“Paradise” is out in BLUE EARTH REVIEW!

Hello again!

It’s only been about a day, but I’m back, as promised, with pictures of the beautiful Blue Earth Review.

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I’m IN LOVE with the cover art, which was done by Drew Rhodes. He has a lot more work included in the pages of the review as well, all involving magnificent, vivid colors and desolate landscapes.

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I’ve mentioned my own story, “Paradise,” here before. It’s loosely inspired by the John Prine song of the same name, and by some of the real-life events that eventually led to the abandonment of the small town of Paradise, Kentucky, in the 1950s. My version of the story is my own fiction, though, focused on a made-up group of children living in the town. It’s a story about a coal company, a missing boy who went to the river and never came back, and a town being slowly overtaken by ash. Last year, it was one of two of my stories (the other being “Homecoming“) to jointly receive a Hopwood Underclassmen Fiction Award.

“Paradise” is actually a featured story on Blue Earth Review‘s website, meaning that you can read it here if you like! The website also features work by Leigh Allison Wilson (creative nonfiction) and Rob Carney, Natalie Homer, and Chris Santiago (poetry).

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Above is the full list of contributors to this issue. I am so, so honored to have been included in such a beautiful publication, alongside so many writers whose work I admire.

Again, if you like, you can check out my story “Paradise” here, and leave a quick comment under this post letting me know what you think!

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“Griefers” and “Pretty Thing” have won a Hopwood!

This news is overdue at this point, but still worth sharing! I submitted two of my short stories, “Griefers” and “Pretty Thing,” to the Hopwood Graduate & Undergraduate Contest as a joint manuscript, and recently I was pleased to learn that I’d received the Arthur Miller Award!

This news was incredibly exciting, partly because the award involves a scholarship for this coming fall (my final semester of college, ahh!!), and partly because there were so many other amazing winners. The contest covers long and short fiction, poetry, and drama, with a ton of different categories, and it was an honor to receive an award alongside so many MEGA-talented writers, some of whom are even my friends or former classmates. I’ve written a lot here before about the incredible literary community of Ann Arbor, so I won’t go off on any long love-rants, but I do consider myself so lucky to live and attend school here and to be able to participate in things like this.

I got to chat with some of these friends at the award ceremony last week, where screenwriter and producer Janet Leahy was a guest speaker. Ms. Leahy shared some really interesting advice about the importance of understanding characters’ fears, the unlikely and always-different path to success, and how breaking up one’s routine, even in really small ways, can help to bolster creativity. I’ve been too swamped with finals for the last week or so to get much writing done, but now that my schedule is finally clearing up, I can’t wait to try out these tips in my own work.

That’s pretty much it for now. I’m still waiting to find homes for both of those stories. (“Griefers” is a romance/drama story set in an arcade, and “Pretty Thing” is about two cousins road tripping to Fallingwater 20-30 years in the future.) But I’m crossing my fingers for publication so that hopefully I can share them with the world sometime soon!

Readings, more readings, and how much I love readings

All right. I’m bubbling down from my I SAW LORDE AND MITSKI LIVE LAST NIGHT euphoria to write a sort of March update—although first, really quick—

I SAW LORDE AND MITSKI LIVE LAST NIGHT!!!!!!

Mitski is one of my absolute role models in so many ways, and I basically fainted when she played “Townie”. She is a rock star in every sense of those two words. And Lorde was so genuinely amazing and talented and kind, and the fact that she talked about writing and played “Writer in the Dark” is enough to power me through at least a thousand words today.

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That photo is of Mitski, rocking her own heart out and mine.

Anyway—that soul-enlivening, fulfilling, overwhelming concert was only the most recent in a long string of cool events I’ve gone to this month! Luckily for this writing-related blog, most of them have been readings.

The first event I went to was with TOMI ADEYEMI!!! (And yeah, I was basically as excited to see her as I was to see Lorde and Mitski.)

A couple of Saturdays ago, my friend and I spent the entire day in Barnes & Noble, reading Children of Blood and Bone (which has now reached its third—I think?—consecutive week at the top of the NYT Bestseller List). I’d never done this before, and it was weirdly a lot of fun. If you have anyone you can do that with, I’d definitely recommend it—you can pick out a book you’re both excited about and sit in the Starbucks for hours, drinking hot chocolate and stopping every once in a while to freak out when something exciting has happened.

Then we drove to Detroit, where we got to hear Tomi speak a little and read an excerpt from the book. We also got to meet her briefly, and she signed our books and even took a picture with us!!! Here it is:

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I don’t think a day will ever come when I won’t smile when I look at this picture. Tomi Adeyemi is such an inspiration—she makes me want to keep writing all of the time and to dedicate myself to my ideas, even though seeing them through is a lot of hard work. I would highly recommend checking out her website because she posts a ton of helpful writing advice. (Plus, she was seriously just so nice.) I wrote an article about the event here for the Daily in case you’d like to hear me geek out about her a little more.

More recently, I went to an event that was a lot smaller but still very exciting: the annual Caldwell Poetry Competition performance through U of M’s Lloyd Hall Scholars Program. I think I’ve said before here that LHSP played a big part in helping me find a community and a lot of avenues for writing and the arts when I first got to college, and this was my third year participating in Caldwell. There’s a written category and a performance category; written poetry is definitely where I feel more comfortable, but I entered the performance contest too, because why not, right? Performing scares me a little, and I think doing things that scare you is good.

Last year, I did an interpretation of “Pretty,” by Katie Makkai, which is a poem I’ve loved deeply since high school. This year I did “B (If I Should Have a Daughter),” by the wonderful Sarah Kay. I won’t lie—my performance last year was a lot better, I think because I was a lot more passionate about that poem. But even though I didn’t do very well personally this year, I’m still so glad I got to go, because it gave me the chance to hear so many talented people performing both original and interpreted work. This year was definitely the all-around strongest Caldwell competition I’ve ever attended (even though we had a surprise evacuation in the middle after a fire alarm was pulled). It went on for about two hours and I wasn’t bored for any of it.

This year, I’d like to try writing a little spoken word poetry. Just as an experiment—I know it’s not my forte, but I wrote a little of my own in high school, and I remember it giving me this great feeling of release. I wasn’t just sharing my words with the world, I was showing the world what they meant with my voice, with my body. That’s not an opportunity I give myself very often. Poetry in general is difficult for me, let alone a type of poetry that’s meant to be performed—but I’d still like to try it, for the sense of ownership and confidence that I know it offers when you can pull it off successfully. Plus, I think poetry is just a fun community to engage with in general. I love the exchange of ideas and the bold sharing that happens at events like this.

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Finally, last Sunday, I attended the annual reading of the Prison Creative Arts Project’s literary journal, The Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing. This is my third year involved with the lit review, and my first working as one of the assistant editors, so I got to help out a lot with organizing the event. To be involved with this was such a privilege, and I was glad for the chance to hear so many great pieces read aloud. This is the lit review’s 10-year anniversary, so we published a “Greatest Hits” compilation, and we also had a bunch of signs and flyers individually designed and handmade by Sierra Brown, like the beautiful poster above.

All right, I think that’s pretty much all of the amazing things I’ve had the opportunity to attend lately. Engage with the arts! Attend local readings!!! They’re basically always free, and they offer such a great chance to meet other writers and readers and to get a look at what other people are working on and experimenting with.

(And listen to Mitski!!)

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February Reading List

Every month, I make myself a playlist to correspond and use it as a receptacle for all the songs I find and/or revisit that month that I think are good. In typical twentysomething Spotify fashion, I’ve been titling the playlists with the name of the month (in all lowercase, too—I’m like THAT!), but I’ve also been tacking on a word or phrase that’s writing related. Weirdly enough, the word usually does end up corresponding to the vibe of the month in some way. For instance, I called my October playlist “submissions deadline,” and then October actually got really stressful with deadlines. I’ve been trying to veer toward more positive and/or neutral titles since then.

Anyway, I started the March one today (so far it’s just Destiny’s Child), and I’m calling it “outlining.” It’s the first of the month, and I’d really like to get my life together for March. I’m going to try out V.E. Schwab‘s habit tracker thing because she makes it look SO COOL, and I’m going to make some headway in terms of figuring out what I want to do this summer.

(While we’re on the subject of things I may or may not be going to do, I mentioned in my previous post that I was going to try to go to AWP, which is happening next week. Unfortunately I had to get some car repairs done and the AWP horizon is no longer looking super bright in a financial sense. BUT it’s all good because I should still be able to get the student price next year, so hopefully I’ll be able to make it to that one! I just thought I ought to tie up that loose end for continuity’s sake. But anyway, if anyone who’s reading this post is going, I hope you have a great time!!)

One thing I AM doing is posting my reading list on the actual first of the month this time. So, without further ado:

Lament for the Makers,” by Frank Bidart
Giammi Non Mi Conforto” // “Never Again that Comfort for Me,” by Rinaldo d’Aquino (a poem from the Crusades that’s written like some folk song)
Persephone, Falling,” by Rita Dove
The Tiger,” by Nael, age 6
Love Poem in the Time of Climate Change (Sonnet XVII),” by Craig Santos Perez
The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” by Flannery O’Connor
Lines written at Castle Island, Lake Superior,” by Jane Johnston Schoolcraft
One Side of an Interview with the Ghost of Marvin Gaye,” by Hanif Abdurraqib
Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth,” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Kill Me Now, by Timmy Reed (which I reviewed for The Michigan Daily here)
The Vulture interview with Quincy Jones
Ghazal,” by Larry Levis
Everyone Was in Love,” by Galway Kinnell
“Ancestors,” by Kiki Petrosino
“The Spirit Neither Sorts nor Separates,” by Linda Gregg
“I—Towards a Definition,” by Alice Notley
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
To the Pine Tree,” by Jane Johnston Schoolcraft
“On Doric Rock, Lake Superior,” by Jane Johnston Schoolcraft
I Don’t Miss It,” by Tracy K. Smith
Invocation,” by Jane Johnston Schoolcraft
These love poems for Valentine’s Day (I’m actually pretty happy with this column)
runaway,” by Dean Symmonds
On the Most Terrifying Character in the Wizard of Oz,” by Amy Woolard
Dogs in Love,” by Ali Shapiro
On Sufferance,” by Lydia Davis
The Opposites Game,” by Brendan Constantine
The Promise,” by Marie Howe
The Author Explains good kid, m.A.A.d City To His White Friend While Driving Through Southeast Ohio,” by Hanif Abdurraqib
Evangeline, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
A Scientific Analysis of Disney Movie Sidekicks Through The Lens Of Hip Hop,” by Hanif Abdurraqib
On College,” by Hanif Abdurraqib
To the Woman Crying Uncontrollably in the Next Stall,” by Kim Addonizio
All You Zombies,” by Robert A. Heinlein
“Portrait of My Father, Alive,” by Fatimah Asghar
2019,” by Rickey Laurentiis
You’re really faithful to your abusers, aren’t you?” by Samiya Bashir
Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience,” by Rebecca Roanhorse
Concerning That Prayer I Cannot Make,” by Jane Mead
The Slave Mother,” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Eliza Harris,” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Ruth and Naomi,” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in],” by e.e. cummings
Sonnet II,” by Pablo Neruda
Apology for My Son Who Stops to Ask About His Mother Once More,” by Blas Falconer
Hum of the Machine God,” by Jamaal May
What Would I Do White,” by June Jordan
After Years,” by Ted Kooser
The Poem Climbs the Scaffold and Tells You What It Sees,” by Natasha Oladokun
“Callus,” by Mario Chard

Wow! Hyperlinks galore!!! Am I really trying to share things with people, or am I just trying to feel cool and prove I’m a WordPress expert? The world may never know. Anyway, in the time it took for me to find all those links, I listened to the entire Destiny’s Child #1’s compilation album. Not that that’s a net loss or anything.

I don’t think I have any other writing-related updates, other than that I’m home for spring break right now and getting a lot done!! This morning I sat down to take care of some submissions/housekeeping stuff, and it’s all rainy and I’m sitting here with some hot tea in a mug my friend Charlotte gave me that says “WRITE LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER”. What a #classic scene. I’m too lazy to Instagram it, I guess, so I’m just writing it down here.

Now all I’ve got to do is finish up a chapter and get myself outside!! I bet I can convince myself that the rain actually makes running more fun. Happy March, everybody!

Love in the Time of February

This is coming a couple of days late, but happy Valentine’s Day!!

I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day, if only for the candy and cupcakes. This Valentine’s Day was a little weird because I wrote two romance-related pieces for The Michigan Daily in the same week. The first was a “poetry playlist” for my literature column, which is pretty sweet and uplifting and contains a bunch of great love poems. The second was a music playlist full of mournful and/or angsty songs about being single. I wrote both of them on the same day, pretty much back-to-back, which made for kind of a hard gear shift. Maybe it’s official now — I don’t truly have any real opinions on anything, I’m just really indifferent, and I’ll stretch that indifference one way or another for the sake of trying to write convincing journalism.

I’m just going to fall back on my old reasoning that I truly believe many things, even contradictory things, at the same time. Like Alanis Morissette says: “I’m sad but I’m laughing, I’m brave but I’m chickenshit,” etc. I hate Valentine’s Day, but I love it!

Anyway, they were both really fun pieces that each include some good music/poetry recommendations, so I’d recommend checking them out if you have the time. 🙂

While I’m on the subject of the Daily, this isn’t Valentine’s-Day-related at all, but I also wrote my first lead for the B-Side! The B-Side is a biweekly insert that the senior arts editors put together on various subjects. This one focused on queerness in the arts, so I did some interviews and wrote a piece on queer art and social activism that you can find here if you’re so inclined. This was all in the span of the last week or so, so I’m in a journalism mood, big time.

Last but not least, bonus announcement: I might be going to AWP this year! :O Stay tuned!

January Reading List

It’s the first day of February, yay! I read somewhere (on Twitter, I admit) that today is exactly halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. I forget what the term for that is called, but I think it’s a pretty cool fact (if it is a fact), especially coming right on the heels of such a kickass full moon.

Anyway, as promised, here is the list of all the things I read in January!

Fourth Grade Autobiography,” by Donika Kelly
Night Sky with Exit Wounds, by Ocean Vuong
Selected poems from Flowers of Hell, by Nguyen Chi Thien
This Hour and What Is Dead,” by Li-Young Lee
Three Words,” by Li-Young Lee
In the Library,” by Jean Valentine
The soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou? because I just love folk music
*Bonus folk song: “Can the Circle Be Unbroken,” by The Carter Family
“My Father Is the Sea, the Field, the Stone,” by Ruth Awad
“Math Lesson,” by Eloisa Amezcua
Self-Portrait as a Constant Point of Contention,” by Cortney Lamar Charleston
Sabratha,” by Charity Young
“startle,” by Francine J. Harris
Good Bones,” by Maggie Smith
Jacaranda,” by Robin Kozak
The moon rose over the bay. I had a lot of feelings.,” by Donika Kelly
If your Nerve, deny you (292),” by Emily Dickinson
Victory Lap,” by George Saunders
The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” by W.B. Yeats
A Cradle Song,” by W.B. Yeats
Puppy,” by George Saunders
The Mechanic,” by Robert Creeley
“It’s all fun and games until somebody gains consciousness,” by Franny Choi
Pavlov was the Son of a Priest,” by Paige Lewis
There is a solitude of space,” by Emily Dickinson
“The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster,” by Richard Brautigan, and by Joanna C. Valente
Dew,” by Kay Ryan (I read this one off the wall of a subway in New York City, which feels like a really hip detail worth mentioning—and look, according to the link I used, I’m not the only one who took notice of it!)
A Small Needful Fact,” by Ross Gay
What Did You See?” by Fanny Howe (again—I loved this poem in high school and just revisited it recently)
“Blindman’s Bluff,” by Raymond McDaniel
“Cataracts,” by Raymond McDaniel
Praying,” by Mary Oliver
The Peace of Wild Things,” by Wendell Berry
Michael,” by William Wordsworth
The Price of Rain,” by Franny Choi
I Cannot Be Quiet an Hour,” by Mary Ruefle
Little Mountain Woman,” by Terese Marie Mailhot

As with December, I think there’s a running theme of the list being very poetry-heavy. Again, I’m pretty sure it’s all the Twitter. But there are a couple of short stories on there, and books (of poetry LOL).

I’m back in Ann Arbor now, and still reeling from the awesomeness that was New York City. I went to the New York Public Library, and there’s a big part of me that’s resolved to move to New York just so that I can go and write there all the time. I think in big, distinguished old buildings like that, it’s hard not to get real work done because I’d feel kind of guilty otherwise—like, hundreds of people didn’t work very hard on the design and construction of this building just so that I could sit inside of it and watch The Office with my earphones in. I get this also with the Law Library at U of M.

We also went to the MET, where they were having an exhibit on the art, music, writing, politics, whatever else of the 1960s—so that was pretty much perfect—and we went to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where I got really sucked in reading quotations from immigrants arriving to the U.S. It was crazy how there were so many specific stories from people from completely different places, stories that were sometimes similar but also different in really important ways. I took pictures of a couple that really stuck out to me in particular:

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I want to go back to Ellis Island someday because I didn’t get to read every single quotation, and I kind of wanted to—I could have spent hours there.

On a different note, while I’m importing stuff onto my computer, here are a couple more photos! The first is me in Times Square, and the second is my brother and my dad on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty.

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Okay, I’ve got more poetry to go and read (not on Twitter, for class), so that’s all for now. Thanks for reading! 🙂

New Poetry in The Merrimack Review

I have some new poems out in The Merrimack Review!

There are three of them—”Fur,” “The Tardigrade,” and “Winter in Oz,” and you can read them here (same link LOL). Very very happy to have some new poetry out there in the universe. I want to start writing more poetry because I’ve been reading a ton of it lately (January reading list coming soon), and I often come up with little lines and emotions and ideas that I feel like would fit ideally inside poems if I could only figure out how to write them. I guess the only way I’ll learn how to do that in a way that I really like is to keep practicing, so we’ll see!

Also, shameless plug for my friend Brooke White, whose nonfiction appears in the new issue of Midwestern Gothic. Midwestern Gothic is one of my favorite publications out there and Brooke is one of my favorite people, so if you have a chance to check out the new issue, I’d definitely recommend it! It features work from tons of other awesome writers as well (including Cortney Lamar Charleston, whose amazing poetry I just started reading within the last month or so).

In other news, I’m considering posting some very amateur photography here and would appreciate some input on whether that’s a good idea or a horrible one. 🙂

Forthcoming Fiction in Blue Earth Review

There’s no real point to this post other than what the title says: I’m getting published in Blue Earth Review!!!

Yay!!!!

The fiction in question is “Paradise,” a short story I wrote last year inspired by John Prine’s song of the same name. So naturally I’m back in my recurring John Prine mood for a few days. Everyone should listen to his eponymous debut album. Also the new album Ruins by First Aid Kit. (Glowing review coming soon from The Michigan Daily.) Also, according to it seems like everybody, the new Porches album? Although I haven’t listened to that one yet, so I guess I shouldn’t say. But the First Aid Kit one is beautiful—I can’t get enough of “Postcard,” and “It’s a Shame,” what beautiful songs!

Anyway, I’m off-topic now. Writing and music always end up going together for me—like right now, for instance, I’m in my house’s dining room listening to the soundtrack from The Last Five Years coming out of the kitchen. Now I really want to watch that musical.

I’m actually seeing a musical this weekend! The Lion King. I’ll be in New York City for a concert of my dad’s. My goal is to take a bunch of pictures and to bond with my family. A+ goals!

I’ve been in such a good mood the last few days—I don’t even know if it’s the publication thing, I kind of don’t think so. Although that is great! But I think writing a lot just puts me in a good mood. The night before last, I was on my way to bed at 1:00am, but I kind of felt like writing, so I sat down to write a few paragraphs, and I ended up writing around 2500 words. I went to bed at like 2:30. And I’m not the sort of person who normally does that—I really usually just write in the morning or early afternoon, by the time night comes around I’m a lot worse at thinking. But it was really fun, very stream of consciousness. By the end I was writing all about Japanese maples. I’ve been getting really into specificity lately and I just can’t believe how beautiful they are.

And then today I woke up early-ish to work on something for my fiction tutorial, and I wasn’t really expecting to get through the whole thing because it was very last-minute and I only left myself two or three hours to do it. I was expecting to just use the Japanese maple CNF thing. But then I did get through it—I actually felt really good about it—and now it’s like my whole day is better. I love how that’s how it works, writing and feeling good, or sometimes just feeling better. It’s like this whole reciprocal thing.

Anyway, I have real things to go and do (for Midwestern Gothic! I’m officially an intern there now!), so I should sign off. It’s weird how this started out with me patting myself on my back and it sort of ended there, too. But also it started out as kind of an announcement and then it turned into more of a diary entry. I think I must be very big into stream of consciousness these days.

Original song with my friend Clarissa

I just wrote a new post the other day, but I’m back!

I’m in Portland right now, but I just got to spend a week at home in Bloomington. I love love love Bloomington and it always makes me happy to go home, and one of the best times for going home is over the holidays because old friends of mine are usually home then, too!

My friend Clarissa and I used our together-time last week to write a song together, a new experience for me which was really fun and which I hope to someday do again. Our song is called “Home Alone” but it also goes by “Theory #78,” “Laura and Clarissa’s Emo Song,” “Clarissa and Laura’s Emo Song,” or maybe just “Winter Song” (?), because we couldn’t pick.

Anyway, I just posted it on YouTube. We also videotaped ourselves shopping at Krogucci (the good Kroger) and making peppermint bark, which maybe I will get around to editing into a music video sometime soon because I’d like to try developing some video skills (LOL) (we’ll see).

But in the meantime, here is the video of us playing “Home Alone” et al.! Enjoy!

Arbwriters Fall Retreat

This is going to be a short post because it’s late at night and I have to wake up at like 6 am  tomorrow(/today) to do revisions.

(Brief aside: I honestly suck when it comes to deadlines. Like my attitude is literally “if it’s due on Thursday afternoon, why would I do it anytime before Thursday morning?” Which I know is maybe bad. I’m trying to change. (Except not really. I’m trying to do a lot of other things. I can focus on changing my bad habits later.))

ANYWAY: the Arbwriters had a fall writing weekend in Detroit!!

IMG_20171028_192053.jpgThat’s us, getting ready to eat an amazing dinner. Photo credits to Vahid, and dinner credits to Will Toms. Brooke and I had to do a lot of weird furniture maneuvering to make all of this table space possible, which I for one was very proud of.

This was personally my second time getting together with everyone for an in-person retreat thingy (I’m pretty sure I wrote about the first one here, too — it was the one back at the end of the summer, the one where I learned about ceiling tables). It was honestly so much fun. There were writing and revising times, and there were friend times. That’s about as articulate as I’m capable of being right now, I’m sorry. But it’s important that there were both — both types of times, that is.

I don’t really have a point, but I’ll try to make one up here anyway: If you’re a writer, find yourself some writer friends. It will make things so much better. If you’re lucky, they won’t just be your writer friends, they’ll be your friends friends as well. I’ve always invested a lot of time into writing in terms of class scheduling and extracurriculars and that sort of thing, so it’s often worked out for me like that anyway. And if you don’t know where to start, just hit me up! I will be your writer friend. See, now you have truly no excuse.