This has been a year of incredible progress on my first short story collection. With the generous support of a Ruby Grant from the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, I was able to spend almost a year focused entirely on my writing. I traveled to Seattle, Japan, and Hawaii and conducted research that caused my book to shift and grow in directions I’d never expected. The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts then gave me a home and a community in which to write new stories for Moon Over Sand Island.
So I am beyond thrilled to finally be able to share a few sneak previews of the new stories in the collection. This fall I’ll be giving two readings in Baltimore. I’ll be reading at the Starts Here! Reading Series this Monday, September 21. Then on Sunday, October 4, all of this year’s four inaugural Ruby Grant recipients in literature will be coming together to give a reading at the Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore. (See details below.) At each of these events, I’ll be reading different stories from Moon Over Sand Island. I would love for you to join in the fun!
Monday, September 21
1500 Union Avenue, Baltimore
Sunday, October 4
The Ivy Bookshop
6080 Falls Road, Baltimore
Even after eleven years, I still find unexpected scenes my neighborhood in Baltimore: an alleyway, the parallel hemispheres of a line of satellite dishes rimmed with sunlight, the iron weight of a pulley beneath the fire escape. There’s so much life hiding behind the corners of a place.
Mt. Vernon Staircase / Melissa Wyse & Tim Peck
Last year, I started working on a collaborative photography project. I’ve been taking photos on an old Pentax SLR camera, and my partner, Tim, has been going into the dark room to develop the film. Tim is a professional musician and composer, and so for both of us this has been a fun creative enterprise, an opportunity to experiment in a third medium while we complete major projects in our primary fields.
So far, my favorite photos from our series are the ones I’ve taken in my neighborhood in Baltimore. One of the interesting elements of the collaboration has been that Tim never knows what will be on the film I send him, and I don’t know how he’ll choose to interpret the images once he gets them in the darkroom. It can be a freeing experience — especially as a writer, where so little of my creative work is open to that kind of collaborative serendipity. I really like the painterly effect we wound up with in Mt. Vernon Staircase.
Baltimore and DC, you all have the best weekend coming. Jonathan Harper’s new collection Daydreamers comes out tomorrow and One More Page Books in Falls Church is feting the launch with a 5:00 reading and party. You can (and should) buy this fantastic new book and put it at the top of your list for spring reading.
The BMA is also getting in on the weekend action with a Contemporary Print Fair on Saturday and Sunday, which is an terrific opportunity to pick up original new art and see and support contemporary talents.
And up the road, the Smith College Club is hosting its inimitable and enormous annual book sale all weekend.
And because this weekend really is the best, you can continue the party with a Silent Art Auction and Celebration of the Arts gala (complete with emerging performing artists), brought to you from my old friends at the Howard County Arts Council. Tickets start at just $50 — a steal!
I started noticing these cozies around street signs and lampposts in my Baltimore neighborhood last summer. The crocheted granny square above is my favorite one I’ve seen: its play of bright and mossy colors feels particularly warming and delightful. And the generations-old granny square pattern (still the one I use most when I make blankets) seems at once deeply evocative and playful.
These fiber pieces carry a range of connotations, though. The one below feels to me distinctly different: grittier and rougher and more challenging. I don’t know the artist or his/her intentions, but to me this piece is asking us to do a different kind of thinking about the city and its interwoven poverty.
I’ve been reading a bit about yarn bombing, which has an interesting history and trajectory as a street art, a medium for a range of artistic and political expressions. London’s Knit the City‘s stitched story concept is an especially nuanced collectively-organized graffiti knitting project.
I’m struck by the way this emerging form grants a certain public access to a demographic that traditionally did not have a home in public and street art. Fiber arts such as knitting and crocheting have so often existed in a domestic sphere. Their realization as a street form — and a subversive one at that — opens these artists and their work to a potent range of creative possibility.
I really value the way fiber street art interrupts the streetscape, rendering it newly tactile and human, politicized and personal.
During my month of transition from this phase of my life to the next new journey, I took a ceramics class up at Baltimore Clayworks. I’ve always had an acute tactile awareness, which is partly why I’m so drawn to textiles and ceramics. So I thought it would be good for me to learn the wheel at last.
This is part of a longer process for me of reclaiming a sense of belonging and freedom in visual art. It’s so creatively enlivening to explore these second mediums — ceramics and drawing and film photography. It adds a loosening and layering to my primary creative work in fiction.
Learning the pottery wheel wound up being particularly apt at this moment as I get ready for my research trip, which includes a study of Japanese ceramics.
And I love this little olive dish I made. It’s being bisqued while I’m away, and when I come home in March, I’ll glaze it and send it downstairs to the kiln to be finished.