The Good Stuff
"joy is an act of resistance"
My last post ended with a beauty emergency—my term for something you have to stop and pay attention to right at that moment, because it’s fleeting—and this post will begin with another. The news has been relentlessly heartbreaking, so I’ll take reminders of beauty and wonder where and when I can.
Luckily, they’re everywhere.
My son Rhett noticed one the other morning, while brushing his teeth and looking out the bathroom window, and I captured two with my iPhone camera this week. I hope you’ve caught some, too.
As I walk around my neighborhood, clearing my head, paying attention to the leaves changing and the shifts in light, I’m almost always listening to music. Right now I’m loving Fish Bowl by Kate Davis; Javelin, the new Sufjan Stevens record, which will break your heart in the best way; and the new Lydia Loveless record, which is SO GOOD. (If you can catch her on tour, you absolutely should. I went to a secret show recently in Columbus to see her play songs off the new record, and she was terrific live.)
If you’re in the mood to listen to a podcast on one of your walks, I had a terrific conversation with Brooke Warner of She Writes and Grant Faulkner of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for Write-minded: Weekly Inspiration for Writers. The three of us geeked out about narrative and narration, and taking risks as a storyteller, so if that’s your thing, I hope you’ll listen.
This month I spent some glorious hours inside Charif Shanahan’s astonishing book of poems, Trace Evidence, which you should read, listen to, or (ideally) both. Also, in preparation to teach a workshop on memory as material, I dipped back into a terrific anthology of flash nonfiction published in Brevity. My friend Marisa Renee Lee’s book Grief Is Love is out in paperback, and as I wrote for the hardcover edition, this book is “a powerful meditation on what grief is at its core: an extension of love.” If there was ever a time we needed this book, it’s now.
I also recently recommended some other newsletters for Substack Reads, so do check those out. (I just read and loved Lyz Lenz’s latest Dingus of the Week post just this morning!) You’ll find shout-outs to Lyz Lenz, Elissa Altman, Carissa Potter, Sari Botton, and Isaac Fitzgerald (and you’ll also find a very sweet illustration by Nhung Le of me and my Boston terrier, Phoebe, in our idea reading scenario).
In the interview portion, I wrote a little about my first favorite books.
My favorite book as a child was The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner, but even before that, the book that captured my imagination as a very young child was a 1977 edition of Dean’s A Book of Fairy Tales, illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone. I mentioned this book to my agent, Joy Tutela, a few years ago, lamenting that I didn’t have it anymore. Not long after that phone conversation, a package arrived: a copy she’d found online and had shipped to my home. I gasped when I opened it and realized what it was. What a gift.
This weekend I’ll be in Plymouth, Massachusetts, at the Spire Center for Performing Arts for a reading with Plymouth’s poet laureate, Stephan Delbos, followed by a book signing. Join us if you’re in the area! Tickets are free and can be reserved here.
Next month I’ll be at the Miami Book Fair, in conversation with the brilliant Hannah Pittard, whose memoir I heartily recommended to you all last month. Come say hello! I’ll also be recording Dani Shapiro’s podcast Family Secrets live on stage that morning. Information about both of my events is available here.
Speaking of family secrets, what should people consider before sharing intimate details about their lives? I weighed in on the power and pitfalls of self-disclosure for a piece by Jessi Gold in Slate.
I’m not a big TV watcher—I’m more likely to be reading or listening to music—but I just introduced my daughter to Aaron Sorkin’s show The Newsroom, which ran from 2012 to 2014. I’ve seen the whole series before, but I’m constantly exclaiming about how good the writing is. The performances, too. If you liked The West Wing but missed The Newsroom (or are up for a rewatch with your teenager), it’s streaming on Max.
What else is bringing me joy? Watching my son play soccer. Breathing in the cider-smell of fallen leaves. Taking my daughter to see a band she loves (even though it kept me out past my bedtime on a weeknight). Letting my eleven-year-old teach me how to play chess. Listening to the sound of car tires on rainy streets. Baking with apples we picked as a family. Meeting readers and writers on my travels. Cuddling my dog and seeing her smile. Feeling a new poem knocking on the door, and letting it inside.
What’s bringing you joys these days? What’s comforting you in these harrowing times?
Wishing you more of it—
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