• Review: The Understory

    Review: The Understory

    The UnderstorySaneh Sangsuk, translated by Mui PoopoksakulDeep Vellum, March 2024, $17.95How did I get this book? Library There are a few basic questions to ask of any book, and The Understory answers them in intriguing ways. Questions like: Does this book use paragraphs? No! Is there a plot line to follow? Not so much! Is…

  • Review: Glorious Exploits

    Review: Glorious Exploits

    Glorious Exploits Ferdia Lennon Henry Holt, March 2024, $26,99 How did I get this book?: Library This is not a properly critical review. The review is five stars, 12/10, would read again, no notes, you will not be sad to spend your time and money with Lampo, even if he is sometimes a frustratingly selfish…

  • Review: Seven Steeples

    Review: Seven Steeples

    I wrote this more than a year ago and apparently never published it. So enjoy! Seven Steeples Sara Baume HarperCollins, April 2022, $18.99 How did I get this book? Library There are many good reasons to read a book where nothing much happens. If your own life has a lot happening, a quiet book can…

  • Review: I Cheerfully Refuse

    Review: I Cheerfully Refuse

    I Cheerfully RefuseLeif EngerApril 2024, Grove Press, $28 The most effective post-apocalyptic fiction and climate fiction (cli-fi) doesn’t feature One Big Disaster that annihilates half the population and resources of the Earth with a Galactus-like snap. These stories are more like mid-apocalypse, and so more realistic, and maybe more existentially frightening. It’s difficult to imagine…

  • A Newsy Newsletter

    A Newsy Newsletter

    I have reached a trifecta of tiredness this week. I have a huge deadline looming for my thesis proposal at school, I have my first in-person book event since the pandemic coming up (see below!), and I have a family concern that’s weighing on me. So I don’t really have the brainpower to write something…

  • Anyway, It Was Spring Break

    Anyway, It Was Spring Break

    Last week was my spring break from school. I did not spend it at a beach — I’ve never done that, not even when I was doing my undergrad in Florida, a state that is 97% beach, in the 1990s, a notorious time for spring break parties. I am very glad I skipped that whole…

  • Who You Are, When You Are

    Who You Are, When You Are

    One day last week, it was brought to my attention twice that as an artist, a craftsperson, a creative person, that you can only be who you are, when you are. When a concept snags in my mind like stringy algae on a stick in a stream, I tend to swirl it around in the…

  • For International Women’s Day: Books About Publishing

    For International Women’s Day: Books About Publishing

    I just got out of an online seminar on running a small business that I was really looking forward to, but it turned out to be largely irrelevant to my weird little business. So let’s make lemonade out of these lemons by looking at my favorite books about writing and publishing by women. The Business…

  • Happy National Grammar Day!

    Happy National Grammar Day!

    I had a handful of other potential topics to cover today, including my current translation diary for Memoirs of a French Courtesan Volume 3, a list of books to read before you die, and an overview of future projects, but the internet tells me it is National Grammar Day, so here is an impromptu message…

  • Bonus Post: Books for Black History Month

    Bonus Post: Books for Black History Month

    We get a bonus day in February this year, which seems as good a day as any to share a bonus post from The Wingback. I’ve put together a quick list of a half-dozen titles by Black authors that immediately spring to mind as favorites. You can find all of these books (plus a few…

  • Hanging in There

    Hanging in There

    I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few months about this little newsletter and you, its readers. Most of you signed up ages ago and probably mostly forgot about it for a couple of years while I published sporadic updates about the publication of my books. And yet you’re still here years later, which…

  • Ineffectual Thorns

    Ineffectual Thorns

    I recently pruned my roses, as I do every February. I used to do this on or after Valentine’s Day, but climate change is real and upon us, so now this chore gets done at the beginning of February. It’s a pleasant chore, the kind that makes a noticeable and immediate difference when it’s done.…

  • Hold, Please…

    Hold, Please…

    I regret to inform you, dear readers, that I wrote an essay for The Wingback at the last minute, and it was absolute shit. So rather than pass that off as anything you might possibly want to read, I am posting a picture of my dog being impatient about her walk time. If you’re looking…

  • Is AI My Competition?

    Is AI My Competition?

    In the summer of 2023, I stopped writing for How Stuff Works after more than a decade of freelancing for the company. After I left, I learned from my editor (who has also since left the company) that article updates would be performed by artificial intelligence. I posted about this change in several places, including…

  • Hot Takes on Cold English

    Hot Takes on Cold English

    When winter storms bring the city to a halt, I apparently think of poetry, which I’m kind of surprised to learn about myself. In 2021, when ice encapsulated every twig and leaf of every tree and shrub and bent them to the ground, I thought of Robert Frost’s “Birches.” This year, as a storm that…

  • Rebellion: Behind the Scenes

    Rebellion: Behind the Scenes

    Tomorrow, January 16, 2024, my translation of Memoirs of a French Courtesan Volume 1: Rebellion will be published. I’m really proud of this project, and it’s gotten great reviews from advance readers. So far it’s earned four out of five stars on NetGalley, which makes me happy. Paperback and ebook copies will be available just…

  • 2023 Reading Review

    2023 Reading Review

    Let’s start this reading review with the stat that most people use: I read 52 books this year. A tidy average of one a week. Several of those were for school; a couple of them were for a class I ended up not taking. Nearly a dozen of these books were by Annie Ernaux because…

  • Welcome to the Wingback

    Welcome to the Wingback

    Happy New Year! I love a new year. I’ll celebrate a fresh start any day. I don’t make resolutions or even pick a word or phrase; I just like turning a new page in my planner and looking forward. You may have noticed a new logo for the newsletter: The Wingback. The Substack URL is…

  • Automotive R&D for Writers

    Automotive R&D for Writers

    For about a decade, more than half of my freelancing gigs were in automotive journalism. I still keep a hand in, but I do more editing and authoring these days. Automotive journalism involves a lot more travel and fancy dinners than you might expect. Car companies fly journalists from around the country, and sometimes the…

  • Happy Birthday to Me

    Today, November 20, is my birthday. Not a milestone birthday, but a solidly middle-aged year, just past the likely halfway point of my natural lifespan, if my family is any measure of that. My grandmother has been lying about her age for as long as I have known her. Once I became an adult, I…

  • Miraculous Nuns of the 7th and 21st Centuries

    Miraculous Nuns of the 7th and 21st Centuries

    The New York Times is reporting from towns across the country to explore “how America defines itself one place at a time.” On September 9, the dispatch came from an abbey in Gower, Missouri. The founder of the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus, Sister Wilhelmina—a real firecracker, from the descriptions—died in 2019. She was…