Thursday, June 3, 2021

Recent bylines

Long time, no time, le blogger! My website "links" page has more or less taken the place of writing updates. It's been a busy spring in the home office, where pajamas are mandatory and showers...need to happen more often. In recent weeks, the noise of the Brood X cicadas has made it hard to concentrate; it is as if they have hypnotized us and now all we can think about is mating and dying. Not all that different from everyday life, if you boil it down. 


I made this using Microsoft Paint; it got four (edited: TWO) likes on Twitter; a gratifying experience. Still a good use of my time, as it has made me laugh for several days in a row. Brood X!


 Here's what's up & where:

    A new humor piece at Points in Case: I Am the Mom in the Mop Commercial, and I Am Ready to Be the Mom in the Vacation Commercial

    Satiric opinion in The Washington Post: Hope you're enjoying March Madness here in Indianapolis. Could you move that mask up?

     A review of William Cooke's new book, Canary in the Coal Mine, for Indianapolis Monthly

    A review of Never Far Away by Michael Koryta, Indiana Authors Awards Book Reviews

    A poem, "Missing Trees," in Doubleback Review


 And here's what's coming soon: 

    A review of Leah Johnson's new YA novel, Rise to the Sun, in the July issue of Indianapolis Monthly 

    "Gone for Good," short fiction in Purdue University's Sycamore Review, where many moons ago I was the nonfiction editor

    "Side B," an essay scheduled for the fall 2021 issue of River Teeth


Now listening: 

"All My Favorite Songs" by Weezer (can't stop singing it: "All my favorite songs are slow and sad/all my favorite people make me mad...I don't know what's wrong with ME, do ooo ooo..." My 8 YO: "Well, THAT'S negative." Me: "Yet upbeat! I don't know what's wrong with ME, do ooo ooo, do ooo ooo.")



Current mood:

Hélio Castroneves’ Indy 500 win at 46 shows getting old is far from a sin


A fellow 46-yr-old! So true: Keep breathing & believing. #NotASin

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Five lines in five minutes

 1. Sunday morning writing, light snowfall, good coffee, space heater in my home office/guest bedroom (which has housed no guests in many months): an inventory of small and important happiness. 

2. I do not want to download the game my children want me to download, which is not compatible with their devices and is compatible with the aging computer I use for work, and also the tablet I use for work, and a laptop that is slow but can maybe handle it, and I tried last night to download it to the laptop, which was indeed slow and didn't load, and they want to try again today whereas I want to read a book and bake some bread, but I forgot to make the dough yesterday, in part because I was badgered all day about downloading a game. 

3. The problem is low memory, she said, looking over her shoulder. 

4. The sadnesses of 2020 are too much with us. The flip of a calendar means nothing. 

5. Still, I will write the things I need and want to write, and will aim for hopefulness about all the projects on all the burners, and will remind myself of the thing that the person who helped me get my current position by writing recommendation letters on my behalf for literal years said, when I noted that the position was certainly stressful and different and came with higher risks/rewards: You wanted this, he said, in a chiding, singsong voice, with a gentle smile and kind eyes that showed he knew what I meant, and that I was in charge of what came before and whatever came next. 

Remember When You Wanted What You Currently Have Pictures, Photos, and  Images for Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter 

(is this embroidered on a towel, and how may I purchase it, internet?)

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Best Microfiction 2020

When I saw my name and story on the list for Best Microfiction 2020, I yelled. So grateful to guest editor Michael Martone and series editors Meg Pokrass and Gary Fincke for including "The Jumper" in the book, which comes out in April. And hooray for Michael Czyzniejewski and Moon City Review for originally publishing my story. Now let me yell about the many glorious writers and journals who also will appear in the volume, which is available for preorder:

  • Ashely Adams, “Here Are The Things The Moon Told Me During The Lunar Eclipse of January 21, 2019” (Cotton Xenomorph)
  • Riham Adly, “How to Tell a Story from the Heart in Proper Time” (Flash Frontier)
  • E. Kristin Anderson, “Ted Cruz Attends a Goldfish Funeral” (Cherry Tree: A National Literary Journal at Washington College)
  • Nin Andrews, “One day an orgasm decides to move to Spain” ( magazine)
  • Jules Archer, “From the Slumbarave Hotel on Broadway” (New World Writing)
  • Collette Arrand, “The Thing” (Passages North)
  • Tyler Barton, “The Grand Am” (JMWW)
  • Tiger Blair, “A Quick Word About My Life” (Okay Donkey)
  • Christopher Citro, “The Horses Are Ready and They Need to Go” (Cincinnati Review)
  • Paul Crenshaw, “Weight Room” (CHEAP POP)
  • Tommy Dean, “Here” (New World Writing)
  • Lenora Desar, “Men's Secrets” (CHEAP POP)
  • Melanie Dixon, “Swans May Bite Without Warning” (takahē magazine)
  • Catherine Edmunds, “Her Wing” (Cherry Tree: A National Literary Journal at Washington College)
  • K M Elkes, “Still Warm” (Reflex Fiction)
  • MFC Feeley, “Why I Love Penguins” (Ghost Parachute)
  • Jenny Ferguson, “She Will Become a Bird Scientist” (Matchbook Lit)
  • Epiphany Ferrell, “How My Parents, Who Gave Me Up for Adoption, Might Have Met” (Third Point Press)
  • Tim Fitts, “Teeth” (Apple Valley Review)
  • Sarah Freligh, “We Dive” (Cease, Cows)
  • Scott Garson, “Sick Day” (Split Lip)
  • Sarah Green, “Lafayette Indiana” (New South Journal)
  • Sian Griffiths, “An Imaginary Number” (Monkeybicycle)
  • Mary Grimm, “Escape Into the Waking World” (Journal of Compressed Arts)
  • Thaddeus Gunn, “An inventory of the possessions of William Kevin Thompson, Jr., age 19, upon his expulsion from the family residence on October 20, 1971” (Kenyon Review Online)
  • Kyle Hemmings, “Alice in Neverland” (Sonic Boom)
  • Patrick Thomas Henry, “Polaroid Snapshot: Skinny Dipping in the Little Juniata River” (CHEAP POP)
  • Mary-Jane Holmes, “Down the Long, Long Line” (FlashBack Fiction)
  • Jennifer Howard, “Flat Stanley grabs a burrito” (Maudlin House)
  • Emma Hutton, “Skyscraper Woman” (The Short Story)
  • Jason Jackson, “In my dream I see my son” (TSS Publishing)
  • Steven John, “Giants” (Bending Genres)
  • Josh Jones, “Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987)” (Paper Darts)
  • Kyra Kondis, “The Day the Birds Came” (Pithead Chapel)
  • Kathryn Kulpa, “Warsaw Circus” (Milk Candy Review)
  • Kathryn Kulpa, “Historic Preservation” (Cabinet of Heed)
  • Kathryn Kulpa, “Why I Got Written Up by the Manager at Uncle Earl’s World Famous Bar-B-Q” (100-Word Story)
  • Sarah Layden, “The Jumper” (Moon City Review)
  • Nathan Alling Long, “Just to Say” (Vestal Review)
  • Alice Maglio, “Settled” (Wigleaf)
  • Natalie Teal McAllister, “Still Life with Prairie, 1860” (CHEAP POP)
  • Frankie McMillan, “Dirty Mouth” (takahē magazine)
  • Frankie McMillan, “The Fish My Father Gave Me” (Atticus Review)
  • Frankie McMillan, “The Story Inside Her” (takahē magazine)
  • Hema Nataraju, “For Two Blue Lines” (MORIA Literary Magazine)
  • Kari Nguyen, “Bloom” (Flash Frontier)
  • Leila Ortiz, “This Is A Comb” (Anomaly)
  • Melissa Ostrom, “Brass” (CHEAP POP)
  • Pamela Painter, “Ponds” (Journal of Compressed Art)
  • JJ Peña, “the summer heat feels just like love” (Into the Void)
  • Meghan Phillips, “When You First Meet the Telepath” (Jellyfish Review)
  • Tucker Leighty Phillips, “TODDY'S GOT LICE AGAIN” (CHEAP POP)
  • Ken Poyner, “Compensation” (Cincinnati Review)
  • Santino Prinzi, “Dissolve” (Moon Park Review)
  • Aleyna Rentz, “Doc Holiday Goes West” (Flock)
  • Johanna Robinson, “Heartwood” (Reflex Fiction)
  • Sarah Rose Etter, “The Book of X: Vision #13 (Throat Fields)” (The Adroit Journal)
  • Michelle Ross, “Fertlizer” (Pithead Chapel)
  • Michelle Ross, “Palate Cleanser” (Bending Genres)
  • CC Russell, “Caught” (The Sonder Review)
  • Austin Sanchez-Mora, “Fable Told from the Future West” (Cease Cows)
  • Robert Scotellaro, “Sumo Wrestlers' Heating Service” (Meniscus)
  • Robert Scotellaro, “Hit Man in Retirement” (Spelk)
  • Daryl Scroggins, “Cubism” (Moon Park Review)
  • Curtis Smith, “The Kitchen” (Atticus Review)
  • Karen Smyte, “Muscle” (The Southampton Review)
  • Beth Ann Spencer, “Exit Music” (Flash Flood)
  • Archana Sridhar, “Rechargeable Moons” (Jellyfish Review)
  • Jan Stinchcomb, “Teacup Werewolf” (Wigleaf)
  • Jan Ellman Stout, “Stained Lips” (100-Word Story)
  • Matthew Sumpter, “Mike Tyson Retrospective” (Pithead Chapel)
  • Jeff Taylor, “The Boat People” (National Flash Fiction Day NZ)
  • Mary Thompson, “Ladybird” (Spelk)
  • Jennifer Todhunter, “Bird Wings” (Pithead Chapel)
  • Cathy Ulrich, “The Quiet of Giraffes” (Tiny Molecules)
  • Clio Velentza, “Anatomical Venus Girl” (Milk Candy Review)
  • Emily Webb, “Wets Eats West” (A3 Review)
  • Charmaine Wilkerson, “Bite” (Litro)
  • Diane Williams, “Grief in Moderation” (Granta)
  • Shelbey Winningham, “Liminal” (Arkana)
  • Jo Withers, “Quantum Physics Allows for Particles to Be in Two States at the Same Time” (Spelk)
  • Francine Witte, “Midnight on the Moon” (Milk Candy Review)
  • Francine Witte, “Middle of Night” (Porter House Review)
  • Tara Isabel Zambrano, “A brief progression of natural disasters” (Jellyfish Review)

Friday, October 25, 2019


Up now at The Millions, my interview with Patricia Henley, whose acclaimed novel HUMMINGBIRD HOUSE is being re-released by Haywire Books as a special 20th anniversary edition.

Says Patricia: "It took 10 years from the original idea to holding the book in my hand. I went through two agents. Neither liked the story or thought it had a chance. I made five trips to Central America. I was obsessed. It was a heady time. I was still young and had so much energy. I felt I could do it all. I was completely obsessed with the novel, the travel, the research. I dreamed about it.

When it came out in 1999 that was validation. When it became a finalist for The National Book Award that seemed almost secondary, after all I’d been through. Then it went out of print. It’s been out of print for a decade at least. Jon Sealy bringing a new edition into the world feels like recovering from a long illness, a generalized malaise. I’m not exaggerating."

Read the rest here, and find Patricia's website here

Monday, July 29, 2019

Please welcome, uh, MY favorite band

I have spent a good portion of the summer enmeshed in books and music, thinking and recharging.  Recently I've given a re-listen to "Across a Wire," a live album by Counting Crows. It opens with a man saying, "Please welcome, uh, MY favorite band, Counting Crows." I know his voice so well from repeated listenings, but I don't know who he is.

Perhaps his name is in the liner notes, but the disc is somewhere in a ginormous CD changer, sans accoutrement. Someday I'll organize my music (or so I tell myself every so often, in fits of optimism. I've been listening on Hoopla via the library.) It's a great double album: slowed-down acoustic versions of many of their songs, and a second disc with rock/electric versions.

The first time I saw Counting Crows ("uh, MY favorite band") was twenty-five years ago in Indianapolis, at a little club on the east side called 2nd Avenue. All ages show, as the ticket attests. When I posted this on Facebook awhile ago, another friend said he was there, too, and helped fill in my memory: the power went out, and the band gathered around one working microphone to complete the set. I wouldn't have called that image up in my mind without help, but now I can see it all over again. I was there.

Saw the band at Woodstock '99 in Rome, N.Y., and in Ithaca, N.Y. around the same era. My last CC show was winter 2014, the Somewhere Under Wonderland tour in Indianapolis, which was  phenomenal. "They're going to open with 'Round Here,'" I told my husband, and they did, and I promptly burst into tears. Music! Feelings!

There was a guy in the front row holding his camera phone up the whole time. Lead singer Adam Duritz had enough and asked him what he was doing, man. They handshaked it out later. What was he doing, man? There's a strong impulse to prove you were there rather than just being there. Says the woman with piles of saved ticket stubs, proof I was there, a thing to post on Facebook, which didn't exist in 1994. But tickets don't obstruct the view or distract from the concert itself. I took a couple short videos, too, and replayed them once or twice, especially for my kids, who loved that album, especially "Earthquake Driver," "Elvis Went to Hollywood," and "Scarecrow." And then the videos were lost when my I dropped my phone and broke it and hadn't backed up all the stuff you're supposed to back up. Is Front Row Guy still watching his full concert footage? Somehow I doubt it.

None of this was on my mind when I started thinking about the introducer on "Across a Wire." When I click publish on this short post, my query into the void on "Please welcome, uh, MY favorite band, Counting Crows," I fully anticipate someone will respond, "u could just google it." And so I did google it, pre-emptive googling, and did not learn a thing except that Rolling Stone gave pretty low ratings on many CC albums that I love in their big almanac o' ratings. (u can google it, but y? Like wut u like. Rolling Stone don't know all.) And if I'd googled and found it, then I wouldn't have had a moment to think about this band, this music, that has existed throughout 25 years of my life, a soundtrack for college ("August and Everything After") and work and marriage and kids and teaching and writing books and the rest of it.

I like when something isn't so easy to find; I like to work for my trivia. Though I would love to know what that announcer is doing now, and if his briefly stated sentiment, still imprinted on my brain, remains true.

Monday, February 25, 2019


All this family and historical research I've been doing made me remember a short story I wrote in sixth grade, called "Sarah Sleuth," which was most certainly NOT autobiographical, and most certainly WAS filled with mystery and drama. Finally tracked down the original in a box of school papers my mom saved for me. A sampling:

Who doesn't enjoy relaxing in a thick recliner after getting back from the last case?

I don't remember watching a lot of soap operas as a kid. But perhaps I watched a lot of soap operas as a kid?

Monday, February 18, 2019

Missing Newspapers

In our quest to learn more about an event in our family history (see previous post: The Mysteries of Family History: Naming Names), my Dad and I have done quite a bit of research in libraries, archives, and online.

Newspaper accounts of the event in question have been indispensable: the first big find on microfiche blew up long-held family myths about what happened and how. Over time, stories get exaggerated, changed, embellished. And then eventually the stories are wrong, a shadow of the truth.

The news reports set the record straight. The articles we found from the 1870s gave names, dates, and facts, and shared the public opinion in the matter. This is from the Indiana State Sentinel in 1874: 

"Adverse to the accused"

Naturally, we are eager to read the Attica Ledger's account of what happened. Public sentiment seems to be a huge factor in this case, and that feeling appeared to change over time. But there a gap in the archives: it seems that at least ten years’ worth of newspapers are missing from the records, specifically the Attica Ledger from Fountain County, Indiana. We're trying to track down newspapers from the years 1874-1876. (There's a single issue of the Attica Herald - which apparently published from 1873-1874 -- somewhere in the Boston Public Library; they know it exists in their archives, but a recent move and reorganization has made it hard to locate, and they're still searching.)

Hoosier State Chronicles, Indiana's historic digital newspaper program, has been a fantastic resource. But the Chronicles don't have these issues, either. and add new papers every day, but they have to have the papers to add. I'm told that libraries are their primary resource, and none of the local or regional libraries have the Ledger from this time period. A very helpful genealogist went so far as to contact a private collector on my behalf. No luck on those missing issues. "They're gone," he told me. 

We've heard that the Attica Ledger archives were housed in a storage facility during a move, then lost or forgotten about. 

It happens easily enough. One of our own relatives loaned a small collection of newspapers and documents to a curious friend who never returned them. Another showed me two of three precious photo albums with family history documented inside. The third he loaned to a family member decades ago. "I never got it back," he told me last fall, his face full of regret.

How do we get back what's been lost? A friend and colleague pointed out that the story of the missing newspapers is also a family story. In addition to sending letters to potential relatives of the jurors and community members involved in the trial and subsequent pardon, I recently sent letters to people who share a name with one of the newspaper proprietors in Attica at the time. Maybe someone knows what happened to the missing papers. Maybe someone has a stash in their attic. What can I say? I lean toward optimism, most of the time. 

Attica Ledger classifieds invoice 

And yet: it's a pessimistic time for newspapers. With the current decline of print newspapers and the constant reorganization of digital journalism, what will happen to the public record? Who will tell the stories of communities and individuals? 

Librarians have been like helpful detectives throughout this process. I'm in awe of how much I've learned from them as we try to piece together the past. I'm trying to imagine the processes involved in archiving and cataloging so much information. Stacks and stacks of deteriorating documents. The storing and housing of paper that could be digitized and shared, if only we could find it.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Mysteries of Family History: Naming Names

My friends and family -- and anyone else who's been within ten feet of me for the last couple years -- know that my father and I have been researching events in our family history that happened in 1874-76 in Warren and Fountain counties, Indiana.  

Here's an abridged version of what we know so far: In August of 1874, near Independence/Attica, Tade Layden got into an altercation with another farmer named Daniel Driscoll, whose pigs had eaten some of Layden’s wheat. When Driscoll refused to pay what was owed, the men fought, and Layden, acting in self-defense, stabbed and killed Driscoll. Layden was tried in Covington in July 1875 and convicted of second-degree manslaughter. 

Less than a year into his prison sentence, in 1876, Governor Hendricks pardoned Layden: the defendent’s lawyer, Daniel Voorhees (who went on to become a U.S. Senator from 1877-1897), wrote a letter of support, and so did the prosecutor from the state of Indiana. 

Daniel Voorhees
Gov. Thomas Hendricks

The pardon packet also includes signatures from nine of the twelve jurors and the judge, along with a letter signed by community members, all supporting Layden’s pardon. 

Why the change of heart? That’s what we’re trying to learn. 

We’ve consulted libraries, newspapers, archives, genealogy societies, parish records, books, family stories, local historians, and more. Now we’re searching for people who might have had this story passed down to them somehow: either by oral tradition/storytelling, or in the form of documents like diaries, letters, notes, or clippings.

This list of names below shows people who signed in support of Tade Layden’s pardon. (He is also referred to by his full name, Timothy, and sometimes in the documents Layden is spelled Layton or Laydon.) 

Are you related to anyone on the list? (My son's kindergarten teacher is!) Have you heard anything about this event or story? We’d love to know about it. Please write, email, or call: Sarah Layden, IUPUI English Department, 425 University Boulevard, Indianapolis, IN 46202, 317-274-0089. My email is salayden (at) gmail (dot) com. 

Jurors who signed in support of the pardon

Zacariah Ferguson (Foreman of jurors)
Gaton Suttles
G W Glover (George W. Glover)
Nashville Adkins
Henry Cade
Frederick Hunt
John Bodine
H.H. Connelly
William Reichard
(Judge Thomas Davidson also signed)

Jurors who didn’t sign the letter: 
Amariah Elwell
William Werts
William Patton

Signatures of support from Fountain County citizens (a few guesses on the handwriting)

GW Boyd
E.N. Bowman, Clerk, F.C.
E.M. McDonald
S.F. Miller, Deputy Clerk, F.C.
William Yount, Recorder, F.C.
E. Nebeker (Enos H. Nebeker)
James McMannon
G.B. Brown
John G. Brown
Samuel F. Moore
Peter McMahon
D. Rawles (David Rawles)
D. Neff
William Lamb
John R. Miles
Chas. Lamb (Charles Lamb)
Ben Bilsland
Oliver Shelby
H.R. Claypool
Lewis Hanes, Auditor
Isaac Haupt, Deputy Treasurer
John W. Gopner

Salem Cemetery, Attica, Indiana

Salem Cemetery

A shop on Attica's Main Street

Monday, November 26, 2018

Sixish lines in sixish minutes

1. Enjoyed my 25th high school reunion earlier this month (Go Wildcats!), though it was sparsely attended and many of my local peeps opted out. "We already see who we want to see. Plus there's Facebook." Have since taken a deep dive into my yearbook and high school journal. OMG. Burn that business. Or post on Instagram with witty remarks. SuperLatergram. Also am celebrating the 25+ anniversary of my hot pink wide-toothed comb, which I have been using since ninth grade. What is that thing made of, anyway? What am I made of, to not replace a comb after 25+ years?*

2. Related: all the little plastic bristle ball ends on my (far more recent) brush are gone. But where have they gone? They're bright orange. I'm imagining them falling out of my hair throughout the day, like sprinkles.

3. Sick kid is home with a cold the day after Thanksgiving break, and handily scammed a Coke and a muffin topper after the doctor's. (Me: "A small Coke." Him: "How about a medium?") That's my kid. Glad he's finally eating something. 

4. Line from an unnamed and beloved friend, quoted in my high school journal: "I'm tired of masturbation. It doesn't solve any of my problems."

5. Three weeks left in my first semester as a tenure-track faculty member. (Eight years as an adjunct at two schools, four years as a lecturer at one school.) Putting so much time and energy into my own writing feels GOOD.

6. Possibly about #5: Waiting to hear about something I am not at liberty to disclose. Oh really? Yes, really. You're just gonna have to wait, too, robots who read this blog. Pincers crossed, and when I have news to share, feel free to wave your metal claws in the air in that cute way you do.

*Cheapness and grit, obvs. Plus: it ain't broke. Wear it out! Use it up! The siren song of the Midwest.