The night before my first public reading, I stood in the middle of my living room and discussed with my fiancé the best manner in which to inflect the word “douche.”  Afterward, I assembled my most writerly outfit:  jeans, gray flats, a striped button-down shirt that I usually wear to work and is close to becoming unwearable due to pit stains, and a blazer, for the double purpose of hiding aforementioned pit stains, both old and fresh.

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just because it’s beautiful

Those Of Us Who Think We Know

Those of us who think we know
the same secrets
are silent together most of the time,
for us there is eloquence
in desire, and for a while
when in love and exhausted
it’s enough to nod like shy horses
and come together
in a quiet ceremony of tongues

it’s in disappointment we look for words
to convince us
the spaces between stars are nothing
to worry about,
it’s when those secrets burst
in that emptiness between our hearts
and the lumps in our throats.
And the words we find
are always insufficient, like love,
though they are often lovely
and all we have

- Stephen Dunn

Books With Letters Missing

The posts below are puerile odes to the fragility of language. Steal one letter, just one little letter from a thing, and that thing becomes a different thing. And hopefully it becomes a funnier or weirder or sexier thing. All the titles below were written by two friends on the wrapper of a spinach and cheese croissant from Au Bon Pain. They are the offspring of spinach, cheese, and coffee. The descriptions that accompany the titles were written by one friend, and are the offspring of bourbon and Doritos.

The DaVinci Cod

The Da Vinci Cod
In which Dan Brown discovers the secret history behind one our greatest minds, (and one of our greatest fish). Continue reading

some elements for making a poem

poem ingredients

Everything depends upon the correct choice of elements for a prescription, the proper tools for a mechanic, the proper measurements for a recipe, finely tooled gears for mobiles and appliances. If this is true, then a poem may require the same type of deliberations in the choice of devices, form, metaphors, place, time, narrator, speaker or voice, tone and rhythm. Each one of these requirements depends as much upon intuition as it does upon inspiration. The poet’s job is to breathe life into the event or experience so that when a reader encounters a poem he or she is encountering the event for the very first time. Whatever the circumstances, the writer may be called upon to rely upon trial and error, which for the sake of this exercise is called: revision. Continue reading

The Instinct to Discard

“The instinct to discard is finally a kind of faith. It tells me there’s a better way to do this page even though the evidence is not accessible at the present time.”

-Don DeLillo, via The Paris Review



letter writing

On a clear twilight in 1990, having been married for three months and recently graduated from high school, I began to drive home from work, pulling out of the parking lot just as the sun was setting, when my car was broadsided by a San Diego city bus. No one thought I would survive my head injury then, and no one who knew my injury thought I would survive the coma let alone recover. After I got out of the hospital, I could only begin to overcome such a poor prognosis by reading the Bible, writing, and being in a continual learning mode in regard to the world in general. The hardest part of overcoming my prognosis was everyone’s belief that I wouldn’t. People thought of me as incapable given how bad my injury was. The doctors said I wouldn’t recover. Writing became my savior, and I think it’s important to know writing has such healing properties.

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A little Monday Morning Vonnegut to start the week off right, from his book Timequake

“In my entire career as a writer,” said Trout in the former Museum of the American Indian, “I created only one living, breathing, three-dimensional character. I did it with my ding-dong in a birth canal. Ting-a-ling!” He was referring to his son Leon, the deserter from the United States Marines in time of war, subsequently decapitated in a Swedish shipyard.

“If I’d wasted my time creating characters,” Trout said, “I would never have gotten around to calling attention to things that really matter: irresistible forces in nature, and cruel inventions, and cockamamie ideals and governments and economies that make heroes and heroines alike feel like something the cat drug in.”

Getting PersonalIn my favorite story I like to tell in response to why and when I became a writer, I say, “Mrs. Hinds’ third grade class, Salford Hills Elementary School, 1996.”

It’s a feel-good story, albeit cheesy, about how a tomboyish stub of a girl wound up with allegedly the worst teacher in history, spent a whole summer whining (“They should call her Mrs. Hinney!”), then admittedly grew to love her. And most importantly, found a love for the arts. Mrs. Hinds was in her seventies when I had her, and those first few autumn months, I kept a list in my desk of how many times she said a few key phrases:

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The Sentence

This is a story I’ve been working on for a several months, having published a much shorter version a few years ago. It’s part of a collection-in-progress, and is about two girls’ (Stoffi and Gert) severed friendship over a stolen brush that escalates into other, more violent acts in Pre-WWII Germany. In the scene I am working on, Stoffi, whose parents raise German Shepherds, overhears at school that a puppy has drowned, and realizes that Gert was the one to steal it.

1. Stoffi was successfully not listening to the girls talk about the camping trip, and would have continued to believe that a ghost had snatched the puppy from their pen had Emma not said that Rebecca was the one to find it.

In the first version of the scene, the reader knows that the puppy Gert stole has drowned. In this sentence, Stoffi gleans that something happened to the “it,” but doesn’t know what it is.

2. Stoffi was doubly invested in not listening when she got to school, and would have succeeded had Emma not said that Rebecca was the one to find it, the it being anything, tracks in the dirt, raccoon scat, a bird’s nest, any of one nature’s wonders.

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On the first day of my Topics in Publishing class in DePaul University’s M.A. Writing and Publishing program, we watched The Five Obstructions, a documentary about Danish filmmakers Jørgen Leth and Lars von Trier. Leth had been von Trier’s mentor, but von Trier wanted to put Leth to the test by asking him to revise one of his films, The Perfect Man, five times in five different ways. Continue reading