Best American Essays 2017

I was at work yesterday, eating lunch with my colleagues, when I get a message over FB messenger from my friend Randon, an essayists work I deeply admire and whose friendship I deeply value, that said: YOU ARE A NOTABLE IN THIS YEARS BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS. 

I immediately started weeping. The next thing I did was disbelieve and started searching for proof. When I found it I started weeping again. 

Image: [Cover of Best American Essays 2017, ed., Leslie Jamison]

Image: [Cover of Best American Essays 2017, ed., Leslie Jamison]

The essay is called "Infirmary Music" and it's the basis for Chapter 8 of my memoir, This Is My Body. It was published by the Literary Review in their summer 2016 issue.  

Sometimes you work your ass off for a long time and you hustle and you keep hustling and sometimes really wonderful, truly amazing things happen. This is one of them!


Wallace Stevens wrote, "After the final no there comes a yes/ and on that yes the future world depends."



New Covers Record Takes on the Patriarchy


I am in the process of recording a covers album of 80s pop songs, songs originally recorded by male artists. I am doing this for a few reasons. 1) After two years in an MFA program in Creative Writing, I needed to make music. Hard. 2) I wanted to make music I loved as a girl, and turn it into music I could love as a woman. I learned about love by listening to the radio. I would wait, tape player poised, finger hovering over play and record, to record my favorite songs. When I thought about the boy I had a crush on, I tried to understand him through the lens of the lyrics of songs I loved. For better or worse, I was looking for wisdom in those lyrics, and I think I still am. In the process those words became embedded in my long term memory. When I am a very old woman I will likely know the lyrics to "Pictures of You" better than I will know my own family. This is the way the mind works.

In this new album project I wanted to take those lyrics and make them mean something from my perspective. Most of them are about men pining for a woman, often for a woman who may or may not be mentally stable. In other words, the meta-narrative of many pop songs from the 80s performed by men, is of mental illness in women. It's such a cultural trope, the crazy ex-girlfriend, we don't even think of it as derogatory. The wildly jealous, driven-mad-by-love woman, or the frosty, pure, and untouchable angel who is emotionally unavailable. Or, if you're in a video by The Cure, she may be unavailable because she may actually be dead, or at least, a ghost. There is not a lot of agency for the woman in either of those fantasies. I'm interested in taking that agency back.

I hope you'll pre-order the album. It's the best music I've ever made.



Teaching Spiritual Memoir through Inprint this Fall


Because wonders never cease, as I was wrapping up my last graduate workshop for my Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and beginning to contemplate how I was going to pay off my student loans, I was offered the extraordinary opportunity to teach spiritual memoir this fall. Inprint is "Houston's premier literary non profit," and is the organization responsible for bringing the likes of Jonathan Franzen, Karen Russell, Salman Rushdie, Sandra Cisneros, and others, to town. I'm a Mary Karr super fan, and she is coming to do a reading through Inprint, in partnership with the new Hines Center for Spirituality and Prayer. To expand on this partnership the two organizations are offering spiritual memoir workshops, and that's where I come in.

Teaching a workshop like this is exactly what I had hoped to be able to do, someday, with my degree. This soon (I graduated twelve days ago) is really too good to be true. All that to say, I am grateful, and excited. The workshop is small, I think there are 11 spots.

I would love to see some of you fine folks fill them.

Here's the link:

On Obsession, Addiction, and Provision


  I was invited to deliver the homily (gasp!) at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Houston, Texas, on Sunday, July 26. This is what I said:

When I was eighteen, on a hot summer day in Austin, Texas, I met a boy-- a sandy haired, green-eyed musician. And I fell madly in love. The truth is I didn’t really meet this boy before I fell in love with him. I saw him. I saw him loading gear into a van that his band was packing up for a show, and I knew, at that moment, that he was for me. I didn’t know his name. I didn’t know his story. But something struck me when I saw him, and it didn’t let me go. When we hear the story of David and Bathsheba, and we come to that line about David watching Bathsheba bathing on the roof, we know that he was struck, too. Let’s try to separate ourselves from what we know happens in that story, the tragedy that quickly follows, and instead look at the beginning. Can you relate?

Maybe it was the first time you laid eyes on your spouse, or maybe it was the first time you saw someone who would later break your heart, but I’ll guess most of us have had some experience with this feeling of being struck, being mesmerized by another person. It took about ten years before the musician and I finally got together. A lot of back and forth, and throughout that time, I pined. I whined. I cried. I was “obsessed.” I complained to my friends, and I listened, on repeat to a song that I bet many of you know—Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen (but of course, Jeff Buckley's version.) Long before I considered myself a spiritual person, before I knew the story of David & Bathsheba I knew this song, and I could relate. At 18, romantic obsession was something I understood - and that song, and that story, is about romantic obsession gone terrible wrong. Romantic love is so tricky because so often we experience Gods love through other people. We get a glimpse of Gods love when we love someone else, so when we fall head over heels in love it feels divine, doesn't it? What could possibly go wrong?

For the last 25 years, in one way or another, I've been a part of the 12-step recovery community. The fellowship I've found there has helped me through some rough times and it has allowed me to face parts of myself that I otherwise wouldn't face. Lately, I've been hearing a lot about the ways that our relationships, romantic and otherwise, can become a kind of addiction. Drugs, alcohol, even gambling- it's easy to see how folks could need help getting a hold of those addictions. But what about love? Can we be addicted to love, like another famous song those of us who were around in the 80s might remember? A definition of addiction I like explains it this way: Addiction is something we use to relieve an uncomfortable feeling. It’s something we go to again and again, to avoid feeling something we just don’t want to feel. Maybe I’m sad, and I eat when I’m sad. Maybe you’re nervous, and you smoke when you’re nervous. Maybe I’m lonely, and when I’m lonely I go looking for another person to relieve my loneliness.

What we see in the scriptures is a beloved King, beloved by God and Israel (his people,) standing on the edge of a major addiction episode. Maybe it’s the guilt David feels for not being in battle with his troops (we know it was the time of year when kings were at war, but David was not.) Maybe it’s the sense of isolation that his fame and acclaim have resulted in. Whatever emptiness he was feeling, when David sees Bathsheba, all of that disappears. Rather than face the discomfort, and look honestly at himself, he avoids it-- as I have, as many of us do. David's addiction wasn't alcohol or drugs or money or even power. It was love. David had Gods love, had Israel’s love, he had it all. But he needed more. Why?

This is where I want to take a left turn and I’ll ask you to make this leap with me, and look at the passage we read today from John. We so often look at this passage and read it as simply about material provision. As being about God providing food, or money, or shelter when we need it. And it is about that. But in this context, I read this passage as a metaphor for God himself. God is saying "I know that you’re sad, but I am enough. I know that you’re lonely, but I am enough. I know the hole in your heart feels like a hungry mob. But I am enough. I know that it feels like this fear, or this sadness or whatever it is, is going to swallow you whole, but I am here, and I am enough." Saint Augustine of Hippo also knew a little bit about romantic obsession. This prayer is known as the Love Canticle, and is taken from his Confessions: What do I love when I love my God? What is it then that I love when I love you? Not bodily beauty, and not temporal glory, not the clear shining light, lovely as it is to our eyes, not the sweet melodies of many-moded songs, not the soft smell of flowers and ointments and perfumes, not manna and honey, not limbs made for the body’s embrace, not these do I love when I love my God.

Yet I do love a certain light, a certain voice, a certain odor, a certain food, a certain embrace when I love my God: a light, a voice, an odor, a food, an embrace for my inner-self, where his light, which no embrace can contain, floods into my soul; where he utters words that time does not speed away; where he sends forth an aroma that no wind can scatter; where he provides food that no eating can lessen; where he so clings that satiety does not sunder us. This is what I love when I love my God."

I know that you’re sad. And I am enough. I know that you’re lonely. And I am enough. I know that the hole in your heart sometimes feels like an angry mob. And I am enough. I know it feels like this fear, or this sadness, or whatever it is is going to swallow you whole. But I am here. And I am enough.


Find my writing here.

I've finally gotten myself a blog. Welcome me to the 21st century. I did this a few times before but I think I'd prefer to pretend those are buried deep in the Internet, never to be heard from again. I plan to use this as a place to post essays and articles, so I invite you to visit if you are interested in what I am writing these days.

Thanks for visiting.