How I Got My Name

Last night I saw Amy Grant sing. Also Johnny Rivers and Vince Gill and a 22-year old blues guitarist named Jessica Munn. All of them came as a surprise to me, who had gone to The Station Inn, truth be known to hear Dawn Sears, who wasn’t there. Thus is life born of chance operations,… More

Flash interview #17: The End of Cool

How do you know when something that has been cool has ceased to be cool? Are there any hipsters reading this? Is there a litmus test? Because here’s a theory about fashion at least: a clothing ensemble is no longer cool when it has been appropriated in miniature as doggie drag. If it holds true,… More


…the sign on the corner building read, beside which a street light arched like a back and two tangueros strode across the cover of the leather-bound journal that was to be my first purchase in Buenos Aires. “Little road or journey,” it signifies, though the flight to South America is not diminutive. Distance is not… More

Why Write (Two of however many it takes)

No man is an island, but many boys and girls are. The function of validation and attention is to raise awareness of one’s responsibility to that continent of humankind. Of course attention can be bought for the shock of a fifth grade moon, and validation sold for a song, but the reap is thin and… More

A Threaded Scepter for a Fabric Throne

Lia Purpura could write about dental tape and I’d be interested in it—for her angle of perspective, the texture of her syntax, the way the mouth becomes “any mouth” in the holy repetition of that code of human language: “the shout comes, the chant, tune and refrain: these words are the world.” And what a… More

Fate, Justice, & Planning Ahead

So it doesn’t look promising for me to become Lady Gaga’s editorial assistant for an issue of Metro. What? I know it surprises you that in spite of my qualifications both with language and with knowing myself thoroughly enough to answer her prime interview question, “Why were you born this way?” with forethought, hindsight, and… More

A Ghost-making Expedition

And to be moved by the stars was to have one’s soul stirred by some divinely wrought swizzle   A thought does not have to be thought. In fact, a thought is not—as we thought, a product of the reasoning mind. The mind is a collection. Merely and as much. Infinite, given that even the… More

Why Write (One of however many it takes)

Sometimes a writer comes to a crossroads that causes her to pose a question she never really asked before. Until that moment the answer was assumed, implied in the act of writing. Thus, the asking must indicate an interruption, however brief. Pause gives space to deem it—a thought bubble tossing on an opalescent sea. Writing… More

FC Flash Interview 2: A Joke That Schooled You

I’m writing jokes these days, as in: How many Lutherans does it take to change a lightbulb? Lutherans don’t change lightbulbs; they reform them. I started writing them after we read Mimi Schwartz’s essay “Elegy for an Optimist” in my Intro. to Creative Writing Class. It’s an illuminating downer–about Schwartz’s father-in-law who suffered too much… More

Lord If I’m Nobody, Who Are You?

I am currently teaching Introduction to Creative Writing. Coming down the home stretch of the semester, we’re on nonfiction, and for it I am using, for the first time, David Starkey’s Four Genres in Brief. In it, Brian Doyle speaks of the challenge of wresting an essay free from “the stench of ego.” Philip Lopate… More

How well can I mask my self-interest?

I was waiting yesterday to board a plane in Minneapolis, doing yoga in an alcove. If you were passing through and noticed a new age weirdo stretching into Ardha Chandrasana, I too am just trying to make it all work—a weekend conference interspersed with paper-grading, knees at right angles to the seat back in front… More

The Book Experience Function

judy is an Australian artist whose work I was introduced to through the Sand Book Collaboration Project of Marcela Peral. judy contributed drawings of feeding periwinkles, one of which is shown below. Amy Wright: You live in Thirroul, Australia. Will you describe it? judy: Thirroul is a coastal village, a seaside suburb of the City… More

Radiolab’s Got Your Number

Radiolab podcasts, the ones I prefer anyway, ask the questions some of us have forgotten how to ask—the ones we don’t expect to have answered—because asking them reveals the function of questions to create meaning. These podcasts are divided into twenty minute shorts and hour-long episodes. In the short “The Universe Knows My Name,” show… More

The Present All

Every once in awhile you are where the spirit world chooses to spend their night, and you find yourself among the great celebrity ghosts of Woodie Guthrie and Lady Macbeth at a Tom Waits concert at the Palace Theater, 2006, or a Leonard Cohen show at the Ryman, 2010, or a reading in celebration of… More

CNF Talks to the Feds

I have just begun listening to PodLit, a podcast sponsored by Creative Nonfiction. In Issue #10, editor Lee Gutkind interviews Amy Stolls, NEA Literature Program Officer. Literature is the only NEA discipline to give individual grants. The other individual fellowships—in dance and music, and the performing arts—were cut in 1995 by Congress. Literature remained, according… More