Jill Sisson Quinn

Ear to the Soil

First, a song for you: 'They Imagine the City Growing Out Into the Ocean' by Johann Johannson

This is most of what I've been listening to over the last week, and it's been the perfect accompaniment for the writing I've been doing. It's difficult to find that perfect combination of beautiful without being distracting, and ambient without acting totally as white noise. 

Here's another:

'They Being Dead Yet Speaketh'

These past two weeks have been rife with revelation, and I've been overcome with an incredible sense of calm about the future. Since deciding to move forward with my writing and pursue academia, ideas have been rising like cream from my subconscious, and  the words have been rushing out of me as if finally free from behind the dam I'd built to keep them in. 

And the opportunities that have arisen since giving voice to my plans, have been the exact things that I need to gain momentum on this path. It seems like sometimes, all you have to do to shake things up is to say what you want out loud, and paths to that thing will begin manifesting. I'm not one to advise anybody to 'ask the universe' for favors, but I am finding that if you're open about what you want, the right people will hear and help you make it happen, because ultimately, the successes of our friends and people in our community, are successes for everybody. The more individuals who thrive, the healthier a community will be.

There are two projects in particular right now that are really exciting, and totally presented themselves because I talked to people about my goals, and wrote about them here. 

1: Rhonda Coleman, proprietress and esthetician extraordinaire of Moss Beauty has asked me for assistance with creative direction and editing for a magazine project she's been working on. I couldn't have asked for anything better than to be able to partake in a project as fulfilling as one that allows me to assist in the creation of material meant to educate and empower women about their bodies. It's going to be a sort of feminist beauty guide that includes personal stories, an historical timeline about downstairs hairstyle trends, as well as an educational guide that helps women develop more healthy relationships with their vulvas and vaginas. 

Not only will I be able to flex my editorial and writing skills, but I'll also be able to assist with aesthetic decision making. The personal stories I'll be working with and writing up are going to be really helpful for putting me back into the mindset of working on my own creative-non fiction pieces, which are mostly memoir-ish prose pieces documenting various events in my life, often related to shame, gender identity, and inter-family communication. 


2. I finished my first book review for The Carolina Quarterly last night! I work with a woman whose partner is the editor of this journal, and one day I just mentioned that I was interested in volunteering/interning if they ever needed any help, and as it turned out, they did. 

It's been a little bit bumpy getting going with them, mostly because of how busy I was in late fall with all of my craft show preparations, but when Matt asked me to write a review of Jasmine V. Bailey's first full length book of poetry, Alexandria, I jumped on the opportunity. I'm always a little wary of writing about poetry because, as a person who writes poetry myself, I am aware of how many directions interpretations can take, and how rarely a reader really gets the exact overarching message or theme that the writer wishes to communicate. 

I sat down with the book for the first time a few days ago and I knew almost instantly, that this is not a book I'd just put on the shelf and put out of my mind when I was through. It grabbed hold of me much like the piece I read by Jill Sisson Quinn in Ecotone's last issue, which I wrote about here.

What began as a task that I needed to complete, became a mission to honor, the best that I could, the writing and intention of Alexandria. I read, re-read, and read again the entire book. I researched references, read pieces from her chapbook, Sleep and What Precedes Itand asked myself over and over again what the threads were that linked the three sections and all the pieces in them, together.

I won't know for a bit whether the review I came up with is what the Quarterly is looking for, but I'm proud of what I produced, and most importantly, it felt so so good to flex those explicating muscles. 

It looks like I will begin helping with administrative stuff for the Quarterly as well. I'm up for anything that puts me closer to the pulse of what's happening in the literary community, so if you've got something, throw it my way. That's right; I'm asking for it. 


A couple weeks ago, before I had allowed myself to completely give way beneath the pressure of the truth about my life, I wandered into The Regulator Bookshop in Durham before an impromptu outdoor acoustic show in a parking lot across the street, and picked up this sweet copy of Ecotone, the literary journal produced by UNC-Wilmington's Creative Writing MFA program.

As a fan of journals, I foolishly thought I was familiar with all the goodies in North Carolina, and was as surprised to see this unfamiliar beauty as I was to find out it was produced at UNC-W, one of the schools I will be applying to for my MFA. At the time, my thoughts about MFA programs hadn't really been percolating, but my thoughts about how I was spending my time had been...

...so I began reading, and Jill Sisson Quinn's 'The Myth of Home' really stood out. Her ability to blend scientific jargon as figurative language so seamlessly into the fabric of this story about 'place' and 'home' was stimulating. Any time I read something that is both captivating and enlightening, I feel like it's time well  spent. Ecotone did an interview with Quinn, which you can find HERE and if you're interested in reading her award winning natural history essay 'Sign Here if You Exist', go HERE.

There are lots of great pieces in this issue. Check the whole thing out HERE.