This week, temperatures in Tacoma were upward of 105 degrees—34 degrees above the average high for June—and stayed in the triple digits for three consecutive days. In a region where less than half the population lives in air conditioned homes, people suffered and as many as 100 people in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia died due to a heat wave unlike anything seen in the Pacific Northwest for as long as weather records have been kept.
Our climate is changing in ways both subtle and profound, causing incremental disruptions in global weather patterns as well as sudden, extreme weather events like heat waves, hurricanes, droughts, and deluges. This round of dangerous heat is over, but it is part of a larger shift that imperils people and ecosystems in every corner the world. More is coming.
As I look forward to the birth of our first child, I find myself increasingly worried about the world our child will grow up in and the multitude of social and environmental sins they will inherit. Will my child be able to go outside to play in the summer? Will there be unburned forests to enjoy?
There are things we can do. We can acknowledge and share the scientific consensus that climate change is real and that humans are driving it. We can take responsibility for our personal actions and take steps to reduce our carbon usage. More substantively, we make our voices heard at the ballot box to demand measures to curb the devastating impacts of the climate crisis and reign in the industries and nations who continue to put profits ahead of preservation.
There is no time to wait. We got ourselves into this mess; now we need to be the solution.
If you’ve been reading my blog for more than a year, you know I love to travel. When COVID-19 shut down all non-essential travel in 2020, we were forced to cancel our planned Hawaiian vacation and postpone any and all of our travel plans for the foreseeable future. We’ve done our best to be safe and follow health authority guidelines and we’ve been lucky not to get sick thus far. Earlier this year, we decided we were ready to go on our long-delayed trip to Maui, but we knew we couldn’t travel the same way we did in the before times. We were itching to get out of the house, but at the same time, we wanted to do what we could to minimize the risk to ourselves and the people around us. It was a tricky balancing act. Here’s how we did it:
Understand the Risks and Take Appropriate Precautions
One reason why I felt more comfortable traveling now than I would’ve a year ago is because of how far our understanding of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has evolved. We now know that the virus spreads primarily through airborne particles. We know that masks are an effective way to prevent the spread of those particles and protect those around you. We also know that most super-spreader events occur indoors in poorly ventilated conditions. With this information in mind, we were able to decide on some parameters for our trip to keep ourselves and others safe.
Choose the Right Location and Method of Transportation
We chose to pursue our cancelled visit to the island of Maui in no small part because we were unable to get refunds for most of our trip expenses, just vouchers for later use. Still, there were a few factors that made it easy to get there while prioritizing safety.
The first thing that makes Hawaii a great choice right now is that its case numbers are low compared to most states. Hawaii has been requiring out-of-state arrivals test negative for COVID-19 to bypass a mandatory quarantine, (and has since added an extra rapid test upon landing), so we felt reasonably assured that most of the people on our flight would not be carrying the virus.
The second mark in Hawaii’s favor is evidence showing that ventilation and air filtration on commercial airplanes is actually quite good, offering an extra layer of security should someone on our flight contract COVID in the narrow window between receiving their negative test result and boarding the aircraft.
Third, Hawaii’s tropical climate and wide array of outdoor activities and dining options allowed us to spend very little time indoors with other people. We purposefully chose takeout and outdoor dining options whenever we could, stayed in a small bed and breakfast instead of a busy resort (which was also way cheaper), rented a car to explore on our own rather than joining a group tour, found quiet beaches away from crowds, and wore our masks whenever we couldn’t physically distance (this was only ever really a problem in the airport, where we chose to double-mask).
Prioritize Getting Outside
Maui was made for adventure. Whether you’re driving the winding road to Hana, standing above the crater of Haleakala, or laying on the beach with a good book, it’s easy to find things to do outside on the island and easy to avoid crowded, indoor spaces. Sunny skies and warm weather make it an easy place to physically distance and enjoy a break from reality. Even if you’re not planning a trip to Hawaii, this is the kind of vacation I’d recommend during the pandemic. Instead of worrying about all the things you can’t do, now is an opportunity to embrace all the activities you can do safely right now. I’ve been so grateful for the ability to get out for my daily walks to keep my sanity this past year and our visit to Maui offered new and exciting ways to experience the beauty of nature.
Guidelines for Traveling Mindfully
Being able to travel is a privilege, now more than ever. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic which has upended the lives of nearly everyone, so expect that things will be different — and you will also have to act differently. If you’re in the position to be able to travel right now, keep these guiding principles in mind:
You Are Responsible for the Health of Everyone Around You
When traveling to an isolated area, remember that you can have an outsized impact on the community you’re entering. Places like Hawaii have limited medical facilities that can be easily overwhelmed. They may not have the resources to care for you if you become ill or if you infect others. We all have a responsibility to care for one another, so don’t go if you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive. You may also want to reconsider your plans if there’s a sudden surge in positive cases in your community or the community you’re visiting. A stranger’s health may depend on your choices and that’s something you have to take seriously. If you’re not going to follow mask guidelines and basic hygiene practices, don’t travel right now.
Be Patient and Generous
The tourism, food service, and hospitality industries have all taken a beating this year and many low-wage workers have struggled to provide for their families and keep themselves safe. Travel is only just starting up again, so it’s important to be patient and understanding. Prices are high, supply chain disruptions have caused shortages, hours for many businesses are in flux, and staffing is limited even as demand is surging. If you aren’t going to be patient and respectful in your interactions with staff, supportive of local businesses, flexible when circumstances change, and as generous with your tips as you can be, don’t travel right now.
Put In the Extra Effort
Maui was breathtaking and I’m glad we went. It wasn’t exactly what I had expected and COVID-19 forced us to change plans several times, but we were able to unplug and treat ourselves to some much-needed relaxation while also helping the local economy. Only you can decide if traveling right now is worth the risk for you and there are many more factors to keep in mind than I’ve gone into here. Also, I’m not a medical professional, so take my advice with a grain of salt. But, if you’ve got the itch to see more of the world than the inside of your home and you’re willing to put in a little extra effort to do so mindfully and safely, I think you should definitely consider booking your trip.
Have tips for traveling in the age of COVID-19? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!
It feels weird to say it, but ten years ago, I started this blog. At the time, I didn’t know why I wanted to start a blog or what I was going to do with it. I just knew that I was serious about writing. So, I did what any aspiring writer in 2011 would do if they wanted to reach a large audience — I set up a WordPress site, I shelled out for a fancy domain and I forgot about the whole thing for several months. Then, in the fall of 2011, I came back around to the project and started a posting frenzy. Within a year, I had posted a staggering 76 blogs.
My output has slowed significantly since those wild, experimental early days when I would post literally anything that was on my mind. I wrote about my writing process, about my struggles with motivation and procrastination, about major milestones in my life, and the minutiae of daily existence. No topic was too broad or too small to avoid being beaten over the head with a hackneyed metaphor (okay, I still do that). It wasn’t earth-shattering, but I was having fun with it.
A few people commented. A handful of people subscribed. Everything was going well.
Then, in the spring of 2012, I returned from a weeklong trip to Guatemala. My post about the experience, Guatemala in the Rear View Mirror, was selected by WordPress for its Freshly Pressed feature on their homepage, which brought thousands of people to my site. That single post was viewed more than 3,600 times and as a result, hundreds of people subscribed (and many of them stuck around, much to my amazement). I was surprised and elated.
Like any 15 minutes of fame, my time in the spotlight didn’t last long. It was an experience I may never repeat, but it taught me that people were hungry for the kinds of things I write about, so I kept it up. Even with that early boost, over time, I found myself blogging less and less. By 2018, I was only averaging four or five posts a year. Now, I feel like I’m back in the swing of things. I’m more confident in my writing and more established in my writing career. Much of that success is thanks to the countless hours I’ve spent posting on this blog and to the encouragement of my readers.
I don’t think I’ll ever stick to a schedule as rigorous as the two or three posts a week I used to write on this site. I simply don’t have the time or the energy (and I’m sure my subscribers appreciate not being bombarded with dozens of notifications each month). However, I still find the practice of blogging to be beneficial. It gives me an excuse to flex my creative muscles and I still feel a twinge of excitement whenever I hit the publish button, knowing my words are reaching my small but mighty audience around the world.
Here are a few of the most popular posts from the past 10 years (most of them from the early days of the blog):
I expect to be here in another decade, toasting to twenty glorious years of writing on this blog. I hope you’ll stick around for more thoughts on writing, travelogues, and whatever is interesting to me at the moment. Thanks for reading!
Right now, the Internet is awash in think pieces on the anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. One year ago, the world changed overnight, but not in the ways I thought it would. By early March 2020, where I live in Washington State, it was obvious that we were on the precipice of some kind of disaster. The first documented coronavirus case in the United States had appeared just 60 miles north. I was wrapping up my certificate program, where my final project was a plan for communicating a COVID-related closure of my workplace. There were rumblings that we would need to quarantine for 2-3 weeks, so I went to the grocery store and stocked up on shelf-stable food, frozen meals, Theraflu and toilet paper. I woke up on Monday morning to discover that my office was closed until further notice.
I remember being worried about the future, afraid of contracting the virus and terrified that I wasn’t sanitizing my door handles enough. But in the back of my mind, I was also primed to expect a very specific kind of catastrophe — the kind I had seen and read about in movies and books for years.
In the 2007 movie I Am Legend, loosely based on the novel by Richard Matheson, the last human in New York City lives under constant attack from vampiric mutants infected by a re-engineered measles virus. In the 2014 novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, a troupe of Shakespearean actors travels on foot between isolated communities after a flu pandemic has wiped out much of humanity. Without a real global epidemic in recent memory, these were my templates of what to expect in a pandemic: a fast-moving virus devastates the world overnight, society crumbles, and the survivors are left to wander the wasteland.
This has been a very different kind of pandemic. Society didn’t collapse, but it did fray around the edges as we confronted a chronically under-resourced public health system, political divisions between those who believed the virus was a threat and those who dismissed its severity as hundreds of thousands of people died, and systems of inequality that insulated those with privilege from dangerous exposure to the epidemic at the expense of marginalized groups who were already at higher risk of complications. It may not have been the apocalypse as we imagined it in works of fiction, but it exposed our vulnerability and exacted a terrible cost in human life and livelihood.
Everything is different now. Physical reminders of the reality of this pandemic are scattered around our house. There’s a pile of freshly laundered cloth face masks on top of our dresser. I keep an extra mask and a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my car. I follow the one-way arrows in the grocery store aisles, though it feels like I’m the only one. A package of Clorox wipes, purchased at great expense in those confusing early days sits mostly untouched in a closet. The world didn’t end, but it did change.
I’ve written before about my fascination with dystopian fiction, but now that I’m living in an actual dystopia, I’ve realized that these stories don’t have to accurately predict the future to offer valuable insights. At their core, these stories aren’t about killer viruses, they’re about humanity and how we cope with the unimaginable. Our real-life pandemic isn’t over yet, but fiction can still help us imagine how we can rebuild, preserve our humanity and find hope in hopeless situations.
After a year of living under the specter of COVID-19, I could use a little hope. I think we all could.
Against all odds, for the first time since I started making birthday resolutions well over a decade ago, I accomplished all of my goals last year. To be sure, most of them were pretty vague: take better care of my body, write more short fiction, and read to expand my horizons. My thirtieth year of life did not go as planned, but despite the many personal, professional and existential crises that threatened to derail me, I accidentally did everything I set out to do in 2020.
When the pandemic shut everything down, I found solace in my daily walks around the neighborhood. And when Jura, our puppy, came to live with us, those walks became longer and more frequent. At one point in the fall, I was averaging almost four miles a day and feeling better, stronger, more energetic.
After a months-long creative rut (during the aforementioned existential crisis of living through a global pandemic), I started writing. My output this year was more than it has been in years. I published three short stories and one article in various journals and periodicals, which still feels like an incredible feat. I also dove into a long-neglected project of editing a collection of linked short stories I wrote with some friends back in our high school and early college days. In it’s final, printed form, it will be over 500 pages long and will commemorate a wonderfully formative and creative time in our lives.
Finally, I set myself the challenge to read and learn more. Just one week before COVID-19 upended the world, I completed my Strategic Communications and Public Relations certificate. Throughout the year, I read heaps of books — over 4,000 pages worth of fiction and nonfiction. Along the way, I learned a lot from journalists and academics by reading probably hundreds of articles throughout the year touching on subjects as diverse as systemic racism, geopolitics, history, and quantum mechanics. This year, I was reminded of why I love books so much and how much comfort the written world can provide during times of stress and uncertainty — whether it’s through new information or pure escapism.
So, how do I plan to top those birthday resolutions this year? It won’t be easy. But I hope to use the momentum of last year to catapult myself to new heights in the year to come. Because what is the past if not a booster rocket, lifting us into a higher orbit in the future? Here’s what I’m resolving for 2021:
This is a tough one for me. Last year was personally difficult. I lost my job, lost out on vacations and events and seeing friends. Even though I’m an extroverted introvert by nature and don’t mind spending time along at home, there were times when I was so worried about the future that I couldn’t imagine a scenario where anything got better, ever. I realized that I wasn’t taking very good care of myself. I may have been attending to my physical needs — sleeping, eating, exercising — but I was neglecting my mental well-being. Things eventually did get better, but I know that I need to do a better job of caring for my whole self, physically, mentally, and emotionally. That will mean knowing when to stop doomscrolling, when I need to talk to my spouse, and setting healthy boundaries for myself. 2020 was a wake-up call I intend to answer.
Follow My Creative Whims
Last year, I wrote a lot and broke out of my shell a bit more as a writer. I started to incorporate more speculative elements in my fiction and people seemed to enjoy that aspect of my work. In the past, I’ve often kept my pieces intended for publication rather grounded, but letting go of reality (or at least, loosening its grip on my creative freedom) allowed me to follow my instincts in exciting and unexpected directions. I also experimented more with stories that comment on timely issues, like the pandemic and climate change. This year, I resolve to trust my writerly intuition; to worry less about what someone else might define as “literary” and worry more about what kinds of narratives make me want to keep reading. If I enjoy writing it, chances are someone will enjoy reading it.
Bake the Perfect Loaf of Bread
A few years ago, probably as a result of binge-watching the Great British Baking Show, I started to learn how to bake bread. I made some progress and had a few good bakes, but this year, I want to take it to the next level. Not to merely bake something adequate, but to create a flavorful, crusty masterpiece to rival the best bread I could buy at my local bakery. I declare this the year of pre-ferments, long rises, kitchen scales, proofing baskets, and steam-filled dutch ovens. This year, I shall bake the perfect loaf of bread. So say we all.
For the first time in a long time, I have no preconceived ideas about what this next year of life will bring me. Last year has taught me that the status quo can change in an instant. The year ahead is filled with challenges I can’t begin to anticipate, but I hope to face each one with courage, determination, and a sense of wonder.
There is a phenomenon in psychology called “hindsight bias.” It’s the tendency for humans to believe in retrospect that events were more predictable than they actually were. It’s the feeling we’ve all had that we could have done something differently if only we knew then what we understand now. This bias isn’t always a bad thing. It allows us to derive lessons from the challenges we face in our lives and prepares us mentally and emotionally to tackle similar challenges in the future. But in a year like 2020, when normal life was upended, it can cause us to oversimplify reality.
They say that hindsight is 20/20, that when we look back, things will seem clear. This year, that sentiment couldn’t feel farther from the truth. 2020 feels like a constant upheaval, a never-ending tidal wave of change. At times, I felt like I was being swept away with the current and no matter how hard I tried, I could not reach the shore. When COVID-19 reared it’s ugly head in Washington, I stocked up on canned goods and sealed myself inside my house, afraid that I might be unknowingly spreading the virus. When my workplace was closed for six months, I lost my job and feared that I would never get back on my feet. When Black men and women were killed by police and people took to the streets to demand justice, I felt helpless to combat the plague of white supremacy and the entrenched racism that tilts the scales in my favor. When attempts were made to undermine our nation’s democratic process, I wondered if we’d ever recover from the blow. Looking back, it’s hard to see how any of these things could have been predicted or how I could have done anything differently. So much was out my control and the waves of change are still washing ashore.
And yet, despite the fear, the anger, and the uncertainty, there was beauty. There was stillness and peace. Not since I was a child have I spent so many sunny hours outside as I did this summer. I read books on the back patio. I tried to rid the lawn of creeping buttercup. I mulched and graveled and weeded. I went on long, meandering walks through the neighborhood. I refinished a staircase and my writing desk. I wrote short stories and audio drama scripts and worked on my novel. We adopted a dog — the best dog there ever was. When she was still small, she would chew on sticks in the backyard while I stretched out between two lawn chairs and let the sun bake me while I read. When she was tired, she’d curl up in my lap and take a nap.
My world for much of the year was small. I observed the turning of the seasons. I felt the warmth of summer fade into cool autumn breezes. I watched the leaves change color in real time out my window. I baked bread. I did the shopping and made dinner. I listened to podcasts while I hammered out resumes. I started a freelancing business. Sometimes, I did nothing but sit in stunned silence and fret about the dystopian state of the world. In those moments, I felt trapped, but grateful for the relative safety of my own four walls.
In hindsight, would I have acted any differently? Would I have tried to go on our cancelled vacation before the shutdown? Perhaps. Would I have slept in more before bringing a puppy home? Definitely. Would I give up the time I was gifted for house projects, writing, cooking, and reflection? Not a chance.
As I try to remember dimly the events of 2020, the burden of hindsight is too heavy to carry into next year. If there are lessons to learn, they are so simple that I’m embarrassed it took a pandemic to bring them to light: Let go of the need to be in control. Be kind. Put the needs of others before yourself. Slow down.
2020 was bewildering and heartbreaking and quietly breathtaking. I don’t think we’re out of the storm yet. Not by a long shot. Together, we depart 2020 a little shaken, but (hopefully) not broken, and with a steadfast intention to make things better in 2021. Here’s to that new year. Sláinte!
It’s publication day for my newest short story! All Worlds Wayfarer is publishing my story “Firemaker” in their December 2020 issue, now available to read online for free or available as an ebook from Amazon. I’m beyond excited that this story has finally found a home. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading it.
Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t read the story yet, I hope you will before reading much further, because this is the point of no return if you wish to avoid spoilers. I love a good time travel tale. It’s a familiar trope for good reason — it allows us to imagine our reality in surprising ways. If we had a machine like the one my protagonist has at his disposal, I think we’d all be tempted to see what tomorrow had in store for us, or long to correct what once went wrong. But what happens once you’ve seen and done it all? Where would a weary time travel go to escape the sweeping currents of history? That’s the question at the heart of “Firemaker.”
I started tinkering with this idea about three years ago, when I fell down a rabbit hole of information about linguistics. I remember reading about linguists searching for an ancient “mother tongue,” a lost language theorized to be the ancestor of today’s Indo-European language family. This missing language, dubbed “Proto Indo-European” can be extrapolated by looking for common words that may indicate a common root in the distant past. According to some theories, scraps of this language embedded in our modern lexicon may be the only surviving evidence of a hunter-gatherer society that existed more than 15,000 years ago. From that starting place, I began to imagine this society as a small band that did not survive the Ice Age, leaving behind nothing but their language. A dead-end civilization, cut off from us by a climactic disaster.
Some time later, this idea merged with another one that was rolling around in my mind. I was thinking about time travel as a plot device, about the nature of time, and where a time traveler who’s tired of roaming might go. How might such a traveler retire after untold decades exploring every corner of history from the dawn of the dinosaurs to the destruction of the Earth? Where would I go if I wanted to avoid making disruptive changes to the timeline and simply be? In that position, I might want to find a quiet corner of time where I knew I couldn’t alter the flow of history, among people who would eventually disappear from the historical record. Perhaps an Ice Age civilization destined to die out.
These two threads came together in an early draft of a story titled “Amber.” In that first version, the Traveler goes into the distant past to escape from the responsibility of knowing how everything would turn out. In that story, the Traveler came across as cold and detached, weighing the impact of his every action before committing to anything. In the story, he saves a boy from drowning, but only after deciding that doing so will have no adverse affect on history. It was an interesting thought experiment, but it lacked emotional stakes.
So, I made some changes, put it away for a year or two, and then pulled it out again to fine-tune it. In the final story, the Traveler is much more impulsive and driven not by a sense of duty not to screw up time, but love for a woman with the potential to ensure her people’s survival as ice sheets bear down on their valley. “Firemaker” is a lot more fun than its earlier incarnation because of the protagonist’s willingness to throw away his whole life in order to get himself to Immaru ahead of schedule. But it also incorporates an undercurrent of uncertainty about whether or not we can ever understand or manipulate time. In the end, I honestly don’t know if the Traveler’s actions constitute a paradox or if that’s how it was always supposed to be and free will is an illusion. And I don’t know if the Traveler made it back to the tavern to order the drinks or if he ever existed at all. That’s the fun of time travel, and I hope you enjoyed the trip.
“Firemaker” is now available to read on the All Worlds Wayfarer website. All Worlds Wayfarer publishes quarterly on the solstice and equinox, so you have until March 20, 2021 to read my short fiction there before the next issue is published. If you’d like a copy you can keep forever, please consider supporting the lit journal by purchasing the Kindle version on Amazon. Thanks for reading!
Today is Giving Tuesday, the day following Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday when nonprofits ask their supporters for donations. Since 2012, the Giving Tuesday movement has gained momentum and now thousands of not-for-profit organizations use the day to kick-start their end-of-year philanthropy campaigns. For small nonprofits, Giving Tuesday is a crucial part of their fundraising efforts. It may even be the only time when they ask for donations. Many of them do well, bringing in a large percentage of their donations in a single 24-hour period on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. However, too many nonprofits make the mistake of putting all their eggs in the Giving Tuesday basket when they should be spreading their message out throughout the year.
You Need to Communicate With Donors More Than Once a Year
Every year, I am inundated with emails and social media posts from nonprofits asking me to provide monetary support for their mission on Giving Tuesday. Usually, I have some personal connection to the organizations that are asking for my hard-earned dollars, but all too often, Giving Tuesday is the only time I hear from them each year. It’s like getting a phone call from that friend who only reaches out when they need something from you — it’s not a great feeling. If you only communicate with your donors when you’re asking them to donate, they probably don’t feel valued.
On the other hand, when I get an email from one of the nonprofits and charities that I hear from regularly, I’m much more likely to click the donate button. Why? Because I know about the work they’re doing to make my community a better place. They’ve invested time to tell their story and in the process, they’ve primed me to want to support them. By dropping me a line on a regular basis, they are building a relationship with me that will ultimately lead me to open my wallet when the time comes.
How to Lay the Foundation for a Successful Giving Tuesday Campaign
Where should you start if you’re a nonprofit and want to be more intentional about communicating with your donors? The secret is amazing content. When you have a compelling story to tell, all you have to do is tell it. Whether it’s through emails, blog posts, video stories, or podcasts, you should be churning out a steady stream of content that highlights how your nonprofit is making a difference in people’s lives. Show your donors how they are having an impact through their donations. By keeping them connected to your cause all year long, your supporters will be much more likely to make a donation on Giving Tuesday.
Now is the perfect time to start planning for your philanthropic communication strategy for next year. For nearly a decade, I’ve helped nonprofits tell their story and raise millions of dollars in donations. I can help you develop a communications calendar and write attention-grabbing content to keep your donors engaged all year long. Learn more about my copywriting and content strategy services for nonprofits here.
It’s probably not news to you that 2020 has been a year of upheaval. Between a global pandemic, political strife, racial divisions, and wildfires, this year has also fundamentally reshaped the economy. Like millions of others, I found myself out of work this year. To be honest, it’s not an especially great time to be job hunting — competition for full-time roles is intense and many organizations are hesitant to hire while the future is so uncertain. However, businesses and nonprofits still need customers and donors. To reach their audiences through the noise takes exceptional copy. And writing copy is what I do. So, I’m excited to announce that I’m launching my own freelance copywriting business.
For nearly a decade, I’ve helped businesses and nonprofits strengthen their brand, generate media interest, increase sales, attract and retain talented employees, and raise money for their cause. I’ve worked with small organizations just getting started and one of the country’s most recognizable brands. Writing clear, concise, compelling content is something I’m passionate about. I’m eager to help organizations that are making a difference in their communities tell their story.
If you’re interested in working with me, let’s talk! You can find out more about my qualifications, experience, and the types of projects I can help with on the Servicespage of my website. Simply scroll to the bottom of the page to send me a message. I’ll also be posting more on the blog about the business as I build it and I’ll share some copywriting tips and tricks along the way. Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll reach out if you’re interested in hiring me for freelance projects!
Writing is a strange craft. You spend months or years with an idea rolling around in the dark recesses of your mind, weeks or months or years coaxing that idea out of the shadows, and months more chipping away at the rough edges before its time to shop a story around to find it a home. And then, out of nowhere, the pieces fall into place in the bizarre ways.
In September, I found out that two of my short stories were going to be published. One was a story that I’d been editing and submitting to various journals for almost three years. The other was an idea I had four or five years ago that crystallized in mid-summer and came pouring out onto the page over the course of a week. Despite their vastly different origins, they both revolve around a similar image: fire.
I love fire. My mom taught me how to build a fire when I was eight or nine years old on one of our camping trips to Zion National Park. To this day, I’m mesmerized by flickering of firelight and in awe of its power to create and destroy. Fire can forge, it can cleanse, it can make way for new life to take hold. Fire can also consume and kill. For me, fire is a metaphor for humanity. We, too, are capable of great beauty and equally terrible destruction.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that this idea should work its way into my short fiction. In “Firemaker,” fire is a symbol of humanity’s potential, as a time traveler discovers when he travels to a village on the verge of being wiped out at the dawn of the last Ice Age. “Pyrocene” embodies the other side of the coin as a character tries to save a house from burning down in a setting that could be the present day or the very near future.
I never thought of these stories as having anything to do with each other, but rereading them, the parallels are obvious. They are intertwined, each commenting on the other. I love being surprised by fiction — sometimes I even surprise myself with hidden themes I didn’t consciously incorporate. In a year when the world feels like it’s on fire (racial injustice, the presidential election, and the actual fires raging across much of the American West for a start), it’s fitting that these two stories will be published together in 2020.
“Pyrocene” will be published in Creative Colloquy’s seventh annual anthology, due out later this year. You can hear me read it at the Creative Colloquy Crawl on Saturday, October 3 at 2pm Pacific time (RSVP here to receive the Zoom link). “Firemaker” will be published in All World’s Wayfarer Issue VII, which will be available on Monday, December 21. You can preorder it for your Kindle at allworldswayfarer.com. The issue will also be free to read on their website until March 20, 2021.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA. His writing has been featured or is forthcoming in Creative Colloquy, All Worlds Wayfarer and Grit City Magazine. Follow him on Twitterand subscribe to the mailing list today for exclusive content delivered to your inbox once a month.