I just got back home from the amazing Black Life Matters conference in Tucson, Arizona. It’s also MLK day, and after months of sustained nationwide protests against the police murder of black lives, this MLK day feels especially significant. I’m feeling even more introspective than usual, trying to process and metabolize all I’ve had the opportunity to learn.

I am asking a lot these days: What it will take for people to come together to dismantle injustice? How is it that we move from our “individual” selves to a collective social energy that will create an unstoppable momentum for change?

And, also—not insignificant to my internal meditations today— I just watched the most incredible sports come-from-behind victory of my life, truly the most astounding last 2 minutes and 13 seconds of a football game I’ve ever witnessed in about 30 years of watching football. If you are a Seahawks fan, as I have been since I was a kid, you might be walking around in a delicious yet somewhat confused daze as I am today.  I am actually having a hard time processing that that shift of momentum just happened, and what that means for my view of reality. For reals.

“IS THIS REAL LIFE, KIM?” my cousin Andrew texted me after our victory that shot us to Super Bowl 49. (He had graciously hosted me in Tucson this past week, and we spent our last few days talking about the upcoming game. We are in the same family fantasy football league, too. See the cute photo of us.)

Can you actually turn the ball over 5 times, only get on the board in the first place because your punter throws to the end zone on a fake, and then after that miracle manage to score 3 touchdowns, recover an onside kick, make a two-point conversion all in the time between 2 minutes 13 seconds left and an overtime victory? And oh yah, the person who caught the final touchdown (the incredible Jermaine Kearse) had 5 passes thrown his way earlier in the game that ended in 4 interceptions.

That last Wilson-Kearse connection for the game-winning TD in overtime was the essence of redemption and believing in one another. When we all saw Wilson launch that last pass toward the end zone my group of 12’s let out a collective groan—“NOOOOOO.” I think I might have screamed. At that point, we were just flat-out scared every time the ball left Wilson’s hands for a long pass. And, if we had known the pass would end up anywhere near Kearse we would have really freaked out. But, the thing is Wilson wanted Kearse to get another chance.  And Kearse, like the rest of the team, was still believing in Wilson, too.

(Mind you, it was a brilliant catch last year from Kearse on a 4th down that was a game-changer in our getting to  Super Bowl 48. But, clearly, today was not his day. Right?)

I’ve never seen anything like what unfolded in that game—57 minutes of an offense self-destructing, interception after interception. And this self-destruction was even somehow happening amidst  Marshawn Lynch’s incredible record-setting efforts at RB, so the disappointment of those turnovers was intense.  And yet, the defense refused to quit and pulled off goal-line stance after goal-line stance, never giving up on its offense.  The defense delivering yet another incredible stop and getting the ball back to the offense, only to have the offense throw another interception. All the while, Earl Thomas is playing injured with one shoulder, Richard Sherman is injured and playing with one arm, and then…IT suddenly happens.

Synergy, magic, something unbelievable. About 5 back-to-back miracles, including 15 points in 44 seconds.

After the game, Wilson broke down weeping, thanking the guys on the team for continuing to believe. I always watch the post-game interviews, but I confess I routinely skip Wilson’s interviews. He’s too flat affect for me. I need more emotional engagement. So, his flood of tears during his post-game interview kinda undid me. When I heard in the post-game interview that Wilson and others wanted Kearse to get the chance to win the game, that kinda undid me. When I saw how many people had to contribute to the miracle, how much effort went into being a team, it undid me.

On MLK day as I walk around in this NFC championship-induced daze, I am asking, “Wait, why in the world would a football game matter to me so much?” I mean, there are real life-or-death issues we all gotta face right now in our nation’s history and contemporary moment. And here I am wrapping my heart today around a football game.” Also, as I wrote about before the NFC Championship game last year, football as an industry encapsulates many of the issues of gender and racial injustice I am most concerned about.

All I can put to words right now is this: Sometimes, there are things that happen that I don’t think are really about the event itself; rather, they are about some kind of higher truth breaking into the field of play for a minute. I don’t think that game yesterday was just about football. Whatever happened in that game yesterday testifies to something about the power of human connection. When individuals realize what they need to accomplish can only be accomplished by continuing to believe in one another through adversity after adversity, that is how magic happens, I think. Something happens at the level of energy and spirit and matter.

Momentum shifts.

You see, you really couldn’t have written the last 3 minutes of that game plan: “Hey, let’s plan to get two touchdown in the last 2 minutes and 13 seconds, recover an onside kick, get a 2-point conversion, and yah, let’s see if Wilson and Kearse can complete a long pass in OT, since 4/5 attempts have already led to interceptions, so let’s try again with the Super Bowl on the line?”

Nope, it’s not about a logical game plan at that precise moment, because the list of what needed to happen would have sounded preposterous. Rather, it’s about a momentum shift; it’s about an infusion of love & resiliency; it’s about staying connected to one another.


*          *          *


Here’s the thing: historically speaking, I feel as though we are in that last 2 minutes and 13 seconds. I am not trying to be overly morbid here, but the reality is that our planet is facing massive issues—environmental and social—because for the last 500 years we’ve self-destructed. Did you know a study was just released that shows mass extinction of the oceans is “probable”? We’ve managed to live and consume in such a way that the earth itself is going to have to shut itself down. These wars of occupation being fought, the killing of black and brown lives in the U.S. and beyond, is the direct result of a historical game plan. That game plan is called western colonialism, racism, hetero-patriarchy, the transatlantic slave trade,  genocide of Indigenous communities, western capitalism, and an abuse toward the earth that is embedded in these violent ways of relating, these individualistic ways of living that benefit a few and harm most.

It is not always easy to keep believing that change is possible. But I do think the source of hope itself is to shift into a different way of imagining the world. And that different way is all about what it means to be connected—to see ourselves not just as individuals but as people who believe in one another and discover a synergy that is only possible in connection and faith.

I know it was just a football game. But, I think for those of us who love this team and have followed its story, it was something far more.  Pete Carroll said it himself in his post-game talk to his team. “You shared that demonstration of love and belief….you shared that…you showed what it is to believe in one another.”

I am swept off my feet today because in the core of my being I believe that sometimes higher truths about love and life do break into the field of play and show us something profound about the nature of reality. I have always believed that, actually, but I’ve become too much of an academic to write about mysterious stuff like that which utterly defies logic. But, I met someone at last week’s Black Life Matters conference who told me—who called me to— start living that belief out loud if my work in the world was going to do what my work in the world needs to do. (“Strangers” speak truth in surprising moments, you know. Perhaps because we are not really so separate in this world, after all.)

Those moments of Something breaking into the field of play can be in a sports game, an unexpected conversation, giving birth, listening to exquisite music, an epiphanic experience tending a garden, a wordless prayer, a dance. All I know is that sometimes, in the most surprising ways, we perceive a mysterious power of love and connection that suddenly puts in perspective all our “rational” tools and logic.

I am trying to cultivate those moments in 2015, but I also think they can manifest anywhere.




Below is an excerpt taken from a small book I am working on entitled Restoring Creativity: A Writing Guide for Self-Care, Sustainable Pleasure & Conscious Presence. I will be posting a handful of small selections to start this new year. Happy writing!

I was always a “sensitive” child, as they say, and I was also very creative: cardboard boxes were spaceships, closets were time travel machines, and I had no qualms about putting on a one-girl parade down my street with a few streamers and a tap dance outfit I scored at a garage sale.

Afternoons were easily lost in the bliss of play. Being present in an imaginative moment had not yet been un-learned, as happens to adults. Part of that conscious presence of a child, that rootedness in creative energy, was feeling the world with a greater degree of intensity. To be playful and creative requires being present, and presence is always tethered to the full range of human emotions and senses. (Perhaps that’s why we run from it so much.)

If you are a person who feels the world intensely, who longs to create, and who ever finds yourself musing upon possibilities, you probably do not have the choice to filter out the “good” feelings from the “bad” feelings. You feel it all—that’s what sensitivity and creativity does to us. It attunes us to what is there to be felt. Thus, the world’s pain and injustice will likely hit your heart like a sack of bricks many mornings of your life. But, it is also true that the smile of a baby,  a cool walk at twilight, or a pocketfull of poetry can feel like perfection.

What I know is that this sensitivity to feel—both the heartache and the joy— comes with the territory of those open to creative energies. It is our fuel, even as it can threaten to consume us. It can overwhelm us, even as it offers us the kind of energy we need to draw from in order to create.

It is your sensitivity, in fact, that keeps you tender enough to create and hope and imagine, but it also means you are likely flooded with data you might not yet have the words for. You have antenna picking up on many currents of energies and emotions.

As a child, I remember experiencing myself like a tender sponge, absorbing the energy from my environment, and feeling intensely all those free-floating, split off emotions that hover around us in our families and communities.  (Now, as an academic I theorize those intensities. We call them “affect.”)

Part of the attunement of children, I believe, is noticing the many intensities and emotions that adults have been trained to bypass. I mention this intellectual aspect of children because I think it has everything to do with any aspect of art, creativity, and writing.

There is a famous psychoanalyst—Jean LaPlanche—who says we are formed as infants by picking up on the unspoken messages of adults’ unconscious process. In other words, babies and kids are particularly perceptive to all the affective states the adults around them are divorcing from their conscious awareness. LaPlanche’s description of psychic process suggest we exist in worlds where much is left un-worded or un-represented, but much more is always being messaged and implanted in our psyches.

In these kind of relational patterns, the feelings deep in our bodies often become the receptor point for that which spills over from conscious communication. Our knowings often manifest at the level of the intuitive, like subtle embodied sensations in our gut that signal to our minds what we are in fact experiencing in any given moment. Even when our environment or the authorities or the presumed keepers of knowledge do not mirror back to us what we know, we still know, and often at the level of our wordless, somatic experience. (Not every sensitive person feels the world intensely at the somatic level, of course, but many do.)

Some of us, more deeply than others, in whatever way we receive unconscious information, will intuit the impressions of that which is being left unworded. We might even sense that which is being covered over by strategic untruths meant to serve those in power. We feel the sedimentation of years, generations, and histories that are yet present in this here-and-now moment. We might even question the time-space division itself, because we’ve come to understand that history is not in the past.

Just as there is starshine reaching my eye’s tonight, even as the star’s source burned out millions of years ago, we know that history, time, and linearity might be a grand illusion.

We sense more.

If you feel the world with this kind of intensity, one place to get guidance, of course, is sitting with a skilled therapist or psychoanalyst. Feelings often manifest most acutely in our families of origins and immediate intimate relationships, and skilled therapists can help us process this level of our psychic and relational experience. But, we should also keep in mind that anthropologists and sociologists tell us that emotions are not just about individuals or even family units—emotions are actually a manifestation of larger culture processes. Emotions are part of culture-making: as such, they are also tied to memory-making and the gaps by which we forget, repress, and disconnect on a much larger scale.

I want to claim that all forms of creativity—and in particular writing— are about diving into these gaps.

Whether or not you are a poet or a scholar, a novelist or an essayist, you move between expressed words and un-worded meanings, between conscious and unconscious process, between our collective knowing and forgetting, between what bodies knew and what minds are still remembering.  It is a gap that artists of all kinds learn to inhabit. We journey into the gap and bring back pieces and artifacts, words and images, sensory impressions and distilled emotions.

That journey takes courage.

When we write in whatever form (as novelists, as scholars, as poets), we are languaging the feelings, ideas, and truths that have been previously been relegated to the realm of the murky, the subtle, the overlooked. We are stitching re-connections. We are providing re-cognitions. We are sensing what perhaps many children already know, but now we have the adult translation of language. We are trying to mirror the world, to refract it in more diverse ways.

This reflective process is why it is so satisfying to read good writers. In some way they are mirroring back to you what you already knew in your bones, but somehow didn’t have the words for. They are mirroring back to you what you might have intuitively “read” at some level of your unconscious being; but when the writer’s imagination and intellectual skills dance with linguistic symbols to communicate to you, suddenly your whole being lights up with resonance. “Yes!” you think. “That’s exactly it. That is how life feels, breathes, smells, hurts.”

Moments of recognition are profound, and artists have always known their power. Now, even neuroscience is telling us that “mirroring” is a critical aspect of brain development for young children. The circuitry of our minds need shared moments of resonance.  (See Peter Fonagy’s work.)

As a writing teacher, I say we especially need artists who illuminate the world in such a way that our inchoate feelings come to make some sense. We need artists who help us live better into mysteries and wonder and all that does not make sense, too.

Certainly, we also read writers who seem to introduce us to totally new ideas and ways of imagining the world. We read to expand ourselves, to feel more and perceive more than we did before we picked up the book, to have a shift in imagination that at some level feels utterly new. We need the writers who can transport us outside of our limited life experience, so that we can feel our deeper connections.

However, I have a theory that most of our souls are quite old, and what artists are doing is actually re-connecting us, as much as they are introducing to us, to new ways to think, perceive, and feel. Writers, in particular, use the medium of words to gesture toward the wordless, toward the mysteries that words can step toward, as on a ladder, but ultimately remain much beyond symbol. This why the mystics of old could write incredible poetry, but also told us that an encounter with ultimate mystery was not something an earthly word could ever capture.

Writing feels risky because it is this dance between symbol, these scratches and squiggles on paper, and the ineffable encounter. It is the translation process between the unconscious and the conscious. For many of us,  that space has been filled with anxiety, with pain, with addiction, with self-doubt (even self-hate), and with loneliness. In that “between” is uncertainty and unknown, and that space is vulnerable to filling up with fear.

The possibilities feel too much. We wish to rush to outlines and formulas to contain our fears and hopes. But try not to. Take a deep breath instead. Stay present to yourself. Dare I say love yourself.

What do you want to mirror back to the world? What is it that you know, something you believe the world needs to see mirrored so that we might thrive more, love more, feel more?

On the Writing Process

Below is an excerpt taken from a small book I am working on entitled Restoring Creativity: A Writing Guide for Self-Care, Sustainable Pleasure & Conscious Presence. I will be posting a handful of small selections to start this new year. Happy writing!


                                How to Write Something

The night before writing, do the following: First, boil 2 cups of water. Then, add 1 cup of steel cut oats to boiling water. (If you are Celiac as I am, make sure they are certified gluten free). After adding oats to boiling water, turn off burner. Put lid on pot. Make sure pot is large enough so contents do not boil over.

Now, go brush and floss your teeth. Then, stir pot once before going to sleep.

Please go to bed at a reasonable time (I suggest before 11). Get up at a reasonable time (I suggest before 7:30). Be rested, if it is at all possible for you to be. Your brain and body detox when you are sleeping.

(Ah, I know parents of young kids or nursing mommas are laughing at me here! But, for the rest of you, really, you need to sleep through the night. Going to bed is a practice of saying goodbye to the day. But you wanted to get 13 more things done that day, you say? Then going to bed is a practice of accepting your limitations. )

When you wake up to the fresh new day, your breakfast is nearly cooked. How delightful.

Now, heat oats (you might have to add a little water depending on how you like the consistency). While oats are warming, begin making your coffee. I generally use a small Italian percolator (about $22—this is the one that changed my life) or some days I use a French press. Grind the beans fresh every morning. Buy very good freshly roasted beans (no Starbucks, no stale beans from the grocery store—find a little local independent coffee shop that knows their beans and roasts them with love and passion). If you like, add some whole allspice or small clove bits when you grind the beans.

Savor the scent of the coffee as you are making it. Don’t be rushed. Breath in deeply. Go intentionally at half-pace.

(A professor in college—the amazing Dr. Marilyn McEntyre— taught me this technique about slowing down a particular daily ritual, like coffee-making, in order to access the sensory experience. It will change your life.)

To warmed oats add some variety of sweet and savory: raw honey, Kerrygold grass-fed butter (I swear by this stuff for nutrients—you can also make ghee out of it for your oatmeal), a little sea salt, coconut flakes (without added sugar), banana (or fruits in season), and some nuts (I have to soak and dry mine because I have weak digestive abilities, and this practice makes them MUCH easier on your tummy). A dollop of raw cream on oats is out-of-this world, too.

Again, don’t be rushed in the preparation.

(Do accommodate your breakfast according to budget, but if you can splurge, do get the Kerrygold—2.99 at Trader Joe’s. Good fats help carbohydrates digest more slowly and will transform sugar cravings and set your morning metabolism right.)

The idea here with your breakfast is to: 1) awaken your senses 2) enjoy the process of nourishing yourself and 3) let your mind muse and wonder and alight on ideas.

Now, as you savor eating your gourmet oatmeal, open up your computer (or take out your notepad and pen).

Start streaming sentences together before the editor in your head wakes up. Write from your pleasure and your play. Use your delicious breakfast to ignore that you are probably anxious about your writing. Write into your half-awakened conscious thoughts.

Don’t edit.

Really, don’t edit. I mean, you can massage a sentence or phrase here or there, but don’t do big picture editing. It’s not time. It’s as if you are sculpting something from a big piece of marble, but you won’t really have any idea what the sculpture is for a while.  Notice what is emerging. Follow the writing. Surrender to mess. Trust yourself.

Much of life is messy process folks, not product.

When you are drafting, you are just taking big pieces out of the marble, starting to carve shape. Just starting. That is all. It’s not a masterpiece. Yet. It’s a rough, shitty first draft. And the messier that draft is, the more you will discover gems in it the next day when you sit down to write. If it’s not messy, you aren’t writing into the fertile space of your unconscious life.

Try to write 500 words over breakfast. That is all. Don’t worry about your transitions or even connecting your ideas. Just worry about getting into a state of mind. A flow. A pleasurable flow of creating something. The goal is flow not force. If you feel pleasure, and if you feel a bit like a kid putting colorful beads on a string, then you have the idea of the creative process. (The bead metaphor is what Brenda Ueland says in If You Want to Write, and I agree fully.)

Now, go about the rest of your day: working, teaching, parenting, taking care of people who need your care, taking care of yourself, fighting for justice in this world, healing the earth, working at the coffee shop to make money or cleaning houses or being a CEO of a big fancy firm. Whatever you need to do, do it.

Let your morning writing shape how you do your daily work in the world. Let your creative process help you pay attention. Let the pleasure of your creativity fuel you into that which you long for. Let your morning writing open your senses for the day.

(Realize, too, that  you have many more senses than 5. Limiting our senses to 5 is a western myth. See this interesting anthropology book to ponder how we in the West limited the sensorium and then tried to impose those limitations on others in the name of “rationality.” What a tragedy.)

When evening comes again, prepare oats as specified. Crawl into bed at a reasonable hour. Release the day. Relax your mind.  Make sure you aren’t getting extra city lights in your window if you can help it. Sleep soundly if you have access to the luxury of a bed (unless you can’t sleep through the night because of kiddos or other caregiving or health responsibilities).

Wake up, relish making your breakfast and coffee, and sit down to write another 500 words. Consider what you wrote yesterday.What sentences are missing? What connection is not yet on the page? What idea do you want to develop with another 5–7 sentences?

No need to work in a linear fashion here, folks. After all, you probably won’t know what is your first sentence of this piece for a long time. It might be hiding on page 17, or page 270. Don’t get attached yet to order of ideas, or even to the main idea/theme of the piece of writing.

Trust that writing is more about following what is emerging than controlling anything. Write to discover, to perceive, to feel, to imagine.


(*Photo credit to the wonderful Kevan Ohtsji.)

Listen to scholars and activists reflect on the execution of Troy Davis. Troy was executed  by the state on September 21, 2011, despite an abundance of evidence calling into question whether he was actually even guilty of a crime.

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Laura Markle Downton reflects on how racism and white privilege perpetuate state-sanctioned systems of violence and trauma.  (44 minutes)

Laura is the Criminal Justice Grassroots Coordinator at General Board of Church and Society, UMC. She holds a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a concentration in Women’s Studies.


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 Emilie Townes discusses her work as a womanist ethicist and her thoughts on capital punishment. (12 minutes)

Dr. Emilie M. Townes holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School and a Ph.D. in Religion in Society and Personality from Northwestern University. She is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Yale Divinity School, as well as the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology.  Dr. Townes is  the author of numerous texts, including her groundbreaking book, Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil.


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 Diana Swancutt talks about the Bible and racism; ideology and systems of violence; and why learning to lament in community might be one way to transform injustice. (46 minutes)

A Society of Biblical Literature Regional Scholar and recent winner of the Lilly/ATS Faculty Sabbatical Grant, Professor Swancutt combines interests in gender, ethnicity and empire studies, rhetoric, ideological criticism, and ancient social practices in her interdisciplinary research. She focuses on early Christian identity formation in Pauline communities, particularly the resocialization of Greeks into Pauline Christian Judaism.


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 Andre Willis shares on disciplinary boundaries in the academy; the need for visionary and healing tools and practices; and the injustice of the death penalty. (35 minutes)

Dr. Andre C. Willis is Assistant Professor of the Philosophy of Religion at Yale Divinity School.  Willis has published articles on American pragmatism and religion, religion and democracy, African American thought and history, and jazz music. He is a regular contributor to the website theroot.com and is editor of Faith of Our Fathers: African-American Men Reflect on Fatherhood. He earned his PhD from Harvard University.


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 Jason Craige Harris articulates the historical injustices behind the use of the death penalty. (50 minutes)

Jason Craige Harris is a third-year master’s candidate in Black Religion in the African Diaspora and a Marquand merit scholar at Yale Divinity School. His research and writing are principally concerned with black life, Christianity, colonialism, rhetorical violence, feminisms, and ultimately planetary flourishing. With an eye toward contemporary social problems, he considers the religious strategies and visions that historically marginalized peoples have used and casted to respond to conditions of living and being delimited by restrictive understandings of race, gender, religion, and nation.

Dear writers and those who dream of writing: Here’s number 3 in my series on writing. In this episode, I am referencing creative writing, but I will here add that the principle I discuss about speaking more truthfully applies to academic and professional writing, too.

(Enjoy with a cup of Earl Grey. And a dollop of cream.)

Hey there, dear writers. Here’s another 2-minute episode hosted over at Vimeo.  This one is on one of my favorite subjects. If you hang around me too much you know I talk about it all the time.

(But, this video needs a quick edit: I mention Western modernity as the last “500 years.” That’s not right at all—really quite terrible math, even if modernity is dated in all kinds of ways. What I should have said was that early modernity is generally dated to the mid 1600s.)

I am doing a new video series for my blog, called “Two-Minute Tea Time for Writers.” People, it’s really nothing short of a miracle that I am learning to do all these techy things.  Check it out!  (You might need to push the “embed” button on Vimeo to make the video run without stalling.)

Class Description: This four-week creative writing course teaches you to pay attention to embodied knowledge. Drawing on anthropology, philosophy, and feminist theory, we’ll discuss the historical reasons for how the “body” has been split from the “mind” in Western culture. We’ll do contemplative writing exercises that restore a sense of mind-body integration. You’ll gain skills to improve your writing, as you learn to honor the body in your creative process.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How does an online class work?: You will receive 4 lectures in mp3 format, as well as some supplementary written course materials that lead you through the course. Then, depending on what level of writing coaching you have signed up for, you will meet 1:1 over Skype with the class instructor, who will also review your writing assignments.

Read more »

Note: These are tips on writing, not final editing. Writing and editing are not the same process, even if they can overlap at points.

1: Start with an idea that gives you energy. How do you know it gives you energy? You should feel tingles in your body. You should want to talk about it at the dinner table. You should find yourself pondering it in the quiet, subtle places in your mind.

2: Write to discover that very idea. Write into the epiphany that hasn’t arrived yet. Don’t expect to know x-y-z about the idea before you write. Sure, you are going to know something about the idea. But stay curious. Let your fingers go faster than your conscious mind. See what your subconscious knows. See what kinds of associations lead you into rich discoveries and new juxtapositions.

3: Write and write and write. Write out three pages of flowing ideas. Be OK with messiness and non-linear thinking. You can clean up the page later.

4: Pause. Take a breath. Feel what you are feeling in your gut.

5: Now, go looking for the first sentence. Where is it? Maybe it is in the middle of the third page?

6: Look for the emotional-intellectual heart of what you are saying. Are you writing into that emotional-intellectual heart?

Read more »

I cannot write today.

I cannot write today because there is too much dust on my bedroom floor. It is distracting. And then there is the state of my closet.  My clothes have yet to be color-coordinated, my shoes are in disheveled stacks.  And you should see the state of my desk drawers: old birthday cards and flashlights and random Christmas ornaments all squished in with boxes of staples and a collection of used-up ink cartridges still waiting to be recycled.

No, I cannot write in my bedroom.

So, I am trying the kitchen table. But, I am nervous; I am bracing myself. I live with 8 housemates, all of whom I like very much. They are my family away from family. But this moment of almost beginning to write is tentative. Right as I begin to write is very fragile. Read more »