"Bare Necessities," Harper's Magazine

"We turn to make our way back, and from this vantage point, two miles out, the landscape seems suddenly and intimately foreign—a moon, an alien planet, colored warehouses flanking the visible horizon like enormous Lego cubes. I feel, for one fleeting second, what some workers called “the crush of isolation”—the realization that you are so very far away from everything, despite the carousels of condiments, the freezers of popsicles, the Gushers and the Fruit Roll-Ups and this insistence on familiar Americana. Finally there comes the music, the smell of grilled processed meats, and the polar bear, who gestures me forward with one fuzzy paw. I leave Casey behind and we bend at the waist for Shaggy’s “Angel,” rolling our arms like fleshy noodles. He takes my hand in his and we dance, the ground giving slightly to each step." Read more

"How the Depressed Find Solace on Yik Yak, Believe It or Not," The New York Times Opinion Pages

"Ohio is a tricky place. The land itself is beautiful: sprawling prairie and caverns that dip deep into the earth. But if there is one thing I can say about Ohio, it is that nowhere I’ve lived possesses such a sense of transitoriness. Never have I seen so many 18-wheelers. The roads seem less like roads than interconnected pads of money strapped down to vehicles, crates of humidifiers and entertainment sets and steam vacuums and Ikea furniture. Accent tables. Budweiser beer. Always there is the reminder that the world lives somewhere else. Our county is vibrant, and yet we are surrounded by closing coal mines and empty factories. What is not collapsing is sprouting strip malls, tanning salons, another gym. Ohioans are also dying from opioid overdoses at a higher rate than anywhere else in the country, which is truly saying something. At least 23 Ohioans die from heroin overdoses each week—so many that some coroner’s offices are requesting cold-storage trailers to use as makeshift morgues." Read more

"What A Third-Grade Geography Lesson Taught Me About Women's Place In The World," The Washington Post

"I want to say something to Mrs. Hinds, want to tell her that I am strong enough to be a country, big enough, that my brothers have taught me many things -- including how to build a fire and shelter, and pack mud into dense jumps for BMX biking. I have scabs that I want to show her, scars pocked along my knee. I think of rolling up my jeans and showing her the wounds, sticky and sticking to the denim, so that she might bear witness to the kind of girl I am. Instead, the boys cluster. They cheer one another. The power dynamic is evident. Whatever sense of wonder Mrs. Hinds had hoped to cultivate is lost in our expressions: Us girls, our ponytails, insignificant things, we think, are we." Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"What I Learned From Visiting The Grave Of My Mom's Teenage Boyfriend," The Washington Post

"My mother left Rich before he knew what he would do with his life, certainly before she knew what would become of hers. And while my mother has taught me many things, none seem as important to me now as the understanding that single people have the power to choose what becomes of life. That regardless of any loneliness, or sense that you are failing, the best lives we can erect come from a strong acknowledgment of the self: that we are fine even when alone; that in many ways we are better; and that—and this lesson did not come to me easily—any discomfort or loneliness borne of leaving a bad situation is remedied in its dissolution. The only thing worse, my mother told me, than living a life that makes you unhappy is to not know yourself enough to seek something better." Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Pokémon Go See the World in Its Splendor," The New York Times Sunday Review

"Certainly there is the argument — already frequent, predictable and boisterous — that it is a particular brand of tragedy that leads an entire generation of American children into the great outdoors while clutching phones before their faces. Still, fads fade. Pokémon Go will no doubt go out of style. And I’ll still feel more tethered to my community and aware of all it offers — I’ll know that the Creole restaurant is indeed very good, and that the movie theater is rather charming, and that this place of dairy and agriculture is not Alaska but is no less lovely. In the meantime, it seems far from terrible to see a father and son racing down suburban sidewalks. To spend an evening not sitting passively before a TV, but interacting simultaneously with both our media and the world. To share in an experience, however seductive or silly, that forces us to go out and explore together." Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Emoji Feminism," The New York Times Sunday Review

"I began to scroll through the emojis on my phone. Yes, there were women’s faces, and tiny women’s bodies. But for the women actually engaged in an activity or profession, there were only archetypes: the flamenco dancer in her red gown, the bride in her flowing veil, the princess in her gold tiara. There was a set of ballet dancers complete with bunny ears and black leotards, their smiles indicating that, gosh, they were so grateful to God and everyone, really, for this opportunity to pose for Playboy. Where, I wanted to know, was the badass professor working her way to tenure?" Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Flight Behavior," The American Scholar
Grand Prize Winner of the Solas Awards for Best Travel Writing

"For no matter how long we might stand beside another, eventually we all encounter the same aloneness, must confront the very same curtain, the teeth of its fabric pulled back, the world at large still irksomely waiting in all its beautiful, terrifying, strange, frightening love." Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Eight Quarters," Brevity Magazine

"The idea of the photo booth was, of course, alarming: the idea of sitting on his lap. The idea of that tiny, curtained space. As a child, I'd sat often in photo booths--inside movie theaters and skating rinks, my friends and I widening our eyes, pulling apart our cheeks to show tongues blue or green from Pixie Sticks. It was, in short, a thing of pleasure. But to squeeze inside one now, I was afraid, would force that uneasy reminder." Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"On The Road To 'The One,' Sometimes, A Rest Stop," The New York Times 'Modern Love'

"I saved Sam after the park ranger’s third warning. A tornado was imminent, the ranger said, and we should seek shelter immediately. The Iowa state park where Sam was camping offered only a small brick outhouse, which I joked seemed the worst possible way to die, surrounded by daddy longlegs and cinder block walls on which teenagers had scribbled “Weed Rules!” in black Sharpie." Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Reenacting," The Iowa Review (2014 Iowa Review Award)

"I replay that sunlit, winter memory now and I’m always looking for something new: a detail I never noticed, a way to make the ending change. It’s almost as if I can will it into existence—as if, if I want it bad enough, I have the power to rewrite everything. To turn to Kevin in that upstairs bedroom and say, “I am someone you can talk to,” say, “I am here for you.” “I’ve never done that,” I might have said, “but I understand how someone could.” How, sometimes, life feels hard. How maybe it’s only normal not to want it. “This is someone we can talk about,” or, “We don’t have to keep this quiet.” Instead, I said nothing and now I wonder. Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"A Slow Kind Of Unraveling," Gulf Coast

"This man couldn’t make pancakes, probably not even from a box. That’s not an exaggeration. He couldn’t make pancakes and he couldn’t make French toast. It always came out too wet. But he could make spaghetti with red sauce from a jar. He’d made that for me on several occasions, and always I ate it happily, slurping the noodles loud from my fork as they unwound and loosened from the prongs. He was the first man I’d ever known who did not care if I was not polite. I loved to slurp in his kitchen, knowing my slurping was not an issue.” Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Why It's Called A Life Sentence," Guernica

"It’s an ugly truth to admit, and an uglier one still to move beyond—how I became obsessed with my every freedom, the rights and sights and sounds afforded to me because I was me. Because I was not him in that dark, dissociative hour, or her, or anyone. Because I was in a bed that night, asleep. And thus now could travel, or take a ferry, or learn Tagalog, or ride a bike. I think I want these things—I seek them out—not because they make my life more interesting, but rather, are made interesting because of life: because I am here when I could easily not be, because everything I see I could easily not.” Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"All We Had,"The Paris Review Online

"The recipe for the dish is my grandmother’s, and it is simple: whisk together flour and water, whisk until the dough sticks to the spoon and  

then, at last, snaps back against the bowl. It’s all about consistency, something you can’t put your finger on, something you just have to know. That is why there is no written recipe for this dish, this congealed mess of white that gets boiled in bits and drenched in sour cream and salt and pepper. There is no written recipe because how do you put your finger on dumpling elasticity?” Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"We Walk A Line," Hobart

"Yesterday, I returned from one such walk and found a vase of daffodils on our table. Where are they from, I wanted to know. It’s the first week of April and we live in an economically depressed area; you don’t spend what little you have on flowers. “Next door,” is what she said. Next door is a mortuary. Every day, I watch the people come in and out, watch the men arrive in their khaki pants, their faces hardened the way grief will harden.” Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Displaced," Vela

"Miles away, in the sanctuary, far from the downtown, I read the tarsiers were so afraid that for the first time in history, they lowered themselves to the shaking ground. They didn’t know where else to go. They didn’t know if it would hurt or help. It will likely be many months, I read, before tourists can visit them again. We all long for comfort and quiet, a place where we belong. And a house is not whole without the ones we love inside, whether animal or person or gnarled tree rooted in deep swamp.” Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Look Back," Tin House Online

“Look back,” he was always saying, as if my memory was broken, a truth I’d later begin to believe. Look back, look back, look back, already mythologizing what we had. Now it’s how I remember him most. It reminds me of skinning a knee—you know, how it hurts, but then that hurt is only amplified by the power of its own memory? The image of falling and that urgent pain? Look back. I think now he must have meant at our past: how we met, my sweetest gestures, the view behind us on the road. Our car tracing asphalt carved into earth. We wound and dipped beneath steely gray machinery as conveyers larger than my body harvested minerals compressed by time.” Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Bigger Than Ourselves," Tin House Online

“The mutual friend was of shared interest: her purple pants and big, empty house. She reminded us of a librarian and spoke like a dictionary, like a foreign language translation site, coupling the things I knew so well in patterns I had to think about to understand. From time to time, she spoke to us about existence as one of many simulations, our world a blinking cosmic hard drive, and I liked most to consider that concept. It made me terrifyingly ecstatic: how bad it could get if the plug got pulled.” Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"The Place We Came From," Fourth Genre

“Every Thursday night at seven, I call my brother to hear how the baby is doing. The baby is not yet a baby, just a wet clump of cells, a creature “the size of a lima bean,” my sister-in-law tells me. From my place a thousand miles away, I listen to their report: how they’ve picked out a color for the walls, they say, or are considering the name ‘Russell.’ “It’s Old French,” Lauren says. “Can’t you envision a tiny beret?” “Yes,” I say. “Yes—chewing a baguette, blowing smoke rings.” Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"These Storms Both Big And Small," Tin House Online

“This only five weeks after an EF5 pummeled Moore, Oklahoma, only three weeks after another pummeled Oklahoma City. You were in a hotel in Ohio then, drinking Coors from a tallboy can, and because you’d spent that day on the open road, you watched everything you could: cars crushed the way ice is crushed, houses toppled like Lincoln Logs. Days later, you watched again from a sun-lit living room, safe with your family back East, but all the while you thought of your home in Iowa, thinking, My god, and then: Not there. Now you are here and the storms have joined you." Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Sick," The Rumpus

"I often thought that by this far out, I’d be able to look at what Kevin did and it would seem a distant pinpoint, something small on the horizon, something I experienced and then moved on from. Above all, it seemed this: the past, of course, would pass. Instead, it remains large and looming. I walk my dog now beside the reservoir and of course I think of him. It’s like momentum, I want to say, and what I mean is how it looks when a rock strikes a body of water—how ripples can form and move even long after the stone has sunk." Read more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Beneath the Surface," The Indiana Review

"It was December then and this, we figured, was the best time to be on such a list. A heart would be salvaged from a car accident that would occur on the way to Christmas dinner or at some point on New Year's Eve. The person would be drunk or not. The accident would occur on a highway or not. The donor would be married or he wouldn't. He would have kids or live alone. It didn't matter. We could not think about this person. He would be what doctors called "a beating heart cadaver," his heart would be flown by helicopter, doctors would remove Robbie's heart, and the new one would go inside the empty cavity in his chest." Read more

"You Miss Until You Make It: Reclaiming Independence At A Firing Range," Gawker

"Had this been a romantic comedy, here would undoubtedly be my climatic moment: a protagonist who suddenly realizes she has all the power and—surprise—has had it all along. I’d raise the gun to my shoulder and shoot the apple straight off its crate. It would explode into a million pieces, red and white and wet, shooting off into the grass, which grew brown along the chain-link fence. But I did not have the power. The shots I made were always misses. And worse, the gun hurt when it kicked back. My shoulder throbbed with an urgent pain and still I could not hit a can, could not hit an apple. Round after round after round, every aim I made I missed. I did not feel powerful or strong or full of feminine wisdom. I felt silly and alone, newly dumped and newly single, holding a gun so big and heavy I wondered aloud how much longer I could hold it up." Read more

"Still Things," Brevity

"I liked ice-skating mostly because I didn’t understand it.  I just pulled the stiff leather up to my knees, stood upright, wobbled back and forth until I began to move and then, in motion, I felt a thing that is not the right thing but I can convince myself otherwise.  I think, This is a miracle, what I am doing. But he wanted to talk to me about pressure.  He said, You move because the ice melts into water.  You glide. I wasn’t gliding.  I was wobbling, barely, on a rink beside a movie theater.  This was an indoor rink.  We were in the middle of a mall." Read more

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