links and thinks, march 2024

Recently, I went to an opening for the artist Christine Ferrouge, who “paints psychological narratives based on her three daughters.” I came to know Christine years ago as a fellow homeschooling parent. Isn’t her work moving? She’s doing in paint what I try to do in words–capture the independence and uniqueness of the people I love in tiny, gigantic moments. Chatting with her, discussing how white space in a painting is akin to white space in a fragmented piece of writing, I got goosebumps.

For years–especially to young mothers–I’ve preached the notion of going out once a week to write, to claim your creativity. You don’t need to call yourself “a writer” to benefit from this–having the time to simply journal, to reflect, can be a real gift to yourself. If you have kids and a partner who can be with them during that time, lovely–but you can also arrange a trade with another parent, which I’ve done too. So I loved reading this interview with poet and nonfiction writer Erika Howsare on Nancy Reddy’s newsletter Write More, Be Less Careful (a fantastic newsletter for caregiver-writers.) Howsare says:

…my husband suggested I take one morning a week to go off and write by myself. I took to camping out at the local community center, in a lounge with secondhand furniture and intermittent heat. Not a lot of hours per week, but so many more than zero—those mornings became the anchor of my writing life.

Yes! The anchor–my experience too. (And you definitely want to click through to see the fabulous poster she’d see every week at the community center.)

This three-minute video, shared by research psychologist Peter Gray (whose work on childhood independence I’m always rambling on about here) is thought-provoking. It explores the notion of how losses in childhood independence may be contributing to youth depression and anxiety–which dovetails with what I’m writing about in my book. I appreciate how the video points out that most parents want independence for their kids, but that doesn’t mean they feel willing or able to carry that out. (Had to laugh at that part about parents not letting their kids go unsupervised in a separate aisle at the grocery store, remembering how many times I’d hear on the Berkeley Whole Foods loudspeaker, “Theo’s mom, he’s up here at the front, wondering where you are.” The employees all knew him there. He liked to linger at the olive bar, making toothpick/olive sculptures.)

Related: my TikTok on how the New York Time’s framed a study by saying “intensive parenting has benefits.” Grrr.

In the past two months, I’ve inhaled books by Marie Helene Bertino. Parakeet in January, because I couldn’t resist starting the year with a book titled the same as my year-long book writing program. (It’s working! Two months down, two draft chapters done!) The novel starts with a bride-to-be getting spoken to by a parakeet, who turns out to be her dead grandmother. Things spool out from there. Bertino’s sentences! Every one a surprise–I’m endlessly inspired and underlined like crazy. In February, her new novel, Beautyland, the coming of age story of a girl who believes she’s an alien commissioned to report to her planet–via fax machine–on the human condition. I loved it, loved both books. The other night I got to meet Bertino at a reading; she was warm, delightful, going deep in conversation with each person who opened a book for her to sign. In mine, in silver pen, she drew stars and an alien ship. Walking out of the venue, smiling, the brightest crescent moon greeted me, smiled back.

I’ve discovered an incredible way to cook tofu, and that’s saying something, as someone who’s been foisting tofu on my family for years. This treatment from Laura at The First Mess is surprising, from the tearing in chunks, to the salt water soak, to the arrowroot/spice coating. Even if you don’t make the entire recipe here, try the tofu. You can switch up the spices; I’ve now done this with Chinese Five Spice and a Korean blend–but stick with all the other steps. You’ll be rewarded with tofu that’s flavorful and textured and crispy and chewy. Better–and cheaper–than any fake meet you might buy.

If you’re a writer, you should definitely be following Leigh Stein’s newsletter on “how the internet is impacting traditional book publishing and what’s expected of authors.” She’s brilliant–and the reason I’m on TikTok, which has been a hoot. In a recent newsletter, Leigh writes:

I do think that you should be asking yourself what experience your book is going to give a reader, and then find ways to show what that experience is like, so that readers find your work. I’m doing this through satire on Instagram. How could you make your content more like a game?

Ooh, this got my puzzle-loving brain fired! Currently working on something behind the scenes–stay tuned. And check out Leigh’s hilarious satire reel that went viral.

Even if you aren’t a writer, you might enjoy this piece on what Taylor Swift’s vault tracks can teach us about not killing your darlings (in other words, save your creative work, even the bits you cut!) It’s fun to see how Swift revisits themes and images. And if you missed it, I loved this December NYT interview with Taffy Brodesser Ackner on why Swift matters. (That’s a free NYT gift link.)

Same vibe: for some fun writing/thinking music, try this.

Would love to hear: what’s lighting you up these days?


P.S. Photos are from my recent writing retreat to the Dairy Hollow Writer’s Colony in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Magical place! Ask me about it if you’re intrigued!

2 comments… add one
  • CathyT Mar 18, 2024 @ 11:34

    Always a pleasure to catch up with what you have been thinking about and doing — please keep up with all the sharing! I am now listening to VSQ, thank you.

    As for what is lighting me up, I just went to a quilt show yesterday and it has inspired me to get moving on a quilt I started in February. I’m also going to Philly soon to visit my eldest son and his gf (yay)!

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