Snow, glorious snow! I’m back in Ann Arbor and there are cookies to deliver. It’s a Finch tradition to bag up homemade cookies and give them to the hard-working crews at the local Literati Bookstore and 826michigan Writing Center, to the homeless folk selling newspapers on street corners, to my most beloved UMich profs. What can I say — my favorite holiday book was Eloise at Christmastime when I was younger. I love to sklinkle my way around town to bring people goodies. ♩Oh trinkles oh trinkles sing fa la la lolly ting tingle bells there and here ♩

Today is Yule and we shall celebrate with pine-scented candles and solstice dancing and a screening of The Holiday, because Mr. Napkinhead.

Merry merry and a bucket of eggnog and rum to you all. With snow and peace (we need a whole lot of it after this year) and all those blinking fairy lights.


Portrait of an Artist as a Grateful Grad Student

First of all, it is incredible (and slightly mystifying) that I have completed my first semester of graduate school.

I have so much to be thankful for, but here are a few highlights of the semester:

  • Working with Julianna Baggott, Mary Ruefle, Trinie Dalton, Ruben Quesada, Jessica Hendry Nelson, Sean Prentiss, Porochista Khakpour, and Miciah Gault. It still sometimes floors me to read off that list of people who have taken such care of my future as a successful writer. Each professor possesses unique passions in different genres and fields, of course, but they all are some of the most enthusiastic academic teachers I have ever met. They want to see me and all of us in the program succeed. They believe in my work! They believe in me! They have so much love for language and storytelling, and I feel superbly lucky that they want to pass as much knowledge as they can to me. It makes me realize how teaching and learning is such a wonderful gift. Almost as wonderful as sharing a story with one another.
  • The friends I have made in such a short while have been an invaluable part to my success here at school. People always think that writers are isolated, unsocial beings, but if anything, we need people more. People are our readers, our characters, our customers, our audience, our gods. We bow down to serve people, to entertain them, and to provide opportunities for thoughtfulness. I can always count on my friends to make my belly hurt from laughing. I trust them with my undeveloped stories, my fears, my doubts, my longings. Most of all, they remind me to keep a childlike wonder about the world.
  • Workshop…workshop…workshop. Without these hours of serious dedication and attention from my professors and cohort, my stories would be stuck in mud, bathing in illogical stews, or would still be a locked trapdoor whose key floats within the belly of a dragon and I have to kill the dragon to find the key. (This analogy may still apply, because all stories have a trapdoor and its the author’s job to find that key and unlock it, because behind that door is another door, and so on.)
  • I have loved working on the Hunger Mountain literary journal as the managing editor, and am so glad that there is still half a year left in my position. P.S. Must find a way to make this a full-time career! I’m realizing that one of my passions in the literary world is championing other writers’ work and working with them to find success.
  • My internship at the letterpress May Day Studio has come to an end, but I hope to put my newfound skills to good use some day in the future. Here is an interview I did with Kelly McMahon, the owner of the studio. For now, I have a limited supply of cards I made for my final project. Would anyone be interested in purchasing these one-of-a-kind goodies? If so, write to me at and we can chat about placing an order!

The poem is “Invitation”: my favorite piece in Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. The greeting cards are original “untranslatable word” prints and are influenced by Ella Frances Sanders’ book, Lost in Translation.


Now is the time to come up with a plan for the month-long break. I don’t really consider it a break – as I am a person who feels most fulfilled when constantly hustling. The question isn’t how to “relax”—for me, this break is all about finding ways to refill thy brain with creative input so I can produce fresh and quintessentially weird content in the next semester.

It was Julia Cameron who talks about “filling your creative well” on a regular basis; that you need to replenish your creativity by absorbing other creative things or going out in nature. She calls these moments of artistic absorption:  “Artist Dates.”

While I am an avid reader and often make more time to read than I do to write (is this something I should feel guilty about?), I do sometimes forget that I need to recharge my brain batteries and consume art rather than constantly work on my own. I’ve been so busy with getting together my final portfolio (which included an extended second draft of my novella—extended, because I think it wants to be a novel…maybe) over the last week or so, but perhaps haven’t been properly recharging.

This list here, inspired by Cameron’s Artist Dates, is one I shall bookmark whenever I need some guidance on where to fill my well.

I did recently watch Tarsem’s The Fall, which is my all-time favorite movie, for the sixth or seventh time. But this time, I watched it with the director’s commentary. I had always been a bit daunted to watch a movie with two hours of straight commentary as I thought it would draw away from the film itself. But when you’ve seen a film as much as I have seen The Fall—where you know all the scene changes and the exact timing of lines and you can anticipate where the camera will lead you next—it was so easy to release myself from the world of the film and float slightly above it, godlike, with the director. I think even on my hundredth viewing, I will still find something new. I will still be in utter awe of its splendor and brilliance. Oh my, has this film changed me, my brain chemistry, my heart, in a way that I wish I could put into words and send in a letter to the director. Maybe someday I will.

Note: Give all the love and tell people when you see them have that thing that grabs you and keeps you and excites you and leaves you awestruck and slightly breathless. It makes all the difference in this world to let them know. Don’t wait. Tell them how they’ve moved you. 

As much as my nerd heart wants to stay in school through this month, I’m excited to have time to revise stories, to binge on good books and movies and tea, to see my cat and the people back home that I love, and to continue to fill this cavernous, bottomless well of mine. I want to consume all the art.


Books for Winter Hibernation

We have only three more weeks until the end of the fall semester. After that, we have a month-long break, in which I plan to hunker in (sans homework) and create my own little hibernation retreat of writing, reading, and hula-hooping (natuurlijk). (Fun fact: When I was in third grade, my best friend, Connor, and I used to play this game on the playground called Hibernation, where we would burrow our winter-suited bodies down into the snow-covered hill and “hibernate” because we were bears. All of the other children playing on the hill were unknowingly part of the game. They were the villains: the poachers. Our goal was to “kill” (with our minds) the poachers before they “killed” (with their minds) us, but of course, they didn’t know they were playing in our game, and we were too shy and probably frozen to move out of our hibernating locations. Now that I think about it, this game was actually quite the complicated mental inception. Also, this is not the kind of hibernation I plan to have this winter. My fingers and toes were not made to withstand hours of cold.)

To fully prepare myself for the *real* winter hibernation, I have laid in a supply of reading material: a mix of genres, nothing terribly recent. I have a lot of books from the past few years to catch up on. Here are links and info since the internet makes it so easy to love even more books. The list is in no particular order.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I frequently spotted this book on the Staff Recommendation table at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, but had never carved out a time to read it. When my boyfriend mentioned he had just listened to the audiobook (narrated by Wil Wheaton) and enjoyed it, I went straight to the Montpelier local library and checked it out. It’s labeled as YA, and while it does have a YA-coming-of-age-never-kissed-before feel, it definitely was written for adults who love all 80s pop culture, especially cult movies, rock music, classic video games, and fantasy novels. I meant to wait until winter break to read it, but the story sucked me in immediately and now I am done and can tell you all to read it!

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee. Okay, so this is cheating because this book was assigned to me for class, but nevertheless, I wanted to include it in this pile. Also, bonus points: Chee is visiting VCFA next week and giving a reading! I am super excited to meet him. His 500-something paged book looks daunting, but once you’re enthralled in Act 1, the plot moves and twists and you keep turning pages because oh my god, what’s going to happen to the soprano Lilliet Berne? I’m still reading, but I’d describe it as a cross between Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera. Makes me wonder what a Queen of the Night musical would look and sound like!

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan. I found this book on a whim of the internet, and also checked it out of the library’s YA section. I have to say, I usually don’t go for Young Adult books, or at least am very cautious about which ones I pick up. This one, though, has me excited to start. Lanagan based her novel on Grimm fairytales and explores dark matters of sexual violence through fantastical settings, parallel worlds, and transforming bears. If anything, this review on The Guardian will convince you, too, to pick this book up!

The Nimrod Flipout by Etgar KeretVery excited about this one. If the cover image doesn’t pull you in first with its pathetic cartoon man in a pink bunny suit, holding a rifle in a field surrounded by dead birds, I’m not sure you even have eyes. Haven’t started yet, but I imagine Keret’s short-short stories will be as brutally honest and weirdly fantastical as Ben Loory and Amelia Gray.

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman. Once in a while, I like to mix up my brain matter with a nonfiction book, usually about history or science. And to a writer, learning about the brain is like finding gold nuggets. After all, the psychology of people and how their minds work is our business. The back cover of this book presents a paragraph of questions: “Why can your foot move halfway to the brake pedal before you become consciously aware of danger ahead? Is there a true Mel Gibson? How is your brain like a conflicted democracy engaged in civil war? What do Odysseus and the subprime mortgage meltdown have in common? Why are people whose names begin with J more likely to marry other people whose names begin with J? Why is it so difficult to keep a secret?” I’m a question-asker myself, and so Eagleman, you had me at “Why can your foot…”

Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan.  I remember hearing about this book as a young girl and imagining it to be a biblical meditation on fish. And perhaps in some way, it is! Flanagan’s “novel in twelve fish” is an epic of 19th-century Australia and features a main character who happens to be a convict painter setting out to construct an Audubon-like book celebrating the wonder of fish. I’m looking now at the words on the praise page describing Flanagan’s novel: “phantasmagorical” “brilliant or crazed or both” “mesmerizing” “slippery and outrageous” “a baggy monster of a book that does literary cartwheels on a tightrope.” SOLD!

In the meantime, I am working hard on revisions for my final portfolio and delightfully devouring the terribly addictive and sensuously witty Netflix series, “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries!” Excuse me while I don a flapper dress and Charleston my way through a small-town caper.