Friday, February 13, 2015

a valentine for mother

I like exactly two things about Valentine's Day: hearts and mail.
Here is the mail art card I made my mom, my only valentine.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

nu vampyres

Like all sane people, I love the idea of beings that subsists on life force, that kiss with a price. It hangs around in the back, all in black, looking for you, just for you. Pretty cool. Yep.

But vampires have become overexposed and boring, stripped of their complexity by trying to perfectly reconcile love and desire with being good, being redeemable, as if that is the main problem with loving the undead.

Here are two short stories that are about vampires, among other things. Both have been swirling around my brain for days.

I Can See Right Through You by Kelly Link on McSweeney's
I am in the midst of Link's new collection, Get in Trouble, now, and this was the first story I read from it. Concerning the movies, young love, obligation and dead nudists, I Can See Right Through You is probably my most recommended story of last year.

Traveling Mercies by Rachael K. Jones, ( I listened to it read by Anaea Lay) on Strange Horizons
This short short story concerns the logistics of being a guest when you never die. I would love to take a peek into the main character's address book.

What are your favorite vampire stories?

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

In the month of February I am attempting to make some mail every day. So far two every two days is working much better than trying to write something each day. And, despite the hashtag, a letter is not necessary to get in touch. Today I made the above card for a friend with whom I talk through all my big moves, my big emotions. With all the death and desire of the past several months, I think we might be talked out for awhile, so I thought I'd send a winter fantasy instead of more fraught thoughts.

Who are you missing these days?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The podcasted fiction of Clarkesworld's issue 100 is a warm chunk of aural delight for these freezing days. I listened to the three below over the last few weeks and each has stayed with me. All are read by Kate Baker:

"It also ate that one picture of your old girlfriend from, what is it, ten years ago now? The one at the beach where it was pouring rain and she was freezing her ass off but then she got hit by that huge wave and even though she was soaked to the skin she started laughing and couldn’t stop, and that was pretty much the moment you fell in love with her. The begitte was right about that one, too."
The Apartment Dweller’s Bestiary by Kij Johnson 
This collection of flash stories fit seamlessly into my recent ruminations on what makes a home and the things we choose to share our spaces with. Alongside the descriptions of small, fantastical creatures, I was very into the glimpses into so many lives and so many homes.

"Bethany was baffling to me. Baffling. She was still taking cat pictures and I still really liked her cats, but I was beginning to think that nothing I did was going to make a long-term difference. If she would just let me run her life for a week—even for a day—I would get her set up with therapy, I’d use her money to actually pay her bills, I could even help her sort out her closet because given some of the pictures of herself she posted online, she had much better taste in cats than in clothing."
Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer 
Not generally a fan of AI stories or cats, I greatly enjoyed this humorous story about a self-aware, meddling intelligence that uses personal info to decide what is best for three sad-sack humans.

"Brother, I love him. It’s absolutely not because the world keeps hurting me."
A Universal Elegy by Tang Fei
I loved this epistolary story about identity and love. It relates the pain of trying to be understood and the intoxication of feeling so very subtly and effectively.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

I made a resolution to read more this year. I want to dive in to your story and not come up for air until the next one is in my hand.

In the meantime, I've been listening to stories. This one, Vacui Magia, by L.S. Johnson, churned around in my guts for longer than I expected. The structure, that of a spell or list of instructions, provides a comforting scaffolding for a very disturbing, but personally familiar, tale. It is about parents, the weight of legacy and the extremes of grief. It is also about witches:

"No one ever thinks it will come to this. Yet you wonder, now, if every witch has a time in her life when she finds herself crawling through damp darkness, clothes dirty and hair tangled, wild with a desperate, fearful hope. You will not read about this in any book. You will never truly know how many have crawled like you, have panted like you, have felt that awful hammering of failure and loss in their heads as you feel it now."

You can listen at the above link or read here.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

magic perfume

"In 12 Dates of Christmas, the protagonist has to go on a date with Zack Morris every day for 12 days because she is sprayed by a magical perfume, which I’m assuming is how Ayuhuasca works. She repeats every day, Groundhog Day-style, thinking that if she just finds out what she is doing wrong, the time loop will stop. It takes her about ten days to realize the only reason she became obsessed with marrying her ex-boyfriend is because her mom died. At this point, yes, I cried. I, a 29-year-old man, watching a holiday movie with magical perfume, cried. Because this happened to me, and because it caused me paralyzing anxiety in real life, because grief makes you do things you normally wouldn’t, because grief makes you weird."

How Made-for-TV Movies Help Me Survive the Holidays by Daniel Zomparelli is funny and good and made me feel better today. I greatly dislike Christmas and Christmas media which is why the descriptions of those movies added a particular tension to the reading. My thing is watching British police procedurals, granting the characters/actors nicknames and getting real weird about it.

I miss my dad.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Before I was a member of the Dead Dad Club, I opened a one-woman chapter of the Dead Brother Club in the city where he is always supposed to love you back. Now I got membership cards spilling from my pockets, tripping me up and buffering my falls.

"The Club has burdens. You can’t bring it up, if you’re young; people get far too uncomfortable and sad for you. If circumstances force you to tell someone about the death, you must immediately be reassuring about just how fine and over it you are. You must act like the death wasn’t tragic. You must act like your relationship with your father was healthy and conventional. You must not be visibly annoyed when people cry and complain and mourn the loss of their grandparents or great-grandparents or their fucking dogs and cats. You must not speak of the Dead Dad Club to a non-member. You must not bring someone into the Club if they are not ready. You must not let membership to the Club visibly taint your relationships, lest you become a girl with D-word Issues. That is the worst fate of all."

Eventually, We All Become Members of the Dead Dad Club by Erika Price with beautiful illustration by  Kara Y. Frame.


Monday, November 03, 2014

"If you’re ever interested in feeling as if you’re on the verge of losing your mind, you need complete only a two-step process:
  1. Find a way to give someone you love deeply a life-threatening disease, and
  2. While your loved one is at home battling death, stand in a restaurant line behind a person complaining loudly that their burrito came with sour cream, even though they asked for no sour cream, and they guess they’ll just eat it with the sour cream, even though the calories, but maybe they should get a discount now, or, like, a soda?"
From On Kindness by Cord Jefferson, a beautiful essay on being someone's child and coming to grips with suffering.

This is especially poignant to me now, as I grapple with roles I am not good in, doing jobs I wasn't made to do for people I am both grieving and raging against.

Be kind, lovelies.

Monday, October 13, 2014

MICE 2014

The haul
In Boston, one must choose one's adventures wisely. This time around I only needed one great distraction: FREE COMIC CONVENTION.

MICE tries very hard to be kid friendly, with half of the special guests kid-comic professionals. The Saturday I attended I saw very few children, but it was late in the day and perhaps they'd all gone home. With panels like Doodle! Scribble! Draw! and Letters from the Editor, Marketing for Self-Publishing and Micro-Presses, the programming was also geared toward kids and, a bit confusingly, comic-makers, leaving very little reason for the enthusiast attendee to stick around after browsing the tables. This led to the question of how exhibitors were supposed to attend the talks except to leave their tables and put some sales at risk?

I noticed a ton of CCS folks (past and present) at the show and other student-y/young creator types which brings a nice energy to the always-fluorescent (why why why?) con proceedings.

These are some of the artists I threw my money and face at:

Wyeth Yates
A nice young person who sold me some of Eleri Mai Harris' comics
B.M. Prager

Hazel Newlevant

The crowd

Alison Wilgus

Amelia Onorato

More crowd

Nick Pappas

Renata Davis moved the rat mask just for me

Patt Kelley

The one and only Kenan Rubenstein

Cathy G. Johnson and Sophie Yanow

Poetry comics purveyor Franklin Einspruch

Buddy Evan Dahm

L. B. Lee
Thanks to the quick and kind thinking of Boston-area saviors Kelly and Bill, I also snagged a tote bag to commemorate the entire affair. Then we got a beer.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Artist Warren Craghead drew this for me in order to cheer me up. It is titled "Carrie dancing on a flower with candy and a bag of money."

It worked.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

One of the problems I am having with what I am working on now is that none of it is right and all of it is right but most of it won't be right for long.

This is why writing towards understanding is so frustrating. It makes me ache when I can't find the phrase that unlocks the whole damn thing or the word that turns a sentence from working to singing.

I guess I gotta work and leave the songs for later.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Desk debris



pre collage

i wondered where these got to

um hmm

these effin things

I made tee shirts once

meet me in the moon room

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Daucus carota, my favorite trash flower

I don't believe in weeds.


I remember the squinting face of some asshole not quite drunk enough to not notice me as he recommended that I take the Queen Anne's Lace bloom from behind my ear. I kept my eyes on him. What could he possibly be talking about? How ugly was this going to get?

A series of words I can't quite remember relayed to me that he thought my flower was poisonous.  I think I laughed, or maybe waved him away, or maybe busted some botanical knowledge, but I know I did not remove that flower from its perch. I definitely took another sip of my drink.


Did you know that all the little flowers that make up the Queen Anne's Lace bloom are the softest thing? Find the biggest, flattest flower you can, check for bees and run it across your cheek. Now your forehead. Now your lips. You'll see.


I am a child, alone and lonely, wandering through the abandoned tennis courts near my house, or the woods behind the high school football field, or the spaces near my grandparents' house in Trafford. I am looking for things to know. I am looking for secret treasures. I am looking for a world of my own. I find a little black dot in the center of the flower, a little black dot in the center of every big one. I pull up a few and see a little carrot. A little dot, a little carrot, holy shit.

And it is all mine.


My Brooklyn is a bad place to find lace. It grows where other things don't, along with thistle and morning glory. It hangs out near fences and broken glass, underpasses and hidden places. It is a roadside gift; other people try to make it trashy but it just resists with all that airy whiteness. Or, perhaps, it is trashy and that just means something bigger (better) in the summer than it usually does.


For more scientific words on Queen Anne's Lace, check out the Brooklyn Botanical Garden's weed of the month post.

Photo from Minnesota Seasons

Friday, August 29, 2014

Legs Get Led Astray by Chloe Caldwell

I waited a long time for this book. It was hyped on a few sites I read, blurbed by heroes and published by a great publisher, Future Tense Books.

Most of these essays are about sex and Caldwell's sexuality. I was very excited to read some charged up personal reflections on fucking from a lady. Maybe I've heard these kinds of stories too often, too recently, or maybe I am just too easily bored by glowing depictions of terrible-sounding guys, but this collection did not do a single thing for me.

In the second essay, "The Legendary Luke," Caldwell describes her future home, the setting for much of this writing: "New York City was a fictional place that spring day while we sat alone in our little living room in the woods." The ease of Caldwell's friendships, apartments, lovers, and drug-taking is like a mirror world, a fantasy without any seductive elements. I live here and that skews things, for sure, but all I could think when reading about apartments and roommates and lovers was how flat it all seemed. There are juicy sentences and observations, sure, but not enough reflection on those relationships, objects or moments to make it worth the time to read sentences like: "My lover called me today from a field in Tennessee where he was smoking a cigar and drinking a bottle of absinthe, his typewriter and bicycle in tow." She transcribes notes from lovers and instead of feeling that thrill of secrets not meant to be shared, they read like stories friends of friends tell about high school, peppered with names you never quite catch and later realize don't matter, that are supposed to reflect something about their character. But you don't know them, you have no personal stake in the story, so you don't care. Or, maybe a litany of "Look, I was loved in a cute way!," but, really, who hasn't been, especially by children and disappointing men?

One of the elements of Caldwell's writing that repulsed me was this touch of an "Ain't I a stinker?" attitude regarding sexual conversation and exploits. In an essay on masturbating various places: "Masturbated while writing this piece in the Seattle Library bathroom against the wall. Took me less than forty-five seconds." The essay "The Penis Game"--about a conversation with her three-year-old cousin, Henri, where he is a bit obsessed with both the reality of his own penis and the possibilities of hers--is a banal babysitting story capped with a dirty chat that echoes Chloe and Henri's conversation. From "Yes to Carrots":
I was a guest on your toilet. You are smart; you went to Harvard he tells me, and you probably assumed and maybe even now know that I used that toilet, too. That I slept in your bed. Put your lotion on my hands. 

That I sucked your boyfriend's cock religiously.  

No, really I believed in it.
This teen-tone undercuts any power of Caldwell's explicitness.

Many instances in the essays overlap and that makes reading in one sitting a bit of a slog. Cutting some (or combining others) might have helped. Read aloud, I imagine some of the shorter pieces could have a hypnotic effect, but felt gimmicky on paper.

Mostly Legs Get Led Astray just made me miss my brother. Her brother is mentioned in almost every essay set in New York:"Older brothers are always doing something more interesting than you (backpacking through Mexico, hitchhiking around Finland, moving to New York City) and they are ruthless about letting you know it." But he is just there, effortlessly, and I can't believe it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Long reads for a short trip to the woods, a short trip to the sea.

The Mother Courage press book in the middle is super weird scifi, but not in the way you'd expect. The Gilbert is pleasurable but not as greenly enveloping as I'd hoped for. I always love KJF and I hope this book doesn't tear me apart.

Who are your companions these days?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

eleven years

I didn't mark the anniversary of my brother's death this year because I was busy. I was busy navigating, I was busy looking out the window, I was busy talking to gross dads until they saw my armpit hair, I was busy marveling at the effortless beauty and love of a two year-old, I was busy staying warm, I was busy busy busy in all the ways one has to be to forget.

Not that I forgot, of course.

Brother, I think of you every day. You are the missing piece of my heart, you are the echo-only voice I listen for when questioning or proclaiming, you are the ghost with the most.

What is this wilderness? In everything I work on, I am trying to find you. I am looking for myself without you. Breadcrumbs, string, blood, kisses—all the markers are lost, but like a faithful dog, I am nose to the ground in the deep brush, working for you.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

mixed bag baby

There are a ton of books in my parents' house. On the third floor, where I sleep barring night duty, there are a bunch of books that I left here sometime during college. Those books make me laugh. There are also a bunch of Mad Magazine paperbacks that my brother collected when he was a kid. I don't look at those because I enjoy humor. There are a bunch of horror and sci fi collections that I read through when I can't sleep or when the books I've brought with me are not doing it. Those books are comforting.

Neither of my parents can read today because of various degenerations. But the books remain; something more for me to deal with later.


Here are two stories from awhile ago that I wanted to mention:
Going After Bobo by Susan Palwick
I loved this icy story of shitty brothers, cats and community. The world is well-developed by little details and that world is very frightening and very possible.

Rachel in Love by Pat Murphy
What people in chimp bodies do for love. Also, crazy parents and animal testing. A fantastic story that seems all too real.


Here is a nightmare: I am being gaslit by people at a job. It is destroying me. I run to a friend and he sets the office straight. This "friend" my brain supplied is a guy I follow on twitter but have never met: Saeed Jones.

He is such an amazing writer and truth teller that his power has obviously permeated my psyche! Here is a recent meditation on Maya Angelou.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

remain ragged

The constant struggle: "... I’ve found that working with words all day — whether at home or in a proper office — doesn’t afford me the time or headspace for the writing I really want to do."

And that final deadline: "Just two weeks before she died, Maggie [Estep] wrote about her own tendency to procrastinate. As if there were time for that. I’m now quite certain there isn’t."

Sari Botton on the Billfold: An Elegy for the “Non-Creepy” Realtor, aka Maggie Estep

I am nowhere near a place in my career where I can even laughingly call myself safe and I think about these things all of the time.


"I’m interested in essays that follow the infinitude of a private life toward the infinitude of public experience. I’m wary of seeking this resonance by extracting some easy moral from the grit and complication of personal particularity: love hurts, time heals, always look on the bright side. Instead, I’m drawn to essays that allow the messy threads of grief or incomprehension to remain ragged, to direct our gazes outward."


As my father's illness progresses, I have to travel more and more out of town to care for him. We are still looking for a foster/adopter for out lovely foster dog, Dottie. She has been a great joy to us, but we have to focus on my dad and working for the time being.

Please pass on her info!


"I will listen to my goddamn body. I will close my eyes when I am tired I will sit when I need rest I will eat when I am hungry and I will not, I cannot be the woman I was, the woman I have always been. I need to surrender her. I need to give her up because she is gone."

The Hell of the First Trimester by Sara Finnerty over at Mutha Magazine is about pregnancy but it might as well be about what is going on with me right now. All the fear, the resignation, the weirdness and the desire to do the right thing this time is there, and written fiercely.