On Stories

I like stories. Always have. “Like” might be an understatement. They’re the lens I use to understand the world. Ever since I was a toddler watching all three Star Wars movies in a day because my mom was on bed rest and what else was she supposed to do with me, I’ve loved them. They were explorations of people and situations I might meet (or not), heroes I could examine and emulate, reminders that no matter how dark things got, there was always hope.

I love ancient stories that people with lives I can never hope to understand told. I love retellings of those stories that take them apart and put them back together in ways that challenge my assumptions. I love stories about worlds entirely different from the one I know, and stories of humanity that continues no matter what planet they’re set on. I love stories that force me to imagine what it is to be someone else, someone whose appearance or struggles or beliefs are alien to me.

I love telling those stories, too. I love pacing and thinking and pacing and thinking and wondering what it is to be a sentient robot, or one of the Fair Folk, or a dragon. I love discovering the personhood in those characters, even when they do things I would never do.

One of my favorite things about people is that every single one is different. No two people experience life in precisely the same way. No two people make precisely the same choices. No one sees the world exactly as anyone else, and yet we constantly find common ground and ways to connect. They might be fumbling, grasping connections, full of misunderstandings and unintentional hurts, but they’re connections all the same.

Stories are a lot of things to me. One of them is a chance to celebrate all the ways we are different, and all the ways we are the same.



Days pass by

like carousel horses

red and gold and green.

Sit on the horse with the silver mane

and ride—up and down, round and round

no two cycles quite the same.

It’s not the years that change.

Ravens come and go,

mountains gather snow.

Riders come on,

others get off

as we spin round the sun like a carousel

but it’s never quite the same.

We’re never quite the same.

It’s not the years that change.


Tragically, there’s no way to make the art in my head appear directly on the page, as I imagined it.

I’m not God; I can’t simply command the graphite or paint to do as I wish and expect to be listened to. I have fallible mortal hands that make smudges and mistakes. My lines wobble sometimes. I can’t draw every facial expression perfectly—shocking, I know.

As a teenager, I found all this very difficult to accept. My inability to control everything in my art infuriated me. Nothing turned out right, when I defined “right” as “exactly how I imagined it”. Watercolor painting was the worst. The colors never stayed where I put them! They kept wandering off with the flow! And I couldn’t erase it, or simply paint over the errors like I could with other mediums. Any mistakes I made stayed.

At some point I mentioned this frustration to my sophomore-year art teacher, Mrs. G. Her response? Handing me a watercolor set and some paper and telling me to go play with them. And for the next few weeks, I did.

You can learn a lot through play. Any child knows that, but by fifteen I’d forgotten it. Mrs. G reminded me.

Spending all that time being furious with my art for not being perfect took me away from why I was doing it in the first place—I love making pictures. I love colors, and shapes, and lines, and combining different shapes or ideas in fun new ways. I love art, to the point that my mood goes awful when I’m not doing it.

But when I played with the watercolors, I remembered. I painted a whole page light blue, the put more colors over it to see what happened. I put a drop of water on a section that had already dried to see how it changed things. Then I made the drop a heart shape. It was a lot like experimenting in a science class, but without the lab report.

I’m (still) not God; the materials I put down on paper or canvas will behave as they always have, and the marks I make on the screen will follow their programming. It’s up to me to learn how they work, and what to expect from them. When I do that, I find myself working with my tools rather than trying to order them about, and everything works more effectively. It’s like working with a person that way—but I don’t have to share the credit.

The Makings Of Monsters

Lately I’ve been making a series of digital paintings about monsters—for a loose-ish definition of series, and monsters, anyways.

They’re all monochrome, square, digital, and contain weird creatures, at least. Which color the painting is based around varies each time. I’m gradually going around the color wheel.

Whether they really deserve the term “monsters,” however, is a different question. Just because it’s strange, or staaaaaaring at you, or has too many teeth, do those things make a monster?

I’m not so sure. That probably-not-a-deer especially, seems to just be reading. Nothing monstrous about that.

But monster stories aren’t really about the monsters, they’re about the things we’re afraid of. Spiders, the unknown, death, familiar things becoming strange and dangerous.

I should make a painting about something moving that shouldn’t, like scarecrows. That’s one of my big fears.

The Color Of A Soul

My soul
Is not the silver-white
Of moonlight on snow
Or the deep, vibrant red
Of blood and power.
It is not the soft orange
Of an early sunrise
Nor the brilliant gold
Of autumn leaves
It isn’t pink, or green,
Or turquoise, or any
Of the bright colors
I adore.
My soul is inky indigo
Like crisp new jeans
Like deep ocean water
Like the spaces between stars
On a cloudless night.
I wonder what that says
About me.

Letters To Who I Used To Be

The stories make you
Feel alive.
That’s good, but
Spend more time outside.
Bring a book, if you must.
You’ll need every ounce of sunlight.

Don’t return their vicious words.
Forgiveness comes with time.
Until then,
Stay kind.
They’re just as young as you are.

Alone isn’t bad.
You’ll find your people.
When you do,
Hold tight to them.

When your mind goes dark
And your heart goes numb
And you lose your wonder,
Ask for help.
There’s no shame in it.

Scribble out
A piece of paper—
You know you want to.
Turn the whole thing black with ink.


It’s not
About the grades.
It’s about the experience,
What you learn from it.
Life will never be easy.
Don’t expect to be perfect.

You don’t have to be a scientist
To love the way the world works.
There’s poetry
In every star and mollusk.

Find what makes you happy.
Write it.

God doesn’t hate you.
Not even for that.

Your parents don’t have
Some plan for who you’ll be,
They just
Want you happy.
Hide the bits of yourself
You think they won’t like.

Make your music.
It’s not about being the best,
It’s about the joy.

Find what makes you lonely.
Draw it.

Lose your words
In the colors and shapes
And make something,
Little dreamer.

People are complicated.
You won’t
Understand anyone,
Not completely.
Not even yourself.

People leave.
Let them go.
Talk to new people,
If you don’t think you know how.
(People love to talk about themselves,
So give someone an audience.)

Hug whenever possible.
And, you know,
Socially acceptable.

Find what makes you laugh.
Dance it.

Humor comes
From subverted expectation.

Pick up a Copic book
Or ten.
Who cares
If it’s for “smart kids”
Or not?

Find what makes you angry,
Go for a run.

Cut out what you don’t need.
You won’t miss the length
If you cut your hair short.

Making your thoughts into words
Is hard,
I know.
Will always be lost in translation.
Speak anyway.

You are so, so loved
As you are.