Goodbye To All That


It has been a difficult year for most people.

Things have been hard for my family and me, too.

I deleted some social media accounts. Not because they are 100% bad or lacking utility, but I have a lot of personal gardens to tend, and these platforms were leaving me otherwise spent in ways that I can ill afford.

Mainly, I have to be more available to my family, and less with the world at large. Having people chiming in on my life choices has never been something I’m short of, and I am not built to manage the constant influx of forceful opinion that Twitter and Facebook serve up. Maybe I’ve never been shy about sharing my thoughts and feelings with people, but that doesn’t mean I like being engaged with them at all times.

If you’re wondering where I remain online, well, look at the rest of this website. There are links to other platforms that I find more amusing/less invasive.

For the foreseeable future, I’ll be at home, loving on Matilda and Adrian, working with my annoying biting puppy, setting things up in our house now that it’s basically remodeled and liveable, talking to Christa Desir about our podcast and all our other quotidian strife, and writing my 5th book, which is due out sometime in 2018.

(By the way: my fourth book, Just A Girl, is coming out in March; here’s a review.  You can pre-order it if you want. Or request that your local library purchase it.  Or buy it when it comes out March 28th. Or not. I’ll never know, right?)

But just go read something, okay? We need more readers in this world. Read a book to a kid, give books as gifts, visit or volunteer at your local library, advocate for reading as a lifelong activity, start a book club or just talk about books you read wherever you interact with others. Make reading visible and important, even if it’s something we tend to do alone, in silence, and in private. I think more than ever, we need thoughtfulness, we need reflection, we need imagination and empathy, and certainly, when things get overwhelming, we need hedonistic pleasure and escape. Please note that you don’t have to spend money on books! I use my library constantly, because I could never afford to buy all the books I want to read.

Do something revolutionary: be a reader.

(If you read this, and are down for more like it, please note that this was also sent out to my TinyLetter subscribers. TinyLetters = newsletters you receive as email. If you’d like to subscribe, go here. If not, it’s cool. You always know where to find me.)


Book #4: Meet JUST A GIRL


FW 2010

Figure 1. Hello, love. Just waiting to see what your next book looks like on the outside.


So here’s my next book’s cover. The title is Just A Girl, because, yes, it features a girl main character/narrator.

I don’t have anything to add to this except for the image. I don’t have jacket copy yet. You don’t always write your book’s jacket copy yourself. (Thank god.)

WAIT…here’s the jacket copy!

By her senior year of high school, Rianne has exhausted all the fun there is to have in small town Wereford, Minnesota. Volleyball season is winding down, the parties all feel tired, and now that she’s in a serious relationship with reformed player Luke Pinsky, her wild streak has ended. Not that she ever did anything more than the guys her age did…but she knows what everyone thinks of her.

Including her parents. Divorced but now inexplicably living together again, Rianne wonders why they’re so quick to point out every bad choice she’s making when they can’t even act like adults. With an uncomfortable home life and her once-solid group of friends now dissolving, the reasons for sticking around after high school are few. So why is Rianne in lockstep when it comes to figuring out her future?

That’s not the only question Rianne can’t answer. Lately she’s been wondering why, when she has a perfect-on-paper boyfriend, she wants anything but. Or how it is that Sergei, a broken-English-speaking Russian, understands her better than anyone who’s known her all her life? And why has Rianne gotten stuck with an “easy girl” reputation for doing the same exact things guys do without any judgment?

You can preorder here; it goes on sale March 28, 2017.


JustaGirl HC




#LookitThis: Memorial Day 2016 Edition


Figure 1. Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises. No reason.


A brief guide to everything that I am…

Listening To

“I Am Stretched On Your Grave” by Sinead O’Connor


The Irish Famine: An Illustrated History by Helen Litton
The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski – I am rereading each book now that the series is complete. So absolutely beautiful! Gonna be banging on about these stories for a while, yall.


Penny Dreadful, Season 3: Where is this going? Why am I so beguiled? Just when I want to fast-forward through the scenes with The Creature, then he plays other roles? Oh, Show.

Wondering About

– Fungus. It’s kind of a strange part of the biological world, don’t you think? Also, it’s raining here a lot so there’s all sorts of bizarre things popping up in nature.

Emotional Labor. Mainly because of this link from the Another Round podcast newsletter. I’m suddenly conscious of all of this kind of labor I’ve done – or been expected to do, or feel guilty about not doing – in my life.

If you feel like it, let me know what you’re reading/watching/listening to/wondering about, too. I’m always up for knowing about what’s good in your world…




Happy Thirteen



Dear Matilda,

Tomorrow you turn 13.

Maybe this isn’t a big age. Maybe it is? Maybe if we lived 150 years ago, you would be leaving us to join another family, to be given to them as a means of labor and inheritance. Maybe, in some other culture or time or place, there is some fanciful or brutal ritual you would have to embark upon or endure, but I am betting none of those rituals would be particularly kind to girls, given human history surfing the old patriarchal wave in the last millenia.

So instead, I will tell you some things I’ve learned in our years together.

  1. You are your own being. Your own project. Right now things are connecting and swirling and breaking apart inside your brain and I can’t see any of it. This thrills me more than any thing I could imagine for you.
  2. You have the best giggle. I love the friends you bring over who make you giggle. Your father and I automatically love people who come over to hang out with you and cause you to bust up laughing in the other room. They are always welcome.
  3. Every time you learn something new – about the universe, or some practical skill, or about how good or shitty humanity can be – I’m beside myself with happiness. I feel completely in my power as a parent, even if I didn’t teach you the things, because I know you’re learning and you have to keep doing that if you’re going to flourish and survive, both.
  4. I am so glad I made you with your father. I love all the parts of you that are like him.
  5. There is only one of you. This is because I’m not made to be a mother to many. I’m not a Baby Whisperer, not a nurturer, not a human breast who spills out kindness and affection indiscriminately. Nor am I one built for the great physical sacrifice of pregnancy and newborn-rearing. I would never give back those experiences though. They showed me how hard it is to make a life and prepared me for so much that came after you were born, and probably more that is to come. I sometimes feel great sorrow that I couldn’t give you a sibling; I think you would have been a good sister. But there is only one of you. So I tell myself, the lizard mother part that needs her sleep and her quiet and her solitude and who veers toward grouchiness, that this makes you more precious to me than you already are. If it weren’t for you and your father, I might be a person who closes the door on the wide beautiful world.
  6. I don’t really care what you do when you are grown as long as you are going toward what makes you feel alive. That doesn’t mean I want you to “be happy.” Happy is a place we get to visit here and there. To grade a person down on whether they are “happy” is to overlook a lot of life’s beauty.
  7. I love how you sing in the shower. I love how you take showers that last for a million years. I love how you put on make-up and try on new outfits and I love when you’re a slothful slob who can’t be bothered.
  8. You are very good at making friends and loving them generously. That’ll come in handy your whole life.
  9. I think you and I should take a trip together. Let’s come up with a plan for that, okay?
  10. I love that you are taller than me. I love all the colors of your hair. I love your sideways smile, I love your grouchiness in the morning, I love how you use lovey babytalk to the dog, I love how long your fingernails grow and how beautiful your eyes are and how breathless your story-telling is, and has been since you learned how to write: your prose is fleet-footed and so funny. I love that you love your record player and hate the music I love and how you cook dinner for your father and I. I love eating a bowl of noodles you made and I love how earnest your texts are and I love whoever is yet to come in our lives that you will love and that will love you back.

Thank you for being my daughter. Happy birthday.

Love, Mom




#LookitThis: Monday, February 29, 2016



Figure 1. This is Tom Hardy…and I can’t remember the point I was going to make…

A brief guide to everything that I am…

Listening To

“Fire Away” by Chris Stapleton


“The Single American Woman” by Rebecca Traister
Bad Houses by Sara Ryan & Carla Speed McNeil
“The Pros & Cons of Having An Herbal Abortion” by Gabby Bess


(Nothing much. You know how it is when you’re watching a show with your partner and it takes scheduling to get you both in the same room, at the same time…)

Wondering About

– Adoption/Transracial adoption. It’s on my mind after reading Shannon Gibney‘s masterful See No Color. I’m wondering about how open adoptions work out for families, because I recall reading that Dan Savage and his partner have an open adoption situation with their son. When did open adoption become “a thing?” Who made that happen?

I’m also interested in reading more narratives about transracial adoptees from Korea; Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen has spoken and written about this specifically and I want to do some more reading about the history of Americans adopting children from Korea.

If you feel like it, let me know what you’re reading/watching/listening to/wondering about, too. I’m always up for knowing about what’s good in your world…

And now: a very special message for readers who are interested in sex stuff!

Everyone else: Class Dismissed!


              Figure 2. Ahem.



The entire month of February we celebrated our Second Annual Write LadyHead Right Flash Fiction Event.

Our last story of the month is by Christa Desir and you can read it here.

The origin story of this event is described here, and you can read all of the 2016 stories here.

The enthusiasm for this event was very delightful to me! Thank you to all the writers who participated and all the readers who reblogged, retweeted, liked or otherwise passed around the stories. We’ll open next February for submissions, but will keep the Tumblr up for year-round enjoyment.



#LookitThis: Monday, February 22, 2016


Figure 1. George Emerson, feeling satisfied in a wheat field surrounded by poppies

I’ve been neglecting my blog lately for a few  reasons:

1. lazy
2. writing books
3. writing stuff here and podcasting here
4. don’t have anything that interesting to say, personally

Probably #4 is the reason for this post. Right now I’m consuming a lot of stuff. It’s all enjoyable and I have no idea what purpose any of it might serve. So I decided to toss out a quick list every so often on a Monday of what I’m dipping into, in case you might also be interested.


Bamboo Among The Oaks: Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans / Mai Neng Moua, editor – a look into a culture that’s been a part of Minnesota for the last 4 decades, as well as writing on living as a first-generation immigrant, which are both areas of personal interest for me
“Putin’s Dragon” by Joshua Yaffa, in The New Yorker – I dunno, I’m just interested in Russia and former Soviet republics for some reason


The Expanse on SyFy: Whoa. This is really absorbing, in a Star Trek: TNG + Battlestar Galactica way. Plus, Chad Coleman!
The 100 on Netflix: Whoa. This is not very good in terms of craft and world-building. But I’m gonna power through in a this-is-fun-why-the-hell-not-join-in-the-commentary way.


“Opening the Question of Race to the Question of Belonging”: On Being podcast with john a. powell
“Online Reflections of Our Offline Worlds”: On Being podcast with Danah Boyd

Wondering About

– still thinking about The Narcotic Farm of Lexington, Kentucky and what it would have been like to grow up around there; the argot of heroin addicts in the 50’s and 60’s as written in The Fantastic Lodge
– the concept of community, and how its denotation differs from generally accepted connotations; looking for sociological books on the topic of community and how we define it

If you feel like it, let me know what you’re reading/watching/listening to/wondering about, too. I’m always up for knowing about what’s good in your world…








10 Reasons to Read OTHER BROKEN THINGS by Christa Desir



FIGURE 1. Other Broken Things by Christa Desir, available now


  1. Because our girl’s a fighter. Literally. She’s a boxer. Or at least she was before all sorts of shit happened and she quit.
  2. Because addiction and recovery stories are very dear to me. Not just because this is a familiar narrative in my own family and life, but because within them lie so many important truths. Truths that our main character Natalie cannot always see.
  3.  Because, like Natalie, I was (still am) a stubborn fucking girl. Fuck yeah stubborn ladies!
  4. Because Christa Desir makes you want what Natalie wants. Even if what Natalie wants is not good for her.
  5. Because parents are an intractable, frustrating and indecipherable entity in the lives of adolescents. Good parent characters in YA are difficult to depict; we have to look at them from a narrow teenaged view as well as the wider view (if we’re adult readers, that is).
  6. Because nothing annoys me more than an obsession with the Christmas holidays. Yes, Nat: I’m with you on that score regarding your mother.
  7. Because I know young people in recovery and I know how hard it is for them. I have some kids in mind for copies of this book who will fully appreciate Natalie. Especially her sexual history.
  8. Because there’s sex in the story. In a YOUNG ADULT story. And it’s sad and real and…sigh.
  9. Because girls can–and should–make mistakes in stories. And that is worthy of examination and representation.
  10. Because growing up is messy and difficult. And just like addiction recovery, it never really ends.

Get your copy of Other Broken Things at:

Barnes & Noble
Anderson’s Book Shop (signed copies available!)



Anatomy of a Country Music Song, Part XI

Figure 1. I don't entirely agree, but whatever.

Figure 1. I don’t entirely agree, but whatever.


Justin Moore’s “Back That Thing Up” is terrible-yet-endearing to me, because I use it as the ringtone for when Christa Desir calls me. So it always signals something good’s about to happen to me personally.

My family HATES this song so much. Why wouldn’t they? It’s corny as hell. But what else would you expect from Justin Moore, who’s another one of those “all hat & no cattle” cowboy types that Nashville is lousy with lately. Of course he’s going to up turn the dial all the way to 11 when it comes to the Shameless Redneck setting.

Mainly, I love hearing it come on around someone who’s never heard it before and watching their face as they listen to the lyrics. One of life’s great joys.

Here’s the video (which I can’t vouch for) if you want to hear it, too; analysis after the break…
Read more →

Anatomy of a Country Music Song, Part X



Figure 1. My friend Danielle used to drive an orange VW Beetle with a bumper sticker that said this

Figure 1. My friend Danielle used to drive an orange VW Beetle with a bumper sticker that said this


Today’s song, “Like A Cowboy,” has little analysis, because I absolutely love it, and its writer/singer, Randy Houser, so sorry if it’s not amusing. The paradox of praise: it can be deadly dull.

Randy Houser has some of the best pipes in country music today. And some of the best songs. Because unlike lots of country performers, he got his start writing songs, versus being some over-styled guy with abs and a Jack Daniels tattoo on his trainer-enhanced biceps.

The lyrics are good, the music is good, and his VOICE. Holy shit. He’s got some lungs. I saw him this summer in concert with several other acts (Luke Bryan, Thomas Rhett, Florida Georgia Line) and while Randy Houser can’t wear skinny jeans or muscle shirts or shake his butt at women til they scream like those dudes, he was far and away the best act of the night for me.

So here’s the video (again, I’ve never watched it, so can’t vouch for content, but here it is so you can hear the song itself) and my brief commentary is after the break…
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Anatomy of a Country Music Song, Part IX

Figure 1. My friend Danielle used to drive an orange VW Beetle with a bumper sticker that said this

Figure 1. My friend Danielle used to drive an orange VW Beetle with a bumper sticker that said this


“Smoke Break” is probably the dumbest song I’ve heard in a long time. And it’s wildly popular. Usually I like Carrie Underwood, even with her boatloads of gross gold jewelry, so this is a disappointment.

Here’s the video, which, as always, I cannot vouch for; I only add it so you can hear the song itself if you’d like.

Mainly, the lyrics are just total junk. They want to have it all ways. Seem super blue-collar, while not endorsing so-called blue collar vices. What the fuck ever. It’s like a country song that they’d feature in the Weekly Reader for elementary school students who need to learn what country songs typically sound like.

(Okay, that makes no sense. But neither do the lyrics of “Smoke Break.”)

Lyrics, with my comments, after the jump…

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