August + early September 2020

Late summer vibes, via Unsplash. This looks a lot like a drive I’ve been making lately, but a much prettier and safer version than anything I could capture out the car window myself


100ish words/intro

The end of summer always feels like it should be a lazy time, but does it ever really happen that way? It certainly hasn’t here. I’ve turned inward, focusing more on my family, my own projects, and what’s between the four walls of our house, and less on what’s happening outside of it (and outside of our control). In other words, I’m in self-preservation mode these days.



I completed another round of revisions on my completed novel and sent them off to my agent (I feel like I write this almost every month?). I’m also continuing to make progress on the first draft of my next novel. Writing, especially novels, is a long game. A looooonnnnnnnnng game. A dear friend and I have been catching up via email, and in her last note to me, she mentioned the “years of intention, energy, and balancing dreams with hard work” that comes with pursuing a writing career, which I thought was a beautiful summary of how it feels on the best days (we’ll discuss the bad another time). Shout-out to Laura and her timely brilliance. What’s wild is that shortly after I got her email, I flipped open a Real Simple magazine that I’d been waiting days to read, and it had this on the inside cover:

Okay, okay universe, I get it, I’ll keep plugging away at this long game. You got me.

I really hope that some smart folks out there are studying how creativity is playing out for people in the era of Corona. I am leaning into it, hard, and I’d even go as far as saying I’m putting more effort into creative projects than I have at any other time in my life. It probably has something to do with an element of control? Like, so many other areas of life are just off the rails (Pandemic! Racial injustice! Politics! Really all current events! My kids are 3 and 6!), but at least I can control the words I’m putting on the page, the thickness of the paper pulp that I’m blending, or the colors of the watercolors I’m experimenting with. And there’s something calming about that. I also finally–after years!–started posting on the instagram account I made ages and ages ago strictly for lurking purposes. So much of my identity is that of a writer, I’ve always felt like that’s not exactly the most photogenic of jobs or passions–there are only so many angles of a coffee cup sitting next to a laptop that one can photograph. But, now that I’m making paper and doing more artsy-craftsy things than ever before, it seemed like the right platform to share some messy and colorful photos. Plus, Facebook is a cesspool these days, so it feels good to dip into a different platform (I know Instagram is owned by Facebook. But still).

Anyhow, here’s some examples of how this creativity has been playing out, and basically a preview of that aforementioned instagram account.



culture + commentary

I’m taking in less of-the-minute stuff these days, and the space between all the bad news has been like a salve for my mental health. I’m still checking Twitter and my go-to news sources pretty much daily, but I’m keeping more distance in between sessions, which has made all the difference. One of my favorite sources for news and commentary these days is Anne Helen Peterson (whose article on millennial burnout went viral last year). She just launched a newsletter and it’s very much my cup of tea.

Last month, I had two books come off the hold list at the library at roughly the same time, and I told myself I’d read the first chapter of each, and then decide which one I’d commit to first. And then I started Brit Bennett’s The Mothers (from 2017) and read it in its entirety before even opening the other one. I took a workshop from Bennett at Get Lit in 2018 (I think?) and she just released her second novel, so reading The Mothers was long-time coming for me. It was really impressive, she does some really powerful things with voice, which is what made it work for me. As for the other book, I did not make it past the first chapter.

I also listened to Lucy Foley’s The Guest List on audio, and it’s a really sensory story with multiple narrators that takes place on an gloomy, atmospheric island off the coast of Ireland. The accents and the acting on the audiobook were a delight, and the pacing was spot-on. Def recommend. And I also gobbled up Leigh Stein’s Self-Care, and suggest it if you appreciate a good riff on women’s wellness culture that feels very timely and up-to-the-minute with its themes (and one of the best covers ever). Fun fact: in the book, there’s a throwaway joke about Ayahuasca retreats, and I went down the deepest of late night rabbit holes discovering what they are. Oof.

comfort + coziness

I made the switch from iced to hot coffee this week. I’ve also started wearing a garment around my house that we’re calling “the blanket sweater.” It’s been a pretty good week

a [made-up] invitation I’d like to receive when this is all over


back soon!

looking forward to

Thai food. We live a good 25+ minutes from my preferred Thai restaurant and since lockdown started, the extra energy and time it takes to get there seem extravagant. Someday, we’ll meet again, swimming rama.

looking back on

lol, my childhood. Pretty much the only locations that are in my quarantine bubble these days are the private residences of my parents and my in-laws’. I recently took a long and windy walk down memory lane sorting through a couple boxes that were in my parents’ garage. Here’s some of the evidence in the form of a collage I had on my binder in, I think, middle school.


If you’re reading and thinking, hey Dena, I like this but I’ll never remember to check your website regularly, I have good news for you! I’ll send notifications when I publish them to those who are interested:

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