Sweet Connections: Cynthia Atkins

Each week we will be connecting with our contributors showing where they have been, where they are now, and what’s up for the future.

Name: Cynthia Atkins
Title of Piece published in Sweet: Imaginary Friends
Issue: 9.3

Cynthia Atkins

Photo Credit: Alexis Rhone Fancher

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Cynthia is based out of Rockbridge County, VA, and teaches at Blue Ridge Community College. You can find out more about her at www.cynthiaatkins.com.

 

What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?

I’ve had some publications I am really proud of: Apogee Lit, Cleaver Magazine, Los Angeles Review, Prime Number Magazine, The Rise Up Review, Rust + Moth, Zocalo Puboic Square and also a few anthologies: “Who Will Speak For America” Edited by Stephanie Feldman and Nathaniel Popkin (Temple University Press, 2018) and “The Elegant Poem” (Persea 2019). I was also asked to appear as an Editor on the masthead of American Microreviews and Interviews.

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?

I am working on my manuscript-in-progress–“Still-Life With God”—a book that attempts to take God back from religion and look at the mental health and psyche of the culture in this new crazy age of social media, bots and all.

Who is your favorite author?

Dickinson/ Plath / Ferlinghetti / Winterson / Eliot /Baldwin

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

Too hard to name just one—-

What inspires you to write?

The pain of being human and trying to order, sort and ask the
big questions of LIFE—

What is your favorite sweet?

My son’s name is Eli and I am from Chicago and I love Eli’s CK—and here is the recipe and a blog.

Eli’s Cheesecake

The Original Recipe-Make It Better:

1. 1 cup granulated sugar.

2. 1/4 cup cake flour.

3. 2 large whole eggs, room temperature.

4. 1 large egg yolk, room temperature.

5. 3/4 cup sour cream, room temperature.

6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

7. 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Super yummy looking!  We are totally going to try this one.

Thank you, Cynthia, for taking the time to reconnect with us. We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!

Sweet Connections: Chelsea Biondillo

Each week we will be connecting with our contributors showing where they have been, where they are now, and what’s up for the future.

Name: Chelsea Biondillo
Title of Piece published in Sweet: Crazy
Issue: 7.2

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Chelsea lives near Portland, Oregon where she is doing renovation projects on land inherited from her grandparents. You can find out more about her at www.roamingcowgirl.com.

 

 

What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?

Well, my essay on Vixen made it to the Final Four in the March Shredness essay/music competition. That was pretty great, but, more exciting: My full-length manuscript has found a publisher! The Skinned Bird is available for pre-order now and slated for publication May 1, 2019 by KERNPUNKT Press.

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?

Right now the final draft of the manuscript has a looming deadline, and then I’ll be working hard to schedule readings and events–I’m so excited about this book I’m insufferable to be around these days.

Who is your favorite author?

There’s no way I could pick one, and the list changes hourly/based on the weather. But here’s today’s: I love Ellen Meloy, Amy Leach, Camille Dungy, David Quammen, Elena Passarello, Lina María Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, Pam Houston, Maira Kalman, Paul Crenshaw, Nicole Walker, Javier Zamora, Traci Brimhall, Ursula K. LeGuin.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

Maggie Nelson’s Bluets comes to my mind all the time, as does Galway Kinnell’s The Book of Nightmares.

What inspires you to write?

The sublime in the natural world. That balance between horror/awe really inspires so much thinking, and the best way for me to work through those thoughts (how does this phenomenon work/ what does it impact/ why does this matter/ and what does it tell me about how people work-what people impact-why people matter) is to write about them.

What is your favorite sweet?

Ice cream sandwiches made with homemade cookies. I used to really love the ones at Churn in Phoenix and my new favorites in Portland are made at Ruby Jewel. If I were making my own, I’d use a cookie recipe on Epicurious, and put Ben & Jerry’s Americone Dream or Tillamook hazelnut/chocolate ice cream in between.

Ice cream sandwich cookie

Thank you, Chelsea, for taking the time to reconnect with us. We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!

Sweet Connections: Anne Bruno

Each week we will be connecting with our contributors showing where they have been, where they are now, and what’s up for the future. 

Name: Anne Bruno
Title of Piece published in Sweet: Mother’s Day 1971
Issue:  5.3

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Anne teaches English and Creative Writing at the Wheeler School in Providence, Rhode Island.

We totally had to look that one up, but it looks like an amazing school!

 

What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication? 

Besides the day to day accomplishments of managing teaching, kids, dog, husband, life, etc., I feel lucky to have had work published in very cool places like Barrelhouse, Word Riot, Talking Writing and Vestal Review.

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about? 

I am currently in the thick of completing a first draft of a novel that moves in and out of the late-2000’s and the mid-80’s, set in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, though half or more of this plan might get scrapped. It is exciting and extremely hard, this first draft business.

Who is your favorite author? 

Just one??? Ralph Ellison, Mary Oliver, Vladimir Nabokov, Tony Kushner, Toni Morrison, William Shakespeare, William Faulkner, Lydia Davis….

What is your favorite poem/essay/book? 

Lately I am obsessed with Mary Oliver’s essay collection, Blue Pastures.

What inspires you to write? 

The sky when I walk my dog after dinner, the conversations I overhear at my daughter’s softball games, smells, Boccherini, Thelonius Monk, heartache, tea in a giant mug, and Dixon Ticonderoga pencils.

What is your favorite sweet? 

My mother’s Crème de Menthe Squares. I make them gluten free (kids and I have Celiac), substituting GF flour for regular. Ignore xanthan gum if you’re making these non-GF.

Anne Creme de Menthe SquaresCreme de Menthe 2

We love these recipes passed down from family. It just warms our hearts!

Thank you, Anne, for taking the time to reconnect with us.  We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!

Sweet Connections: Greer Gurland

Each week we will be connecting with our contributors showing where they have been, where they are now, and what’s up for the future.

Name: Greer Gurland
Title of Piece published in Sweet: Waffles
Issue: 9.1

Greer Gurland headshot

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Greer has recently been working for an MFA at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and received awards for her poem collection in Finishing Line Press. She is grateful for connections through Sweet, which prompted the decision for further education. You can find out more about her at www.greergurland.com.

What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?

Since publication of “Waffles” in Sweet, I continue to be grateful for the chance to use writing to connect, and to make sense of the extraordinary but seemingly ordinary moments—large and small—that forge meaning in our lives.

My first collection of poems It just so happens Poems to Read Aloud (Finishing Line Press 2018) just received five Indie Book Awards including Director’s Choice Award 2018 Human Relations Life Experiences Book of the Year. This coming year, new work of mine is forthcoming in Silver Needle and The St. Petersburg Review. A conversation with poet Olivia Pride about Silver Needle will air shortly.

Being embraced by the Sweet community made me hungry for even more conversations. I decided to pursue an MFA. I am honored to be the recipient of the Baumeister Award at Fairleigh Dickinson where I am working toward an MFA in poetry. I am grateful to my mentors Jeffrey Allen, Renee Ashley, and Harvey Hix.

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?

I am working on a poetry collection, tentatively titled “heavy for its weight.” I also have an essay project that I keep meaning to return to.

Who is your favorite author?

Marie Howe feeds me. I had the privilege of meeting with her recently. I reached out to her. I just had to see how she walks through the world, feeling and thinking as sensitively as she does. Her authenticity and openness are, in person, what they are in her poetry. I think we writers very much need people like that who care to inspire and support those of us who share the struggle to “deepen in the place of poetry”, as she puts it.

What inspires you to write?

Connection.

What is your favorite sweet?

My favorite sweet remains the brownie—and the recipe I make is an Alton Brown original. I’ve written it into our family recipe book, replete with pictures of my kids getting messy with me. Here’s the link to the original recipe. I use two cups of flour.

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/cocoa-brownies-recipe-2085484

Thank you, Greer, for taking the time to reconnect with us. We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!

Sweet Connections: Spencer Hyde

Each week we will be connecting with our contributors showing where they have been, where they are now, and what’s up for the future. 

Name: Spencer Hyde
Title of Piece published in Sweet: Recovery
Issue:  6.2

SpencerHydePhoto

Find him:
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Spencer lives in Utah and is an English assistant professor at BYU. Be on the lookout for a website in the near future.

 

What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication? 

My first novel is releasing March 2019, and it is called Waiting for Fitz. I have been in many other publications, and am working on my second novel. I’m also writing more essays and short stories as well. Sweet opened the doors for more flash essays. I will always be thankful for Sweet.

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about? 

I’m currently writing a short story about a father and daughter. The daughter lives with autism (well, they both do), and I’m trying to figure out how that life and relationship might transform from year to year. My nephew was recently diagnosed, so it’s on my mind a lot lately.

Who is your favorite author? 

Impossible to answer this. I do love Tom Stoppard, though. His plays always inspire me.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book? 

My favorite essay might be Joyas Voladoras by Brian Doyle. I sure miss him.

What inspires you to write? 

All the other writers I meet and talk with. Everything I read. Everything I think. Life keeps me writing.

What is your favorite sweet? 

Oh, my caramel bars. They are amazing.
Thank you, Spencer, for taking the time to reconnect with us.  We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!

Sweet Connections: Zoe Bossiere

Each week we will be connecting with our contributors showing where they have been, where they are now, and what’s up for the future.

Name: Zoe Bossiere
Title of Piece published in Sweet: American Spirits
Issue: 8.1

Zoe Bossiere
Find her:
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Zoe mostly spends her time studying Creative Nonfiction and teaching undergraduate writing at Ohio University. You can find out more about her at http://zoebossiere.com.

What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?

Sweet was among my first publications (Thank you, Ira!), and a lot has happened since then. I earned my MFA in creative nonfiction in 2017 and was accepted to Ohio University’s Ph.D program that same year. Now, in addition to being a student, I’m the managing editor of Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction, and a podcast host for the New Books Network, where I interview new authors about their debut books.

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?

Sure! I’ve spent the better part of the last couple years working on a memoir about my family’s experiences as sea lion trainers in the 1984 Hungarian traveling circus. Some of this story is speculative, pieced together through the various artifacts my parents have kept over the years such as letters home, photographs, circus posters and leaflets, ephemera and tickets, audio recordings of the animals and circus band, and several in-person interviews. It’s been a lot of fun to revisit this period of my familial history and think about how what they experienced then relates to what’s happening with the circus now, what with the closure of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey. The times are changing, and the question seems to be how (and, perhaps, if) the circus will adapt for its survival.

Who is your favorite author?

This is a difficult question, but I’d probably have to go with Annie Dillard. She’s been a favorite of mine since I was a child. My father used to read chapters from An American Childhood aloud to us after dinner and now, as an adult, I have Dillard’s entire nonfiction canon (and a good bit of her poetry) on my bookshelf.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

I don’t know that I have a favorite. There are just too many good books coming out all the time! Right now, I’m reading Rachel Z. Arndt’s essay collection Beyond Measure, and I’m looking forward to Erica Trabold’s Five Plots in November.

What inspires you to write?

Different things at different times in my life, but right now I find myself writing (and reading) the most about the big, unanswerable questions I have about our world right now—especially as these pertain to identity and politics. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Simone de Beauvoir, and her idea that to involve oneself in projects that have the potential to help others is a moral imperative. I guess the equivalent in the writing world would be to become a good literary citizen, and there’s a great piece by Ander Monson from the Essay Daily advent calendar I keep coming back to called “On Paying Attention” that speaks to this idea better than I could here.

What is your favorite sweet?

In my original bio for Sweet, I think mentioned that I loved flan. This still holds up, and I’m not particular about the style. I like the soft, buttery flan they make in France just as much as the thick richness of Mexican flan, and all its variants, too—crème caramel, crème brûlée, custard.

Epicurious says this recipe is the perfect flan.  Quick, someone make it and tell us if you agree!

Thank you, Zoe, for taking the time to reconnect with us. We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!

Sweet Connections: Devin Balwit

Each week we will be connecting with our contributors showing where they have been, where they are now, and what’s up for the future.

 Name: Devin Balwit
Title of Piece published in Sweetהוֹשִׁיעֵנִי אֱלֹהִים–    כִּי בָאוּ מַיִם עַד-נָפֶשׁ
Issue:  9.2

Devon on Haight 2018

Find her:

These days you can find Devin behind the wheel, teaching her son to drive.  Oh, we feel you on that one, Devin!  You can find out more about her and her publications on her website.

 

 

What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?

Check out my website for book reviews, books, and a selection of online poems published over the last year.

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?

I’m in the middle of a Proust-inspired chapbook.

Who is your favorite author?

I love Guadalupe Nettel in Spanish. Joseph Mitchell’s essays are a kick. Wonderful recent fiction reads were “All the Light We Cannot See,” “Lincoln in the Bardo,” and “The English Passengers.”

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

A recent favorite has been Frans Bengtsson’s  “The Long Ships,” the inspiration for the Hulu series “Vikings.”

What inspires you to write?

Everything from boxing to Scarlatti, paintings to politics. All of life is fair game.

What is your favorite sweet?

My favorite sweet is alcohol. In the summer, Vinho Verde because I can drink more of it without feeling guilty. (It’s only 9%!)

vinhoverde-600x450

Photo Credit: AneTours

Honestly, I had to look that one up and I’m happy to report you aren’t drinking green wine. Some of the best wine I have ever had was in Spain, so this one being from Portugual has me intrigued! 

Thank you, Devin, for taking the time to reconnect with us.  We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!

Sweet Connections: Randon Billings Noble

Each week we will be connecting with our contributors showing where they have been, where they are now, and what’s up for the future.

Name: Randon Billings Noble
Title of Piece published in SweetBye-bye Brain
Issue: 5.3

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Find her:
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Randon recently completed her book, Be With Me Always, and is now working on a series of essays. You can find out more about her at www.randonbillingsnoble.com.

 

What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?

My essay “The Heart as a Torn Muscle” was published by Brevity and listed as a Notable Essay in the Best American Essays.

My lyric essay chapbook Devotional was published by Red Bird Chapbooks.

And my debut essay collection Be with Me Always is forthcoming from the University of Nebraska Press on 1 March 2019.

Here’s a description:

“Be with me always–take any form–drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!” Heathcliff begs this of his dead Cathy near the end of Wuthering Heights. He wants to be haunted –he insists on it–and oftentimes we do too. Instead of trying to exorcise the ghosts of the past, the essays in Be with Me Always stand at the window, hoping for a hand to knock, a plaintive voice to ask, “Let me in.”

Be with Me Always is a collection of personal essays that explore hauntedness–not through conventional ghost stories but by considering the way certain people or places from our pasts cling to our imaginations. In a way, all good essays are about the things that haunt us, that get under our skin and into our minds, and won’t leave until we have at least in some small way embraced or understood them. But these essays look more specifically at the ways Noble has been haunted–by a near-death experience, the gaze of a nude model, thoughts of widowhood, Anne Boleyn’s violent death, a book she can’t stop reading, a past lover who shadows her thoughts. Some of the essays are traditional in form; others are more lyric. But whatever their subject or structure, these essays invite the reader to consider the ways we are haunted–sometimes pleasantly, sometimes more bitterly–and how we can hold onto our pasts while moving into the future.

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re  excited about?

I recently started a new literary magazine called After the Art. We seek personal review essays that explore the way art and reading can enrich each other. You can find our first issue – and our guidelines – at AfterTheArt.com.

Who is your favorite author?

That’s a tough one. At the moment, though, I’m very fond of Maggie Nelson.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

I love Eva Saulitis’s essay collection Leaving Resurrection: Chronicles of a Whale Scientist, and David Lazar’s Occasional Desire, and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen.

What inspires you to write?

Everything! As an essayist I’m always curious about what’s going on in the world, in print, on the street, and in conversation.

What is your favorite sweet?

Right now, I’m into fruits that ripen on the border of summer and fall–Zephyr nectarines and Honey crisp apples. No recipes needed–just a sharp knife or a willingness to let the juice run down your arm to the elbow.

RandonBillingsNobleheartbite
Thank you, Randon, for taking the time to reconnect with us. We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future! 

Sweet Connections: Marin Sardy

Each week we will be connecting with our contributors showing where they have been, where they are now, and what’s up for the future.

 Name: Marin Sardy
Title of Piece published in SweetThere Is the Urge to Find Meaning
Issue:  8.3

Marin1graycropFind her:

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Marin currently lives in Tucson, Arizona and occasionally can be found teaching for Pace University in Manhattan. You can find out more about Marin on her website www.marinsardy.com.

What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?

I wrote a book! The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia is forthcoming in May 2019 from Pantheon Books.

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?

My first book is a wide ranging, fragmentary memoir about my relationship to the mental illness that runs in my family (schizophrenia) and with my loved ones who have struggled with it. One of the chapters in the book, “There Is the Urge to Find Meaning,” was originally a short essay that was first published in Sweet.

 Who is your favorite author?

I find that to be sort of an impossible question. To identify one that I like “best”—honestly, I don’t think I’m capable of it. I don’t understand how one would go about doing so. I think it makes more sense to ask, Who are the authors who made me? Here are some contemporary writers who have inspired me in recent years: Maggie Nelson, Lidia Yuknavich, Nick Flynn.

 What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

Let me try another version of that question: What book gave me a vision of what kind of writer I wanted to become? Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior. But it feels weird even to highlight that one. I feel as if I’ve walked on a trail of books all my life, each like a stone in a creek, keeping me above the water. When you look at it that way, the idea of having one “favorite” seems meaningless. 

What inspires you to write?

I write into the gap between my experience and the stories I encounter as told by others. I write into the places where my reality is not reflected in culture. 

What is your favorite sweet?

Currently I am obsessed with Theo brand 70% dark chocolate bars with sea salt. Nectar of the gods.

Sardy Theo-Chocolate-Organic-70-Dark-Chocolate-Bar-Sea-Salt-874492003258

Thank you, Marin, for taking the time to reconnect with us.  We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!

Sweet Connections: Dayna Patterson

Each week we will be connecting with our contributors showing where they have been, where they are now, and what’s up for the future.

Name: Dayna Patterson
Title of Piece published in Sweetusque ad mala
Issue:  10.1

Patterson mountain streamFind her:
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I live just about as far north and west as you can get in the continental U.S. I can zip across the border to Vancouver’s top-notch Shakespeare festival, Bard on the Beach, or mosey down to Seattle’s Pacific Science Center to see an exhibit of the terracotta warriors. My city hugs a bay where the occasional whale is spotted, and to the west is a glacier-topped volcano that grows mouth-watering wild huckleberries and blueberries. It’s a sweet spot.

You can find out more about Dayna on her website www.daynapatterson.com.

What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?

Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry was released in April 2018. I’m a co-editor, along with Martin Pulido and Tyler Chadwick.

I’ve also had several poems come out in Hotel Amerika, Western Humanities ReviewZone 3, and more.

Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?

I have two poetry manuscripts in circulation: O Lady, Speak Again was a semifinalist for the Brittingham & Pollak Prizes in Poetry and contains poems that combine my Mormon upbringing with women from Shakespeare. If Mother Braids a Waterfall examines my spiritual and ancestral heritage through Ellen Bailey and her polygamist son, Charles Ramsden Bailey.

I’m currently working on a third manuscript about breath, air, Keats, flight, and atmospheric change.

Who is your favorite author?

Ah, the impossible question. I’ve been heavily influenced by Carole Maso, Annie Dillard, Lucie Brock-Broido, Sharon Olds, Emily Dickinson, John Keats, William Shakespeare, James Joyce, Seamus Heaney, Bruce Beasley, Brenda Miller, Suzanne Paola, May Swenson, Terry Tempest Williams, Susan Elizabeth Howe, and Carol Lynn Pearson, among many, many others. Each of them has a body of work that casts a particular glow by which I write.

 What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

Another impossible question. If stranded on an island, I would take my copy of the complete works of Shakespeare and consider myself a rich woman.

 What inspires you to write?

Anguish, mostly. When I feel a peculiar tension arising, a pang, an uncomfortable awkwardness, then I know I need to write about it. Right now I’m experiencing the parenting anguish of daughters slowly transforming into teenagers. I know people have been, are, or will be in my shoes, and writing through the discomfort is like extending a hand to those who have gone before, or who are going, or who will go through something similar. In Sean Thomas Dougherty’s tiny poem, “Why Bother?” he writes: “Because right now, there is someone / out there with / a wound in the exact shape / of your words.” I can’t think of a better reason to keep writing. (Props to Todd Kaneko for bringing this poem to my attention.)

 What is your favorite sweet?

Every late summer, we hike up our mountain with buckets in hand to collect the tiny wildberries. They taste like the rich soil and alpine air and mountain sunshine. Baked into a pie, there is no better dessert on earth.

Pattersonwildberry pie

That looks amazingly delicious!

Thank you, Dayna, for taking the time to reconnect with us.  We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!