Monday, March 15, 2021

news (the good kind)

No make-up Rainbow Brite glasses selfie as temporary author photo 

I've never fully understood the phrase "No news is good news." I think it means that if you haven't gotten any updates, things are probably proceeding as planned. I was raised to believe in plans and routine and the supremacy of consistency. 

But at some point—maybe when I was 14 and didn't see my name on the list of girls chosen for drill team, posted at the entrance to the locker room, maybe when I got my first negative pregnancy test—I started to feel like "All news is bad news." It's silly, because I've actually gotten a lot more good news than bad news in my life, yet every time I'm waiting to hear back about something, even when the possible outcomes are only "good" and "neutral," my stomach twists and the apocalypse twinkles on the horizon. 

I wrote a book about my annoying brain's apocalyptic flirtations, and about some other things: wanting a baby, miscarrying, getting cancer, adopting a kid, the advantages and dangers of the human impulse toward narrative, and crying at Starbucks a lot. 

And now I have some good news about it. A wonderful independent publisher, Brown Paper Press, will be publishing it in 2022. It's called Crybaby. Because, you know, babies are part of the story, and also because Crying at Starbucks probably raises copyright issues.

Corresponding and talking with Wendy, BPP's savvy and kind editor, was both buoying and a strange emotional roller coaster. Because news. Because pandemic grind, and all its associated good fortune and constant specter of disaster; a year in which I've been called a poophead and not-enough in both subtle and screamy ways, and it's taken a toll on my self-worth. Because I've been writing this thing for eight years, and I've wondered so many times whether I'd live long enough to see it published. I mean, not to be dramatic about it, but one of my first thoughts after finding a publisher was, Even if I'm diagnosed with metastatic cancer, statistically I'll still make it to 2022. 

But hopefully, knockonwood, I'll get to stay healthy and have a book in the world. My therapist has taught me it's okay to want two things. (Actually I want at least one hundred things, starting with A Solution to Climate Change and continuing right on down to Some Candy Right Now.)

It's weird to put a story about your boobs/lack thereof into the world, but I've been blogging since 2005, so I guess I'll be okay on that front.

One of the best parts of forthcoming publication is crafting the acknowledgments page in my head. Like a tiny Oscar speech. This is a first draft of that: 

The people who helped me keep living: AK, Cathy, my dad, my mom from deep within my soul. Nicole, Kim M., Joewon, Annette, Amy, Jamie, Keely, Meehan, Kathy, Bronwyn, Pat, Lori, Holly, Molly. Molly did not get to keep living, and that will never be remotely fair. My online adoption groups. Erica. Dash. Dr. Schmidt, Dr. Hills, Dr. Chung, and Dr. Jasper, who said, in her wonderful Russian accent, "This is not the cancer that kill you."

The people who helped me keep writing (which is to say, more people who helped me keep living): Aubrey, Debbie, Jennifer, and Shea of the IKEA Writers Collective; my IRL/now-Zoom writing group, Elizabeth, Jane, Joliange, Kate, Kim Y., Sarah; Dan, who told me to just write it in order; Dani, who told me in the kindest, most encouraging way possible that my draft was basically a collection of notes and scenes, and having an eight-week-old child was just the beginning of the stress of being a parent, not the end of all my worries; Meg, the best editor and advocate a writer-mom could ask for; Kerry, who kept trying to sell my novels despite the madness of the publishing industry.

There are so many more. And, full disclosure, there are a couple of people on my "Hmph, fuck you" list as well. If you want to know who, you can buy the book in mid-2022. 

Monday, March 01, 2021


As an oversized kitten, he chomped the hand of a friend,
and we said, I'm sorry, he's still figuring out
what kind of cat he wants to be. 

Which is to say: he is not a metaphor
any more than he's a bad omen flitting blackly
across someone's path, but I must tell you this—

A year ago a new cat moved in;
we brought her here, I held the door 
for the invading army, and she marched in

On short legs, waving her tortoiseshell tail,
purring and rolling for the humans, 
but chasing him down like a tiger

He scaled the nearest fence,
a big brother witnessing the horror of an infant,
and disappeared, but he never bit or clawed her.

He's figured out what kind of cat he wants to be.
We don't see him in the sunlight anymore,
and this is my great failure, among many.

My mother birthed my sister because she loved
having one child so much, she thought why not two;
she ruined my life and created my best friend.

It only took us twenty years to retract our claws.
When I say this has been a nightmare year,
I mean there have been good parts and weird ones

Too, sudden cameos by elementary school friends
and psychedelic vistas, unearthly Seussian trees.
Each night before bed, we call our black cat.

Each night I take to the sidewalk unmasked,
sometimes unshod, shake a bowl of dry food,
and call his name like a woman who has long ago

Eschewed sanity. My voice bounces against windows
of lit-up bungalows, their flashing TVs and late dinners.
It is a year of new routines.

I said this sidewalk rosary—Olliebear, Olliecat, Ollie,
Ollie—the night we gave the baby back, the night
I thought we had the virus, the night the vaccine

Emerged on the horizon, a beacon of hope, sure, and also
something hard and literal: instructions to our bodies
to make a spike that fights an insidious enemy.

His body grows bigger beneath the streetlights.
He's middle-aged now, has made friends with
the neighbors, who call him Willie and Jack.

He is all fast feet and qualified forgiveness
and the sight of him is an injection of something.
He smells like a driveway fire pit, or someone's cologne.

If you told me to start a gratitude journal
I would fight you, but when I plunge my face
into his dark fur, it's a kind of sunrise,

One I don't know for sure will happen,
one tainted by my complicity and threaded with shadow,
but true as ink, squirmy as love.