Editors’ Picks of the Year: Notable Reads on WordPress.com

Originally posted on WordPress.com News:

Our editors dove into the archives to resurface top posts published on WordPress.com this year, from personal essays to comics, and photography to fiction. Here’s a glimpse of what you published — and what the community especially loved — in 2014.

“Ever Wished That Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson Would Return to the Comics Page? Well, He Just Did,” Stephan Pastis, Pearls Before Swine

“Bill Watterson is the Bigfoot of cartooning,” writes comic artist Stephan Pastis of the legendary Calvin and Hobbes creator. This summer, Pastis collaborated — in secret — with Watterson. Their awesome idea: Watterson would silently step in and draw Pastis’ comic strip, Pearls Before Swine, for a few days, pretending to be a second grader. Pastis recounts the experience, offering a rare glimpse of Bigfoot.

Pearls Before Swine; Stephan Pastis; June 4, 2014.

Pearls Before Swine ; Stephan Pastis; June 4, 2014.

“No Apology,” Mehreen Kasana

I will apologize for ISIS when every…

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Mini and Me

Mini and Me. 12 December 2014.

Mini and Me. 12 December 2014.

Mini and Me 3. 12 December 2014.

Mini and Me 2. 12 December 2014.

Mini and Me 2. 12 December 2014.

Mini and Me 3. 12 December 2014.

My cousin stopped by this morning with her dog, a Pomeranian by the name of Mini. I am not a ‘dog person’. I happen to adore cats but I did fall rather in love with Mini. We bonded. Is it possible for a devotee of cats, in relative mid-life, to suddenly become a lover of dogs? Perhaps stranger things have happened. I.S.



1994. 21. Seattle.

1994. 21. Seattle.



I’m in the States now. This morning I spent time going through storage, getting rid of things. This in an attempt to streamline my life. Old journals and pictures. In these moments, they seem to dominate my life. At 6 am, I gathered boxes of books I no longer want, need. Then there are those I do want and must reconcile taking back on the plane with me: Jamaica Kincaid’s ‘A Small Place’, J.D. Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’. My aunt has kept so many of my books and papers. She’s been so kind.

My parents, my sister and me in the middle. 1975.

My parents, my sister and me in the middle. 1975.

This December marks a period of review, not just a review of the last year of my life but a review of the past twenty years. I hadn’t stopped to think about it until I began to look through old photographs. In the early hours of the morning, I looked at family pictures. I also looked at pictures of me from 1995. I was consumed by film pursuits then and taking acting classes. The shots here were taken when I was twenty-one. I’m shocked by the round nature of my face. I’m shocked at my relative innocence.

My grandmother is in the next room. My aunt is here too. They’re telling family stories which I’m documenting. Pulling from a journalistic background, I ask them questions. I take notes on what they tell me. I’ve written up two stories already. By the time I depart, I intend to have a small catalogue. The themes are similar to those in Tennessee Williams’ ‘The Glass Menagerie’, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and too Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ and Jean Rhys’ ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’.


Oracle Moments

A still from ‘Stealing Beauty’. Liv Tyler.

On 5 December 2004, I was walking down the street in Krakow, certain of my destiny. It was a feeling. Uncommon. Like a flush, a knowing. Like being guided by an internal GPS system. You know you’re headed in the right direction. Even now, as I write this, I get a chill.

Three and a half weeks before, I had a most pivotal encounter. I received sixty-eight calls, each of which I failed to answer over the course of two weeks. My mobile rang whenever I was teaching. Its insistent trill annoying the other teachers in the staff lounge. Each time it rang, I’d turn the phone off. Why? I didn’t recognise the number. After several weeks of ignoring it, out of curiosity, one of the teachers decided to google the country code. ‘Who the hell do you know in Hong Kong?’ he asked.

I knew one person on Hong Kong. Actually, I scarcely knew him, had only met him once in a darkened bar over a drink. I had been characteristically distracted that night, and there was something off-puttingly aloof about him, something a bit too cosmopolitan for my general social group which consisted of bohemian English teachers who skipped about the world to escape the pressures of their expected American lives which pushed for ‘good’ salaries and paying off ridiculously large student loans.

By contrast, the man before me was such an anomoly, I was distant. But by the end of the evening, during which we made small talk about the lacerating and often bitter essays of Oriana Fallaci and Liv Tyler’s horsey nymphet debut years earlier in Bernardo Bertolucci’s ‘Stealing Beauty’, he dropped me off at my flat and took my hand, then watched as I suspiciously cut my eyes at him as he kissed it. A moment later, I ascended the steps to my tiny flat. I closed the door. I promptly forgot about him.

Then one afternoon in the teachers lounge, the sixty-ninth call came from Hong Kong. I decided to pick up. I heard the voice. I fell in love. Why did it occur then, on the phone, as opposed to the moment he kissed my hand? Life is illogical. I’ve given up ever knowing why.

Three weeks later, I was walking down a wintery boulevard, still enraptured by the stranger’s voice. That day, on that snowy walk, I heard two voices inside my head. The first was his. He was asking me to come away with him. The second was my own. Which to my great surprise, answered ‘yes’.

Ancient worlds are full of oracles, those with higher knowledge who purport to ‘see’ into the future. That day my inner oracle, one I’d not previously known existed, spoke to me and told me she saw a good portion of my life with this stranger.

I’m seated on a concrete bench which overlooks Lake Zurich. The air is wet with cold. My gloveless hand is close to frozen. The sky is grey. I’m preparing to leave Switzerland, this terribly expensive country. Soon I’ll be in the States for the Christmas Season. By mid-January it’s back to Berlin and, if all goes well, my final destination will be Hamburg. In the meantime, I’m reflecting upon the oracle moments, the signals sent.


Last Day of November

It’s Sunday. I’m restructuring my novel. The book is broken down into a series of emails and text messages between the main characters. The narrative takes place over a fifteen year period and coincides with Sophie’s relationship with an unnamed male in the narrative, referred to only as ‘He’ or ‘Him’, and Sophie’s relationship with Sautin. I’m in the process of reviewing the emails and text messages between the characters and trying to line them up with actual calenders over a fifteen year time period. It’s not fun. But I have to get this portion of the narrative right before I make any new submissions to literary agents.

My next submission will take place in the following weeks. I had a conversation with this particular literary agent years ago when I was in my masters program. At the time I was attending lots of book readings and listening to talks given by literary agents. The agent I’m due to approach specializes in representing new writers whose novels have the potential to be turned into films. Based on the fact that the treatment is relatively in order, if she does take an interest in representing me, she should find the screenplay I’d like to develop an added bonus.

Today is the last day of November. I’m thinking about the upcoming month. My schedule – which is rather undetermined. I’m still in Switzerland but will be departing soon. This trip has been great. I’m not in the mountains anymore. Billy and Emily will be spending some time together here soon. She is due to arrive next week. I’m not sure how long they’ll stay but I’m sure it will be a while.

I’m trying to determine when my trip back to the States will be. Today I’m posting an interview with the writer, Kathryn Harrison. She has the most marvelous office. I admire her life: the collection of excellent books she’s written. Her gorgeous writing studio, her incredibly comfortable looking bed, her cats, her rabbits.


More Fiction

I’m updating this blog with two short excerpts from  my novel, ALWAYS AT THE END WHERE THINGS BEGIN. All is well in snow-capped Davos. 


What Sautin eventually confesses even Daria does not know.


Years after the relationship, the love, the suffering still floats gossamer, an inescapable web, unresolved, a sharp, addictive riddle, impossible to grasp without pricks to the fingers which bring blood. It is beyond mortal understanding.

Long before the meeting on Slawkowska Street, long before the meeting in the medieval-themed restaurant, the seer insisted it was the mother who proposed the reunion. Once the reunion was enacted, euphoria. Time re-shaped itself, as if to commemorate us. Cut loose from Him, I lost all moorings. The separation annihilated my reserves.

When I tell Sautin this, we are in the mausoleum where the body of Ho Chi Minh rests. Stunned, he turns to look at me and wraps his arms tight about me. He holds me close. I feel the rhythms of his body. He inhales deeply and then he exhales deeply. For a moment, I imagine the rushing of his blood through his veins. In my mind’s eye, there it is, a sea gushing crimson. After several moments, he pulls away. Sautin takes my face in his hands, he kisses me.

It is ironic that we should be here, in this place of the dead, this place where the dead surface to haunt the living. We turn our attentions to Ho Chi Minh. His form perfectly preserved, we observe the childlike fingers, the thin moustache, an embalmed body fixed in an eternal slumber amongst countless voyeurs. As for us, He and I, once upon a time I was our embalmer, once upon a time, we were my object of worship.


What Sautin eventually professes even Daria does not know. It happens the summer of his twenty-first birthday. It happens in the afternoon. He returns home to find his mother slumped over her dressing table, nude. In a deathly act of seduction, he sees the dough white shapes of a woman’s body in a boudoir. Empty pill bottles spill across the dressing table amongst creams, powders, a note to the son beside them. It is her hope the son will discover her. She envisions a desperate act of revival. She envisions his tears of anger. She envisions him perching over her body, summoning her back to life. The son opens the door. He reaches out, places a hand on the still warm flesh of the mother’s neck. Kneeling, he listens to her labored breath. He turns. He walks across the room. He gently closes the bedroom door behind him.




Blue Five Notebook – (November 2014 / 14.21)

Originally posted on Blue Fifth Review: Blue Five Notebook Series:

Blue Five Notebook – (November 2014 / 14.21)

Martyn Ferry, Winter's Afternoon

Martyn Ferry, Winter’s Afternoon

Artist, Martyn Ferry, was born in London but grew up in the peaceful climes of Hertfordshire. After studying art and photography in Cambridge he moved back to London and spent a few years working as a commercial photographer, which put him off photography for a while, until he spent two and a half years travelling throughout Australasia and Asia where he well and truly got the bug again. Since then he has specialized in landscape and nature photography of all kinds, from traditional landscape views to experimental nature images. He lives and works in the the Cotswolds. More at his website, here


Joan Mazza


That special something in the taste of wine,
a sense of place, underscent of soil and weather,
more than variety of grape or rainfall. That
matchless geography in a…

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Swiss Writing Retreat

I’m writing from a small cabin in the Swiss Alps. In the midst of a snowy valley with a small group of writer friends, I only have limited internet access. This is just one of the reasons I’ve been offline. I have, however, been writing blogs by hand which I will post once I’m back in Germany. This is just a very small update due to technical difficulties. Since I can’t say much, I’ll post a picture. The above was taken at a cafe in Zurich.