TRANS (Is Not An Abbreviation) Writing Transgender Characters through the lens of the body taught by Claire Rudy Foster 4 Zoom Sessions January 4, 11, 18, 25, 8-10 pm ET $200 Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] This workshop will discuss how to write about transgender characters through the lens of the body. Transgender bodies are vilified, objectified, fetishized, and punished. How do we write about trans joy, pleasure, and freedom? Writers will generate body-specific pieces of imagined or experienced memoir and learn about how to create transgender characters that avoid cliched, harmful tropes. Cisgender students are asked to read a sensitivity statement before attending.chop! chop! read more!
Open to all levels and genres | Synchronous on Zoom
One-on-one feedback and guidance for fiction writerschop! chop! read more!
THE ART OF FLASH A Workshop in Fiction and Nonfiction Taught by Cleaver Flash Editor Kathryn Kulpa 5 weeks SOLD OUT Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] Flash is a genre defined by brevity: vivid emotions and images compressed into a compact form. We most often see flash fiction, but flash can also encompass prose poetry, micro memoir, lyric essays, and hybrid works. In this class, we will take a close look at different styles and forms of flash fiction, as well as flash nonfiction, hybrid, and experimental works. Each week, we will read and discuss one or more example-works and generate new work from prompts. Students will share their work for peer and instructor feedback, then will choose one story to revise for the final class. This workshop has weekly deadlines and assignments to help motivate you to write, but the work can be done at your own pace and … chop! chop! read more!
AFTERBURN A Workshop on the Art of Flash Revision Taught by Cleaver Flash Editor Kathryn Kulpa 3 weeks November 15 to December 12, 2020 $175 Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] Flash fiction may be born in a lightning flash of inspiration, but crafting works of perfect brevity requires time and patience: sometimes cutting, sometimes adding, and sometimes starting all over again. In very short stories, every word must work, and revision is as much a part of writing flash as it is of writing longer prose. In this hands-on workshop, we’ll practice the art of revision. Flash fiction writer and editor Kathryn Kulpa will share first drafts, revisions, and published versions of her own work and that of other flash and short fiction writers. Students will learn different revision strategies and how to apply them to their own work. We will create new flash together and work on taking it through … chop! chop! read more!
A WORLD BETWEEN
by Emily Hashimoto
Feminist Press, 440 pages
reviewed by Ashira Shirali
Let’s be honest—the chances of walking into a bookstore and finding a literary lesbian romance are low. You’re more likely to find an entire cookbook consisting of sourdough recipes. If you want the book to feature characters of color, your odds sink even lower. Emily Hashimoto’s debut novel promises to fill this lacuna. A World Between (Feminist Press, forthcoming) follows the relationship between two women of color, Leena and Eleanor, through college and adulthood. The novel alternates between Leena’s and Eleanor’s perspectives, revealing the yearnings and anxieties of each as they grow apart and together.
There is much to marvel at in this debut. Hashimoto is adept at plotting. She pulls Leena and Eleanor apart with narrative developments that are both unexpected and believable. The novel heightens tension as we long for the two’s reunion despite circumstances, family expectations and their own struggles. Eleanor and Leena’s conflicts are heartbreakingly realistic. Their fights remind us that in real life there are no villains or heroes, just two people whose earnest feelings clash. Hashimoto deploys details masterfully. She can bring characters to life with just a handful of words. When Leena cries in her mother’s car, she turns away because her mother “couldn’t stomach emotions of this magnitude.” The novel’s dialogue captures the rhythms of young people’s conversations, both the beat and the crescendos.
A World Between’s greatest triumph is capturing the shape, color and texture of attraction between two women.
Despite these strengths, Leena and Eleanor’s honest, multi-stranded story is let down by the novel’s prose. Hashimoto’s similes fall flat as often as they succeed, and she pushes metaphors too hard. After describing how Leena responds to Eleanor’s body as if calculating an equation, Hashimoto writes, “If two trains were headed to Boston at one hundred miles per hour, how fast would Eleanor come?” There are awkward phrases which aspire to the literary (“she took bite of her tongue”), and sometimes the writing elicits pure confusion (“the streets where bars hummed and clothing wore her fellow New Yorkers”). The novel could easily lose a hundred pages. In other places, however, the words delight—“It was quiet for a long time, dust settling on the ellipses of the moment.”chop! chop! read more!
POETIC ANATOMIES: Dissecting Form and Formlessness in Poetry Taught by Cleaver Poetry Editor Claire Oleson 5 weeks January 16 to February 20 SOLD OUT Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] In this course, we will investigate how form is used in poetry to create meaning, house language, and allow the content of a poem to achieve a significance that echoes beyond the bounds of its literal words. Whether participants are wholly new to sonnets and couldn’t tell you whether a villanelle is part of a cake recipe or a manuscript, there will be room for growth, experimentation, and attentive feedback. We will work primarily on generating new work, encouraging participants to push their boundaries and hone their voice to create memorable and authentic pieces. The workshop model will facilitate constructive responses from both peers and the instructor. Particular attention will be placed on the formal life of the poetry we read … chop! chop! read more!
THE ART OF THE SCENE A Workshop in Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Taught by Lisa Borders 5 weeks January 3 to February 5 introductory Zoom meeting at 2 pm ET on Sun Jan 3 $225 Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] The writer Sandra Scofield describes a “pulse”—that spark that makes the story come alive— as a vital element to all scenes. This pulse is especially crucial for opening scenes, as many agents and editors report that if they are not hooked on a manuscript within the first five pages, they will not read on. But what is a “pulse,” and how can a writer ensure that each scene—not just the opening— has one? How can we write in such a way that our characters come to life, that a scene breathes emotion and urgency, while moving the plot forward and keeping tension taut? In this class we’ll look at opening … chop! chop! read more!
EMBRACING UNCERTAINTY, Part 1 of Two A Workshop to Jumpstart Your Writing open to all levels and genres Parts 1 and 2 may be repeated or taken out of order taught by Cleaver Editor Tricia Park Asynchronous Version 5 weeks January 10 to February 7, 2021 $250 Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] “But your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet In this class, we won’t try to fix what isn’t broken. We’ll hold our vulnerability and begin creating from where we are. We’ll give ourselves permission to commence, no matter how fragile the surface under our feet feels. Together, we will enter and engage with the work as it begins to speak to us, and we’ll allow ourselves to follow that … chop! chop! read more!
DUMP TRUMP Illustrated T-Shirts by William Sulit Many artists have the ability to verbalize their thoughts with great clarity and eloquence—sadly, I’m not one of those. This must be a great source of frustration for my wife Beth, who is an extremely accomplished writer and well versed in the art of verbal communication. But she does not complain; she smiles and lets me babble aimlessly until I get distracted by a squirrel or something. Oh well. As I used to say to my mother when she was yelling at me for something I did (or didn’t do): That’s just the way God made me.In any case, I should stop rambling and get to the point which is to write a few words about this image. I decided to make a series of drawings that chronicle the pure and unadulterated stupidity perpetrated by the current occupant of the White House. I … chop! chop! read more!
GARDEN BY THE SEA
by Mercè Rodoreda
translated by Martha Tennent and Maruxa Relaño
Open Letter Books, 203 pages
reviewed by Anthony Cardellini
When I began my part-time job at a botanical garden in the fall of 2017, I had next to zero gardening experience, and I knew little about the different flowers and trees that grow in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. I showed up that first day completely unprepared, without so much as a pair of gloves. But I was lucky enough to be mentored by David, a man in his early thirties from Maine, who’d been gardening for several years. David explained to me the paradoxical nature of caring for gardens: gardens need constant attention, but they bear their beautiful fruits ever so slowly. At the heart of David’s message was that gardeners are transitory, but gardens remain. Our decades are their hours.chop! chop! read more!
TELLING TRUE STORIES A Workshop in Creative Nonfiction Taught by Cleaver Editor Sydney Tammarine 5 weeks December 7, 2020- January 9, 2021 Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] SOLD OUT Writer Dinty W. Moore says that creative nonfiction equals curiosity plus truth. CNF comes in a variety of forms: from expansive memoir to intimate personal essay to the lightbulb “eureka!” of flash. But in any form, the CNF writer is a guiding voice in the dark: a storyteller seeking truth, thinking alongside the reader toward a deeper understanding of ourselves and our world. In this class, we’ll practice the essay in its most dynamic form: a verb that means “to test; to practice; to taste; to try to do, accomplish, or make (anything difficult).” Each week, we will read and discuss one or more example essays and generate new work from prompts. Students will share their work for peer and instructor … chop! chop! read more!
LITTLE ENVELOPE OF EARTH CONDITIONS
by Cori A. Winrock
Alice James Books, 85 pages
reviewed by Charlotte Hughes
I read Little Envelope of Earth Conditions in late June, when COVID-19 cases were skyrocketing in the world and the nation—and at home. The May 24th New York Times front page, which listed the names of the 100,000 American coronavirus victims—a very public display of mourning and grief—was at the forefront of my memory, as were the more personal ways that I was mourning the loss of traditions, previous ways of life, time spent with grandparents and my fellow high school students alike.
Throughout her second collection of lyric poems, Little Envelope of Earth Conditions, Cori A. Winrock explores the experience of mourning: specifically, the idea that grief is an ongoing, recurring experience that never truly goes away. It is simultaneously universal and intensely personal. She tells a compelling narrative about the loss of a mother and child, spanning from the vast emptiness of space to an ambulance in a parking lot to a placid meadow on the edge of a lake. Thechop! chop! read more!
by María Fernanda Ampuero
translated by Frances Riddle
Feminist Press, 128 pages
reviewed by Ashley Hajimirsadeghi
In her debut novel, Ecuadorian writer and journalist María Fernanda Ampuero takes an unflinching and intimate look into the turbulent homes and lives of Latin American women. By placing her powerful, moving stories in settings like violent domestic households or lower income neighborhoods, the characters in Ampuero’s Cockfight combat their situations with acts of bravery, loss, and love. As the characters seem to suffocate in their environments, there are acts of bravery, loss, and love. The idea of a happy family is a myth and men are depicted as lecherous, terrifying creatures of the night. The narrators often are maids, young girls, and women wrenched into horrifying situations such as forced incest, rape, and human trafficking.chop! chop! read more!
TIGERS, NOT DAUGHTERS
by Samantha Mabry
Algonquin Young Readers
reviewed by Kristie Gadson
Samantha Mabry’s Tigers, Not Daughters is a modern-day ghost story that follows the Torres sisters—Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa—one year after the untimely death of their oldest sister, Ana. Wracked with grief, the Torres sisters ache for Ana; but their profound sadness is met with unexpected events that eventually make their sister’s presence known: raps on doors and windows, writings on the walls, sensory overload, recurring storms, flickering lights, dying animals, and one escaped spotted hyena lurking in the darkness of their neighborhood in Southtown. Ana reappears in a way the girls can’t begin to imagine and returns with a vengeance they don’t understand. Mabry tells a riveting tale of three sisters who discover the power of sisterhood and what it means to stay together despite insurmountable, unnatural odds.
What stood out to me while reading Tigers, Not Daughters was how colorful and tangible each of the Torres sisters is. Their characterization is well-rounded, Mabry vividly telling the story through the individual perspectives of each sister, as well as including a fourth perspective of a character that watches them from afar. Each sister is unique in not just who they are, but in how they grieve over the loss of Ana.chop! chop! read more!
THE SHARPEST TOOLS IN THE DRAWER: Honing Critical Distance in First-Person Narratives A Masterclass by Cleaver Nonfiction Editor Lise Funderburg Four Sundays, 12:00pm – 3:00 pm: Oct 11, Oct 18, Oct 25, Nov 1, 2020 $175 Early Bird / $200 regular Class limit: 10 Questions: [email protected] SOLD OUT Writing from personal experience is always a double-edged sword in Creative Nonfiction: on the one side, we have almost limitless access to material. On the other, familiarity often breeds blind spots, cheating the work of dimension, resonance, and narrative drive. Through close readings of exemplary work, craft essays, writing exercises, discussion, and peer review, we will build strategies and practices that elevate your personal essays and memoir projects. Expect to become a stronger writer, a better reader, and an enthusiastic reviser. Lise Funderburg’s latest book is Apple, Tree: Writers on Their Parents, a collection of all-new work by twenty-five writers, which Publishers Weekly … chop! chop! read more!
EMBRACING UNCERTAINTY Part 2 of 2
A Workshop to Jumpstart Your Writing
open to all levels and genres
Parts 1 and 2 may be repeated or taken out of order
taught by Cleaver Editor Tricia Park
Nov 7, 14, 21, Dec 5, 12 (Note: No class Thanksgiving weekend, Nov 28)
5 Zoom classes, Saturdays 2-4 pm Eastern Time
$175 early bird / $200 regular
Class limit: 12
This class can be taken on its own or as a continuation of Part I
Questions: [email protected]
THE SPORT OF THE GODS
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Signet Classics, 176 pages
reviewed by Dylan Cook
For the best experience, I recommend reading The Sport of the Gods outside on a cloudy day, rain threatening. As you fall in step with Paul Laurence Dunbar’s rhythmic prose, it’ll be easy to forget that you’re at nature’s mercy. Let the clouds decide whether or not you get to read uninterrupted. Subject to this force, you may more easily understand what the Hamilton family endures in this novel. As deceits and misfortunes pile on top of each other, the Hamiltons decide that nature can’t help but rain down upon them. Their breakdown is more than plain bad luck can explain, so they know that they are fighting, “against some Will infinitely stronger than their own.”
Even if you haven’t heard of Paul Laurence Dunbar, you’ve likely read lines of his poetry. Maya Angelou immortalized his poem “Sympathy” when she borrowed a line for the title of her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Discussing her influences, Angelou lauded Dunbar in the same breath as Shakespeare. Dunbar was born to former slaves in Ohio in 1872, right in the middle of the Reconstruction era. He began writing seriously as a teenager, the only Black student in his high school. He had some early publishing help from his friends Wilbur and Orville Wright (yes, those Wright Brothers) before publishing his first poetry collection, Oak and Ivy. From this collection’s success, Dunbar launched a prolific career that spanned over a dozen poetry collections, three short story collections, and a handful of novels. In nearly all of his work, he seamlessly transitioned between standard and vernacular English, a feat that earned him both praise and criticism. Perhaps most miraculously, he produced all of this work amid recurring bouts of tuberculosis and alcoholism. Dying at the age of 33, Dunbar left behind a sprawling body of work that’s yet to be properly explored.chop! chop! read more!
WRITING THE PERSONA POEM “When I Use I” A Poetry Workshop taught by Herman Beavers Asynchronous with optional Zoom sessions 5 Weeks October 16-November 13 $275 Class Limit: 15 Questions: [email protected] The persona poem is a staple of Western poetry. Whether it’s Andrew Marvel’s “To His Coy Mistress” or W.B. Yeats’ s “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” or Ai’s cycle of poems written in the voice of J. Edgar Hoover, the persona poem offers the poet an opportunity to step out of her own skin and embody another personality, whose character traits may be a radical departure from her own but who gives the poet a mouthpiece through which to express feelings and ideas. The main ingredient of the persona poem is empathy, which offers poets the means for entering into the concerns and predicaments of another person. In this five-week workshop, we will devote time each week to … chop! chop! read more!
THE PROPULSIVE PICTURE Image as an Engine in Poetry Taught by Cleaver Poetry Editor Claire Oleson 5 weeks September 19 to October 24, 2020 $ 150 Earlybird (before August 15)|$175 Regular Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] In this course, we will explore how images can serve as the engine in a poem: driving the language as a plot might in a story or novel. We will work primarily on generating new work, encouraging participants to push their boundaries and hone their voice to create memorable and authentic pieces. The workshop model will facilitate constructive responses from both peers and the instructor. Particular attention will be placed on the visual life of the poetry we read and write. We will read a few selections of poetry weekly that demonstrate the potential of images as communicative engines. The readings will be brief but rich, with the intent of inviting multiple re-readings, … chop! chop! read more!
URBAN WILDLIFE: WRITING ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT
Co-taught by Lucy Spelman and Susan Tacent
4 Saturdays, taught online on Zoom
September 12, 19, 26, and October 3, 2020
1pm-3pm Eastern Time
Click here to register
Open to writers of all genres and all levels of experience
Class limit: 10
Writing about the environment, from a literary and scientific perspective. Scientist Lucy Spelman and writer Susan Tacent designed this intensive workshop to provide writers with tools and strategies for taking environmental action. In our four weeks together we’ll unpack articles written by scientists and field experts in conjunction with literary works by Alomar, Bishop, Eggars, Erdrich, Kingsolver, LeGuin, Limón, Saunders, Szymborska, Van Doren, and others. Together we will examine how craft issues like voice, point of view, tone, pacing, and character development change as we bring the knowledge of scientists and field experts to bear on our writing. This hybrid workshop will meet on Zoom for discussions and use the text-only platform Canvas for constructive feedback on uploaded drafts. Writers interested in a particular creature will be encouraged to tailor their writing accordingly and will be assisted with locating the best scientific materials for that writing.
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In 1998, scientists performed a DNA test to answer one of the longest running rumors in American history. Historians could no longer deny the truth: Yes, Thomas Jefferson had fathered children with his slave Sally Hemings. But plenty of people already knew that. William Wells Brown knew this beyond a reasonable doubt when he published Clotel in 1853, a novel that imagines the lives and tribulations of Jefferson’s slave-born daughters. The characters are all fictional, but Brown’s creative liberties stray little from reality. Masters frequently made concubines of their slaves, so why would Jefferson be any exception? Jefferson’s words that “all men are created equal” were a farce in Brown’s eyes, because only in antebellum America could a president’s daughter be born in chains.chop! chop! read more!
In the moral universe of poet Joseph Fasano’s debut novel, The Dark Heart of Every Wild Thing, death lurks in every corner of life. A father, bereaved of his wife, must journey through the teeming forests of British Columbia and hunt a fabled mountain lion, to him the very “mind of the wild.” Three years ago, it mauled his son, the father powerless to save him. Now, as he narrates his monomaniacal fight for survival, the hunt for the mountain lion becomes an obsession, borne of unfathomable grief, to exact revenge on a world that has stolen everything he loved.chop! chop! read more!
EMBRACING UNCERTAINTY II
A Workshop to Jumpstart Your Writing
open to all levels and genres
taught by Cleaver Editor Tricia Park
Aug 8, 15, 22, 29, Sept 5
5 Zoom classes, Saturdays 2-4 pm Eastern Time
$150 early bird / $200 regular
Class limit: 12
This class can be taken on its own or as a continuation of Part I
Questions: [email protected]
In her essay “Nine Beginnings,” Margaret Atwood answers the question, “Why Do You Write?” nine different ways. In her honor, while completing my recent short story collection, I Have The Answer, I challenged myself to answer the question: “How does writing fiction help you deal with your own trauma?” nine different times.chop! chop! read more!
Ocean Vuong’s writing is steeped in memories, the history of which sometimes precedes him chronologically. This was true of his poetry in the collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds, and it is also true of his first novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, recently released by Penguin Press. This novel is a recursive exploration of the path memories take through a family. The narrator’s life is impacted by the traumas his mother and grandmother suffered before he was born. As a very young child, Vuong’s narrator, Little Dog, learns quickly that not all authority figures can be trusted absolutely, and that even unconditional love has flaws. Throughout the novel, Vuong illustrates that we are all sharing space with the past, even as we exist in the present.chop! chop! read more!
In Mike Avery’s debut novel, an ambitious law student is determined to find the truth to save an innocent man accused of murder. But the truth is never black-and-white, and the secrets she discovers hit close to home. The Cooperating Witness is a compelling legal thriller in which the moral ambiguities of justice are on trial. Mike Avery mines his fifty-year career as an attorney and law professor to craft a suspenseful story of murder, the mob, and a young woman’s determined idealism. In the following interview, conducted via phone and email, the author discusses his novel, the freedom of writing fiction, and the complex intersection of our legal system and morality.chop! chop! read more!
CONNECTED BREATH Glass Wind Instruments for Intimacy and Vulnerability by Madeline Rile Smith Growing up, I never imagined I would become a visual artist, let alone an artist working in hot glass. In high school, I was required to take an art class, so I signed up for a glass elective, with no idea what I was getting into. At first, I was terrified of burning my fingers, but after a few sessions, the hypnotic presence of melting glass in a flame lured me in. Hot glass is always moving; it has rhythm. The artist must respond with her own movements. You cannot control glass on your own terms; the glass will always be the one to set the terms of engagement. When you work with glass you must be humble and accept that you will fail over and over. A day’s work might shatter into a hundred pieces if … chop! chop! read more!
IN THE WOODS
Mid-June. It’s cool. It’s quiet. the sun-dappled path is rugged and craggy and I’ve been walking it one or another for 55 years. Gus pulls me along, his pantaloons jauntily swaying in the breeze, stopping at each watering hold with expectant, happy eyes. In here, I don’t have to think about 115,000 dead. In here, I don’t have to think about a 27-year old shot in the back in a Wendy’s parking lot or a 46-year old dying with a knee on his neck after 9 minutes…chop! chop! read more!
You scratch because it itches. You’re over the moon with excitement. Good news always drives your histamine reaction and now you’re breaking out in hives. You drink a glass of water. You breathe, slow breaths, in, out, the way the yoga teacher and the meditation guru and the homeopathist and the ENT guy instruct. The itch gets funky, like a dance, up and down your arms, the backs of your thighs, a place between your shoulder blades you can’t reach. You ask Ben to reach for you and he says he won’t because scratching only makes it worse. If you’re going to marry this guy, you want to know. You tell him he has to and when he does, you know you made the right choice.chop! chop! read more!
My wife fingered the remaining chocolate syrup from her bowl to her mouth and announced she was going to bed. I’ll admit The Tonight Show monologue that night wasn’t going to change her mind. It was all obvious punchlines about the president’s Asia trip, with some cheap shots at the end for the congressman with the Honduran mistress maid, and the reality TV star with the unflattering DUI mugshot. I feared this was becoming the norm. I followed my wife upstairs, hoping we might discuss this unsettling trend, or get in something cursory between the two of us, but she fell asleep in a way that suggested a medical condition.chop! chop! read more!
The truth is, she misses everything from those days, the skirts they wore and the bangs they had, side swept, always on the verge of disappearing, like youth. Like life. It all slipped away, as her parents had warned her, even the people. Girlfriends you thought you’d have forever, poof, lost to marriage or motherhood or minds suddenly changed. They didn’t want to be girls anymore. They moved to other states. They changed their names and lost themselves.chop! chop! read more!
It began with a stove,
burnt mahogany dissipates in, wishing
the ember hinted the future: mother
running out of her favorite house,
home to the ancestors’ cedar trees. She had one last look
at her bedroom door, the one grandfather
painted pink, now dark red. I could only recall
It is midnight in early March and you are pacing the wood floors of your sweet, single-story house in East Nashville—a place with a pair of red-tailed hawks in the front yard and a pair of train tracks in the back. You are on the phone with your musician-botanist-projectionist friend, comparing the vibrant gardens of your childhood to coral reefs. Before it sold, she saw your parents’ house for herself last summer: the lightning bugs, the flowering vines, the fractal canopy suspended above the creek. She gets what you mean about the flowers. You jot down some notes, hang up, and go fill a water glass. You catch a flash of white light through the slats of your blinds and step on the back deck.chop! chop! read more!
The world was fuzzy. Victoria blinked. She blinked again and again until the room came into focus. A pixelated ceiling. A window opening to blackness. An unkempt man slouched in a chair, fist propping up a mess of greasy dark hair. He had sallow skin, dark bags beneath bloodshot eyes. Familiar eyes. Barry’s eyes? Benny? Billy? Billy.chop! chop! read more!
Squinting against whiteness the child left her mother beside the woodpile. With the sudden drop in temperature an icy crust had formed on last night’s new snow. “We’ll find it!” her mother called, watching the child walk on the surface while she stood shin-deep, clutching her stump to her breast. It was tightly wrapped in rags. Bleeding was stanched. The throbbing had slowed, perhaps due to the cold. But she was burning up, dizzy.chop! chop! read more!
When Mom died Rachel started asking questions. What did Mom make for Christmas morning? Egg casserole. When did Mom go back to school? I was fourteen, you were eleven. The questions got smaller and bigger, as though by their specificity they were magnified. What did she smell like? She wore Chanel No. 5. I know that, Tabbie. But what did she smell like? She smelled like orange honey and coral lipstick and bright green breath mints. What did her hugs feel like? They were nice. Tabbie. Like she was bringing you in and keeping you out at the same time.chop! chop! read more!
Knitting transcends time, and is a dominant theme in Jan Powell’s life and work as an artist. Through her use and creative exploration of this craft, Jan has produced—over the past four decades—a tangible amalgam of heritage, feminism, and memory.
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Am I the only one in the Cleveland Art Museum today
looking for mercy? I’m looking at an artwork about Hell
or the end of the world, recalling my then-small son saying,
of the Challenger disaster, I’d have gotten out. In the painting,
there are boats and the boats are filling, the sea aswarm and
starkly bullying like the first dopplered image of a hurricane.
Angels with an artist’s idea of wings are manning the tillers,
captaining across a broth of larvae-white bodies, the deltas
The banana bread would not bake. Maddy had followed the recipe to a T, only substituting canola oil for half the butter, honey for half the sugar, skim for whole milk, and nutmeg for cinnamon. Putting on long oven mitts and pulling the door open, she checked the loaf again. Three hundred and fifty degree heat swept into the kitchen, already filled with late summer swelter. Not wanting to take the time to lift the single bread pan onto the top of the stove, she pulled out the rack, took off one mitt and stuck a toothpick into the loaf. Raising it straight up, it was plain to the naked eye—her reading glasses were sitting idle on the kitchen table—that raw batter clung to the sliver of wood for dear life. If it had been at all cooperative it would let the toothpick withdraw, leaving no trace on the twig, as if untouched by the experience.chop! chop! read more!
The hospice nurse is gloves-and-salve practical.
She says: your mother must want something from you.
My mother can’t walk or talk. Her body is bones wrapped in reams of moth skin. Her brain works in insect twitches.chop! chop! read more!
While shopping what’s left of the canned goods at the grocery store, an announcement at the top of the hour, robust and autotuned: “All employees must now perform a personal temperature check,” and I, in a pair of disposable vinyl gloves but not a facemask because Dr. Gupta says they’re unnecessary for the still- and now- and currently-healthy, holding the last can of Kroger no-salt garbanzos, recall they’ve always made this announcement, but two weeks ago they were checking the temperature of the meats.chop! chop! read more!
hands the swaddled child over. A dream is no place
for a baby. She has seen revelers pour the baby
from a carafe—he’s white wine, fruity like the summer
he is born into, and they drink the baby in the purple
dusk of a dream-cafe. She’s always too late to stop them.
out my window colored heads bound in swiftness. in their decision to bring about movement
& motion. the snow is taking a break from falling, as it did just days before. the village is
painted in primordial gray, with roofs in color too happy even for a rainbow. eavesdroppingchop! chop! read more!
There are three women installed in the living room when I arrive. Smartly dressed, young moms most likely, with highlighted loosely curled hair, gleaming toenails, and tailored pantsuits. All have open laptops and cell phones—new information and guidelines saturate the air. I arrive with a friend because this is where our weekly writing group meets, at Hope’s house—because she’s wheelchair-bound, and can’t easily secure a ride to our usual meeting places. The women are from the hospice—nurse, social worker, and gerontologist. It occurs to me that the more they deal with the dying, the farther away they get from death. They bring a pleasing scent to the room, perfume and doughnuts and pastries, which overpower the disinfectant used to clean up after Hope’s father’s renal stent failed in the middle of the night and urine soaked into the carpet.chop! chop! read more!
At its heart, Cleanness is a novel about duality: the duality of spirit, of desire, of self-perception. How one can be “dirty” and “clean” at the same time. With deft and expressive writing, Greenwell questions our understanding of these concepts. What does it mean to be dirty? What does it mean to be clean? To go outside or stay in. To stay in or go outside. Perhaps they are just two facets of the same thing.
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Writers have a way of finding each other in Virginia, thanks to several strong literary non-profits. Sharon Harrigan teaches at WriterHouse in Charlottesville and I used to help run James River Writers in Richmond. We met years ago at the annual JRW Writers Conference. When my first novel came out, Sharon generously reached out and offered to interview me for Fiction Writers Review. I moved to Cambridge several years later, but we continued to keep track of each other’s careers, cheering on each new publication. I’m delighted to interview her now about her debut novel, HALF. In sparse, lyrical prose, it tells the story of identical twins who speak in one voice, until they can’t any longer.chop! chop! read more!
From the very first moment of her existence, Muiriel was born alone. Found abandoned at a medical center with no parents to claim her, Muiriel has lived in foster care her entire life. But blessed with a book of survival by naturalist John Muir and her experience in nearly twenty different foster homes, seventeen-year-old Muiriel knows she will not let her past dictate her future:
Aging out is terrifying.chop! chop! read more!
A note to my readers:
Here are a few more coronavirus-related letters. Knowing what I know now, I would have submitted them all at once, a few weeks ago, instead of spacing them out. Things have changed so quickly since that first batch: problems like nagging mothers and the niceties of social-distancing behavior may seem petty and quaint as compared to the deadly-serious questions and sweeping protests following the murder of George Floyd. I will submit my second batch of letters now, but humbly, in hopes that they may provide a moment of entertainment for those of you who are taking a break from weightier matters, and that they may still be of use to those of you who are still worried about contracting the virus during normal daily activities.chop! chop! read more!