Category Archives: Writing

Gratitude List From Scotland, Where I Broke My Writing Arm

1. Thank you Carl for teaching me about love, for being completely supportive & non-threatened by a wife who needs to range. When I snapped my radius on a remote island in the inner Hebrides, thank you for saying, “Fail early and often,” for hugging me, for slicing my bacon, for standing on the 3.5 hour train between Oban and Glasgow so that I could sit, for saying, “She’s a writer” to the dreamy NHS doctors, even though I earn a living through other talents.

2. Thank you body for being resilient and terribly bruised.

3. Thank you Northern Irish Woman who drunk-bandaged me after midnight and got help. Your name flew into the pain ether. Your face is a blur. I wish I could remember more.

4. Thank you Swiss Backpackers and English Business Man who sat with me on the train from Oban to Glasgow. It was fun to talk with you about the existence, or non-existence, of Scottish mountains, Trump, and Brexit.

5. Thank you Dreamy NHS Doctors for treating me like a human, for touching me with kindness, care, and decency, for the laughing gas. I am used to narcissistic American physicians. Your to-the-bone empathy is a necessary paver on my road to healing.

6. Thank you Good Women of Marks & Spencer for looking at my arm and asking, “What happened?” with such tenderness & then listening with interest to my tale. You’ve saved me $30 per week in therapy Skype sessions.

7. Thank you rain for not getting in my plaster.

8. Thank you sun for holding out as long as you could.

9. Thank you Herring Gulls for not eating me.

10. Thank you dearhearts from long ago who shared meals and meandering walks and deep vulnerable conversations. Life is long, but love is longer. I cherish you.

11. Thank you thistles for being the toughest everloving flowers.

12. Thank you stranger who tied my shoes in a downpour along Perth Road today.

13. Thank you seaside. Thank you fields. Thank you rocks.

14. Thank you Rebel Writers for the red lipstick and the fierceness and the sacristy rendition of “Country Roads.” Virginia Woolf would be so proud.

15. Thank you strangers for opening my water bottles and my snacks.

16. Thank you Willow Tea Rooms for granting me refuge, truth, beauty.

17. Thank you Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh. I am still obsessed with you.

18. Thank you Merchant City for not stealing my phone.

19. Thank you Dennistoun for being REAL.

20. Thank you Scotland for receiving me once more. I broke an essential writing bone on you, after midnight, at a sacred pilgrimage site. Clearly, this means we are bound up in something grand and cosmic. Or life is random chaos and a little dumbassedry. Does it matter? Can we let the mystery be?

21. Dearest Scotland, I love you truly, unromantically, and with great consciousness. I will hasten back.

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On Hiatus

“Yet It Will Come” is on hiatus while I finish my memoir Mother of Rebellion. In the next few months, this website will also be redesigned to accommodate the book. I’ll post links to my published writing, events, and other resources on Twitter.

You can find my recent work in Minerva Rising (Issue 15 Fall 2018), Bellingham Review (Issue 76), and Solstice Literary Magazine, where my essay “The Gleaming Miraculous” was a finalist and Editors’ Pick in the Summer 2018 Contest judged by Phillip Lopate. You can also read my 2018 Pushcart Prize-nominated essay “To Punctuate” at Full Grown People. Many thanks to editor Jennifer Niesslein for nominating my work — and I recommend Jennifer’s brilliant essay “Politics in Prose” in Issue 68 of Creative Nonfiction

For more about Mother of Rebellion and my most recent thoughts on writing about love and loss, check out this interview with me published on the Bellingham Review blog in September 2018.

Thank you for following my writing. More soon. I promise.




To My Creative Writing Students Now and Always

No one in my family wrote. That is, if you count “writing” as the kind of writing that gets validated in academic settings: journalism, opinion pieces, blogs, essays, book reviews, literary criticism, short stories, and poetry. E-mail wasn’t even a word when I was growing up. My mother wrote shopping lists. Notes to my teachers. Sometimes she wrote the occasional letter or card or college essay when she went back to school for her associate degree.

My parents never told me to write, or not to write. I just wrote. At the end of each school year, for example, I jotted down how I had changed from the year before, everything I could do differently: Write cursive. Multiply. Walk to the bus top alone.

But what possessed me to take a pen to paper and move it across a page? Who encouraged me to write?

A cousin put my first journal in my hand. I was nine, and the journal was baby breath’s pink. Its cover featured a kitten chasing a ball of twine. My cousin wrote an inscription inside the front cover. She told me to record my dreams and thoughts and ambitions. Until that moment, no one but me seemed to care about what went on inside a little girl’s head. Yet, the journal’s inscription bore a symbolic message that informs my work as a writer to this day: My writing and what I have to say are a necessary contribution to the world. It’s the same message I impart to you, my students.

Your writing and what you have to say are a necessary contribution to the world.

I initially started writing diary entries to get acquainted with my voice and to record moments of my life I wanted to remember. I write today to interrupt silences and to make meaning out of my failures or losses. I write to understand the other, the margins. I write to ask, not to answer.

What did it mean that my mother was chronically disabled for so many years?

How did I, as an adolescent and young adult, define myself against her illness?

What was I thinking at 21, when I boarded a plane for Glasgow, Scotland, to work in a country I could barely find on a map?

And then, two years later, why did I leave Scotland for another foreign country – the Louisiana Delta – to write about religion among people whose faith I did not share? What was I running away from? What was I running toward?

In each essay or book chapter or poem I create, I am writing toward and through such questions.

Like Joan Didion, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

I write to seek, never to find.

Writing has, in turn, given me a life I never could have envisioned when I was nine and first writing in a baby’s breath pink journal with a cat on the cover.

Writing took me overseas and into parts of the United States I initially feared –– the Deep South, for example. Writing introduced me to my husband. Writing made me a teacher. Writing gave me permission to find myself, to be myself, to live with less guilt and shame or a need for approval.

I can find a thousand reasons to write, and a thousand reasons not to write. I chose to listen to the thousand voices that tell me to write, and I want all of you to do the same. Right now. Tune out every single voice that says you’re not good enough –- or too good –– to be here.

Write when you’re tired, sad, angry, hungry, guilty, ashamed, sick, scared, happy, anxious, wide awake.

There will never be a perfect time to write. The perfect time is now.

Remake the world with your writing. Rebuild yourself. In the words of Wendell Berry, “Practice resurrection.”

Show up in this room. Show up on each page you read, each page you create.

Be who you are when everyone can see you. Be who you are when no one can see you.

Listen. Seek. Question.

Get serious. Own your words. Make them sharp or shiny or beautiful. Make them everything that matters.