I went to Venice to receive an award for an excerpt from my half-finished memoir.
But that's not the story.
At the time, I was recently back in the States after my student visa expired. I was broke and unemployed, paying my rent through odd jobs and sporadic freelance proofreading gigs. I couldn't afford the plane ticket to attend the event.
But my community decided otherwise.
They pooled donations and unused airline miles to get me to a tiny Venetian island. They believed I was worth celebrating--and they taught me to begin to believe it too.
Humans are story-based creatures. We yearn for stories as irrevocably as plants do the sun.
I was eight years old when I first learned writing gave me power over creation. I've since spent nearly thirty years studying the ways narratives define and compel us.
Creative Nonfiction: excerpt from Your Sister's in the Dark
I was five when my sister split my head open.
It was a summer day, sticky and hot. We were still living in Union City then, the whole family layered into a blocky red brick apartment building like drawers in a filing cabinet: us on the top floor, my dad’s parents below, and my aunt and uncle in the basement. There were plenty of signs that it was north Jersey in the late-eighties—Blondie and Bon Jovi filtering from car speakers and boomboxes, neon spandex shorts, Nike high tops, backwards Mets caps, Walkmans, rollerblades, big glasses, bigger hair—but you could also walk the whole square mile of the city and hear nothing but Spanish or Italian spoken.
Fiction: short story "Urban Soundtrack"
Casey collects sounds in glass jars, the never-silence of the city a symphony to glut herself on. Even in the dead of winter when snow piles up fast and heavy on the sill (the sound a gentle purr, like the closing notes of a hymnal), her window is left cracked.
Each jar is carefully labeled: “Angry Cocker Spaniel”; “Bitch, get in the car”; “Baby Laughing.” They are organized by ubiquity of sound and stored accordingly: the rarest go beneath her bed, the infrequent on top of her dresser. The rest are stacked in pyramids in the living room and kitchen, and on the floor along the baseboards.