Sweet Connections: Anna Leahy

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: Anna Leahy
Title of Piece Published in Sweet: “My Grandmother’s Body”
Issue: 8.2

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Anna lives in Southern California, where she directs the MFA in Creative Writing program at Chapman University. You can learn more about Anna by visiting her website.

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

When my poem appeared in Sweet, I was working on several book projects that panned out over the next few years—publications like Sweet contributed to my momentum. I’m especially happy to be publishing nonfiction regularly now in addition to poetry. My nonfiction book Tumor is part of the Object Lessons series from Bloomsbury, and my essays have won contests at the Los Angeles Review, Ninth Letter, and Dogwood—in the last few years. Plus, my second full-length poetry collection, Aperture, was published by Shearsman Books a couple of years ago. I’m now moving back and forth between poetry and nonfiction, and I feel as if each teaches me about the other mode of thinking and writing.

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

I continue to work on new essays, and I’m in the midst or revising—again—a poetry book manuscript. I’m also the editor of the international journal TAB, which focuses on poetry and poetics. The Creative Director is Claudine Jaenichen, an information designer who works on tsunami evacuation for coastal cities. We’re both interested in the ways medium and materiality shape the reading experience, so we make decisions about design and content in tandem, and we’re looking now especially at accessibility and design in poetry publications. I’m excited about the new website we’re developing, which uses an accessibility-ready design template and will have a set of more accessible, downloadable PDF files in the archives. For the 2020 print issue in January, we’ve given a lot of thought to readability and visual cues. It’s exciting to re-envision something I’ve built.

Who is your favorite author?

I’m hesitant about picking favorite poets, but I return to Lucille Clifton, Sylvia Plath, and Anna Swir. Anya Silver is becoming one of my return-to poets. I find the work of a lot of poets whose first books I’ve read in the last couple of years energizing too.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

I don’t think favorite is the right word for my reading habits. I consider poems, essays, books as inhabitants in my reading-writing life, and each has its own role, complementing, instead of competing with, others. As a writer, I appreciate poems and essays from perspectives and voices different than my own. Probably the first essay that really wowed me and made me think about how essays work was Richard Selzer’s “How to Build a  Balcony,” but I didn’t start writing essays until years and years after reading it. Some of my own early essays resulted from—were instigated by? inspired by? responses to?—reading specific pieces by Joan Didion (one about John Wayne, another about weddings in Las Vegas, a why-I-write essay). Her work made me want to write or pointed me toward something I had to say, but I don’t think my voice or experience is much like hers. Eula Biss, Anne Boyer, Beth Ann Fennelly, Sarah Manguso, and Paisley Rekdal are nonfiction writers—who are also poets—whose work I admire a lot, along with nonfiction writers like Jill Christman, Roxane Gay, Esmé Weijun Wang—I could go on.

What inspires you to write?

Reading. Writing. The words immersion and merge have the same ancestors, and I like the idea that immersing myself in reading and writing allows reading and writing to merge somehow. Really, I’m more about what invites writing than being inspired. Of course, all sorts of evidence points to habit and ritual—regular time at the writing desk—as good for the writing life. That’s not to say that I write every day but that writing fuels more writing and that regularity fosters connections. I’m off to a writing residency soon, and that kind of binge-writing feels amazing to me.

What is your favorite sweet?

Sugar can make me feel rundown, so I don’t indulge in sweets very often, but I admit that I like chocolate a lot. When I was a kid, my mom came across a recipe in a magazine for a ring puff pastry filled with thick chocolate mouse and topped with dark chocolate—she’d make it for holidays, and I’d have a piece for breakfast the next morning too. More recently, my sister introduced me to the chocolate cake at Smith & Wollensky—one piece is enough for the whole table, and it seems to be our new holiday tradition that’s reminiscent of my mom’s chocolate ring-thing.

Smith&Wollensky_cake

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

 

Sweet Connections: Mary Julia Klimenko

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: Mary Julia Klimenko
Title of Piece Published in Sweet: “This Fear”
Issue:  8.2

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Mary Julia can be found writing poetry, painting, and working as a Telehealth psychotherapist in a private practice two twelve-hour days a week. You can learn more about Mary Julia by visiting her website.

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

FMSBW Press in San Francisco just released my newest book of poetry, Suspension of Mirrors.

Joan Brown, me in uniform and me in wedding

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

I’m currently writing a memoir about forty plus years in the studio modeling for and collaborating with sculptor, Manuel Neri.

Who is your favorite author?

Dom Domanski.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rilke

 What inspires you to write?

Reading other writers like Dom Domanski, Louise Gluck, Mark Strand, Rilke, Neruda, and others.

What is your favorite sweet?

Ice cream is my favorite sweet, anything with chocolate chunks and ribbons of caramel.

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

Sweet Connections: Scott Loring Sanders

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: Scott Loring Sanders
Title of Piece Published in Sweet: “Circus Prayer”
Issue:  7.1

Scott Sanders

 

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Scott lives in Cambridge, MA and teaches at Lesley University and Emerson College. You can learn more about Scott by visiting his website.

 

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

The essay first published in Sweet was included in a collection/memoir called Surviving Jersey: Danger & Insanity in the Garden State, which was a finalist for CLMP’s Firecracker Award 2018 for Best Book of Creative Nonfiction.  In addition, I’ve had three essays chosen as Notable by Best American Essays, and a Special Mention from the Pushcart Prize.  On the fiction side, where I generally write literary mystery/crime, I published a short story collection called Shooting Creek and Other Stories.  I’ve had two stories included in Best American Mystery Stories (both in the above collection) and one selected as Distinguished, as well as a story selected as a finalist for Best Short Story of 2018 by the ITW Thriller Awards.

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

At the moment, I’m finishing up a crime novel set at Walden Pond.  Then I plan to start work on a new novel set at an iconic New England ski resort.   I’m taking a break from CNF right now.  I tend to go back and forth.

Who is your favorite author?

Ron Rash has always been a favorite of mine, who seamlessly blends beautiful prose with darkness and mystery.  Recently, I discovered a guy named Lou Berney, who I met at the above-mentioned Thriller Awards in NYC.  After talking with him, I went home and read a few of his books, which also combine crime/mystery with beautiful, literary writing.  It’s what I’d like to think (perhaps wishful thinking on my part, admittedly) I do in my own fiction.  I’ve never believed literary writing and crime writing have to be mutually exclusive.  At any rate, his book, November Road, in particular, was excellent.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

I can’t possibly answer that!

What inspires you to write?

Many of my ideas come to me while exercising.  Whether it’s cycling, running, or skiing, I often find myself working through ideas while being outdoors.  The natural world also greatly influences my detail to setting.  I like writing about places I’m familiar with and enjoy, then creating a dark spin.

What is your favorite sweet?

I’m a sucker for chocolate and nothing fancy.  Chocolate chip cookies and brownies.  I’m also hooked on Chocolove’s Orange Peel in Chocolate, which I guess is a little bit fancy.  And ice cream, of course, chocolate peanut butter being my Achilles.   For amazing homemade ice cream in Cambridge, you can’t beat Honeycomb Creamery (homemade waffle cones too!)

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

Sweet Connections: Amy Strauss Friedman

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: Amy Strauss Friedman
Title of Pieces Published in Sweet: “Biopsy”
Issue: 10.2

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Amy lives in Denver, teaches college English courses here and there, and is working on her second full-length poetry collection. She also works for a state senator. In between those activities she writes book reviews, and she just edited her first book for another author. You can learn more about Amy by visiting her website.

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

My first full-length poetry collection was released in 2018, The Eggshell Skull Rule (Kelsay Books). I’m now working on a book about the 88 constellations, and women’s place within their myths. Close to 20 of those poems have been picked up by literary journals/magazines out of the 30 or so that I’ve completed thus far. And I’ve read some truly great new books of poetry by other authors, many of which I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing.

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

I’ve already mentioned it, but my book on the constellations is the project that I’m currently immersed in.

Who is your favorite author?

I have to choose? I’ve long loved Aphra Behn, not just because her writing is enchanting, but because she was one of the very first women to make a living through writing in the 1600s. Rebecca Makkai is one of my favorite modern novelists. There are too many poets I admire to mention, but I’ll name just a few: Gwendolyn Brooks, Sharon Olds, Cortney Lamar Charleston, Jennifer Givhan, Tracy K. Smith, Jennifer Franklin, and Megan Merchant, just to name a few.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

Again, too many to choose from, but I do come back again and again to Wendell Berry’s “The Peace of Wild Things.”

What inspires you to write?

I like participating in the large and varied collective conversation that takes place within writing. Every new piece adds another layer to that conversation. Engaging with it inspires me.

What is your favorite sweet?

There’s a place in Denver called D Bar which makes, among many other yummy things, Nutella beignets. They are terrible for me, but they are also heaven!

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

Sweet Connections: Kathleen Kirk

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: Kathleen Kirk
Title of Pieces Published in Sweet: “Winter Starlings,” “A Man’s World,” and “Harpoon”
Issue: 4.1, 6.2, and 8.3

Kathy & Tony, close up on wharf, 2018

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Kathleen can be found at the Normal Public Library in central Illinois most weekday mornings, behind the scenes, or in her home office, working on Escape Into Life, where she is the poetry editor. You can learn more about Kathleen by visiting her blog.

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

I have published several poetry chapbooks. The most recent is Spiritual Midwifery (Red Bird, 2019), and before that, The Towns (Unicorn Press, 2018). I did both release readings at Ryburn Place, a Route 66 shop in my hometown. Some of the towns in The Towns are on, or just off, old Route 66. The cover of Spiritual Midwifery is based on a painting by my husband, Tony Rio.

SpiritualMidwiferyFC

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

I’ve been writing a series of poems about Cassandra, the mythological figure, but re-situated in the Midwest in the 21st century. It’s fun and weird. Many have been published in literary magazines, but I would like to see them all together in a chapbook. I thought I had written them all but a new bunch burst from me recently. It’s been a little scary being taken over by Cassandra.

Who is your favorite author?

Oh, my, I love many authors and read constantly. Lately I’ve been reading short stories again. I love that form. I had just been re-reading Ann Packer’s Swim Back to Me and recommended it to a friend, who also loved it.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

I often return to The Wild Iris by Louise Glück.

What inspires you to write?

Looking at the world, paying attention. Trying to figure things out…and resting in paradox.

What is your favorite sweet?

I’m about to bake the annual pumpkin bread from a recipe from a childhood friend in Nebraska. Sometimes I add chocolate chips. Sometimes I make a gluten-free version for my mom.

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

Sweet Connections: Katrina Vandenberg

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: Katrina Vandenberg
Title of Pieces Published in Sweet: “Mandala,” “Black Bears and Their Bear-Dreams,” “Two Bracelets”
Issue:  9.1

Vandenberg Photo

 

Katrina teaches creative writing and lives in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood of Saint Paul, Minnesota. When not at school, she is usually hanging out with her eight-year-old daughter Anna. You can learn more about Katrina by visiting her website.

 

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

I got tenure! I took my first sabbatical. Recently I published two feature-length essays, “Jam” — speaking of sweets — in Image and “Essence of Lavender” in Orion. I also have an essay about writers’ conferences (in which I do not mention social media at all) in a forthcoming issue of Poets and Writers.

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

I’m working on a book of essays around the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory near our house, where it’s never winter, even though here in Saint Paul we have snow on the ground for at least five months of the year.

 Who is your favorite author?

I don’t think that I have one. I came to writing through poetry, and what I loved most of all were individual poems. I liked to write them out by hand and collect them in notebooks, collaging together all these highly lucid and charged flashes of insight from dozens or even hundreds of people across space and time. My first favorite poet was Emily Dickinson, when I was seven or eight. I loved how small her poems were. As an adult I still love how complicated she is, and counter-cultural in a lot of ways. If I had to pick only one person, I would say her. But only if you made me pick one.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

The two best books I read this year were Powers of Two: How Relationships Drive Creativity by Joshua Shenk, and The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. I don’t know that I have a favorite anything. I read a lot, and the books and poems that live in my head rise to the surface when I need them. A few years ago, I re-read Theodore Roethke’s poem “In a Dark Time the Eye Begins to See” every day for over a month. At one point in my life I really needed the odes of John Keats, and at another time I needed Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, and at another time I needed James Baldwin’s “Notes of a Native Son.” I nearly always seem to need E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web.

What inspires you to write?

I used to sit down to write with the desire to say something, but these days I tend to sit down in order to see what will happen. I don’t mean that writing is a game, or about cleverness or “nothing” – far from it. I do think that I am finally coming to terms with the fact that my subconscious self is smarter than my conscious self. So, work creates its own inspiration.

What is your favorite sweet?

Several years ago, I wrote a poem called “Consuming Desire,” in part about the locally-famous cakes at the Saint Paul wine bar Café Latte. I don’t eat much dessert these days, but if I were going to, I could do far worse than the cake there. Here is the Café Latte dessert menu, complete with photographs, in all its glory.

 

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

Sweet Connections: Kathleen Rooney

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: Kathleen Rooney
Title of Piece Published in Sweet: “Ten Declarations on the Superiority of Roots”
Issue: 5.2

Kathleen Rooney, author.Find Her:
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Kathleen can be found teaching English and Creative Writing at DePaul University, composing Poems While You Wait, and editing hybrid books at Rose Metal Press. You can learn more about Kathleen by visiting her website.

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

I published my novel Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk with St. Martin’s Press in 2017, and my novel in flash fictions and prose poems The Listening Room: A Novel of Georgette & Loulou Magritte with Spork Press, and my World War I novel Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey is coming out with Penguin in August of 2020.

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

I’m most excited at the moment about the forthcoming novel because it tells the true story of two formerly famous, but now almost totally forgotten figures from the Great War, Cher Ami, a heroic messenger pigeon, and Major Whittlesey, a diligent soldier.

Who is your favorite author?

Oh man, that’s impossible! But right at this very moment, I’m very into Bette Howland, a Chicago author who fell out of print, but is now coming back thanks to the reissue of her work by A Public Space. I cannot recommend her story collection Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage highly enough.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

Bill Knott (RIP) was my teacher at Emerson, and I love his last book, I Am Flying Into Myself: Selected Poems.  It was a huge honor to get to review it for the New York Times when it came out.

What inspires you to write?

Curiosity.

What is your favorite sweet?

Butterscotch anything, but especially Smitten Kitchen’s Butterscotch Sauce. You can put it on anything and improve it a millionfold. I could drink it, practically: https://smittenkitchen.com/2009/12/ridiculously-easy-butterscotch-sauce/

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

Sweet Connections: Peter Grandbois

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: Peter Grandbois
Title of Piece Published in Sweet: “To Sing and Begin Again”
Issue: 10.2

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Peter teaches creative writing and coaches fencing at Denison University, a small liberal arts college near Columbus, Ohio. The town of Granville is great. He never has to worry about parking, which is a big relief after living in Chicago and the Bay Area. You can learn more about Peter by visiting his website.

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

I had a novel come out in April. It’s called half-burnt and deals with the murder of one of the most famous Ojibwe chiefs, Hole in the Day. It’s a weird book in that it’s historical but also experimental in that it’s made up of four different narrative frames that slowly conflate as the book progresses. I also have a new book of poetry called The Three-Legged World coming out in April 2020 from Etruscan Press. It’s being published together with books by James McCorkle and Robert Miltner and called, Tripytch. I’m thrilled to be in the company of such wonderful poets.

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

I have two current projects. The first is a book of poetry. Not sure what the unifying themes in that book are yet, but I’ve written a lot of poems! The second is a book of flash fictions/prose poems currently titled, Domestic Bestiary. Each piece is either told from the point of view of an animal or insect in our domestic realm or features one as a central part of the story. I think of that book as a sort of companion or sister book to my earlier collection, Domestic Disturbances.

Who is your favorite author?

An impossible question…. so many writers I deeply deeply love. I can only list a few that happen to come to mind at the moment for both fiction and poetry. On the fiction side currently there’s Laszlo Krasznahorkai, Yoko Ogawa, and Javier Marías…. but old and constant favorites include José Saramago, Steven Millhauser, Ana Maria Shua, the list goes on….. In terms of poetry, some current favorites are Joanna Klink, Charles Wright, Laura Kasischke, and Kevin Prufer….. but old favorites include Mark Strand, W.S. Merwin, and Brigit Pegeen Kelly.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

Again, too tough to answer as there are so many…I can only say what poem, essay, book happens to pop into my head.

Poem: Mark Strand’s “Keeping Things Whole”

Essay: Margot Singer’s “Call it Rape”

Book: Leena Krohn’s Tainaron: Mail From Another City

What inspires you to write?

I think, like most writers, I write to stay sane. It’s my response to the world, to life. I write because I enjoy playing with words. I enjoy discovering different aspects of myself. I write because I’m curious about the world, about what it means to be human. I write because I want to share that deep part of myself and my experience in the only way I know how.

What is your favorite sweet?

I love dark chocolate turtles with pecans and caramel! I also love toffee, and carrot cake and cheese cake!

dark-chocolate-pecan-caramel-turtles-1-pound-bag-4

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

Sweet Connections: Maya Lowy

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: Maya Lowy
Title of Piece Published in Sweet: “Drunken Forest
Issue:  10.3

Lowy Photo

 

Find her:

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Maya has been all over the world lately, but her sights are currently set on moving to England and finally setting up her dream library. Fingers crossed that that works out soon! Maya does not currently have a website.

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

I just got married! That feels huge; it sets off a new, cozier chapter of my life.

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

For the past year, I’ve been working on fiction (young adult) for the first time in a long time. It’s a very slow process for me, in contrast to the instant gratification feeling I can often get from poems, but I’m writing a story that I would want to read, and that’s been really fun.

Who is your favorite author?

Lately, I’ve been really impressed by Colson Whitehead, who I recently saw at a reading. I’ve now read three of his books, most recently The Intuitionist, and I have a lot to learn from his pacing and tone. I’m also currently enamored with Shirley Jackson. Again, pacing and tone– she’s so expertly subtle and funny and scary at the same time.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

It hurts to be asked this question… like being asked which child is your favorite. I can always return to One Hundred Years of Solitude, so I’m just going to settle there for now.

What inspires you to write?

Sometimes, it’s a spotlit moment that cries out to be captured. Sometimes, it’s a truth so wild and exciting I want to share it. Sometimes, I just want to read something that understands how I feel.

 What is your favorite sweet?

My husband and I just got back from a road-trip honeymoon; some highlights for me were the cherry pie at Snoqualmie Lodge outside of Seattle, the banana pancake at Surrey’s in New Orleans (only get one!), tres leches cake at Matt’s El Rancho in Austin, and the cookies at Kanab Creek Bakery in Kanab, Utah. We’re going to try our hand at baking croissants this week, using a bread machine to help with the dough. (By the way, I’m a big fan of bread machines and encourage everyone to liberate one from your local thrift store.) Wish us luck!

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

Sweet Connections: Ellen Stone

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: Ellen Stone
Title of Piece Published in Sweet: “Today is the Sabbath of medicine” and “Dear garden shed”
Issue:  10.

Stone Photo

 

Ellen lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan and has recently retired from Community High School where she taught high school special education and English for over 20 years. She continues to advise the Poetry Club there. Currently, you can find Ellen in her garden, the woods, the kitchen, the backyard with her dog, at a poetry event, or writing somewhere in my house.

 

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

I just found out my first full length book of poems, What Is in the Blood is coming out next March with Mayapple Press. This collection has been a long time coming and is largely based on growing up with and now caring for my mom who is bipolar. I have a sonnet coming out next winter or spring in the first American abortion anthology, Choice Words: Writers on Abortion edited by Annie Finch.  My poem, “In Wisconsin” was chosen by The Citron Review as one of 10 poems they published in an anthology to celebrate their first decade of publishing.  I have also been honored to have poems nominated for the Pushcart prize or Best of the Net by Two Cities Review, Up North Lit, and Eastern Iowa Review.

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

I am currently working on a new book with a working title, Daughters Leaving Home in the Age of Aggression – that deals with the complexity of watching three daughters in their twenties find their way in the world as a mother who is an assault survivor.

Who is your favorite author?

Oh, that is impossible… Recently, I have been reading C.D. Wright, Diane Seuss, Jericho Brown, Ilya Kaminsky, and Camille Dungy. So many poets and writers transfix me with their words.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

Again, I cannot say I have a favorite poem, essay or book – there are too many to mention.  If I to go back to old favorites, though, I would reread some of James Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Thomas Hardy, Rita Dove, Ross Gay…see what I mean?

What inspires you to write?

I write for fun, or for joy, or to explore ideas.  I write to help quell intense feelings that overtake me.  I also write to help me cope with overwhelming situations, or to solve problems.

What is your favorite sweet?

I think I would be inclined to say, pie is my favorite sweet, but to be honest, I tend to make crisps more often because they are easier. I also adore plum jam…it has just the simplest, but most transcendent flavor.  Ann Arbor’s Farmer’s Market had prune plums this fall that I washed, pit, cut in two, and cooked down with some sugar or honey and lemon.  That jam will keep us going through the winter!

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