A Holiday Request

Morehead

I rarely find myself compelled to share online crowdfunding campaigns, but Sarah Morehead and her children are seeking help out of a horrifying reality. Sarah is a valued humanitarian in the secular movement and nothing short of an inspiration for many of us. I am particularly familiar with Sarah through her work on the Recovering from Religion Hotline Project. If you have the money this year (even a few dollars) or if you feel the holiday booze moves you, please consider helping Sarah and her family by donating here.

Reflections on AWP

The internet can be an unusually lonely place.

This weekend, many of my friends are attending AWP Seattle. AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) is the largest literary conference in the US. Last year, I had the pleasure of attending this migrating conference in Boston with Zone 3 Press.

write

An AWP “swag” favorite –
mug purchased from Rumpus.

Even just scrolling through the AWP schedule can be an abundant source of inspiration. Though unable to attend the conference this year, the descriptions of sessions/panels has been similarly thought-provoking for me. In some ways, I think the schedule can be read like a series of brief reminders:

  • Find a quiet space, a sanctuary, for yourself and your writing.
  • Live an experience worth writing about.
  • Embrace peculiarity.
  • Memoir is about developing a deeper understanding of experience.
  • There are consequences that stem from our writing.
  • We owe something to the people we write about.

Out of all the sessions at AWP Seattle, I found myself most drawn to the panel titled “Peace Corps Writers Across the Genres.”

It’s easy to become lost at AWP. (Don’t get me started on the book fair shenanigans.) I loved attending readings or following around my favorite writers to their sessions. At the same time, I was often drawn to feminist topics, writing in relation to nature/yoga, religious writing, book reviews, short plays, sustaining a writing group, short story anything, etc. If nothing else, AWP provides a space to meet up with old friends. Many attend the conference for the drinks and good company.

AWP presented me with a type of psalm that I often experience at writing conferences; there is always more to give. We thrive in community unable to quite live without one another, after all.

Question: Cats vs. Dogs

[Dog-faced Atheist] Ask
I think it’s surprising that you consider yourself more of a dog person than a cat person. Why is this?

My love for dogs defies most logic. When I was younger, I was severely injured by a Shetland Sheepdog, but never developed a fear involving the animal. I think there are several things about dogs that people could stand to learn from, e.g. selflessness, perspective, and so forth. It’s all been said before. During workshops and discussion, I often slip into speaking about dogs in relation to writing and literature. Maybe it’s the Chekhov in me.

thorpuppy

I have owned cats over the years, and I like them equally. (I am particularly fond of manx.) One of my favorite writers, Haruki Murakami, has featured cats throughout the body of his work. For an example or solid read, check out his available short story “Town of Cats” in The New Yorker.

As far as my personality goes, I would presumably be placed in the category of a “cat person.” Stoic, introvert, intellectual, quiet, et al. Dogs, however, are good for people like me. They pull me away from isolation. They provide an excuse to go outdoors and become more visible. Have you ever thought about how walking alone has developed into a suspicious activity or signal for concern? (Cue: unavoidable damsel in distress analogy.) Frequently, if I am walking by myself, someone will pull over/stop, question what I am doing, if my car has broken down, etc. If I am with a dog or group of dogs, whether leashed or not, the activity becomes entirely normal. Just a walk in the evening.

Though I remain a skeptic by large of communities and their surrounding ideologies (a trait Murakami and I share), I am a person who believes in community and its inherent value to survival. Dogs push me further in that direction. As far as mental health is concerned, dogs are like a type of medicine— or as writer Mindy Friddle would say “grump antidotes.”