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Sep. 19th, 2014

Letting Go

One of my morning rituals used to be opening Google Reader and scrolling through blog posts and other various feeds. Google Reader is now long gone, and even though I promptly switched to another service, these days I’m lucky if I check it once a week. Usually I’m so backlogged that I read a day’s worth of recent posts and then “Mark As Read” the rest.

This may have something to do with my own current lack of blogging practice. I started blogging in 2001 on my page at the MIT Media Lab. It’s been so long that I want to keep going, but I’m considering calling this one closed. At least for now. See — still having a hard time letting go!

Part of my lack of blogging is a matter of time. With a now 6-month old, I have to ruthlessly prioritize what I’m doing and be efficient about all of it. Thus far, blogging hasn’t made the cut. I think about potential posts — for example, we recently went to Greece for the first time! — but the experience ends up divided across other forms of social media.

Here I feel like I mostly write for myself, and I’ve lost a sense of what interests readers. If I do continue to post here, what would you like to read about?

— Life abroad/Travel?
— Link round ups to articles?
— Parenting/Education? (My husband was trying to convince me to write about this.)
— Personal?
— Reading?
— Writing/craft?

When time permits, I’m on Twitter. I find blog posts and articles that sound interesting through what my community there posts, and my reading has expanded because of that. I check Facebook. Despite my misgivings about the company, it’s my main way of staying in touch with extended family and friends from all walks of life.

On Facebook, I’m in several closed communities. We have discussions there that have helped me in real life so many times, from private parenting advice to practical tips for navigating life as an expat.

I write a newsletter that goes to family and friends. I read newsletters that friends send. I’m on a couple of private email lists that I can dip in and out of depending on time and availability. These communities don’t need my constant, active participation in order to exist and continue but accept the ebb and flow.

I’ve tried G+ and wanted to love it. The same goes for Tumblr, but I’m more of a retweeter than a reblogger. Pinterest was fun for the first several weeks, but it became irrelevant when I moved to Switzerland. I mostly used it for recipes, and I can’t find half of the ingredients here!

Recently, I joined Ello, which may end up filling my blogging void. Thus far, my community there is writing longer posts and tossing out ideas and questions for discussion. The people whom I’m following are making a conscious effort not to simply repost what’s already on Facebook or Twitter but to use the space in a new way. I appreciate that.

Now that I’ve posted my doubts about continuing to post here, I’ll probably end up doing it just to be contrary, but I would love feedback on which posts are the most interesting. And in case I don’t write for a while, please find me on other networks, and keep in touch!

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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Jul. 20th, 2014

Nonfiction Recommendations

I don’t usually read a lot of nonfiction, but a few friends have recently published books that I’ve loved and highly recommend!

It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens is a must read for anyone who has anything to do with teenagers: parents, teachers, YA writers. One of danah’s gifts is her ability to take complex ideas and interactions and communicate them simply. Another is her empathy. She’s a researcher, and she’s an excellent listener, so teens talk to her and she translates their practices and habits for adults, using her expertise in social software to analyze and contextualize what they do. In this book, danah discusses how technology fits into the lives of teens and unpacks common misconceptions by adults (and especially by the media). She covers everything from bullying to internet predators to basic social networking habits.

I’ve mentioned Olivia’s books before and linked to an interview about The Trip to Echo Spring. I’m going to steal from myself in describing this book:

Olivia writes a blend of biography, autobiography, criticism, and travelogue. In her latest book, The Trip to Echo Spring (which was short listed for the Costa), she writes about alcoholism and writing by looking at the lives of six alcoholic writers and her own family’s history of alcoholism. The bigger theme across her work is on loneliness, creativity, and transgression. She’s such a good writer because of her empathy — she gives full pictures of the people she’s portraying without pathologizing or deifying them.

The content is compelling, but the prose — Olivia’s sentences are simply spectacular.

Jordan is the math teacher we all wish we had. In part, I think this is because he’s also a writer. In How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, he presents several powerful ideas from math. He doesn’t work out many equations, but he doesn’t shy away from complex ideas, so this isn’t “math for dummies.” Instead, he presents his ideas alongside applications (like how to win the lottery or how to better shield airplanes for combat situations) and history. He’s also hilarious. My husband, who’s very smart but doesn’t have a strong math background, enjoyed this as much as I did. Jordan respects his readers’ intelligence and gives them both the gifts of math and of great stories.

Finally, H is for Hawk isn’t out yet — the UK release date is July 31st, and it comes out in the US on March 3rd — but it’s the book I most want to read. Helen is a falconer, wonderful human, and brilliant writer. Here’s the official blurb:

When Helen Macdonald’s father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer—Helen had been captivated by hawks since childhood—she’d never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk. But in her grief, she saw that the goshawk’s fierce and feral anger mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel, and turned to the guidance of The Sword and the Stone author T.H. White’s chronicle The Goshawk to begin her journey into Mabel’s world. Projecting herself “in the hawk’s wild mind to tame her” tested the limits of Macdonald’s humanity.

By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement; a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast; and the story of an eccentric falconer and legendary writer. Weaving together obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history, H is for Hawk is a distinctive, surprising blend of nature writing and memoir from a very gifted writer.

Reviews are coming out now, and the Financial Times ends its review with:

You can write from the head or from the heart, from the intellect or the emotions. The best kind of writing – and it is rare – does both those things at once. It’s rare because it can be so very painful to produce, the discipline required to sit with raw feelings and turn them into ordered words not unlike the courage it would take to hold your hand on a hot radiator until it burns, and then force it back there, again and again.

Macdonald has done just that, and the result is a deeply human work shot through, like cloth of gold, with intelligence and compassion – an exemplar of the mysterious alchemy by which suffering can be transmuted into beauty. I will be surprised if a better book than H is for Hawk is published this year.

Needless to say, I’ve preordered from the UK!

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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May. 26th, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

My VCFA classmate, Sarah Tomp, tagged me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour. I’ve been reading my way back through the chain of posts and have loved finding out about what people are working on and how they approach their writing, and I’m excited to reflect on my process and work, as well. Thanks for thinking of me, Sarah!

You can read Sarah’s post here. Her YA novel My Best Everything comes out next year and is about love and moonshine (yes, making and selling it)!. Unexpected combination, right? Her new project, which she describes in her process post, sounds similarly compelling. Sarah’s bright with a big heart, and that permeates all of her writing. I’m looking forward to her novel’s release.

This blog tour is a little unusual in that instead of writers visiting each other’s blogs, the questions move from one person to the next. Sarah tagged two people, and I’ll continue the tour by tagging two more at the end of my post.

Now for the questions…

1.     What am I working on?

I have two complete YA novels, one that I’m actively revising while the other simmers. The active project is a contemporary, realistic novel called Lifeline. The background novel is a genre piece set in an alternate version of our world. It’s called Darkness and was my MFA thesis novel, although I’ve rewritten it since graduation.

2.     How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Lifeline is about a second generation Bengali girl, but it isn’t about being Bengali. The main character also has two parents who are alive and not evil — rare in children’s literature! Mostly it’s about two girls who are best friends, and they love each other as best friends do. The problems in their relationship don’t come from a fight or falling out but mental illness and a desire to protect each other from what’s going wrong in their respective worlds.

I mentioned above that Darkness is set in an alternate version of our world. Steampunk is based on the idea that at one point in history, technology development took a different direction than what actually happened. Instead of electricity, the world is powered by steam. The entire genre is based on that “What if?” The world in Darkness takes another moment in history and applies the same, “What if __ had happened instead?” and is developed from there. As far as I know, no one has picked this moment and built a world around it…

3.     Why do I write what I do?

It took me a while to find the right form for my writing. When I was in school, I loved fantasy and mostly wrote stories with fantastic elements. I got into poetry as a high school sophomore and concentrated on that through college and into grad school. I was doing research in education when a colleague (well, more of a colleague of my adviser) asked me about my writing and interests and suggested I try YA. He worked with kids in prison and had been reading the books that resonated with them and had been impressed by the YA novels he’d read. I was skeptical — I wanted to be a “serious” writer — so he told me to keep an open mind and sent me a couple of books. I tore through them, remembered the YA novels that had meant so much to me when I was in school, and started to read everything I could to learn about what was possible and what had been done.

YA novels provide the right space for the questions I want to explore. Teens ask big questions and have big problems without necessarily having the support or resources to work through them, and adolescence is when people really start to figure out who they are and who they want to be — a perfect age for every kind of fiction.

Although Lifeline and Darkness are completely different novels, the questions driving them are related:

— How do I survive when the people I care about most are falling apart?
— How do I survive when the world is dangerous and I’m afraid of myself?

4.     How does your writing process work?

When I first started to work on novels, I was a plunger, not a plotter. I thought creativity meant diving into things and figuring them out along the way. This worked for poetry, but after throwing out 200 pages of a novel that I’d already started over three times, I decided to give outlining a chance and was amazed to discover how much work I could save myself simply by thinking through the story before writing it. (I know, right?)

Now I have long planning stages before I write. I “doodle” characters and scenes in my journal. Usually I have one big idea or scene — the climax or some pivotal moment — and then I try to figure out how the characters reach that point. I also tend to have a character or a relationship in mind as I start doodling. Once I have a strong sense of the characters and a general idea of their trajectories, I open up Scrivener and start to outline on notecards.

Depending on the novel, this part can vary. Darkness has three distinct parts, and the outline reflects that. Lifeline has several threads that I wove together and track through color coding Once I have an outline, I print it out and try to find holes, essentially critiquing the outline the way I would a novel. I also map the scenes to a calendar to make sure the timeline works and to see if anything interesting pops up from the dates, from weather variation to holidays, that can serve the plot.

Once I’ve revised the outline as thoroughly as I can, I write. This goes quickly. I wrote the first draft of Lifeline in nine days. I knew where I was going and pushed through a full draft while my husband was on a trip. I led a feral existence for as long as it took to write, grazing and scavenging for food instead of eating proper meals, and sleeping as needed, mostly through naps, so that I could immerse myself in this world.

I let completed drafts sit for a few days (a week if I’m disciplined) before printing out a hardcopy for a read through and initial critique. I repeat the process of questioning the manuscript and characters, switch to the outline, revise the outline based on my notes, and then revise the manuscript.

At this point, my process becomes less extreme. I take several weeks to plan a revision and will take a month or two to write, usually working through a scene per day. I don’t write every day — I need both thinking days and inspiration days to recharge. When I’ve done as much work on a draft as I can on my own, I send it to beta readers for feedback, and this usually sparks another round of questions, outlining, and revision.

Now that I have an almost 3-month old, I won’t be able to draft an entire novel in a week and a half — I have to take care of him even if not myself! — but I expect to continue to alternate quick drafting with slow thinking and planning. One thing that has already changed — I’ve been switching between devices more often and wrote this blog post on my husband’s old iPad in Evernote I expect I’ll be writing more on the go and whenever I can, so I’ll probably take notes digitally instead of on paper so that I can find them more easily.

Outlining turned out to be one of the most creative parts of the process for me, which initially took me by surprise. I daydream scenes and possibilities, jot notes, and then imagine other paths for my characters. I don’t always stick to my outlines —sometimes as I’m writing, the scene comes out differently from what I’d planned —but I always take a step back and think the story through to the end before I begin writing again. I’ve learned that I’d rather toss out a 5-page outline than a 200-page draft!

Up next:

For more process posts, please visit Gwenda Bond and Stephanie Burgis’s blogs next week!

Gwenda and I overlapped as students at VCFA. We shared an adviser her first and my final semester. She’s a fabulous writer with impeccable taste in books. Her third book, Girl on a Wire, is coming out this fall. I tagged Gwenda because she loves to talk shop. In addition to her work as a journalist, Gwenda has written three incredibly different books and collaborated with her husband on a fourth. I’d love to know more about how she tackles such diverse projects.

I’ve gotten to know Steph through blogs and social media, and she’s a wonderfully warm person and excellent writer. I love her middle grade magical Regency books and can’t wait for her novella about grown up Kat. I also tagged Steph for selfish reasons. She’s the mother of two young children — a toddler and a baby — and yet she’s one of the most consistently productive writers I know. I have no idea how she juggles everything, but she’s great at all of it, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about how she does it.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

May. 12th, 2014

Writing Diverse Characters

Over the past several weeks, there’s been an ongoing conversation about diversity in children’s literature, thanks in part to a BookCon panel of literary luminaries comprising all white men, which is particularly egregious in a female dominated field. At the beginning of this month, that discussion moved to Twitter under the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks:

As a writer of South Asian descent, I’ve thought a lot about diversity in literature. Growing up, I read almost no books in which characters looked like me, and when they did, they were usually trying to reconcile their Indian and American heritages. I didn’t like these books. Sure, they were a necessary step in multicultural literature, but to me, they were irrelevant. The presented a false dichotomy; my identity was much more complicated than two traits. Even worse: these books bored me. I liked adventures and mysteries, fantasy and science fiction. I had more in common with Meg Murry, who tessered to other planets, than with these characters who were supposed to represent me.

Later, when I began to write, I felt like I HAD to write about “multicultural” characters. (I’m struggling with vocabulary here — I don’t like the phrase “person of color” — UGH — and multicultural is similarly problematic — might as well say “other,” which assumes that there’s a default.) Because of my family background, it was my duty to try to fill in some underrepresented voices. But there’s nothing worse than writing out of a sense of obligation for the writer, the reader, and the story itself.

I believe that all writers should be able to write about any character or setting. That’s the work of writing: to have the empathy to create life and meaning from words. Women and men should be able to write point of view characters that don’t match their gender. A second generation South Asian American woman should be able to write a white male character, and the reverse should also be possible.

But there is a caveat.

Dominant voices, such as those of white men in the West, have historically silenced other perspectives and had their own privileged. Because of this, it’s especially important for those with dominant voices to be careful and respectful when portraying underrepresented ones. This goes for men writing women, whites writing non-whites, straight people writing gay characters, the wealthy writing about the poor – and so on. There simply aren’t enough visible examples of underrepresented voices to balance mistakes and misrepresentations, especially when made by those with authority.

The following are a few tips for writing underrepresented voices, although they could apply to writing any character:

1. Do your research. Google is your friend. The library is your friend. Wikipedia is often a false friend, but the references are usually a decent starting point. Learn about the people you’re writing about. What would your character eat for dinner? Which holidays does she celebrate? What does he wear around the house? This kind of research is basic and the bare minimum for creating a character whose background differs from yours.

2. Talk to the people you’re writing about. Oftentimes when researching, you won’t know which questions to ask, and conversations can reveal unexpected details that make characters feel authentic. People inside a community can explain stereotypes, common beliefs, and misconceptions. This is an important step in understanding both boundaries and worldview.

3. Read books by the people you’re writing about. First, you’ll get a sense of voice. Second, you’ll start to understand range and see where there’s commonality across background and sensibility and where artistic choice and individual experience come into play. See what has already been written and think about how your work fits into this larger body of work. Are you adding to it? Casting it in a new light? Are you repeating something that has already been done, and if so, why?

4. Have multiple readers vet your text. This is the best way to prevent inauthentic writing. Readers from within a group can flag anything that doesn’t ring true. It’s important to have multiple readers, however, to account for individual experience. If multiple people say something sounds wrong, you know you need to edit. Your readers don’t have to be writers, of course, but as with good critique partners, you want people who will read critically and give constructive feedback.

I no longer worry about my obligations as a writer from an underrepresented group because I realized that whatever I write, whether contemporary, realistic fiction or genre fiction, I populate it with diverse characters. They don’t have to share my background in order to be shaped by my worldview: that diversity makes the world rich and creates opportunities for misunderstanding, conflict, learning, and growth — essentials for any compelling story.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

Mar. 11th, 2014


I gave birth exactly one week ago (happy one week birthday, baby!), and as it’s taken this long to post a blog update… well, I expect to be on a blog hiatus for a while longer.

I’m on and off Twitter and Facebook, which are currently the best ways to reach me. Email is backlogged and probably will be for some time. The first set of grandparents will arrive next week, so we’re enjoying some family time that’s rare given distance!


Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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Feb. 9th, 2014

Weekend Catch Up

I haven’t posted Friday link round-ups in two weeks. I’ve been in thinking and journaling but not blogging mode.

One highlight from the past two weeks: A & I went to Zurich to see our first opera. We picked a good one — Handel’s Alcina starring Cecilia Bartoli. While it was cool to see her live, she actually wasn’t my favorite performer. She didn’t sing out as much as the others, so while she had the richest, most complex voice, she held back as if trying to save it. She was good, but a couple of the performers went all out and were fantastic. The first act sets were also really fun — multi-level structures that moved. Opera’s supposed to be spectacle, and this one had the plot of a Shakespearean comedy, so it was fun. I don’t think A & I realized it until the second day, but we really needed a weekend away in a city where we could just go to a show and eat good food and chill out for a bit.

And now, here’s some of what I’ve been reading over the past two weeks that have been making me think:

1) On gender — This is an older piece (from 1993) called “Marked Women, Unmarked Men” (via Debcha) that describes how every aspect of a woman’s appearance comes across as a statement (long & short hair both mean something, wearing makeup and not wearing it both mean something, etc.). However, men can have “unmarked” states and only become significant when they somehow break the default (ex: hair dye or piercings). As a counterpoint, here’s an opinion piece on how “There’s no such thing as a ‘real man’.” The default definitions of masculinity are damaging to both men and women.

2) Race/culture — “For the first time, a majority of American children under age 2 are now children of color  — and 1 in 3 of them is poor.” I’m fascinated by the changing demographics in the US and what they mean and also horrified by the extent of poverty today in a country that’s supposed to be the land of opportunity. On the culture side, Tiger Mom Amy Chua is back with a new book, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America, which she co-wrote with her husband. I thought this piece in Time Magazine about cultural exceptionalism and racism did a good job of deconstructing some of the issues (via Amitha Knight & Mitali Perkins).

3) Literature & Elitism — Speaking of elitism, Eleanor Catton, the 28-year-old who won the Booker Prize for her book The Luminaries, wrote about the relationship between readers and writers and consumerism. Is it snobby to use difficult language? Does that limit audience? Does it matter if readers are turned off? This isn’t a new discussion, and it always reminds me of one of my favorite professors, the poet Geoffrey Hill (currently Oxford’s Professor of Poetry) who’s infamous for writing “difficult” poetry. He argues that difficulty is democratic while oversimplification is tyrannical. From a spectacular Paris Review interview on writing, democracy, self-knowledge, and criticism:

We are difficult. Human beings are difficult. We’re difficult to ourselves, we’re difficult to each other. And we are mysteries to ourselves, we are mysteries to each other. One encounters in any ordinary day far more real difficulty than one confronts in the most “intellectual” piece of work. Why is it believed that poetry, prose, painting, music should be less than we are? Why does music, why does poetry have to address us in simplified terms, when if such simplification were applied to a description of our own inner selves we would find it demeaning? I think art has a right—not an obligation—to be difficult if it wishes. And, since people generally go on from this to talk about elitism versus democracy, I would add that genuinely difficult art is truly democratic. And that tyranny requires simplification.

Can you see why I loved his class?

4) Moving from one terrific interview to another, Buzzfeed of all places did a terrific interview with author Olivia Laing, whom I’ve mentioned several times as a brilliant writer (and not just because she’s a friend!). Olivia writes a blend of biography, autobiography, criticism, and travelogue. In her latest book, The Trip to Echo Spring (which was short listed for the Costa), she writes about alcoholism and writing by looking at the lives of six alcoholic writers and her own family’s history of alcoholism. The bigger theme across her work is on loneliness, creativity, and transgression, which is the focus of this interview. She’s such a good writer because of her empathy — she gives full pictures of the people she’s portraying without pathologizing or deifying them. Anyway, it’s a brilliant interview, and her books are even better, so check them out!

All right, now I can close tabs and start the week with a clean slate :) Hope it’s been a good weekend!


Originally published at You can comment here or there.

Jan. 24th, 2014

Friday Five — Empathy Edition

Last week I posted about the Kellers, who decided to use a specific cancer patient’s use of social networking as hooks for their respective thought pieces. Both faced a huge backlash for singling out one person and treating her rather carelessly in their attempts to write about a broader trend.

This week brought another story with a similar backlash, and three of my five links pertain to it. Grantland published a long feature called “Dr. V’s Magical Putter: The remarkable story behind a mysterious inventor who built a ‘scientifically superior’ golf club.” The story begins as a review of a cool new putter that then turns into an investigation of the inventor and an exposé of her life. The reporter discovered that the inventor’s credentials were false and then found out that she was a transgender woman. Dr. V. committed suicide before the piece was published. This is mentioned in the essay, but the reporter’s potential role in her death was not addressed, so it came across as an irresponsible piece of “gotcha” journalism in which Dr. V’s trans identity was equated with professional fraud.

The writer and Grantland both faced a massive backlash for outing a trans woman to an investor, for then outing her to the public, and for general lack of empathy. Maria Dahvana Headley wrote an excellent blog post describing what went wrong in the reporter’s handling of “a hostile subject”: SINATRA’S COLD IS CONTAGIOUS: Hostile Subjects, Vulnerable Sources & The Ethics of Outing. Mostly she focuses on the importance of Subject vs. Story. Writers are often told that Story reigns supreme, but this is false. Stories have real consequences, and writers must treat their subjects with empathy and care.

The editor of Grantland wrote a long, reflective piece about what happened and what exactly went wrong in The Dr. V Story: A Letter From the Editor: How “Dr. V’s Magical Putter” came to be published. Essentially, none of the story’s editors or readers knew anything about the trans community and the problems they face, and no one made an effort to do basic research or to vet the article. This was a fundamental problem of privilege — those who had it didn’t see the potential effects of their actions on someone with far less privilege.

This week and last have highlighted how crucial it is to have empathy when writing. In fact, empathy leads to nuance, which makes for a better story. People aren’t all good or all bad. We all have faults and flaws and goodness, and that’s what’s interesting. Saying that a cancer patient tweets too much and should die with silent grace is far less interesting than trying to understand why she tweets and why someone else might prefer not to (besides the former being completely judgmental, and who’s the writer to say what’s appropriate?). So this is my call for greater empathy both in writing and in daily interactions.

And now to completely change the subject for my final links –

Romance writer Courtney Milan wrote an excellent post on print sales of historical romance, and she unpacks several issues that affect print sales, especially for minority writers. This is pure publishing biz geekery with real numbers. Good stuff. (via Gwenda Bond)

And the art kick-off for the weekend — old Media Lab friend Scott Eaton art directed a piece for the Olympic Games at Sochi that’s being called “a Mount Rushmore of the digital age.” Click through for some spectacular pictures.

Happy weekend!


Originally published at You can comment here or there.

Jan. 17th, 2014

Friday Five – Crit Edition

What an exhausting week! Lots of running around — we’ve rearranged and reorganized almost the entire flat (my desk is next on my list). The frantic activity makes up for our week of sleeping/catching up, but man am I wiped. Someday, a balance will be found.

I read a couple of interesting pieces this week that all take apart assumptions about writing. It’s not quite lit crit — more a combination of writing + cultural criticism and sharp observation:

1) People always criticize Mary Sue characters. This Tumblr post looks at wish fulfillment and power fantasy characters and unpacks differences in how male and female characters are treated.

2) Laurie Penny looks at retellings of Sherlock Holmes through the lens of fan fiction. She specifically examines why some stories (like Elementary or the BBC Sherlock series) are considered valid retellings while fan fiction often gets mocked. Hint: it has to do with who’s writing the fiction — white men vs. “others.”

3) Justine Larbalestier takes apart the notion that characters have to be likeable. She says that the likeability criterion is most often applied to female and YA characters.

4) Last week social media blew up about columns by the Kellers, high-powered husband and wife writers who decided to use a particular cancer patient’s social media practices as the inspiration for their critical thought pieces. Many people have written excellent follow ups about where the Kellers went wrong, but I particularly liked Linda Holmes’ reflection on how the Kellers misunderstood social media itself and the difference between publishing and Publishing.

5) To balance out some of these heavier pieces of criticism, here are some lovely photos a Russian mother took of her sons with animals. They’re pretty magical.

Happy weekend!


Originally published at You can comment here or there.

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Jan. 10th, 2014

Friday Five

Well, we’re back in Switzerland, and my was it a hectic trip! Both A & my families were in Boston (Andrew’s parents live there, but his siblings all came in, and my parents flew up), so we bounced from one family thing to another and also had a few meetings scheduled while in town. We spent a couple of nights at a friend’s in Cambridge, which was lovely, and had a couple of meet-ups with friends and had a lovely New Year’s Eve. All in all, it was a wonderful but exhausting trip. Since we returned Monday afternoon, we’ve been catching up on email (and doctors’ appointments for me) and sleeping!

We were mostly offline for the trip — we didn’t bother with local SIM cards or anything, so we were online iff we had wifi access on our phones, and that was a good mental break for me. And that means I didn’t read much and lost track of the news catastrophe of the day.

So that means today’s link roundup is a little different — it’s a little more random.

1) Twitter friend Olivia Laing is on book tour! I can’t recommend enough that you go check out her work. Her first book, To the River, was excellent, and her second, The Trip to Echo Spring, has been getting rave reviews from everyone. Seriously. Nick Cave, Hilary Mantel, The NYTimes Book Review, Vanity Fair, People magazine — everyone. She was also shortlisted for the Costa. She’s currently on tour in the US. The schedule is here. For a taste of her writing, here’s an essay she wrote for Aeon Magazine on loneliness in NY.

2) I thought this art installation was pretty cool — “A Giant Twisting Serpent Skeleton Emerges from the Loire River in France” (via Scott Eaton)

3) This is a long but excellent read on women and internet harassment, “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet.” File under awful but important.

4) For some gorgeous art, check out Shelley Jackson‘s current work in progress, which is a story written in snow. Shelley wrote the children’s book Mimi’s Dada Catifesto (among others) and did an earlier story via words tattooed on volunteers.

5) And for all of the parents of small children out there, this one is so terrible but so true: Hello Stranger On the Street, Could You Please Tell Me How to Take Care of My Baby?

And on that note, happy weekend! And happy new year!


Originally published at You can comment here or there.

Dec. 18th, 2013

Pre-holiday madness!

I’d been planning to take next week and the week after “off” from blogging, but my hiatus seems to have begun early — too busy trying to finish projects before we head home for the holidays!

Yes, we are off to the States for the first time in a year and a half, and all of our family are coming in. The trip will be packed and totally crazy, and we’re really looking forward to seeing our various tribes. Of course wrapping stuff up before we head out takes more time than expected (especially as I’m still trying to finish up some Christmas prezzies — ack!).

I am mostly offline this week as I’m alternating between crafting and errands. The good part is that I’m plugged into audiobooks, so I’m catching up on some reading while running around.

Email is the best way to reach me until Jan. 6. I’m not sure yet if I’m going to get a local SIM in the US or if I’m even going to take my laptop, so I may have a few weeks of wifi-only phone access which, honestly, sounds pretty good right about now.

Happy holidays!


Originally published at You can comment here or there.


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September 2014



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