Monthly Archives: May 2011

Of cupcakes and other loveliness…

There’s not a lot that I enjoy doing more than making ridiculously good food and the past few days saw me in prime bad-ass chef/baker mode. I fried tofu into golden colored strips that were just this edge of crispy and served them with a spicy peanut sauce, forbidden rice (which is strange and delicious and chewy), and asparagus fried up with honey and spices (so good it makes tears come to the eye, this is in fact the dish that converted me to the asparagus worship that affects the rest of my family). As dessert I made some truly fluffy vanilla cupcakes and topped them with dark chocolate frosting (the secret was cocoa powder AND melted chocolate). Day one of the cooking was done and so I watched episodes of Glee as a well-deserved reward. Glee is my current favorite show on television (I rarely like television shows but when I do I usually love them absolutely: Buffy, Homicide, Seinfeld, Battlestar, Veronica Mars, Deadwood,the first five seasons of The X-Files, Dead Like Me, and Doctor Who are the ones that leap to mind when I think of great television).
Day two of cooking I focused on baking something lovely and made a very deeply chocolatey cupcake. What to top it with, I asked myself….I’m a vegetarian but usually stay away from vegan desserts as butter and eggs seem so central to fluffy goodness, but I’ve been wanting to play around more without these ingredients, so I thought: why not work on inventing a vegan frosting? No butter, no problem. A lot of people would have went to shortening as a substitution, but I find shortening makes frostings greasy and unpleasant. I ended up making a mock chocolate-raspberry ganache (mock because there was no whipped cream obviously) which tasted truffle-like and, dare I say it, awesome!
Day three had me pondering what to make to go with my mom’s amazing lentils (spiced to perfection) and so I made up a batch of Parisian style Pletzl with onions and poppy seeds. The rolls came out ultra airy and delicious. For dessert, I made a cupcake with a flavor combination that I’ve been wanting to perfect for Women in REDzine’s lovely Art Editor: orange, chocolate, and coffee. I made a super light cupcake laced with orange extract and zest to give a very slight citrus hint, then topped the cakes with an orange-mocha frosting. The result: divine!
Now, alas, I must let the cooking/baking rest for a few days as I finish up my internship and some last minute things before the summer truly begins. But, the summer looks pleasant: a pile of good books to read, paths to hike, recipes to try out, and some wonderful WIRZ related events. As always, I’ll keep you (my dear four [FOUR!] readers posted….

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Helloooo Summer!

All of my final grades have been posted and my internship ends next week which means that I am just about ready to head out of the city and enjoy the brief freedom of summer. I have many grandiose summer plans: learning at least ten new non-dessert recipes, reading a ton, writing. I will also be so seeing  the remake of Fright Night. You don’t remake a classic from my childhood AND add David Tennant into the cast and not expect me to race out to see it… So it should be, you know, the stuff that summer legends are made of… Last summer I invented a new pizza recipe(with a thick chipotle-laced sauce, corn, and feta cheese among other toppings) and so it will be hard to top that. I, also, of course will still be diligently at work as poetry editor of an online magazine and as Assistant Editor-In-Chief of the awesome Women in REDzine. Speaking of WIRZ (as I always seem to be doing): we had a delightful meeting with the editor of Rosebud, a literary journal that we aspire to be like. He was absolutely a joy to meet and has kindly offered to keep in touch with us and our magazine. The EIC and I also had the chance to do an in-person interview with poet Sean Bishop. It was a lot of fun and made me seriously reconsider why I decided against going into pop-culture journalism if interviews are that awesome….Sigh, me and my need to be a fiction writer…. I also can’t wait to get started on our poetry issue which will be coming out in October. We’re going to a much longer format and a hopefully more “book-like” appearance. For more info, as always please visit our website: http://www.womeninredzine.com
Now, back to my summer plans, which incorporate my very lovely list of must-read books: the new mystery by Kate Atkinson, Valerie Laken’s collection of short stories, and a heap of others. I’m also going to be reading (examining in the case of map books) some research books for the novel I’m currently at work on—I love that I can call a pile of ghost story collections, the Oxford Encyclopedia of Mythology, and the Wisconsin Gazetteer, “research books.” It should be good times.
My latest culinary obsession is to create some more filled cupcakes— the current plan is orange butter cupcakes filled with blackberry cream, and drizzled with a dark chocolate and orange zest flecked ganache. I’ll keep everyone updated on this progress as I think these may turn out to be….The Mother of All Cupcakes!!!
I also have the less fun, but important, joy of deciding which MFA programs I’ll be applying to in the fall. The process of applying to MFA programs is mind-bogglingly hideous and starting early should make it a little less hideous (I hope, oh goodness, I hope). As quite a few of my friends are also applying to MFA programs (or to grad schools) I am planning on many a grad school application stress relief party. Food, drinks, and griping will be had by all! The choice of which grad schools to apply to is a tough one: I don’t want to move far away from my home but quite a few of the top schools are far away. There are also so many individual factors to consider beyond a programs ranking: the faculty (are there certain authors I want to work with), the proximity to good bookstores (maybe this is a factor only I consider…Hmmm….), the amount of teaching that one is expected to do as a grad student (most MFA programs require one to teach in order to receive full funding), the location (Austin, Texas has a stellar MFA program with excellent funding, but I can’t stand the heat, and sadly this is something to consider), and other factors which are just as important.
Once I’ve decided where to apply to I have to start work on the agonizing process of drafting personal statements (the hardest 500-1000 words that one can ever possibly write), updating my CV, and securing recommendations. Then comes the absolutely terrifying prospect of picking out which stories to include in my writing sample. I’m not a good judge of my own work and I will be relying heavily on friends and advisors for this…..
So, overall, it looks like a fun and potentially exhausting summer. I’ll be sure to throw in plenty of hiking, a good deal of baking cupcakes and cookies, cooking, reading, and, as always, endlessly working to help turn Women in REDzine into the best possible literary magazine that we can!

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A quick update of happiness

I am having a brilliant day and so I best blog about it. I just spent several days at home with my family enjoying amazing food (lasagna, carrot salad, honey-fried asparagus, and Spanish Bun Cake with mocha frosting) and catching up on episodes of Glee, I baked some excellent Velvet Spice cupcakes and topped them with a sublime chocolate-cinnamon frosting, I finished reading a surprisingly engaging collection of essays called “The Late American Novel,” and I just realized how three story lines I’ve been working on for a novel finally connect (when things begin to click is the greatest moment that a writer can have during the writing process, I swear). In other news of Awesome proportions: WIRZ has interviews with poet Sean Bishop for our amazing poetry issue which will be coming out in fall and a meeting with the editor of the journal Rosebud, both of which are tomorrow, I also owe our lovely EIC a delicious Mocha Polar Cap from our favorite cafe for a bet that I lost spectacularly. WIRZ has also secured interviews with some of the greatest writers out there which will be appearing in our upcoming issues (seriously, I can’t wait to publicize these names, because they are ridiculously awesome and, well, I’m excited and honored and exuberantly happy to get the chance to interview them…Stay Tuned on this matter…). And, then, as a topper: I just got news that a couple of poems of mine have been picked up for publication! So happiness all around.
And now for a bit of WIRZ related hype: I am so excited for our special small works collection which will focus on poetry and flash fiction and will be debuting at the Wisconsin Poetry Festival. I am addicted to flash fiction (when it’s done right) and we have interviews lined up with such wonderful poets as Sean Bishop, Ron Wallace, Nick Lantz, and Jacqueline Jones Lamon. This should be a delightful issue, especially as WIRZ is moving to a considerably longer format and is now available for subscription. So check out our website: http://www.womeninredzine.com  Plus, don’t forget to submit your own writing!

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More Book Recommendations (because I just can’t help myself)

Short stories are the underdogs of the literary world. I’ve been told (more than once, twice, thrice) that few people get book deals solely based on short story collections, they’re usually taken with the promise of a novel down the line, you know a novel, a real book. The thing is— I’m a short story writer. I don’t have the capability to write a novel. Although, I do write interlinked short story collections which are novels in a way (hey, if Joyce can say it…) But, I’m proud of being a short story writer. I think there’s a beauty to a perfectly written short story that doesn’t exist in novels. A perfect short story is all the better because it’s a short story. Succinct, ephemeral, perfection. So, in that annoying manner of mine, I started thinking about short stories. Mostly, because I wanted to stop thinking about the Final exam that I’ve just taken, but that’s beside the point (it wasn’t pleasant let me tell you. In fact, it was as opposite of pleasant as can be…It wasn’t just unpleasant, it was anti-pleasant…).

So some short story collections (excerpted from a ridiculously long list) that make me want to shake my fist in the face of every short story naysayer out there. These collections make me want to jump up and down and yell “I write short stories” at the top of my lungs. They make me want to bake cupcakes for the authors and even use my fancy cake decorating tips to make pretty designs in the frosting. They’re that good and reading them not only makes me ridiculously happy but also helps me to figure out what it is that makes a short story perfect. And as a wannabe-someday-at-least-okay author, I sort of can’t argue with that. So read these, my four (happy EIC) readers and if you write than read them first to enjoy and second to teach, and if you don’t write (except for that Twilight fan fiction that you don’t tell anyone about) then just enjoy.

“Stranger Things Happen” and “Magic For Beginners’ By: Kelly Link. I wanted to just include one link collection to keep it fair. But, I couldn’t decide. Link is my personal goddess. Her writing is new wave fabulism and your favorite fairy tale from hen you were a kid and that scary story that your brothers used to tell you that you still get chills when you over hear it. She’s just that good and more.

“For the Relief of Unbearable Urges” By: Nathan Englander. Because it’s perfect. “The Twenty-Seventh Man” makes me cry every time and not just because it’s heartbreaking but because it’s perfect and heartbreaking and devastatingly beautiful.

“Looking For Jake” By: China Mieville. Maybe, I do talk about Mieville too much. But, I don’t care. He is awesome and insanely good and the stories in here are terrifying and wonderful and strange and lovely. Each one is like finding a perfect piece of agate out on the shores of Lake Superior and you think “wow, I won’t find another like this soon!” and then you read his next story.

“The View from the Seventh Layer” By: Kevin Brockmeier. Perfection. Brockmeier is simply one of the most human writers in existence. If that sounds like a weird compliment then read him and you’ll see why it’s the perfect compliment.

“The Shell Collector” By: Anthony Doerr. I read this book when it first came out, many years ago, and I still remember it so vividly that I can picture the stories in my head. That’s skill!

“Refresh, Refresh” By: Benjamin Percy. There are horror stories in here and stories that contain horror. The thing Percy does best is not letting you know the difference until you finish. This is a stellar collection.

“The Universe in Miniature in Miniature” By: Patrick Somerville. First off, any book dedicated to Slartiblartfast, deserves to be on here. Second, any book that takes the end of the world and makes it into something so beautiful and lovely and sad and yet uplifting should be commended. Third, the machine for understanding other people needs to be invented and fast.

Okay, I’ll stop here for now…I tend to get carried away with my short story love and so instead of giving you dozens of collections, dear four readers, I’ll space them out. Writing posts about short stories will be my pick-me-up whenever final exams or whatever get me down. And if you think that’s  sad pick-me-up then you haven’t read these story collections.

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Sci-Fi is goodness (and, we want your writing)

So, what to do on a gloomy day in Finals week? Well, I could spend it dreaming of cocoa pancakes covered in strawberries and whipped cream (for which I have a promising new recipe) or I could study (but I probably won’t be doing that). Ha! I know! I should probably write a rambling blog post.

First off, I would like to use this forum for  a little bit o’ marketing. Women in REDzine wants your (yes, you, there in the back pretending not to notice) writing and art. We are open for quality submissions from anyone. We run almost entirely on unsolicited submissions and so I want to encourage everyone to send in some writing. We have a small and dedicated staff of reviewers and editors who will look over your submission with consideration. We do publish only a small amount of what we receive but we read every piece sent to us with care. What we publish is poetry, short stories, flash fiction, art, and audio/video of spoken word and music, hell, we’ll even look at your super short films (especially if they involve evil cupcakes from Mars, oh wait, no, that’s the super short film I’m working on…Never mind…). Read our guidelines at http://www.womeninredzine.com

Okay, now that I’ve said that. I will move on to some more (and more generalized) rambling. I was recently thinking about how much I love science-fiction, but how rarely I find science-fiction that I really love (look at the brilliant and confounding structure of that sentence). The thought actually started with me considering where I would go to if I had a TARDIS and if I knew I would be absolutely safe (in terms of my abilities at survival in sci-fi situations, I’m probably more of a Star Trek Red Shirt than a Doctor Who companion) and in which I wouldn’t accidentally do something all “Sound of Thunder”-esque. Then, I realized I had mentioned three sci-fi things and decided that I should, instead, consider some of my favorite sci-fi.

Of course, there’s Doctor Who (and while I love Christopher Eccleston, I have to admit here that David Tennant will ALWAYS be my Doctor Who). It’s brilliant and funny and thrilling and smart and wonderful. I’m also (obviously, perhaps, with my copious use of the word “frak”) dedicated to Battlestar Galactica and I also really enjoyed the spin-off Caprica (which was really not given enough of  a chance to build an audience before it was canceled). Battlestar was well acted, looked amazing, and featured some of the best dialogue exchanges in recent memory. Then, of course, there’s Firefly and the film, Serenity, which came from it. Joss Whedon is one of  my personal heroes. Seriously, the man is AWESOME.

For films, I can’t think of too many recent ones which have really delighted me: Sunshine and Never Let Me Go (both, incidentally, written by Alex Garland. He of the awesomeness.) are the two that most readily jump to mind. I also remember enjoying a strange film that may have been called Avalon. And The Children of Men in one of my favorite films of the past decade. But, I feel there should be more, so many more….Why isn’t science-fiction capitalized on?

Of books, there are even fewer in recent years. I grew up on Bradbury, Heinlein, Campbell, and Arthur C. Clarke. Yet, I can’t name many recent authors who have thrilled me with science-fiction like those authors do. “Things We Didn’t See Coming” by: Steven Amsterdam was absurdly good. I also loved “The Universe in Miniature in Miniature” By: Patrick Somerville. But, there are fewer and fewer occasions it seems when I pick up a science fiction book and get entirely absorbed into it’s world (or worlds if it’s a short story collection).
So, finally, I get to the point of this rambling: I’m looking for suggestions for excellent science-fiction. Be it television, movies, or (especially) books/authors. So, dear three blog readers, if you have suggestions (or you just want to wax poetically on your favorite Bradbury story) let me know them!

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On Staying in One Place

As finals approach ever more quickly I can’t help but start to think about how these were almost the FINAL finals of my undergraduate career. I had every intention of finishing college in four years. I had never really wanted to go in the first place and I probably have better things to be doing (like inventing new cupcakes or rereading the Aubrey/Maturin series or something). I applied to MFA programs last fall with the hope of forever leaving behind the “undergrad experience.” I unfortunately applied in poetry (I’m still thinking through what exactly compelled my stupidity that time). And while I was accepted to a program I kept thinking about it. About the act of going for something I really wasn’t sure I wanted (MFA programs aren’t like ice cream where if you pick orange sherbet but actually deep down wanted mint-chip cookie, you still think what the hell, it’s still sweet and cold…). So, when my poetry MFA program said I could defer for a year, I sort of knew I had made the right choice by deciding not to attend this coming fall. Maybe I won’t get into any fiction programs (in fact, there is a pretty good chance I won’t) but I’ll still have an MFA program waiting with open arms for me either way and I’ll be able to say that at least I tried to follow my heart and go for fiction.

So, anyways, what that long side-note is leading up to is the fact that I’ll be sticking around as an undergrad for one more year (and I recently found out that this makes me a “Super Senior” which has a certain ring to it). This thought is both depressing and also strangely comforting. As much as I’ve hated so much about college (weed-out classes, finals week, bad professors who kill subjects I love, etc, etc).There have been things I’ve really loved. I’ve meet some of my closest friends, I’ve had professors who made me rethink the ways that I read a piece of literature, I’ve done some of the best writing of my life.

And there are also the things I have to look forward to in the coming year: being a part of Women in REDzine which makes me so thrilled and happy and really just jubilant—we have a staff who are so talented and so wonderful that I can’t wait to work with them to create a truly unique and amazing magazine; still getting to have coffee at my favorite café with friends; the chance that one of my best friends in the world might be my roommate next year which just has to equal ultimate awesomeness; a possible visit by one of my oldest friends who I haven’t seen in such a ridiculously long time; the chance to keep improving my writing; and strangely the applying to MFA programs—it’s a headache and a half and it’s annoying and soul crushing but the chance that I might get to go to an MFA in fiction is a chance that I want to take.

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In which a pint thief considers some good news

The semester is finally drawing to a close which makes me absurdly happy. Yes, there are still finals. And yes they won’t be fun. But several awful classes I’ve had this semester will be over for good! And the WIRZ party at the end of the semester just keeps looking more fantastic (as we’ve recently learned that a friend and award winning author will be showing up).And again my menu of the gods…So, that’s all good.

In other great things to come: I’m looking forward to our staff getting to meet the lovely Jensine Larsen, founder of World Pulse, and who is just utterly fantabulous. As well as to our meeting with the editor of Rosebud who has agreed to help us figure out ways to make WIRZ into a truly quality literary journal (look out Tin House!). Over the summer we will be making an appearance at Baraboo’s Summerset festival and I’ve been given a spot as one of the opening readers for Wisconsin Poet Laureate Bruce Dethlefsen. Of course, I happen to be a terrible reader and don’t want to expose anyone to that kind of suffering…So…

Next semester WIRZ already has so much planned that I sometimes have to stop and be amazed at how we managed to do all of this in such a short time. If we put this skill into other things we could totally have created some kind of castle with trap doors and giant Rube Goldberg-esque devices throughout or invented cotton candy that grows in fields or something else equally as useful… We will be attending the Wisconsin Book Festival, The Wisconsin Poetry Festival, meet with the Editors of the wonderful literary journal Verse Wisconsin, put out a special poetry themed issue which will feature interviews with the absolutely flat-out amazing poet Ron Wallace and the awesome poet Sean Bishop. It will also feature poetry by staff and undergrads which is bound to be thrilling and perfect and just the best thing ever. Then we just received an invitation to give a reading and presentation at the UW-Baraboo campus! Plus, we’re panning our release party (can anyone say champagne hot tubs?)!

On a more personal note of goodness, although I’ve decided to stay an extra year on campus in order to apply to fiction MFA programs (as my poetry program was willing to defer me), I have recently been given a little boost of confidence that I’ve made the right decision as I’ve won some fiction awards. These have to be some of the most exciting things to ever happen to this pint thief. For a long time, I was told that my poetry (which I really dislike) was much better than my fiction and I was starting to believe that I was going to have to give up writing in favor of something more practical like raising Chinese Water dragons or running a Corgi Circus or declaring myself queen of cupcake baking (oh, wait, I did that already). So, this has been an honor (probably an undeserved one) which makes me want to cry and hug people (and I REALLY don’t ever hug people). So maybe this signals a slightly less foggy future for your intrepid pint thieving, cupcake making, blogger. Maybe….

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