strange connections


Just finished listening to a great novel, Come With Me, by Helen Schulman. The characters are fantastic, the story deeply moving, complex, funny, and sad—the very best combination. I also enjoyed her last novel, This Beautiful Life. She writes about people in midlife, dealing with children, family, loss, identity, and alternate realities…it’s all my jam.
I’ve also been reading Samantha Hunt’s weird, and haunting book, Dark Dark Stories. Her work speaks truth about fear, love, partners, children, our animal bodies and ticks! At times funny, often strange in the very best sense of the word. I’m reading the book slowly, wanting to relish each story. Also, they’re so dense it seems like my teeth might hurt if I read them too fast! If you’d like a sample, check out the New Yorker Magazine’s, The Writer’s Voice, podcast to hear her read, “A Love Story.” So fantastic!


Last week I was at a terrific writing conference with a lot of smarties. I spent four days on the Oregon Coast at the Tin House Winter Workshop. The weather was fantastic, the workshops leaders inspiring (Nafissa Thompson-SpiresElizabeth McCracken, and Samantha Hunt), and my cohort offered smart and careful reads of all the manuscripts. If you can ever put yourself in the way of smart people, do.
Samantha Hunt gave a talk on apophenia—the tendency to mistakenly perceive connections and meaning between unrelated things. She discussed exploiting this tendency to great advantage in your writing. The idea being, give yourself a list of completely unrelated, disparate things: bridal shower, training wheels, thunder storm, flight delay, and give yourself 10 minutes plus/minus to write about each one separately. You may be surprised to discover connective tissue—themes, images that lead to a story, a pattern of behavior worth exploring in your memoir, or foisting upon the main character of your novel. Make your list weird and unique. I think you’ll be happily surprised!


It’s cold here in Portland, which is happy news at our house. Tis the season for binge watching and eating dinner from a bowl. I’m not talking soup. Usually our bowls are vegie heavy, include a grain and some salty, spicy crunch. Here are three bowls we have loved, still love. When you make this Miso, Sweet Potato and Broccoli Bowl, be sure to triple the sauce, no joke, it’s so delicious you’ll want to have tons on hand. Okay, yes, technically this Forbidden Rice Salad w/Thai Coconut-Lime Dressing is a salad, but don’t let that stop you. Serve the rice and chicken hot, sauté the cabbage in a little oil, then dress with a splash of toasted sesame oil and rice vinegar. Replace the snap peas with some steamed green beans and you’re good to go. Finally, there’s this bit of deliciousness, which I had for dinner last week, Crispy Rice and Egg Bowl w/Ginger Scallion Vinaigrette. Here’s what I suggest to make it even more wonderful. Wash and julienne about two hefty handfuls of spinach and throw them in with the rice as it cooks. (This is only if you are NOT using left over rice.) Next, slice up a bunch of shitakes (I love mushrooms so I used a giant pile) toss them w/salt and olive oil, roast on a sheet pan at 450 degrees for about fifteen minutes. Keep checking, you want them to be nearly crispy. When you assemble the bowl, layer in the mushroom heaven with the cucumbers and carrots. Oh man, we’re all in for some fine times. Please, send me a note and tell me what to watch!