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Grad School: Week 1

The library. The giant, tall, windows are the reading room and my favorite place on campus so far.

The library. The giant, tall, windows are the reading room and my favorite place on campus so far.

If I had been wondering if this was the right place for me, these two sitting in the Children's Section (which is massive!), reminded me I was welcome. We had two just like them growing up.

If I had been wondering if this was the right place for me, these two sitting in the Children’s Section (which is massive!), reminded me I belong. We had two just like them growing up.


I’m about to start a new week of classes in a few hours, and thought I should make a post about the first week.

Not completely unsurprisingly, it started out a little rough. My only creative class for the semester met on Monday-Tuesday and while interesting, was not what I’d hoped it would be. The class was so large that we were writing very little, and had very, very little time to give feedback to one another.

On Wednesday morning I was at breakfast talking about my disappointment to a new friend and 3rd year student and she asked me which other classes I was interested in. None of the other creatives, which were either also large or focused on picture books or nonfiction (two genres I have little interest in, currently). But I was interested in a second critical class. She told me to sit in on it. It was meeting in 15 minutes.

I said okay.

She took me to meet the professor and the professor took me to class and we talked about feminism and literature for 3 hours and I fell head-over-heels in love with the class. It was exactly what I wanted.

So I switched.

I was sad to leave behind my creative class, as it was something I was really looking forward to and the professor is someone I really, really wanted to work with, but she’ll teach other (hopefully smaller) classes and I have other summers.

In the meantime, I’m in Gender and Girls Fiction and even though it may drown my with the amount of work required, I absolutely love it.

My books (minus one) for Gender and Girls Fiction. My the end of 6 weeks, I'll have read all of these.

My books (minus one) for Gender and Girls Fiction. By the end of 6 weeks, I’ll have read all of these.

Other things I did this week:

* Read 2 novels (and a million articles/book chapters)

* Wrote (and submitted!) a poem

* Sat in on conference meetings, for which I’m the co-chair of the silent auction

* Ate and talked and ate and talked

* Made a billion new friends while eating and talking

* Wrote a teeny 2-page paper

* Babysat two beautiful professor’s daughters

* Talked about adoption and faith and speculative fiction with said professor

* Sat in 2 guest lectures and 6 classes (4 is normal!)

* Slept very little

So many bunnies on campus! I see them munching away on the clover almost every morning.

So many bunnies on campus! I see them munching away on the clover almost every morning.

New Orleans: Day 1 (All About Dem Birds)

Our first full day in New Orleans was full of food, rest, and aquarium adventures. We started out a little later than planned, but still pretty early, walking the few blocks to Cafe Beignet, our housemates favorite places to get Beignets. It was packed. Like, lines out the door crazy packed. (This, as you may be guessing, has become somewhat of a theme of our trip.)

So…we pulled up yelp and walked around the corner to the little Cafe Fleur De Lis. It was pretty great, and we had our first celebrity sighting. I was staring as some lady’s breakfast (because I couldn’t tell what it was and it looked interesting). Then she looked up and gave me this strange, strained smile. It was Robin Roberts (from Good Morning America), and I’m fairly certain she thought I was staring at her. Oops.

Kyle is very hopeful about what his breakfast will entail.

Kyle is very hopeful about what his breakfast will entail.

After breakfast we headed to the aquarium, which was Kyle’s birthday gift to me. We didn’t have a ton of time, so we ran up to Parakeet Point, where for the low, low price of $1.50 you can get a little feed stick to feed parakeets in a large, netted room. It was amazing. Like, one of the most amazing things we’ve ever done.

The parakeets were charming and sweet. They loved getting into small spaces–pockets and purses, even sleeves a couple of times.

This is my absolute must do recommendation for anyone who comes to New Orleans (or if we ever come back).


Inside that yellow cage, are hundreds of parakeets.


What’s in here?!


A perfect perch for the most discerning of parakeets.


Feed stick, licked clean.


After our first round with the birds we came back for a quick sandwich (Mufaletta, for the win!) and nap, then went back to the Aquarium. There were more birds to feed! And also, fish. We figured we ought to spend some time with them as well.


For dinner we trekked up to Frenchman St to Three Muses, a short-of tapas place with fantastic food, cocktails and music. Afterward we wandered around the street, listening to music (Kyle was especially happy to find a sousaphone player in the midst of the hubbub). But the highlight for me was attending an outdoor art market and finding the art of Tony Hollums.

Oh my word, his art. Just follow the link above. It’s beyond beautiful. Despite always loving art, I’ve never actually had a favorite artist before, and now I do.


Sidewalk chalked coy at the art market.

Sidewalk chalked coy at the art market.

We bought 4 of his prints, then headed home for a short sleep. We were getting up in the morning to watch the sunrise over the Mississippi.


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Writing Assistant Monday: NaNoWriMo, Begins!



I’m working on two projects for this year’s NaNoWriMo (a competition to complete 50,000 new words during the month of November). First, I’m finishing up the 2nd draft of my upper MG novel based on my short story “The Rum Cake Runner,” then I’ll be tackling the beginning of a brand new YA based on my bootcamp story, currently titled Discovering Justice. November is traditionally a very hard month at work, but writing comes slightly easier to me now than it ever has, so I’m hopeful that I’ll actually win (finish) this year.

The cats, as you can tell, are very supportive of my goals. IMG_1904.JPG


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The Hundred Dresses, Twenty Years Later

I’m not sure how many years it’s actually been since I first read Eleanor Estes’ The Hundred Dresses. Maybe 20. Probably more in the range of 22 or 23, because this book–this little, beautiful book–was the very first “real” book I remember reading as a child. The first book that had chapters, and whole pages of text without pictures. My original copy was small and white, and in my memory it was 100 pages long. The perfect number for a book about 100 dresses. And when I read it, I loved it. It made me happy and made me sad. It was the best introduction to “literature” little girl Jessica could have possibly had.




This new copy is bigger. It’s broader. The me from childhood wouldn’t have liked that its size is a blend between a chapter book and a picture book. And this version has pictures. Colorful, beautiful pictures throughout. I’m not sure I would have liked that either. Afterall, I was proud of my “real” book, and my accomplishment in being able to read, understand, and love such a mature book. Plus, it’s only 80 pages. A round number, true, but not nearly as poetic as 100.

I went out this morning and picked this up, because I’ve been thinking about The Hundred Dresses a lot lately, and how wrapped up my identity might be in it. It’s about a little girl, who didn’t quite fit into the world she was in, and to cope, she made up stories of beautiful dresses.

I have to be honest, I’m a little scared to reread it, so many years later. What if I don’t like it? What if I don’t like the girl? Or if the story doesn’t move me? Then again, it’s been in print continuously since 1945, so I’ll be quite the snob if I don’t like it. But what if I don’t love it.

Then again, if I don’t, that doesn’t mean it has less power. I think the beauty of art is that it changes with us as we grow. Sometimes we grow with a piece, gaining new understanding and depth of perspective with the wisdom that comes only through time, and sometimes we grow away from a piece. The latter doesn’t make its original worth anyway less. And so, I delve in again, so many years later.

I hope I’ll love it.

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Writing Assistant Monday

Finding writing assistants while on the road is hard work.


Surprisingly enough, this is not what a helpful writing assistant looks like.

Finding cute distractions, is not.


“We hear you’re in the market for writing assistants?”

I managed to accomplish exactly 0 of my writing goals last week, but am off to a much better start this week. Fingers crossed that the productivity continues!

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The Weekend’s To Do List

This weekend I need to: 

  • Plow through 3 chapters of the novel’s revisions
  • Write a >750 story for Weekend Warrior (a competition for Codex, the online writing group I joined after bootcamp)
  • Pull 1930s-ish costumes for education department
  • Go see Fences (eat Thai first!)
  • Plan trip to Ireland for the family

Thank goodness Kyle’s busy this weekend. I’d never get through all of this if he wanted to, you know, actually spend time with me. 

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The Rum Cake Runner’s Poem

Ok. If you haven’t been over to Crossed Genres Magazine to read my first-ever published story, “The Rum Cake Runner,” please go do so. It’s short. It’s (hopefully) fun. I’m immensely proud of it.

And while you’re there, read the other stories from the December issue. They’re great.

And in case you need a teaser, below is the entire story in a short poem. (In my Spotlight Author Interview I talk a bit about how sometimes I outline in verse. Because I’m strange. And I like to rhyme.) SPOILERS ahead.


Round and through old asian ladies, shopping

totes full to the brim, a wee olive-skinned

boy with a stash quit two lawmen bopping

along in his trail. The goons twisted, pinned

by the contraband-scenting mutts they held

tight on eLeash. The market browsers thinned

deliberately lagging, letting boy meld

into the bustling horde of produce

bazaar. The pigs and their dogs, not dispelled,

came yet, flashing badge and fang to induce

rabble to move, which they did, albeit

still slowly. Success! Small runner reduced

to a speck in the crowd. The cops credit

was met so they stopped and groaned a fake sigh

over the missed lad, his bootleg packet

of sweet goods. Their mock chase, their outcry,

crooked– for they knew the baker’s young son

needed precinct sweet teeth (and cash) to buy

the final cannoli and cream saffron

cakes. He would swing by them last to be sure

that he took home his pastry bag barren

                                                            and his pockets full.

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Writing Assistant Monday: First Gift of Christmas Edition

Writing Assistant Owl


When I was little, my brother and I would BEG my Mutti to let us open gifts before Christmas. All the gifts. Any gift. Just one gift.

And she always said no.

Until one year, she got us each a first-gift-of-Christmas that we could open early. Usually when we set up the tree, because it was always an ornament.

Kyle & I have continued the tradition, which I love. Every year I hunt down something new and unique just for him, and every year I get a memento to discover and remember when we set up the tree again and again.

This year my first-gift is a writing owl. He’s doubling as a writing assistant for the next couple weeks.

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Writing Assistant Monday

Writing Assistant Monday

Step One to Having an Assistant: Write.


Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

What costumers pull together for Halloween when they haven’t planned anything…

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