Atramentous

I need a title.

A new project I’m working on has outgrown its old one, and now I’m left with the task of naming it again. It’s because of this and other bits of life that have got me thinking even more about the impact of words. So here I am, trying to decide which words will set the stage, which ones have the right shades of orange and twilight lavender splashed with stars.

Like many people who love language—the sounds and shapes of it— I keep a list of words I like. Some of them are on the list for their meaning, and others are on the list because of their timbre. Often, it’s a mix of the two. Words are complicated, infinitely loaded with perception, context, and even your own experiences. Continue reading

Love Letter

Four letters are folded into the striped envelopes of my every day, stuffed, sealed, kissed, and tucked away. No single one is alike—I have everything from elegant inked adoration to scrawled crayon affection.

On this day of chocolate hugs and candy kisses, I wanted to make for you a perfect, wordy confection. Continue reading

100 Letters, Pie, and Reasons Why

Imagine making a pie, but this pie takes a year or more to bake. Before that, you spend weeks looking at recipes, reading cookbooks late into the night, and tasting ingredients. You spend months rolling out piecrust and kneading it back together to try again. After you’ve fluted the crust with knife-edge precision, a level, and a ruler, you begin throwing the contents of your spice cabinet together like a mad culinary artist.

By the time you pour the filling into the shell, you’ve mixed up twelve different bowls (this one with more cinnamon, this one with more ginger, less vanilla in this one, this one you tried the butter at room temperature) before it finally smells like perfection. The countertop is littered with eggshells, puffs of flour, dirty spoons, and the sink is overflowing, but this, this is ready.

With a deep breath, you slide it into the oven. But even at this point, anything can still happen. The crust starts to sag. The filling bubbles over. One edge is traitorously turning black. The whole thing is going to turn into a sticky patch of half-burnt, inedible goo.

But then, somehow, the timer buzzes and you pull a beautiful, hot pie from the oven. You set it out on the table, sweaty, proud, and a little nervous, but you’re ready to share what you’ve made. There you stand, clutching your oven mitts together.

The first person you ask says no thanks, they’ve already eaten five slices. The person next to them is more of a cake enthusiast. Someone else is too busy talking to even think about dessert. Time goes by, and the warm steam wisps away from your pie. No one wants what you’ve made.

For a writer, rejection feels a lot like that. Continue reading

Why You Should Read Aloud

Some of my best memories are of books being read aloud. When my sister and I were younger, we were homeschooled, and as we chowed down on grilled cheese sandwiches at lunchtime, my teacher (mom) would read to us. I worked out pronunciation and learned to love the sound of words by reading Robinson Crusoe out loud. When I moved away for school, Tuesday nights I’d Skype with a friend, and we’d read P.G. Wodehouse to each other. Studying abroad in Oxford, three of us chipped in for Terry Prachett’s Raising Steam and camped out on a bed to read with hot chocolate or tea. All of these moments are special, tied together with two of the most important things in my life: good books and good company.

These are just some examples from my life, but I’d like to give you three reasons you should start reading aloud today.

Continue reading

How I Learned to Love Shakespeare

I’ve always loved words, but it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I encountered the unsettling assumption that all word people love William Shakespeare. Sure, I felt that it was a good thing to read Shakespeare and I really did enjoy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but you wouldn’t find me standing on my bed in a thunderstorm reciting The Tempest or joining Team Love or Team Infatuation in heated lunchroom debates over Romeo and Juliet. I knew all the important quotations: “To be or not to be,” “Alas, poor Yorrick,” “Beware the ides of March,” “All the world’s a stage”…You know. The essentials.

Here I was, about to become an English major in college, and I could only quote Marc Antony’s speech from Julius Caesar and the entirety of Prairie Home Companion’s hilarious “Six-Minute Hamlet.” Sooner or later, they’d find out I was an imposter.

In the spring semester, however, I met the Bard. Continue reading

This Season

It’s been a while.

A most understated phrase, and it’s one that I’m sorry to say. People talk about seasons of life often, and as a novice gardener, I’m tempted to think of those seasons as bunches of months, clusters of days defined by the weather and a solar path around the sun. However, as I’m learning, these seasons sprawl outside calendar lines. They aren’t thawed by spring or go on vacation in summer. They aren’t put to bed in autumn or buried in winter.

This has been a difficult season for me, one that’s been going on for a long time, and this past month with my grandma passing away was intensely hard. It’s been a time of equally hard prayer and closeness with family— much needed rain for scorched ground. Some days when the sun sets, I feel I’m closing the door on another day of broken trowels and withered plants, torn leaves and snapped stems. Continue reading