Anatomy of a Depression

It’s hard to write from a place of depression. Whatever anyone thinks they know about depression, they can really only know their own. Mine comes in many shades. This particular one is a verdant green. The gray dullness I feel is made more pallid by the contrast of a lush Minnesota summer, when the rain has come at all the right times. Already I – have become tired of such a deep-colored summer. In the grove the masses of royal fern – have grown up to their full height and underneath them… Read More

The Things We Carry (and Must Learn to Leave Behind)

In 1993, I dropped out of grad school after one miserable year. I was a failure, barely surviving academically, juggling three jobs, in over my head in so many ways. I make jokes about it, but when I pitched a nonfiction proposal to an agent last week, she asked about my education. I was truthful and while she was interested in my proposal, I could tell that I did not have a good “platform”. For nonfiction proposals, agents and publishers want someone with a platform. A platform is the writer’s expertise, background,… Read More

Every Truth has a Qualifier

I’ve been thinking a lot about stories this week – the personal stories that we carry with us and roll out for visitors. We’ve told them so often that they purr out of our pores. My story has always been one of being a survivor – of an unstable childhood and low self-esteem. My story is that I grew up poor. I experienced and witnessed abuse and addiction. These things are true, but I’ve found that the story no longer fits who I am or who I want to be. Sometimes our… Read More

Walking through Storyland

The most irritating writing advice for me is write what you know. Once I’ve written that paragraph, I sink into a morass of self-pity and caffeine. I wrote about finding narrative on vacation. Sometimes a change of scenery is the jolt needed to wake a person up from the glazed coma of being in one place for too long. Upon return, things look a little different. Last night, I took a stroll around my neighborhood. With the latest addition of a grocery store, my neighborhood is like one of those preformed children’s… Read More

Stories from the Road: The Search for Narrative

After a vacation in Montana, I’ve returned home, a head full of unorganized thoughts and a vague sense that I’m on the right path again. For months, I’ve been languishing in a purgatory of writer impotence and flailing about for some sense of purpose. We took the Amtrak train from St. Paul to Glacier National Park, staying in a century-old lodge with few amenities and scant Wi-fi. We paid for a view and a convenient walk from the train station. Following our arrival, we spent our days hiking and horseback riding and… Read More

The Ugly Duckling: The Ambiguity of Fairy Tales

It was “show and trade” day in 1st grade. Everyone got to bring a toy from home that they could trade with another student. There wasn’t much I could bring. My mother finally gave in on a doll. It was a large plastic doll, a hand-me-down from another family. It was the kind of doll you put diapers on, except she didn’t have any clothes and one of her arms kept falling off. Each student would go to the front of the classroom to show and talk about the toy that they… Read More

Tea and Toast: Stories at Breakfast

Writing prompts have never appealed to me for a couple of reasons. There is the Rule of Obstinacy that guides most of my life. Suggest something to me? You’re not the boss of me. Join a group, a trend, a club? To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would take me. Recommend something to me? What are your supporting sources? I need to do the research. The second reason that writing prompts don’t appeal, is that I cannot eat a simple breakfast without my… Read More

Time Travel on Facebook

I’ve written before about my aversion to some social media. Besides the conspicuous consumption of time, Facebook is how I found out that my best friend from 5th grade had lost the use of both her legs and arms in a car accident. Which led me to a search where I found out that another classmate and her brother were both dead in their early 40s. It was jarring and traumatic. These faces, frozen in my mind’s eye, were young and healthy and living happy lives in some far off world. Anything… Read More