Ink / Mud

Some pleasant news amidst the craziness of the world right now: my short story Ink / Mud took second place at the 2019 Hackney Literary Awards!

Since the story is going to be published in a future issue of the Birmingham Arts Journal, I’ll just post a snippet here for now:

People liked to see twins together, names and outfits in sync – Nicole and Katherine, Nikki and Kitty – and classified us out loud to their children and friends. You get used to being looked at as something special. Whenever our parents took us out separately, on excursions recommended by psychologists to encourage us to develop as individuals, I felt uninteresting, reduced. But Nicole hated being part of a set. No matter how much she loved me and I loved her, I couldn’t change that. She constructed a firm boundary around her, one I had to knock on to enter, one where permission was not always granted. At least in high school, even if we rarely spoke on schoolgrounds, she was nearby, her orbit tugging at mine.

Freshman year at college was like re-learning to walk after the loss of a limb. Autumn settled into a belligerent winter. My incessant texts to my sister went unanswered for days. She’d mention weekend plans or new friends, and I’d pretend I was busy too. If my roommate was out, I escaped to the library or the art studio or a party. Anyone’s party. When I was by myself, I wound down, my clockwork actions growing slower and slower until I could only stare into space. But by the time the campus belly-flopped into spring, I managed to reach a wobbly equilibrium. I was beginning to see myself as my own center of gravity when, in the final heat-swollen days of the semester, Nicole appeared unannounced at the tattoo parlor where I worked part-time. Thrilled, bewildered, I was simultaneously reset and off-kilter.

Sentimental Cartography


Super crazy excited that my short story “Sentimental Cartography” is being featured by Ohio State’s literary magazine The Journal. I had such an amazing time working with the editors, whose feedback was invaluable AND they even nominated my story for a Pushcart Prize! 


Although Madeleine de Scudéry mapped Tenderness in the 17th century, it wasn’t until the 1840s that explorers seriously attempted to map a woman’s heart. 

Atlases were being updated monthly in those days. There were redrawn maps of the earth. The sea. Stars. Bones. The lungs of the nation expanded, ribs cracking, Mexico elbowed aside. Texas shed its republic and was slotted into the role of state. Florida, Iowa and Wisconsin were also christened. California glimmered in the far west, Antarctica in the south, dreamlands of gold or snow. The King of Hawai’i and the electrical telegraph both found God. But most startling was Neptune’s leap from a star to a planet. 

Perhaps it was that – a light thought to be fixed in place revealed as mobile, unreliable, migrant – that spurred men to reexamine their mothers and mistresses, wives and daughters, these frequently observed yet unmapped territories. One’s garden was always the last to be considered explorable, the steps too familiar, the paths too trodden. But sudden mud could grip one’s ankles. Beloved perennials could evaporate. One’s own memory could stumble. With trains and telegraphy rushing to knit the world together, it was becoming clear that ostensibly known spheres, Womanhood in particular, could not remain unclassified. 

De Scudéry’s Carte de Tendre, with its winding, amorous French routes, was denounced as an inadequate guide, primarily because it was nestled in a novel that spanned ten volumes and no one had time for that now that words flew on electricity. The official reason for the censure, however, was that de Scudéry’s extensive education would have weighed down her expeditions, and as she was female, she would have been biased in favor of the locals. Besides, she never married. Another attempt at surveying the heart came seventy-six years after de Scudéry’s death. Johann Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf detailed a map of The Empire of Love, but as this Reich included the Land of Lust, Swamp of Profanity and Bachelor Country, it was presumed to chart only a man’s heart.

Breitkopf’s bold efficiency and musical typeface made him the personal hero of Joseph Husson, a clerk in the typography department of a Bostonian printing press profiting nicely off the constant updates of the 1840s. A snail of a man who flinched into retreat under a steady gaze, he dabbled in drawing maps, though would remain an amateur for his entire life. The smell of linseed oil clung to his nearly-fashionable clothes. When the word cartographie crossed the Atlantic, dropping the original ending, as immigrants do, Husson remodeled every conversation into an opportunity to deploy this new word. Predictably, he became a plague on social events. If he became the first to successfully map a woman’s heart, he bet they wouldn’t be so quick to snicker. 

Husson prepared the necessary supplies at the office, but the only woman he is reported to have kept regular company with was his elder sister, Marcy, who had a habit of resting her cheek into her left fingertips whenever she gazed into a novel. This always gave the impression that she was reading something shocking. It was an old-fashioned gesture and didn’t suit her at all, but that was the picture that appeared in the papers. She’d made the evening post because of her spectacular separation from a recently bankrupted railroad tycoon, who was also a well-known crossdresser. The crossdressing wasn’t the reason she left him, though she had to claim it was, since the divorce wouldn’t have been granted if they uncovered her collusion. Unmoored, she commandeered a bed in her flustered brother’s apartment around the time he embarked on his quest to chart a woman’s heart. Historians have debated the extent of her influence on his expedition. A percentage of his firsthand observations may actually be hers. 

The length of Husson’s mission remains vague, but the result was mapped in oil and pigment and gum and salt and acid wash. Terrain was etched into soft stone and wet lithographs were birthed. The heart was affixed squirming onto thick paper, painted by hand and sold in batches…

Continue reading HERE!