A Midsummer’s Miscellany Post

It’s my final week before heading back to Vermont to ride out the rest of the summer until the new semester begins in September. Can’t believe it’s already Year 2 of my MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts!

This past weekend was Trey’s birthday, so the wild rumpus included watching the World Cup, Cammie’s introduction to the world of Fortnite, Indian food, riverside bike rides, and culminated in the game that Sherlock and Watson play in The Sign of Three where you write a celebrity’s name on a slip of paper, attach it to the other player’s head, and then ask questions to help you figure out the name attached to your own forehead. We literally spent hours playing this game, which goes to show either how dedicated or completely loony we are.

I’ve been enjoying writing some flash fiction pieces (thanks to Midwestern Gothic!) to break up the slow-going thesis. I did recently watch Shohei Imamura’s A Man Vanishes, which gave me great insight into the phenomenon of Japanese johatsu (the 100,000 citizens a year who “disappear”) and the people who are left behind. I find that delving into other mediums greatly jumpstarts my inspiration to continue longform projects.

“I can still see but for how long…”

Here are all the delicious books I’ve been reading lately: Blindness by José Saramago, The Space Between by Kali VanBaale, Hiroshima by John Hersey, Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (Of a Crazy World) by Ingrid Schaffner, and The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami.

I have this strange desire to rearrange all of my books by color. Maybe because I’ve always wanted to tuck a rainbow into my bedroom corner and give it a welcome home. (Note to myself: turn my books into a rainbow one day.)

Yesterday, I volunteered at a Creative Writing workshop put on by my undergraduate program. I was a student of the Residential College at University of Michigan, which is a small, liberal arts learning community heavily focusing on the arts, foreign languages, and activism. I knew that the workshop, intended for 15 incoming freshmen, was going to be informal and simply a way for them to explore the major and opportunities at the Residential College. Still, as I walked through the campus, my heart beat the same pitter-patter of three slammed cuppas. (I was later humbled to find out that the other facilitators, some who were long-time professors, were also battling a few nerves of their own). After introducing myself as an alum of the Creative Writing program, I read the first few pages of my currently unpublished novella called All the Facts You Need To Know About My Mother’s Oil Spill (Side note: I’ve been sending my manuscript to a few novella contests, but I’d love some advice on potential publishers who’d be interested in a story that is part mystery, part fabulist tale, part coming-of-age exploration, part queer love story, part environmental credo, and illuminated in the style of House of Leaves, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, and Bats of the Republic, meaning it combines integrated text and images, innovative typography,  lists and asides and sticky notes and flyers, and “found scraps of writing.”) I love reading aloud, but find that I am often nervous about sharing my own work verbally with the world. However, I feel such a kinship to this particular character I’ve created, that it wasn’t me up there on stage reading. I was her, the great Miss Sylvia Mariner. The response from the students was definitely encouraging — one young lady even gave me her email and asked how she could read the rest of the story because she needed to know what happens next, which is pretty much the greatest thing a reader could tell an author. For the next part of the workshop, we had the students read Sandra Cisneros’ evocative vignette called “My Name,” which is really an excerpt from her novel, The House on Mango Street. The students then tried their hand at writing a piece about their own name, its meaning, how they think people see them, what they are reminded of by their name, etc. After sharing in small groups, the students had to work together to weave all of their names/written pieces into a short skit to perform on stage. The other facilitators and I stood by in case the students got stuck, but our services were not needed. The students were proactive, imaginative, and quick on their feet. Quite frankly, they were amazing!!! I almost wish I could work at the Residential College just to see how these students I met yesterday progress throughout the year. Perhaps one day…

In other miscellany news:

  • I’ve sent in my absentee ballot for Michigan’s primary election and have written to my state legislature demanding they take action following *recent events in Helsinki.* It is not the time to stay silent. Use your voice to fight the fights.
  • I dusted off and retuned my violin a few nights ago and taught myself how to play this song.
  • My current always-on-repeat playlist includes Mystery of Love and Visions of Gideon by Sufjan Stevens, Impossible Germany by Wilco, The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness by The National, Barnacles by Emancipator, and all the songs by Vaults.

And here’s a Sak pic for you, because how can you resist this face:

The Thole Life

The first thing you should know is that I am now the proud owner of a t-shirt with the following quote printed on the back:  “You must thole” ~ Colm Tóibín

What is “thole” you ask? (Don’t worry, I had to ask the same question!)

First appearing in Beowulf, migrating to Scottish, then Gaelic, and most surprisingly, leaping to the American South, “thole” roughly translates to “You must suffer and endure to make meaning out of life.” However great a word “thole” is, I don’t think that “tholing” is an activity that we must seek out. It comes naturally to all of us. When we are born, an invisible “thole” stamp is embedded into our foreheads. It is in our destiny to thole. Everyone’s tholing experience will be unique, but thole we shall do. This is a great reminder for writers. If we are to craft stories of the “real” human experience (even if our stories are populated with fictional characters), then we must let our characters thole.

This is just one of the great lessons I learned during my week at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, which was indeed a challenging week, but oh so rewarding. I produced four (rough) first drafts of short stories, and one piece of journalism, in which I interviewed a sweet local Gambier, OH resident name Deb, who works part-time in the local clothing boutique. I met the poet Carl Phillips, who coincidentally was the high school Latin teacher of one of my current VCFA professors. Most of all, my workshop group was the best class I could have asked for. Our group of ten writers, all ages and experience levels, was immediately comforted and encouraged by our instructor, Ghassan Abou-Zeineddine. Whenever I attend a class/workshop/conference, I make note of the structures, discussion questions, etc—anything that could inform my own teaching styles in the future. I was very impressed with Ghassan’s workshop structure:

  1. The writer whose piece is to be workshopped stands up and reads the piece out loud to the class. After this, the writer will remain quiet during the discussion (unless asked directly to speak).
  2. Ghassan asks, “What is this piece about?” While this question may sound trivial, it is one of the most important questions for the writer to hear answered. If there are disagreements in the interpretations of major plot points by the reader and writer, then the writer needs to work on clarification of those points before anything else. In addition to plot points and narrative events, the workshop group can also point out themes or deeper issues the story is pointing toward.
  3. “Let’s check in with the writer. How are you feeling about what the workshop group said this piece is about.” It’s important for the group to know if they were close or way off in regards to the writer’s intentions.
  4. “What is working in this piece?” This is where the writer’s morale is boosted. The workshop members can freely speak about what they admire in the story and in the writer’s unique way of crafting the narrative.
  5. “Any suggestions for this writer?” At this point, workshop members may point to places in the text where they were confused, may offer suggestions for places where the writer could linger and expand on certain details, or ask questions to spark further ideas.
  6. “Does the writer have any questions for the group?” The writer gets the last word of the discussion and can either comment on the suggestions given to them, or ask questions to the group that may have come up during the workshop.
  7. Workshop members with any written notes may choose to give them to the writer.

I feel very grateful for the experience I had, spending a week geeking out over words and books with so many wonderful writers. And now it’s back to the everyday summer grind.

I am working on the thesis—slowly. I’m finding I am in a deep research mode, wanting to read anything that could be relevant. Yesterday, I read the entirety of John Hersey’s Hiroshima and am now in the deep throes of learning about the mysterious johatsu. Each time that I read something, I understand my characters that much more clearly. Of course, with the World Cup on all day, I am currently at my most distracted state.

Can you believe it is already July?! Here are some flowers that have tholed through the elements and are all the more beautiful because of their strength: 

On Juggling Figs

I first read The Bell Jar back in high school (let’s face it, because Rory Gilmore read it), but I don’t think I was really ready to read it at that time. I recently picked up the book again, this time buying my own beloved blue and pink copy from Bear Pond Books.

This book swallowed me like a whale and down there in the deep, dark belly, I did not want to come out. I spent most of the last three days hula-hooping on the porch or riding the stationary bike reading Miss Sylvia, oblivious to the clock running its minute hand endlessly. I won’t even tell you the number of coffee cups I let grow cold.

Unsurprisingly, I love this book! And I think this was the most perfectly timed reading of this book I could possibly have managed.

It’s true I’m a Libra who frequently has difficulty making decisions. It’s true I also have so many interests, I often want to do all the jobs at once. This is exemplified in Plath’s analogy of the fig tree, where each fig represents a different choice or path in Esther Greenwood’s life, such as a husband and children, a career as a poet, an Olympic crew champion, a prestigious professorship, a renowned magazine editor, etc. With such an array of decisions, she is afraid she will end up choosing nothing, and what a waste of good fruit that would be. She says:

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and grow black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet (77).

After next year’s graduation, I’ll find myself standing at the crux of my own forked paths, just like Esther. I, too, have many visions—many figs—of myself and my future. I, too, can see myself pursuing similar paths as Esther, although substituting tap dance for Olympic crew. However, one thing marks a stark difference. I am not a woman growing up in the 50s. I have been taught and mentored by women of the 21st century who manage to juggle all their figs in the air without dropping them, without blotting the ground with seedy pulp. Sure, these women have also mastered the art of stopping time: freezing certain figs mid-air to allow other figs to be caught first. But nevertheless, the figs remain intact. I have some great models in my life who have proved that in today’s world, a woman can sit in the tree and gorge herself not on one fig alone, but on all the figs she can reach. But first, she must make the initial climb into the tree. That’s the first step.

In her introduction to the paperback novel, Frances McCullough reveres Plath’s ability to write about mental illness in such vivid and rational prose, especially during a time where such issues were not entirely socially acceptable to talk about. While Plath led me by the hand into the world of the asylum—a world which seemed like a very sterile alien world to me—Esther’s behaviors under the gaze of doctors and psychiatrists were not completely foreign. I know well the pleasure of telling people “what I wanted to, and that I could control the picture [people have] of me by hiding this and revealing that.” I know the anxiety that comes with attempting to walk across The Bridge of Perfection. At any moment, you could fall up or down – floating stagnant in a gravity-less air or plunging into a teal and coral earth pool. Without wings, without fins, without goggles to help eyes see, falling and failing really can be terrifying. Esther Greenwood understands that terrifically, which is the real beauty of art –how we can connect so intimately with people we’ve only met through words.

Even though the book grapples with grave topics, Plath’s voice can be hilarious. Her dry humor sweeps in just when you are feeling low and creates tender moments of levity. The word “Ha!” even makes a few appearances in my green-inked marginalia. These are just a few of the reasons why The Bell Jar earned a permanent spot on my list of most favorite books.

***

On the topic of falling and failing and releasing perfection’s hold, I’ve found this video from Granta very inspiring. I will surely return to Mohsin Hamid’s words again and again to remind me that writing (or attempting to write) can happen in a myriad of ways, and who’s really to say that your writing process is wrong, as long as you are attempting to make progress on something.

This advice also came to me at a brilliant time, as tomorrow, I’m off to Kenyon College for a weeklong fiction workshop, led by Ghassan Abou-Zeinnedine. Photos and stories and creative tidbits will be shared here on the blog when I get back!

New York State of Mind

Cue the Billy Joel radio and take the Hudson River Line; it’s time for the recount of my latest adventure where one may get a New York state of mind.

Last week, the Bot* and I went to NYC for a couple of days.

It was Trey’s first time in the city so we hit all the highlights: we donned our red hunting hats and did our best melancholic Holden Caulfield impressions as we walked around The American Museum of Natural History; tried to solve the mystery of ‘where do the ducks in Central Park go in the winter’ and got lost in the woods on the way; walked The High Line; pressed our noses against the technicolor SeaGlass Carousel (just seeing this beautiful contraption made me giddy!); saw my favorite verdigris vixen, Lady Liberty; rang doorbells and sang about incredible things at The Book of Mormon; crossed the Brooklyn Bridge by foot; was mesmerized by the sheer genius of the Upright Citizens Brigade improv performers; browsed through hundreds of chapbooks at Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop; and time traveled back to the groovy 60s at the Public Library’s rotating free exhibit.

What a wonderful tiny-holiday!

Now I’m whiling my days back in Ann Arbor. As much as a workaholic that I am, being home reminds me that while writing stories is one major aspect of my life and who I am, it’s not the only thing. There’s my family, my friends, my health, my daily enjoyment of being alive. All of which are important to me and contribute significantly to why I am able to write the stories that I do.

It’s tough though, because I often feel like I am always living two worlds at once. Like no matter how hard I try to stay present, a part of my mind is a little helicopter leaf in the wind, swirling into the bodies and lives of my characters, which always leaves me anxious to get back to writing. It’s a good thing I am not a gymnast, because I feel like I am majorly falling off this balance beam sometimes.

Perhaps the best antidote to this problem is reading. Reading (unlike writing for me) can be done in public spaces. Therefore, I can be “present” with others and deeply absorbed by another character simultaneously. I’ve currently been obsessing over reading Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman, Seventeen and J: Two Novels by Kenzaburo Oē, and sending literary postcards (via Bibliophilia) to friends…because I am all about saving the handwritten letter.

And of course, there is always Saki to the forever rescue.

*For those of you new to the blog or new to me, I frequently call my boyfriend Bot, although neither of us can recall how this nickname came into being. Perhaps that will be a sleuthing project one day on this blog. However, today is not that day.

Towel Day 2018

The past few days I’ve been trapped in the cave of end-of-the-month deadlines, full of writing and editing and pulling together interviews and media galleries. Though I am biking more, which brings me great joy, and at least I know where my towel is (I hope you haven’t forgotten yours!)

PC: Lemonly

I’m attempting to be a very hoopy frood and trying to get everything done before Trey and I go to NYC over the Memorial Day weekend. It will be his first time in ze Big Apple, so we have plans to walk The High Line, discover Brooklyn, time-travel in The Met, and watch the sunset silhouette Miss Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry. Oh, and we have tickets for The Book of Mormon, too!

Until then, I have this cat and this book to keep me company.

A very heartfelt book that made me feel everything extremely deeply. Already know it is on my top list for books read in 2018.
The loveliest Saki Finch

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

You know those days when you tell yourself you are going to do something, and it somehow gets pushed to the next day and then the next? That’s what this blog post has been for me and now the month of May has slipped right through my virtual fingers! And I thought May was going to be the month that I began to update the blog every day—ha!

It’s hard to believe that I have now completed one whole year of my MFA program at VCFA! The last week in Vermont was full of procrastinating from packing, procrastinating from packing, not packing, not-totally-sober tag on the Green, reading, watching The Lobster, a day trip to Bellow’s Falls (which is one of the few Vermontian locations in Atlas Obscura), and actually packing.

Now, I am back in Ann Arbor for a few months to see the beau, the ‘rents, and to work on my thesis novel/building my literary interview portfolio/continuing to manage Hunger Mountain! I also plan to start tap dancing again (because in another life, I want to be Sarah Reich and Michelle Dorrance someday). I’ve been taking lessons for the past 4 years, but you can really only progress so far with one hour of class per week.

Am still in the infancy of the novel — which means I’m still at that point where I have to steel myself with both ears constantly open, listening for my characters to share their secrets with me all day and all night. I’m reading everything I can get my hands on that shares a theme or interest to the novel, which is basically everything I am interested in at this exact moment. As Annie Dillard said in The Writing Life, don’t wait until the next book to write your obsession and interests; pull a Melville and write them now. Annie, I am taking that to heart, thank you very much.

I’m not usually an outlining type, but mapping out a general shape of this novel’s route has been very helpful for me so far.

There will be plenty more to write about, especially since I will attempt to get better at posting more frequently! I saw the documentary RGB today, which made me feel an enormous wave of appreciation for everything Ruth Bader Ginsburg has done for the betterment of women, and made me eager to do something to change the world NOW. Kombucha really does rock. As does Wilco, which I recently was introduced to — I know, I’m always late to the party.

So much to do, but it’s summertime, which is a weight off the shoulder in itself.

Very Vernal

I’m currently nursing a sunburned shoulder as the gods of Vermont blessed us with a summer day this week, and I was not prepared for how pale I had become over the winter months. But it is definitely spring here, which makes me happy!

Therefore, this post will be a bit of a news and miscellany update from a very vernal Cammieland:

In Writing News: My unpublished story, “Frozen Locks,” received an Honorable Mention in the Glimmer Train Short Story contest for New Writers! While it didn’t make it far enough to get published, the acknowledgment still excites me enough to want to dance on a few tables.

In Music News: My days have been sounding like “Laura” by Bat for Lashes, “Time for Space” by Emancipator, “Summertime” by Angelique Kidjo, “Le Temps de L’Amour” by Francoise Hardy, and “Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens. I know, I know, a bit of an odd cocktail of sunshine and rain, apricot juice and red wine, but it’s all about balance, right?

In School News: We have just over two weeks left of the semester, which is just crazy. The second years will graduate and go on to do great things, and my cohort will take their place as the suddenly seniors. After classes end, I’ve been asked to act in my friend’s staged reading of his thesis, which is such an honor. We’ve rehearsed his play for weeks now, and I’m so excited to bring my role as the character, Ashley, and the story alive in front of an audience.

In Summer News: Here’s a list of things I am looking forward to in the summer/artsy projects I want to tackle:

  • Writing as much of my thesis as humanly possible before the end of the summer
  • Attending the Kenyon Review Fiction Writer’s Workshop in June.
  • Spending Memorial Day exploring New York City with my love.
  • Speaking with the brilliant teens at Fuente Collective about my beloved Hunger Mountain and submitting to literary journals.
  • Choreograph a new tap dancing routine and perform it impromptu in a downtown city street (any music suggestions?)
  • Construct a massive collage: of what images I do not know yet.
  • I’d love to teach a writing workshop to adults or teens, based around returning to the five senses and igniting the wonder within us in order to generate seeds for future writing projects; maybe at Story Studio in Chicago? Yoko Ono will be our spirit guide.
  • Research multimedia/multi-genre anthologies. This seems like a thing that should exist, and if it doesn’t already, I want to breathe life into one.

That’s all for now. The list will undoubtedly become longer and longer. For now, I am off to bask in the sun (with shoulders covered) and write to the “Mystery of Love.”

April is a Good Month to Buy a Beer for Frank O’Hara

I haven’t been posting here as much as I mean to because my days seem very routine lately, but in a very good way. It’s Poetry Month, perhaps my favorite month of all, and perhaps the most challenging of months because I slap this extra task each day on my head like an old-school Big Red gum wrapper that says I must write one new poem each day. It’s exhausting and yet it is the one thing I’m most proud of accomplishing at the end of the day.

I haven’t been writing any fiction lately, but I’ve been wholeheartedly delighted to explore storytelling, my thoughts and obsessions, and language in my play with poetry. To me, April is my sandbox and I can kick down and smooth out and build up sand structure after sand structure with all of the architectural creativity I can imagine. Note: Writing everyday is a great way to find out what your subconscious obsessions are.  Perhaps the most exciting thing is that I have created a poetry exchange this entire month with several writerly friends in my cohort this month. Sharing work can be extremely difficult, especially if the work is personal in any way (and it always is, one way or another). And yet, I feel an immense sense of trust and admiration for my poetic confidantes, due to these daily correspondences over our work.

This poetry month (the fourth one I’ve actively participated in) is especially exhilarating because of where I am geographically. Each April, the city of Montpelier waxes poetic, and in fact changes its name (unofficially) to Poem City. Over 400 poems cover the windows of downtown establishments as part of a “walkable anthology.” Buying groceries? Walking to work? Catching a movie at the Savoy? Picking up meds at the pharmacy? Wherever you need to go, a poem is there, waiting for you. In addition to the poems, events are held every night in various reading spaces, featuring local Vermont and New England poets. I’m still thinking about the event I went to: a poetry/music mash-up performance by the group Los Lorcas (comprised of poets Partridge Boswell and Peter Money and guitarist Nat Williams). In the spirit of Federico Garcia Lorca, the performers fused spoken word with song in an eclectic variety of pieces, ranging from blues, rock, folk, jazz. Thanks to Peter Money, I also learned what a drone poem is. (Hint: where the narrator’s point of view is that of a drone hovering over a city, seeing life lived in little pockets of individuality below).

Serendipitously, Poetry Month also collides with our craft module class taught by Matthew Dickman. He’s assigned us brilliant collections of poetry and other writings, based on the topics of Grief/Mourning, Violence, and Love. Each of these topics are perhaps the most human of qualities, and yet it’s astounding how stilted our conversations in class can feel, due to our inability, or rather discomfort and lack of practice, engaging deeply in these topics. Which is partly why this class is so essential! Through our readings, we explore the work of writers who also have a difficult time writing about the challenging topics that can so easily become banal and cliched, but who do so with such fiery innovation and eloquence.

Our reading list includes:

  • Mourning Diary by Roland Barthes
  • Book of Hours by Kevin Young
  • The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson
  • Vice by Ai
  • Eros the Bittersweet by Anne Carson
  • Fort Red Border by Kiki Petrosino

 

I’ve also recently discovered Frank O’Hara this month. Not sure why it took me so long, but I am hooked. I even started copying down a few of his Lunch Poems on paper to tape up in my room. I also could watch this acrobatic video of O’Hara at work on repeat for days. I mean, who else could type up a poem while talking on the phone and talking to a camera for an interview? Oh, Frank, let’s go to the pub so I can buy your ghost a beer.

More poems await me now. Tomorrow, my class is off to Boston for the weekend. We have plans to meet with a few godly literary journals and presses (Agni at BU, The Harvard Review at Harvard, and Black Ocean Press). Maybe when I return to Vermont, spring will remember itself. The poems, though, will continue to bud.

What I’m Reading and Where to Find Them

The mysterious thesis (which I will not divulge too much about yet as it is still in its infancy) is taking over my mind! I can tell you that it is a historical/psychological novel which takes place in post-war Japan. More to come!

To keep on schedule between now until next May when the thesis is due, I’ve drafted up a timeline for myself because visuals help me keep myself accountable for my work. For the last few months of this semester, my goal is to just read everything. Everything I can get my hands on! Novels on similar topics, historical and nonfiction first-hand narratives from survivors of the atom bomb, non-subject related books whose structure I want to study, etc. For our thesis, we technically only need to turn in the first 100 pages of a “novel in progress.” But if you know me well, I always have to finish what I start. I have to see the project through and I always LOVE to make things more difficult for myself! Ha! So I’m planning on having a first draft of a full-length novel by the time I leave VCFA. It’s all very exciting and … well mostly exciting.

Speaking of process, I’m very music-oriented when I write. So I’ve crafted a sort of “novel soundtrack” for this book. Every time I sit down to write a part of it or think through the book, I get into the mind of the book by playing the same songs from the playlist on a continuous loop. Songs include: “For Rose” by Parov Stelar, “Exurgency” by Zoe Keating, “Rubric” by Philip Glass, “Meditation on Mount Fuji” from the Deep Sleep Relaxation cd, “Vivaldi’s Four Seasons: Recomposed: Winter 1” by Max Richter, and of course, The Beatles.

I’m interested to hear what other writers’ processes are when they are at the beginning of a project.

Even though I am in full reading mode, I’m lucky in that reading often puts me in a writing mode. So there is much writing occurring, too!

This is my current reading pile. All are in various stages of partial progress or haven’t even started yet. Mostly Japanese authors and tales because of my thesis, with Melissa Febos tucked in there for fun and because she is visiting our class next week! This is just the tip of the iceberg of the books that I am reading for my thesis research. Stay tuned for more!

  • Number9Dream by David Mitchell. I am such a fan of Mitchell’s stories, having previously read Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green, and Slade House. This particular novel, based in Japan, is action-filled with a cat-and-mouse chase, all the while balancing the surreal dreamworld with the historical pang of the war; a mixture I hope to successfully create in my own book. I haven’t started Mitchell’s novel yet, but am very much looking forward to it.
  • Children of Hiroshima compiled by Dr. Arata Osada. Is that Cammie weeping in her room again? If so, it’s because she is reading this book, which consists of 105 first-hand accounts about the events of August 6, 1945, written by children who experienced and survived the bombing of Hiroshima. It is horrific, brain-staining, and should be a mandatory read for people of all ages.
  • Abandon Me: Memoirs by Melissa Febos. I’m about halfway through Febos’ collection of personal essays and can go, oh maybe one page, before I’m scribbling down another quote in my notebook. Her writing is bold and passionate, her words ripping straight through the paper, right through my skin. The themes she explores in this book are surprisingly helpful to understanding one of my thesis’ characters particularly. She put into words—beautiful and frightening truths—that “the nature of want…is to crush.” She goes on to describe her desire for her beloved’s body as “wanting to unzip my body and pull her into it, or crawl into hers.” Along similar lines, Febos describes how she “could hurt the person [she] least wanted to.” If you haven’t picked this book up yet, do so immediately. It is something to savor, like dark chocolate dipped into hot coffee.
  • Norwegian Wood by Haruki MurakamiEveryone is recommending me read this, and honestly, I can’t believe I haven’t read it yet at this point in my life! One thing I know is that I will probably blast The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” on high while reading.
  • A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’ve read this one before and am already a quarter into my second read. I’m definitely picking up on things I hadn’t noticed before. The dialogue is the most interesting element in that the characters seem to be saying nothing of significance at all to each other, and in that, they are really saying so much. Other times, two people are in a conversation but are not responding to each other. Instead, they carry on with their own monologues, which is still a type of communication—usually one displaying dysfunction or anger. I’m also excited to read An Artist of the Floating World, too.

The ampersand is technically a bookend, but I like to place its infinite curves on top of my book pile every once in a while to remind myself that there is always more. More to read, more to write. The book pile is endless. There will always be an AND, never an END.

I am spending my days drinking tea and writing a few vignettes because the novel seems to want to follow that very short chapter format. I’m editing two short stories from workshop, and am gearing up for April Poetry Month. For the past 3 years, I have written 30 poems in 30 days each time April rolls around. Each collection of 30 poems becomes a time capsule of that month of my life. I can remember exactly what occurred on each day to influence my daily poems. This year will be no different.

(If you are interested in participating in April’s National Poetry Month, but don’t want to write poems, consider signing up for Poem-a-Day, which is a daily digital poetry series which distributes a poem each day into your inbox!)

Spring Equinox

It’s currently 3 degrees in Montpelier, but I am trying to keep springy by collecting pictures of flowers and colors of beach.

I have a bag of glorious Cadbury Mini-Eggs because according to the grocery store, it’s spring. I haven’t opened them yet (such restraint), but I’m not sure what I’m waiting for.

And I am in full throttle of madly plotting out my thesis for next year with reading lists and storyboards and timelines and arrows pointing to other arrows. (More on the thesis later).

I often keep myself so busy, thinking about how I can serve other people or working on assignments that others are holding me accountable for. I wonder if that’s me trying to avoid stopping and having a breath to myself. In those paused moments, I have to be raw with everything within me: the good, the bad, the fear, the proud, the confident, the doubt. And that can be a scary place to steep, but those peaceful moments of solitude are so essential to a fulfilling and productive life. Perhaps that is what this blog’s purpose is for me. A sort of vitality.

Vitality, that’s a good word, isn’t it?

So here’s to spring, to renewal, to sun, to flowers, to slowing down sometimes, to balancing poses, to chocolate, to silence, to energy, to life. Here’s to you!