new look who dis

It’s 2019! My God, the last time I posted here was during the Obama years. It’s been a wild ride all around, my friends. Hope you’re happy and healthy and hanging in there.

I’ve updated the design for and added new links and content. Have a look around, kick the tires a bit, let me know if anything needs fixing.

Hope to connect with you again soon. Twitter and Instagram are the best places to find me regularly—click the icons at the bottom of the page.




I don’t know your political opinions, but mine are about what you’d expect from an overeducated New York woman. I can imagine you’ve seen a lot of animosity and divisiveness in this strangest of election seasons. Unfortunately, I know I have.

That’s why I was really proud and delighted to participate in the below video. There’s a fleeting moment of my face, a few seconds after you see Khizr Khan lifting the Constitution high. You can also pick out my voice here and there in the voiceover – and I’m especially delighted to hear it come through strong on the words, “Not a wall.”

The project came together on short notice through the efforts of an incredibly hardworking creative team. It was an amazing Saturday spent with new friends and old.  I think that sense of community shines through, and I think it’s something our country needs, more than ever.

#WeTrumpHate from Tucker Walsh on Vimeo.

Stay connected, stay respectful and stay informed. And then, vote.


Graptolite Tattoo

At first, it wasn’t thought that they were real. The name graptolite reflects this mistaken belief, translating to “written rock.” Linnaeus gave this name to the curious marks found in ancient shales and limestones. They looked like enigmatic scribblings in pencil, and he dismissed the idea that these scratches were actual fossils. But it turns out that the writing once lived.

Hundreds of millions of years ago, graptolites swam in countless numbers throughout the world’s oceans. They were not single organisms, but rather tiny colonies of individuals (called zooids) linked together in branches (called stipes). You can tell different species of graptolite apart by the number and shape of their stipes, as well as by the arrangement of the thecae, the little cup-like houses in which each zooid lives, part of a community. Graptolites evolved into a staggering variety of delicate and specialized shapes, resembling spirals, Vs, ferns, eyelashes.

Given their global distribution and diversity of form, graptolites serve as invaluable index fossils for the Paleozoic era. An index fossil is one that reliably indicates a specific timespan, ideally one as brief (geologically speaking) as possible. Because graptolites evolved distinct new forms so rapidly, the presence of any given form clearly correlates the site where it was found with a particular moment in time. They are a popular index fossil for this reason, and a typical journal article in this field is entitled, “Ground-truthing Late Ordovician climate models using the paleobiogeography of graptolites.”

Even though it’s bad form, I’ll quote Wikipedia to elaborate on ‘ground-truthing’: “Ground truth is a term used in various fields to refer to the absolute truth of something.” In some disciplines, you may not be able to access the actual, absolute truth. A ground truth, then, may be an agreed-upon standard (like a graptolite) against which the truth of other data (like the age of a rock) is measured. It is possible to have a flawed or imperfect ground truth. Generally, though, it’s the truest thing you can find.

So my reasons are thus: because truth-seeking, delicate sea creatures, close-tied communities, and writing that comes alive are all very meaningful to me, and because a tattoo pinpoints a particular moment in time, too.

I highly recommend Anka at Gristle Tattoo in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for her gorgeous work and general awesomeness.

NYC reading Monday 3/2/15

It’s Sunday night, and I’m making chicken broth and nursing a hot toddy while the snow (and/or freezing rain) continues to fall in New York. (Lousy Smarch weather.) Tomorrow, though, I’ll be out at Niagara Bar to read my writing at the Miss Manhattan non-fiction reading series! I’m excited to share some of my work along with a line-up of great writers. Many thanks to Elyssa Goodman for organizing this free event! Check out further details here or at the FB event page.

Hope all is well where you are, and you are feeling cared for, because you are. x

What would you write about if you weren’t afraid

Happy New Year, one and all. This isn’t so much a post as an appreciation of the following 2009 interview between Mary Karr and The Paris Review. I’ve been reading (in some cases, re-reading) a great deal of memoir over the past few weeks, to get a better sense of the kind of structure that makes such books work, and her book Lit has been a phenomenal learning experience as well as just a powerful read. I found her interview here and excerpt a few bits below that stood out to me, including the long section that concludes the conversation. If you’ve thought about or done memoir writing, they may be of interest to you. Looking forward to sharing much more with you in 2015 ❤

On fiction versus memoir and respect for one's audience:

In fiction, you manufacture events to fit a concept or an idea. With memoir, you have the events and manufacture or hopefully deduce the concept. If you see the memoir as constructing a false self to sell to some chump audience, then you’ll never know the truth, because the truth is derived from what actually happened. Using novelistic devices, like reconstructed dialogue or telescoping time, isn’t the same as ginning up fake episodes.

On fear:

A priest once asked me a very smart question, which I’ve yet to answer, or have only answered in small increments: What would you write if you weren’t afraid?

On problems in memoir writing, and strengths:

What do you think are the biggest problems with memoirs today?
They’re not reflective enough. They lack self-awareness. I always tell my students that if the reader knows something about your psychology that you do not admit, you’re in trouble. The reader will notice that you’re an asshole because instead of going to your mother’s deathbed you’re out buying really nice designer boots. If you don’t acknowledge the assholery of that choice, then there’s a rift, a disjunction between narrator and reader. And in autobiography, that intimacy is part of what readers want. They have to trust your judgment.
The memoir’s antagonist has to be some part of the self, and the self has to be different at the end of the book than it was at the beginning. Otherwise you have what I call the sound-bite memoir or the ass-whipping memoir. Year one: ass-whipping. Year two: ass-whipping. Then they slap “Mommy Dearest” on it and shove it into the bookstores. Those memoirs cover a single aspect: so-and-so’s a drunk, or a sex slave, or has been hit on the head with a brick by her mother every day of her life—and that’s it. The character of the writer is a dull steady state till he gets old enough to get car keys and leave. That’s not a literary memoir any more than a Harlequin romance is a great novel.
What was your own conflict?
My own bitterness and cynicism had to be pried away for the light to get in. The fury that I thought protected me from harm actually sealed me off from joy. Also, I sensed I’d betrayed my father and our redneck background by living at Harvard with my ex-husband and his polo-playing family. That my mother had given me a great love of art, truth, books, conversation, and beauty, and I was too angry at her to feel gratitude. I had to start living with some modicum of wonder, a state of praise rather than blame. It’s a journey from complaint to praise.
… So you better make a reader damn curious about who’s talking. If thin, shallow characters were interesting, we’d all be watching Jerry Springer. You watch Springer because you don’t identify with those people. There’s no depth of connection to their narratives—they’re grotesques.
Memoirists shouldn’t exaggerate the most gruesome aspects of their lives. Otherwise, a reader can’t enter the experience. She can only gawk from afar. You have to normalize the incredible. Primo Levi in Survival in Auschwitz writes more vividly about his own faults than the Nazis’, whose evils are common knowledge. That is what’s powerful about the book.
You have to correct for your own selfish motives. I want to look like a nice person, so I paint my ex-husband as a saint. But in truth, I wanted to hit him over the head with a mallet. Once I render that, I don’t come out seeming so nice, which is more accurate.
So when you’re writing a memoir, you can’t allow yourself to be an unreliable narrator?
You have constantly to question, Is this fair? No life is all bleak. Even in Primo Levi’s camp, there were small sources of hope: you got on the good work detail, or you got on the right soup line. That’s what’s so gorgeous about humanity. It doesn’t matter how bleak our daily lives are, we still fight for the light. I think that’s our divinity. We lean into love, even in the most hideous circumstances. We manage to hope.
But we remember the bleakness.
That’s mostly what we remember.

Motherless by Choice at Christmas

“Perhaps I’m not asking whether estrangement is right or wrong, but instead: how can I truly celebrate togetherness and kinship and love without a mother in my life?”

This isn’t an easy time of year to be estranged from someone, even if you’ve made that decision purposefully. I write about the complicated feelings that come with the holidays over at The Frisky.

I’m really looking forward to seeing my family this year – in many ways it’s been a great year for me, but one with a lot of ups and downs, and it will be good to just be comfortable for a few days with the people I love. What are you struggling with at the holidays, and what are you looking forward to the most?


I’ve disappeared again! This will happen from time to time, I assure you. My brain will decide that right now the most important thing to focus on is my work, or job hunting, or dating, or eating well and working out. As such, writing will be shuffled around among all those other pursuits and will vanish from sight for a while, the housekeys at the bottom of the overstuffed handbag of my mind. (In this metaphor, “lying in bed watching Netflix” is represented by “a bunch of crumpled up receipts.”)

I’m also dealing with some heavy family shit at the moment, and trying to take care of myself and those I love. The worst has passed, thankfully, but I am still scared and sad for someone I love very much. Woke up this morning and a voice in my head said, “You know, calling in sick to work and lying in bed crying about how horrible [stuff that just happened] is sounds AWESOME.” Fortunately, my own voice responded with “nooooooo, fuck you, i’m going to work even if everything sucks.” And somehow, making that one little effort makes all the other little efforts of the day easier. Not fun or anything, of course, but easier.

Also: if you are having a day when staying in bed crying sounds alarmingly tempting, may I humbly recommend going out wearing a shawl instead? It is basically a socially acceptable way to drag yourself out in public still wrapped in blankets! I am wearing this one and it is so cozy and nice. Be kind to yourself, in any little way you can while still getting things done. It will help.


I am thinking and writing about holidays and estrangement. If you want to leave a comment or send me a message (via the About page) about how estrangement factors into the holidays and family for you, please do. We’re heading into a time of year where these issues may weigh particularly heavily on us; I hope you are doing well. I’m thinking of you.

Key Issues

Thursday morning, I remembered my glasses, my umbrella, my book for the train (Love Me Back, by Merritt Tierce) – and almost walked out without my keys. Fortunately I caught the door just in time before it locked behind me. An ordinary careless moment, except for some of the anxiety it triggered, which kept pace with me as I walked down the street, illuminating old memories floating at unseen depths.

We used to sit in the backseat of the car, my sister and I, and watch as my mother locked the door to the house behind her in preparation for leaving. Then she unlocked it. Then locked it again. Unlock. Lock. Unlock. Lock. Minutes passed. We watched in silence – it would have been risky to demand we get going. Lock. Unlock. Continue reading “Key Issues”