I’m honored and proud to be the featured author in this month’s issue of Sirens Call Publications’ The Sirens Call, “Summer Nightscares!” In Issue 46, you’ll find an essay from yours truly called “Fear, Sadness, and the Horror of Pain;” along with the first two chapters of Without Condition. I also have two other pieces in the issue: “Petal, Page, Piel,” a flash story; and “I Walked Beneath a Shining Moon,” a poem. Check out the issue for FREE below! Thanks for reading.
Happy Pride! The entire month of June is a recognition, celebration, and honoring of LGBTQIA individuals. While there are many ways to celebrate, I plan to spend part of June reading books by LGBTQIA authors.
One of my 2019 resolutions was to read at least one book per month that someone recommended to me. I put out a request on Twitter for recommended reads by queer authors. One user recommended White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, which is on its way to my front door as we speak. I look forward to reading that one!
As far as my own recommendations, here are some books I’ve enjoyed that were written by LGBTQIA authors. I recommend them for Pride month and, of course, for any month.
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado — a fascinating collection of feminist horror. My favorite story was “Inventories.”
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay — another great collection of short fiction. My favorite story was “Water, All Its Weight.”
Dry by Augusten Burroughs — Burroughs is one of my favorite authors, and you really can’t go wrong with any of his books.
Letters for Lucardo, Vol. 1 by Otava Heikkilä — a tender, erotic comic about a May-December romance between a human and a vampire.
F4 by Larissa Glaser — a wild, crazy, sexy creature tale that’s perfect for summer.
The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag — a graphic novel about a young boy who yearns to be a witch.
I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé by Michael Arcenaux — a wonderful, funny collection of essays.
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby — I laughed now just remembering this book. The essays within are a scream.
The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Allison Bechdel — a “best of” treasury of Bechdel’s amazing comic.
Do you have any recommended reads for Pride? Leave them in the comments below!
I wrote the essay below a couple weeks ago, when I was feeling melancholy. Nothing particularly painful caused the melancholy, it was just a mood I was nursing. That mood extended into some doubts about writing, and the feeling I’m sure many writers have, where they wonder if the words they write are better kept to themselves. Writing the essay below helped me feel better, and in line with its thesis, I wanted to share those words with you. I also want to add a P.S. to other writers reading — I hope you’ll share your words as well. Have a good Tuesday, everyone.
My Jar of Fireflies
When I was little, one of my favorite summertime activities was catching fireflies. I was fascinated by bugs that glowed neon green as they flitted by. I had to catch them in my hands, watch their wings unfold and shine their light upon my palms.
Like many little girls, I liked collecting bugs in jars. Fireflies were no different. I’d place them in a jar with holes on top, making sure my flying lanterns could breathe. I put the jar in my room one night, hoping for a night light. This didn’t work, as the fireflies began to climb out of the holes. I took them outside before they could escape in my room. I knew a holeless lid was out of the question, as the bugs would suffocate and not light up at all.
I accepted that the best way to enjoy the fireflies was to catch them, then let them go. They glowed their brightest when they flew from tree to tree, sparkling in the blue summer nights and cutting through the fog of humidity that defined July in the southern areas I grew up in. To this day, a wide smile will cross my face when I walk home and see the familiar green glow of a firefly cross my path. It’s the first sign of summer, and the beginning of nights warm with light and conversation.
I found myself remembering the jar of fireflies as I thought about my writing. My thoughts tend to float in and out of the air, and sometimes, writing is the only way I can catch them. I write them down, place them in a paper jar, then hold that paper jar with all my might, keeping it in my room and hoping the lid will keep them safe.
I know deep down, though, that that is no destiny for ideas. In order to glow, they have to be released. I can poke holes in the lid, and the ideas can seep out in bursts — a stray quote to a friend, reading a couple pages to my husband, discussing ideas with my editor. But in order to fly to their highest peaks, they need to be released.
It’s something I try to remember as two of my pieces approach completion. It can be hard to let go of something that brings me such personal joy, especially into a world where they’ll fly free of my own hold. But removing the lid, and learning to let them go, is what will ultimately help them glow — and make me smile when I see them flying by.
It’s a cloudy morning in Arlington. I’ve always liked cloudy days. I don’t want them all the time, as one too many days without the sun quickly makes my mood match the weather outside. But every few days or so, a bit of cloudiness can serve nature well. I wrote the essay below on a cloudy autumn day, and while it’s spring (technically, at least. It’s been really cold all week), I believe it still applies. Enjoy, and have a good weekend.
Grey days are far from dreary. They can be just as beautiful as the golden ones.
Consider autumn leaves. Their hues of red, gold, orange, and everything in between are striking in all sorts of light. But imagine them shining against a backdrop of grey clouds. They look uniquely beautiful, do they not?
The same can be said of the greenest tree and the brightest bird. By giving the sun a break, a cloud can help to highlight all of the beauty we were too blinded by rays of sunshine to fully see.
A grey day is special in that it helps us see beauty in ways we may not have considered before. It asks you to pause, and breathe, and truly look. So if you find yourself awakening to a day lacking in the sun, do not spend it waiting for the sun to come back. Rather, take a look and see what you may miss when the sun is in your eyes.
While watching The Young Pope, I found myself impressed by how well the cinematography captured the golden glow of Italy’s streets at night. I remembered an essay I wrote last fall that captured my memories of those streets, which I walked during my honeymoon in 2015. Below is that essay, and I plead the fifth on how much chianti I’d had before writing it. Enjoy, and have a good weekend, everyone.
The Golden Streets of Italy
It is a dark autumn evening in Arlington, and I remember the rain-soaked streets of Florence. The nights were dark but the streets were illuminated in golden light, bathing the sidewalks in a shine only magnified by the rainier weather of fall. Leaves clung stubbornly to the trees, but autumn appeared in the chill of the wind and the huddling of pedestrians close to one another.
Every day I walked beside my love, crossing the path along the River Arno into the Florence square. Though a bustling city, it wasn’t reminiscent of the smog and hardness of American equivalents. It had a warmth, exemplified by how beautiful the city looked by lamplight.
Our first night in Florence, I saw this beauty firsthand. We rode in a taxi through narrow alleyways and across cobblestone streets. Everything looked like a country dreamer’s dream of what a city should look like, or a romantic historian’s notion of what the past was. But this was very much the present, and Florence did well to preserve its allure.
We drove by a building that even in nighttime was almost too beautiful to comprehend. It was black and white with perfect tiling. A design with soul, architecture done with love – not simply a space, but a place to see. I gasped audibly and asked, “What is that?” The cab driver chuckled and politely told me it was the Duomo. One of Florence’s most famous places. I could see why, even at night.
Many of our dinners took place outdoors and by candlelight. Two restaurants we visited had seating where you could see an ancient church while you dined. Candles lit the tables as waiters brought wine darker than the sky around us, and we dined on pasta and bruschetta much later than we’d ever eat at home. There was a quiet to the city despite its popularity with tourists. You could almost hear the stars blinking in the sky. Or maybe it was the wine. Whatever it was, there was a magic there that couldn’t be denied.
The magic extended into neighboring cities. We walked the streets of Siena and made our way over hills of brick, illumined by street lamps in the dark of night. I felt as if I walked upon man-made fields of gold, Italy proving to me that man was capable of the beauty nature came by so easily. Corners dark and sidewalks bright, all were beautiful.
It was a beauty I’d never forget. The final golden light came from the runway as our plane departed from Florence to Paris, and Paris to Dulles. I felt my soul ache with joy as we descended into a red sunset. I was home, and it was beautiful.
But even though home is beautiful, I find myself walking the golden streets of Italy in my dreams. The cobblestone wears on my shoes, the rain gets in my hair, and I kiss my husband with wine-soaked lips, taking in the beauty that a night in Italy has to offer. It’s a night that is too powerful to be interrupted by dawn. It’s a night that lasts forever. It’s a dream I need not wake up from. It is golden.
The National Mall is a wonderful place to read. I remember starting Harry Potter for the first time on one of its benches, and finishing Of Mice and Men on another. It is also one of the most popular destinations in D.C., which sometimes interferes with its more peaceful elements. I wrote the essay below when I was feeling a bit sour about all the distractions keeping me from my book of choice (I believe it was Between the World and Me, which was excellent). My outlook on finding peaceful reading spots is typically more optimistic, though I maintain that Heaven will be filled with both books and places to read them.
A Quiet Place to Read
The other day I walked to the National Mall to read while I waited for my husband to meet me downtown. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, with cooler weather than we’d had in weeks. I found a bench under some scant shade, and could only hear the wind.
As I read, I heard some noises you’d expect in a busy park. Cars here and there. People walking by and taking pictures in front of the Capitol.
My flow was interrupted by machinery. I looked over and saw construction underway on one of the mall’s many lawns. It ceased. I continued to read.
The sounds of cars came ever closer. I looked up, and saw a pick-up truck driving on the mall itself.
Don’t cars have enough space as it is that they don’t have to take up ours? No matter. It drove away, onto the road where it belonged.
I heard a small hissing. I looked at the ground, and saw a squirrel walking expectantly towards me. I shooed it away, and it slowly kept creeping back, until I shooed it away a few times and it finally saw that my book was not food. I silently cursed those who’d fed that squirrel and thus sculpted its natural instincts into something altogether unnatural.
The squirrel returned to a tree, and I returned to my former tree. Suddenly a pop song blared through the air. I looked up and could not find the exact source, though I guessed it had something to do with the stage a few blocks away with giant white letters saying HOPE. Ironic, given that it was dashing away any hope I had of a quiet afternoon of reading.
It was just as well, for around that time, my husband texted me to let me know he was coming downtown. As I put my book away, I decided that, if Heaven exists, it is a library; for only in death will we ever find a quiet place to read.
~September 15, 2016
I have a folder called Daily Writings, where I write quick entries that come to mind, usually on walks, and which have no other theme or connecting purpose. Below is one such entry. I wrote it in response to my walk to work being disrupted by construction, rather ugly construction that’s still underway as of this writing. The sidewalk itself is now completely gone, and pedestrians take other routes. The routes are convenient, but I can’t help but miss the park.
The Park is Gone
On my walk to work, there was a little park. It was next to a high-rise and across from an elementary school. It consisted of a lawn, some trees, and two gazebos covered in wisteria vines. I usually saw residents of the high rise walking their dogs in it, and children walking through it with their parents.
Sadly, that park is gone.
I was walking home from a baseball game and stood in shock when I saw the gazebos torn down and the trees uprooted, lying in piles. There was now a chainlink fence separating pedestrians from the carnage, keeping them on one remaining sidewalk interrupted by dirt and a lone tree.
As the days went on, the remains of the trees disappeared, as did the grass. The machines began digging a large hole in the ground, regularly breaking into the land and digging deeper and deeper into the dirt. Pipes are exposed and brown dirt fills the space. Where once was a park, there is now a gaping hole. Soon it will be filled with concrete. I cannot say which will be uglier.
Today, the sidewalk is gone. The chainlink fence had been moved over it so they could dig more dirt. The sidewalk was replaced by gravel and dirt, which pedestrians once again had no choice but to take, maneuvering around each other as there is little space left to walk.
The lone tree is also gone. There is a flat stump and a single sprawling root, a wooden vein, where it once stood.
It is a shame that the beauty of the park was not enough to withstand progress.
~July 22, 2016