read both A Little Life and Fates and Furies last year, so the competition was stiff. When I started going through my spreadsheet, however, I realized there were a number of books I loved, but that they were more a slow burn rather than a raging fire. Still, they kept me warm.

Below are some stats and my made-up-on-the-spot superlatives. Special thanks to the friends, publishers, reviewers, and literature lovers who led me to such wonderful books this year, and especially to the authors who wrote them. I honestly don't know what I'd do without you.

Total books read in 2016: 33

Gender breakdown: 
Female: 26
Male: 7

Diversity breakdown: 
White: 22
POC: 11

Genre breakdown: 
Novels: 23
Short story collections: 7
Nonfiction/Memoir: 3

Month I read the most books: 
5 in January. I always start the year off strong! 

Month I read the least books: 
A single book in both June and October. I guess I was busy back then? 

Most fun I had while reading: 
Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal. Connected short stories linked by a famous chef and her favorite foods.  

Most overrated book: 
The Sellout by Paul Beatty. Intellectually, I know it's a brilliant and important book. Emotionally, I'm just not a huge fan of satire. 

Most underrated book: 
All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost, by Sam Chang. Proof that a brief, quiet book can pack a serious punch. 

Best family drama: 
The Turner House, by Angela Flourney. I love books about families, and the Turners did not disappoint. 

Prettiest prose: 
Goodnight, Beautiful Women, by Anna Noyes. Oh, what sentences! 

Best book club pick: 
Mr. Splitfoot, by Samantha Hunt. The fact that we broke out the Ouija board for our meeting might have helped. 

Most engrossing: 
Swing Time, by Zadie Smith. This story took a lot of turns but never lost its footing. And yes, that pun was intentional. 

Most disturbing book: 
The Vegetarian by Han Kang. I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THIS BOOK.  

Most disappointing ending: 
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. I loved this book up until the last few pages, and then I just felt weird about the whole thing.  

Best book(s) of 2016, runners-up: 
The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. I read all four of them toward the beginning of this year, and they've stuck with me. I don't think I'll ever forget Lila and Lenu. 

Best book of 2016: 
The Mothers, by Brit Bennett. My favorite books are about broken hearts, fractured families, and the search for home. This book had all those things, and was also a delight to read. I can't wait to see what Bennett does next.  

The full list of books I read in 2016, in order: 
Under the Udala Trees, by Chinelo Okparanta
The Turner House, by Angela Flourney 
Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi 
Find Me, by Laura Van Den Berg 
My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante 
Fortune Smiles, by Adam Johnson 
The Sellout, by Paul Beatty 
The Story of a New Name, by Elena Ferrante 
Mr. Splitfoot, by Samantha Hunt 
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, by Elena Ferrante 
The Queen of the Night, by Alexander Chee 
The Vegetarian, by Han Kang 
Hall of Small Mammals, by Thomas Pierce 
Ghost Network, by Catie Disabato 
The Story of the Lost Child, by Elena Ferrante 
Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal 
Desert Boys, by Chris McCormick 
Goodnight, Beautiful Women, by Anna Noyes 
Orlando, by Virginia Woolf 
All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost, by Sam Chang 
The Girls, by Emma Cline 
Proxies, by Brian Blanchfield 
Never Broken, by Jewel 
The Nest, by Cynthia Sweeney 
Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi 
Karate Chop, by Dorothe Nors
Leave Me, by Gayle Forman 
Son and Daughters of Ease and Plenty, by Raomoa Ausubel 
The Mothers, by Britt Bennett 
The Round House, by Louise Erdrich 
Swing Time, by Zadie Smith 
American Housewife, by Helen Ellis 
Superstorm, by Kathryn Miles 

See also: 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Something New


This past year I decided to keep a list of all the new things I did in 2016. If I'd never done it before, no matter how mundane it may have seemed, it got a spot on the list. My hope was that the list would motivate me to step outside my comfort zone and keep me from falling into a rut. I am prone to ruts. Like most people, I prefer to be comfortable, to stick with what I know. While comfort isn't a bad thing, it can lead to stagnation - a situation I hoped to avoid. The world is a wide, mysterious, dark and lovely place, and I've barely scratched its surface. Doing something brand new, for the first time, seemed like a good way to dig a bit deeper. 

In that spirit, here are all the new things I did in 2016. I hope to have an even longer list at the end of next year. 

Travel 


Personal 

  • Starting using a Diva cup and became its number one fan. 
  • Met Roxane Gay at UNCW.
  • Gave a Maid of Honor speech at my sister's wedding. 
  • Saw The Residents in concert in Carrboro. 
  • Started budgeting with YNAB and paid off $12K in credit card debt. 
  • Guest-hosted a podcast
  • Voted for a woman for president of the United States of America. 
  • Hosted a breakfast taco baby shower for a dear friend

Writing 

  • Won a fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center. 
  • Wrote a second novel, this one without any help from an MFA program. 
  • Ghostwrote a medical book for a bunch of money. 
  • Wrote a piece of fiction that was part of a museum exhibit
  • Served as a panelist during UNCW's Writers Week. 
  • Published in MonkeyBicycle, The Boiler, and Necessary Fiction

Did you do anything new in 2016? I'd love to hear about it! 


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ten Plus Four


Earlier this month Nathan and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary and fourteenth year together. (We got married on our ten year anniversary because we like round numbers.) 

It was a strange time for celebrations. The election had just imploded and we both had to work. Still, we wanted to do something to commemorate our relationship, so we went out to lunch and ate a vat of chips and salsa. Later, we drank wine and watched the final installment of The Hunger Games, which seemed appropriate considering the state of the world. Nathan also wrote me a very sweet message on Facebook, which was lovely, especially since he doesn't like being the center of attention or showing emotions in public, while I love both those things. Sometimes true romance requires sacrifice. 

I'm not a very good gift-giver, though I am getting better, and we've always been hit or miss with anniversary gifts. For inspiration I like to check out those lists of traditional gifts, and we've gotten some good ideas from them - the first wedding anniversary was paper, which was easy (books!) and the second was cotton (clothes!). We skipped the third, which was leather, but I had high hopes for this year. As it turns out the traditional gift for the fourth anniversary is fruit or flowers. Neither of these particularly interested us - I buy myself flowers every week, and we eat a lot of fruit already.

We turned instead to the list of modern gift ideas, where we discovered that the fourth anniversary is a great time to buy electrical appliances. This interested us very much. When we moved into our current home we inherited a dryer that was pretty much the worst. It took two hours to dry a load and made a horrible screeching sound the whole time so that you had to lock yourself in the bedroom while it was running. We decided to treat ourselves to a new-to-us dryer as a joint anniversary gift, and it's pretty much the best thing ever. So quiet, so soothing, so effective. I'm not sure why electrical appliances were relegated to year four (maybe that's when any electrical appliances you received as wedding gifts start to fall apart?) but I'm glad it happened when it did.

Also, I've just realized I wrote a lot of paragraphs about gifts and none about, you know, marriage. And so, to bring it all together, a metaphor: marriage is like a dryer. You don't always appreciate it until it begins to fall apart and the loud, screeching sounds drive you crazy. While there are alternatives, dryers are pretty great, all things considered. It's worth it to fix and mend, to improve and and maintain, in order to keep them running smoothly. Because when your dryer works, it's quiet and steady and certain and warm, and it makes life easier and far more enjoyable. I'm very luck that I get to share my dryer, and my marriage, with Nathan. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Published in Necessary Fiction!


In all my sadness over the election results, I nearly forgot to share some good news with y'all. My short story, "The Arborist," was published in the wonderful literary journal Necessary Fiction, and you can read it online right now. 

I'm really glad this piece found a good home, because I've always had a soft spot for it. (Is it weird to have soft spots for your own writing? Don't answer that.) I consider this one of my "Long Island stories," as it takes place in the same universe I've been writing about for a number of years, and it's one of my rare forays into second person POV, which is fun and different. It's also a story I've read at numerous readings, here in Wilmington and at the Vermont Studio Center back in April. I'm so glad it's finally in print and that I can share it here! 

And because I always like to include stats alongside publication announcements (because bragging, while fun, isn't helpful to anyone but me) I started drafting this piece in December 2014. I revised it roughly six times between then and this past September, mostly after each round of rejections.

Speaking of rejections, it was turned down a total of 11 times, and three of those rejections were personal and/or encouraging. While being rejected isn't a great feeling, I'm grateful for all the journals and magazines who said "No, thanks." They forced me to keep working at this piece, editing and revising and figuring out what wasn't working and then trying to fix those things. By the time it was finally accepted, it was much stronger than my original version, and I'm so glad it ended up at Necessary Fiction. They publish great stuff and were kind, supportive, and easy to work with. I recommend submitting there if you think your work might be a good fit! 

Thanks again to Necessary Fiction, and thanks to you for reading this far! If you want to read more of my work, check out my professional website - it's much more up-to-date than this blog.