Gulf Coast

Pushcart Nomination for short story ‘The Kiss’ published in Issue 7.2 Summer/Fall 1995

“Orange light falls through the stained glass window up near the ceiling. The hallway and my coat are orange, the wet umbrella leaning against the door, the floor, the wallpaper with lilies and roses—everything orange. I am wet. I just walked in the door. I took off my green rubber boots and placed them on the shelf beneath my father's winter coat. Now my feet trail the waxed hardwood floor carefully on orange socks. The world is suspended, completely still, except for the dripping of water. Left-over rain leaks purple from the boots on the shelf, from the umbrella and my braids, from the hem of my coat swishing against my bare knees. A concert: drip, drip, drip. Reminds of the sound of clocks ticking time away, but this is a different time. An orange time. I am the only one who lives it.”


The Missouri Review

Finalist in the 2014 Jeffrey E. Smith Editor's Prize in the category of creative nonfiction.

This is the story of my father's best friend’s uncommon relationship with a wild swan.

“The story I’m about to tell began on a fall day in the northernmost province of the Netherlands, Fryslân or Friesland, where people are blond, tall, big-boned, and stubborn. My father was born in Huizum, Leeuwarderadeel, not far from Leeuwarden, the capital of Friesland. Even though he spent a good part of his childhood in Brussels, his ancestors and closest friends hailed from the province where he was born, and he identified strongly with his roots. His Frisian friends were quick to laugh and get angry, fiercely loyal to their language and culture, their families and each other. This is the story of one of them, my father's best friend, whom my sister and I called oom Ealse. I know these things because I watched with my own eyes. This is the only fairy tale I know of that actually happened…”

“I read all the essays every year, and the highlight is finding essays like yours. I winnowed the top pieces down from 50 out of around 500, to 20 to 12, and then to 5, and your essay charmed me and made the cut down to the very last 4. It's a lovely piece.” —Evelyn Somers, Associate Editor of The Missouri Review

Ealse & the Swan

The memoir. The children’s book. The blog.


Collage, detail: Jitske Wadman

Collage, detail: Jitske Wadman

I know these things because I watched with my own eyes. This is the only fairy tale I know of that actually happened…
— From the essay "Oom Ealse & the Swan"

Below you can find blog posts about the creation process of the children’s book Ealse & the Swan. It’s the story of my father’s best friend, Ealse Wadman, who was a farmer in Friesland, a province in the northern part of the Netherlands. After the tragic death of his eldest daughter, Ealse developed a relationship with a wild swan, who followed him everywhere. In towns kilometers around, people knew that Ealse was coming when they saw the swan flying overhead.

The story of Ealse and the swan always struck a deep cord with me, so I wrote an essay about it. The essay became a finalist in the 2014 Jeffrey E. Smith Editor’s Prize of The Missouri Review. Now I am working on the children’s book version in collaboration with Ealse’s granddaughter, Jitske Wadman, who is an artist, illustrator, and teacher. Via the “Read More” link, you can read the original post describing how this collaboration came about. Below it, on this page, you’ll find the latest blog posts exploring Jitske’s and my process. We plan to include random tidbits of information, photos, sketches, excerpts, and more. At the top, the most recent posts will show, so if you want the chronological story, start with “Read More” below, and then proceed to the bottom right-hand side of this page. Have fun and come back regularly for updates!

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