New Essay up at Entropy

I am excited and humbled and incredibly nervous to share my newest piece of nonfiction, “The Fly,” which was recently published online as part of Entropy‘s “Health and Wellness” series.

The fly has become a deep symbol in my life for a kind of never-ending state of recovery, and the insect’s incessant nature sparks the question: Is there such a thing as recovery? Can physical and mental recoveries align, and if so, how long does that alignment take?

Historically, this has been an extremely difficult topic for me to discuss, and I have only recently been able to put it into words. I don’t know if I will ever say all that I want to say on this particular topic, or if I will ever say it HOW I want to say it, but this is me now, attempting just that.

I hope that my piece allows someone to realize they’re not alone and gives them inspiration to tell their own stories.

And when it does and asks for shelter, I’ll surely offer up my body as host to that buzzing fly, because now that there’s enough of me to protect the two of us at once, the least I can do is be hospitable.

A huge thanks to Ian Riggins at Entropy for publishing it and being so wonderful to work with!

 

Sandbox Notes: Sipping Polaroid Coffee in a Sea of Ink

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

The origin of wearing surgical masks in Asia is a surprisingly long-standing tradition.

-The author and artist, Franky Frances Cannon, analyzes and reflects on her relationship with her mother and mental illness in her beautiful book, The Highs & Lows of Shapeshift Ma and Big-Little Frank.

-Edward Gorey’s Victorian drama of library paste and throbblefooted specters: (video)

-So you want to hear a mbira, caxixi, talking drum, surdo, dumbek, and tabla all at once? You’re in luck! Check out “Hall of Mirrors,” composed by Rick Baitz, and featuring percussionists Christian Lundqvist, Jeremy Smith, and Brian Shankar Adler.

-Every artist needs their own Ink House. (P.S. I love this Apartment Theory article about the poet Morgan Parker’s  unique ink house!)

 

About Sandbox Notes. Collections by Cameron Finch.

Sandbox Notes: The Body is a Woodblock, a Cooking Egg, a UFO

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

-This list of words to describe the wind is great, but I’ve always been a fan of “scirocco.” Speaking of wind, have you seen this children’s book by Anne Herbauts? It’ll dazzle your senses.

-Need a jazz break? Might I suggest Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Jazz Impressions of Japan?

-Falling in love with the work of Francesca Woodman, Eikoh Hosoe, and Man Ray – seeing connections and departures in everything.

-“‘Wild Geese,’ and so many other poems, are about allowing ourselves the permission to be fully present in our bodies and their incumbent desires.” (A cracking essay on Mary Oliver’s poetry via Literary Hub) 

The longing for Kyōto is endless…. 

About Sandbox Notes. Collections by Cameron Finch.

Spirited Away

Cue The Dragon Boy/The Bottomless Pit. 🎵

It’s been a week since I returned from my travels around Japan, and already I’m in that “Did I actually go there? Did this actually happen?” phase. I was there for two weeks, traveling around Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kyoto, and Tokyo. I had a few contacts there, but because of the New Year holiday, many of those contacts were abroad and unavailable. The major purpose of the trip was to research for my novel, particularly in and around Hiroshima. However, the immersion of just being in the country for that amount of time was research in itself. I loved knowing that somewhere out there, my characters were walking around me. Maybe I had passed one of them at a crosswalk, maybe one had walked out the restaurant door as I walked in, maybe one was staring at me from the second story window of a house, maybe I was sitting behind them in the Shinkansen. Stories lurk everywhere; they don’t just stay on the street corner you happen to be writing about. They are in the air you breathe, the food that touches your tongue.

This was also the first weeks-long solo trip I had ever embarked on. How to describe it? Empowering, inspiring, emotional, exhausting (in the best way), delicious, and to be honest, sometimes lonely. I’m forever thankful for the wonderful people I met along the way, and for every person who helped me when I made a mistake or didn’t know what to do or where to go. I hope our paths cross again soon!

Here are a few photos from the magic that is Japan:

Fumbling for my camera as we pass over Mt. Fuji
I ate lunch with the Genbaku Dome in Hiroshima every day to respect the fact we are both alive.
Paper cranes clothe A-Bomb memorials, warming, protecting.
The Moat of Hiroshima Castle
And we’ll all float on, alright… in Miyajima
At low tide, the pilgrimage begins
This is Maki, my lovely new friend! She hearts Nabokov. We geeked out over all things books. Here we are at Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto.
I have a tradition of buying a children’s book in the language of the place I’m visiting so I can practice at home.
So thankful to the folks at the Hijikata Tatsumi Archives (Keio University Art Center) for giving me access to these special Butoh dance documents!
The Forest of Resonating Lights at the teamLab Borderless Digital Art Museum 
A peek into just one of the many delicious meals I had! おいしい!

 

Now, I just need to keep plowing away at my Japanese language practice, so when I go back, I will be able to speak with my characters when I see them!

 

And there goes 2018…

I’m attempting to pack my bags (I’m a horrible procrastinator when it comes to packing) as I leave tomorrow for a two-week trip to Japan! I’m nervous excited with the arrow pointing more to the excited portion of the scale. I’m reviewing my hiragana/katakana charts and stuffing as many notebooks as physically possible into my carry-on. I’ll be palling around with local cats (named Mimi and Otsuka for all you Kafka on the Shore lovers) in Hiroshima/Miyajima, Kyoto, and Tokyo. I went to Japan as a wee lass in 2005, but I don’t remember too much except that I loved it. I have a few places I know I want to check out this time (e.g. the Atomic Bomb Dome, Itsukushima Shrine, Fushimi Inari, Yayoi Kusama Museum), but if you have any spots you think I should check out, I’d love to hear from you! Mostly, I just want to soak up as much history and culture to add to the novel I am writing — and if that means hanging on a park bench or sipping green tea in a cafe for half the day, then I’m down for that. Book-wise, I’m bringing Akutagawa’s Rashōmon and Jean Genet’s The Thief’s Journal, plus the Poison issue of Tin House, for all those long hours on the plane and the Shinkansen.

I think this trip is coming at the perfect time—a reset at the top of the New Year.

But today, I take a few moments to look back.

This was a glimpse of 2018:

-My first trip to the AWP conference in Tampa, Florida, and celebrating the publication of this beautiful issue of Hunger Mountain I had the pleasure to help make!

-Finishing my third year of beginning every day with a yoga routine (will you join me in the challenge as I enter my fourth year?)

-The launch of a new series of (almost weekly) posts called Sandbox Notes where I collect and curate words, links, facts, thoughts, descriptions, and objects of interest into creative visual pieces. Learn the story behind my Sandbox Notes here! 

-Tapping into a state of delicious movement with Eiko Otake, and hearing brave hibakusha share their stories of the atomic bombs.

-There were tears: family illnesses, heartbreaks, stress, listening to Visions of Gideon.

-There were fears. Most of them seen on TV.

-There were very good friends—new and old—who made my life a little brighter.

I quit chain-chewing gum. 

-My creative work was accepted three times this year, with two essays forthcoming in 2019 (thank you so much to all of the editors of Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Windmill, and Entropy, and to Glimmer Train for giving my piece “Frozen Locks” an Honorable Mention in the Jan/Feb Short-Story Award for New Writers). I continued writing blog content for the Michigan Quarterly Review, as well as published articles and interviews in Artscope Magazine, Everything is Music, Storyboard, and Perpetual Beta. And my interview with the amazing Rene Denfeld was published in the back of her paperback book!

-Attending the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop and meeting Carl Phillips in real life.

-I started writing a novel!

-Somehow I read 82 books (message me for the full list!) and narrowed it down to 20 “favorite things I read this year.” An eclectic bunch of old and new titles, here they are hand-drawn, in no particular order:

Her Right Foot – Dave Eggers
The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
My Favorite Thing is Monsters Vol 1 – Emil Ferris
Vice – Ai
Heart Spring Mountain – Robin Marie MacArthur
Vermilion Sands – J.G. Ballard
Indictus – Natalie Eilbert
Census – Jesse Ball
The Principles of Uncertainty – Maira Kalman
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
Confessions of a Mask – Yukio Mishima
Dialogues in Paradise – Can Xue
Premonitions – Elizabeth Schmuhl
There There – Tommy Orange
The Country Between Us – Carolyn Forché
For Other Ghosts – Donald Quist
Man v. Nature – Diane Cook
Severance – Robert Olen Butler
Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
Everything Under – Daisy Johnson

Favorite moving pictures I saw this year: a Monty Python Flying Circus marathon, Maniac, Alias Grace, The Crown, The Lobster, and Call Me By Your Name.

2018 sounded like Sufjan Stevens, Poliça, Wilco, Death Cab for Cutie, AURORA, the Westworld soundtrack, The National, Father John Misty, Neil Young, and of course, my forever faves — Emancipator and Fleet Foxes.

Next year will see graduation and beyond, the great job search, and more. But for now, Japan! And being grateful for each day as it comes. Peace to all <3

Happy Solstice.

Another semester has come and gone…and suddenly, I am back in Ann Arbor to celebrate the holiday season with the family, and to take a break (ha!) while also working on my thesis and other writing projects, and I am already days late in celebrating the solstice! I’m surprised at how little snow is here in Michigan (as in NONE!) compared to Vermont. But there are fairy lights in the trees downtown and that helps to keep spirits high.

My latest book haul…thanks to a visit to Bear Pond Books!

I spent most of the weekend reading Everything Under by Daisy Johnson on recommendation from my classmate, Tyler. It’s a book that eats you wholly and takes you underwater, and suddenly, you realize hours have gone by and you’ve grown gills and haven’t needed to come up for air because you are less human and something more magical now. Guess what will feature on my best of the year list—which (stay tuned!) will be posted here on the blog in a few days!

Today, I went to a broadcast of the Bolshoi Ballet’s performance of the Nutcracker with my grandmother. Gah—the dancers were so talented! The show itself was full of nostalgia, timelessness, and charm. Tell me what your favorite pieces from the Tchaikovsky score are! Mine are “The Presents of Drosselmeyer” and the “Pas de Deux: Intrada.”

For the rest of the week, I have artsy presents to craft together, interviews to work on, ice skates to break in, and a travel itinerary to plan, as I have exciting news to tell you in the next few days. But right now, I have sweet cinnamon tea and the promise of stories told underneath an ornamented pine. Happy hibernation!

Sandbox Notes: Know Your Foxes (and Imperfections)

 

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

-The spirit-like existence of misaki.

-The imperfection of Schubert’s Sonata in D Major is just one of many favorite passages in Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore.

-When it’s chilly in the north, just pretend you’re on a sunny French beach listening to Françoise Hardy!

-Tim Kirkman’s moving documentary, Dear Jesse, is a must-see.

-Need a mood boost? This Twitter page should do it for you. Photos of the cutest foxes are uploaded every hour.

About Sandbox Notes. Collections by Cameron Finch.

Fiction Writing Prompt: Take a Walk

In lieu of this week’s Sandbox Notes, here is a writing prompt that my thesis advisor, Rita Banerjee, gave to me, and I’d love to pass it forward.

***

If you are feeling stuck in your fiction, take a walk and embody your main character(s).

Time: At least 20 minutes.

Where: You can walk anywhere you like! It can be around your neighborhood, a downtown area, a nearby park. Make sure to walk the same route for every character. The environment is your control variable in this experiment.

What: As you walk, take notice of how you transform into your character. Note how you (as your character) walk. Which gestures give you comfort? What do you smell, taste, touch, see, hear as you travel through the world? What stops you or keeps you walking? What pops into your brain? What are you preoccupied with or worried about? Do you talk to yourself? Do you make eye contact with the people around you, or do you stare at the ground?

Once you’ve completed your walks, write a 1-2 page scene, in which all your character does is go for a walk. Try to incorporate as many of the details from your own walk as possible.

***

Pro tip: Last week, I tried this exercise with my novel’s three main characters, and at times, I felt like I was forcing behaviors or thoughts onto them. In those moments, I tried to break out of character and become myself again. It’s funny I had to remember what it was like to be a living, thinking human. I made myself aware of what thoughts naturally come up in a mind. I should write to my grandmother. I said this thing to so-and-so, and are they still thinking about it as I am? Should I have soup or more oatmeal for dinner? Once I was able to identify what I, Cammie, was thinking about, I was then able to categorize “types” of thoughts and decide which of my characters were more likely to have a similar thought.  

Take what you need from this exercise! Let me know how it goes for you, and if you choose to adapt it in any way. Walk on!

 

The Serious and the Silly of December

A glimpse into the last month of the year:

  • Making progress on my thesis/novel—though considering a bit of a plot restructuring!
  • Read Bianca Stone’s The Möbius Strip Club of Grief and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee both in one sitting. Stone’s book is doing all the subversive maneuvers I strive for in my own poetry. Even better, she will be teaching a class on “Meaning, Sense, & Narrative in Poetry” at VCFA in the spring! And don’t even get me started with Dictee. Holy wow—I didn’t know a book could look, sound, or read like that.
  • Began an epic watching of Monty Python’s Flying Circus from start to finish. I had seen random sketches here and there, but I’ve never seen the whole series straight through, and I just felt like a phony, calling myself a fan without seeing the entirety of the show! I watch about 15 minutes each day with my breakfast, so I’m not too far through yet! I’m currently in Season 2—just finished “Scott of the Antarctic,” which was pure plasmatic gold.
  • In the spirit of the holiday season, my friend Aaron Wyanski and I have co-authored a list of literary holiday carols. Enjoy the whimsy and feel free to add your own in the comments below!

Jingle Bell Jar
Baby It’s Sharon Olds Outside
Graham Greenesleeves
The Picture of Dorian Sleigh
Robert Frosty the Snowman
Lewis Carroll of the Bells
Little Saint Nicholas Nickleby
Up on the Bleak Housetop
Have Yourself a Merry Little Women Christmas
It’s the Most Wonderful Wrinkle in Time of the Year
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree in 80 Days
Alice in Winter Wonderland
Twelfth Silent Night
Deck the Wolf Halls
Ding Dong Merrily On High Fidelity
Santa Claus is Coming to Our Town
(There’s No Place Like) Maycomb for the Holidays
Go Tell It On The Mountain
The Holly Golightly and the Ivy
Joyce Carol Oates to the World
Love in the Christmastime of Cholera
Ruefle the Red Nosed Reindeer
Hark! The Herald Angels in America Sing
We Wish You a Mary Shelley Christmas
O Little Town of Macbethlehem

Isn’t it nuts that it’s already December? At least the world outside looks like an Emancipator album cover and there are pine-scented candles and the sounds of Vince Guaraldi’s jazz brush beat and lots of spiced tea!