"Rock Salt and Rabbit"

Though celebration in a time of chaos seems an unlikely, untruthful action, I want to pause and breathe and acknowledge a moment in my life as a writer. This week my story, "Rock Salt and Rabbit," one of eight finalists for the 2016 Nelligan Prize, was published in Colorado Review. The experience of working with Editor in Chief, Stephanie G'Schwind, and all the CR staff was amazing. To add to this honor, the story was the featured fiction on the CR website for their 2016 Fall/Winter Issue and in their November podcast. CR editor Lauren Matheny's beautiful reading of the story and CR podcast editor Kylan Rice's introductions and following interview allowed me to listen and learn even more about the characters and their world than I realized in the all the months and years of writing.

"Rock Salt and Rabbit" stands alone as a story, but is also a chapter in the novel, SYBELIA DRIVE; hence, the years of writing. It is Royal's story, set when the war in Vietnam is still going on, and when soldiers like Royal were returning home. While I have never been to war, through research and time spent writing and rewriting, I came to understand this character - his stamina, his dilemma, his honesty and generosity.

Through writing, we learn empathy. And I'd say through reading, too. I'd like to imagine that if Royal was more than a character, that if he were alive and breathing, he would be one of the thousands of veterans deploying this weekend to Standing Rock in North Dakota to "assemble as a peaceful, unarmed militia" and "defend the water protectors from assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force and DAPL security."

In a time when the world spins in mad and maddening directions, I'm grateful for this moment. I encourage everyone to disengage from the madness for an hour each day, to take in something positive, like a story. Read in order to understand, then go out and make the world a better place.


Swing Time

"When the music changes, so does the dance." - Hausa proverb

The epigraph of Zadie Smith's novel SWING TIME could be describing the present American political climate, especially with the book's release date exactly a week past the 2016 Presidential Election. The music has indeed changed, as has the dance. Unstable, swinging, shifting times are these. Losing oneself in the words of a novel, between bouts of activism, is what many of us are trying. Escapism? Perhaps. But it's really more like delving into further understanding of how race and difference, compassion and understanding, anger and uprising, problems and resolutions are defined in literature. 

There are so many books by authors of beautifully distinctive backgrounds that call us to read and further understand our world: Colson Whitehead's THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD; Viet Thanh Nguyen's forthcoming story collection, THE REFUGEES; Celeste Ng's EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU; Michael Chabon's MOONGLOW; Louise Erdrich's LaROSE; Ann Patchett's COMMONWEALTH; Edwidge Danticat's CLAIRE OF THE SEA LIGHT; Alexander Chee's THE QUEEN OF THE NIGHT; Helen Oyeyemi's WHAT IS NOT YOURS IS NOT YOURS. And on and on. Read, my friends. The time is now, shifting and swinging beneath us. Ground yourselves in meaningful words and then shout to the heavens all that you have learned.