Everything I Read in May

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There's only one week left until the LSAT! Which is both terrifying and exciting. Terrifying because, well, there's only one week left to prepare. Exciting because the end of my marathon study-sessions can soon be replaced with books. Lots and lots of books. Which will, hopefully, get me back on my original goal of reading four books per month. For May, though, I remained buried by analytical reasoning problems and riddling through sufficient and necessary assumptions. I still managed to get some reading done. Here's everything I read in May!

DROPKICKromance BY CYRUS PARKER

This book has so much heart. It lives and breathes with its author, it draws in with emotion and a story that is all-too-familiar for so many of us. I especially love Cyrus's wordplay and use of shapes and spacing in many of his pieces. Something as simple as moving one single word to the opposite side of the page carries so much weight in these poems. His style is concise and poignant, and his voice holds a tone that will surely resonate with so many readers. You can flip through the pages and go "yes, I know what that feels like" and instantly feel just a little bit less alone. This is a beautiful debut collection from a wonderful poet - can't wait to see more from such an honest and open mind.

STAN LEE: THE MAN BEHIND MARVEL BY BOB BATCHELOR

As a long-time fan of Marvel, this book was such a fun and insightful read. I grew up delighted by Stan Lee's many cameos in Marvel superhero flicks, and while I knew that he was the creator (and cocreator) of many characters and that he was essentially the face the Marvel Comics, I don't think I fully grasped his long history with the company or the struggles he went through to create such iconic characters and stories. Batchelor's extensive research delves into Lee's life from his upbringing during the Great Depression, through his army days, the inception of his first hero team in the Fantastic Four, all the way to his MCU cameos and geek culture stardom. It's an all-encompassing account of the life one of the most prolific figures in popular culture over the past six some-odd decades. I came away from this book feeling both inspired and awed - inspired to create, and awed at the tenacity and persistency of one man as he stormed American and worldwide popular culture. Stan Lee is a remarkable figure. He's a hardworking, creative, tireless talent who is notorious for taking ideas and running with them. This book gave me a much deeper appreciation for him as a creator and as a writer. It's definitely a must-read for Lee aficionados!

IT BY STEPHEN KING

I've been meaning to read this book for ages, and I'm so glad I finally did! I will admit that if I didn't listen to this as an audiobook I don't think I ever would have finished, so shout-out to Audible for the helping hand. It's not the story isn't fascinating - because it truly is - but there is just so much to this book, and while each little detail is important to the overall story, it can be tough to get into the first few chapters. About a third of the way through the book, though, I was hooked! The omnipotent narration gives an incredible cinematic quality to the story. I loved the way the book was broken up; the splits between past and present were perfectly balanced, and the interludes aided them brilliantly. The relationships between the characters are so authentic, and King's mastery of capturing their personalities both in childhood and adulthood is wonderfully real, charming, heartbreaking, and about a million other adjectives. This is a layered story, with many different twists and turns, that is thoroughly engaging, will tug at your heartstrings, and despite being a true brick of a book, will somehow leave you desperate for me even after you turn the past page. Stephen King has a wonderful way of writing horror with heart, and this book proves that about ten times over.

What Happened to Fictitious?

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Fictitious was set for April 24th. And then it was pushed to May 15th. And now it's up in the air.

This is not to say that I'm giving up on my second poetry collection and fourth self-published title. On the contrary, this is to say that I'm still plugging away at it. Still adding. Still editing. Still working. In an Instagram Live video last night, I discussed a little bit about what was going on: the renovations to my house, the preparations for law school, the mental health struggles I've touched on before. All of this has culminated in a great big, overwhelming mass. And here I am, with a book still unfinished and two publishing dates passed. 

I don't want to dwell on this. I want to work through it. So, that's what I'm doing.

This book, it's subject matter and what it stands for, is important to me. In a lot of ways, this book is me - a piece of me, at the very least. It deserves to be showcased in its best possible format, and getting to that best possible place is taking time. It's taking more time that I anticipated, especially with all else that's going on. I don't say this as an excuse. I say it as an explanation. I want you to be able to read this book and feel everything that it has made me feel. I want you to connect with it, and with me. I want to let it breathe. I want to let it shine. 

I'm not going to give a new release date, partly because I'm afraid to miss another and partly because I don't want to add additional stress to my shoulders. This book will be finished. This book will be published. This book will be in your hands. And all of this will happen soon.

In the meantime, I will continue to shout-out the amazing guest bloggers who have participated in the Power of Fiction series in conjunction with Fictitious's intended release. These people and their stories are the heart of the reason why I wanted to write this book. The way that we connect with fictitious places and people is so incredibly powerful, and so incredibly important. This is the conversation I wanted to start, and the conversation I want to continue having with all of you. 

I will also continue to post previews along the way. I will still be sending out advanced digital copies to those I've promised, though at this point I can't guarantee when they'll be sent. Once they were, I will set a proper release date, and host proper release events, and have a proper release celebration.

For now, I just want to thank you.

Thank you for sticking with me. Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you, thank you, thank you - from the bottom of my heart - for being here with me. 

Everything I Read in March & April

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I'm back at it again with the read round-ups! After a difficult couple of months, I'm here with four books that I read over March and April. True to form, I've got a non-fiction pick in the form of a memoir; a classic pick from the realm of the epic; a poetry pick from a modernist favorite; and a fiction pick straight off the big screen. Let's dive in, shall we?

THE HEROIN DIARIES BY NIKKI SIXX

I've been a big Cruehead ever since I was a kid; my dad raised me on all the 80's metal he grew up with, and for some reason that was the band that sucked me in. I loved their sound and their over-the-top, theatrical vibe. They were different, and a great deal of that was thanks to Nikki Sixx's vision from the get-go. He's an artist in the full sense of the word, and I believe this book proves that. The strength that it takes to bear one's soul so openly and so vulnerably is incredible. He takes his weakest moments, something most people would stuff into a corner and hope to forget, and lays it out for the whole world to see. He's done it through music for years, increased the intimacy by opening up his diaries in front of the world, and has gone on to help others show what makes them different and beautiful through his photography. He has an incredible mind, an incredible sight, and it's so interesting and awe-inspiring to get a glimpse inside his head.

I knew most of his history growing up simply because my dad was something of a rock 'n roll encyclopedia and would spew out fun facts while we listened to his playlists in the car, and I was excited when he told me that he heard that Nikki Sixx was publishing a new book. We listened to The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack together when it first came out, and discussed 1987 Nikki/Crue at length - this was also around the time that he took me to my first Motley Crue concert. I first read the book in spurts whenever I would visit Borders (which was often, until it broke my heart by closing), and returning to it ten years later - and seeing where Nikki is ten years later - was both nostalgic and uplifting. I adore this book, admire all that Nikki has been able to do, and admire his spirit and voracity for life and art and new experiences. There's a lot to be learned from him, and this book is a true testament to the power of second chances.

BEOWULF TRANSLATED BY SEAMUS HEANEY

This was a third-over re-read for me, after having visited this book in both high school and college. It was an upper level literature class in undergrad that first allowed me to appreciate this story and all it did for Western literature. Before that, either the mood of the class soured my mood of the book, or I was just too young and too involved in more modern fantasies to be bothered. I'm grateful for the professor who shed some much-needed light on the epic, and even more grateful to have stumbled upon a new copy at Barnes & Noble when I was looking for Gilgamesh (a re-read that will still be done, of course).

You can get everything you need out of this single poem: action, adventure, horrors, sorrow and loss, triumphs. Reading through it, you can see how Beowulf's story was shaped by its time - and also how it helped to lay the groundwork for many a modern masterpiece. The fact that these characters and their stories still resonate with readers centuries after its writing speaks volumes of its quality. The tale is truly timeless.

THE WITCH DOESN'T BURN IN THIS ONE BY AMANDA LOVELACE

Amanda Lovelace has a powerful voice, and is truly a force to be reckoned with. Her debut collection was full of fire and passion; reading it felt like being trusting with Lovelace's innermost thoughts. But where Princess burned, Witch seemed to sizzle - for me, anyway. 

Lovelace's signature style still shined through this book, and her simplicity hammered home the many valuable lessons scattered throughout. There were many a page where I felt empowered and ready to take on the world, and for that feeling I'm grateful. Not all poetry can inspire that, and it's a testament to Lovelace's talent that this book can rile emotion and spark confidence. There was just something about it that left me wanting more; something about it that felt flat. I didn't feel Amanda's personality in this book the way I did in Princess. She felt lost in statements rather than at the forefront of her work. 

This is still a book I would recommend to others. There's no doubt there's a power in it, and the potential to raise up many. This book offers a hand to hold for many women struggling to have their voices heard, and I feel that there's a lot to garner from these pages. But it isn't my favorite of Lovelace's work. I don't want to say that I feel cheated, because Lovelace still delivered some really powerful poems, but I do feel like as a whole the collection left something to be desired.

THE SHAPE OF WATER BY GUILLERMO DEL TORO & DANIEL KRAUS

This world - weaved by two minds, nurtured in two mediums, set forth in the world to conquer - is exquisite. It pulls you in like no other and leaves in a dream. For all the fantastical elements included, the story and its characters feel fully grounded in reality. It's pure magic.

I will say that I do feel the concept lends itself more easily to film. The visual elements incorporated in del Toro's award-winning feature are what drew me into The Shape of Water in the first place, and what kept me so firmly rooted in it. However, I appreciate the insights into the minds and lives of each character that the book offers. The book added so much depth to characters who were mere background pieces in the film, and I found myself having a greater understanding of and appreciation for each one as I read. 

All in all, this is a beautiful book, and a beautiful companion to the movie. Each stands alone well, but together, they create a world so awe-inspiring you'll never want to leave.

The Power of Fiction: Samantha Stinehart on Harry Potter

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We've made it, friends. We're at the very last guest post for The Power of Fiction. We have heard some truly inspiring, empowering, and heartwarming stories from some truly incredible people. This last guest blog of the series is one that reached straight into my heart and squeezed. It comes from blogger Samantha Stinehart, and the first time I read it I found myself with tears in my eyes and a longing to reach through the computer screen and hug her - to tell her that I understand, that I've been there, too. Without further ado - here is Samantha Stinehart on J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.


On Harry Potter
by Samantha Stinehart

During the months before the summer of 2005, I was twelve years old, wishing for summer to be out of school, and I was waiting for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to be published.

I was also planning my suicide.

Now, more than ten years later, I couldn’t tell you when or how, all I remember was I was
waiting for the sixth book in my favorite series to come out. One last thing to look forward to.

And then July 5, 2005 came. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released and I was
able to delve into the book, to return to Hogwarts and reunite with my best friends Harry, Ron, and Hermione for what I had thought was one last time.

Then I finished the book, closed it, and let it sit on my lap for a moment. I discovered who the
Half-Blood Prince was, I learned about horcruxes, I witnessed Dumbledore's death. I knew what was next for Harry, Ron, and Hermione. It was what I wanted. To finish the book so I could end my life. I thought about what I was going to do next, when I was going to do it, how I wasn't going to do it.

But... I needed to know what happened in the final book. I couldn’t die then, I needed to know.

In that moment, I found the strength that I needed to just hold on a little bit longer. For the next book, for the end of the series. I think in the back of my mind, I had been looking for something to change my mind about taking my own life and this series gave me what I needed.

It might seem silly to a lot of people, a fictional world of magic keeping me alive - sometimes it
even seems silly to me, but the magical word that J.K. Rowling came up with gave me the strength that I so desperately needed but couldn’t find on my own. Since then, I've been able to find my strength in other books and other forms of fiction – tv shows, movies, etc. But it all started with Hogwarts.


Samantha Stinehart is a blogger and writer based in the United States. She can be found on Instagram at @hartfully, or on Tumblr at hartsbeating.tumblr.com. I cannot thank Samantha enough for sharing such a deeply personal and intimate story for this series. It truly means the world to have her contribution, and to know that fictional worlds have touched others in such incredibly meaningful, powerful ways.


The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious. This week, I would like to let you know that I will be hosting a virtual reading for Fictitious on its new release date, May 15, 2018! I will be reading some selections from the book and sharing a couple of my own personal experiences with the influence of fiction on Instagram Live. Time to be announced.

Please feel free to add Fictitious to your to-read shelf on Goodreads. If you are interested in becoming an early reviewer for Fictitious, please fill out this application. Please note that the Advanced Reviewer Application currently reflects the original release date. 

National Poetry Month

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It feels like April has barely begun, but just like that National Poetry Month 2018 is over.

The month did not turn out exactly the way I expected. Between mental health and home renovations, I've hardly found a place to plant my feet on the ground. I feel like all I've been doing is going through the motions - constantly, endlessly, in looping repetition. And while the month didn't go quite as I had hoped, it was still a great one. Exciting things happened, and mundane things happened, and inspiring things happened. All in all, while I might not have written as much poetry throughout the month as I had wanted to, I feel like I'm walking away from this celebratory month refreshed and truly ready to take on whatever might come next.

To touch on the exciting things that happened this month: on April 5, I was interviewed by the always lovely Amber of YA Indulgences as part of her month-long Poetic Justice series and on April 15, my poem "White Knuckles and Broken Cars" was published in Issue 2 of Cagibi Lit. This marks both my first interview, and my first piece published in a literary journal!

Moving forward, I've mapped out a plan to catch up on and continue the Year in Poetry series. You will be seeing frequent poetry posts over the next couple of weeks until we find ourselves all caught up and back in the groove. I'm very excited to get back on this particular horse, as the project is something I'm very determined to completed and absolutely thrilled to share with you.

I've also pushed back the release date of Fictitious to allow more time to work out a few technical kinks and to ensure that this little book is the absolutely best in can be. I touched on this in a bit more depth in the latest Power of Fiction guest post, so be sure to check that out! The new release date for Fictitious will be May 15, 2018.

Over the past month, I have reached from a deep emotional low into something of a creative revival. Seeing other poets posting content throughout the month, being able to read and absorbed their words, has invigorated me. I have a lot of plans for the rest of this year, and some exciting announcements to throw at you over the next couple of weeks. 

One last thing: Ready Aim Fire is currently on sale in honor of National Poetry Month, and today is the LAST DAY to get it at this special reduced price!

I hope this month and the poetry it birthed as sparked in you hope, and courage, and empowerment - I hope that it has shown you the world through a new lens, and that you walk away from it feeling greater, and bigger, and stronger. Wishing you all the best on this last day of National Poetry Month 2018! I'm so very grateful to be on this ride with you.

The Power of Fiction: Melissa Jennings on Six of Crows

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At long last, we are back with The Power of Fiction! I want to apology for my sudden hiatus from blogging. If you would like to know more about where I've been, I invite you to look at this post. I don't want to discuss too much about here as I don't want to detract from Melissa's beautiful, and beautifully thoughtful, guest post. The most I will say here is that due to my hiatus and due to some technical difficulties, the release of Fictitious will be slightly delayed. More info on that will be after Melissa's piece, so if you would like to know more on the new release date, please stick around to the end!

We've explored a lot of different worlds in this series, from Neverland to Hogwarts to post-apocalyptic Georgia, and today we'll be delving into the fantastical sphere of Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows as independent poet Melissa Jennings explores their special and powerful connection with the character Nina Zenik.


On Nina Zenik
by Melissa Jennings

I only recently finished Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology and having read quite a few books, the duology is the first series to present a character that represents me, Nina Zenik. Over the years of reading numerous genres and watching tv series and films, I hadn’t found a character worth rooting for as much as I have done for Nina. But the thing is, I’m 22 years old, and it’s taken me a long time to find such a character; personally, I find this to be a major issue as not everyone is represented in books, on TV/film. Thankfully, the book industry is changing gradually through some publishers pushing for diverse books, such as Angie Thomas’ The Hate You Give, which is another favourite of mine. I only wish Six of Crows and other books were present during my childhood. I wish I had met Nina Zenik sooner.

Bardugo’s book was recommended to me by the book community. It is classified as a young adult fantasy novel; fantasy is not normally my preferred genre. However, I delved into the ‘Grishaverse’ created by Bardugo and goodness, was I captivated. Without spoiling the duology, the reader meets Nina Zenik promptly in Six of Crows (the first novel in the duology), as a charming, mysterious, magic-wielding woman in a suspect establishment. As Six of Crows trudges on, Nina’s past is revealed to the reader and again without spoiling the novel, I never felt more understood by a fictional character. From a young age, Nina had been trained in The Second Army to use her Grisha abilities, specifically as a Heartrender (a type of Grisha who can control bodies/life), to overcome any potential threat to Ravka, in particular, the Fjerdan Drüskelle who deem Grishas to be “unnatural”. In the same way, I was integrated into a Catholic background from a young age and was indoctrined into Catholic sacraments. Throughout the duology, Nina is proud of her heritage and country, but through her growing relationship with a Drüskelle, Matthias Helvar, Nina changes her opinion on the Fjerdans. Around the same age as Nina, at 17, I denounced my Catholic faith as I no longer agreed with the Catholic Church’s teachings, and become agnostic and much more open to the world. Nonetheless, I still feel guilty to this day, but I am better for it. After reading this, I felt Nina’s guilt as my own. We both have this faith in the universe, however, that things will change, but we will always be reborn in some way or other.

Moving on to something more encouraging, for me, Nina Zenik represents body-positivity. In the novel, Nina is described as “voluptuous” and if I had to describe myself, that would be me. As a teenager, I was bullied for my weight; I was normally chosen last for anything as apparently being “fat” meant that I wasn’t capable of anything. Moreover, I never found myself attractive because of my weight, as in that I would feel uncomfortable if I wore a dress, a short shirt, or a low-cut top. Nina Zenik throws all of that out of the window and tells me that being fat is beautiful. For me, Nina’s character arc informed me that I can take up space, that “I am large, I contain multitudes” as Walter Whitman once said.

In Crooked Kingdom, Nina also struggles with addiction. Yet again, I’ve struggled with addiction in my past. In the second part of the Six of Crows duology, Nina contends with a powerful addiction as she wishes to be much more important to the Dregs. In a similar way, I have fought with an alcohol addiction as I’ve relied on alcohol to surpass my anxiety and depression to become much more sociable. Having experienced addiction, I know how difficult it is to let it go. However, reading Nina’s arc in Crooked Kingdom was not an easy read for me. Although I understood Nina’s addiction, I wish that I hadn’t. Connecting to a character in a book, TV series, or film can be good but also bad. It can trigger memories and awful emotions and feelings. Readers should be wary of recommending representations, for example, anxiety representation. No experience is a monolith. However, for me, Nina Zenik is a hero; with her fictional presence, I feel less alone.


Melissa Jennings in an independent poet based in Scotland. Their self-published works include the full-length poetry collection Afterlife and a poetry chapbook, Dear Judas. Their second chapbook, The Body Remembers, is available for pre-order on Kindle and is set for release on April 30, 2018. You can find Melissa on Twitter at @thebookishpoet and Instagram at @thebookishpoet, or visit Melissa's website at melissajennings.co. I truly cannot thank Melissa enough for sharing their story and being a part of this series.


The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious. This week, I would like to announce the delay of the release. Due to technical difficulties, Fictitious will now be available on Amazon on May 15, 2018. I apologize for the delay! However, this change will allow me ensure that the finished book will be the absolute best that it can be.

Please feel free to add Fictitious to your to-read shelf on Goodreads. If you are interested in becoming an early reviewer for Fictitious, please fill out this application. Please note that the Advanced Reviewer Application currently reflects the original release date. 

Let's Talk

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I've been absent lately. Absent from this blog, from social media; absent from this whole writer's networking game. And while I have touched on the reason why in a recent Twitter thread, I wanted to talk a moment to talk about it here as well. 

From previous posts, many of you may already know that I've struggled with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder since 2011. I was formally diagnosed in 2014, when I was prescribed medication and began talk therapy. I have continued to manage my symptoms through these means, and began to feel stable around 2016. In 2017, I cut my therapy sessions down to every other week, then as-needed, then stopped all together. I was doing well. Really, really well. And then...I wasn't.

We often expect mental illness recovery to be linear. We want it to be linear. And why wouldn't we? A straight shot from the worst feeling you can imagine to being happier than you've ever felt is ideal, no matter how long it takes to draw that line. When you start to feel like yourself again, when you have the energy to do the things you love again after months or years in a fog, you think you're in the clear. You should be out of the woods, right? You feel better, so you should be better.

Mental illness doesn't work like that. Recovery looks more like rolling hills than one straight line. You hit some peaks, and you slide down into some valleys. And over the last couple of months, I've been deep in one of those valleys. 

What started as a couple of bad days turned into a few bad weeks, and now it's been over a month and I feel like I'm stuck on a plateau. Nothing in front. Nothing behind. Just flat, and empty, and endless. I've had to force myself to do the most basic of tasks. I've felt overwhelmed by things that usually excite me. I've been irritable and exhausted. It's frustrating on a lot of levels. I was so proud of myself, and I felt like people around me were proud, for doing well for such a long time. I graduated college in December, I'm preparing for the LSAT in June, I've published three books with a forth on the way. Everything is going well! So why am I suddenly so unhappy again? Why do I suddenly feel something so akin to what was my lowest low? It makes me want to burrow into the ground and never come back out. But I won't. 

Recovery may not be linear, but the rolling hills it makes get smaller as you go. That's something I've learned over the five years I've been in treatment. It doesn't get easier, per say, but it does get more manageable. You learn coping mechanisms, and you figure out what to do. I've taken steps to get out of this rut that would have been impossible for me to take or even think about five years ago, or four years ago, or even just two years ago. 

I've pushed myself out of my comfort zone and started going volunteer work. I tried out a new gym. I've started going to more formal yoga classes, and I scheduled an appointment with a brand new therapist. These things aren't easy to do by any means, and I've had more anxiety attacks than I can count over each and every one, but I know that they'll be worth it in the long haul. They'll help get me where I need to be. They'll help get me up to the next peak, and when I get there I'll have even more experience and skills to tackle the next valley with, too. 

That's the reality of recovery. Absolutely none of it is easy. Absolutely none of it is simple. It's hard work, and it's every day, and it's draining and frustrating and full of twists and turns you never asked to take. But each time you push through something hard, you're equipped to handle the next step. The valleys get shorter, and the peaks last longer. You get stronger. It may not feel like it - I certainly don't feel strong right now - but it happens with time, and with patience, and with perseverance. 

As part of it all, I'm working to get back on track with this blog and with my social media. Networking with the writing and reading community is something I genuinely enjoy, and something I'm eager to take back after spending this time feeling bogged down and scared. I want to thank you all for your patience with me. I'm eager and excited to create some fresh new content for you. 

If you have any questions about my experience with mental illness and recovery, please feel free to reach out at lexivranick.com/contact. I'm happy to chat with you. Please note that I am not a mental health professional and can only speak from my personal experiences. If you are struggling with mental illness, please know that you are not alone. If you do not feel that you can speak to someone close to you, know that there are hotlines available by phone, text, and online. 

The Power of Fiction: Sabine Mathiebe on Jonathan Stroud

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Welcome back! We've already been on quite a journey together, and it's wild to me to think that there are only a few guest posts left before the end of this series and the subsequent release of Fictitious, a poetry collection dedicated to the fiction that impacted me, influenced me, and even shaped me. It's been remarkable to hear from so many people from so many different backgrounds- authors and artists, actors, and students -about how important fiction has been in their lives. Today, we'll be hearing from blogger and book lover Sabine Mathiebe on the series that both sparked her imagination as a child and became a cornerstone of comfort throughout her life.


Made by: Fiction
by Sabine Mathiebe

I read a lot of books before and after Bartimaeus – more after than before, but it’s not the series that started my love for literature. No, it did something way more significant – though I have only realised it now, years after I first read it. I say "first" because I read these four books again and again. They are some of my go to books when I feel drained, when I feel hopeless, when I want to feel like myself again… I read these books.

But that is also not the reason I love them. This is not the only way they influence me. This story is home to me, because it makes so much of who I am. Or basically helped make me in the first place.

For anyone who has never heard of The Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud – it has been described as some kind of steampunk/fantasy novel series. There is the main trilogy and an extra book that works as a prequel to the others. The protagonist gives the series its title – Bartimaeus, a djinni. The story is told from sometimes two, sometimes three perspectives.

All in all, what the characters, the plot, all the witty, gritty pages told me was a lot but maybe the most important thing that these books sparked in me, before any other book or tv show or quote or anything else… that was the idea of unity in diversity. Unity in diversity. Yes, that's a mouthful, but what do I mean with it?

I have found this idea in other stories afterwards, for example in the tv show Sense8, but probably without Bartimaeus I wouldn’t have been able to understand. It makes so much of what I see in the world and in myself. The power of helping each other despite differences in times of need, that‘s what the conflict of Bartimaeus is about often enough. The story is shaped by the paths of people (or beings) who couldn’t be more different and it told me so much about what working together, getting to know others lives and opinions can change (and what doesn’t if you don‘t).

It also kind of sparked my interest in history. For any of you who haven’t read it yet, of course I’m not going to spoil the plot but the story is a steampunk alternate-reality with demons and power-hungry magicians. Most of the action happens in London which is still a colonial power in the narrative of the series and oppresses not only other countries but also their own people who don’t have control over magic. Well, and magical beings who they use as slaves. Doesn’t seem that unconventional or original? Well, magic in the sense of The Bartimaeus Sequence is just knowledge. And the lower-class people are being oppressed by the ones with the power (of knowledge) over magical beings. Minus the part with the djinni there is a pretty good connection to reality, right? Themes of oppression, corruption, slavery and rebellion are at the core of the story. It’s not your stereotypical dystopia – it is, though it is full of fantasy elements, one of the most realistic portrayals of world politics and shitty decisions of people in power I have ever read.

But that doesn’t make reading it hard or depressing – because it is just so, so, so funny! Just imagine, a tired snarky immortal correcting history books plus a sarcastic kick-ass teenage girl and a morally-grey overachieving boy with shitty life choices. You can imagine the conversations. I had my first huge experiences of sarcasm and ironic humor with reading these books and to say it bluntly I laughed my ass off.

But the heart of my love for these books probably is that I find myself in all of the protagonists, at different stages of my life. Wherever I am emotionally, I can find a connection. I can find myself.

In Bartimaeus, a djinni and a slave, who hopes and gives his all, though he doesn’t have to, who doesn’t give up on humanity though he wants to most of the time, who cracks so many jokes at the world’s end because there is always hope – or at least a last laugh.

In a "too powerful, too young" magician that started my love for anti-heroes. If I think of him, I think of redemption, of doing wrong things and right things, and at the end just trying my best. I think of the fight I put up against myself, the fight of not feeling loved and the feeling of always having to prove yourself, not only to others. In Kitty, a young member of the resistance movement who taught me to fight and to not give up even if I’m up against something I can not beat because you just have to try no matter what the chances are because the fight is necessary, even if it may get bloody.

In all the other characters losing their morality in their revenge, getting betrayed by their loyalty, trusting and using compassion as a weapon, or another one of thousand things, being nothing I taught they were at first.

This story taught me so many things. About failing myself and others, about losing and winning and sometimes not being able to say which is which. About the courage of kindness and compassion, love in unlikely places and how it is worth it despite the grief. About rebellion and that it is timeless and always on the way, and the power of ordinary people. About jokes and laughing, and how it can save you or at least make your day. About anger and that it is a weapon. About injustice, power and corruption and recognizing it in everyday life. About a thing that defines my all-the-time knowledge of other people – that bad things happening to someone may not excuse doing something shitty but that they can explain it. About helping each other, because only together we can save the world or at least the next day or the next person. About not being perfect but being good enough to change the world for the better, always.

I still tear up whenever I read the last page of Ptolemy’s Gate, the third and last book in the original Bartimaeus trilogy. Every emotion I had when I read it the first time, everything I feel now regarding the characters and the whole world Jonathan Stroud created… it’s too much and not enough at the same time. This is another thing Bartimaeus taught me – to love a bittersweet story. To love a story not for the candy-sweet happy ending, but for the tears I cried through the bittersweet last sentences. Because, at the end, that is what we have to love life for too. Not for the end of the road, but for the road. For the fight we put up. It is worth it. These books taught me to believe it. To find meaning in everything – in other stories as well as in the life outside of fiction.

There are so many stories I love with all of my heart, but this one opened my heart up and made me write and think and laugh and cry. I think what I really want to say is: thank you. Thank you to all the stories, especially this one, for keeping me alive and keeping me company, for helping me shape myself and giving me the anger and the heart to look at the world with courage. Thanks for giving me somewhere to land when I’m stranded, Jonathan Stroud – in your books I’m always able to find a home and a next you.


Sabine Mathiebe is a German book blogger and writer who posts reviews of books from fantasy to romance to new adult at fantastikworldofbooks.blogspot.de. Feel free to follow Sabine on Twitter at @s_mathiebe. I cannot thank Sabine enough for being a part of this series, and sharing a beautiful perspective on such a unique story!


The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious, which will be available on Amazon on April 24, 2018. This week, I'm pleased to share another selection from the book. I hope you enjoy ice dance., a poem inspired the 1990 film Edward Scissorhands. And please feel free to add Fictitious to your to-read shelf on Goodreads. If you are interested in becoming an early reviewer for Fictitious, please fill out this application.


ice dance.

 

The Power of Fiction: Jasmine Edwards on Harry Potter

We have flown over Neverland, fought alongside the Avengers, and survived the walking dead. We've shaken hands with Harold Fry, and we've even discovered the power of narration through verse. This week, author and actress Jasmine Edwards shares the impact a particular set of magical twins had on her life and her own experiences as a twin. Welcome back to The Power of Fiction! 


Double Trouble
by Jasmine Edwards

Born to a book lover and professor, my twin sister and I were bound to become voracious readers at an early age. And we did, listening to children’s books read by our mom every night and flipping through those same pages on our own in the daytime. Amid all the fantastic fairytales and anthropomorphic animals, however, there was always something missing. I couldn’t figure it out, but I knew I felt my unhappiness ease when there was at least a dynamic sibling duo or trio featured. It wasn’t until I read J.K. Rowling’s The Sorcerer’s Stone that I realized what I had been missing in my life: the sibling relationship I was living. Not only did Fred and George Weasley change books for me—they changed how I thought about myself in the world. This piece attempts to convey the immense gratitude I feel toward Rowling for creating perhaps the most famous literary twins of all time, and for letting me and my twin share in the magic she gave them.

I was eight years old when I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1998). By then, the first few films had been released, though I had not seem them yet. There was an unspoken ‘book first’ rule in our house—and besides, my mother was afraid the movies might scare me. Thus I journeyed first through printed pages with Harry from Privet Drive to Diagon Alley to King’s Cross Station. There, in chapter 6, I was amazed at what I read:

“I’m not Fred, I’m George,” said the boy. “Honestly, woman, you call yourself our                mother? Can’t you tell I’m George?”
“Sorry, George, dear.”
“I’m only joking, I am Fred,” said the boy, and off he went.” His twin called after him to          hurry up… (p. 92)

I burst out laughing and looked for my sister. Cody was reading a different book at the time, but I jumped up and shared the passage with her immediately. There we finally are, I wanted to say. The mysteries of twinhood had long since alluded my friends and even family members, so a mainstream pair was an obvious bridge to that gap.

It was a joke I’d played on my mother many times at their age. Although we look wildly different now, my twin and I were the same height and build when we were eleven, with the same shade of blonde hair and blue eyes. Being twins was vital to our identity, which had us dressing in the exact same clothes for years, though this trend was also encouraged by our grandmother, who was under the impression that that was what all twins ‘should do.’  People stared when we went out. There weren’t enough identical twins in our small town to stop the questions or out-loud recognition of our eerily similar appearance. No one actually understood.

I do not write this lightly, considering how representation often falls into a land of caricatures or vilification. Rowling never fell into this trap. Sure, her twins were funny, because a lot of people find near-clones funny. That’s not all they were, though. Lovable rogues, fiery redheads, bickering brothers; they were dynamic, inspiring, and real. She wrote a twin bond in the way I don’t think any other authors have so perfectly been able to capture, because so often they refer to some ‘unbreakable intimacy’ or ‘magical bond’ or wax poetic about never leaving each other’s side, missing the point entirely. Fred and George were never insulted like that.

Fred and George Weasley are the Harry Potter books’ pranksters. As mentioned before, their introduction uses an adorable joke. Their dialogue neatly introduced their relationship and personalities (the plural is significant here, considering the alleged truth that identical twins are basically the same person). Older than Harry’s best friend and their brother, Ron Weasley, they become mentors when they reveal Hogwarts’ secrets in books two and three: secret passages that let our golden trio roam the castle unseen. Not the best role models, Fred and George enjoy the sneakier joys in life and don’t mind roping Ron, Harry, Hermione, and other underclassmen into insubordinate actions. School bores them. They are never written as slackers, however; their brilliance is simply channeled into other fields of magic. The street-smart bunch, Fred and George excel most at showy spells such as fireworks, trick candies, and marauding maps.

As background characters, the Weasley twins’ careful treatment by Rowling may have gone unnoticed to you. Rowling accomplished an amazing task, though. She showed us twin love rather than plopping generic words about them onto the page and expecting the reader to fill in the rest. If you thought it was quirky to hear them speak in unison (I tried to count how many times Rowling wrote “said together” for them and I lost count), it’s not! That actually happens frequently with me and my sister and, I’m sure, countless other twins. We’ll answer a question with the same words and inflection, completely unplanned. My particular favorite moment of this is in book seven, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (2007). Harry’s friends all take the polyjuice potion, which turns them all into exact replicas of Harry Potter, an experience that causes the twins to exclaim, “‘Wow- we’re identical!’” (p. 51). Rowling wrote this so organically that it still warms my heart today, even after reading the books about thirteen times each.

These characters are rarely seen apart? Not a trope. If I read a page with only Fred but not George, I’d wonder where he went and how Fred was holding up. Twins understand one another better than anyone else can. We’re like hand-made best friends. Any distance between Fred and George would have been unnatural. Also not a trope is the ‘mind-reading’ conversations. I know what Cody is saying from across the room by just meeting her eyes; Fred and George have whole conversations, not pre-planned, where they follow each other’s train of thought without hesitation. They know what the other brother wants or needs because the feelings are mutual. Rowling put those connected minds to great use in developing their ‘ditch-school-and-get-rich’ plan. Inventors and innovators, Fred and George Weasley created the prank shop Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes right before the series’ darkest, saddest storyline unfolded. It could only run with the two of them there. That illustrates an unwavering love for each other as well as the author’s attention to abilities they share.

I only have one qualm with Rowling’s Weasley twin plot, but she’s apologized for it, and I understand why she did it. Killing Fred was far too much for me. I cried for days after. I actually had to sit The Deathly Hallows and come back to it in a few hours before I could move past it. The death of one twin while the other survives is so unfathomably cruel that I think most authors find it necessary in their books. To me, it comes across as more shock value for shock’s sake. It hurts actual twins so much, yet authors use it for a pathos grab. Rowling didn’t. She had to impact every single character with a death, and she had to push her child readers into the same fast adulthood into which Harry himself was forced. Do I believe Fred’s murder could have been avoided in her storyline? No. Still, that doesn’t break my heart any less.

When I finally watched the movies and saw James and Oliver Phelps in the frame together, so brilliantly identical, I had the same bubbling, overjoyed feeling that I did reading their introduction. Fred and George are part of me today; cinematic or literary versions, I adore them. Rowling practically gift-wrapped their whole storyline (minus Fred’s ending) for twins everywhere.

In 2016, I had the privilege of meeting James and Oliver Phelps with my twin. We gushed over how much their portrayal meant to us, but of course they already knew. A year later, Cody and I got our first and only tattoo—a matching one, of course. On my right shoulder, in the movie’s chosen font, I have Mischief and the map footprints, which run over to her left shoulder, reading Managed. J.K. Rowling’s story had such an indelible impact on me and my twin that we wanted their famous quote permanently inked onto our skin. Fred and George’s legacy lives on in those small decisions, in every kid’s laughter, in my heart, on my bookshelf, and on the days when Cody and I dress alike to confuse our friends.

Mischief managed, indeed.

 Jasmine and her twin sister, Cody, show off their  Mischief Managed  tattoos.

Jasmine and her twin sister, Cody, show off their Mischief Managed tattoos.


Jasmine Edwards is an author, actress, and figure skater based in Newark, Delaware. Her work has been published in the University of Delaware Arak Journal. She is currently studying English and Women's Studies at the University of Delaware. You can connect with Jasmine on LinkedIn. I truly cannot thank Jasmine enough for sharing such a personal and beautiful story with us on this blog. I'm so, so grateful to have her involved in this project!


The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious, which will be available on Amazon on April 24, 2018. This week, I'm so excited to share that you can now pre-order signed copies of Fictitious via my online shop! Please note that at this time I can only ship books within the United States. All pre-ordered books will be shipped within the book's release week. 

The Power of Fiction: Jasmine M. Sarmiento on The Walking Dead

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Can you believe we're already half-way through this series? We've talked about Peter Pan, we've talked about The Avengers - we discussed the influence of writers like Ellen Hopkins and characters like Harold Fry. This week, we'll be hearing from writer Jasmine M. Sarmiento, who has been influenced from works like A Series of Unfortunate Events all the way to AMC's The Walking Dead. Like me, and like many of us, Jasmine has had a long-term relationship with fiction throughout her life. Today, we'll hear about how that relationship has shaped her, changed her, and affected her. 


Fiction
by Jasmine M. Sarmiento

Fiction is a strange thing – ranging from movies, television, to a made-up story spewed forth by a second-grade girl on a playground in some Midwest town – it's everywhere, but somehow, it's fantastical glow has fizzled out into background noise for most people. I've always been drawn to fiction and even now, I am a hopeless passenger to every word in a novel and every scene of a movie – being dragged forward by a desire to continue the creation of a new world that I otherwise would not know. This keeps me stumbling far past the pages and the end credits because a story is never really over for me until I've exhausted ever means of keeping that flame alive is consumed and this has brought me so much more enjoyment than just settling for what's given - it's the theories of what could have been (or in most cases, what should have been), it's the fan art that breathes new life into characters that have been tragically forgotten or underdeveloped for the sake of moving a plot forward, it's the re-runs and re-reads trying to discover more. Although there are thousands of people who engage with fiction like this, it's looked down on by most people who see it as a waste of time or more often, who see it as childish. I've always taken more than what's been given with most media since fourth grade – The Series of Unfortunate Events pushed me to make an elaborate system of pulleys and baskets to get my stuffed animals from up bed to the shelf of dollhouses above it because Violet Baudelaire was an inventor and I wanted to do what she did – and that never really stopped. It's become less hands-on over the years, but there's always a spark of inspiration when I finish something that I don't think will ever fade.  

Growing up, the idea of the first work of fiction that had a significant impact on my life was The Walking Dead, which is fitting considering that it was the show that first introduced me to Lexi. Anyone that knows me personally, knows that The Walking Dead held a significant place in my heart from when I was in 6th grade to my sophomore year in high school. Just about five years of my life, it was the only thing that I cared about; those characters and their stories became an odd little safe haven for me. W I'm not going to sugar coat or lie it, I used to write fan fiction for The Walking Dead when I was in 6th grade, but those stories are deleted from public view under an alias I don't remember, most likely nestled in some server permanently and hopefully re-purposed as some kind of paper product because I hand-wrote them in a series of about seven composition books before I started posting it online. It's was a weird time for me because I've never really had friends, I would talk to people but I've never had anyone outside my family to talk about the show with, and suddenly people were there. For the first time, I was a part of a community and I had friends, which is something I never really thought would come from just indulging my own little stories. After each episode, people would message me with their thoughts and theories and I would do the same, it was the first time that I had people to talk to about something that I actually was interested in on the same level of excitement that I had. It's hard to put into words the sudden relief that I felt when I was able to talk to other people about The Walking Dead and my own feeling about the show without the look of "You're a freak" that I would get in school. Not only did it help me make friends, who I still talk to today even after I stopped watching the show, I was honestly inspired to write because of the show. The whole fan fiction aspect died quite quickly, but I found myself writing more personal pieces – from short stories to attempts at full-length novels, and small collections of words that never fit into other pieces but I could never give up. The show inspired me to do something that I never really thought that I would love as much as I do. Writing has always something that I would try on and off throughout my childhood, but I would always stop because I was too embarrassed to continue it, let alone publish it for other people to read, which is why I owe a lot of my own confidence in writing to the show. Without the show, I would have never published any work of mine and I would have never gotten the encouragement from others to continue growing and expand as a writer.

Delving a little deeper into the reason that The Walking Dead is such an important work of fiction is the characters really inspired me. The words "My favorite Character" come out of my mouth frequently, an ever-changing and mood-based preference from every fandom I've been in since I was little, but The Walking Dead has the most important characters in my life. Merle Dixon, while he was sexist, racist and a bit hotheaded, is the most important fictional character in my life. If I had to pick one single character out of all my fandoms as my favorite, I will say Merle Dixon without hesitation because it was his character that inspired the most to write. His character was hated, both in the show and in real life, he was unlikable and he was complicated and I absolutely love him. I want to make characters with that much depth and I want to be able to make people see a character for their worst and in their dying moments make them rethink everything about them. It was that complexity that makes Merle Dixon my 'staple character' when I write, I want characters like him in my work; deeply flawed, emotional, ambitious, and human. Merle was really only in the show for a season, not even a full season at that, yet his entire arc is something that really pushed me to write.

Putting it into words - the impact of fiction on my life is something I never really thought about in terms of "this show helped me make friends" and especially not, "this show is the reason I found out writing is a huge part of my life." Yet, here I am, writing about a piece of fiction that still means the world to me despite the fact that haven't watched it in about two years. The characters and story gave me such a push out of my comfort zone and helped me find a place in a community. Fiction to me will always be more than just what I can observe, but it's what I take from it that really makes it such a special media.  


Jasmine M. Sarmiento is a student and writer based in the United States. I want to extend so much love and gratitude for Jasmine for taking the time to take part in this series and share her story. It's always touching to hear people speak so passionately about works of fiction that they love, and I'm so thankful that Jasmine shared her passion here.


The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious, which will be available on Amazon on April 24, 2018. This week, I would like to share the official Spotify playlist for Fictitious. Have a listen, and let me know what you think!

365 Poems in 2018: Week 10

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I started off this week feeling ill; it seems I hadn't quite shaken whatever bug I had last week. In that sense, the week seemed to start off slow and meandered on in much the same way. We also had a nor'easter this past Wednesday. And so, week ten of 2018 was defined by Ibuprofen and ice. Not the greatest, if you ask me, but also not the worst. I got some good poems out of it, so I can't complain all that much.

I hope that you enjoy A Year in Poetry 2018: Week Ten!


SHADOWS | March 5

We are shadows on the wall,
pushed and pulled by thin slivers of light sneaking in through broken blinds
back-bending from those silver beams, those gold rays, slipping between them
to the dark places – the safe spaces -
where we can
hide.

BOOKS | March 6

I will stack
books on
books and
build a house
of paper;

I will make
cities out of
paperbacks
and dust jackets,

with streets
paved with
ink – that
we can walk
together,

hand-in-hand
perhaps,
on sidewalks
lined with
origami benches
where we might
stop and
rest

and I can
show you
all the places
I’ve been,
the people
I’ve met
the things
I’ve seen

and at last
share them
with you

NOR'EASTER | March 7

Frozen fingertips –

from catching snow in
cupped hands,
throwing it back to the sky

to create a storm
all my own.

WINE GLASSES | March 8

wine glasses
stained –

time stands still
in low light,
in bar buzz
in the low din
of TV muffled
glass clinked
bottle dropped

lost in
where we were,
where we could be
what yesterday
might have been,

or what tomorrow
still could be.

SUNFLOWERS | March 9

Can we change
sunflowers
into suns?

Orbit their
radiance –

make a solar system
all our own,

with firefly stars
drawing circles
in the sky.

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS | March 10

A clock stuck-

2:00AM; 3:00AM
3:00AM; 2:00AM

in medicated daze
the numbers all
look the same,

00 00 00 00
00 00 00 00

I think I’m missing time
again.

COFFEE POTS | March 11

Spill coffee pots
on all my mornings,

caffeinate these daydreams,

or wake me with
your honey-sweet tea

and send me into hazy afternoons,
and purple-sky evenings.

The Power of Fiction: Isabelle Kenyon on Harold Fry

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Once again, welcome back to The Power of Fiction! Over the last three weeks we have heard from Sinead Atkinson about her lifelong connection to Peter Pan, Fox told us about she found strength and comfort in superheroes, and Fida Islaih talked about how she found her narrative voice through verse thanks to Ellen Hopkins. This week, in the fourth guest post of the series, we'll be hearing from poet and editor Isabelle Kenyon on how we can learn from fictional characters and carry their lessons into our own lives.


On The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
by Isabelle Kenyon

When Harold Fry learns of his childhood friend, Queenie, falling terminally ill, he sets off to find his old friend. Harold is very elderly himself and frail, but he walks across the whole of the UK to get to her – he sees it as his pilgrimage to his friend. This is the most courageous thing Harold has ever done, living a sheltered life, but he takes the month or so long plunge for someone who he believes to be worth the risk – and sends post cards along the way! He even becomes something of an internet sensation with people tracking and following him along his ‘pilgrimage’. Harold is an inspiring character because he shows that it is never too late to change your lifestyle and that no mountain is too large to climb for a friend.


Isabelle Kenyon is a UK-based poet and editor. She is author of the chapbook This Is Not A Spectacle and compiled and edited the Mind Poetry Project anthology Please Hear What I'm Not Saying. Her books can be purchased here. Isabelle can be found in Twitter at @kenyon_isabelle, on Facebook at Fly on the Wall Poetry, or on Instagram at @flyonthewall_poetry. Her blog can be found at flyonthewallpoetry.co.uk. I truly cannot thank Isabelle enough for taking part in this project and sharing a character that is so close to her heart!


The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious, which will be available on Amazon on April 24, 2018. This week, I would like to share an exclusive preview poem from the collection. I hope you enjoy potter and the paper girl.;  And please feel free to add Fictitious to your to-read shelf on Goodreads. If you are interested in becoming an early reviewer for Fictitious, please fill out this application.


potter and the paper girl.

Can I paint myself in parenthesis
and hide inside a book –

crack the spine wide enough
to fit myself inside, let the ink
stain my skin and let my heart
melt into the dog-eared pages
of a well-worn copy of a well-
loved book,

older now, but can I still wander
that castle, sit in potions class,
learn a charm – a curse – a spell

and, maybe, when the time comes,
defend it – save them – maybe –

know what it feels like for paper people
to love me back.

365 Poems in 2018: Week 9

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This week felt somehow longer- maybe because of cloudy whether, or the fact that my car decided to stop working on Thursday afternoon, or maybe because I got sick over the weekend (nothing major, thankfully! I blame it on weird weather patterns and allergies). I felt tired this week, and as such I found myself skipping days or just writing down a few lines to make sense of later. Similar to last week's, each of these poems are rather short, but I feel it's actually fun to work with the short form. Whittling one concept into a stanza or two, or even just a few lines, takes a lot of thought and a lot of patience, and I'm no less proud of these brief verses than I am of any other piece in this series so far.

And with that, I'm pleased to share with you: A Year in Poetry 2018: Week Nine!


A RECIPE FOR A PERFECT MORNING | February 26

A RECIPE FOR A PERFECT MORNING –

3 rays of sunlight, sifted through broken blinds
1 soft breeze whistled through a half-opened window,
a pinch of dog tags jingling and paws thudding across the floor
1 orange, peeled
1 cup of coffee, brewed black – no milk, no sugar
a floor cool from a night passed quiet
and glass doors warmed by the rising sun.

THE FORECAST CALLS FOR RAIN | February 27

 

The forecast calls for rain
and I wonder if it heard me
when I asked you to show me
you’re still here –

because you loved the rain,
delighted in the storms that crashed
like fireworks
outside your window,

and I remember how you watched the
drops collect and gather on the
glass, traced them like you might
draw their magic through your skin;

I still think of you when it rains,
and I still think,
maybe,
you pour those buckets out
for me.

TADASANA | February 28

Arms reaching –

further, and further, and further still
the pull of muscles and as fingers
stretch for the sun, the moon, the stars

and the chest filling,
deflating,
and filling again –

pull the good in
and push everything else
out,

draw in what you need
and leave what you don’t
in the air that drifts
around you

as you reach for the sun
and ask the clouds to
lift you
away.

UNWIND | March 1

The twist of muscles soon to be
sore –

arms bent behind backs
and
breath counted in fives,

dim lights
and eyes fixed
on the floor, the sky,
the floor again,

until it comes time
to rest.

SEVERE WEATHER WARNING | March 2

Wind whips the
sand and waves
into the wild –

into a storm
long-brewed
in a sky turned
dark with clouds,

that tosses water
into streets
and makes oceans
out of
parking lots,

I’ll wait it out
with you.

FEVER DREAMS | March 3

Sometimes I think
maybe you were just
a fever dream –

fragmented
in restless sleep,

and gone
by morning.

MAYBE THIS IS MAGIC | March 4

Maybe this is magic;

a quiet afternoon
passed beside you,
as the sun peeks out
from behind a veil
of clouds,

you and me
and a purple sky –

that sounds like magic
to me.
 

Everything I Read in February (Part 2)

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As discussed in part one of my February reading round-up, because I read so many books last month I decided to break up my book reviews into two posts. In part one I discussed my fiction pick and four of the poetry books I read, and in this post I will be discussing my classic pick and the remaining five poetry books. 

Because I read so much this month, I decided to break up this post into two parts. In this one, I'll cover my fiction pick and four poetry books. In part two, I'll cover my classic pick and five poetry books. Advanced copies or copies I received in exchange for a fair review will be noted. 

TENDER IS THE NIGHT BY F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

I'm a huge fan of Fitzgerald, and while I genuinely enjoyed this story I felt it simply dragged too slowly along. 

The characters are wonderful and vivacious. The world is painted in true Fitzgerald fashion- with glitz and glamour and some dark secrets underneath. It's a captivating story; I just felt, too often, that I was being weight down with too many details. The same amount of story could have been told with about 100 less pages. That said, I was fascinated by these characters and the world in which Fitzgerald dropped them in. I appreciated the back-and-forth between time periods, giving readers a deeper understanding of who each of these characters were and where they all came from. The amount of drama, tension, and the weight of a very prominent love triangle makes the book read like a riveting 1920s soap opera. It's a wonderful story. I'm just not sure it's one I'll be re-reading over and over again, a la The Great Gatbsy.

PLEASE HEAR WHAT I'M NOT SAYING EDITED BY ISABELLE KENYON

I have a poem in this anthology and was able to get an early contributor's copy. Please Hear What I'm Not Saying was released on February 8, 2018. Proceeds from the anthology benefit the UK-based mental health charity MIND

I'm so grateful to have a piece in this beautiful collection. Every poet who contributed offered up pieces of themselves in poetry, and it truly shines through. From start to finish, I could barely put this book down. Every voice is so unique and distinct. It's wonderful to have a chance to see so many different perspectives of mental illness. Seeing people lay their hearts out so honestly is humbling. There is so much gorgeous talent in this book, and it was but together for an incredible cause. I'm honored to have been a part of it!

MAROON DAYDREAMS BY CHEYENNE RAINE

I adore Cheyenne, and I adore her poetry just as much. Her work here is as sweet and dreamy as ever. There is something positively ethereal about this little book. It is calming and comforting in its relatability, and sparks a hopeful tone for new adventures ahead. This book made me want to run outside and be with nature; to talk to the moon and sail away on the sea, make friends with the stars and come back with songs in my heart. That's the kind of feeling Cheyenne leaves you with- wanderlust and serenity. She's truly a special poet, and one I will keep in my heart for a long, long time.

LOVE, AND YOU BY GRETCHEN GOMEZ

Gretchen does not hold back. Every emotion pours through with clarity and an exceptional rawness through this collection. She is an open book in her poetry; I felt each pang of heartache, each stepping stone of strength, and each and every triumph she expressed as if they were my own. It takes a special kind of writer to translate such intense emotion into clear poetry. Her honesty is humbling and beautiful. I adore this collection, and absolutely cannot wait to read more from Gretchen.

IT STARTS LIKE THIS BY SHELBY LEIGH

My only qualm with this collection is its brevity. The poetry's simplicity lent itself to the clarity of its themes, and the whole book was beautiful because of it. I can see why Shelby chose each piece as a favorite. They all fit and floated together, but were each different enough in their tone to bring emotions up and then down and then up again with every turn of the page. The rhythm of the book never once faltered. This is a relatable, beautiful book of poetry that's left me wanting more.

PRIVATE POEMS MOSTLY BY CHRISTOPHER MAHAN

This is truly a unique little book. 

I always enjoy getting a glimpse into people's lives, even through the smallest of windows, and that is what this felt like. The poems were indeed personal, most of them speaking to or about specific people, and each left me wondering what the Mahan's relationship with these people are. They sound truly special and remarkable to have such lovely words written about them. I also enjoyed that Mahan documented where some of the poems came from- Twitter DMs, etc. It gave me a feeling of sitting beside him and being told stories about all these wonderful people who had become so special to him. It's very sweet, and very touching. My interest is definitely piqued and I can't wait to delve into even more Mahan's work.

Everything I Read in February (Part 1)

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I read a total of eleven books this month. 

I'm a little disappointed that, despite my goal of reading at least one non-fiction book a month, I didn't get to finish my February pick. I'm also disappointed that I didn't get a chance to read a screenplay this month, so there will not be a bonus screenplay read. On the bright side, this month was amazing for poetry reads. Of the eleven books I read, nine of them were poetry collections or anthologies. The other two books were a novel and a classic novel, respectively, fulfilling my goal of reading a work of fiction and a classic work each month. Hopefully in March I'll be able to make up my non-fiction and screenplay deficit! 

Because I read so much this month, I decided to break up this post into two parts. In this one, I'll cover my fiction pick and four poetry books. In part two, I'll cover my classic pick and five poetry books. Advanced copies or copies I received in exchange for a fair review will be noted. 

BONFIRE BY KRYSTEN RITTER

This book is very Gillian Flynn-meets-Erin Brockovich. It plays on unreliable narration, small town scrutiny, and conspiracy. What begins as an environmental lawyer's quest to bring clean water to her hometown quickly spirals into the uncovering of a massive conspiracy that may finally bring answers to a ten year old case of a missing teen. There are a lot of twists and turns throughout this book, and each one is more important than the next. Everything you learn throughout the story comes back in some way or another at the end. The narrator, and the reader in turn, spend a lot of time lost in a fog of confusion over who to trust and what to believe. This kind of absorbent writing hooks you from the get-go and doesn't let go until you reach the last page. This is a gripping, interesting, fascinating thriller that I truly could not put down until I finally hit the back cover. I love Krysten Ritter's acting, and now I can confidently say that I adore her writing as well. She knows her characters inside and out, and uses them to drive every moment of her story.

HOWLING AT THE MOON BY DARSHANA SURESH

This is an exquisite collection of poetry. It's so thoughtful and heartfelt, and is truly written from the soul. It's a book that grabs onto your heart and doesn't let go. Suresh is such a wonderful talent and I'm so grateful to have found her words. She has an incredible of writing about hard topics, about things that a lot of people would consider ugly or would want to hide, with a gentle but honest hand. Though the content of the book can oftentimes be heavy, Suresh's spirit remains light and hopeful even in its darkest moments. I truly cannot wait to read more from this incredible poet.

SMALL TALK BY THERESA SOPKO

I was given an advanced digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Small Talk was released on February 21, 2018 and is now available on Amazon.

I adore the concept of this book. Sopko uses typical small talk prompts, such as talking about the weather and asking after someone's parents, and gives deeply honest answers through poetry. Her pieces are incredibly intimate, and many of them offer a sense of nostalgia that spurred up my own memories of my childhood home and all the things I did as a kid. She has this truly beautiful way of reaching into your soul and stirring around all the feelings you've kept hidden inside. In sharing her own thoughts and feelings and memories she made me think on my own, and that's some truly powerful poetry. I couldn't recommend this book enough - it's beautiful.

ELLIPSIS: POEMS OF DISASTER BY JORDAN TONEY

I'm forever a sucker for narrative poetry, and this book certainly did not disappoint! I will say that it took about thirty pages or so for me to feel truly hooked, but once I was, this book would not let go. While apocalypse stories are not uncommon these days, this one is unique. Tones of desperation and confusion were felt throughout, and each chapter brought in some new change to this wildly spinning, ever-unstable world. It felt as though I were reading some form of mythic history. Toney certainly has an incredible way of viewing the world, and a wonderful talent for storytelling.

HUMMINGBIRD BY SOPHIA ELAINE HANSON

There is something incredibly unique and refreshing about Sophia's poetry, though I can't quite put my finger on what that is. I think it's something beneath the words and their quiet simplicity. She writes as though jotting down notes; as though keeping track of her life in the way people do when they're trying to make sense of things. It turns the book into a complete narrative, and kept me sucked in throughout. The illustrations by Munise Sertel were a beautiful touch and helped to elevate the words. This is a beautiful little book, and is something I can see myself recommending to anyone going through heartbreak. The words bring both relatability and perspective.

The Power of Fiction: Fida Islaih on Ellen Hopkins

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Welcome back to The Power of Fiction!  So far, we have heard from actress and cosplayer Sinead Atkinson regarding her lifelong connection to Peter Pan and from artist and blogger Fox, who shared her experience with finding strength in superheroes. This week we will be hearing from poet (and poetry editor!) Fida Islaih on finding herself in characters and making a connection with fiction through narrative verse. 


How Fiction Impacts Me
by Fida Islaih

I have always loved to write. I started out with short stories but all my characters were white non-Muslims. Eventually, I stopped because the stories didn’t feel like mine. I felt like someone else writing someone else’s story. Being an avid reader I always looked for books that interested me or somewhat represented me. The first book I found that I saw myself in was “Does My Head Look Big In This”. After reading it I wrote my own story about wearing the headscarf. But after that story, I didn’t know what else to write.

I felt more like myself in writing poetry about my experiences. That is when I discovered novels in verse. There weren’t known yet and Ellen Hopkins was the only author I read. It wasn’t the topics I was into but I loved the style.

I was busy with school so I took a break from writing long form but after taking a creative writing class I got back into it and write my first novel in verse. Being involved in the book community I heard about self-publishing and it took priority in my writing career. I’m a published author of several poetry collections. I don’t know if my novels will ever see the light of day but I will continue to write them.


Fida Islaih is a poet and poetry editor. She is the self-published author of several poetry collections including Hugs & Kisses and Blossoming Heart. Fida is the host of Poetteer Chat, which occurs each Wednesday at 7PM EST on Twitter. You can find her on Twitter at @PoetFida or on Instagram @poetfida. She keeps a blog at fidaisalaih.blogspot.com. I cannot thank Fida enough for sharing her experience and her connection with fictional characters and worlds. 


The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious, which will be available on Amazon on April 24, 2018. This week, I would like to share an exclusive preview poem from the collection. I hope you enjoy like father.; Can you tell what fictional world this piece is about? Take your guess in the comments below! And please feel free to add Fictitious to your to-read shelf on Goodreads. If you are interested in becoming an early reviewer for Fictitious, please fill out this application.


like father.

she opened the earth for him,
helped him climb inside and closed the door
so he could find – peace

was never in her blood, but with
his spread over her hands she closed her eyes
and prayed – alone

again, without him now, she
turned a cross into a monument and gave him
to the sky – left

with scars on her knuckles
and an aching heart, swollen with the love
she didn’t – know

he loved her, without the
words to say, the words that crashed into her
teeth and begged her

(not to) stay.

365 Poems in 2018: Week 8

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I took a bit of an impromptu social media hiatus this week. It may have been unplanned, but it was certainly needed. For all that I love the connections social media can foster, there can often be a lot of pressure to constantly produce and post amazing content. It can get exhausting, and every few weeks I need time to unplug and unwind and step back from that fast-paced, sometimes stressful cycle. 

The poems I wrote this week are among the shortest I've written for this project. I found myself jotting them down early in the morning or late at night, squeezing them in whenever I could grab a moment to get some words on paper. I don't have much to talk about regarding themes or inspirations. These poems, like most, come from daily life; from thoughts and feelings and experiences. 

And so, without further ado, please enjoy: A Year in Poetry 2018: Week Eight!


SAND CASTLES | February 19

I sift memories like sand,

build them into high-walled castles
with towers stretched to the sun

race the tide –

dig moats to keep them safe from
the roaring, raging sea – the waves
that push and pull,

ready to take them
and sweep them away.

IN SUMMERS | February 20

We wander back to sun-kissed summers,

beaches and pink wine;
red cups stuck in the sand like flags
claiming this land as our own – for the moment,

for the afternoon or evening
as the sky turns to pink, to purple,

as the stars blink awake and the moon
drags silver across the water,

and we light the night with bonfire flames,
and we talk as the smoke joins hands
with the stars,

as the sand gets cool, and then cold

and the summer drags on

into fall.

SUNBEAMS | February 21

I saw you in a sunbeam on a mountaintop,
reaching down into the valleys carved deep in the earth as if you might pluck something out, and I wondered what it might be that you asked the sun to help you touch. I saw you in golden light climbing down toward the horizon, pulling the night-sky curtain down slow, slow, slow. Blinking hazy on the green forest edge of the earth. And I didn’t want to leave because I didn’t want to lose you. But the world grew darker and you winked in that bright yellow ray and flickered over treetops and I raced back down that mountainside, following you. Following you.

And I think I might have missed you,
for when I reached the bottom I could not find you in the moon. The sun had taken you away, again. Pulled you across the sky and over oceans and how cruel it is that cosmos cannot just let us be. We have only daylight hours, clear-sky moments. And I will spend them chasing sunbeams over mountaintops, so that I can grab every glimpse of you.

WE WERE | February 22

We were morning coffees,
bittersweet – We were white
curtains and cotton sheets,
we were fog and open windows
and mist that hangs heavy -
We were all the things that
look beautiful in photo filters,
that all the classics waxed
poetic in those texts we read
in class – We were,

but not meant to be.

CHASING TOMORROWS | February 23

I have spent so long chasing tomorrows –

head high and starry eyed,
always reaching for page corners,
anxious to move on, move on, move on
to the next step, the next day,
the next –

turned a life of yesterdays,
and now each morning
I gulp down sunbeams

and try to learn
how to live
today.

TRAIN CARS | February 24

I watch the world flash by
from a train car –

people smudged to blurs

train-track rattles and
buildings warp,
flags ripple in the wind;

as if time, too
quickens
along the track.

CITRUS | February 25

Orange peels,

citrus stuck on skin for hours -
essence of one cup
of morning tea,

the memories of this
hazy morning

linger
for the day.

The Power of Fiction: Fox on The Avengers

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Welcome to week three of The Power of Fiction! Last week saw our first guest post from Sinead Atkinson, who shared a beautiful story about her lifelong connection with J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and how the book returned to her when she most needed Neverland. This week, we'll be hearing from artist Fox on how she came to love superheroes, and how she has seen herself in and been guided by different fictional heroes over the past seven years of her life.


On Marvel Superheroes
by Fox

Before the summer preceding my first year in college, I wanted nothing to do with superheroes. I found them boring, unimaginative, not worth my time. That summer, for whatever reason, I picked up the first Iron Man movie, and immediately fell in love. I binge watched every movie out at the time, ending on the first Avengers movie during orientation week on campus. It’s been seven years now and I haven’t stopped loving them.

My favorite heroes have changed over the years and I’m only now just realizing how they have changed based on what hero I needed the most at the time.

First, Tony Stark. He got me into heroes that summer before college. He was my first favorite and I will always love him for that. I was going into a science major and his intelligence and resourcefulness was inspiring.

Next, Steve Rogers. I found him inspiring for his strength, perseverance and his stubbornness. Also, his idealism, goodness, and being the embodiment of the fucking American dream. He got me through the hardest three years of college and I clung to him as an idol and hope.

Third, Natasha Romanov. She's badass and strong and faces down impossible situations with a sarcastic comment. I started reading feminist theory at this point, changing my major to humanities and eventually gender studies.

Clint Barton has been my companion for the last 3 years. I found comfort in him. He is an amazing hero, but he was also depressed and anxious. He is a mess, but also kind and a dog lover and he pushed forward to be the best he could be.

Right now, my favorites are tied. Thor's happy and bright. He's strong and alien and despite all the hell he's be through he's like a bright golden retriever puppy. He is optimism and hope for a better future. I also think he is a lot more than he seems. Many fans characterize him as dumb and blundering at times, but to me, he hides his smarts. He’s calculating and intelligent and kind.

Finally, there is Bruce Banner. He's anxious and tries to take up as little space as possible. He's a kind soul who would give the shirt off his back if it would help someone in need. He's also the Hulk. He is angry and violent and brimming with emotion. They are different but they are the same. They exist within the same man and balance each other. One provides rational thought, the other protection and emotion.

Where I am right now in my life, I see myself in both Thor and Bruce. I’m ready for hope and adventure and bigger things. But I’m an anxious, angry mess at the same time. And I take comfort in both of these heroes because of it.


Fox is an American artist and blogger. You can feel free to follow her on Tumblr at FoxPrints and SpaceFoxen or on Instagram at FoxPrintsArt. Huge, huge thanks go out to Fox for sharing her story about these beautiful characters and how important they are to her. 

 


The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious, which will be available on Amazon on April 24, 2018. This week, I'd like to open an application for the chance to receive an advanced digital copy of Fictitious for review! If you would be interested in writing an early review of Fictitious, please fill out this form

365 Poems in 2018: Week 7

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A lot of this week's poems were written last minute, in the dark, on the notes feature on my phone right before I fell asleep. This fact alone got me thinking of one of the most common responses I get when I tell people I'm a writer. People tell me how great that is, and how they would love to write if they, "only had the time." 

The funny thing is that every person who tells me this seems to dismiss the implication that I somehow do have the time. That, somehow, my life is less busy and less demanding than theirs. And I don't think they realize how insulting, or how hurtful, or how wrong they are in saying that. 

The truth? I don't have time. I make it. In the same way that people make time to get to the gym or watch their favorite show or go see that movie they've been waiting for, I block out time in my schedule to write. I'm not just lounging around all day, or perched at my computer for hours on end pouring words onto endless empty pages. I scrape out minutes and hours. I scrounge up spare seconds wherever I can find them. I carry notebooks with me, or make sure that I have my phone on hand. I email myself one-liners and have countless notes stored in my phone of stray ideas sparked throughout the day. 

I'm passionate about writing. I love writing. I wish I had more time to do it, but I have to settle for what I can get. I don't have endless time on my hands, but I do have early mornings and late nights and spare minutes in between. I choose to make plans around my writing time, and not the other way around. I choose to spend days off parked at a Barnes & Noble cafe to get work done. I choose to block out time every day to get research done. I'm working with what I have, and sometimes that means fighting autocorrect as I frantically type a poem onto my phone before it leaves my head. 

And with all that said, I can now proudly present you: A Year in Poetry 2018: Week Seven!


THIS IS NOT BREAKING | February 12

This is not breaking;

this cracked-heart feeling,
this head heavy eyes low empty chest -
these fine-line bones,

This is not what broken feels like.
I am not porcelain doll shattered pieces on
the floor waiting to be scrounged up by
frantic hands, waiting to be stuck back
together; I am not jigsaw puzzle
complicated, a perfect picture on a box to
replicate with ragged fissures left on a
coffee table to sit while you hum and hah
and think on it. I am not something to
think on. I am not something to make
or unmake. To fix.

I am not breaking,
I am building a life story out of scars,
I am weaving a tapestry of all the tears I
never let fall, and the ones I did but you
didn’t see, and the ones you heard
through bathroom walls and shower head
screams.

I will pour gold in these cracks,
and maybe it will blind you and you’ll
finally stop
thinking about how beautifully broken I
am,

because broken is not beautiful,
and there is only one b-adjective
to describe all that I am.

STILLNESS | February 13

There is stillness, but only for a moment. 
Only in the dull shine of the early morning, 
when the sun peeks pale rays over the
horizon and turns the sky a hazy pink. That
is the first and only stillness. That is before
the yawn of sunrise and the golden light
through the curtains. That is the quiet
that greets the day –

the moment, singular and solitary,
when the world is soft and silent,

and I forget for that single solitary,
soft and silent stillness that there is
one less heart in the world to love,
one less soul – one less pair of eyes
to greet the sunrise as it brightens the
sky and pulls the day out of its
restless slumber –

ADRIFT | February 14

Adrift;

I used to wonder what it would be like to be lost at sea. Out there, with no roads to check the map for, telling time by the sun and navigating by the stars, getting more lost than found – or being both at the same time. The rock of the waves to lull the panic, or maybe to stir it, as the gulls flew overhead, cocky because they, unlike me, would know where they were going.

Blue stretched out to the right and left, the front of back, and in a dome around the sky. Blue, endless and fast, flowing up and down and every which way. Blurred lines of sea and sky. The moon dipping toes into the water until the sun plunged her under.

Would the fear give way to the peace of solitude? Out there, where no one can want anything from you. Out there, where there are no bends to guess around. Out there, where the city lights are too far away to compete with the stars and muddy the view.

And maybe there would search parties in motorboats, churning water just to find me. Making waves where I tried to smooth them out. Would I want them to find me, drifting there, sunburnt and starry-eyed, learning the language of the tides? Would I see their bright searchlights and turn away?

Most of all, I wondered if the sounds of home might feel too overwhelming if they did shuttle me back. If I might sneak to the shore in the night and dive down, find home in a shipwreck – and never return.

INHALE, EXHALE | February 15

Inhale, exhale;

pay attention to your breathing,
pay attention to this moment - 
live here. live now.

feel the air in your lungs,
the cool of it – let it fill you.
here, now, in this moment.

count the beating of your heart,
let it slow – quietly, 
be here, and feel what it means

to be here,
alive here,
and only here.

THIS IS NOT A LOVE POEM | February 16

I wonder how many people
will think this is a love poem –

will read into the way I write about
1. your smile
2. your laugh
3. your voice

unaware of this different kind of love,
and this different kind of
missing –

because I don’t miss you like a breakup,
and you’re not laying on a bed somewhere
with soft rock in the background;

I can’t win you back
with an 80s movie montage stereo-trick,

I could try, but the longer you’re gone
the more I find

Heaven is not so easily wooed.

REST | February 17

I will fold into the sleepy silence
of this evening haze,

curl my back to the
wild day – to the fuss,
to the rushing winds and
the heart-hammer
worries piling high in a heart
too tired to hold them,

and fall asleep to:
crashing waves,
rustling winds,
cricket songs –

the sounds of
rustling sheets,
the cool of an
open window

and the calm
of the world settling,
at last,
to rest.

FROST | February 18

You were like fresh frost:
a world painted in white –

postcard perfect;

quiet, and soft, and
radiant in the pink
morning light,

the snowfall we
didn’t know we
needed,

didn’t know we’d
love,
until we saw it in
the veil of purple
sunbeams –

and, like the snow

the more we loved you,
the faster
you left.

Flash Fiction Friday: Baskets

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It was spring.

In the morning, my car was covered in a thick film of pollen from the trees that were coming back to life after a long and cold winter. The sun beat warm through the chill of frantic breezes that chased loose flower petals and bug-eaten leaves across the driveway. Across the street, Lindsay Tuttel sat cross-legged underneath her basketball hoop, rolling a big orange ball in a wide circle around her little body. She looked up and gave me a gap-toothed smile. She was missing two more teeth, right at the front, and she pointed at them with overwhelming pride.

"Tooth fairy come?” I asked her, and her blonde head bounced in triumphant excitement. I tried to remember what it was like to lose my own baby teeth, but the most vivid memory I had was the strange feeling of pushing my tongue into the empty space left behind. It’s hard to imagine the act of losing to be so remarkably thrilling. I suppose, when you’re young, each lost piece of you becomes a rite of passage into the grand hall of adulthood.

Part of me wanted to ask little Lindsay Tuttel to describe to me the thrill of seeing her tooth pop into the palm of her hand; another part wanted to implore her to stop being so happy about it, to stop wanting to grow up so fast, to stop smiling wider whenever someone told her how tall she was getting, how big and beautiful. The old woman next door said that to her all the time. I’m sure she’ll say it again when she sees the wider gaps between Lindsay’s front teeth, and I want to tell Lindsay not to listen to her. But Lindsay had already lost interest in me and was instead intent on spinning her basketball on the tip of her finger. It wobbled, bounced off, and as she tried to right again. I called out, “I hope that fairy was good to you!” before slipping into my car.

It's a contradiction of human existence: we want our kids to be kids, to believe in tooth fairies and bunnies that hide eggs and jolly old fellows who slip down our chimneys and leave presents under Christmas trees, but whenever we see them loose a tooth or learn how to peddle bikes without training wheels we gush and tell them how grown up they are.

It was spring, too, when I wore heels for the first time and my aunts all gushed over how sophisticated I looked. Like a little woman, they told me, and my uncles warned they’d need to go back to the gym and get back in shape to help fend off all the boys that were sure to eye me now. And I was proud. Proud to feel like a grown up, proud to feel one step closer to that coveted circle of adulthood.

But the shoes hurt, and the pointed heels stuck in the grass, and when my mother told me I could take them off I shook my head firmly because those shoes felt like my ticket to a world I’d waited so long to grow into and I wasn’t about to just turn them in for tennis shoes and skinned knees. I wanted to shed my childhood as quickly as could, but now, as an adult, all I remember is how my feet swelled from my first pair of heels and how it hurt when that first grown-up tooth started to poke through my gums.

As I pulled out of my driveway, I saw little Lindsay Tuttel stand and dribble her basketball up and down her driveway. She waved at me as I passed and, in the rearview, I saw her leap toward the hoop with her hands in the air.

I had a basketball net as a kid. I had one as an adult, too, though it was old and rusted from years of disuse. There were only strings of a net left and the whole thing creaked and moaned when the wind got too wild. It was left behind by the previous owners of the house, whose kids had outgrown it by the time they moved out. I talked about tearing it down for years, but ten years later and it still it sat there growing older and more unrecognizable by the month.

But that spring day, in the afternoon as I drove home from work, I stopped by a sporting goods store. I picked up a basketball, priced far more than an orange ball should be worth. I left my purse in the car and slipped out with the ball, dribbling it awkwardly in the driveway. Lindsay Tuttel was out again, this time free-throwing her ball into the hoop. It rattled against the backboard, rolled around the rim, and on her fifth or sixth try sunk through the basket. She pumped her fists in the air in celebration, and I cheered from across the street.

“Think I could do that?” I asked her, and Lindsay thought about it for a moment before shooting me a thumbs up. I glanced at my basketball net, which was no more than a rusted ring on a black, rusting pole. I bounced the ball once, twice, three times as I took long strides toward the hoop. I didn’t have any technique as a kid, nor did I know any better now, but I ran at that hoop like I knew what I was doing and tossed the ball up as high as I could.

It rattled against the ring, rolled around it like Lindsay’s had, and with a shake dropped down through the middle.