I’ve been tweeting a lot lately, and I’m okay with that. I used to be sort of paralyzed by how the tweets would be perceived (too attention-seeking? trying too hard? not bizarre enough?) and I just decided I don’t actually care that much. I’m saying things I feel like saying. If I want to join in with the rage machine, I do. If I want to share one of the 200 puns that occur to me each week, well, there it is. I figure that ONE day, we’ll say, “Hey, remember when we all used to tweet?” so I’m going to have fun with it.
In that very same spirit, I’ve started a column at The Nervous Breakdown, called CNF 500. It’s for creative nonfiction nerds, and basically there are no rules. Except it has to be CNF and it has to be 500 words. I like a little bit of structure, after all. So read it. And comment. Or send me questions. I’m open.
One of my wet dreams has come true. I’m the new essays editor of The Nervous Breakdown! I’ve followed the site for quite some time and some of my favorite essays are on that site. “Mix Tape” by Wendy Ortiz, “Survival of the Fittest: On Losing My Hearing” by Jennifer Pastiloff, and the shocking and beautiful “An Obedient Girl” by Amy Bridges.
If you have an essay that is raw and vulnerable about something beautiful and scary, send it my way at ekleinman at thenervousbreakdown dot com. Lay it on me, I can take it.
Some people may know that I reached out to Chloe Caldwell a couple of years ago, after reading her book Legs Get Led Astray. I just identified with it so hardcore and felt like I could finally figure out how to tell my own stories, with that wonderful shamelessness she has. I asked her to look at a few of my essays, and this was one of them. She was a huge fan of this piece, even when I had become discouraged about it, thinking no one would want it, or that there was something about it that people just didn’t like. “Why? There’s nothing wrong with it,” she said on the phone. “It’s perfect.” After leaving it alone for a bit, I finally started sending it out. I tell you all this because I want you to know that sharing your work with writers who believe in your writing is extremely valuable.
Chloe still offers essay editing services. She taught a class on LitReactor and I heard she nailed it.
Thanks to Yvonne Dutchover, Kami Wilt, and Michael Noll for additional feedback on this essay in its earlier and also some of its more frustrated stages. My therapist, Pierce Green, helped me to understand my grief and go through it instead of running from it.
I also want to add that Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” played on the radio right when I found out it was accepted by Brad Listi. I’m so very grateful that people are reading about my brother. I will forever miss my little brother — that smack-talking, cheap-drinking, cocky, sentimental and beautiful twenty-six year old. Rest in peace.
My article about our recent move to Monteverde, a radical toy edit, and the upside of boredom is up on elephant journal. I hope you enjoy it.
One of my very good friends and toyless idol, Kami Wilt, helped me out with the early draft of this piece. She runs Austin Tinkering School, which takes this philosophy to the extreme, and in a good way. When I lamented to her that I was afraid that I would slip back into buying useless toys for my children, she said, “Well if you ever want inspiration, come to my house. We don’t buy them any toys, ever!” Yet her backyard is a child’s paradise of tinkering and building. We recently visited her and her three kids at their house for an evening of playing, building with magnet blocks, jumping on the bed, wigs, Michael Jackson music, and soup. And I was inspired.
If you’re in the Austin area, I definitely recommend sending your kids to one of her classes or camps. Kami also leads the Austin Maker Faire this year (and the previous two years), and it’s going to be KILLER.
My essay on my daughter’s first birth and my preeclampsia is on Mutha Magazine. I love that magazine.
Here’s a quick note on what I’ve been reading. Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles. I usually read it about once per year. When we got back from Costa Rica I really wanted to read it, because much of it is set in Central America.
I’ve also been reading Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill, and the Modern Love book. I suppose it is unhealthy for me to keep thinking of essays I could write for Modern Love, but I’m okay with it. It’s good to have goals.
In case you missed it, you should definitely check out this killer essay by Ray Shea on The Rumpus, “Ice Falls.” You might want to make sure you’re alone so you can just chill out around it. It’s heavy and beautiful. Keep an eye on this guy. This is some Best American Essays shit right here. So if you read it now then you can be like people who listen to indie bands and say “Oh yeah, I used to go see Neko Case and Her Boyfriends at the Tractor in Seattle before she was like, famous…”
So when I was a young dyke in San Francisco in the late 90s, boy were people talking about Michelle Tea all the time. Especially my co-workers at the Lusty Lady. I’ve long been an admirer of her hardcore shameless storytelling and that’s one reason why I’m so excited that I have a new essay in her new online magazine, Mutha Magazine. It’s about talking to my daughter about her nascent sexuality.
The number one thing I loved about Austin was Lady Bird Lake. Despite the bicyclists, the dogs, and the traffic from the bridge – it felt peaceful there. I used to walk there with a woman I met when I first moved to Austin, a dyke with short spiked hair and a freshly broken heart. She wanted to get down to hunting weight, and she wanted me to run with her. That was my introduction.
I was amazed at its loveliness. Lady Bird Johnson, who had a passion for natural landscaping, helped design the natural hiking trails and beautification of the area with the addition of native plants in the 1970s.
My husband and I used to walk there in the morning, before we were married. We would hold hands and just walk. It was harder to get there after we had the girls. We still made it there from time to time. For dates, during lunch breaks. The trail loops around and is a little over two miles long. Lady Bird Lake is where we were when we first talked about moving to Costa Rica. Something about walking in beautiful surroundings is that it allows your conversations to get deeper. So after walking for about a half hour, we talked about what we would do if one of us died. I think we passed a memorial bench. There are a lot of them there. He said he would probably move the girls to Costa Rica if I died. And that’s when I said, “Why wait for me to die?” And that’s when it all started.
In Costa Rica, in the town where we live, there is green beauty all around, and bumpy dirt roads all the way up and down the mountain. Every morning my daughter and I walk to her school. It takes about thirty minutes with her, then fifteen minutes back. Our conversations are deeper, richer. She tells me how much she misses her friends in Austin. She tells me why she sometimes likes her dad more than me. She tells me how much she loves Costa Rica. She tells me I’m a little like a super hero because I’ve pushed a baby out. She tells me she wants to be a teenager because they are so nice and look cute. She tells me she wishes she could be more like boys because they get to have cooler stuff. And I can choose when to blend, when to guide, when to gently broaden her perspective. It’s so easy because she’s there, and I’m there. Sometimes she holds my hand the whole way. Sometimes we walk quietly, or she walks a little behind me so she can pretend she’s walking alone. If I’m close enough, and the birds aren’t chirping too loudly, I can hear her singing.