The Pregnancy Test as Plot Device

Here’s a clip from a mini essay I wrote for The Atlantic: 

“Though pregnancy is a timeless source of narrative conflict, pregnancy tests on the screen are relatively new. Over-the-counter, take-home indicators didn’t hit the shelves until 1988. Before that, aside from obvious symptoms—missed periods and morning sickness—early verification was harder to come by. The 1927 A-Z test (named for inventors Selmar Aschheim and Bernhard Zondak) involved injecting a woman’s urine into an immature mouse or rat. If the rodent went into heat, the woman was “in the family way.” In frogs and rabbits, the same procedure incited ovulation. While frog eggs are expelled from the body and easily visible, injected rabbits had to be cut open and inspected, a practice that gave rise to the euphemism “the rabbit died.”

Check out the whole thing here!


Mixed Taste: Tag Team Lectures on Unrelated Subjects


If I was asked the ideal situation in which to give a public lecture, I still wouldn’t have come up with anything nearly as fun as the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art’s Mixed Taste lecture series. I lectured on drinking water and Scott Kinnamon lectured on Miles Davis. Then, during the Q & A, the audience came up with questions that tied the two subjects together. The whole premise of the program is based on the idea of metaphor, that unrelated subjects can illuminate one another. During dinner, afterwards, I found out that the late poet, Jake Adam York, whose work I admire tremendously, helped found the series eleven years ago. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that a brilliant poet would be behind such a brilliant event.

Here are some photos:


The Holiday Event Center just before the doors opened. Tickets were sold out!


The house band, Oko Tygra, wrote a song about drinking water during the lecture and played it at the intermission.


Scott Kinnamon called Miles Davis “the avatar for cultural malaise.”


Before chlorination, beer and wine were often safer to drink than water!

Greetings From My Inner Werebat

Miracle Monacle, a journal run by the University of Louisville,  published two of the stranger poems I’ve ever written. Here’s the first one, titled, “Greetings From My Inner Werebat.” Click here to read “Dreams of Babies.”


Is there a word more terrifying 
than housewife? More shameful 

than panties? Is premeditation 
a good idea? I don’t regret 

my tramp stamp, though, 
I sometimes reflect on hairdos 

I have known and wonder 
what I shall title my memoir.

Humor and Hope: An Interview with MB Caschetta

MB Caschetta had so much insight when I interviewed her about her novel Miracle Girls. The novel takes place in the 1970s, and Cee-Cee Bianco is 10 years old, living in upstate New York. Her father is a jobless drunk and her mother has a bad habit of taking off, unannounced, for days at a time. Two of her three older brothers are kind, but the oldest one carries an anger inside him that he can’t tamp down; he looks at her funny. On top of all that, Cee-Cee sees angels. They hover and glow and give her messages and make her faint. Sometimes, when they’re around, her vision expands. She can visualize the suffering of other girls—girls in basements, girls who’ve been hit, kidnapped girls, girls who don’t know how to go on.

Here’s a bit of what MB Cashetta had to say. Read the full interview at Mediander.

For myself, vanishing girls are particularly resonant—not because I was kidnapped as a child (I wasn’t), but because traumatic events at home, while still tucked in my bed, made me find ways of learning how to make myself disappear without going anywhere. An intact imagination during a difficult situation can lead to some magical, spiritual options.

Miracle_Girls_mediumThe novel takes place in the early 1970s, a time that started a wave of crimes against children that weren’t only based on money. Earlier kidnapping cases tended to involve rich families with children held for ransom. Missing persons cases have increased something like sixfold over the past decades, due to a growth in population and other factors.

In such a context, young girls are naturally the most vulnerable in terms of powerlessness. And I would venture to guess that the writers you mention are attempting to get our culture a little more obsessed with the kind of violence that is involved in girls being kidnapped. Obama’s speech for the Grammys was a step in the right direction, but on the whole I think more concern is warranted.

So Our Chapbooks Can Find Us

Look at these beautiful photos of the letterpress chapbook of my poems. Sara White is the book maker / print maker extraordinaire! I love the delicate lines in her drawings. The first picture, of the two children squatting, is on vellum, so you’ll be able to see through it to the girl on the opposite page. It’s a great effect for a book with the word ghosts in the title. I can’t wait to hold one! To see more of Sara’s work, check out her Etsy store, Southern Pest Prints. 11034439_10100282977717385_8911515956015467890_o 11062352_10100282977872075_7762115070429834639_o

In other news, my poem “Beauty Lessons” is in The Pinch’s latest print journal, which happens to be their 35th anniversary volume.

Papa Can’t Buy You A Brand New Earth

“For decades, science fiction has viewed outer space as the great, and final, hope, the wildest Wild West, a blank canvas where we can deposit our trash and refuel space crafts and expand human civilization. As far as we know, Earthlings are the only humans in the universe, so the problems that typically accompany new colonies—unequal power, cultural imperialism, and genocide—aren’t at play, at least not in any kind of familiar way. Of course, exactly what does exist out there is still to be determined. Space, as any Trekkie will confirm, is “The Final Frontier,” and we don’t even know how little we know.”

I wrote about lullabies, Interstellar, and climate change for Public Books. Check it out!

Calling All High School Writers in New Orleans


Lusher Charter High School and New Orleans Center for Creative Arts are collaborating once again to produce the eighth year of a remarkable day-long event for high school students:  New Orleans New Writers Literary Festival. The Festival, coordinated by Lusher faculty member Brad Richard and NOCCA faculty member Lara Naughton, draws nearly 150 young writers from the New Orleans area who come together to learn new skills, share ideas and celebrate the writing life.  “LitFest is a great environment to be in to experiment with writing, make new writer-friends from all over the city, and learn from professional writers who don’t hold back sharing what they know,” said high school student Khipper Thompson.

I’ll be teaching two sessions on creative non-fiction and writing the hypothetical. Local teens, sign up!

Gigantic Anthology

I’m thrilled that my story “Where Sisters Come From” will be included in  Best of Gigantic: Stories from the First Five Years, 2009–14, which  features forty-two Gigantic stories collected in one e-book.


Here’s a description of the anthology:
“Included are parables, fairy tales, monologues, and stories in which one might encounter a talking deer or a juggling god; a bratty cellist or a chatty head flight attendant; a body-contorting bank robber or a Nike-wearing mob boss and his personal trainer-cum-bodyguard; emperors, dictators, and would-be despots; servers, salespeople, and recently dismissed postal workers. Occasionally you won’t come across anyone at all, just a list of ways you could greet a stranger—or end up in an asylum.”

And this is the list of authors within:

Nico Alvarado, Selena Anderson, Marie-Helene Bertino, Dan Bevacqua, Anelise Chen, Joshua Cohen, John Colasacco, Jon Cotner, Lydia Davis, Rebecca Evanhoe, Jean Ferry, Sasha Fletcher, I. Fontana, Avital Gad-Cykman, Anya Groner, John Haskell, Kevin Hyde, Mitchell S. Jackson, Margo Jefferson, Etgar Keret, Michael Kimball, Carmen Lau, Kitty Liang, Robert Lopez, Ottessa Moshfegh, Iris Moulton, Stephen O’Connor, Ed Park, Thomas Pierce, Joe Mungo Reed, Helen Klein Ross, Paul Scheerbart, Sparrow, Lauren Spohrer, Saša Stanišić, Marguerite W. Sullivan, Lynne Tillman, Anthony Tognazzini, Deb Olin Unferth, Laura van den Berg, Robert Walser, and Diane Williams.

Such fabulous company to be in! Thanks, Gigantic!