I’m thinking of adding an appendix to The Saltwater Twin and Other Mythical Creatures. I enjoy the idea of supplementary material: glosses, annotations, illustrations, maps, footnotes. This appendix would list the mythical creatures that appear throughout the book.
The title of the collection comes from a story I told myself when I was eight, about a neighbor who drowned—a girl my age. The myth and accompanying undersea world I constructed for her gave me a way to escape the family in which I was submerged: Continue reading mythical creatures
Come out tonight! Tellin’ Tales Theatre’s Food for Thought, tonight at 8. Prop Thtr, Chicago. Tix here.
In an epic journey that spans continents and decades, I seek the root of my sweet tooth, resolve to put the kibosh on sugar once and for all (except for birthday cake, and, um, maybe a few other things) and practice the art of savoring.
Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. —Henry James
Even though the official start to summer is solstice on the 21st and even though I like the idea of kicking things off with a nice pagan ritual and bonfire, the real onset of summer feels like the last day of school. And it’s here! My fourth graders at Morton performed their superhero stories, we said goodbye and now it’s onward ho to long days, leisurely dog walks and summer adventures. Here are a few things I’m excited about this summer:
1. Writing, writing, writing.
I’ve got two essays that are a hair’s breadth from being ready and four that still need a fair amount of elbow grease. Then, at last, I can start querying agents.
One of the essays I’m working on is called “Sweet Tooth.” At this stage it’s essentially a collection of notes on the topic of having a sweet tooth and sweetness in general. As an initial step, I decided to try to catalog my history in sweets, remembering things like— Continue reading 7 Things I’m Looking Forward to This Summer
I was thinking this week about all the books I’ve read over the course of writing The Saltwater Twin and Other Mythical Creatures. Some I read primarily for research, others to immerse myself in the genre of personal narrative and memoir. I wouldn’t say all of these are suitable beach reads—some are what my friend Marie would call kind of “intense.” (Marie calls lots of things intense, including certain movies and giving birth.) Nonetheless, here, in no particular order, are some selections from my Saltwater reading list.
The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, Jonathan Gottschall
From the dust jacket:
Humans live in landscapes of make believe. We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives… Storytelling has evolved, like other behaviors, to ensure our survival.
“The Little Mermaid,” Hans Christian Andersen
Far out in the ocean, where the water is as blue as the prettiest cornflower, and as clear as crystal, it is very, very deep; so deep, indeed, that no cable could fathom it: many church steeples, piled one upon another, would not reach from the ground beneath to the surface of the water above.
If you haven’t read this, you really should. It’s a perfect, creepy and utterly disturbing and magical fairy tale that has been analyzed and dissected in fascinating ways by feminists and other smarty pants scholars.
Lonely: A Memoir, Emily White
The feelings of isolation that accompany loneliness are entirely different from the more sated and creative feelings that accompany solitude, and it’s entirely reasonable to feel lonely and yet still feel as though you need some time to yourself.
A thoughtful investigation into a hard to quantify and describe state.
The Book of Deadly Animals, Gordon Grice
In which I learned this word: anthropophagy—the eating of humans and in which the author discusses humans’ peculiar belief that we have a special place at the top of the food chain. (We really don’t.) We are, however, far more proficient at killing human beings than any other animal on the planet. Continue reading Summer Reading
Well, “Live in a Bar,” anyway. Chicago area folks, I’ll be reading at two upcoming story nights: True Story at Four Moon Tavern on September 17 and Story Sessions at The Dog’s Bollox on September 22.
True Story at Four Moon Tavern starts at 7:30 in the back room. There will be craft beers on tap, dinnertime options and stories about reality TV, spiders, neighbors, Peter Pan and Kenny Rogers. It’s the inaugural show for this brand new series and it’s free!
The Dog’s Bollox has many things to eat and drink, there’s a house band (called Dog 1, but I think that’s just a happy coincidence) and of course stories! It’s at 7 pm, it costs 7 bucks and you can get tickets here.
If you come out, come say hi! Hope to see you soon.
Note: This post is a continuation of the last, which began with musings on memory 1-10.
Memory is not an instrument for exploring the past but its theatre. It is the medium of past experience, as the ground is the medium in which dead cities lie interred. – Walter Benjamin
11. There is a branch of sociology (and other disciplines) called memory studies. (I am so happy about this.) It investigates things like the ways memory impacts culture and the role memory plays in collective and individual identity.
12. This makes me think of how tremendously satisfying it can feel to remember together, how it can forge and strengthen connections with others.
14. One of the seven types of forgetting, repressive erasure, refers to the forced forgetting of language and customs by which a government or state may seek to control a people. Forgetting as a form of violence.
This book writing thing is a long, solitary haul, and it gets lonesome in my living room. So in an effort to take the edge off my self-imposed quarantine, I decided to read something. In public. I investigated storytelling nights around the city, and there are lots of them. I recommend checking some out. It’s a lovely way to spend an evening; it feels so pleasantly classic to be drinking a pint and listening to a story. Anyway, I was offered a spot at This Much Is True, a storytelling series at the Hopleaf.And despite being wicked nervous, last Tuesday night I read an excerpt from a chapter called We Got Spirit! It was fun. They liked it. I’m going to do more. I’ll keep you posted here. Here is an excerpt from the excerpt:
In seventh grade, my desire to play an orphan in a touring production of Annie was supplanted by an ardent wish to become a cheerleader. I coveted the little white socks and beribboned ponytails, the thigh-skimming skirts with those sharp kick pleats and the spankies they wore underneath that were neither underpant nor bathing suit but something far more exotic than either. Cheerleaders intoxicated every boy above third grade. I, on the other hand, was socially awkward and bookish, but I thought I might have a chance of getting on the team because I could almost do the splits. I mean, it was really close. Unless you looked super carefully, you’d probably think I was completely doing them. Also, I could land in the almost-splits from a cartwheel or jump. I didn’t excel at jumping in general; I was largely unsuccessful both at achieving much height and at executing the mid-air herkies and pikes. I was good at that Presidential Fitness flexed arm-hanging test where you had to hold your chin above a bar because I was gritty and didn’t let go of things easily. Anything that pitted grim determination against gravity, I was prepared to kick ass. Jumping, however, outwitted me. I was very sad in seventh grade. Maybe being sad makes it hard to get off the ground.
I wanted to be happy. And there was something about cheerleaders that made it seem like they might know how. It wasn’t just that they got attention from boys – or guys as they were suddenly called, as in, do you like any guys in our class, because I think Matt Hendricks totally likes you. By the way, this new development, among others – like needing to wear shorts under your skirt so no one would see your underwear by accident – was honestly a little bewildering to me. But with their bright colors and staccato claps and their “Ready, okay,” cheerleaders seemed to be truly okay and ready for whatever life intended to throw at them. It was a mystery I didn’t know how to unlock: the mystery of cheer.