All posts tagged: family

Letter to Myself a Year Ago

Photo by Gray Malin.  Do you remember the ancient summers of your childhood? Our fingers would search the dirt between tree roots for acorns. We found so many with their shells cracked open, waiting to unfurl itself deep into the dirt. This is how it feels to be you. — You might find this hard to believe: the other night, I had a dream about our parents that was completely mundane. There was no chase, no violence, no public nudity. Our mother was looking for an apartment in Florida. Our father and I were building a new cage for small animals. We could not find the parts needed to complete it. — You are tired of the grey concrete, the spires of corporate towers, the achingly long commutes on red and blue trains. You are tired of the same lakes as big as seas. More than anything, you are tired of what you remember about this city, all the people you used to love it still holds. I am tired of writing about how my …

What I Want to Remember from AWP

At AWP last week, I felt fortunate for the opportunity, yet overwhelmed about “making the most of it” and also, walking around D.C., I felt like an imposter. People wore business suits and bluetooths and walked with purpose, while I felt dazed and hungry and underdressed, and if that isn’t a metaphor for adulthood (at least early adulthood), I don’t know what is. AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) is the largest literary conference in North America. This year, over 12,000 people took part: ranging from graduate students to publishers to poets to memoirists to teachers to editors. Each day offered dozens of panels on a variety of topics. Here are some of the ones I attended: “What Journalists Can Teach Literary Writers,” “Writing from the Wound,” “Success, Failure, and The Green-Eyed Monster: Thriving in a Competitive Environment,” “The Craft of Empathy,” and “Writing Neighborhoods: (Re)Creating the Places We Live.” I think too often we feel inspired and motivated at these types of conferences, but when we return to our lives, we remember laundry, grocery …

Winter Break

When people ask you where you are from, practice a different answer each time.  Give the name of a region, an adjacent town, the street you last lived on.  Take each place and hold yourself against its light to see where the edges meet. In January, move the writing desk to the other side of the room.  There is no window there.  Later, you will empty the last of the boxes from August, the ones filled with ephemera: photographs, letters, slips of paper that hold memories of people and places that have never been more distant.  There, you will find the porcelain figurine that belonged to your late grandmother, the one your mother accidentally smashed, then glued back together again, and gave to you when she could no longer stand to look at it.  In this reordered room, set it in the corner of your desk. Christmas will have come and gone in this new place.  A month ago, you felt the blood of your origins ticking through your veins and wondered how this type …

October in Three Acts

  Ryan my waiter is “happy having me.” I’ve just downed an 11 dollar burger with bacon and blue cheese. Food is fuel and fast and should be, why else eat? Redskins vs. Saints. Lions vs. Panther. Cubs vs. Indians. There are 300 TVs. Half blare Trump. Players are kneeling for the anthem, but their screen time has obviously been cut by owners and media outlets. The FBI have sided against Hillary. Drones vs. Yemeni hospitals. Who wins America? Sundays. I used to enjoy the flipping the pages of a newspaper. Today, “the Oregon Militia” have been claimed innocent, white guys with guns protecting an amendment. Meanwhile natives are being rounded up and beaten for trespassing on their own land. Their beef is water and the 13 million people below them that don’t mind or care that the extract economy is running oil pipes under their water source. They side with consuming more. Their temple is a mall and Chinese plastic is better than anything else. Trump Trump Trump will bring back coal mining, manufacturing, …

Reasons To Go Out On A Limb (Alternately: Pursuing an MFA)

When I’m back staying with my parents—usually on school breaks or work breaks or what have you—I end up working at the restaurant that I’ve been at for years. During this most recent little break, at the end of May, I was chatting with some regulars that have seen me come and go for almost ten years now. They’re a married couple with a penchant for white wine and sitting at Table 1. “We forgot what you’re going to grad school for!” said the woman, a stylish Belgian lady with flowing scarves and salt-and-pepper hair. When I told them it was a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing, I could see that the couple didn’t quite know what to think. “Of what practical use is that?” asked the woman, her accent making the question sound more dramatic. “Oh, very little practical use,” I said, and then we all laughed and she began to question me on my real-world practical skills (I do have some, I promise). This whole exchange forced me to examine the …

Looking Over My Shoulder: Ars Poetica

The intersection between my personal and professional goals has long since been marked by the presence of a notepad and pencil nub tucked away in an overall pocket. I grew up on a farm as the youngest child and the only boy (in a family full of wonderful women and a few lucky, leathery old men). All of these folks encouraged me to read and write voraciously. “Bedtime” really meant “spelling-bee-with-the-sisters-on-our-shared-bunk-beds.” My father would pick words from the few books on dragons, cowboys, astronauts, etc. we had until a sister would request something “more age appropriate” to up the ante. From a very early age, I didn’t mind that we lacked cable television, because we did have a VHS player and a few tapes. I can still recite the Clueless script by heart. When I wasn’t reading or partaking in bedtime spelling bees, I was working. I would stop the tractor at the end of a row, fish out my writing tackle, and scribble down everything that had happened to me on any particular day. …