Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Pure Talent

As you may have noticed, I have been bad about blogging this month. While I've been busy at work, I've also been moody lately--though I am feeling somewhat better now that we've had multiple sunny days in a row. I should get one of those natural light lamps.

At any rate, I was going to write another moody feelings post, but then I decided f*** that. I'm going to tell you about my talented friends instead. 

One reason I love working for Split Lip is that I now have a whole new network of writing comrades. Not only can I share work with them, but also they just get it. When you're a writer, it's really important to surround yourself with people who get it. Writing and submitting is a weird, exhausting, exhilarating process, and it's hard to go it alone.

Recently several of my Split Lip friends have had some great successes. Get ready to add to your reading list:
  • Amy Rossi is Split Lip's hair metal-loving Managing Editor, and she is truly one of the most delightful people I have ever met. She's also a phenomenal writer. Check out her latest in Wigleaf, a witch story for the #metoo movement called "What's Done Is Mine." 
  • Maureen Langloss is Split Lip's Flash Editor, and I love how kind and positive she is. Anytime I express an even remotely negative thought on Twitter, she's right there with support. Historical flash fiction isn't something I see that often, but Maureen crushes it with her piece "La Rabida Heart Sanitarium, 1954" in The Sonora Review. 
  • Marianne Chan is Split Lip's Poetry Editor, and she was also in my MFA program at UNLV, so I've known her for quite some time. She is clever and funny--a force to be reckoned with. And I think she might be magic, because she always finds the best poems I've ever read for the magazine. This month her poem "When the Man at the Party Said He Wanted to Own a Filipino" was featured on The Rumpus for National Poetry Month.
  • Katie Flynn is our wonderful Fiction Editor. I love when she critiques my stories in our editor workshop--she has such rare insight into character and structure. Not only did her piece "A History That Brings Me to You" win second place in The Masters Review's Winter Short Story Awards, but she also was just named a Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University, which means she gets a whole bunch of money just to write stuff. Can't wait to see all the new work she'll be able to produce.
  • Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice is our fearless Editor-in-Chief. She has boundless energy, and the magazine has come so far in so little time thanks to her leadership. She writes addictively voicey fiction. One of her newest pieces is in the Spring issue of Copper Nickel.
But wait! There's more! I have loads of non-Split Lip friends who are also being spectacularly awesome these days. 
  • Timea Sipos joined my MFA program when I was in my final year, and I wish I could have spent more time in workshops and other classes with her. She is a good writer and a sharp cookie. She's published several translations, but you can read her original story "What They Call It" in Juked. 
  • Speaking of Juked, my friend Maegan Poland has a story in their newest print issue. She also just got her PhD, so perhaps I should say Doctor Meagan Poland. 
  • A few years back my dearest friend Leta Keane started at Turing School in Denver to learn coding. She got so good at it that they asked her back to teach front-end development (developing? computer stuff?), and this summer she's leading a workshop at the DinosaurJS conference
  • In Chicago? Like gore? Other dearest friend Meg McGrath (Norine McGrath to you theater geeks) is directing a world-premiere play called Future Echoes. It opens THIS WEEKEND, so you should probably get tickets right now. 
I only associate with the most accomplished people, so I've probably missed some on this list. Even so, I hope you all admire my good taste in friends and check out their work. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Smear Appreciation Post

I am happy to report that Leta came to visit this past weekend, so it was All Smear All the Time.*

We mostly stayed in our pajamas and ate food. But we also went shopping at some thrift stores and dancing at a 90's party.

I am so, so, so lucky to have had these friends for so long, and to know that I'll continue to have them. Even if all my other support networks failed, the Smear wouldn't. Couldn't! It's unbreakable.

I am not sure how people survive without lifelong best friends.

Love you, M&M&L.

(And HBD, Leta!)

*The Smear of Brain is a friendship group whose inception dates to 1990, when my baby sister Molly was born. Meg came along a few years after that in the second grade, and Leta at the neighborhood block party when we were eleven. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Spring 2018 Playlist: Annotated

Spring is such a strange time of year--it might be my least favorite season? It's difficult for me to ping-pong between exhausted cold and hopeful warmth and gloomy wet. On the other hand, my Spring listening ends up being pretty eclectic for the same reason.

Hope eclectic is something you enjoy. Here's the playlist.

1. "Linger," The Cranberries: We lost Dolores O'Riordan recently, so I knew a Cranberries song had to make the list. I know I could have gone for a deeper cut, but let's face it: "Linger" is iconic. Not only is it gorgeous, but its lyrics are universal. Everyone has felt that way at one point or another.

2. "Copper Mines," Mothers: I've been listening to a wonderful podcast lately called I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats. In theory it's a show where Welcome to Night Vale creator Joseph Fink interviews the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle about his album All Hail West Texas, one song per episode, and at the end a different artist covers the song. In reality it's more like Joseph Fink and John Darnielle talk about philosophy and politics and emotions; you don't have to listen to the Mountain Goats in order to enjoy it. Anyway, Mothers was one of the artists who covered a song, and I loved it, so I decided to check out their original music, which is also great.

3. "Color in Your Cheeks," Ibibio Sound Machine: Speaking of I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats, this is an actual cover from the show. Ibibio Sound Machine's version of the song is wonderful because you'd never guess it was a Mountain Goats song to begin with--it sounds completely different.

4. "Be the One," Dua Lipa: I'm a sucker for a good pop song. I was introduced to Dua Lipa by my friend Meg, who insisted I watch the women-supporting-other-women video for "New Rules." While "New Rules" is indeed my jam, it didn't really fit on my Spring mix, so I decided to go with "Be the One" instead. It's a little dreamier.

5. "The Same Star," Belle & Sebastian: The new Belle & Sebastian album is really hit or miss for me, but I like this one. It sounds like standard B&S at first, until you get to the middle, where it picks up a bit.

6. "Time in a Bottle," Lykke Li: This was a last-minute addition to the playlist. I was listening to Lykke Li's 2014 album the other night since I was feeling angsty, and I decided to check if she had anything new. How delighted I was to find this cover of Jim Croce's 1973 classic "Time in a Bottle." The vintage sound matched the vintage sound of the previous track well.

7. "She," The Monkees: Since the playlist was moving in a retro direction, I figured I may as well throw in a song that's actually old. I will not apologize for my love of The Monkees. I always enjoy listening to them in the Spring.

8. "Finally," Franz Ferdinand: I often joke that I'm Franz Ferdinand's last real fan in the United States. My high school boyfriends released a new album this year, so yeah, I knew I was going to put one of the songs on my Spring playlist. To be honest, the new album isn't my favorite of theirs, but there are a few gems. The organ here matches the organ in The Monkees' song, so figured it was a good follow-up.

9. "Faded Heart," Børns: Børns is one of those artists that Spotify always tells me to listen to, so I finally decided to take them up on the offer. As usually, Spotify knows my tastes better than I do. Algorithms work, my friends. Børns makes poppy glam goodness, and "Faded Heart" is a perfect example.

10. "Home," Tune-Yards: Lots of new albums from awesome artists this year--2018 is musically blessed. I really like how this song by Tune-Yards is really ominous and ethereal at the same time. Kind of like Spring weather!

11. "Redemption," Zacari with Babes Wodumo: Everyone keeps talking about how Black Panther was the best movie ever--and I'm not disagreeing with them. But I feel like not enough people are talking about how Kendrick Lamar's soundtrack for the film is the best soundtrack ever. Sure, I'm being hyperbolic. But it's awesome. There are few songs I don't like on the soundtrack, but this one was the most Spring-like to me.

12. "Can't Get Enough of Myself," Santigold featuring BC Unidos: I've loved Santigold since she released her self-titled album in 2008. This chipper number from her 2016 album seemed like the perfect encapsulation of warm, hopeful Spring days. Plus, it's basically my anthem. I truly can't get enough of myself.

13. "I Lost My Innocence," Ezra Furman: I suspect Ezra Furman will frequently appear on all my playlists, partially because he releases music so frequently, and partially because that music is always rad. His newest album Transangelic Exodus may not be as killer as Perpetual Motion People, but I still really like it. This one is a whole lot of fun.

14. "Room," Shamir: People always think of The Killers when they try to name musicians from Las Vegas, but let's be real--Shamir is the best artist to come out of Sin City, my second home. He released this song just this year, so hopefully that means a new album is on the way. Along with the Ezra Furman song, I tried to move the playlist back in a retro direction here.

15. "Control," J.C. Brooks and the Uptown Sound: This song from J.C. Brooks' 2013 album Howl came on shuffle the other night, and I was reminded how much I love it. I felt compelled to put it on the Spring mix--though it was difficult to find a good place for it. It's a soul number, and while there are many vintage sounds on this playlist, not many of them are soul. This was the best place I could find, so I hope it works for you. It's a great song, anyway.

16. "Julia," Charly Bliss: Earlier I mentioned Joseph Fink's podcast Welcome to Night Vale. It's a fictional podcast that takes the form of a small town radio show in a world where every conspiracy theory you've ever heard of is true. Each episode when host Cecil Palmer announces the weather, it cuts to a song by a different artist. I've discovered many wonderful artists this way, and Charly Bliss is one of them. I also had a hard time placing this 90s-style grunge song, so I decided to put the two outliers together. I think it works.

17. "Getting to Me," Caroline Rose: Another great source of new artists is Spotify's Discover Weekly playlist; that's where I found Caroline Rose. Felt it was a good way to drive the playlist back in a positive, poppy direction.

18. "Childhood," Sammus: Sammus is another artist I discovered on Night Vale's weather! A PhD student/activist/rapper--what's not to love? "Childhood" is an utterly charming song.

19. "Boyish," Japanese Breakfast: I was introduced to Japanese Breakfast by my friend Marc Bannes, who also likes dreamy girl pop-rock. The strings in this song are the best transition I could find between Sammus' rap and The Decemberists' decidedly not-rap.

20. "Once in My Life," The Decemberists: I've been listening to The Decemberists since high school, but lately their albums haven't done much for me--until their most recent release. I'll Be Your Girl isn't the most cohesive album--all the songs sound like they could be from different records. But individually the songs are quite good. This one song is what I imagine The Decemberists would do if they had to write the soundtrack for a 1980s Brat Pack movie. I also think it's very similar in structure to "Linger," so it adds a nice symmetry to the playlist.

And there you have it. Managed to corral myself back into the 20-song limit. Well done, me. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

How much does it cost to buy a camper?

I've been having a week

I mean, it's not the worst week I've ever had. But it hasn't been fun.

First I received a noise complaint about Okie on Monday. This makes me mad for several reasons:

  • You think her barking is loud for you? Try living in my apartment.
  • If you don't like the sounds that dogs make, don't live in one of the few dog-friendly buildings the city has to offer.
  • Puppy training is not an overnight process.
  • Can't you come to me first before you go to the management company? 
  • People suck.
She doesn't even bark that much! It's only when she can hear someone out in the hallway that she can't see—especially when my neighbors across the hall enter and exit. We're working on it.

I think it will be okay. I explained to the management company all the steps I was taking to train her, and they seemed satisfied with that, at least for the time being. But now I'm even more stressed out when she barks. 

Then what I thought was just stress quickly developed into a cold. Sore throat and coughing right now, but I can tell the mucus is coming. I haven't been able to properly rest or exercise much lately—having a new dog will do that to you.

I've also felt terrible about my writing—like I haven't been writing enough, and what I do write is bad. Like I'm idea-less. It doesn't help that a bunch of my writing peers just had their stories selected by Aimee Bender to appear in this year's Best Small Fictions; I was nominated, but didn't even make the finalists. Which is totally fine! My rational brain recognizes that the vast majority of nominees didn't make it, but my emotional brain is convinced that I'm the only one. And I am really proud to know these other writers—they deserve the win. 

I think I'm feeling more bummed about this than I normally would because I haven't heard much about the book these days. I've still been sending the manuscript out to agents, and three are reading it in full. Again, my rational brain recognizes that this is fantastic, but my emotional brain thinks OHMIGOD THEY HAVEN'T GOTTEN BACK TO ME YET THEY MUST HATE IT EVERYTHING IS AWFUL I AM AWFUL.


It's gotten to the point where I'm questioning all the decisions I've made in the past year or two and I'm thinking maybe I should just quit my job and buy an Airstream and live as a nomad and survive on...something? Nothing?

Not seriously, of course. 

Here's what I've decided I really need: all your good news. What's going well in your life? I want to live vicariously through you. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Mugmosas and Publix Sub Sandwiches: #AWP18 in Tampa

As you may remember, I'm the social media/marketing coordinator for Split Lip Magazine, the Sleater-Kinney of monthly online lit journals (that's my description, anyway). Despite manning the Twitter feed for almost exactly a year, however, I had never met the majority of the staff in person.

Until this weekend.

Every Spring since 2014 I've trekked across the country to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference—Seattle, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, D.C., and now Tampa. But this year was different. For the first time, I was coming not as a student of writing, but as a publisher of writing. 

I mean, it's not like I'm ever not going to be a student of writing. But that wasn't my primary focus. 

It was amazing to meet the rest of the crew! We got along swimmingly—our virtual friendships translated perfectly into real ones. Our table at the book fair was popular AF (might have had something to do with the beverages we served in the mugs we were selling), and we hosted an offsite reading on the rooftop of Fly Bar that was ridiculously fun and more than well-attended. 

We sold a ton of our FIRST EVER PRINT ISSUE. Have you bought it? You should buy it.

Multiple people expressed their appreciation for my social media skills, which was really nice—I seriously almost ended up crying at one point. It's a lot of work, so it's lovely to hear that people are enjoying it!

I also got to see many of my MFA friends, of course. I stayed in an Airbnb with Tim and Shannon (and theoretically Timea, though she was better at staying out late than we were). I reunited with Olivia. I groggily sought out breakfast sandwiches with Dan. I saw Kayla and Brett read their work in Ybor City.

Other highlights: Alissa Nutting remembered who I was and gave me a hug. I met Brandon Taylor, brilliant writer and personal Twitter hero. I befriended the Midwestern Gothic crew. I bought a solid stack of books and a "Read More Women" tote bag.

On Sunday I drove my rental car down to Punta Gorda to visit my parents in their snowbirds' paradise. My Aunt Trish was also thereand my Aunt Patty and Uncle John showed up unexpectedly in their camper. A regular family reunion. I ate mint chocolate-chip ice cream and got a sunburn. We hopped on my dad's boat and sailed to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Later that night I soaked in their hot tub.

I had to set up all their electronics, too. Such is the plight of a Millennial.

Monday night it was back to Chicago, to my VERY EXCITED dog. While I'm enjoying puppy cuddles, I wish I could have spent more time away. Because I'm stuck in a corporate environment most days, it's a blast to get out and flaunt my creative side from time to time—blue lipstick and everything.

Monday, February 26, 2018


I adopted a dog today. She's a 1.5 year-old American Blue Heeler mix, and she's already the love of my life. Her name is Oklahoma.

Why Oklahoma? That's where she's from. She migrated from there to a clinic in Arkansas, where she got her shots, and then she traveled north to Chicago Canine Rescue, which is where I stumbled upon her. The moment I saw her picture online, I thought, "this one." The moment I met her in person, I thought, "definitely this one." 

She's fairly high-energy—enjoys long walks just about anywhere and loves to jump on people and give kisses. That said, she's been shockingly well-behaved so far. She barely makes a peep, and she doesn't beg for food. Which is to say: I piled myself a plate of food, sat at the table, and ate it, all while she sat quietly behind me. Never seen anything like it. Maybe she doesn't realize that she can eat human food? Let's hope she never figures it out. 

Only downsides are that she sheds constantly—I'll need to get a Furminator—and that she whines when I put her in her crate and leave the house because she thinks I'm never coming back. Like I could abandon that face! And those ears! 

The best ears.

It was great working with Chicago Canine Rescue; if you're so inclined, it would be cool if you threw a little cash their way. Lots of cute doggos in need. And if you're in Chicago, you can also come sign a waiver and walk their dogs! Fun and helpful. 

I also want to give a shoutout to ALIVE Rescue. I tried to adopt from them more than once, and it simply didn't work out—bad timing, not a good fit for an apartment, and so on. But they were so kind and forthcoming—I appreciated how much they wanted their dogs to find the correct home, rather than just any home. You should consider donating to them as well. 

Want more photos? Okie has her very own Instagram: @okey_dokey_okie

Want to give me dog owner/training/whatever tips? Leave a comment. I'd appreciate it. I'm a little nervous to be a dog mom! 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Birthday month continues...

As you know, my birthday requires not a mere day of celebration, but rather an entire month. It is only right and proper. And I must say, 30 is turning out to be quite an extravaganza. My friends and family are really pulling out all the stops this year.

Last Wednesday I went to see Hamilton with the parents and sister. (Technically this was a Christmas present, but I'm going to count it as a birthday present.) It was just as good as everyone says it is. Charming as hell. Even my grumpy, conservative father loved it, which is amazing considering that he normally will not deign to categorize rap as music at all. The songs are wonderful, but I feel like not enough people are freaking out about the brilliant choreography and set design. The final duel between Hamilton and Burr blew my mind. Dancer-as-bullet! A magnificent piece of theater.

Saturday night, however, was the kicker. 

A few weeks ago, my dear friend Felipe had organized a drag night for Saturday—Meg, our friends, and I enjoy turning Felipe into the gorgeous Felicia Fish from time to time. So Meg and I packed a suitcase full of ballgowns and make-up, and after a belated birthday dinner with their family, we headed over to Gena's, where the event was to take place. 


Yeah, that's right. Our friends threw us a Harry Potter-themed surprise birthday party. And because Rachel is a theater props designer, this happened: 

It was one of the most incredible things I've ever seen. I am so ridiculously, stupidly lucky to have friends like mine. Not sure what I did to deserve them. <3