One MFA down, one to go.

While I was in Michigan a few weeks ago for the utterly fantastic Paper and Book Intensive, I got an official-sounding email from my university stating that my MFA defense was approved and my degree conferred.

Which is all really exciting, mostly because now I can turn my attention wholly to my final year of Book Arts. You know, now that I've spent two weeks enjoying Michigan birches along a lagoon and experiencing a lot of firsts.

Making this book from scratch in a class on Anabaptist binding with the ambitious Chela Metzger and Erin Hammeke... Just to give you a sense, here, we started with a textblock, but did everything from there: punched, sewed on raised cords on a sewing frame, consolidated and lined the spine, shaped wooden boards, adhered them to the textblock, shaped them some more (I'd never planed before, and certainly never while the boards were on the book), speckled the textblock edges, covered in gorgeous calf leather provided by Pergemena (my favorite leather tanner)... then cut and dapped and bossed brass for corner and center pieces, and created these nifty, weird spine straps, and even made, from scratch, catchplates and hasps for the clasps (which we were never promised, but begged and pleaded until Erin showed us how to use an anvil, two different vice jaws, a peen hammer for riveting, and a jewler's saw)....

I'd never cut into leather after covering with it before. It's a violent, yet oddly delicate process:

But necessary for the insertion of catchplates for clasps (if you don't want your crummy metal snipping to show):

I'd never dapped and bossed before, and certainly never dapped and bossed directly into a block of lead. I present: The Moon.

These are my brass corner and centerpieces, all ready to be attached to the book:

And I'd never made a book with straps before. Isn't it strapping? The straps are attached just past the shoulders, so when you open the book, they pop off the book.

I'd never before paddled in a canoe across a lagoon to Lake Michigan to watch the sunset with new friends.

In Priscilla Spitler's class on edition binding, I learned many time-saving techniques that will help me when I edition my thesis book (and every other book I edition hereafter). It's one thing to know that jigs are helpful. It's another to get a good sense of how to come up with a jig to get the job done, and to understand when you might be able to use a jig in the first place.

I had never made a sheet of paper quite this large before taking Ann Marie Kennedy's Paper and Place class. This sheet about as large as a decent flat-screen TV. I'd also never used so many different fibers at once before... certainly addictive! We had vats of hemp, flax, abaca, bamboo, and various mixtures that included onion grass, day lily leaves, dried lagoon grass, and more.

I had never taken a selfie while hula hooping before.

And here's an endband Sam Feinstein showed us for PBI PM, an informal workshop we managed to get together twice (amazing, considering how much homework we had and how much sleep we needed).

I made a ridiculous amount of new friends, too. The book arts world is a tight-knit one, where it seems everyone is eager to share and teach and learn and relearn and watch and make ridiculous paper costumes and dance to 50s music in them.

End of Summer...?

I managed to scarf two lobster rolls while helping the ol' boyfriend move in up in Boston. Alas, I only took a picture of one, but both were delicious.

We drove past Brandeis' campus... did you know that they have a castle?  Castles are cool.  This one is young for a castle, having been built in 1928 according to Wikipedia.

Much of the architecture in Boston is noteworthy and grand, but drive-by photography is hard.

We had breakfast at Wilson's Diner, an old fashioned -- REAL -- diner.  Hard to beat diner eggs toast and kielbasa.  

Speaking of food, back in Baltimore before Boston, I ate this at some point:

It's a lamb pita.  It was delicious.  I ate half of it and left the other half in boyfriend's car overnight, so the car smelled like sicky sweet lamb for our trip up to Boston.  And while driving around Boston.  I'm such a good friend.

We went to the Science Museum in Boston, for a break from unpacking and visiting Target and unpacking and visiting Target and putting together Ikea furniture and unpacking and washing dishes and all of those things that really don't make for good photos.  

But science museums make for good photos.  See if you can spot the bird that's not like the others, one of these birds just doesn't belong:

Yeah these birds are wondering who let that joker in here.

This bird wants you to learn you somethin' about being Endangered.

This is not a bird.  It is a giant lobster.  The random child conveniently stuck his head in my photo just to give you a sense of proportion.  I can't tell if the lobster is plastic or lobster-taxidermied.  Sometimes if you're exceptional you get rewarded with being a museum piece.  Other times you get taken home and fed frozen squid.  Just think of the lobster roll this guy'd be.

I missed my cats, and it would appear they missed me.  Here's Beanie skeptically showing his love when I got back.  Either that or we're both poking each other with our paws.

Summer Update

So much of my summer is unrecorded photographically, but now that I have acquired a camera, I have no excuse for not providing evidence of my adventures.

You might enjoy the photos of this dog rolling in the sand almost as much as I enjoyed laughing at her and my mother, which I enjoyed almost as much as the dog enjoyed rolling.  I guarantee you enjoyment that surpasses the dog's enjoyment of her shower bath that followed.


You definitely won't enjoy this photo of sushi as much as I enjoyed eating it; I place it here simply to make you jealous.  To ease the pain I won't list off the delicious ingredients.

Here too is evidence that I sometimes arise before the sun.  This time I took her picture.

While I failed to puzzle (v. to complete puzzles) at the beach, I did play games back in Maryland. Those hands are the hands of my game-loving Maryland friends.  I believe I won this game, but I could be lying to myself.

While I was at the beach, my home in AL was burgled.  Albert Einstein was ripped from his shoebox coffin and left to search for rhyme or reason in the mess.  He determined that nothing valuable was taken, aside from...

my dear cat.  The bungling burglars left open the window they forced, and so my cat hopped through it and had a three-day adventure in the neighborhood.  Thanks to the patience and dedication of my friends, stripy cat is back safely and glaring at me for his house arrest.

But he was so happy to have me back, and I him.

There are more photos of him, but I'll spare you.

It's about time for art

I've had a small tabletop printing press for about two years now, and I have very little to show for it other than my very first lino cut prints and a bookmark for a friend.  I decided that part of the problem is that I have no idea what fonts I actually have in my possession -- I know the names of some, but not all (the labels on some of the antique trays have fallen off), and I don't really know what they look like.

Solution?  A type catalog.  But hand setting the alphabet would get boring done fifteen times over, so I asked some friends here at 'Bama to send me short sections of their writing in exchange for a copy of the type catalog when it's complete.

Which means I now have decisions to make regarding structure of the booklet, size, paper, etc.  I'll have to make at least 15 copies, and I might as well make a few more.  Does the booklet get a name?  A table of contents?  What dimensions?

A spontaneous and brief visit to NOLA

with one Brandi, wherein we ate much seafood, sweated out whatever we drank, walked everywhere, dashed through rain, drove in circles, got chained in amongst tombs, witnessed Gothic Horrors, nearly hit 57 pedestrians dressed like zombies, consumed all of the beignets, debated the pronunciation of "beignet," basked in cool Mississippi River breezes, befriended rats, listened to 8 writers read (including Brandi) and admired unexpected giant puppets, who gazed cooly and without judgement back at us.

Like this one:

Our day began sheepishly early.
We left Tuscaloosa at the crack of some time past dawn,  7 ish a.m., and arrived in NOLA around 11:30. Ish. Filling our empty stomachs with food at the Green Goddess seemed more important than timekeeping, at the time.

Waking is the best way to learn a city. We walked to the French Market, to the River Walk,

where it is evident that the Mississippi is broader in the shoulder than our fair Black Warrior River back home.  

We explored touristy shops, you know, the vood00 ones, the hexy ones, the mask ones, the vintage clothing ones, etc.  There was a fun stand of steampunk gear at the French Market, where a wonderfully friendly lady persuaded us to try the mustaches-on-sticks. I said things with a mustache I would be concerned to say without:  "flibbertygibet," "macrame," and "incomprehensible!" -- but I was unable to match the sales lady's austere Sean Connery impressions.  "I moustache you a question, m'dear..."

I thoroughly embarrassed my friend. 

She demanded we head next to the St. Louis Cemetery, where back among familiar granite and marble I might regain my senses.  

The cemetery contained a mix of grand

and dilapidated tombs, all above-ground.  I can't tell you why, because we certainly didn't take the tour.

Suffice to say that old and new lay serenely side by side...

Someone had either risen or been uplifted...

And others, quietly remembered and protected.

Some had been stripped by thieves or vandals.

Others look like they are still visited.

When we had fulfilled our morbid curiosity, we went to leave, and saw that the gates had been barred shut.  Apparently they're serious about closing at 3, and we were too distracted to read a sign with the hours.

Undeterred, we scaled a giant wall with the help of convenient milk crates and passersby.

The... wall looks higher when people are standing next to it... and when you're uh, on the top...


The grey skies depicted above turned into deluges, and clever as I am, I had left the umbrella in the car. 

We checked in at our hostel in the Garden District, which looked suspiciously like the Bates on a  soppingly grey Friday the 13th. 

Dinner, oh dinner!  We stuffed ourselves with shellfish of two varieties back in the French Quarter (sadly, neither was crawfish, which is out of season), and I only lost the car for 15 minutes when we tried to leave.

After driving in circles looking for the Mudlark Theater, where B was to read as a part of the Southern Comfort Book Tour, in increasingly dim light and among increasingly looming, paint-peeling houses, we stopped in the middle of a gloomy intersection and gave up on ever finding the place... just as we realized we were right where we needed to be.

The Mudlark is in a very residential area that still shows the effects of Hurricane Katrina. I don't know why we were so surprised, since the former Alabama Art Kitchen of Tuscaloosa had rooted in an old house among old houses.

The outside of the Mudlark Theater is grey and almost sad, but look through that door, just look:

Untold treasures, I tell you!  If you like puppets, that is.

Puppets scale the walls and hang from the ceilings.

They cluster in trios and stare down at you disapprovingly.

They ride forth into the negative space above your head.

And the skeletons here are kept in the bathroom, not the closet.

As for the Southern Comfort Book Tour, it was fabulous!  Educational.  I heard about how I dated this guy I had wanted to date but who turned out to be a disappointment.  I listened to a woman's wrenching poems to her never-to-be-born child.

And before a cascade of red cloth, Brandi read about torsos.

I do like a good torso.

After the reading, we headed straight for bed, but not before consuming unreasonable amounts of beignets from Cafe Du Monde where the broad-shouldered Mississippi could disapprove and the rats could nibble at our toes.

On the morrow, er, this morning, Brandi joined the rest of the SoCo Tour for their journey to the next reading city.  I drove in more circles around the French Quarter, dreaming of a parking spot and hot breakfast, but instead took to the highway and the rain.  I met up with an old friend in Hattiesburg, MS, where we ate sandwiches at a record shop.

Podcasts make a 4.5 hour drive go all the faster.  I listened to some from The Nerdist and The Moth, attracted as I am to solid articles. Driving is the best time to hear stories about growing up biracial at a time when my parents did not, or how sometimes, just sometimes, coming out is more impossibly wonderful than one's darkest fears.

Front yard nature channel

Warning: This post is not for the snake-squeamish.

Earlier in the summer, a pair of cardinals built a nest in a bush right outside my bedroom window. I watched them build it, and occasionally the male would turn a suspicious eye my way, but they finished it. The female laid three eggs (when I wasn't watching) and sat on 'em for what felt like weeks to me.  Poor thing would sit there panting in the heat, and I couldn't bring her water for fear of scaring her from her nest.

Earlier this week, I noticed Mama Bird was missing, along with one of her eggs. I've kept a lookout for her, but she's gone. On Wednesday morning, the last two eggs went... into the belly of a snake, and I got to watch from the safety of my window... and later from the outside, while the snake seemed too lethargic and full to be too bothered by my voyeurism.

It had its head in the nest and the second egg in it's mouth when I found it. I wish I had a better camera. It had dark hexagons all down its back.  I think it was a rat snake... 

Silent assassin took quite a while to swallow that egg, and both eggs slowly progressed down its belly. I could see its belly move in little flutters like breaths. 

Everyone I've told about this thinks that Mama Bird got et. I hold out hope that Snake got one egg while she was out of the nest, and she sensed it when she tried to return, so then abandoned the rest. 

Here's the crummy picture from inside my house. I couldn't remove the screen without disturbing the snake.

I wonder if I put a few quail eggs from Mr. Chen's Market into the nest, the snake will come back...

And really this is all I ever need.

Tomatoes -- mostly Roma, some Sungold -- from the garden, lightly sauteed with basil from the garden and garlic. Doesn't even need cheese.

In other news, boyfriend visited, and now my computer is both Jeckyll and Hyde: he kindly partitioned the hard drive with BootCamp and installed Windows so we can play all of the games together long distance. This bodes poorly for my writing. I might have to learn a thing or two from Oliu and put all the forthcoming "research" to good use.

The lovely dog remains, which is nice, because boyfriend left.  She's getting along famously with the cats, which is surprising only because the cats aren't fond of dogs other than Harvey (my roommate's dog).

OH, and Laura and I did a joint Black Warrior Radio show today. Catch one of us next week 12-2 as usual!

Back in the game

I took eight 4-sheet signatures of Ingres paper in various shades of blue and earth, and stitched 'em up in a coptic stitch...

with handmade hemp endpaper from the papermaking class I took last spring... (the hemp fiber was a bit overbeaten, so the wrinkles pictured are natural to the paper)

and a splash of handmade kozo (mulberry) paper, also from papermaking class...

with a cover made of soft recycled leather wrapped around boards.

And the best part is, I did it all with a friend.  Bookbinding is better with company.  Her coptic book is more than twice as big, has a gorgeous cloth cover, and will make a great sketchbook.  

A break, but now, Rs

Right Hand Pointing

I had a bit of a panic when the first poem from this wave of submissions got picked up, because I realized I had sent it to thirty-one publications... which meant I then had to withdraw it from thirty publications. That took some time, and some thought.  I was also spending far more time on sending poems out than on writing them. The game plan needed adjustment.

So now I'm attempting to write at least one poem and revise at least one poem a day, in addition to submitting. What I revise, I'll send out to journals (if the poem feels finally complete, and if any for the day seem like a potential fit for the work). This should mean less overlap between publications... we'll see...

So far, two acceptances, two of what we'll call... queries, six rejections, and thirty-eight withdrawals since I began 23 days ago.

BWR Radio

Listen to me live on the radio from noon to 2pm central time!

You can listen from the internet, but if you're local to Tuscaloosa, AL tune in to wvuafm 90.7 The Capstone.

Mostly it is music, like Joan Osborne (oh throaty Joan Osborne) and Robyn and musicals.

Occasionally I tell you what music will play and what just played and why I liked it.

At some point themuppetface and any other DJs we collect and I will incorporate something slightly more related to BWR.

Requests?  Leave a comment, and I'll try to acquire the song in the next two weeks.  Be sure to listen next week when themuppetface has the reins. Cords. Mixer?  You know.

The world is a better place for fresh basil pesto

Fresh basil from the farmer's market, because my basil seedlings are still babies...

plus gobs of delicious extra-virgin olive oil, grated parmesan, lemon, 2 cloves garlic, and no pine nuts because they're gross...  (Recipe here, although I eyeball everything these days.)  

equals basil pesto, which I tossed with basil pasta from Target's surprisingly wonderful Archer Farms label... (also wonderful are their orecchiette)

Did I mention it's been in the 70s all morning? 

The key to productivity is to trick yourself into it.

Or at least that's how it works for me. I visited the hardware store, cleaned the ceiling fans, sorted summer and winter clothes, and cleaned out my desk, all before 11:30 when I switched to baking and Buffy-watching.

Brandi came by today under the pretense of helping me bake pain au chocolat, although we all know she was only there to collect my cats for her nefarious cures.  We tackled a recipe I've used before from the Confessions of a Bright-Eyed Baker, who happens to have figured out the easiest pain au chocolat recipe short of cheating and using pastry dough.

Here they are in the oven, these chocolate croissants that are not actually crescent-shaped. But they are poofy and perfect, even though we cheated and halved the last two rising times.

For the pastry-making disinclined, croissants and anything like 'em involve a giant block of refrigerated butter and folding refrigerated dough around it, and then hours of rising in between four or so folding sessions. Some recipes even require overnight resting. This is supposed to slow the dough's rise, and somehow enhance the flavor. I don't doubt it, but when I can achieve these:

in 3-4 hours instead of eight+, well. Do let me know how your fancy shit turns out.

Ls and summer

The Lifted Brow
Lines + Stars
Literary Laundry
The Literary Review
Loaded Bicycle
The Lumberyard

Every time I despair of a letter and consider sending to only three or four journals of that letter, I end up sending work to a sixth.

Also, I'm up to three rejections since this project started.


Today was: morning work, cleaning, writing, thrifting, Bananagrams, birthday partying around a mini grill, and a phone argument with my brother, who just found out he got a new job. Congratulations, brother, for sticking it to the man and coming out on top. Um. Maybe this is why he yells at me.


Tomorrow/latertoday: pain au chocolat, more working cleaning/laundry, packing, Homegrown Alabama Farmer's Market, and chocolate peach pasta with themuppetface and her sister.

Ks and things

Keyhole Magazine
kill author
Kudzu Review

The tomatoes my friend and I planted are thriving.  A handful have blossom end rot, but we can take steps to fix that.  Our basil and carrots and watermelon and eggplant seem to be doing well, too, but the lettuce and bok choy have succumbed to bugs and the chard, beets, and spinach are going the same way.


I've been writing two letters for BWR.  Letters are far more difficult to write when you've been writing emails and submission cover letters.  One letter is the editors' letter for the next issue, my first issue writing the letter, and the other letter is a template relating to the issue after that.   It creates a weird space, looking forward and behind and forward all at once.


There's a fresh grave in the cemetery. There must be a job word for the guys who come and dig and set up the coffin.  Anyway, they gave me a nod as I drove by the other day, on my way to work at a friend's.  I was glad to be out all day–I must have missed a funeral.  When I got home, the coffin and hole were replaced by a mound with a little orange flag on a wiry pole.

I've not yet had to drive past a funeral here.


Today: Challah french toast using themuppetface's and her sister's gorgeous homemade challah, then the on-campus waterpark and of course work.

Js... and my day in pictures

Jelly Bucket

I've sent work to Jellyfish, and been turned down, too recently for it to be polite to send more poems just yet.

Not pictured: work, email checking, dishwashing, counter cleaning, sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, carpet spot cleaning, and giggling over a less-than-a-day rejection (one of the Js!).