Writer, editor, teacher, other.

Do you know Dear Sugar? You should know Dear Sugar. She’s the advice columnist for The Rumpus, (therumpus.net) and I adore her. Tonight, she’s revealing her identity at a party in San Francisco. When she announced this plan, the editors of 300 Reviews (300reviews.com) asked me and Brian Oliu (BrianOliu.com) to write something to commemorate the event. We each wrote a review. Mine is up today, and his (which is stunning, by the way) will be live tomorrow.

I sort of laughed when I got this request, because I had written to Sugar once and told her I really didn’t care who she was. It’s not that I’m indifferent, but that I don’t think knowing will affect my reading of her column in any way. I think this shows up in my review. Other folks I know and admire disagree with me, and I think that’s just fine. We might all react differently. Or maybe I’ll discover I was wrong. That’s what keeps life interesting.

Tonight at the university where I teach, there’s a panel on the Lovings, the Virginia couple who challenged marriage laws back in the 1950s. Their case made it to the Supreme Court (yes, it was titled Loving v. the State of Virginia), which declared that interracial marriage could no longer be outlawed. So C & I will be at that panel, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Love big, y’all. Be well.


My review of what I refer to as the Zenyatta phenomenon is up today at 300 Reviews. It’s nice to see its publication right on the heels of Derby weekend. 

The Kentucky Derby’s a thing in my house. My husband always buys me roses. We always watch the race together. I normally yell loudly at the tv. My horse normally runs somewhere around eighth. 

This year, though, I had a completely different experience. I watched it from Tuscaloosa, my hometown and the place I’d spent the previous week trying to do what I could to help people I love deal with the devastating tornadoes that swept through town. My husband was states away. This year, I was the one buying flowers—I kept bringing them into the house where my sweet friends Brian & Barry live, the house where I helped cook so people could congregate after volunteering or dealing with their own displacement and damages from the storm.

The flowers were frivolous, particularly given the fact that many of my friends spent their days helping people—sometimes attempting to recover belongings from the rubble of their homes, other times, helping them pick out a starter’s supply of new possessions at one of the emergency relief groups working in Tuscaloosa. You might argue that it wasn’t a time for flowers. But I believed it was precisely such a time, believed that we needed to be reminded that some ephemeral things are quite beautiful. I believed that while we confronted all the bad things nature can hold and enact, we also needed to be reminded that it is often very lovely, that we needed to acknowledge that things are not all bad or all good, that life is much too complex and interconnected to be so black & white.

And in many ways, that’s what this review is about—why we should care about things that appear to be completely outside of our own experiences and concerns. 

I should add that I’m not sure anyone who passed through that house over the ten days I was there gave any thought to those flowers, or, if they did, that they thought anything close to what I was thinking about them. And I’m okay with that.

(Also, my horse this year was Shackelford. He ran fourth.)

(Also, in case you’ve missed my previous post, you should check out the stunning TUSCALOOSA RUNS THIS, the book my friend Brian Oliu put together in support of tornado relief efforts. It’s worth your time.)

When new 300 Reviews editor Luke Southworth first encouraged me to write this essay, I said something polite and noncommittal. I didn’t think I would do it. It’s true that I wouldn’t have written it without his encouragement. It’s also true, though (and maybe more significant), that I would not have published this piece anywhere but at 300 Reviews. I knew I was too close to this topic to know if I’d negotiated it well, but I believe in Luke’s editorial abilities, and that made me confident enough to trust his faith in the piece.

My review of the trend of “anti-bridal” portraits, where women destroy their wedding gowns. It’s often billed as a liberating act, but that sounded suspicious to me. I should note that the review was sparked by my discovery of John Michael Cooper’s stunning portrait “My Joan of Arc.” Once I’d seen this photo, I couldn’t get it out of my head. Many thanks to Cooper for allowing 300 Reviews permission to use his image to accompany my review. You should click on the title above just to see the photograph.

One of the things I love about the world is that we’re all so different. I love reading others’ work on 300 Reviews, even when—maybe even especially when—it expresses a viewpoint that differs wildly from my own. So when I read a review of “Fine Dining,” I was interested in it. I remained so interested that eventually I had to have my own say on the topic. Editor Jeremy Hawkins was kind enough to encourage a formal reply, posted as part of the 300 Reviews project. Click on the title to see what I had to say.

My friend Jeremy Hawkins founded the compelling project 300 Reviews. This was my first contribution to it. I love this project for many reasons: as a reader, it forces me to think about things in contexts I’d never have imagined on my own. As a writer, it pushes me to do the same, and to tackle those topics in a very succinct 300 words.