University of Iowa Alumni News & Happy Friday

It was a delight to be featured in Alumni News for my alma mater, the University of Iowa. I spent four glorious years writing in Iowa City and the many hours of critiquing and workshopping are nostalgic and smile-inducing to this day. Moreover, I’m so pleased at the shoutout for Off Campus Writers Workshop (my home away from home) and its 75th Anniversary Anthology ‘Turning Points’ (Windy City Press, 2021). I’m so proud of this organization and their endeavors; it is a true honor to be nominated to the Board of Directors as the Head of Promotions.

For more on the feature, CLICK HERE.

Psst! Couple of fun facts:
1. Yes, I am slightly mortified that the photo chosen for this feature has my naked foot in it.
2. That painting on the desk is one of my original works.
3. The day this photo was taken might have been the only time I’ve used a blow dryer and curling iron all year. Enjoy.
4. I’ve had that plant for nearly two years but if you look closely, you can spot the price tag still on it.

September’s Little Snapshots

I thoroughly enjoyed falling down the rabbit hole of Christine Sneed’s book of stories The Virginity of Famous Men. My marriage celebrated a 12-year anniversary with French food and a dress twirl for my kids (I still die over that intricate beading). There were flu shots and pizza with whipped ricotta. There were many hours logged on the soccer field and the baseball diamond. I emptied my pens at the door and visited the Banksy exhibit in Chicago. The first chilled wind of Fall stalked through the neighborhood and underneath the door. My dog has eaten every acorn in a 5-mile radius. And I am relishing the chance to pen ghost stories. Bring in the ghosts and hang up their coats! I am ready to play.

New Creative Nonfiction: Travel and COVID

I am honored to have this CNF published in Months to Years Literary Mag. A few months ago, during a writing workshop that focused on grief, I considered the loss of travel and the tremendous pause that fell over the hospitality industry in general. I imagined myself wandering through a ghostlike airport, its surfaces speckled in dust, its digital signs darkened black. This essay was the result of those emotions.

Book News: Writing About COVID w/ Capsule Stories

Let’s get real: it was excruciating to write about COVID while existing through COVID. Whatever I managed to get on the page never felt right and it usually didn’t follow any kind of format, likely because I felt like I was drowning- drowning in e-learning, in uncertainty, in anxiety, and just about every other stressor you likely felt as well. In short, I wrote a LOT of very weird $%&*.

It took a long time to feel like I had something significant to share. So when I wrote a piece of flash (this means under 750 words and presenting with a succinct narrative in a profound moment), I knew it was something I could stand by. I knew it was a marker in time, a notch in history. I sent it out and received word last month that it would be picked up by Capsule Stories for their Second Isolation Edition (work written entirely during quarantine). Some literary publications put out digital magazines, some still print, but in this case, Capsule publishes in paperback. So I am humbled to share that my piece ‘Self-Storage’ has been published in this anthology.

I wrote ‘Self-Storage’ when I realized my then 5-year-old had outgrown the little handmade fabric mask that my sister had sewn for her. I grappled with the notion of storing and saving things from 2020, knowing full well that sometime in the future, one of my grandchildren will tell me they need to write a paper on the ‘pandemic of 2020’ and would I answer some questions? I know those days of retrospect are coming.

And I truly feel like this story (all 1 page of it) can explain it all- the heaviness, the energy, the worry, and the desperate attempts to make the best of it when I could.

If you are so inclined to purchase this book, it is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, and available by request wherever books are sold. I sincerely thank you for supporting my words and my work.

Book Release: Turning Points

It’s been a surreal week and I was able to do something I’ve dreamt of for so long: walk into a book store and hold a copy of my book.

In sharing this news, I think it’s important to infuse this caveat: I’ve had many other writing/book projects fail. I had a children’s book and a literary agent that never crossed the publishing finish line. I lost my longstanding newspaper column during the pandemic (and learned of this by reading The Chicago Tribune). I had a book of columns get rebuffed. I’ve had a full novel get a ton of buzz from agents without a single bite. All of that was devastating. But I still kept writing.

We never quite know what makes some projects flourish while others flounder- timing, trend, and a handful of other unique details. But I am immensely proud to have my short story ‘Outfit of the Day’ anthologized in Turning Points, the 75th Anniversary Anthology put out by the Off-Campus Writers’ Workshop. It was a marvel to collaborate with other writers- my first time doing so (also my first foray into fiction).

In being a Winnetka-based writing group, I was so heartened to see the response of readers willing to order this book through our local, indie book shop, The Book Stall. When I received the shop’s weekly newsletter, I was astounded to see Turning Points prominently featured on their Bestseller list. It was truly humbling. It made me especially thankful for all of my failed endeavors- yes, you read that correctly- to be a writer to learn to hold hands with the heavy onslaught of rejection. To grow from it. To fuel for the next opportunity. To push for what seems impossible.

If you are interested in ordering Turning Points, please consider ordering from your local book store. If that is not a possibility, please consider Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or inquiring with your local library.

One last thought to anyone who writes or has an urge to write- just keep going.

At Long Last, Some Book News

It is delightfully surreal to share that I have a book coming out. My short story ‘Outfit of the Day’ will be published in an Anthology titled ‘Turning Points.’

The backstory: I am a member of Off Campus Writers’ Workshop in Winnetka. The group is marking its 75th Anniversary as a longstanding Chicago writing group and as such, is publishing a short story Anthology- a whisk of mystery, fantasy, contemporary, historical, memoir, and the many turning points that move us ahead.

This is my first published work of fiction. It’s a process that began way back in October of 2019- yes, simpler times. What I love about Anthologies is that there is a little something for everyone. In my critique group alone, there were stories of a long-fought war, a high school student attending Turnabout, a neighbor curious about a new baby, and a cherished puffer coat passed down to a friend in need. All of these short stories tugged at me in unique ways. As for my story? It appears under the section titled ‘Unexpected Outcomes.’

You can preorder ‘Turning Points’ at The Book Stall in Winnetka. In belonging to a Winnetka-based writing group, it was important to us that we support our local, independent book store. Thank you for shopping local and for supporting the amazing contributors of OCWW.

Daylight Savings Crime

Either 5am or 7:47am
There is no in-between

The house is quiet and heavy with slumber
Even the shutters join in, and silently snore
We’re running late (and nobody cares)

Sun, then snow, then sun again
Snow will always be the last to leave
So keep the heavy jackets with heavy blankets
and hold them until the grass stains

Robbed of light to be given light
A trade off
We love…to hate
As we throw the alarm

There is no in-between
Of Daylight Savings Crime

-Kelly Q. Anderson

Leprechaun Traps and March Tricks

I grossly underestimated the intensity my children have when it comes to trapping a leprechaun. This morning, my daughter ran screaming into my room to tell me that the ‘green stuff’ in our house had been moved, therefore, tiny little leprechauns were out making mischief.

When I asked her to clarify, she pointed at a small green stapler on the countertop and a spice jar of Bay Leaves next to it (basically, the casual, everyday mess that is my kitchen).

“See? Look at this stuff just laying around,” she confirmed. “Hey, did you by any chance hear tiny little voices saying ‘tee hee hee’?”

“No.”

(she was not please by this response).

Yesterday, I took my kids and their active imaginations to the library, where they beelined for Irish-themed books (as well as some historical ones for Wells, who is getting a kick out of history). I agreed to make a lot of green food this month (they requested green beans and mint milkshakes). I also made a tentative plan to try and attempt my family’s famous Irish soda bread recipe. Every cardboard box has been claimed in order to craft the most skilled and accurate leprechaun trap.

We are full tilt for mischief. Here’s hoping you are too.

Start Me Up

The new year has rolled out and the rollercoaster has begun. In just the first half of January, there have been dramatic shifts and prods within social media, government, law enforcement, D.E.I., journalism, and more. Brad Montague touched upon the enormity of this time as ‘toomuchery.’ The world keeps changing, the world keeps staying the same. Routine mixed with chaos, stirred with uncertainty. What happens when our very democracy is under violent attack and my child approaches me and asks for help with homework? He’s working on calculating area. Length x width.

The other day I impulse bought a set of clearance rack barrettes from Target. As if that would help anything. As if it would lessen the anxiety. But they sparkle on Zoom. They shimmer under the light of our dinner table. They help hide that awkward hair length I’m at- the growing-out-phase. But really, there is no help for moving through uncertainty. Sparkle is merely a distraction.

Family continues with distance and technology, and the occasional freezing cold walk at a forest preserve.

Our dog, Putter, continues to burrow on our laps and spread the warmth wherever she goes. In the ever-chill of a midwestern winter, I don’t really mind it. I’m just not always ready when I’m sitting down with coffee and a furry bundle leaps into my startled lap.

On Tuesday, Fitz cracked open an Ina Garten cookbook and made the fanciest comfort food he could find: lobster BLTs. They were sensational. A hall-of-fame kind of sandwich.

Clean, purge, donate. Every year this happens. The doling out of holiday decor, the sweeping removal of it, and my insistence at stripping things down, down, down to necessity. In a world of no control, I have to stop myself from pacing or organizing. In doing so, Fitz dug through office drawers and uncovered a treasure among relics (a rolodex! ancient biz cards!). Before the world changed and tilted, he had purchased a pair of earrings on Etsy for me. My initials. The two letters that have been singular in my identity for so long. A really lovely, thoughtful gift. It reminded me of that moment in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Clark is in the attic, attempting to discreetly hide presents…until he uncovers a dusty Mother’s Day gift from 1984. Oops.

I picked a helluva time to start school again but the program was just too good and the Instagram ad hit at the right time. Despite the chaos of schedule, I have really enjoyed eCornell. I’m studying Diversity & Inclusion.

Every day is still fresh. Every opportunity is still present. Yes, this year has already been too much, but many days lay ahead. Many days lay ahead. Start me up.