Blog Tour

My friend, Iris Graville, invited me to participate in a Writing Process Blog Tour.

Iris is a classmate and good friend of mine. She’s graduating with me in August. She’ll also receive her masters from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. The Blog Tour stopped at her blog last week ( where she answered questions about her writing process. This week, the bus stops here.

What am I working on?

I just finished a (not “the”) final draft of my thesis. It’s a collection of micro-essays titled “How We Belong.” It’s an exploration into connection and community. It tells the story of how humans are inextricably bound to each other. Some of the essays are personal. Some of them are about other people. Right now the manuscript is in the hands of Brian Doyle, my second reader.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I write short. Really short. It took me 27 essays to get to a sufficient word count to be considered a thesis. My strength is concision. But it’s also a challenge when it comes to deciding if I’ve explained enough. I have to make sure I have provided an unabbreviated story despite the length.

What do I write what I do?

I write exclusively nonfiction. Stories are everywhere. I constantly find myself in situations saying, “You can’t make this stuff up.” I’ve never had a need to write fiction because there are so many true stories that need telling. Also, I suck at writing fiction and poetry.

How does my writing process work?

I’m not even close to a morning person. I’m also not a night owl. I’m really more of a late afternoon person who likes her sleep. My most creative time is from 2-4 in the afternoon (right about the time most people want to nap). I’m pretty disciplined but I don’t write when I don’t want to. Sometimes I’m just not creative and I think that’s ok to admit. I don’t really have a “space” either. I go to Starbucks because I like noise. Sometimes I’ll sit at the library. I love to write outdoors on the lawn.


Sometimes I spread out on the floor in my living room. I’m very visual and very tactile, which means I print a lot (sorry tree lovers… but I do recycle :-) ). I cut up essays with scissors. I tape up stuff on the walls. I use an absurd amount of post-it notes. My apartment often looks like the movie “A Beautiful Mind,” though I can’t claim the genius part. I hate red pen. I usually listen to hip-hop or rap (which I realize seems funny, but whatever works) or sometimes acoustic guitar while I write. If it’s silent, it’s hard to get out of my own way, which is my biggest problem.


Next week the Writing Process Blog Tour continues with two writers I admire. Check our their blogs next Tuesday.

Brittany Wren, a longtime friend of mine, lives and writes in Syracuse, Nebraska. (

Krista Houstoun, a friend and coworker, is a writer, editor and freelancer in Sedona, Arizona. (

New Published Pieces

New pieces out this past week

Room for Pie

November issue of Skirt! Magazine, print and online

Two Trees
Published in an anthology: A Kiss Under the Mistletoe, ed. Jennifer Basye Sander


On the Radio

While at residency I had the opportunity to read an essay on WhidbeyAIR, a local radio station. I read an essay called The Rules of Anatomy Lab.

Listen at:

My reading starts at time stamp 31:45, which is roughly in the middle of the mp3 file. It’s sandwiched by wonderful readings by friends who are also in the NILA low-residency program.
“… You’re listening to WhidbeyAIR.”

A Writing List

My writing list is on The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts’ blog today!

Check it out:


New piece published today on:

Check it out and comment!


First Swim of the Season

Screen shot 2013-04-28 at 9.53.48 PMBack in college, when I was first learning the butterfly stroke, I informed the lifeguard before I entered the pool that he shouldn’t try to save me because I wasn’t drowning, I was only practicing the butterfly. He laughed, but in all honesty, learning the butterfly is a lot like drowning in a basic direction. It is ungraceful and involves choking on a fair amount of chlorinated pool water, and also more coordination than I have ever had to offer.

Friday night was my first swim of the season. And although I swim every summer, it has been years since I practiced the butterfly. So many years in fact I doubted my muscle memory. It is rusty, but my legs still remember the dolphin kick. My arms remember the pull. My lungs remember when to inhale.

The lifeguard, although attentive, did not try to save me or even ask if I was OK. I think this means I’ve progressed since my first attempts. That, or he was just trying to be nice.




Sidewalk Chalk

MO art

We are never too old for sidewalk art or hopscotch.


A Typical Haircut Experience

Getting a haircut is the one situation where I am reliably indecisive. I know exactly what I want my hair to look like but for every question the stylist asks I’m not sure how to answer.

“Where do you part it?”

“Uh, on the side, either side really… or down the middle. I mean, most the time I put it up so I don’t really have a part at all.”

“And how much do you want to take off?”

“Just a trim.” Yes, I realize I gave her no actual unit of measure.

A few minutes later, over the sound of the blow dryer from the stylist in the station next to us, she asks me, “How do you like your bangs cut?”

“Not crooked.” I try to avoid the question.

“Well, yes, but at what length do you like them?”

“I mean, I don’t want to look like a first grader whose mom cuts her bangs too short so that she doesn’t need to go back two weeks later to get them trimmed, but I also hate having hair in my eyes, so you know, somewhere between those two lengths.”

Yes, I do realize the margin between these two lengths is a matter of millimeters.

She just looks at me like I probably have no idea what I want. This is why I have brought a picture — of Zooey Deschanel or Jennifer Aniston or Heidi Klum — someone whose makeup has been professionally done, who exercises for a living and who has paid $500 for her haircut and style. But I would like mine to look like that, minus the pixilation from my low-on-ink printer.

“See this?” I point at the photo. She pauses to take a look but I interrupt immediately. “Nevermind, ignore this.” I put the photo on the countertop upside-down  “Use your judgment; just don’t cut off too much.” She smiles at the version of trust I’ve put inher hands. And for the millionth time that day I realize how grateful I am for people who are good at things I am not.



Every once in a while when I get to writing fast enough and with some fluidity where I stop thinking about how letters form and I just do what my wrist and fingers learned to do when I was in grade school, my handwriting starts to resemble my father’s.

It isn’t because I practiced forging his signature for permission slips or report cards. And it isn’t because I ever really analyzed his penmanship. It’s just the opposite actually. It isn’t practiced, but instead completely natural.

We find our roots in mundane things; our identities where we might not have thought to look. I love that writing, one of the things I am most passionate about, is what leads me back home.




photo (16)



[Photo: Page from Glamour Magazine, March 2013]

Leave it to Kate Spade to make a bag that the media (Glamour Magazine) describes as “wackadoodle.” I’ve been using this fabulous word for years. I suppose I’ll have to stop taking credit for making it up.