Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Foot in Two Worlds


As a young girl growing up during China’s Cultural Revolution, Anchee Min was taught to write statements proclaiming the glory of Chairman Mao almost before she learned to write her own name.  She was also told to denounce Nobel-winning author Pearl S. Buck as an “American cultural imperialist,” for her depictions of  peasant life in China.  Min had never actually read a word that Buck had written, but she didn’t have a real choice – she dutifully mouthed the denouncement. It was 25 years later that Min, now a successful author herself, was handed a … Continue reading A Foot in Two Worlds

Embracing Constraints


Is graphic design art? The debate, for me, started in art school and now lives on in the offices of Journey Group, the creative agency where I work. Although there are convincing arguments for both sides, the argument for me revolves around the idea of constraints. As design director at Journey Group, I have had the good fortune of designing a wide variety of projects for many clients — websites for international relief agencies, wine bottle labels for wineries, books for the U.S. Postal Service. One reason I love design is that, unlike art, constraints … Continue reading Embracing Constraints

Insomnia Meets Cartoons


What about doing it, if not on the beach, then in bed? Reading that is—it seems nowadays the only time I find to read is when I stumble (an exaggeration, but not by much) up the narrow backstairs to my bedroom. Less than two feet away from my bed, several shelves line a brick wall. At three a.m. I grab a magazine from the stacks and stacks of New Yorkers. Why can’t I throw a New Yorker away? Am I deluding myself into thinking I’m going to read them sometime? But I do read them, … Continue reading Insomnia Meets Cartoons

Un-beach Books


I’ve always been irked by those lists of “beach reads” that turn up online and in magazines every summer.  In the first place, it’s difficult to actually enjoy the experience of reading while on a beach.   You get put off by the glare, the blowing sand, your children who stand around and drip on you.  The only time I really took pleasure in reading at the beach, it was a subversive pleasure.  I lived in a seaside town where the public library was ruled over by one of those martinets who is drawn to the profession … Continue reading Un-beach Books

Am I Still Writing In Summer?


This summer I planned to finish a manuscript, but a vacation to L.A (to see family) and later a trip to northwest Spain and Portugal (I don’t expect sympathy) disrupted the writing and since my return to Virginia, I’ve experienced a persistent numb resistance to putting pen to paper, fingers to keys. I wonder can it be summer’s slow siren, distracting me from the habit and pleasure of writing? Does summer trigger something in me that makes me want to get nothing done? Back home in the heat and haze of long days, after my … Continue reading Am I Still Writing In Summer?

The Last Word


My grandmother was a card shark.  Not that she would have appreciated being called one.  In her day, that usually meant someone who cheats at cards.  But usages change and words evolve.  Today, according to, among other sources, “card shark” (as opposed to “card sharp”) is generally understood to mean someone who’s skilled at playing cards and it no longer has a negative connotation.  I’m pretty sure my grandmother would appreciate the whole idea of words and phrases evolving over time, because, in that same positive sense of the term, she was a word … Continue reading The Last Word



After seeing Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, I’ve been on a Leonardo DiCaprio binge. Never mind that he still hasn’t won an Oscar, or that he wears white athletic socks with boat shoes–those topics are covered on BuzzFeed. What I want to mention here is an article I read about Leo in the May 2013 issue of Esquire, written by Tom Junod. I liked this article immediately, and not just for the obvious reasons. Junod’s intro drew me in with just enough detail and ambiguity about “a guy in a room” to carry me six … Continue reading Surprise

Struggling With Details? Try a Little DIRT CHURCH


 Each semester I look around the circle of young writers gathered for one of my writing workshops, smile, and say, “So I have a little homework assignment for y’all.” They always dutifully pick up their pens and start to open their notebooks, but I stop them, laughing, “You don’t need to write this down. I think you’ll remember.” I smile, lean forward, teasing them with a deliberate dramatic pause, and give them my favorite assignment ever. “I’m sending you to Dirt Church.” “What? Where?” Yep. Dirt Church. A phrase my mama used to describe her … Continue reading Struggling With Details? Try a Little DIRT CHURCH

“For Now, I’m Focusing on Fiction”


Katie Rogin’s wise, sad, absorbing story “Afternoon,” appears in our current issue.  She writes dialogue with such perfect pitch – revealing both what is spoken and what is left unspoken – that it was not surprising to learn that she honed this talent by writing for film and television.  And, that “Afternoon” might have become a play rather than a story – and may perhaps become a short film.  Rogin graciously agreed to answer our questions about how she writes – and what happens next:   When did it become clear to you that Afternoon … Continue reading “For Now, I’m Focusing on Fiction”

Poetry, Spirituality and Me


  In a dream, I’m running through a green meadow with my dog  when she turns to me and says “you must be yourself.”   My message in a bottle that floats from the invisible sea of mystery I call the unconscious. It might be the voice of God or as close as I can get to it.  My dreams often give this advice or I hear it from others.  But what does it mean to be myself?   My strong belief tells me I have a soul and that soul has a purpose, a … Continue reading Poetry, Spirituality and Me