A recent discovery

I listen to a lot of audiobooks; in the car to make long drives bearable, at night to slow the hamster wheel of anxiety.

I never look for a specific title. I browse, often clicking through screen after screen of books that aren’t to my taste, like sifting through the racks at a thrift store.


It was after midnight and I was nine screens in when I found Valeria Luiselli‘s Faces in the Crowd, read by Roxanne Hernandez and Armando Durán. Hernandez’s voice was immediately captivating, and I was intrigued, too, by the double translation, first from the original Spanish Los ingrávidos (The Weightless Ones), then into audio.

I’m not going to tell you what it’s about, only that I highly recommend it.

Beach best practices

Bring lots of books, but remember that you’ll also want to watch beach TV. Reliable channels include Waves, Clouds, Dogs, and Children. Sometimes you can get Horses or Storms; occasionally Sparklers.


Someone’s going to be Beach-Fire-Building Alpha. If that’s not you, assist them by gathering kindling, carrying foodstuffs to be carbonized, and not complaining when smoke drifts your way. If you’re the Beach-Fire-Building Alpha, rule benevolently, and gracefully accept all praise of your skills.


Consider not taking sunset photos because geez, aren’t there enough of them in the world already?




Feel grateful.


3 gns I’ve recently enjoyed make a good spine poem

photo (6)

This One Summer

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

How To Be Happy

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This One Summer, by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, perfectly evokes the early-adolescent state where sometimes you want to be older, sometimes younger, where the issues of the adults around you intersect and influence your world even when, especially when, they try to shield you from them, and what it’s like to be in the place that has always meant one thing but now is starting to mean something else.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, a graphic memoir by Roz Chast, is about dread, denial, dementia, decline, and death, and still manages to be funny. Especially recommended for anyone who is, has been, or anticipates becoming a caregiver for aging parents.

How To Be Happy by Eleanor Davis is a collection of short, spare, lovely and haunting graphic stories. Some of them are funny, too. Among my favorites: “The Emotion Room,”  “How To Be Strong,” and the one-pager that opens the collection which begins: “Write a story. A story about yourself. A story about your life. Now, believe it.”




I was surprised to discover I like Justified

I’ve been watching a lot of Justified. I was a little surprised to discover I like it.

But it’s not that shocking, considering I like Elmore Leonard’s ear for dialog and the ever-present evidence in his books that he follows his own writing advice. I liked discovering that producer Graham Yost gave the writers of the show WWED bracelets.

I’ve also been appreciating:

Timothy Olyphant‘s half Jimmy Stewart, half Jack Nicholson affect.

Herky-jerky Jeremy Davies, who manages to seem simultaneously like someone who’d be running the shooting range at a seedy carnival and a semi-functional toy you’d win there.

Commanding Margo Martindale, who gets a remarkable amount of depth and complexity into what is basically a Big Bad character.

Walton Goggins (whose actual name would also work well for his character), buttoned-up and wild-eyed, with ever-precise diction.

I could go on naming actors; there are a lot of strong performances.

There are missed opportunities, too. I especially wanted more in Noble’s Holler; more characters (where were the women?), more scenes, more nuance.

But overall, good, compelling TV. Will watch again.

Old Home Week


I’m just back from Ann Arbor, where I tabled at Kids Read Comics and taught a writing workshop at the Ann Arbor District Library.

I kept using the phrase “cognitive dissonance” to express how it felt to be in my old home town after many years away, and it’s close, I suppose, but inadequate.

I wasn’t discomfited per se by seeing how Ann Arbor has (and hasn’t) changed, but I became hyperaware of how site-specific memory can be; how experiences you’ve had in a particular place can suddenly return when you’re physically present.

I’d forgotten, for example, about Dominick’s. But as soon as I was standing inside, conversations I’d had in grad school over sangria came back; some, in fact, with these people (Dave Carter, Jim Ottaviani, & Kat Hagedorn):


I tried to do an update of this old photo taken outside the Clements Library where my dad used to be a curator:


but decided to respect the boundary around the book statue:


I went to some places that didn’t exist in the 1990s, too:


At Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair, aka 826 Michigan, I bought Don’t Forget to Write: 50 Enthralling and Effective Writing Lessons for the Secondary Grades.

literati bag IMG_3735

And at Literati Bookstore (which has splendid graphic design in addition to its well-curated title selection) I got Roz Chast’s graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Perhaps the experience that best encapsulates the visit was going to Seva; a restaurant I remembered fondly which has recently relocated.


They kept stained glass from the old location, but display it in a different arrangement. They kept some items from the old menu, but added dishes. The result: a comforting, tasty blend of familiar & new.


Kids Read Comics

Representing today & tomorrow for teen & adult readers at the Ann Arbor District Library’s Kids Read Comics festival — really fun to be back in the library I grew up using. If you’re in or near Ann Arbor, come say hi!


Father’s Day


My mom took this picture on the Father’s Day when I was 8 and he was 49. By squinting and googling I ascertain that the book we bought him is A Circle of Light #1, about which I remember nothing except the cover. I remember I was very excited about the ice cream cake and thought it was clever that it had a tie on it, since I already knew that ties were the cliche gift and this was a tie, yet not.

Also we got him a cigar and I made him a card that says Lord of the Rings because he was reading it to me. He’d make himself hoarse doing the orc voices.

I miss him.

Throwback Thursday

I decided a #TBT post was appropriate since I’ll soon be visiting my old hometown.

Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor-adjacent readers, come see me at Kids Read Comics 6/21-22 and/or my writing workshop 6/23!

Now for the throwback:

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4

I learned via the very cool Vintage Girl Scout Online Encyclopedia that I earned the most badges in the purple-bordered “World of the Arts” category and the least in blue-bordered “World of People”: I was painfully shy and keen on getting badges that required minimal interaction with other humans.

And here I am from around the end of my Girl Scout era:


Half speed

So far this year — I just counted the days, because I am the sort of person who does that — I’ve spent over a month in places that aren’t home.

Seven different states, including both New York and California, as well as a few occasions in my home state but not my home town. In most cases I was doing author events. And that is super cool and I’m very grateful to have the opportunities.

But wow, it has also been exhausting. (I say this fully aware that there are lots of folks who are on the road much more often than I’ve been. My hat is off to them/you all.)

I have a bit of time before the next round of travel (which I’m excited to say includes Kids Read Comics! and a writing workshop at the Ann Arbor District Library!) and I kind of feel like I’m operating at half speed — thinking, moving, and certainly writing less quickly than I’d like. Like the sleep debt and jet lag I’ve accumulated have coagulated to slow me down.

But I always think I’m not writing fast enough. And half speed is still some speed. So, onward.


SCBWI Oregon: resources mentioned for writing with cultural awareness/responsiveness

Writing The Other: a practical approach, Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward

12 Fundamentals of Writing “The Other” (and the self), Daniel Jose Older

Diversity in YA

We Need Diverse Books

Iceberg Activity — which aspects of culture are visible and which are ‘below the water line’? An interactive online exercise from FamilyForce.ca, a resource for Canadian military families

White Girl, Colleen Mondor

How privilege and diversity affect literature and media, a collection of articles curated by Sarah Hannah Gomez

Guest Post: Joseph Bruchac on You Don’t Look Indian at Cynsations, Joseph Bruchac hosted at Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog

A Few Disjointed Thoughts on Other Cultures and Diversity in Science Fiction and Fantasy, Aliette de Bodard

Should White People Write About People Of Color?, Malinda Lo

Windows and Mirrors: Reading Diverse Children’s Literature by Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen

Writing Race: A Checklist For Writers, Mitali Perkins

The Danger Of A Single Story, Chimamanda Nzogi Adichie

“The Boundaries of Imagination,” Or, The All-White World Of Children’s Books, 2014, a collection of articles curated by Philip Nel

It’s Not Me, It’s You: Letting Go Of The Status Quo by Zetta Elliott

Looking at rituals from the outside:

No R.S.V.P.? In Rajasthan, India, No Worries and the satirical response No R.S.V.P.? In South Jersey, USA, No Worries