Sweet Connections: Mariela Lemus

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: Mariela Lemus
Title of Piece published in Sweet: Mundane Scar
Issue: 8.3

Mariela Lemus.jpeg
Find her:
Instagram

Mariela is an MFA student at University of Minnesota where she studies poetry, and is gaining knowledge of educating people in the writing process.

 

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

I received my BFA in creative writing and got accepted to grad school to continue my writing studies. I’ve had poems published in Barzakh, Flypaper Magazine, and Third Point Press, among others. I also now serve as an assistant poetry editor at Midway Journal and as a managing editor at Great River Review.

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

I’m currently writing towards my MFA thesis, a poetry manuscript which examines performances of fatherhood cross-generationally in a multi-cultural (and, as a direct result, often bisected) family.

Who is your favorite author?

Most recently, I’ve been obsessed with Ada Limón’s work, especially her new collection The Carrying.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

Hard to choose, but right now it’s probably Caitlin Scarano’s poetry collection Do Not Bring Him Water.

Ah!  Another Sweet Contributor!

What inspires you to write?

I feel caught between my two identities: Latinx and White. I know I’m not alone in feeling like I don’t belong in either category, in the feeling of being halved and where the edges of the two parts don’t quite align. My writing often explores that space.

What is your favorite sweet?

Brownies, for sure. I like to make them with coconut oil and extra chocolate chips so that they’re dense, chewy, and even sweeter!

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

Sweet Connections: JR Tappenden

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: JR Tappenden
Title of Piece published in Sweet: Tree for the Forest, Peregrine 
Issue:  8.3

JR Tappenden

Find her:
Twitter
Instagram

JR Tappenden is a successful poet who draws from emotion. You can find out more about her at jrtappenden.com.

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

My chapbook Independent City came out from Wells College Press in October 2016. It’s letterpress printed with a custom woodcut on the flyleaf, printed in an edition of 150 copies. Both the poems that appeared in Sweet are included. I couldn’t be happier!

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

I’ve been working on a series of poems that help me process my own grief for my dad. He died in 2016 and I found I had a lot of conflicting emotions that I needed to process. They’re structured as notes addressed to “Dear Sister.” Most of the time, the sister is my real sister, Kara, but sometimes the sister is me, or another woman who I encountered during my dad’s last days. All the titles are “Regarding…” something. There’s one in Superstition Review called “Regarding Your Wish for Do-Overs.” Others from the series have also appeared in Kestral, and New Limestone Review.

Who is your favorite author? 

I have to pick just one? No way. Right now I’m loving Terrance Hayes, Natalie Diaz and Danez Smith. I’ll also miss the great, departed Brigit Pegeen Kelly.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book? 

One book of poems that I go back to again and again is “Satan Says” by Sharon Olds.

What inspires you to write? 

The world is so strange and wonderful. It can be terrifying but also tender. How else to process all of that?

What is your favorite sweet? 

Ice cream. Especially strawberry ice cream. It tastes like summer.

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

Sweet Connections: Jen Town

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: Jen Town
Title of Piece published in Sweet: Ghost Theories and Diorama Turned to Ashes
Issue:  10.2

Screen Shot 2018-09-30 at 11.51.27 AM

Find her:
Instagram

Jen resides in Columbus, Ohio. She can be found either at her house in German Village or in a coffee shop. You can find out more about her at www.jentown.com.

 

 

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

My first book, The Light of What Comes After, won the 2017 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize from Bauhan Publishing, and was published in April 2018. Since then I’ve done some readings, including at Penn State Behrend and the Columbus College of Art and Design.

thelightsm

 

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

 

I’m working on two book projects. One is a collection of mostly ekphrastic poems, called Paper Girl. The other, The Futurist, features poems with robots, dinosaurs, octopuses, bivalves, and ghosts. I’m also writing book reviews for the online review site, The Bind.

 

Who is your favorite author? 

 

I don’t think I have one. Should I? I like so many and it changes frequently. I went to a reading by Elizabeth Strout. I’d already read a few of her books, and now I have a goal to read all of them. I like Jorie Graham, I like Diane Seuss, I like Kathy Fagan, I like Jamaal May, I like Lo Kwa Mei-en. I read Larry Levis, Richard Hugo, Rilke in undergraduate and they are still incredibly important to me. I reread Levis when I feel stuck, and I just reread Hugo’s A Triggering Town. I like Gabrielle Calvocoressi. George Saunder’s Lincoln in the Bardo made me cry. Willie Lincoln dies! It’s not even a spoiler–we all know he dies. But it was so well written and his portrayal of both Lincoln and Willie was so poignant; it was 11 PM at night, I’m reading in bed, and my wife comes in to find me sobbing.

 

What is your favorite poem/essay/book? 

 

For a while I would have said Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. It’s Hemingway’s memoir
on his time in Paris in the twenties, his marriage to his first wife, Hadley. All the characters are there: F. Scott and Zelda, Gertrude Stein, Picasso. It’s about that period of excess sandwiched between the despair of WWI and then the Great Depression and then WWII. Stars burn brightest before they die. It’s also just…Hemingway is so clearly creating this narrative of himself and it’s pretty dramatic stuff. “Hunger is good discipline,” he said. But also there’s lots of white wine and oysters and trips to go skiing. It’s also about being young, like The Great Gatsby. So it’s about youth, and wine, and hunger, and nostalgia, and learning to write those Hemingway sentences. It’s great stuff, if you’re into all that. I’ve been telling everyone I can about Black Hole Blues by Janna Levin, which is about LIGO and the journey to detect gravitational waves. It’s about the science, but also about the personalities of the scientists who worked on LIGO and how science like this gets done. Levin is an astrophysicist, but also a good writer. It was an engrossing book. I’m still not over reading Just Kids by Patti Smith and also M Train. She’s always sitting in cafes writing things out long hand in pencil, wearing a watchcap (what the rest of us would call a beanie), and eating brown toast. In M Train, there’s a chapter where Smith describes the objects in the room around her and her space is still so Bohemian New York in the Seventies, it’s wonderful. As Liz Lemon said in 30 Rock, “I want to go to there”.

 

What inspires you to write?

Reading inspires me, of course. Also, animals inspire me, and news articles about science, and strange happenings–like how in the very cold winter they had in 2017 in Florida, iguanas were falling from the trees. But they weren’t dead–they were frozen. And when the sun came out, they warmed up and walked off. I want to learn new things that change how I see the world. I listen to a lot of podcasts, including Every Little Thing, Cosmic Vertigo, Philosophize This, and Radiolab. I’m interested in etymology and really like the NPR podcast, That’s What They Say. Also history, famous women in history, fashion history, the Roaring Twenties, Henry the VIII and his many wives….I’m practicing a kind of research decadence right now.

What is your favorite sweet?

I’m glad you asked because this gives me the opportunity to wax rhapsodic about one of my non-writing passions, The Great British Bake Off (GBBO). Particularly series 5.

My wife and I started watching GBBO about a year and a half ago, and my wife took up baking in earnest around that time. The show itself is this safe space from the world, which is so full of noise and terrible news. In the GBBO tent, people are from different parts of Great Britain, they have different customs and accents, but they all come together to create the best bakes, to avoid soggy bottoms and whip their egg whites into glossy, stiff peaks, to engage in friendly competition with no cash money in the end. Meanwhile Mel and Sue, the hosts, wield not whisks but puns, and Mary Berry’s eyes light up at bakes with a bit of “tipple” in them, and Paul Hollywood’s piercing blue eyes and–like some British bread-baking Hemingway–peacocking puffery serves as the counterpoint to Mary’s gentle criticism and floral blazers. And I haven’t even mentioned the amateur bakers themselves, how each has an endearing personal story and families that loves them and shed tears of joy at their progress.

As part of Carrie’s baking frenzy, inspired by this television confection, she made Toasted Cashew and Marzipan Brownies. We’d (I say “we” but I do the dishes and offer unsolicited advice when I shouldn’t and show up conveniently at the end to lick a spoon) never baked with marzipan and had a little trouble finding it. Luckily, we live in a German neighborhood and Juergen’s Bakery had some. It’s worth seeking out, trust me. These blondies are decadent and you can eat a small bit and be sated. Or you can eat a large bit in some kind of Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola-like sugar orgy. It’s up to you.

https://food52.com/recipes/73880-toasted-cashew-and-marzipan-blondies

 

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

Sweet Connections: Melissa Matthewson

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: Melissa Matthewson
Title of Piece published in Sweet: Draw Two Circles, So Joined
Issue:  7.3

MelissaMattewson

Find her:
Twitter 
Instagram
Facebook

Melissa is based out of Apple Valley, Oregon on her organic farm, Barking Moon. She also teaches at Southern Oregon University. You can find out more about her at www.melissamatthewson.com.

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

I won the AWP Intro Journals award for creative nonfiction in 2015. I completed my MFA in creative writing in 2015 from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. I completed my first book manuscript, Tracing the Desire Line: A Lyric Memoir, which is still waiting for publication. I have had residencies at PLAYA and Art Smith. I’ve published essays and book reviews in a number of journals.

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

I’ve just finished my first book manuscript which explores identity, sexuality, marriage, and feminine desire. I’m excited for that! I’m now working on a new collection of essays about the intimate rural and several questions related to beauty, wildness, the feminine, home, and the rural feminine agrarian voice. The seed essay for this is coming out in American Literary Review this fall.

Who is your favorite author?

Such a hard question! Annie Dillard.

What is your favorite poem/essay/book?

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

What inspires you to write?

The power of expression of story. The beauty of words. The connection established between reader and writer. The intimacy of language.

What is your favorite sweet?

I love pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.

Sounds heavenly! We will be sure to try them out, maybe with this recipe we found on Food Network.

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

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

Find her:
Twitter
Facebook

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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Find her:
Twitter
Facebook

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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Find her:
Twitter

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

Find her:

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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:
Twitter
Instagram

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:
Twitter

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!