Mon Jul 14 2014
“A Letter to Aspiring-Writer-Me from Debut-Novelist-Me” by Natalia Sylvester
Looking back, the moments you’re most proud of won’t be your big successes; they’ll be your biggest failures, and the fact that you kept going in spite of them.
Your book may be your whole world, but to the whole world it is a book.
“On Marriage :: A Year Later” by Lisa Congdon
I will do everything in my power to protect this person from pain, comfort this person in her grief, love this person with every bone of my body, honor this person in every way possible, and to be absolutely truthful to this person.
“For Love or Money (And If You Do It Right, BOTH): Choosing a Career in Art” by Greg Ruth
Value what you do, and fight for its value. If you don’t do this then how can anyone else? Don’t wait hidden in some ancient cave like a treasure to be discovered one day, get out there and make yourself present and get discovered. That said, you don’t need to be a dumbass about it. There is a tangible difference between ego and self-worth. Fighting for a better page rate reasonably is different than refusing to do a book tour unless you get a limo. Being an artist is a natural declaration of hubris, and you will be reminded of this by friends and family more than you’d like. Don’t take it too seriously, but don’t undervalue it either. It matters because it matters to you — it doesn’t need to matter to a million others to have value.
Wed Jul 9 2014
Confession: If I’m a bit quiet lately, it’s due to wedding planning. Everyone warned me that this would be a stressful process, but I thought that by choosing something small, quiet, and suited to me, I could escape the drama. Unfortunately, I was wrong. The concept of a wedding is all tied up with tradition, family, and culture — beautiful, powerful things — and some people have very strong opinions about what a wedding should be. Disagreements quickly dissolve into emotional tailspins. They create canyons in what you thought was solid earth. They pose problems that don’t always have easy solutions — or maybe no solutions at all.
As I try (and sometimes fail) to deal with all of that, I find myself thinking about the short story “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” by Karen Russell. In it, a group of human girls and boys are born to wolves. The wolves love their children, and take care of them for a while, but eventually they allow the kids to be taken away and raised by humans, because that’s what they think would be best. Despite some initial fears and sorrow, most of the kids do adapt, and even become happy. Then, at the end of the story, one girl goes back to see her wolf parents, and only then does she understand the gulf between where she came from and who she is now.
Sat Jun 21 2014
Dark night, bright parlor, long line. I step in and take my place behind all the couples and families. I am the only one here alone.
Flavors are handwritten on a chalkboard behind the counter. I scan the list, pick two I want to try, and then settle in for the wait. My hands are too full to check email, Twitter, or Facebook, like everyone else is doing. So I default to people-watching and eavesdropping. Common pastimes for a writer.
The girls behind me are trying water yoga tomorrow. One of them can’t swim. Another one is named Avery, and she has the best hair. Wavy and blonde, with a braid framing one side. All of them are stylish and thin, somehow managing to look both hipster and preppy at the same time.
There are a lot of maxi dresses in here.
It’s been a long day, but I’m avoiding my hotel room. I’d thought it would be wonderful to have a clean, quiet space to myself. Somewhere new but predictable. Somewhere without responsibilities.
Instead it feels lonely.
After checking in, I escaped to dinner. I chose a place that I had been to once before, years ago, with people I loved. But even the memories of them aren’t enough to keep me company tonight. I text one and call the other. It helps.
Finally it’s my turn, and I ask for wildberry lavender and “Buckeye State.” I like complementing fruity flavors with chocolate. When the cashier hands me the receipt, I accidentally sign in the wrong place. I feel like an idiot, but she just laughs. It’s a good reminder to find the humor in things.
Sun Jun 15 2014
30 years ago today, a boy was born half a world away. I’m so glad, so lucky, that he found his way to a loving home in Rochester, NY, and eventually to Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, PA, where we would meet as fellow students. Meet, and fall in love, and start a life together, without even realizing that that was what we were doing.
Here’s to 30 more years of loving and living – and 30 more after that.
Of course, I wouldn’t have been at Carnegie Mellon in the first place if it weren’t for my dad. I never meant to follow in his footsteps, but looking back, it’s no wonder that I did. We’re a lot alike, and I’m grateful to have inherited his optimism, his steadiness, and his interest in people’s stories.
I can think of a hundred different ways that my dad has shaped me and my life — and I’m sure there are hundreds more I’ll never know.
Wed May 21 2014
It’s funny what you remember and what you don’t. Like, why did Angie and I decide to drive around and take photographs of fancy houses? I have no idea. But I remember sunlight streaming through the windshield, and the weight of the old Nikon around my neck, and Natalie Imbruglia’s voice lilting over the speakers.
That day, that day, what a mess, what a marvel…
We parked in front of a two-story behemoth, all white stucco and Spanish clay. The high-arching trees of Tanglewood threw dappled light onto the road and across our bare arms. Our shoes shuffled down the sidewalks, skipped over puddles of yesterday’s rain. We photographed ourselves in the water’s murky reflection.
Every secret shared… Why do I drink the feelings dry?
My broken heart was finally mended. I had time, distance, perspective — and now a handsome friend texting me flirty messages. Angie’s heart was more freshly torn, and I ached for her. But we were together, muddling through the humid day, talking and not talking about the things that had hurt us so.
Everything wrong gonna be all right, come September…
This neighborhood seemed like a good place to dream about the lives we would lead someday. Safe behind wrought iron gates, happy in high-ceilinged homes. It was the future, full of possibility, still tinged with the past. The first boy I had seriously crushed on lived down one of these streets. Flame-colored hair, sea-colored eyes.
Tie a silver ribbon around the pieces that remain…
When we finished our rolls of film, we got back into the car and drove away. With the windows down, I let my hand float outside, fingers buffeted by the air. We sang at the top of our lungs.
Later, most of the pictures would turn out to be crap. Some memories can’t be developed in a darkroom or preserved behind plastic.
We slid the 4×6 prints into photo albums anyway.