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Our Museum of the Future – Shenandoah

Humbled and honoured to contribute a short story to the latest issue of Shenandoah Literary Magazine. I had the good fortune of working on “Our Museum of the Future” with editor Beth Staples, whose new vision for the venerable publication is one I find compelling:

“…I consider it my job to privilege voices that don’t fit into that category, not just because it’s the right thing to do to counteract many years of established practice, but because reading is one of a very few ways we can jump into the mind of someone else.”

The fundamental purpose of literature in Staples’ view is “to expand the reader’s sense of the world and their place in it. It should also be one of our goals for being alive: stepping into another person’s shoes and practicing radical empathy.”

– Radical Rebirth, The Columns

“Our Museum of the Future” grew out of the conceit that there exists a public space where words are showcased and curated in the same fashion as bones:

“Welcome to a museum of words instead of bones. Where sentences take the shapes of skeletons. Where nouns and verbs replace ribs and vertebrae. We believe words can evoke in ways bones cannot. That they are easier for the mind to hold and make come alive. This is the premise behind our museum of the future.”

The story was partly inspired by Robert MacFarlane’s The Lost Words, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Nna Mmoy Language, and by reports from those working on the frontlines of environmental conservation. What can one do under the spectre of vanishing species and mass extinctions? Fiction, I hope, provides at least one way of processing such loss.

You can find “Museum” alongside other stories, essays, poems, comics, and artwork on Shenandoah’s newly redesigned website; I’m excited myself to step into the shoes of my fellow contributors.

Check Out The Issue Here

 

Cheung Chau Sunrise Orient

Lodestone, Tahoma Lit Review

Excited to have a flash nonfiction piece published in the latest issue of Tahoma Literary Review, a great journal produced with “the aim of contributing to and sustaining a healthy literary ecosystem.” A description of the themes explored in this volume:

“The 25 selections in our Fall/Winter issue describe dreams and omens; bodies in motion; how we deal with fear and grief; what we inherit and what we pass on. The stories, essays, and poems range in time and geography from the drought-ridden Midwestern plains of the 1870s to present-day Cheung Chau, Hong Kong.” 

TLR13 cover

Cover art by Pausha Foley.

“Lodestone” takes place in that latter location, on the isle of Cheung Chau off the shores of Hong Kong, and revolves around a narrator’s return to a homeplace only to discover he is not the only one who has been drawn back. The featured photo may help you situate in the space, as it did for me when I finally sat down to write this piece.

I feel especially fortunate to be in the company of some fantastic authors in this issue; for the price of a coffee you can download their stories for your reading pleasure, or you can listen to them read their work aloud for free over here at the TLR Soundcloud channel. Personally, I can’t wait to get my hands on my hard copy – Pausha Foley’s cover art is simply gorgeous. Until next time!

Check Out the Issue Here

 

 

 

 

I’m super fortunate to be

Perseid Meteor Showers

Transience, Juxtaprose Magazine

Happy to have a new personal essay up in the summer issue of Juxtaprose, a literary magazine that juxtaposes both emerging and established writers as well as local and global ones. It seemed a good fit as Transience itself contrasts the terrestrial with the celestial, the profound with the quotidian, the intimate with the vastly distant:

“…Hundreds of us had gathered for the Perseid meteor showers, drawn to a source phenomenon that may have sparked our species’ penchant for fireworks, rock concerts, and other grand spectacles. Throughout the ages cultures gave names to these star sacrifices, imbued them with intention, granted them power. Shooting stars were transmuted into the slings of slighted gods, dragons of fortune and calamity, the tears of martyred saints. Even in modern times, when we know that they comprise mere rock and debris, many of us continue to attach meaning to these mineral rains. Some of us still seek miracles by appealing to forces we do not understand and cannot master. I still, on occasion, have the need to wish upon a star…”

Passages from Italo Calvino, John Steinbeck, Oliver Sacks, and Ursula K. Le Guin serve as interludes throughout the piece. If those quotes pique your interest, feel free to check out the Ekostories archive; I’ve written essays on each author sometime in the past. Happy readings!

Read the Essay Here

Featured Image Credit: Dave Dugdale

Omega Institute Rhinebeck

2018 Orion Environmental Writers’ Workshop

Looking forward to attending the Orion Environmental Writers’ Workshop at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, this June 10-15:

“The Orion Environmental Writers’ Workshop is an annual week-long writing workshop for writers who want to improve their writing about nature and the environment. This workshop gives writers the unique opportunity to connect with Orion writers and editors in order to understand more deeply Orion‘s approach to the relationship between literature and the natural world.

This program is for writers who want to learn how to write an Orion essay, short story, or poem; for writers who seek to become better advocates for the environment through their writing; for poets who are drawn to writing about nature and culture; for teachers and scholars who wish to write for a more general readership; and for environmental professionals who want to bring better writing skills to bear on their work.”

As I’m trying my hand at fiction this time around, I’m excited to workshop pieces with Megan Mayhew Bergman, essayist for The Paris Review and author of the excellent short story collection Birds of a Lesser Paradise.

Click Here for the Faculty List

 

Image courtesy of Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, Rhinebeck, NY, eOmega.org

Clouds and Cornfield

All My Best Words Were Hers

My thanks to Entropy Magazine for publishing All My Best Words Were Hers, my essay exploring the legacy of Ursula K. Le Guin.

Over the past several months, I’ve mourned her passing by reading every tribute I can find. Most touch upon her seminal works, on Earthsea and Omelas, on The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness. Yet few seem to speak to the wider breadth of her oeuvre, which ranged from critical essays and genre-defying short stories to translations of ancient texts and funny food recipes. Le Guin would be rankled at that, I think. This piece is intended to shine a light on her lesser known works, reorient her more famous pieces through my own lens, and showcase the woman behind and beyond the words. She would appreciate the gesture, I hope:

“In the evening, my mom sends me a text: Are you ok? I saw one of her quotes @Twitter: ‘Go on and do your work. Do it well. It is all you can do.’

Gensher, of Way. A biological parent, delivering advice from a literary one. If I have learned anything in this life, it is to listen to my mothers. So I sit down at the table and begin once more the work, my work with words, this time plying it to find a road out of the land of dust and shadows, back to the green grove, the sun’s light, the empty sky.”

I chose the headline image partly because I’ve always associated trees and their “great slow gestures” with Le Guin, and partly because a lone figure reaching up towards an infinite sky seemed to fit her as a writer and a thinker.

The title was inspired by Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to a film adaption of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Dick was one of many authors I would have never had read in-depth if not for a Le Guin essay (along with Lem, Woolf, Saramago, Calvino, Tiptree Jr. – the list goes on). Through care and generosity of spirit she tended the door that opened to new worlds and possibilities; for that I shall always be grateful.

Read The Essay Here

Featured Image credit: Pixabay

Dear Ursula…

When I first began writing seriously a few years back, I enrolled in a local creative writing intensive program. During one of the workshop sessions, we were asked to read something we loved in order to figure out how great writing sounds. Naturally I settled on your writing and found a passage in my battered Ace trade paperback edition of The Left Hand of Darkness. Chapter 18 begins:

“Sometimes, as I’m falling asleep in a dark and quiet room, I have for a moment a great and treasurable illusion of the past. The wall of the tent leans up against my face, not visible but audible, a slanting plane of faint sound. The susurrus of blown snow, nothing can be seen. The light emission of the Chabe stove is cut off, and it exists only as a sphere of heat, a heart of warmth. The faint dampness and confining cling of my sleeping bag, the sound of the snow. Barely audible, Estraven’s breathing as he sleeps. Darkness. Nothing else. We are inside, the two of us, the shelter, at rest, at the center of all things. Outside, as always, lies the great darkness, the cold, death’s solitude.

In such fortunate moments as I fall asleep, I know beyond doubt what the real center of my own life is, that time, which is past and lost and yet is permanent, the enduring moment, the heart of warmth.”

It was embarrassing at first. I was stuttering through the first lines, tripping up on the pronunciation of “susurrus”. But then I eased into things and gained sure through your words that formed the sentences that forged a world. A sphere of heat, the heart of warmth, and then I was there, with you on Gethen, inside the mind of Genly Ai, amidst the darkness and the silence, and moved to try as hard as I could to craft something as haunting and profound as the chain of words I had just read aloud.

I am still trying to this day.

Rest in peace, Ursula. I hope you are walking in your forests right now, deep within the Immanent Grove where tree roots are the roots of being, learning at last what no act or act or power in life could ever teach you, what you had never learned.

Isaac

Sunflower Briar Patch

The Briar Patch, The Sunlight Press

Happy to have a short piece published in The Sunlight Press, a literary journal for new and established voices:

“…With the site prepared, you and your friends begin to forge something new. There are no master plans, no plans at all. A wire fence, they say, to keep out the rats. Some wood chips to lay, to mark down the paths. You throw yourself into tasks that fill body and mind, and over the course of an easy spring, hard work gives rise to small beginnings. Radish seeds and sweet peas spool forth soft threads, greedy for light. Butterflies wink in and out to drink sugar syrup from trumpet flowers. A new commonwealth sprawls forth above ground and underfoot. Yet part of you still yearns for the manic patch of old, wild and invasive, all-consuming…”

Exploring the healing power of a garden over the seasons, “The Briar Patch” is a piece that fits with the publication’s desire to explore the many ways “people turn toward light and hope”, and also of epiphanies “born from the ordinary and the extraordinary.” Hope you enjoy it!

Read the Piece Here