Imagine my good luck to appear in the Bad Behaviour series at Autrostraddle, and in Canada’s oldest feminist journal, Room, in their queer issue, all in one month, alongside the grooviest writers (people I’ve admired far and near for years), and, might I add, the most amazing visual artist, Ness Lee. (Their cover is above.) The former magazine is online, and the latter is available at your favorite independent bookstore or from Room, link below.
And a link to my short story, ‘Phosphorescence,’ in Room.
Here are just a few of the 2018 Notable Essays from Best American Essays, with mine stuck on the end, by people I know. It’s an honour to be listed with them; these essayists are skilled and talented. Have a look at Best American Notable lists … you’ll be in good hands if you seek out any of the work. It’s a trustworthy source of recommended literature.
The Grammar of Untold Stories, Lois Ruskai Melina, Colorado Review
(…), Lia Woodall, Literal Latte
How Deep is Your Love? Alison Kinney, Lapham’s Quarterly
Beyond the Primordial Ooze, Dinty Moore, Issues in Science and Technology
Mates, Kelly Sundberg, Gulf Coast
Swan, Late, Irina Dumitrescu | Longreads
The Human Cost of the Ghost Economy, Melissa Chadburn, Longreads
Things I Never Told Her, Marion Ryan, Granta
Finding El Saez, Alia Voltz, Travel Stories
Rain Like Cotton, Jennifer Kabot, Bomb Magazine
Manifestus, Kerry Neville, Juxtaprose
A Life Story, Ashley P Taylor, Entropy
What We Aren’t, Or the Ongoing Divide, Jennifer N Baker, Kweli Journal
Skinning the Rabbit, Jane Eaton Hamilton, The Sun
I’m thrilled to say that one of my personal essays, “Skinning the Rabbit,” which appeared in The Sun, is a notable in Best American Essays 2018 ed Hilton Als. To see the included essays, and the notables, go to “look inside” here: Best American Essays
This is my third time appearing as a notable in a Best American collection, and second time for an essay.
Thanks to my editor at The Sun, Andrew Snee, and to the team there. Congrats to everyone on the notable list, and of course to the authors of the included essays!
image: Lambda Literary
Being a non-binary author, I wanted to make a list of other Canadian/Turtle Island non-binary authors to help you celebrate their work, but I realized I don’t always know who in my writing community identifies as non-binary, particularly as identities shift. So instead, I considered authors I know who’ve written about FTM transitioning/not transitioning (as in my novel Weekend, where a character uses they/them/their pronouns but hasn’t completed their psychological shifting). I also thought about ways other than gender that people transition. Here are a few of our many brilliant Canadian queer authors you’ll love to explore. All but one of these people have more than one title, so if you dive into their work, you’ll be able to read back into their older books with an eye to their authorial evolvement–how did they transit from early to mid-career to (in some cases) older writers, and what changes in society did their work note or represent over those years?
This is not an exhaustive list. Today I wanted to bring a spotlight to a few whose personhood and writing have been important to me as I tried to find my bumble-footed way through life:
Ali Blythe: Blythe is the author of Twoism, the edgy poetry collection that set minds and hearts afire. Of Twoism, Read his new book, Hymnswitch, of which Goose Lane pubs says: “…in Hymnswitch, Blythe takes up the themes of identity and the body once again, this time casting an eye backwards and forwards, visiting places of recovery and wrestling with the transition into one’s own skin. Readers will find themselves holding their breath at the risk and beauty and difficulty of the balance Blythe strikes in the midst of ineffable complexity.”
Lydia Kwa: Lydia Kwa is the Singaporean-born author of fiction and poetry I’ve enjoyed all my writing life, including Sinuous, Linguistic Tantrums, Pulse, The Walking Boy, This Place Called Absence, and The Colour of Heroines. The transitions Kwa writes about are often complicated and psychological, and not necessarily about gender.
Of Oracle Bone, Larissa Lai says: “A beautiful and moving dream of old Chang’an, deliciously and fully conceived. Lydia Kwa’s Oracle Bone is at once a fantasy and a memory, recalling the fertile meeting of Daoism and Buddhism in old China with subtle yet potent implications for our present relations with the Earth and everything that lives upon it. This reader finds particular delight in the ways Kwa has breathed life into a fox spirit, a Daoist nun, a corrupt yet compelling empress, and an orphan girl who wants to avenge the unjust killing of her parents. Wide-awake to Chinese imperial history, traditional storytelling, kung-fu movies, and TCM, this novel is a must-read from a brilliant contemporary novelist.” ―Larissa Lai, author of When Fox is a Thousand and Salt Fish Girl
Betsy Warland: Betsy Warland is the author of a dozen cross-genre books, including Oscar of Between: A Memoir of Identity and Ideas, Breathing the Page: Reading the Act of Writing, Only This Blue: A Long Poem with Essay, Bloodroot: Tracing the Untelling of Motherloss, What Holds Us Here, Two Women in a Birth, The Bat Had Blue Eyes, Proper Deafinitions: Collected Theorograms, Double Negative, serpent (w)rite: (a reader’s gloss), open is broken, and A Gathering Instinct. Betsy has always been at the forefront of interrogating identity.
“Vibrant and pulsating with life, Oscar of Between, like Warland’s other works, demonstrates Warland’s multiple engagements with crucial—and contemporary—literary, political, and aesthetic questions.” –Jule R Enzer, writing for Lambda Literary Review
Alec Butler: Alec Butler is another of Turtle Island’s longtime authors. Two-spirited, he is a Métis of Mi’kmaq heritage and also writes plays and films. His books are Radical Perversions: Two Dyke Plays and the extraordinary, must-read Rough Paradise.
“He was a nominee for the Governor General’s Award for English drama in 1990 for his play Black Friday. He has also worked on artistic projects with The 519 Church St. Community Centre as their first artist-in-residence. He was named one of Toronto’s Vital People by the Toronto Community Foundation in 2006.
Alex Leslie: Alex Leslie is the author of 3 titles. Their second collection of short fiction after the extraordinary People Who Disappear is We All Need to Eat, about to drop from Book*hug. Leslie also authored the poetry collection The things I heard about you.
“Many of Leslie’s stories centre on gay relationships and often focus on the difficulty of being “out” in a small community. The narrator of “The Coast Is a Road” accompanies her journalist lover as she “roams the coast like an indigenous seabird” in search of stories. The journalist’s purposeful wanderlust is set in contrast to the narrator’s dependent lassitude. The story is the most lyrical of the bunch, awash in lovely descriptions like, “Whale backs sink dark ink into polished water” or, “The snowy road balanced against the side of the dark mountain, the ultrasound image of a bone inside an arm.” -Quill and Quire on People Who Disappear
Ivan Coyote: The popular performer/author Ivan Coyote, too, has a number of books across genres and has edited anthologies: Tomboy Survival Guide, Gender Failure, One in Every Crowd, Missed Her, The Slow Fix, Bow Grip: A Novel, Loose End, One Man’s Trash: Stories, Close to Spider Man, Boys Like Her: Transfictions, and Goodbye Gender.
Shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust of Canada Prize for Nonfiction; Longlisted for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction; Stonewall Book Award Honor Book winner; Longlisted for Canada Reads
“Ivan Coyote is a celebrated storyteller and the author of ten previous books, including Gender Failure (with Rae Spoon) and One in Every Crowd, a collection for LGBT youth. Tomboy Survival Guide is a funny and moving memoir told in stories, about how they learned to embrace their tomboy past while carving out a space for those of us who don’t fit neatly into boxes or identities or labels.
Ivan writes about their years as a young butch, dealing with new infatuations and old baggage, and life as a gender-box-defying adult, in which they offer advice to young people while seeking guidance from others. (And for tomboys in training, there are even directions on building your very own unicorn trap.)
Tomboy Survival Guide warmly recounts Ivan’s past as a diffident yet free-spirited tomboy, and maps their journey through treacherous gender landscapes and a maze of labels that don’t quite stick, to a place of self-acceptance and an authentic and personal strength.” –Arsenal Pulp Press
Tom Cho: Tom Cho is a recent transplant from Australia I hope Canada is lucky enough to keep.
“First published to acclaim in Australia, Look Who’s Morphing by Asian-Australian writer Tom Cho is a funny, fantastical, often outlandish collection of stories firmly grounded in pop culture. The book’s central character undergoes a series of startling transformations, shape-shifting through figures drawn from film, television, music, books, porn flicks, and comics. Often accompanied by family members, this narrator becomes Godzilla, Suzi Quatro, Whitney Houston’s bodyguard, a Muppet, a gay leatherman, a nun who becomes a governess to the von Trapp children, and, in the book’s lavish climax, a 100-foot-tall guitar-wielding rock star performing for an adoring troupe of fans in Tokyo.
Throughout these stories, there is a pervasive questioning of the nature of identity―cultural, racial, sexual, gender, and what lies beyond. Look Who’s Morphing is a stylish, highly entertaining literary debut in which nothing, including one’s self, can be taken for granted.” –Arsenal Pulp Press
“Cho’s deliciously astute observations regarding the mutability of identity make for the perfect juicy center in the box of candy-colored bonbons that is Look Who’s Morphing.” —Lambda Literary
Tonight, my visiting daughter pulls me from my recliner to go explore bio-luminescence. At the first beach, there are some sparkles in the water, but a lot of ambient light too, so we decide to go north. At our second beach we need to use a flashlight to creep down over roots and rocks. We can’t see phosphorescence from shore, but the view is stunning: calm water, humpbacks of rocks, a wild-star sky.
Slowly, we wade out.
We begin to laugh like kids because every step stirs up sparkles. Underwater fireworks, or the fairy dust that falls from Tinkerbell’s wand. It really does look like stars. Unable to stop giggling, we stir, we splash, we kick. “I have superpowers!” Meghann says and tosses phosphorescence in an arc of blue.
“We’ve got to go get your sister and the kids,” I say. It’s way after bedtime in their house, but a holiday weekend—no work tomorrow. I call, Sarah wakes the 2 and 3-year-olds and we pick our way with them half asleep back to the beach, and hold them tight. They can’t figure out what’s going on. They’ve never even seen stars before, and now we want them to dunk their sandals. They’re very impressed, though, with the lighthouse in the distance. Naiya spies a falling star. “With no tail!” The dog swims through the bio luminescence, and it looks like she’s swimming in the Milky Way. “She looks magic,” I say. Sarah says, “She’s always been magic; you can just see how it sparkles tonight.”
Naiya says, “How did the stars fall into the water, Mom?”
How did the stars fall into the water? Do blue butterflies eat parts of the sky?
Finally the kids, chilled and sleepy, think it’s time to go back to bed. They don’t realize that there isn’t year-round phosphorescence.
I hear loud breathing sounds as we negotiate for a minute more. Huffs. Not very far from us at all, and close—perhaps 30 feet out?–I realize I’ve been hearing it a while, and I wonder if it’s a sea lion coming in to heave herself atop the rocks.
Sarah says, “Whales.”
“Shh, shh,” we all say, and even the chatterboxes quieten. The baby is nervous and cuddles her mom close.
We talk about Tahlequah, J35, the orca mom who that night still carries her dead baby on her snout, and wonder if the close whale or whales breathing at the surface might be Tahlequah and her close family, lagging behind, resting their bellies on the rocks a few minutes.
As we listen, at least two of us hope the whales don’t mistake us for seals, but even so we’re reluctant to get out of the magic water connecting us to the whales in the bio-chain of life. I’ve never been in the water with whales before. I think about how many orcas are in the resident population: 75. I think about how many people are in the world who aren’t hearing whales tonight: I wish there were a way to whisper this beauty into every person’s ear. I wish people could wake up restored, a little braver for the tasks at hand, as I will.
As we muddle to leave, off in the distance, in between where we stand and the nearby island, we hear slapping sounds.
“Tail slaps!” I cry.
They’re loud—surely they could be heard on land by the people who live here on the edge of land and water–and Sarah explains to the children that the whales can’t play during the day with all the boats around, but they can at night under the moon. Maybe the orcas are hunting, but whatever they’re doing lasts a long time, and is noisy, and I like imagining they are playing, making a fine night racket, breaching, slapping for joy, loving the perfection of the bay and the beautiful clear sky. Who knows, maybe they’re enjoying stirring up bio-luminescence. Maybe they’re playing just to ignite it, so they can swim in sparkling orca soup. Meantime, the pod, or members of a pod, who are closer to us swim off and return, rising and diving–and breathing.
We stand until the whales, both groups, dive, before making our charmed and stunned ways back up to the car. The experience beats in a chamber of our hearts devoted only to magic.
#orcas # whales #Tahlequah #eatonhamilton #bioluminescence #phosphorescence
 How Does Life Live, Kelly O’Brien, NY Times
Karrie Higgins’ remarkable “Skeleton Key.”
CW: abuse, CSA
My father is dying.
Every week, a new emergency: a stroke, pneumonia, sepsis, C. Diff. His lungs, filled with fluid, crackle through the stethoscope bell. His muscles are wasting. He falls a lot, shreds his skin clean down to bone. When my mother escapes the apartment to run errands, he speed-dials my sister, sometimes crying, sometimes ranting about our half-brother Scott, accusing him of getting a little too close to our mom.
My sister forwards me voicemails. We are building a case for Power of Attorney.
“Scott blew it, as far as I’m concerned,” Dad says in one, his speech slurred like all the times he drunk-dialed me after I went no contact in the mid 90s.
“He can go to…
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by Sonya Huber
“The Key is to Not Panic in the Face of this Void”
The talented, skilled and disabled Sonya Huber, author of the stunning “Pain Woman Takes Your Keys,” writes about how pain affects her literary process.
Sonya Huber is the author of five books, including the essay collection Pain Woman Takes Your Keys, and Other Essays from a Nervous System. Her other books include Opa Nobody, Cover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir, The Evolution of Hillary Rodham Clinton and a textbook, The Backwards Research Guide for Writers. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, and other outlets. She teaches at Fairfield University and directs Fairfield’s Low-Residency MFA Program.
Happy solstice! I’ve put armfuls of Shirley poppies on the mantel in vases. Every few minutes, a red or orange petal falls, but every few petals, yet another wheels itself out into the room 5-6′ like a bird flying with wild wings. I know some plants dispense seeds this way, but I never knew any dispensed petals this way. (And no, it’s not the wind. And yes, already on the poem which imagines a roomful at once.)
author Rosellen Brown
Sometimes the only thing that helps when you are a writer is to read other writers’ takes on how this mysterious profession plays out for them. Here is a list of the columns the NY Times has published over the years. Happy reading!
I have a new essay up at The Rumpus, called “Spontaneous Combustion,” joining my other essay there called “Infarct, I Did.” This essay is about my mother’s addiction to prescription drugs and its challenges to the family. Why my mother never overdosed, considering the great number of pills she ingested, is a mystery.
Voices on Addiction is a column devoted to true personal narratives of addiction, curated by Kelly Thompson, and authored by the spectrum of individuals affected by this illness. Through these essays, interviews, and book reviews we hope—in the words of Rebecca Solnit—to break the story by breaking the status quo of addiction: the shame, stigma, and hopelessness, and the lies and myths that surround it. Sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, adult children, extended family members, spouses, friends, employers or employees, boyfriends, girlfriends, neighbors, victims of crimes, and those who’ve committed crimes as addicts, and the personnel who often serve them, nurses, doctors, social workers, therapists, prison guards, police officers, policy makers and, of course, addicts themselves: Voices on Addiction will feature your stories. Because the story of addiction impacts us all. It’s time we break it. Submit here.
It’s always thrilling to have a new essay appear. This one is with Catapult, and is about my experiences photographing dying and deceased newborns. Let me say again, to the families suffering these excruciating losses, what an honour it was to spend this time with you and your infants. It remains one of the most moving experiences of my life. I hold you in my heart. I will never forget.
The very exciting fully accessible and intersectional Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) happens this coming weekend! I couldn’t be more excited. A group of dedicated, generous folks puts this wonder together. Congrats to them, and to every participant. Bon festival, chacun!
I am not able to attend in person, alas, and will miss performing with my skilled colleagues, and meeting readers, but here is a snippet thanks to the Brampton Focus, Cheryl Costello and FOLD:
Counting Down The FOLD: Jane Eaton Hamilton, an interview…
This great piece from The Sun today, compliments of Tanis MacDonald: a place where I am luckily twice-published. Read it, enjoy it, weep, fall in love with the work of Lucie Britsch.