My Top Books of 2018

I read (or re-read) 100 books this year. Making 100 has been my goal for the last several years and this is the first time I’ve actually gotten there. Instead of giving out an itemized list of all the books I read (which I did last year), I’ve written just a few words on the books I read that had the greatest impact. I should also mention (regarding poetry) that I dived into the works of Dana Gioia, W.S. Merwin, and continued my love of Billy Collins, but no specific book of theirs made the list. Rather, I was impressed by poem after poem. I wish I had smarter, more tasteful (?) taste, but these are the books that stood out to me and that I know I can recommend in the last year. Enjoy!

Turtles All the Way Down - John Green

Sometimes you read a book that gives you a way into yourself. Green explores OCD and anxiety through the teenage Aza Holmes, who, along with her best friend Daisy, is trying to solve the mystery of a billionaire’s disappearance. The thing is, her mental illness doesn’t make her a better detective, daughter, friend, or student. There’s no upside to her illness. Reading this book was one of the reasons I pursued a diagnosis for my own mental stuff — it turns out, I also have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Anxiety — and also prepped me for taking medication. Plus, John Green’s always a genius with sentences. It’s a delight to read his work.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - Marie Kondo

I read a lot of non-fiction works this year that were by turns insightful, helpful, entertaining, and mind-opening. Frankly, this is the one that actually stuck with me and that I gained actual, real-life change from. While I could write more about the book, suffice it to say the method actually works and I recommend it without reservations.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing - Hank Green

This novel is a hysterically funny (and also deadly serious) take on fame in the internet age, while also being a wild sci-fi read with a narrator who I want to be best friends with and also kind of want to slap in the face. As a writer who’s at the very start of my career, I think this is an important book for me to have read now (instead of in three to five years) and was also ridiculously good.

The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis

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I’ve loved the Chronicles for (quite literally) as long as I can remember, but I re-read them before I got my Narnia tattoo, just to be 100% sure that this is what I wanted.Well, it was, and now I have a permanent reminder of one of my favorite stories on my arm forever. I’d say that’s an impact.

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

I didn’t know much about Sylvia Plath before I read The Bell Jar — I’d read a couple poems of hers in college, but I wasn’t really rooted in her work, and we had read them in a poetry unit (rather than a Plath unit) and so I didn’t know what to expect going into the novel. What I got was a book that told me my experience isn’t the only one like it. It served a similar function to Turtles All the Way Down, and was also immensely funny in the dark, masochistic kind of way that so brilliantly serves illness narratives.

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Why "They Just Want Attention" is No Excuse (Updated)

 Why "They Just Want Attention" is No Excuse (Updated)

[originally posted on March 6, 2015. The message of the original post is the same here, but I’ve edited it for clarity].

There are a lot of things that make me righteously indignant in life. People who don't signal when they turn left. Racism. Churches that favor talent over righteous living (I’ve written a few stories about this).

And No One Can Stop You

Here’s the thing about making art: it’s hard to get seen. It’s always been that way; in the past, it was difficult because art was localized and difficult to replicate, and now it’s for the opposite reason. In any case, it’s hard to get stuff seen and it’s even harder to get paid. That’s not a complaint, but it needs saying.

I graduated from my Master’s program about a year and a half ago. Since then, I’ve done more creative work than any other year-and-a-half period in my life. Some pieces have gotten published, and a lot of background work that will be invisible until it’s… not… has been done. In the words of Captain Raymond Holt from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “It’s… a lot.” Making things, promoting them, not giving up… it’s a lot.

That being said, the more often I sit down and work on whatever project I’m knee-deep in, whether or not I want to, whether or not I think anything useable will come of it, the more productive that time becomes. When Rory and I decided to launch Spoilers Ahead, there was literally nothing (within reason) anyone could do to prevent us from making a podcast and putting it out there. Twenty-Three EP? Avoiding Trainwrecks EP? Side Effects? Once the team got on board with making the thing, there was no stopping it.

I love traditional avenues of publishing and I’m hoping to spend the bulk of my career there. Here at the beginning of my career, the best thing I can do is keep making things and putting them out there. Every project shows growth from the last. I have the freedom to experiment and grow my creative vocabulary. I also have the freedom to learn consistency without the consequence of a contract – ie, I’m learning how to show up with a poem every Monday and a blog every Friday and a podcast episode every other Tuesday without risking a professional relationship.  

No one that can stop me from making things. There’s also no one that can stop you from making things. Get out there. Make the thing. I promise it’s worth it.

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Latte Day

Latte Day

A little over a year ago, I got laser eye surgery and was hyped up on medication when a couple friends of mine Skyped me to chat. I don’t remember how we got on the subject, but I do remember that I said something along the lines of the following (and I said it with a Scottish accent - Heidi-on-pain-meds often has an accent):

“You know, people just want to dump out all their potential like it’s tap water! But everyone’s a latte! A well-crafted, fancy, delicious latte!”

Thanksgiving is Part of Christmas Season

Thanksgiving is Part of Christmas Season

I used to be a very firm believer in “Christmas season starts after Thanksgiving!” This logic followed my unspoken belief that Christmas was, in fact, a holiday co-opted from the corporate drive to spend, rather than co-opted by aforementioned corporate drive to spend. In other words, I wanted Christmas to start after Thanksgiving because I felt like I’d already lost one of the highest Holy Days in my religion to spending and had to scratch and claw a way to make it meaningful.

In Defense of Imagining

In Defense of Imagining

A few minutes before writing this blog, I finished reading Reality Hunger by David Shields, and found myself deeply disturbed by his assertions. This is my response to reading that book, but in general it’s also some thoughts on art and imagination. It’s weird. If this is your first time visiting my blog… good luck. It’s possible I grossly misinterpreted his point. In any case, I'm wading in.

Someone Else's Sixteen Albums: Reviewed

Someone Else's Sixteen Albums: Reviewed

A while ago, Josh Taylor of Blimey Cow (@dearfuturejoshon Twitter), posted a photo of 16 albums that were important to him. I’ve been following the Blimey Cow gang for a while, and since I just got Apple Music, I decided to listen to Josh’s list and write a blog post about what I thought. If you’ve read this blog before or listened to Spoilers Ahead, you know I do unbridled enthusiasm. If I like it, I'm gonna tell you why and how much. Without further ado, here’s what I thought of Josh's list.

Myths About Therapy

Myths About Therapy

I’ve been in therapy off and on since I was twelve, and for the most part, it’s been a positive experience all around. I’ve had therapists with different specialties and degrees, seen what works and what doesn’t for me, and come to the conclusion that just about everyone would benefit from therapy. Here, I’ve compiled some myths about therapy, both what I’ve believed myself and what I've heard from others. Hopefully, it helps you consider whether or not getting into therapy might benefit you.

Thoughts on Impending (Whatever May Come)

Thoughts on Impending (Whatever May Come)

I'm writing this on Thursday morning, a few hours before Hurricane Lane is supposed to start really affecting Maui, my home island. Hawaii isn't Florida; most of us can't afford to book a flight off island, and the homes here aren't really designed to withstand serious storms (the hotels are, of course). Everyone I know has made whatever preparations they needed for their families, whether that means stocking up on water, boarding up the windows, or duct taping down the rubber slippers on their porch. Waiting is waiting, and surprisingly, it's not very stressful. 

Why We Still Need Theatre

Why We Still Need Theatre

Stories still matter. It still matters that, as a culture that we sit down and pay attention to the story in front of us, unfolding in real time across a shared field of vision. It matters that we learn how to listen to stories that only touch us because we share humanity. There are so many ways to hear each other; in a live setting with no stops, there’s no choice but to learn to listen to the story being told on the terms it will be heard.