Sandbox Notes: Tonight We Found This Body of Moon

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A goze in 1912, photographed by Eliza R. Scidmore (who happens to be one of my novel character’s idols!)

-Butoh founder Tatsumi Hijikata was influenced by the Japanese oral literature: goze-uta (folk songs of blind female musicians). Learn more about the fascinating guild of goze here and here.

-A never-before-seen Sylvia Plath short story is slated to be published in January! (Article via The Guardian)

-While writing a new short story imagining a terrifying re-restriction of women’s rights in near-future America, I found myself enthralled by the stories of the Suffragettes – Alice Paul, Emmeline Pankhurst, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells, Emily Wilding Davison. We must always remember their bravery.

-OMG…Diana Goetsch. Saw her read live this weekend. Fierce. Fabulous. Must read more.

-For someone who loves Monty Python so much, how had I never seen The Mighty Boosh until this week! Now everything is moon this and moon that, moonmoonmoon.

About Sandbox Notes. Collections by Cameron Finch.

Contest – International Young Writers Prize

Back in August, I had the wonderful opportunity to Skype with six high-school-aged writers as part of the Youth Studio at Fuente Collective. While I mostly talked their ears off about Hunger Mountain, how to navigate the labyrinth that is Submittable, and how to be a fabulous literary citizen, I also asked them questions about what teens are looking for in terms of writing and publication opportunities. I listened and considered their advice, and brought my scheming ideas back to the Hunger Mountain offices. After a brief discussion, the vote was unanimous, and so…

I’m thrilled to announce that Hunger Mountain has a brand new annual contest: The International Young Writers Prize! Do you know a high-school-aged writer whose story needs to be heard and celebrated? This prize (deadline March 1, 2019) is now open to all young writers around the world. All genres welcome. For more information and full guidelines, click here.

This is especially exciting to me because it is my way of contributing to the mission of Write for a Bright Future, an international conference I attended in 2015 while interning at the Ministry of Stories in England. I wrote about the event in the blog I was keeping for the duration of that trip:

Write for a Bright Future was the first international gathering of organizations and projects that have been inspired by 826 centers in the United States (like 826michigan that I work with!) The Ministry of Stories hosted the event, which enabled them to let part of the week be led by children from its writing clubs. This was super important to us – if we are meeting for and about children, they should be represented at the event, too! There were 26 sessions over 4 days, which were attended by over 150 delegates and guests (all of whom I made the name badges for, so I knew everyone’s name!) The range of content included presentations and workshops by the various centers’ ambassadors,  panel discussions with writers, a walking tour of Hoxton, a literary battle and the launch of a book contributed to by over 200 children from across the world. (Read the full blog post here)

Working as the Project Manager Assistant at one of the most inspired weeks of my life, I vowed to continue to champion young people’s stories for as long as I am able. This prize is one such way to encourage young writers and give them an opportunity to be supported by the generation above them. I’m so thankful that my lovely team at Hunger Mountain holds the same values and beliefs as I do in our youth’s wisdom and creativity. The idea is not to promote competition between young writers, but to show them that adults care about their stories, that we will give our full attention to them, that we will listen. We are all in this crazy world together, after all. So, let us spin some flax-golden tales.



Sandbox Notes: An Inventory of Wind and Plush Ham


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-This past weekend, I saw Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo for the first time. I’m also really intrigued by this video essay on Hitchcock’s use of color in the film.

-It’s always been a dream of mine to dress up for Halloween like Scout Finch dressing up like a Ham. A sort of literary inception.

-View the entire PowerPoint chapter of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad here. Click on “Great Rock and Roll Pauses” and make sure your sound is on!

Do we code-switch our laughter depending on social contexts? (via Atlas Obscura)

About Sandbox Notes. Collections by Cameron Finch.

School in Book Form

I’m already two months into the second year of my MFA! My program at VCFA definitely is an unconventional model and people often ask me to explain my course schedule over and over again. (Crash course: 5 craft modules per semester, each module lasting 3 weeks and taught by a rotation of core and visiting faculty; 2 semester-long classes involving writing workshops). I’ve been thinking about how to craft a post about the classes I’m taking this semester, and realized that the books we’ve been reading for each class should do the talking for me!

Shall we begin the magical book tour?

Craft Module 1 – The Craft of Vulnerability in Creative Nonfiction (works read not pictured): In this course taught by Erin Stalcup, we read excerpts of The Glass Castle, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, The Art of Daring, and The Argonauts, and explored how (and when) to be vulnerable on the page. How I see it—we are always in a state of vulnerability, just by being alive, just by attempting to write at all.

Craft Module 2 – Poetry and What’s at Stake: Through the incredible collections of poems by Carolyn Forché, Kaveh Akbar, and Chen Chen, along with excerpts of books by Solmaz Sharif, Ocean Vuong, and Aimee Nezhukumatathil, our class (led by Rita Banerjee) discussed urgency, conflict, and stake-raising turns in both formal and experimental poems.

Craft Module 3 – Making Fiction True: Adding Texture and Meaning: This course seems to be the school’s response to the kinds of stories my class wants to tell. The majority of us fiction writers have magical/paranormal/speculative elements creeping into our stories in large and small ways. Lesley Arimah uses the lens of speculative fiction to teach us how to sell improbable situations by crafting “the narrative ecosystem” with authenticity and layers of complexity. We’re studying Man v. Nature, The Golem & the Jinni, and Exit West to explore three types of speculative fiction: “our world, but different,” “our world, much changed,” and “the brand new world.”

Novel Writing Thesis Seminar: In this semester-long class, we crazies who are attempting to write a novel for our thesis (or at least 100 pages of it) submit chunks regularly to be workshopped. Along with reading each other’s works, we are also studying the unique structures of award-winning novels. So far, we have read The Underground Railroad (a very tightly structured novel) and A Visit from the Goon Squad (a novel structured in “interconnected stories”). There’s nothing like reading two brilliant Pulitzer Prize-winning books in a row to make you rethink everything you’re doing….

Critical Essay (not pictured): This class does not require any reading, as its purpose is for us thesis-writing crazies to craft a book proposal draft that could potentially become what we submit to agents/editors with our manuscript and query letter. Until then, this class helps us envision our thesis and think through our motivations, our scope, our market, our audience, and the trajectory of the stories we want to tell.

That’s all for now, but there’s more to come, more blog posts to write, more classes to attend, more books to read. Which is great, because you know I can’t resist a good “books spread across the floor” picture.


Sandbox Notes: Electropop Navel


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-“Navel and A Bomb” (Heso to genbaku): a modern jazz film directed by Eikoh Hosoe in 1960 (video)

Poliça’s music is described as an electropop outfit. I’m all in. (Best listened to while dancing under an orange slice moon)

-Cracking lava. Bus horns. Lemurs. The rats of NYC. Hear the planet’s poetry here in this fabulous New York Times interactive article. (Make sure your sound is on!)

How the word Americans most stray away from started out with feminist origins. (Naturally I had to research this for a poem I’m working on!)

-This Washington Post article explains how the atomic bomb is (or is not) taught in classrooms around the world…and it is appalling.

-The Blue Man Group started their own progressive, independent preschool in NYC!

-This is what 18 looks like for girls around the world.

About Sandbox Notes. Collections by Cameron Finch.

Sandbox Notes: Premonitions of Spam from Guantánamo


Want to dig deeper into the sandbox? Explore more at these links: 

-Check out this fabulous conversation I had with the poet Elizabeth Schmuhl about her family’s fruit farm, abjection, the connotation of “premonitions,” synesthesia, and more. (Michigan Quarterly Review)

-In honor of the entire Monty Python catalog up on Netflix, we’ll be eating Spam for days. (video)

-I’ve been taking a Future Learn online course on the history of Butoh dance, particularly focusing on the perspective and aesthetics of Tatsumi Hijikata. In 1949, Tatsumi arrived in Tokyo and watched Kazuo Ohno dance for the first time, calling him “a poison dancer” or literally, “a powerful drug dancer.” Watch Hijikata dance here and here.

-I’m obsessed with these purposefully redacted poems by Solmaz Sharif.


About Sandbox Notes. Collections by Cameron Finch.

Sandbox Notes: The Ears Have Eyes (or Peaches Rx)


Want to dig deeper into the sandbox? Explore more at these links: 

-As Christopher Walken may or may not have said, “I got a fever, and the only prescription… is more poetry.” Check out Poetry Rx from The Paris Review – your weekly dose of poetic medicine. .

-“He spilled many ears on the table. They were like dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this.” Carolyn Forché’s poem, “The Colonel,” still shocks me every time I read it, as if I’ve never encountered those ears listening through the floorboards before. Those ears, they always are listening to something new.

-Have you ever stared at an ear? Set a timer for 2 minutes – meditate with every curve and fold and lobe of this painting. Listen to what it has to say, and know that it is listening back.

-Watch The Crown. Just that…watch The Crown.

-Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia” has long been on my list of Songs to Put You In A Good Mood.

-Elizabeth Schmuhl’s fabulous new poetry collection, Premonitions, got me thinking: our bodies are much more similar to fruit than I had ever realized.

Power Walking by Aminatta Forna (Literary Hub): a powerful essay on a woman walking alone on city streets, confronted by and confronting the male gaze.

About Sandbox Notes. Collections by Cameron Finch.