The Giving Tree: A (half-century late) Review

So I’ve been co-hosting a monthly reading series in Chicago – Tuesday Funk – and as part of my co-hosting duties, I read very short “micro-essays” every month. Or, well, almost every month. I’m not much of a non-fiction writer…writing personal essays gives me the willies. So that seemed like a good enough reason to do it. Why not talk about personal stuff to a bunch of strangers every month?

Anyway, most of the time, I read the essay and then promptly bury it on my hard drive, but this month, my co-host Andrew Huff asked if I would post it on Gapers Block, his Chicago-centric blog extraordinaire. And since it’s already out there, I figured I might as well post it here too.

I give you… my musings on the 50th anniversary of The Giving Tree.

Oh and while I have you here… if you’re in Chicago on October 25th, won’t you come see me perform a two minute answer to the question “How do you do?”

Some new stories you can read!

What’s that? Only eight months since my last blog? I think I’m getting good at this.

Actually, feel free to skim. This is just another boring update.

I’ve got new stories published! Check out “Cape to Cairo” at Apex Magazine #61… and if that’s not enough of me, here’s an interview.

Folks seem to like it too. Here are some reviews!

And over at Shimmer, you can buy the whole Issue 20 for a measly $2.99… and the cheapskates amongst you can now read my story, “Ellie and Jim vs. Tony the Nose” for free.

Update: A nice review!

Some small newses

I’ve noticed a lot of people coming to my website in search of my recipe for chicken hearts. And by a lot, I mean at least two or three. Who knows what desires lurk in the hearts of Googlers?

Anyway. A couple brief notes for those not looking to fry chicken hearts (but you should anyway, they’re actually pretty tasty):

1) As of January, I will be taking over as co-host of my favorite Chicago live lit series (but perhaps I’m biased) — Tuesday Funk. I’m devastated to witness the end of the Bill Shunn era, and I hope to do his legacy justice.

2. Another story of mine, “Cape to Cairo” (a Clarion West 2008 creation), will be available for public consumption sometime mid-2014… this time in the gorgeously weird Apex Magazine. I’m sure I’ll make another brief list of updates when that one comes out.



The Clarion West Write-a-Thon and some other stuff

Am I the only one who feels mocked by the comment spam that talks about how great my posts are? Anyway.

I am, as ever, trying to figure out what to do with this site and also keeping it as a sort of placeholder. My apologies to all ye searching for smoothie recipes (quite a number of you, as it turns out).

But in the meanwhile, it’s probably worth mentioning that I’m doing the Clarion West Write-a-Thon again this year… a worthy organization that is RIGHT NOW training the future writers you’ll love. Doesn’t that deserve your hard-earned cash? You can find my page here.

But in case your fingers are too tired to click right now, the brief rundown is that I will be writing the first 50 pages of my new novel, a weird Western tentatively entitled As Big as the West. This novel features a transgendered cowboy, a family of Jewish homesteaders, an epidemic of ghosts, and Teddy Roosevelt. For the first time ever, I have completed an outline, and wouldn’t you know, with that in my back pocket, the writing has been going swimmingly. In the first week of the Write-a-Thon, I’ve already chalked up 5000 words/20 pages. Not too shabby.

And since I’m already here, how about a bit of unrelated weirdness? I applied for a job at, and part of the application was giving those fine folks three ideas for their online word-related slideshows. You know, a little bit of a good-faith effort to show you’re not a one-trick pony. Well, I did not get the job, but apparently my ideas are stellar since one of them (English words you didn’t know were actually Yiddish) was yoinked from my application and is currently and prominently on display on their main page. So. Caveat job searcher. Apparently some folks are so lacking in ideas, they’ll steal yours straight off your unsuccessful job application. Gross.

But, to end on a (yet another unrelated) high note, I’ll be doing  another reading! This time at Tuesday Funk, my personal favorite reading series in Chicago, though maybe that’s the booze speaking. July 2nd, 7:30, bring your drinking pants. And your listening shirt.



I was a voracious reader long, long before I ever wrote stories of my own. I was hooked from my first encounter with Go Dog, Go. I used to win public library summer reading contests (the prizes for which were always more books) and classroom contests designed to get non-readers to read (I was never very popular). Writing a good story always seemed so impossibly mystical that it never even occurred to me to try it until my early 20s. Those first stories were wretched — let us never speak of them again.

But the point is, the more I started to write, the less and less I read.  Not because I didn’t want to or because I was worried about copying, but because I became a jaded, hard-to-please reader. I’m not entirely clear on when this happened or how, or even what I can do to make it stop, but I’m ashamed to say it has become very very difficult for me to get through a novel. The reason I started writing is because I love reading, so what does this mean? I shudder to think.

Historically, I have had a couple of emergency books I could go to when the non-reading got really bad. Books I know I love and that inspire me. But — I don’t know. My reading ennui is turning into one of those antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. Sometimes, even the books I love can’t keep me interested. Which is why, when I started today to reread The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor (by John Barth), I was relieved. Because this book is amazing, and inspiring, and I’m getting to enjoy it again… I may be a little more jaded this time, but I’m going to think of it as an ability to read with a slightly different perspective. I love this book. You should read it. And, now that I’m back on the reading wagon, I want to know what you (if there are any yous out there anymore) reread when you need inspiration. I need more books to add to this pitifully short list.

Coming down the pipeline

Both metaphoric and… hyperbolic?

First, metaphoric: lots of things have been going on. The biggest (and most nerve-wracking) being a new job that I’m starting a week from today. No more dildo-slinging for me, unfortunately, though once a dildo-slinger, always a dildo-slinger, I think.  I hope to still be a presence at the store in some capacity, but we’ll have to see how the new schedule works out. More on that soon. I’m also working on several projects; none of them finished.

Basically, I’m trying to justify these months of not blogging. Particularly since it was one of my New Years Resolutions. Why is this so hard for me?

Second: Hyperbolic. For your entertainment, a conversation I overheard at the coffee shop today:

A lady is talking to her friend about how dolphins are higher beings and how after the BP oil spill they committed suicide on purpose (porpoise? ba dum bum), washing up on shore to make a point to humans that we’re too attached to oil.

The other lady says: “You’ve never heard of that?”

First lady says: “I’ve heard of it, just never thought of it like that. Maybe I was just unawakened or unenlightened that it never appeared to me that way.”

Dolphins as martyrs to teach humans a lesson about energy consumption? Discuss.

One is better than two?

My excuse for not blogging is that… you can’t be in two places at once?

Check me out as I intermittently guest blog over the next couple of weeks for the fabulous Jeff Vandermeer… Maybe the practice will help me get going here too.


So I’m reading John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, which is kind of like Ender’s Game meets Cocoon meets, I dunno, The Matrix. In a good way. Anyway, I just came across this line:

“…there was talk of naming the colony Eden, but it was suggested that such a name was karmically tantamount to asking for trouble.”

I often find my name used as metaphor in stories, but this is my favorite.