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.

My First Published Poem: Maybe the Fruit

Last month I learned that my poem Maybe the Fruit would be published by literary journal Lucky Jefferson. I’m honored to be included in their 365 Collection and I’m grateful to Editor-in-Chief NaBeela Washington for seeing potential in my work.

Maybe the Fruit is based on a true story of buying a very old house from an esteemed art collector who was aiming to sell off his furnishings. Below is the poem in its entirety (it can be read here on Lucky Jefferson as well) and above is a photo of the actual fruit referenced.

Maybe the Fruit

I bought the house from Bruce
A widowed art collector
The furniture, the fixtures
“If you like it, make an offer”

I gestured to the table
The platter of glass-blown fruit
Matte Meyer lemon, dimple-skinned orange
Bulbous, golden pear wearing stem like a crown

Maybe the fruit, I said
Maybe I’ll take the fruit

Curiosity filled the chairs
as the realtor whispered low
“That fruit is a steal
at $40,000”

I bought the house from Bruce
Bit right into the flesh
Took a photo of the fruit
And swallowed it for free

eBook Sale: Get Turning Points for $2.99

I’ve got high-give kind of news- the eBook for Turning Points is on major sale this week: just $2.99! (yes, cheaper than that latte you are holding).

This is a great opportunity to add the Anthology to your Kindle or eReader device. As always, thank you for being a supporter of my writing and the many writers of Off Campus Writers’ Workshop.

Happy Hump Day. Happy reading.

Three Fun Things: Book Launch, Workshop & Pizza

  1. Book Launch: This past Sunday, Off-Campus Writers’ Workshop celebrated the official book launch of ‘Turning Points,’ our 75th Anniversary Anthology. Over 125 participants gathered on Zoom for curated readings, remarks from our President, and info on Summer programs (we move to monthly workshops and then pick up again in September). I auditioned and was selected to read my short story ‘Outfit of the Day’ along with two of my fellow critique group members: Ronit Bezalel and Joyce Zeis. Because my story takes place in a coffee shop, I switched my Zoom background to embody the spirit (and aroma!) of a café (see photo above. Yes, you can find Zoom backgrounds for just about any occasion).
  2. My weekly writing workshops continue to be sanity-savers and reinforce why I need critiques- because it identifies the weak spots, it bolsters the plot, and it helps the story go from ‘okay’ to ‘hot damn.’ My Monday Writer Workouts are facilitated by Nadine Kenney Johnstone, who’s a force of nature as a writer, writing coach, and podcaster (Heart of the Story). This past week I workshopped with Ria Talken and it was an absolute gift to hear her reactions (a chuckle, a gasp) and to glean her perspective. Ria wrote a beautifully candid blog post about the experience and I implore you to check it out here, and follow her writing. She totally captures the Aha! of branching out beyond ourselves to create stellar writing.
  3. Pizza: Tonight, I’m heading downtown for al fresco drinks and wood-fired pizza. Last December, I took a StoryStudio class (via Zoom) on getting ‘over the hump’ with novel writing. The class concluded after 6 weeks, and I really felt the letdown- things were just starting to get in a groove! Some of us decided to try to keep the momentum going, so we continued to meet on Zoom every Thursday night: 1 hour of writing, 30 minutes of workshopping. Nearly seven months later, we are all planning to meet for dinner…which means I will meet them in-person for the first time. We keep joking about who will be surprisingly tall.

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.

Overheard: St. Patrick’s Day Morning

Yes, I recognize that the balloons in the living room are more blue than green. I did not appreciate that realization at 11pm last night.

Kids sleep through vacuums, thunderstorms, and house alarms, but drop one balloon softly into their room and they will stir and thrash in their blankets while I cower in the hallway. Leprechauns don’t get caught making mischief. They just don’t.

I continue to be very Irish and very much not into Irish foods. Even Irish soda bread, the one thing I’m sorta okay with, tasted less than okay this morning. What is going on with that, I ask you.

She: has pulled out every article of green clothing she owns. Gold ribbon in hair for golden coins.
He: is uninterested and possibly, influenced by school and the concept of cool. Orange shirt and jeans.

Just yesterday, I entered the 7th circle of hell (PartyCity). I found myself running amok, placing strand of beads and shamrock headbands into a basket. Plates, cups, napkins. Green, green, green. $62 worth of festive.

And for what? For whom? For why?

Is this the new normal? These little holidays holding joy that allow us tiny celebrations in an era that has felt hard to celebrate? I thought about this as I considered our later plans: green milkshakes, spun in the blender, crushing ice into cream. Everyone’s tongue will be green.

This morning? Her little footsteps hurried to the top of the stairs. A gasp. Wonder. Awe. WOW.

I smiled a leprechaun’s smile.

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.

Elegy in a Pandemic: Letter to myself

(today I participated in a workshop through Off Campus Writers Workshop and there were some brilliant grief prompts presented by Chen Chen, who served as instructor/moderator. Here is what came out)

Dear ambitious scholar,

Grief is my dog’s collar tucked away in a box, high on the shelf in my closet.

My favorite shirt, the chambray button-down from that classic secondhand store, is fading away. I found two more holes this morning, one of which was hiding in plain sight near my elbow. It won’t be long now. I used to think it would crush me to lose this shirt- not the jewelry in velvet boxes or the designer trenchcoat- but this, this faded, tattered shirt with the heart-shaped pocket. It’s lesser now, the crush of it all.

I have been furious with my writing lately. It’s never been easier or harder. I’m writing everything: poems, fiction, nonfiction, and sex. Yes, sex writing was a whole class. The hours are long in the writing chair, in front of the writing screen.

All this writing has allowed me to manifest though. To bring out the grief without yelling at my kids or pulling at my hair. I continue to tread water in an angry sea. Yet I force the handholding of language and grief. Say it out loud or it doesn’t count.

What am I to do next and how can I do all of it? Everything within me is desperate to come out. How do I know the way? How do I know the path without directions?

Ambitious scholar, take notes and take your time. You will get there. You will get there.

Home Alone: The joke you may have missed

“That’ll be $122.50.”

“Ugh…it’s my brother’s house. He’ll take care of it.”


It’s that time of year when holiday movies are on heavy rotation, and up there with the absolute best of them is Home Alone (save me a slice plain cheese).

Last night I watched the Christmas classic and was reminded of a line of dialogue that nearly slips by undetected. Now, I had viewed this flick hundreds of times since childhood. I have the score on my playlist, the locations imprinted in my brain, the witty one-liners memorized. So this quiet little line took me by surprise. Also? It’s pretty damn funny.

The scene: a busy kitchen. Family eating. Pizza guy waiting on payment. Someone pipes up for Uncle Frank to contribute.

“Travelers checks!” he protests, mouth full of pizza.

THAT’S WHEN IT HAPPENS.

Mr. McAllister, under his breath, mutters, “Something tells me you’ll have the kind of Travelers Checks that don’t work in France.”

Too good, friends. Too good.