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  1. motto for March:

    March 1, 2012 by justgathering

    “Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.” — Ray Bradbury

    Read the full and fantastic Paris Review interview here.

  2. one thing that helps me write

    February 20, 2012 by justgathering

    Perseverate: to repeat a thought or action after the stimulus that prompted it has ceased. 

    I spent the summer of 2005 working at a center for gifted children (as in, 6-year-olds with SAT scores high enough to get into decent colleges), and one of the habits we were trained to watch out for was perseveration: there was an ultra-fine line between nurturing a kid’s obsession with existence theorems and allowing it to spiral out into compulsion.

    Perseveration—to be completely consumed by an idea to the point that one is unable to let it go—is a marker of both giftedness and autism. It’s also a habit of very good writers.

    Good writers take the simplest ideas and simultaneously unwind and expand them through perseveration. They give their narrators the freedom to pause at the tiniest details of life, things most people would pass over, and to ruminate, exploring every tangentially related line of thought, exhausting all possible meanings. These narrators will harp on a mispronounced word, a pleasantly burnt smell, a certain light at a particular time of day, picking at it until it is exposed entirely.

    My favorite narrators are the ones who know they do it. Leo Gursky from Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love: “There are things I find hard to describe. And yet I persist like a stubborn mule in my efforts…. Over and over, I read the pages of the book I’d written as a young man…. But. I didn’t get any closer to solving the mystery.”

    The characters we love are all big-time perserverators. It is their obsession that leads us along as we read.

    A while ago, I made a list of my own preoccupations as a writer, things that pop up again and again in my writing, the fixations of my subconscious. Harsh seasons. Milk. Misrememberings. Prairie grasses. Some mornings when I sit down to write, I begin by choosing a topic from my list. Then, I unleash a narrator to do a little perseverating. What I’ve found: allowing my characters to get a little hung up is usually the only way to really get anywhere.

  3. hatching egg

    February 3, 2012 by justgathering

    If you and I have bumped into one another sometime over the last six months, or grabbed coffee, or made pancakes together, you probably know a little bit about egg. Well, here’s a little bit more.

    Last August, I was craving more poetry in my life. New poems, surprising poems. Poems that felt real to me. More than that, I wanted poems to interrupt my days. I wanted living and poetry to become the same thing (still do).

    I remember walking around the city on a very hot day that month, telling Daniel all of this (over chocolate ice cream cones, I think),

    and it hit me that if I want these things, a lot of other people must want these things too. So egg was born.

    Inspired in part by the Dial-a-Poem poets of the 60s (yes—call a number to get a poem!), I decided to take advantage of this amazing technology we’ve got called email. I would send out a poem via email to anyone who wanted to sign up. For free, of course. Because why not?

    John Giorno, Dial-a-Poem Poet

    (Image of John Giorno, from Katie Beha’s Become Your Own Yawn in which she describes Dial-a-Poem as “a way of experiencing art through the very facts of our daily life.”)

    But I wouldn’t send out poems from the books on my shelves, partially because I don’t like to make a habit of infringing copyright but mostly because I wanted to see what was out there. I wanted to see what would come in if I opened up egg for submissions.

    Daniel and I got to building egg right away. I sketched out the simple design in my head.

    egg first sketch

    Daniel programmed it and put a lovely speckle on it.

    egg home page

    Then egg spent a few months incubating. The subscribe page displayed a message that the project was in beta, and I watched the subscribers start to slowly trickle in. I used two forms of advertising to bring in subscribers: (1) word of mouth and (2) one mass email to the all poets I know that both explained egg and called for submissions.

    To my language-loving friends:

    I’ve been working on a little side project, and it’s about to get real. I’m letting you know because I think you’d like it.
    It’s called egg, and it’s an online poetry magazine, delivered one poem per week via email. Sign up, get a poem every week. Simple and awesome, right?
    Even better: submissions are reader-generated. It’s incredibly easy [and free!] to submit a poem and get your writing out there.
    If you think that sounds pretty sweet, sign up. Better yet, submit a poem. Better still, forward this little announcement to anyone you know who might be into it.
    Here’s to making awesome things in 2012!


    I had a tiny but persistent fear at the beginning that no one would submit. That I would tell everyone about this great new poetry email and then be forced to write poems under pen names to send out every week—or worse yet, never deliver at all.

    Turns out, though, plenty of folks were into it. Not only did the subscribers keep rolling in, but lots of people were submitting, people I’d never met before, people who lived in Ohio and California and Arizona. I was right; there were more people out there who wanted a mid-week poetry interruption.

    In December, Daniel and I created a Mail Chimp template that looked just like the website. By this point, I knew enough html and css to make it look almost like I wanted it to, but he taught me some pretty cool tricks along the way. Ah, the benefits of living with a handsome computer genius.

    When I felt like I had enough submissions to sustain the email for a while if all the poets were to suddenly stop writing, egg launched.

    The first email went out the first week of 2012. Since then, egg‘s been tweeting lots of lines from poems.

    And people continue to subscribe, one by one, and people keep submitting their poems, which takes a whole lot of guts and awesomeness.

    So, what next? I’m happy to let egg grow organically and see where it goes. I’m also dreaming of a one-off print version, perhaps a collection of the best of egg at the end of the year. We’ll see.

    If you’re intrigued by the idea of a poem a week in your inbox, try it out. And if you’ve got a poem that the world should see, send it my way.

    And finally, if you want to make something, make it.

  4. just made: kombucha

    January 16, 2012 by justgathering

    Well, not just.

    Kombucha actually takes a little while to make. But it’s so worth the wait.

    Remember this, way back in December?


    Yes, I got a make-your-own-kombucha kit from my bosses for Christmas. (I know. They know me so well. But wait: it gets better. I also got them a make-your-own-kombucha kit. Crazytown.)

    I gladly assumed responsibility for both SCOBYs and got brewing on Wednesday, December 21.

    The process is actually incredibly simple. (1) Brew tea. (2) Add sugar. (3) Let cool.

    Then comes the important part: add SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast).

    Checking temps. (SCOBY + very hot tea = a no.)

    Once it’s cool, you’re good to plop that sucker in.

    It looks like a slimy floating pancake.

    And then comes the waiting. Lots of waiting. Like 4 weeks if you like really vinegary kombucha like I do.

    Okay, so I got a little impatient. Around two weeks ago I bottled some ‘buch to make a kombucha gin cocktail. I mean, to see if it was ready. (Answer: not quite, but sugary kombucha and gin do make a nice combo.)

    This morning, though, I was determined to bottle. The kombucha was giving off a strong vinegar smell, and this nice healthy-looking culture was thriving. Mmmm, probiotics. It was definitely time.

    The verdict: this first batch tastes JUST like a bottle of KBBK Original, i.e. delicious. I’m ecstatic. Bottling the second jar to bring to work and then getting started on my next batch, which I’m thinking will be flavored. Lavender? Hibiscus? Raisins? Ginger?

    I’m feeling energized. It must be all the probiotics.

    p.s. It’s obvious from this shameless plug that I was very pleased with my experience with Kombucha Brooklyn. They’re one of the many local companies that’s doing something really cool, and everything from the tea blend to the Twitter encouragement has been stellar, so if you’re feeling inspired to brew, go get your own kit.

  5. putting it out there

    January 14, 2012 by justgathering

    Have you yet had the pleasure of stumbling upon this project out in the wild?

    Before I Die is a Candy Chang brainchild. That would be the same urban planner/public interaction artist who brought us I Wish This Was. [I know, you totally love her.]

    Daniel and I encountered this installation near Borough Hall sometime in the fall, and we each made a declaration. Mine:

    No, not world peace. Just a book. One book. The book that’s been forming in me since I decided to become a writer at age 4, when being a writer meant being an illustrator. 

    I fully believe in the power of just putting something out there. So here it is: I’m writing a book. A long work of fiction. I am getting up early to spend an hour finessing a hundred words. I am allowing a handful of people I’ve made up to consume my thoughts and refusing to curtail my mind wanderings. I am jotting notes and collecting photos and starting and stopping scenarios. I am going on writing dates with friends who like to sit in silence and make things side by side.

    If you see me, ask me how it’s going. That’s how this whole thing works.

  6. getting pumped about: moving

    January 7, 2012 by justgathering

    We received the news last night: our application was accepted, and we’re moving [for me, returning] to Brooklyn. I’m giddy.

    I’m also thinking about the fact that we’ve traded up in the light and kitchen departments but down when it comes to closet space. I’ve already got Daniel making me a bevy of bookshelves, but I think I’m also going to commission a clothing rack too.

    Like this one:

    (Ana Kras, via this awesome garment rack post on papertastebuds.)

    I’m also into this cast iron one, though it would have to be a bit longer:

    (Via Modern 50.)

    Or maybe we could make use of the giant branch currently leaning nonchalantly in the corner of the dining room and do this:

    (Via apartment therapy.)

    Other things I’m in love with that might have to find their way into the new place, whether tangibly or by allusion…

    The Equation Bookshelf by Marcos Breder, via Designer Daily.

    File cabinets, file cabinets, file cabinets. Metal ones. Colorful ones. Ones with hanging folders. Ones in unexpected places. (Via The Kitchn.)

    And the thing I’m possibly most excited about: my own desk will be allowed to come back out from storage, because we’ll finally have room for it (knock on wood).

    I love a fresh start.

  7. 2012 theme: make

    January 1, 2012 by justgathering

    A few days ago, Lauren Modeen sent out a tweet that got me thinking:


    I mulled it over and decided on my theme for the coming year: make.

    I made a lot of things in 2011—most of them edible. [Holla challah.]

    In 2012, I want to make more things that will last longer than a meal. I want to make more poems, more photographs, more lists. I want to make necklaces and short stories, essays and dresses, herb gardens and travel itineraries. I want to make my own dishes and write my own code.

    I have a longer-term list of things I want to do in life, and it struck me recently that most of them could also be classed as ‘making things,’ with a heavy emphasis on curation and collection rather than “pure” creation. I want to write biographies, make documentaries, edit anthologies, teach good books. For the first time [finally], I feel like my daily impulses are feeding my grand desires.

    So here’s to launching into a year of making awesome things. Now all I need is a good theme song.

  8. 3 things that rocked my 2011

    December 24, 2011 by justgathering

    This year I: started a new job, moved in with a pretty cool guy, finished my 9+1, ate a lot of ice cream, and closed the curtain on the food blog I’d been writing for 3.5 years. I loved this year. So much change, and most of it good. So now that it’s almost over, here are 3 things that made it great.

    1. Instapaper. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on evangelizing about this app: it seriously changed my life, by changing the way I read online (and off). 90% of the reading that sparked my creativity, challenged my misconceptions, taught me awesome things, and/or made me want to put good into the world this year, I read (and usually discovered in the first place) through Instapaper. In a world of supposedly shortening attention spans and never-ending busyness, it delivers probably the most valuable thing you could ask for from an app: the feeling of having more time. Don’t have time to follow that thread of links down the rabbit hole but desperately want to? Save that intellectual expedition for your subway ride. I balked at the $4.99 price tag at first, but knowing what I know now, I would gladly pay $20. [Not a bad use of your commute: making your way through The Paris Review's huge collection of interviews.]
    2. Running Classes. I took a weekly running class with the New York Road Runners from May through October. Signing up was a totally last minute decision that turned out to be an awesome one. When I started, I was struggling to get my mile under 8:25. After five months, I ran a 6:48 Fifth Avenue Mile. I’m not a natural runner and have to work really hard to improve—and these classes are by no means a shortcut. The workouts are tough. But I never would have gained so much (so fast) on my own. My two hours every Tuesday night ended up being the highlight of my week because they left me feeling so gosh darn accomplished.
    3. Writing Workshop. My stellar running class experience set me off on a class kick, so the next thing I signed up for was a 10-week writing workshop. I quickly discovered that the payoff was nowhere near as immediate. Progress in writing is much more difficult to measure than progress in running, and I had to put a lot more time in outside of class. I ended up having to miss one class because of work and showing up to another with nothing to share. But that was okay. The point was to get me writing regularly again, to get into that mindset where anything and everything might make a great first line. And that happened. Plus I met some really cool people. Success.

    2011, for me, was about mind opening. Learning things, learning about ways to learn things, finding more things I want to learn. Next up: a Skillshare class or two, a knife skills class with this awesome dude, and actually learning how to code. 

    I’m thinking that 2012 is going to be kind of dynamite.

  9. a Vermont weekend, in photographs

    September 28, 2011 by justgathering

    Last weekend, Daniel and I fell off the face of Manhattan and landed in Vermont.

    With these lovely people.

    In their rented house/converted train depot.

    Which is absolutely breathtaking.

    We spent two days in a tiny town among mountains, with an even tinier post office.

    We drank good Vermont beers.

    And let the dogs run wild.

    And woke up to scenes like a silo, surrounded by fog.

    We went farmers marketing.

    And stocked up on maple syrup.

    And ate for reals ice cream: maple walnut and pumpkin.

    We “shared”.

    We went to the apple orchard.

    And learned the dos and don’ts of picking apples.

    And gathered a peck and a half of galas and honeycrisps.

    First meal made upon our return: garlic roasted sweet potatoes and apples with caramelized onions and wild rice.

    And before we hit the road on Saturday, I ran the 5th Avenue Mile. I think wanting to leave for Vermont made me fast because I ran it in 6:48. Either that or those speed classes are paying off.