A view of the woods and hills in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Lush green leaves frame the photo and there is a rolling field of grass, which ends in tall green trees.

On balancing isolation and community

Last month I took a trip to Arkansas for a writing residency.

The thing about writing residencies is that you’re often in community with other writers while there. You share living quarters or a common area. You attend each other’s workshops and public readings. You bump into each other while navigating the town surrounding your residency space.

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A one-lane road in the blue evening in Tennessee. A crescent moon hangs high in the sky. A porch light shines mid-foreground.

On my residency in Tennessee.

Last month I attended my first in-person writing residency in Knoxville, Tennessee. On my way out the door, I told my spouse that I wasn’t interested in updates while I was away. During the few trips I took pre-pandemic, I would begrudgingly spend an hour on the phone listening to him detail the minutiae of what chores were completed, which kids had a tantrum, and other everyday mundanities. Now it was my first time out of the house in over a year and the thought of these calls strummed the thick bands of tension around me. I didn’t care what happened while I was away, short of death or explosion. I didn’t want anything to detract from the little sliver of freedom I was claiming for myself.

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A dandelion blooming against a turquoise sky.

On Not Throwing It All Away*

*or, On Keeping the Little Things

I have a bad habit of getting rid of things. Knick knacks. Old projects. Books I haven’t read in years. If I haven’t used or worn something in a while, I find an excuse to donate it, recycle it, or break it down to its more useful parts. If we have one too many of an item in my household, I find an excuse to get rid of the extra, which I tend to perceive as “excess.”

What I’m learning, though, is that sometimes the things I’m trying to get rid of aren’t really an excess and that holding onto them for a little bit longer has a greater purpose.

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A swath dried flower heads and tan, brittle petals.

On Accepting Rejection

As I write this, I am waiting for resolution. That is: final judgment on a residency application, judgment on a fellowship application, a response from a literary agent, and the reveal of a major publication. All of these should be coming to some sort of conclusion within a few weeks. Even though I have a rough idea of the timeline, I still feel as if I may fall apart while I wait. There is so much to lose.

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On What to Do Next

During a job interview in 2015, my future manager asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I gave a detailed answer that demonstrated my ambition and familiarity with the job’s hierarchy, but basically I said I wanted to be an editor in their department. Truthfully, I wanted to be an editor elsewhere. Perhaps for a magazine or website where I could mentor others and have more editorial freedom. I achieved that in 2019 (The Tishman Review) and then again in 2020 (Linden Avenue Literary Journal). And now in 2021, I am an editor again three times over (Raising Mothers, wigleaf, and Shenandoah). It’s like I hit the bell and then kept ringing it.

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Shadows of flower bouquets cast on a white door.

On Inhabiting Uncertainty.

As 2020 wound to a close, I had hoped to write an end-of-the-year sendoff that would propel myself and you into the future on an upswelling of hope. But I didn’t because I was exhausted by the unrest and calamity from the year. It was impossible to assemble words together with any relative meaning when the future seemed more uncertain than it had ever before. So, I waited for the new year to guide me.

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