Sandbox Notes: Troglodytes is in the Name


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

-“Beefcake Paperdoll” is the name of the incredible painting by Xavier Schipani. You can find it on the cover of Thomas Page McBee’s memoir, Man Alive.

It’s a pig meowing! It’s a giraffe barking! It’s….Nixon bleating! (From Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Series 1, Episode 12, “The Naked Ant”)

-It doesn’t have “whale” in the name, but Tilly and the Wall is a very cool band that features a tap dancer as the percussionist.

Perhaps one day, I will be eaten by birds. 


About Sandbox Notes. Collections by Cameron Finch.


Certain circumstances in my life this year have made me especially thankful for this life of mine. So…here is a gratitude list. It is surely incomplete and in no particular order:

  • My family and their undying support
  • Fuzzy animals (shoutout to Saki Finch)
  • Books
  • Every author I have ever met in person or met virtually through email interviews
  • Friends who have seen me in my best and worst states
  • Oatmeal – you have singlehandedly kept me alive this year with your nourishment
  • Vermont College of Fine Arts for giving me a safe space to discover myself, to find an encouraging and inspiring community of artists, and to challenge what creative writing can look like
  • Books
  • Art
  • My brain and heart for staying strong, even when I’m feeling down
  • The smell of my mother
  • Phones, for transporting faraway voices directly into my ear, wherever I may be
  • Smuttynose Brewing Company’s Old Brown Dog for reminding me it’s okay to let loose once in a while
  • Striped shirts
  • Fresh air
  • Tarsem’s The Fall
  • Everyone who reads my writing and this blog
  • Working on Hunger Mountain, which has made me realize that I want to work with authors on their writing and help promote amazing art for the rest of my life
  • Hibakusha Stories and the incredible work they are doing for our world
  • Music (particularly every song on this playlist)
  • Hugs
  • The ability to laugh

I lift my mug of tea to you. <3


Sandbox Notes: An Aerial Glimpse of Clunky Boots


*Bonus points for anyone who writes a short short story using the details from this plot map! Leave it in the comments below! I’d love to see it!

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

-Whose tradition (and history) are we celebrating (or ignoring) when we celebrate Thanksgiving? (Tommy Orange’s article via LA Times)

-I will never be able to think of a BB gun or a powder-blue suit the same, now that I’ve heard Alex Marzano-Lesnevich read from their award-winning book, The Fact of a Body.

-Why read today’s news when you can read Yesterday’s Print?

-In my class with James Scott, we’re thinking a lot about the inverted checkmark and how to structure a story.

-Some people call November 5th Bonfire Night, some call it Guy Fawkes’ Day, some people (like me) call it “Save John Watson” day (any Sherlock fans, here?)…here’s a refresher on The Gunpowder Plot.


About Sandbox Notes. Collections by Cameron Finch.

Sandbox Notes: Unobscured Pluming Complex

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

-If you hope to live for a long time, think twice about watching this video. According to Monty Python, the creator of this joke—the world’s funniest joke—died laughing at it.

-Need an icebreaker when you go to parties? Here’s one: Oedipus with Vegetables.

-The world would be a better place if we all just put our legs up the wall already.

-I’m a fangirl of words that don’t exist in the English language. Here’s a new one for me: Setsunai (切ない).

-All I’m listening to these days: “Spine” by Plume. Beautiful to listen to with eyes closed and in the rain. Full of yummy notes that will make you melancholic and nostalgic all at once.

About Sandbox Notes. Collections by Cameron Finch.

New Piece “Sad Animal Facts in the Style of Ikkyū” on Queen Mob’s Teahouse

I am overjoyed that my piece, “Sad Animal Facts in the Style of Ikkyū” was recently published online as part of Queen Mob’s Teahouse‘s collection of “Misfit” documents. According to Queen Mob’s, a Misfit Document is “a text that doesn’t easily fit into any genre or category. It’s not quite a poem or short story or novel excerpt or essay. Or if it is one of those things, it doesn’t quite qualify as “literary” or sci-fi or mystery or memoir or whatever.”

I had recently created a series of hybrid, Frankenstein-stitched pieces—unexpected mashups from different sources—including this sequence which mixes Brooke Barker’s “Sad Animal Facts” with the poetic style of 15th-century Japanese Zen monk and poet Ikkyū (for this, I used Stephen Berg’s 1989 English translation of Crow with No Mouth). This sequence is original in the sense that no one has ever thought to pair these puzzle pieces together, but leans into the idea that all art is borrowed and all art is a commemoration of the art that came before.

(Puffins are called the clowns of the sea)


the lace-ruffled puffins want it too

A huge thanks to Reb Livingston at Queen Mob’s Teahouse for publishing it and being wonderful to work with!

Sandbox Notes: Tonight We Found This Body of Moon

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

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


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

-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.