GB + photo giveaway + art sale

Hey everyone,

First, a fun giveaway! If you pre-order my chapbook Gomorrah, Baby, you’ll be entered into a drawing to win an 8×10 fine art print of one of the 16 photos in the books. I’ve seen these prints, and they’re really quite lovely.

Here are the details:

Pre-order Gomorrah, Baby before December 31, and you’ll entered into a random drawing to receive an 8×10 fine art print of one of the 16 photos included in Gomorrah, Baby. The photos show the city of Saint Paul, Minnesota, at its darkest, its most haunting and tender. Black-and-white images take you through a tour of the city’s core and waterfront, its alleys and deserted tunnels, its steep hills and old bridges. Natalie will work with the winner to select a print that matches their ghostly sensibilities.

Also: Use code HAULIDAY in the Anchor & Plume shop for 25% off every order through December 31. All orders placed between now and December 16 will receive a little something extra.

And some last-minute sale goodness: Until 11:59pm PST tonight (Monday, Dec 12), all framed and unframed prints in my Society6 shop are 25% off!

I hope you’re enjoying winter, however that looks and feels where you are. Here in Saint Paul, I’m inside from a 4-mile walk on the snowpack, and the weather app is telling me it feels like -6F. Brrr. Take care of each other. ❤

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Gomorrah, Baby

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I’m super happy to announce that my fiction and photography chapbook, Gomorrah, Baby, is now available to pre-order from Anchor & Plume! For the pre-order period, it’s on sale for $10.

Gomorrah, Baby is a pocket book (4” by 6”), and you can read more about (and from) it over on the Anchor & Plume site.

It’s hard to describe how much this book means to me. I took the photographs and wrote the story over the course of some cold and snowy months, and it’s very much a book whose backdrop is the city in winter.

It’s a story about walking around and falling in love with the city of Saint Paul, about the stories and nightmares we create to imprint the city on our hearts, about being lost and getting lost, about walking and looking up and around.

I lived the story while I was walking around and photographing Saint Paul’s old buildings and ghost signs and Mississippi port-side cliffs. The cover image is one of many photographs included in the book. I fell (more) in love with the beautiful, horrible city while I wrote this book, and I discovered that city love thrives on both beauty and horror.

If you buy it, I hope you love it and use it to guide your own wanderings.

Oh, hello. Hi.

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It’s been more than a year since I started freelancing full-time – I just realized this! – and I can honestly say I’ve never worked harder in my life (hence the blog silence). And while I can get bogged down in the weird little stresses of it – quarterly taxes, the glue-it-back-on-and-pray health insurance – I’m actually really happy being able to write for a living and having opportunities to research and create beautiful, useful things.

Some updates!

Outside: Still fantastic. I’ve been able to take lots of long walks lately and see wonderful hawks and eagles and spend some quality time with dogs in a swamp. Saint Paul is full of holes – some dug and some from water that’s eaten away the sidewalk concrete. Now that the snow has melted, the annual garbage blooms are appearing in alleys that don’t get plowed. All I want in the whole world right now is for the farmers market to begin.

Publications: I just had an essay about touch and the physical experience of places called “this. is everything.” published in the gorgeous WILDNESS, a lit journal from Platypus Press in the UK. All the work in this journal – both the current issue and the past ones – is incredible.

A new journal called The Hopper from Green Writers Press just published two of my visual art pieces in its print edition. I’m super excited to see the journal and read the work they’re publishing.

I’ve been writing semi-regularly over at Image Journal’s Good Letters blog, and I love this bit of earth, how it’s a forum for writing about faith and art and life, but they don’t make writers leave any part of themselves at the door. Most recently, I’ve written about my forensic scientist aunt’s legacy, babysitting, long winter walks, grad school burnout and Ash Wednesday, mouseguests, mushrooms, and apocryphal dancing.

I’ve been writing more for CIDRAP, which helps me make good on my intentions to keep up with published infectious disease research. Right now, I’m super fascinated by all the viral evolution findings coming out and the diversity of the gut microbiome/resistome.

Projects: Super awesome writer E.A. Farro and I started a weekly project! We write love letters to scientific phenomena, languages, and experiences, and each letter is illustrated. It’s been super fun to do a collaborative project and explore this funny sense of falling in love over and over with what I study and observe. You can see all our letters and drawings right over here. Also, here is Farro’s beautiful essay about writing poetry with strangers.

I have a bunch of other projects I’m working on – a photo essay about a road near where I grew up, a bunch of illustration/writing projects, a badly needed eye exam – and hope to have more time for after May.

Blue skies! I hope you have a good boggy swamp and a long sunny walk and a farmers market in your future – or whatever your springtime wishes might be.

 

 

 

Zea visual essay

Hey friends,

I finished the Zea visual essay this week! It came about as a combination of summer events, my love of insects, and the fact that I’m a bit of a slob. You can check it out here.

People have varying opinions on what a visual essay is, but for me, it’s something that needs both text and image to be itself. I like Sarah Minor’s definition and work, but I think it depends on how you want to see and make meaning out of lots of different pieces. And, of course, there are all those limitations on what you know how to do. I’m working on something right now that should be a short film – but it’s a book, because that’s what I know how to do.

This is the kind of work I want to make more of. And “Zea” turned out to be more complicated than I’d thought it would be. I definitely didn’t intend to make 8 paintings and 4 ink drawings, but here we are.

Happy lovely fall weekend. If you’re somewhere where it’s suddenly begun to be dark in late afternoon, enjoy the magic and romance of those long, cocooning nights.

Zea

ZEA

That up there is Helicoverpa zea – the corn earworm moth. I’m writing and illustrating a (well, I’m calling it a zine, because I’m a 90s girl, and because I like calling it the zea zine) about it. The female H. zea can only produce sex pheromones in the presence of corn silk. Isn’t that great? Corn silk and H. zea are for each other. I think at some point I’d like to do a Dear Data-style project about insects and interesting insect encounters.

In the realm of happy news, my fiction and photography chapbook Gomorrah, Baby was accepted for publication by Anchor & Plume! It will be published in November 2016. This little book is a big chunk of my heart. It was inspired by some hyper-exposed photos of Saint Paul cliffs, and I wrote it in my head and kind of lived it before I ever wrote it down. The book’s about the stories we tell ourselves about cities, about crumbling and haunted cities and what happens when we walk through and absorb them.

There’s a lovely review of the journal LUMINA at The Review Review, and Melissa Oliveira said nice things about my essay “Dance It Viscous” in what we both apparently call the “Wet Lady” issue!

I recently gave up my car (I mean, my car kind of gave itself up unto me), and it’s been a relief. I never drove that much anyway, and it’s been fun to walk more. Other than that, I’ve been busy with freelance writing and editing projects, drawing sea creatures with my friend’s 3-year-old girl, making apple desserts, and getting over this end-of-summer cold that came from the devil.

Here are some things I like, mostly poems:

Layli Long Soldier’s poem “Talent” in As Us. Try to walk around without saying poor thing poor thing poor thing all the time after reading it.

Ellie Rogers’ poem “What I Kept to Myself” in Pacifica; reading it actually feels like holding in a sneeze.

André Alexis’ book Fifteen Dogs, which is extraordinary, but it’s still too soon to talk about it. I don’t think I’ve ever cried that hard (in a good way!) about a book, ever. Plus, my dog Gunnar won it for me on Twitter, which is something.

August news

Happy August, everyone. Here are some fun new things:

  • My nonfiction chapbook, Shine a light, the light won’t passcan be ordered alone or as part of a nonfiction bundle from MIEL Books. They also have an artists’ book bundle available, which looks amazing.
  • I heard this week that the novella + photography book, Gomorrah, Baby, is a finalist for publication with Anchor & Plume Press; their final choices will be out in September. I wrote this book last winter, and it sounds weird to say, but I love it with all my heart. I was sad when I finished it, because I’d been living it for months.
  • An exhibit opening today at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum (which is seriously cool – check it out!) in Winona will include a poem I wrote as part of the Open to Interpretation: Water’s Edge book.

I was really happy and grateful to spend a week in July writing at the Collegeville Institute with 11 other writers and coach Michael McGregor. Michael helped loosen the edges on a project that had been frustrating me for a while, and it was lovely (and really, really welcome) to spend time away from the city with wonderful people who value writing and art and scholarship. Being in that community made me think more too about all the unnecessary and small cruelties I surround myself with (mostly online) and how I want more devotion in my life: to writing, to my faith, to the way I communicate about human disease.

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What else about August? I got to see lots of family, made a killer potato and corn chowder, and read wonderful books (Ali Smith’s How to Be Both, Damon Galgut’s Arctic Summer, Leigh Kotsilidis’ Hypotheticals). I’ve also started writing for CIDRAP, which publishes infectious disease news (and where I worked on a separate project for eight years).

Here’s to happy dog days; it’s 92F and humid here, so maybe the dog days have arrived.

July!

I’m returning to this blog after about six months with a list-y post, but I hope to write here more in the future. Lots of changes in the past six months: I left my job of eight years and started freelancing, my chapbook was published (more about that below), I started focusing more on projects I’ve wanted to do for no reason at all (the best reason is none sometimes; goals are suspicious), and one of my great friends moved to Minnesota from Beijing.

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And here is that list:

  • My chapbookShine a light, the light won’t pass, was published! I’m so proud of the work and care that made this little book of essays. If you want to read about star birth and death, dance, violence and its perspectives, love, sadness, and how the moon (ours) was formed, please check it out! And look at the other books MIEL has published too – they are beautiful, inside and out. I’m especially excited about Metta Sáma’s Le Animal and Other Creatures
  • In other writing news, I have a short essay called “Reductionist Confessions” in Image Journals “Evolution and the Imago Dei” issue. I wrote the study guides for churches and colleges that are provided with this issue, so had the privilege of studying it closely. It is incredible! Lots of different perspectives from people who gaze at their faith and the history of evolution with loads of intelligence and love. I also wrote a related blog post about my heart, music, and dissonance over at the Good Letters blog.
  • And other new publications: A very short essay called “Amok” published in Timber and a longer essay called “Dance It Viscous” about dance and hemoglobin and viscosity/friction in Lumina.
  • I created a Society6 shop to start selling some of my art and illustration prints.
  • I’ll spend a week at a writing workshop at the Collegeville Institute next week. I’m looking forward to writing my face off and the Bauhaus library and bullfrogs and Milky Way and water.
  • I learned about northwoods mushrooms and ants, the latter because I’m terrified of them. I love all insects, but I’m so scared of ants. I’m getting better; I don’t like the idea of being scared of (read: wanting to hurt) something because it has a different body or different way of moving. I’ve learned that forager ants (the ones you see aboveground) are usually older females; because they can no longer reproduce, they get the dangerous jobs. (Think of an Ant-Man movie where the protag was an elderly woman forced into a life of danger because she could no longer reproduce, and she had to enter a world where the bulk of info about her life and body was focused on exterminating her. I’d watch the hell out of that movie.)

My grandmother also died last week, and I’m feeling alternately ragey and sad and sleepy/sleep-logged; I don’t eat that much meat, but I get huge meat cravings when someone close to me dies. This probably only makes sense to me, but to me, it makes great sense. I will confess that things are a little on top of me at the moment. Here are some (non-meat) things that have helped recently:

  • Helen Macdonald’s book H is for Hawk, about grief and goshawks and wildness and the danger of blood-belonging and land myths/erasures and loads of other things. It’s revelatory.
  • Sarah Bray’s post about getting out of bed.
  • This article about nurses who help people voluntarily starve or dehydrate. It’s not as dark as it sounds, but it is what it is.
  • Watching The Babadook and thinking about how kids invent monsters so they have a reason to keep saving their parents, and how you can love something more than anything else and still resent it enough to want it destroyed, and how horror movies would move so much more smoothly if people could just stop denying that something really awful got in their house and stand up to it.

Love to you all. I am not Captain Effusive, but I’m lucky to know so many lovely artists in person or online, and I’m admiring and caring about you from afar. Will work on that – ant fear and compliments and using this space to write more: the summer’s to-do list is set.

Flowers for my mom

ink bday card

My mom’s birthday was a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to make her something, so I drew and painted (ink and acryla gouache on hot press) several of the flowers from her garden. I’m pretty comfortable with ink, but paint is so weird to me. Color combinations in my head never look the same on paper, and I’d like to work more this year on getting comfortable with using color and understanding it. Maybe I’ll learn that I just really like black and white and should stick with neutrals.

paint bday card

 

Project time

We have no snow in the Twin Cities. We have frozen mud. But it’s still very winter-romantic: lights still up, juniper berries, Orion and Gemini together in the east, and I bought hand-rolled butter the size of a loaf of bread. And messy, delicious blood oranges. Winter’s alright.

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One of my goals for this year was to take all the notes and drawings I’d collected over 2014 and actually do the projects I’d intended to do last year. And by projects, I mean things that bring together text and visual art and whatever else they need to tell a story or communicate an idea. They’re all combinations of text and art and some web design, and I’ll be doing one per month with not too much initial judgment.

My January project was something that had been living in my head for about six months. I’d researched the story of Sodom and Gomorrah for this essay about Hamburg (the firebombing of Hamburg was referred to as “Operation Gomorrah” by the Allied forces), and I was intrigued by archaeological research at Tel Aviv University that suggested the story developed as people journeyed past destroyed cities in the Levant. In other words, the Levant of the time was subject to many earthquakes, and if you were a traveler (by lifestyle or by cataclysm of your own), you were constantly walking past ruins of other cities. Instead of making up tales of comfort, people started crafting these bizarre, violent stories – nightmares they made to stand in front of nightmares for which they had no words.

The project draws on this idea, and it’s also a funny urban history of Saint Paul and of all cities that have inexplicable layers and ghosts. And because I’m annoying myself now with the word “project,” it’s also a little book: about 40 pages of text facing photos of downtown Saint Paul. I’m going to submit it to a couple of places, but I hope to share pieces of how I made it and how it’s structured.

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My February project is to write the text (all currently in my head) that goes with the 125 hearts I made last summer, finish the sizing of the original scans, and do some Illustrator work so that each original image will be one of a set of triplets. And then…I don’t know! I’ll be posting as I go, I hope, so I can share how the process is working.

In other news, my last day at my job (for 8 years!) is at the end of the month. It’s partly due to current lack of funding, but also was mostly my decision and is a good thing. I’m really happy about being able to write and teach more and excited about new opportunities.

Work in progress

icemaps

Some under-inking for a series of 8 ice map paintings. These are from ice floes on the Mississippi in late November, when the river was largely (and newly) frozen, at least in the Minneapolis area. The large white spaces are standing water. It’s funny how, when drawing the details, I noticed lots of recurring shapes and patterns I wouldn’t otherwise have understood were there.