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.


Sandbox Notes: Electropop Navel


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

-“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.

Sandbox Notes: Twilight Boundaries at the Abyss


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

-Do you ever walk into a room and immediately forget what you came there to do? This is called an event boundary. Thanks to the poet, April Ossmann, who first told me about this phenomenon.

-It took about 45 seconds for the atomic bomb to drop from its plane and fall onto the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Take 45 seconds today to think about everything you are grateful for. 

Joanna Macy and The Great Turning : Macy, an environmental activist, explains that it is time to shift from an Industrial Growth Society to a life-sustaining civilization.

About Sandbox Notes. Collections by Cameron Finch.

Hibakusha Stories

Last Wednesday, I had the great honor of hearing the stories of two Hibakusha (atom bomb survivors), Shigeko Sasamori and Yakuaki Yamashita. I am so very grateful they traveled all the way from their homes in Mexico and LA to visit Vermont.

What an incredible gift they gave us—sharing their stories and experiences, reliving the horror of witnessing and surviving the nuclear blast.

I do not know what it is like to live through such violence, and yet Ms. Sasamori and Mr. Yamashita gave me a glimpse of it last night, and even then, it is difficult for me to fully imagine the numbness, the fear, the sorrow, the tragic loss, the pain, the devastation, the discrimination, the destitution, the sickness, the shame, the desperation, the courage it takes to live every day with these memories.

This may have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, to have heard eyewitness accounts from the final generation of HIbakusha. Their work is ever more important these days when fewer and fewer stories are being told, and the population of survivors is dwindling.

We must remember their past, in order to ensure history does not repeat. Nuclear warfare affects not only those who survived the horrors but also the global environment and all people born into this world thereafter.


We must educate the youth that nuclear weapons have an unacceptable impact on human beings. So far, the organizations that put on the event last night have brought Hibakusha stories to over 40,000 students in the lower 48 states. Many students had never heard anything about the atomic bomb in their entire educational career.


As Yakuaki-san said, “Don’t hate anyone. Hate creates another hate…Your lives are beautiful.”

It took 45 seconds for the bomb to fall from the airplane to the city below. Take 45 seconds today to think about all you are grateful for.

For one, I’m grateful to have heard these remarkable and brave Hibakusha Stories in person last night. I will remember them for the rest of my life.


Together, if we all do our part with the unique skills we possess, we CAN eliminate nuclear weapons and work toward peace.

You can join the peaceful movement by visiting and sign up for their newsletter to keep up to date on the Nuclear Ban Treaty and discover ways to take action.

Love widely. Peace for all. 💜

Sandbox Notes: “Darjeeling Abs – A National Movement”


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

-The inspirational messages on every bag of Yogi Tea.

-Montpelier’s famous biscuit breakfast joint, Down Home Kitchen, used to be a used bookstore called Rivendell Books before it merged with neighboring bibliospot, Bear Pond Books. Hence, the new national movement: “From Book to Biscuit.”

Saint Lucia (my new obsession, my latest essay subject, and the patron saint of authors, blindness, cutlers, glaziers, laborers, martyrs, peasants, Perugia, Italy; saddlers, salesmen, stained glass workers, and writers): meet Sufjan Stevens.

-Has anyone seen Life in Squares: a BBC drama about the Bloomsbury Group? It’s on my to-watch list. Also, after listening to this recording of Virginia Woolf, I’ve decided she’s best suited to be the sole spokesperson for all future Darjeeling Abs informercials.

About Sandbox Notes. Collections by Cameron Finch.

Sandbox Notes: Extract the Abandoned Rice Cake

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


Redstone: Montpelier’s Mansion from Yesteryear (see floor plan and photos from inside here)

-Who knew that Mr. Monopoly’s real name is Rich Uncle Pennybags? This article notes that a number of people remember Mr. Monopoly wearing a monocle, confusing Pennybags with Planters’ mascot, Mr. Peanut. This is an example of a “false collective memory.” I  must confess I was one of those mistaken rememberers.

“The Gooey Details Behind a Glow Worm’s Starry Night Illusions” (New York Times)

Where does your blood go during the embalming process? and Here’s a look into all the people who handle us when we die. 

These jewel bugs died holding tightly onto hydrangea stems.

About Sandbox Notes. Collections by Cameron Finch.

How to Quit: Lessons from a Former Chain Chewer

  1. Decide to quit.
  2. Tell others you want to quit.
  3. Do not go out of your way to buy packs of gum.
  4. If others have generously bought you packs of gum, tell them kindly that you no longer are eating gum anymore and have them hide the packs from you.
  5. Remind them that you know where their last hiding place was, so don’t put it in the top cabinet on the right, next to the laundry room. Because you WILL FIND IT.
  6. Begin to eat real food instead of chemicals with equal parts unpronounceable and unswallowable qualities. You know, those ingredients the Internet can neither confirm nor deny are harmful for your body.
  7. When your cravings for gum gain strength, try biting your tongue. Or drink more water. Or brush your teeth to prevent a dirty mouth.
  8. It probably means you are hungry. Try to listen to your body when it talks to you.
  9. Save up to $40 a month because Orbit is no longer chewing you out of house and home. Watch as the supply and demand you have struggled to keep up with in the past crumples like the wadded up wrappers you used to pyramid on your desk.
  10. Spend a few minutes every day considering why you quit. Convince yourself you feel better now that you aren’t chewing a piece of gum for five seconds before spitting it out, only to unwrap a new piece and stick it on your tongue. But really two, because you always liked having two pieces in your mouth at once.
  11. Remember that every Orbit pack you pass in the store is an opportunity. A reminder. A reminder that quitting is a solo act, but you aren’t alone. You are one in a community of many chain chewers, whose metronome jaws are nodding along in perfect synchronicity. Yes. We. Know. How. You. Feel. You. Dirty. Dirty. Mouth. 

*Why did I write this, and why am I sharing this with you? Chewing gum has been a sort of crutch for me in the past, in times of stress, or when I was very sick and found tiny ways to avoid eating real food and real calories. Currently, in my three-week module class at VCFA, we are talking all about vulnerability; asking questions about why vulnerability is scary, but necessary; what’s the difference between personal & professional vulnerability (and how that line is often blurred in writing); how do you know when to share vulnerable details and when not to, etc. I suppose we are all vulnerable as human beings to becoming addicted to such-and-such thing. Science backs it up that it takes about 66 days to form a habit, whether “good” or “bad,” if you choose to assign such labels. I’m proud of my work to quit chewing gum, and though it may or may not sound difficult to you, it definitely was not easy for me, and it’s so freeing to say that. To be honest. To work hard to overcome an act that was controlling me. Whatever your “gum” is, I believe you can free yourself of it, too.