by Vanessa Blakeslee
“Go to the farm,” a voice inside me said, quietly but firmly—the voice I had lost touch with for some time. Midmorning, January in Florida, and I was sitting on the Lake Maitland fishing pier, part of the condominium complex where I’d lived for fifteen years. I found myself drawn to the lake, where the snakebirds and cormorants would fish and spread out their oily wings to dry in the sun, while I sipped green tea and waited for the cocktail I’d taken to kick in and calm my brain. The year before I’d spiraled into a dark depression, and, although outside circumstances had improved—I had gotten out of an abusive relationship, started working in a friend’s bookstore, and finished editing my first novel to be published in the fall—lately, alone, I found myself slipping down the rungs again. Terrified of the disturbing side effects that I’d experienced in my brief stint of taking antidepressants the previous year— night sweats, nausea, and most of all, emotional numbness—I was determined to claw my way out by other means this time, no matter what. So each morning, I popped GABA and theanine, eschewed coffee for green tea, and began my day among the sunshine and shore birds.
The year was 2003. America and Israel were fighting their respective endless wars, and as per the tradition of my Orthodox Jewish community I left home to grow my soul in the holy dirt of an Israeli Yeshiva. The transition trashed my fragile personality. Leaving Brooklyn stripped the meager armor I accumulated and left me confused by violent homosexual thoughts, unprotected from unexplored regions of self-hatred, and sickened by vivid day dreams of suicide. Life was suddenly plague-of-darkness level dark and I had no words but inarticulate howls. I was terrified to tell my parents, scared to let down my rabbi (his counsel would be to find a therapist who would not turn me away from God), and frightened to push away my friends. Each day to cope, I huddled, still clothed, into a spiraled scrawny mass on the dirty bathroom floor, crying into a warm amniotic sac of shower water and my tears. It was bad.
Why You Should Write With a Cat
by Sean Gandert
While technically it’s still possible to write fiction without cats around, I wouldn’t recommend it. Oh I’m certainly familiar with the old saws about writing, that all we need is a room of our own, or perhaps a computer in a coffee shop, or just a notepad and a little bit of follow-through. I’ve certainly done plenty of writing in hotel rooms and while crashing at friends’ houses, on planes and trains and wherever the hell else I happen to be when inspiration (or, more likely, a deadline) has rapped at my head. But none of these methods can compare to writing with cats, and if anyone asks me what my process is, where I draw inspiration from, or how I maintain the discipline to keep working through miserable drafts and numerous rejections, my answer is simple: write with a cat nearby.
A Yellow Thread, or On Obsession
by Susannah Felts
And so I fell in love with a color… –Maggie Nelson
And so in these dark times at the close of a decade, I find myself enchanted by a color. Like anyone, I’ve had my share of obsessions, but this one is new. The universe baits me; everywhere I look there it is, dark and bright at once. Not a note but a chord.
Books Are Not Products, They Are Bridges: Challenging Linear Ideas of Success in Literary Publishing
by Janice Lee
I want to talk about the struggle of returning home.
That is, I want to talk about the challenges I faced in looking for a publisher for my new novel, Imagine a Death, and how this process forced me to examine my own beliefs and wounds around linear ideas of success and to begin to work towards healing and freedom from a limited imagination.
The Rock in the Grate
from All The Funny Little Packages: A Husband Meditates on the Mysterious Craft of Marriage
by Ben Miller
An outlandish luxury of innumerable stops and starts, elegant fade away shots and excruciating close-ups—that’s one definition of a long marriage I’m able to embrace.
In a week it is possible to together make enough mistakes to get off-track for years, with more years afterward to regain momentum or meander again in stupid old, or nasty new, directions. No other elective relationship takes a simple clock and does such absurd things to it because no other elective relationship is so exclusive (save possibly a third grade friendship), concentrating, while simultaneously diffusing, time. A marriage that lasts is a stirring that is also a settling, a haze and a lens finely ground, and through the smoky glass I peer again. In the ordinary course of affairs there’s not much place for muddling around in the riddle of what a life actually is, while all—even dullness, and especially riddles—can be useful to art. Words, the brightest ones, burn any fuel. Pages can talk to us about us like no human being.
Chloe is working on the watercolor—the same one, she tells me, she’d been meaning to finish for something like two years and is almost done working on, on the day before she heads out on tour for two weeks, though she tells me she’ll be done soon, working on the circular living room table with its set of chairs that looks like they could be from the sixties, like chartreuse seashells, while the CDs of The Low & Low, like their own sorts of shells, are all in their cases in the living room, having arrived in the mail not too long ago, to start shipping to everyone who preordered them—while I’m remembering the last time I had heard about someone who could turn water into something more than water.
Becoming Tokyo Rose
by Grace Lu
Shortly after my sophomore year of college, I found myself driving to a social event more nerve-wracking than my last final had been. It was the high school graduation party of an old friend. I wish I could say this nervousness stemmed from my fear of not recognizing other guests, but in reality, it stemmed from knowing I would. I wasn’t ready to make small talk with people who had once been a big part of my life. I dreaded awkward conversations with high school friends, worried they would painfully reveal what my formerly strong relationships had been reduced to.