Enter the Twitter: Slush Pile Edition


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Interrupting this regularly scheduled WHL to re-post tweets. Yeah, I said it.

A Bit of Background
This past week, I participated in an event where I pitched two of my unpublished novel manuscripts on Twitter as part of an event called #DVpit‬. Essentially, it was a giant, Twitter Accelerated Slush Pile for would-be, hope-to-be, will-be authors, specifically writers of color and/or folks from marginalized or underrepresented communities, and works featuring the same. Why? Because have you seen publishing? Because agents and editors and writers and readers and their familiars have long been feeling the lack and seek to address it with, among other perhaps more traditional methods, ‘s.

Something About Process
I have an affinity for hyper-summary. Usually I can’t get this function to work with my own writing, but thanks to #DVpit (Kudos Supreme to organizer, literary agent Beth Phelan) I was inspired to get down in it, chopping words LEFT and RIGHT! The situation looked a lot like this:


OK Fine, The Tweets
For the most part, these are posted in the order I wrote them, with the initial efforts taking themselves quite seriously and the latter . . . well. You’ll see.

Note: mg = middle grade; novelette = wee novel


I’ve got a few favorites. How ’bout you? 

Measure Your Life in Books


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Recently I trimmed my To Read list to around 100 books, down from 160. Why? Well, I’ve long been aware of the likeliness I won’t survive it, especially with how I cheat on my list. Prodigiously.

It can be disconcerting to stare your mortality in the mouth with each log-in to a website that is intended to provide hours of . . . you know, nerd-alicious, collect-em-all delight (as well as sell me things. Don’t play coy, social media. We know.)

I’d been telling myself for months, seasons, years, to aggressively trim my To Read list. Only the books I honestly want to read; that I’m likely to. Nothing I’ve already read and wish to read again (count those ‘done’). None of those coquettish frips that briefly turn my gaze during a bookstore browse or library-stack wander, web crawl.

Truly, the browse must be considered the enemy of all tidy, thoughtfully curated To Read lists. The browse will skillfully and blithely seduce your partner, steal your bosom buddies, and convince your parents that honestly?, it would have made a better child.

It’s a home wrecker, the browse. I love it. By which I mean I succumb to it. Often.

Exhibit A as to why my To Read list never got any shorter, no matter how I apply myself to ordering library books online, shortly delivered straight to my grubby paws. (Digital library catalogues are an amazing, boundless, fortuitous magic. If you haven’t yet availed yourself –don’t. There’s no room for you. It’s for ME.)

Borrowing from comedians, I’ve transformed my problem into a punch line: I’m not going to survive my reading list! (Hahah! Lets joke about our deaths.) I know for a fact that I cannot claim a speck of originality. Plenty of people pre-mourn their lives; some even produce clever, pictographic charts that terrify my friends.

The awful truth is, of course, that my Goodreads To Read list is by no means comprehensive. Why? Because I read nearly everything. Blame a life-long habit instilled by my parents. Blame curiosity. Heck, blame the printing press and desktop publishing! Everywhere I go, something to read . . .

Non-exhaustive list of reading treasures traps:

  • Books – picture books, chapter books, novels, cookbooks, craftbooks, feminist theory, African American experience, fantasy, organizing, productivity, lite Buddhism, etc.
  • The funnies, comic books, graphic novels
  • Magazines
  • Zines
  • Circulars
  • Instructions
  • Newsletters
  • Flyers
  • Mail
  • Better mail (personal letters! postcards!)
  • Notes my mother writes on the backs of envelopes to detail the number of remaining eggs in the ‘fridge
  • The Internet (what, you don’t read the Internet?)
  • Blogs
  • Emails (sorta . . . less and less)
  • Multi-year fanfiction binges
  • Subway/bus ads
  • Cereal boxes (back when I used to eat cereal; I miss you Puffins!)
  • Personal care and Dr. Bronner product labels (OKAY???!!)

Thankfully, there are also things I don’t read:

  • Signs – especially anything over 10 feet tall/wide
  • The endless barrage of sales pitches from credit cards and my retirement plan
  • Names – if my brain doesn’t feel like sounding them out (I blame you, sci-fi & fantasy authors)
  • SHAMELESS, COPIOUS ALL CAPS (gah! stop shouting)
  • Lame circulars
  • Political campaign anything (except for postcards, those are short)
  • Flyers displaying 5+ fonts or bold type layered thicker than newsprint on a piñata

What about you? Say you meet your reading list in an alley and, zimbo-bapo!, you magically gain martial arts skillz . . . WHO WILL WIN?!


Mild MBTA Misbehaviors: Overdue Apology #1



Dear Youngish Dude on the B Train:

Remember, that time on the Green Line, when I dropped blueberry muffin crumbs on you? I wasn’t sure if I should reach down and sweep them from your shoulder and leg, because: a.) too obvious an admission of my transgression and b.) intimate. (Sidenote: isn’t it funny/curious/strange how, if I elbow a person or singe someone with angry eye beams for getting too close or fresh, that act is somehow less intimate, despite common elements touch and eye-contact?)

Dude: I didn’t know you. You didn’t know me, but there you were, dotted with fluffy crumbs. There I was, swaying from a nearby handhold, struggling against rising tides of mortification and laughter. I recall coming to a decision, taking the risk to casually brush a creamy-yellow muffin fluff from your nearest shoulder. (I wouldn’t dare get so forward as to brush your leg.)

Train jerked. Muffin jostled, and more crumbs joined their cousins on your person. You still didn’t seem to notice but, on my end, all hope for a graceful recovery was dashed.

Dude on the B Train: my bad. Wherever you are, I wish you well (and muffins).

Well Being Graffiti at Quincy Quarries


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What I know about Quincy, MA can be summed up in five neat bullet points:

#6 on that list? Quincy Quarries. Clearly a favorite of the youths, as well as rock climbers, this urban wild also seems to attractive positive affirmation graffiti. Hmm.




What I Hear When You Say Hair – A Herstory


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Early Childhood
When you were a baby, your hair grew in layers
You have fine hair
Look at all that hair!
Don’t ever cut your hair, child
What a beautiful girl, all that thick hair
Wow! Her hair is so looong
Dookie braids
That nappy head

Middle School
Nappy head
You tender-headed?
How come she don’t straighten it?
You got too much hair
Stuck up about her hair

Baby Pho with undone hair

High School
She got naps at the back of her neck
I like your braids
Can I touch your hair?
Did you cut off all your hair and get extensions?
Please shut the bus window, girl who doesn’t have hair that blows in the wind

I like your hair
You only wash it how often? Is that normal?
Your hair has beautiful texture
Can I touch it?
I don’t know why you don’t always wear it like that
You cut off all your hair???!!!
I love your hair short
Excuse me, sir

Museum Cafe Steps

Post College
Your nappy head
I love your hair
Mom, that’s not a boy!
And who is this new young man?
Are you growing it out? (Please grow it out)
Great ‘fro
Oh, you say ‘natural’?
Aye mama, your hair is mucho BOOM!
Can I take your picture?
Can I interview you about black hair?
What do you do to your hair to make it look like that?
What products do you use?
How long have you been natural?

Context and Subtext
Nonexhaustive. No particular order. Check one or all that apply.

  • You’re the only person of color in the room and I want to somehow connect and validate your humanity.
  • I’m intimidated because your hair expresses a degree of non-assimilation and that’s not the social contract I agreed to.
  • I think kids are adorable.
  • I exist mostly in an all-white space and find black children especially unique and adorable.
  • You’d look better if you straightened your hair.
  • You are our daughter and everything about you is special, including your hair.
  • You’re unusual. I want a photo to remember you by, but I might not ask before taking it.
  • I like to look at people because I find them intriguing and beautiful.
  • After a lifetime of perms, I’m following the new trends and trying to wear my hair as God/Goddess/the unnamed or science made it. I’m scared. I see you and I want your support.
  • I’m growing my hair out and the texture looks more African-heritage than I’m comfortable with. Maybe the products you use will make my hair more curly than kinky, and thus more acceptable to me and everyone else.
  • If a woman has short or nearly-no hair, she’s not a real woman.
  • I’m not really paying attention.
  • I’m an eight year old and while being black is kinda okay, looking ‘African’ definitely isn’t. By insulting your hair and skin color, I can create psychological distance between me and you.
  • Because the world you inherited will put you down, I’ll keep trying to build you up. Ps. I like your hair.


Winter Bike Break – Read and Listen


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Of my identities, one of the most commented-upon is city cyclist. I’ve ridden through sun, snow, sleet, 5:30 AM sleepies, whatever. People call me hardcore but I’ve got limits to my desire and ability, though perhaps not what you’d expect (i.e. heavy traffic, extreme cold, the occasional near-monsoon.) It’s more like: I just haven’t been reading enough or, I fell in love with this new podcast. Or I’ve been overwhelmed, yet again, by this unshakable fanfiction habit.

There’s only so much time in a day, right? Work must happen. Laundry folded. Litter boxes cleaned. As well I’ve been experiencing low-grade hip ache (here’s looking at you Cambridge Dance Party; here’s looking at you, late 30s.) So came December 2015, Desmond Puddin’ went down for a bit of a break so I could spend my 45-min morning commute squished between puffy coats on the MBTA Orange Line, wrestling my earbuds into compliance or dragging out a paperback while eyeing just how many of my fellow travelers worship at the shrine of glass/plastic/metal (many!) or paper (more than you’d guess.)

What siren called me off my bike this winter? Thought you’d never ask.

Fav Podcasts/Winter 2016

Another Round – My number #1. Heben and Tracy soothe and validate my inner, lonely high school weird-girl. Real. Honest. With laughter that rivals the breathless contagion of Click & Clack, their energy and synergy are utterly unique. I’ve converted at least five people to this podcast, and counting . . .

Dear Sugar RadioThe Sugars open doors. Together, Cheryl and Steve are compassionate, thoughtful, clever and clear-eyed, often moving the conversation and their advice in a direction you wouldn’t expect. I listen almost as soon as episodes show up in my feed.

FanBros – As a kid, I sometimes watched a TV show simply to listen to the opening theme (yup, Disney’s Gummi Bears). FanBros begins each episode in an equally joyful and compelling fashion, but then I’m happy to experience the rest (unlike aforementioned cartoon). Comics I Copped is one of my favorite segments, and I’m always interested to hear what co-host Tatiana King-Jones brings to the table. Overall, I love the range of ‘black and brown’ voices. Yum.(Also, it’s my secret desire to one day attend a show DJ’ed by BenHaMeen in NYC.)

Black Girl Nerds – Jamie Broadnax keeps me connected to a wide, wide word of nerddom and geekdom (with a focus on the POC experience) that I’d otherwise completely miss.

Reading Lives – You know how magazines and websites feature interviews that ask public personalities about their favorite books? Reading Lives is better. There hasn’t been an episode in a bit, but I hope host Jeff O’Neal brings back this gem.

PopagandaFeminism and pop culture. I’ve listened to some great essays and been exposed to voices and perspectives I’d otherwise miss via this Bitch Media podcast.

Note to Self – Newest on my podcast feed. First, can I say how much I enjoy Manoush Zomorodi’s speaking voice? I do. The show openly and throughly examines how we live with technology, how we want to. Great production sound.

Fav Reads/Winter 2016

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith (illustrator) -appears to be a children’s picture book; is actually a meditation on the mindful life

Revolutionary Petunias by Alice Walker – oh, you know. Some verses from Queen Alice. My favorite poem from the collection: “For My Sister Molly Who in the Fifties”. Look it up

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 & 2 – by G. Willow Wilson – I was surprised into loving this. Tell your daughters, your sisters, your mom! Also, jackalope

Between the World and Me by Ta’neshi Coats – finally made it through the kazillion holds on the audio book at my public library to listen to what everyone, (including an author I most admire), was talking about. Yup. It’s beautiful. It’s painful. It’s good

At My Back by SallyExactly on A03 – a new chapter prompted me to re-read the whole shebang, all 474,300+ words of some of the best, most context-filled, and comprehensive writing about archer-spy Clint Barton (Hawkeye) and spy-assassin Natasha Romanoff/Romonova (Black Widow.). This Avengers fic -breakneck, adventuresome, serious, humorous, artful- is one of the best I’ve read. Ever. This is what comics and superhero tales could be




A Case for Public Nudity, or How I Learned to Love the Spa


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I travel between worlds. I mean . . . we all do, but we’re not always cognizant of the push and pull, how the fit/non-fit shapes and remakes us.

JP Mural - Jose Ramos

I am a child of the heavily-clothed North Eastern States. Raised under the tenets of humility and modesty of my Islamic upbringing, and equally inheriting Western beauty ideals. You’d be hard pressed to convince my teenage self that, in my early twenties I’d appear in the buff in public, on foreign land.

In the locker room of the spa/water park a friend took us to outside of Leipzig, East Germany, a teen boy, (brown, mixed-heritage), dropped the N bomb, or perhaps its Deutsche equivalent, and was instantly-firmly chastised by my horrified (white) friend.

In the outdoor pool at that same spa, a 7-year old, sunning herself on a rock, spied me with gentle, innocent curiously. She was beautiful and I was beautiful. Two bare things soaking up a warm German sun.

JP Mural - Jose Ramos

My younger self, growing up in Coastal New Jersey, mortified when my one-piece bathing suit collected too much sand in the crotch, could not imagine that less than an hour north of me, Korean American children my exact age followed their parents into a parking garage sized ‘health club’ to soak in sex-separated bathing rooms. Would never fathom that, grown up, I’d ‘discover’ these same places where I could just be, and preen . . . and occasionally get chastised by stern-faced grammies, white hair wrapped up in soaked and sweating washcloths, dissatisfied with my spa-etiquette.

JP Mural - Jose Ramos

You probably get my point: I was not raised for public nudity. Mine was to wide leg trousers and sweaters layered one over the other . . . over the other. Mine was to deny men who might treat me as less than a brain, and to not notice if a woman turned me an appreciative eye. Mine was to discomfort and embarrassment, skipping right over ease, gratitude, and pride (Pride being a Bad Word, precursor to dropping your steak in the water while admiring your own reflection, and maybe later drowning.)

Therefore, imagine my growing admiration, respect and delight when, during my first American Korean Spa experience at that crazy, five-floor joint in Queens, I observed a brown-skinned teen at the entrance to the bathing room I’d recently (reluctantly) departed. Her slim back toward me, tiny towel clutched in front of her chest. She gazed into the room at the shining arms, legs, butts, hair, breasts and set in her mind: resolve. I can do this? Right? Stroll in vulnerable; surrender to this space where every woman is as she is and should be.

That girl could, and she did.

JP Mural - Jose Ramos

Radical Acceptance on the Internet, Part 1


The Internet is GREAT.

It’s the magical mix tape of our lives . . . in the sky, with maybe some of that shiny black ribbon hanging out. A person (or talented cat) can laugh, love, dislike, hate on, mock, unfriend/follow, applaud, listen, commiserate, get bizarre, self-refer, or hatch terrible, no good, very bad plans (or SPAM) simultaneously, depending on one’s propensity for/against multi-tasking (or evil).

And then there’s this . . .


Ugh. Internets, why you no forget?


Somewhere between 1998 and 2013, I grudgingly acquiesced to a campaign of radical acceptance related to instances of me on the Internets. That is: I refuse to try to eradicate every single awful photo (of which there are and will be many, MANY); I’m not going to over-curate my persona(s) to make myself out as superhuman (am I succeeding? dunno); and I will accept that, like weather, favors change and thus crumbles the cookie (ie. behavioral expectations for the manner in which our digital selves will continue to evolve #thankyouTwittershaming)

With this in mind, I will RIGHT NOW practice some radical self-acceptance and claim these Visages of Phoebe that will be forever (maybe) emblazoned on that all-important series of tubes (I mean servers. That’s what you were referring to, Al Gore. We know.)

Cambridge City Councillor Nadeem Mazen’s team did great work on this short featuring Agassiz Baldwin Community (though, it’s tough to watch myself on video)


Brock of The Sprocket Podcast has solid interview skillz. This conversation was fun and relaxed, and somehow listening to myself isn’t as nerve-wracking as viewing: http://bit.ly/the-sprocket-E219bcal/