(CNF, Written by Jessica Weyrauch)

(***names have been changed outside of my own)

It was the night of my friend Chris’s 21st birthday. It was unfortunately also Halloween, my least favorite holiday besides St. Patrick’s. I was a big fan of organized drinking, don’t get me wrong, but as a general rule, I try to avoid anything that is supposed to be fun. I had low expectations for the evening because earlier that night at dinner with the birthday boy, I learned that my ex-boyfriend would be attending our night of drunken debauchery. I pinky-promised not to have any of the dramatic conversations that almost always accompany being around an ex while drunk. I promised to be calm, cool, and collected, for what would be the first time in my otherwise crazed life. Surely I could manage one night with the guy. We used to get along, right?

            I mean, it had been two years since we last spoke. Despite Chris being a mutual close friend of ours, we knew very little about each other’s lives. I knew he lived in Indianapolis, had a girlfriend named Emily, and that once upon a time he thought I was women he’d marry.

            In the hours leading up to our meeting time, I imagined all the things he could say or do. I prepared for The Cold Shoulder, the I Never Should’ve Dated You, and the I’m Getting Married in June.

            I wondered how I found myself in situations of such emotional horror. Like the time at Monica’s when I didn’t know he’d be there and then we spent the whole night talking. Like the time downtown when we kissed on the circle after we swore to just be friends. Like every other time when I thought that for once things were going to calm down. My mind raced with questions that I had already convinced myself had no answers.

            Seeing him was something I felt like I had to do. Closure, and all that bullshit. The last time we saw each other I had just returned from a wild week of spring break, drinking away my thoughts of him. We stood in a hallway and he told me he thought Emily was The One. I always wished I hadn’t cried in front of him that day, but I was determined to do better this time.

            I looked at myself in the mirror, braiding my hair tighter and tighter with every knot. I dressed up as Katniss Everdeen, everyone’s favorite female badass from the Hunger Games franchise. I was thankful that I chose a costume that essentially required me to wear leggings, a black T-shirt, and a raincoat. I took a final look in the mirror to survey my imperfections and remind myself that they don’t matter.

            With beers carefully placed in my oversized jacket pockets, I clinged and clanged my way to Chris’s house two blocks away. Arriving at the door, I breathed in my life at that moment, the smell of wet cement intertwined into an intoxicating sense of bravery, or stupidity. I wasn’t sure which yet.

            The door creaked as I entered, more clings and clangs from the beer, and it was more than obvious I had arrived. My eyes darted for a friendly face and within minutes of hello’s and howhaveyoubeen’s and what’reyouupto’s with Chris’s older sister, Miriah, I saw him out of the corner of my eye. I was careful not to look too long, fearing it would be an invitation to talk.

            I agreed to come tonight, but no one said anything about talking, I thought.

            I watched him move towards me over Miriah’s shoulder.

            “Hey Katniss.”

            Shit, he’s talking to me.

            I don’t recall what I said back to him. I think I blacked out from complete shock that Nick was talking to me, in the same room with me, or even in the same universe.

            He moved passed me to make himself a drink. Nick never did “do beer,” so he made himself a girly cocktail with orange juice, vodka, and apricot schnapps. I leaned into him to reach the bottle opener for Beer #1. Our forearms brushed and it was pure adrenaline. His skin, his smell, his lips—I felt sick. My senses were overwhelmed from the memories rushing back all at once. I felt my face flush. I needed to say something to break up the awkwardness of the moment.

            “Tonight can’t be worse than the last Halloween we spent together, right?” I blurted, clearly still feeling the effects of him. I remembered the pinky-promise I made to Chris and that Nick and I’s past was a slippery slope.

            Please just ignore what I said.

            “That’s for sure,” he teased.

            He smiled that damn smile I used to love.

            “Let’s GO! We have a party on Jackson and then the BARS. AT. MIDNIGHT!”

            I’m usually not one for unnecessary yelling, but in that moment it saved me from whatever Nick was going to say next.

            It wasn’t until we were in the dark of Muncie streets that I noticed Nick had a cast on his leg. Not once, but twice in our history Nick had a leg injury. It was all too familiar and I was all too sober.

            “And you’re injured. Because of course you are.”

            “I actually haven’t been injured in about two years,” he replied.

            “Well then, it must be because I’m here.”

            The night was barely starting and I was already making an ass out of myself. After arriving at the party location, it was time for Beer #2. I needed to numb my mind if I had any hopes of making it through the night.

            The party was pretty typical for Muncie. It was a group of Chris’s younger friends drinking whatever their 21-year-old friends bought for them on sale at Friendly Package. I didn’t know anyone except Chris’s sister and well, Nick I guess. We huddled in the kitchen and talked. I mean, truly talked. I decided that I had nothing to lose by engaging because he was already a ghost to me. I’d spent the last two years dreaming of what I’d say when I saw him next, but in the moments I caught his gaze, I couldn’t remember any of it. The connection was exactly like it used to be between us. Electric. Honest. Addicting.

            He asked me what my plans were after graduation, and I told him every detail, silently hoping that he would fit into it.

            “You’re trying to go to Butler for grad school?” he asked.

            I smiled proudly and nodded.

            “That would be fall of ’17, right?”

            My smile faded and I nodded.

            He laughed, “I’m actually planning on going to Butler then too. To finish up my PA program. Maybe I’ll see you there.”

            We shared a look that we’d shared many times before. The look two people share when they are reminded of their enduring affinity for trouble.

            Back in high school Nick and I made a pact. We were lying on the couch, wrapped in each other’s arms, madly in love at eighteen. We swore that when adulthood came and we had inevitably drifted apart that we’d move to different cities, put an ocean between us if we had to. Even then we knew that our connection was infallible.

            I went outside to get some air. It was the safest place to hide since I was the only person whose outfit was equipped to handle the rain. I took a breath and looked out at the broken-fenced backyard of this random house in my college town that I was leaving in 7 months. I could hear music pouring into the air from parties in every direction. The sound of the bass and the pounding of the rain grounded me.

            Live in the moment. Worry about the rest tomorrow, I told myself.

            I took a final swig and headed inside. I was ready for Beer #3.

            I stole a Budwiser from the fridge in the kitchen, passing by Nick. I could feel his eyes on me as I headed towards the living room. Starting to feel the effects of the alcohol, I snagged myself a spot on the stained floral couch.

            “Scoot, scoot,” I head Nick say from above me as he turned the corner and sat beside me, close enough that our thighs were touching.

            I felt the heat from his body stabilize my heartbeat from how comforting it was. The calm was washing over me when—

            “Jess, there’s something I’ve got to tell you. Because I don’t know if you know this,” Nick started. “Not having you in my life that past two years has been—”

            The best thing that ever happened to you.


            My heart fell.

            “I went into such a deep depression after we broke up. I can’t even explain it to Emily. She doesn’t understand what we are—were, ” he corrected himself.

            “Well we’ve always been pretty indefinable.”

            He smiled and I smiled and I could almost ignore the fact that he used her name to me so casually.Even an hour away from where we grew up, at my school, on this couch, she was still coming in between us.

            Chris came busting into the room proclaiming it was time to go. We walked in the rain for two blocks before we reached the bar or rather the line for the bar. It was 11:55 and Chris was remaining cheery despite the delay. We celebrated his crossover into true adulthood while standing in line with a hundred strangers all waiting to get into the worst bar in town. The rain was illuminated by the bright yellow neon light that spelled out BROTHERS. Hoards of drunken college students filled the streets providing a soundtrack of profanity to backdrop our hour-long wait in line.

            It should be mentioned that Nick was not at all dressed for the weather. He was wearing a USA-themed morph suit, one those terrifying, face masking, nylon suits. Really, he was naked with only a minimal layer of fabric covering his thin, athletic body. He complained about being cold and then I felt his cast make contact with my boot.

            “Sorry, I’m just freezing,” he said to me.

            His warmth pressed into my skin. His scent unlocked memories from years worth of ups and downs. I gave into my past. Hell—I took shots of it.

            “How’s your family been?” Drink.

            “My Mom asks about you all the time.” Drink.

            “I still wear that shirt you bought me.” Drink.

            This went on until we finally made it to the entrance.I’ve never been so thankful to see the inside of Brothers, which was filled to the brim with slutty cat costumes and frat guys dressed as Marty McFly. Despite having finished Beer #3 and Beer #4 before we left the party, I was too sober to be surrounded by the Halloween crowd.

            The first round of drinks was on Chris’s sister: horrid, green shots that had Godknowswhat in them. Whatever it was, it wasn’t enough. Beer #5 was in my hand shortly after.

            We made our way to the crowded dance floor pumping Drake and reeking of hormones. It truly felt like high school all over again. As we danced and swayed, I tried to let loose. My tightly wound demeanor wasn’t something new to Nick and I wanted to show him that I was fun. I shouldn’t have cared at all, but I couldn’t help it. The universe had a way of pushing us together and I didn’t want to fight it anymore. If this was one of those nights of that was going to change everything, I was going to ride it out.

            Fuck consequences, I thought. I’m going to have fun.

            I caught his eyes on me as we danced. I used to love the way they lit up every time they matched with mine. I was surprised to see that the feeling hadn’t faded. I forgot how it made me feel, how he made me feel.

            His eyes locked on me. He pointed to his drink and raised his eyebrows, slightly tilting his head: the universal signal for “Need another drink?”

            We dipped out of the crowd like children sneaking away from their parents. It was about me and him and no one else, snickering and whispering as we made our way to the bar.

            “This round’s on me,” he offered. “Bud Light, okay?”

            “Well it’s the cheapest, so sure.”

            The lines that frame his smile made my knees weak and I couldn’t go back on the dance floor and risk one more minute of our limbs touching. I was starting to get overwhelmed, anxious, terrified. My fight or flight response was about to kick in and I had no more fight left in me. I excused myself and raced to the bathroom.

            I was intercepted by Chris.

            “Jess!” he screamed, wrapping his arms around me. “I’m so glad you and Nick are getting along.”

            He slurred his words, practically dripping them out of his mouth. I felt guilty that I was so occupied by Nick’s company when I came out for Chris. I decided to stay a little longer.

            With Chris’s arm wrapped around my shoulder, he led me back to the bar with Nick and Miriah.

            Before I could even finish the beer Nick had bought me, he ordered three monstrous plastic cups filled with I imagined was fruit punch and vodka. He was grinning as he handed me the drink. I considered passing it off to Chris but what the hell?

            I never was one to turn down free drinks.

            We sat together, laughing and talking like the last two years didn’t happen. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think it was possible to be around him without copious tears. I definitely didn’t think it would feel that good. I prepared for every scenario, every scenario but the one I was living. The one where his freckled, calloused hand rested on my knee.

            And I let it rest there.

            He’s just drunk. He’s just falling into old habits.

            As usual, I had excuse after excuse for him.  

            It was well after 2 a.m. when we headed to our resident dive bar to close out the night with cheap beer and good music.

            Nick and I entered the bar arm and arm because he needed help walking down the rain-washed stairs. I made a straight shot to the bar and demanded alcohol. I couldn’t make it through another minute without more liquid courage. Nick joined me at the bar and I felt his hand rest on my lower back. He leaned in that scent, those butterflies in my stomach. What is he thinking? He has a girlfriend— I felt his lips close to my ear.

            “This is fun, right?” he whispered.

            “I have to say it’s not how I imagined my night going, or any night going for that matter,” I joked. “But yeah—it’s fun.”

            “What’s going on here?” he grinned. “I mean, we’ve always had chemistry, but wow.”

            I shook my head. “You’re going to get yourself in trouble, Nick.”

            The idea of trouble just seemed to excite him.

            Typical, I thought.

            The bartender placed Beer #7 in front of me and I vowed it would be my last of the night. Shit was getting too real and I needed to be awake for it.

            The music was hard to hear over the sound of conversations in the bar. Faint as it was, I recognized the melody of the song. It was a rather obscure song by my favorite artist, Ben Folds. I lightly sang the hook aloud and I heard another voice pick up where I stopped. It was Nick. I shot him a look and he knew exactly why.

            “I kinda started listening to Ben Folds after we broke up,” he admitted to me.

            Of course.

            He smiled, basking in the victory of winning that round of Who Knows Who Better.

            Chris broke up the moment exclaiming, “Jacob is coming! Jacob is coming! Jacob is coming!”

            Oh great, let’s add another of my ex-boyfriends to the mix.

            Yes, I dated not one, but two of Chris’s best friends. Jacob and I became friends only recently after a silent period that lasted about three years, but when Jacob came through those doors, it only felt familiar. Nick, Jess, and Jacob. The whole torturous love triangle, reunited for the first time since our senior year of high school.

            As Jacob made his way toward our group at the bar, Nick grabbed my elbow and whispered to me again, “Just like ol’ times, huh?”

            When I looked up to Jacob’s face, it was clear he’d just seen our exchange. We were all arranged in a circle of conversation. Juggling both Nick and Jacob’s gazes wasn’t new, but I was a little rusty after four years. Jacob squinted at me knowingly so I grabbed him by the hand pulling him behind me, practically shoving him into a corner in the back room.

            “What?” I demanded.

            “What the hell was that? He has a girlfriend, Jess.”

            “Yeah I know. Trust me, I’m dealing with it.”

            “You better be careful. You two can really fuck up each other’s lives.”

            “I know, okay?” I shot back.

            When we returned to the group, I leaned on the bar top as I ordered another drink. Nick’s eyes were following the lines of my hand, tracing it with his gaze. Something I used to love watching him do.

            “Oh. I never showed you my tattoo,” I told him as I pulled up the sleeve of my jacket.

            “I’ve seen it.”


            “Your Instagram isn’t private,” he joked.

            Oh so he’s been stalking me too.

            “Well, yours is,” I joked back. We both smiled at each other, content and happy with the moment, ignoring all the consequences we’d face tomorrow.

            “Want to put a song on?” he asked me and no one else in the circle.

            I nodded and we made our way to the jukebox in the back of the room. We stood over the screen, the colored lights glowed in my haze.

            Nick leaned in— hold your breath, don’t inhale him—but this time he placed his forehead on my shoulder. He propped himself up on his chin and whispered exactly what I didn’t need to hear. Didn’t want to hear. Didn’t know I’d ever hear.

            “I really do miss you.”

            I paused, unsure of how to respond.

            “I miss you too,” I whispered back.

            He sighed and I could see the anxiety settle in eyes.

             “Like, all the time,” I added.

            I shouldn’t have said that.

            I shouldn’t have said that.

            I could feel Jacob’s disapproving eyes on me and I didn’t care. I wanted to live in that moment forever. I wanted to make a home with him in the space between our words. Neither of us had anything to say to each other after that. We basked in the contentment of our confessions for a moment before a fellow bar-goer alerted me to Chris vomiting in the bathroom.

            “Guess it’s time to go home,” I said to Nick. His eyes seemed to dim at the realization that home didn’t mean to same thing to us anymore.

            “I don’t know where you live, but I’m sobered up and I could give you a ride home from Chris’s,” Nick said. I knew he meant well and I knew that he just wanted to talk, but I knew it wasn’t a good idea. I was having a hard time coming up with any fiber of me that had the strength to say no to him. Luckily I didn’t have to.

            “Well we can all go back to Chris’s if you want. I’ll buy pizza,” Miriah offered.

            Nick and I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to spend more time together so we accepted. We were addicts who wouldn’t put the glass down. We craved that last sip before closing time.

            Miriah drove us back to where we began the night and I could feel the finality setting in. Nick and Jacob shuffled an incredibly drunk Chris upstairs while I took a spot on the worn, blue couch in the front room. It was about 4 a.m. and I was exhausted. My muscles were getting heavy and I was getting a wicked headache from the mixture of booze in my system.

            When Nick returned downstairs he had changed into blue, straight-legged jeans and a T-shirt from one of the hundreds of races he’s won. This was Nick’s uniform in my mind. I wouldn’t know how to remember him any other way. He took a seat close to me on the couch. Close enough for him to rest his hand along the cuff of my jacket, just grazing the back of my hand.

            After all these years, I knew his tricks. I knew his signals, his moves, his games. He couldn’t fool me.

            The first time he placed his hand near mine was in a movie theater sophomore year of high school, the night we had our first kiss. I used to think that night of my life was going to have ballads written about it. I thought statues would be build to capture the epic love I had for that skinny boy wearing a gray T-shirt. And here he was next to me, trying to resurrect what I buried for a reason.

            I pulled out my phone to check the time. Nick mimicked me and began searching through his photos. He showed me pictures of his niece, pictures of him and Chris drinking over the summer. We laughed and I reciprocated with pictures of my cat, my new guitar, the photos I took of downtown this summer. There was something soothing about talking to him knowing that none of it would matter tomorrow. We talked and laughed while Jacob and Miriah ordered pizza.

            I knew the night had to end and that it meant I would go back to my life without Nick, so we held on as long as we could.

            “It’s getting late.”

            “You still want that ride home?” Nick asked.

            “I’ll just drop Jess off on my way home,” Jacob chimed in.

            I could see Nick’s face come to the understanding I already had: Nothing was going to change. We were going to part ways right there in the living room where we began 8 hours ago. After a few hours apart, Nick and I would sober up from seeing each other and our lives will move forward. We will cleanse ourselves of this attraction and make amends with our past.

            I left Chris’s house without letting Nick say goodbye. I knew that we’d give into each other because that’s what we did. We go back for more every time, never satisfied. The love pulls us, controls us, and won’t let go of us.

            It took me two years to get him out of my system and I wasn’t going back to the bottom of that bottle. Not for that damn smile, those butterflies, or his green eyes. The demons I had overcome were staring me in the face and I knew it was best to just walk away.

            I heard the screen door slam into place behind me as I left and walked soberly towards reality. I wondered if this is what getting clean felt like. Pouring the drink, smelling its temptation. Ready to relapse, but instead, you walk away.

A Brief Review of ‘Water by the Spoonful’

‘Water by the Spoonful’, IndyFringe, Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project, October 2015

Let’s Raise an Empty Glass

            Anyone who says, “our past defines us,” would find himself/herself in an argument with the writer of the heart-wrenching narrative of Water by the Spoonful. Indy Fringe and director Ronn Johnston bring us a play about hope, family, and community that will bring tears as easily as it brings biting wit and hilarity.

            The compact, black box set was refreshingly simple, only decorated with a family tree styled backdrop and black boxes. Before the show started, Johnston came out to speak with the audience of his “labor of love.” It’s rare to see a pre-show introduction done with such fervor and pride, but Johnston did not disappoint. He told the audience that we were sitting in the luckiest building in Indianapolis: survivor of two fires, countless tornadoes, and an earthquake. Johnston left us with a brave request before he handed the stage to the actors, “What do you say we all fall in love together, tonight?”

            Water by the Spoonful follows the ups, but mostly downs, of the Ortiz family comprised of Elliot (Mauricio Miranda), Yazmin (Elysia Rohn), and Odessa (Dena Toler). The outstanding performances by these actors lifted the show from the old abandon church and into my heart. Miranda’s take on Elliot, the brooding ex-war veteran was nothing short of captivating. As he struggled through the death of his aunt and caretaker, money issues, and an identity crisis, we drank in his sorrow by the bowl. Rohn played the perfect companion for a young man lost in himself, her comforting compassion unparalleled. While Toler shined on stage when playing opposite her family members, she was caught between mediocrity and a hard place when sharing the stage with @Hakiumom’s forum buddies.

            Part of this play took place in a virtual world in which the stage became a live representation of an addiction chat room spanning the United States and Japan. The band of misfits starring Scott Russell, Butch Copeland, and Tracy Herring fell short in comparison to the Ortiz family, but their presence was not unnecessary. This second story line enforced a sense of community that was present from the moment I entered Indy Fringe that evening.

            Like the church that I sat in, the Ortiz family was a group of survivors. Despite frequently being funeral guests, Elliot and Yazmin Ortiz found a way to stay alive. Water by the Spoonful challenges the audience to see the ugliness of reality and push on. This play is a triumph of spirit and a love letter to a community that, like the Indianapolis community, will always be there for you.


(Written by Jessica Weyrauch, inspired by the work of Megan Stielstra, 2015)

You spent most every night alone. You are objectively bad with social situations, so you avoid them at all costs. You prefer fictional characters to real people. You wear glasses. Your hair is always frizzy and uncombed. You don’t really like make-up. You own more books than you even know what to do with. Your mom might actually be your best friend. You do talk to her three times a day.

As a child, you listened to folk music and Queen. You didn’t like Radio Disney. You were so tall that you stuck out in group photos. You couldn’t braid your hair so it was always in a ponytail. The other girls would play with each other’s hair, but not yours. You couldn’t even ace a spelling test. You were forced to miss recess once and read in the cafeteria. You started to give yourself detention because that meant you didn’t have to go outside. You sat in the cold, bright special education room with the other bad kids and read. You preferred the quiet.

You spent most of middle school watching anime or playing the Sims. You got taken out of advanced math and science. You didn’t really care about those subjects anyways. You got braces after all your friends did. You used to write Weezer lyrics on your passbook. You wore all black and primarily shopped at Hot Topic. You sat at the ‘weird kids’ lunch table. You played the cello.

High school meant you could finally be someone else; instead you were “Joel’s sister.” You started caring about politics. You performed in multiple musical theatre productions. You cared more about speech and debate than your grades. You knew what would really get you into a good school. You were right. You got in, but you went to your back up school. You were too afraid to leave.


When you’re sitting a home, it’s most likely that you’ll be watching the news or catching up on TV. You talk to your cat and when he affectionately meows back at you feel like someone actually likes you. You’re not afraid of dying alone per say, but you think about it more than anyone really should. You get cold easily and prefer to be warmed up with tea. You don’t drink Starbucks. You don’t even like it.

Honestly, you don’t get people your own age. You can’t take shots. You don’t like parties. You’ve been told you “drink beer like a dad.” You don’t go to bars often. You would rather play board games, but you do love bar trivia.

Your Instagram is mostly photos of your cat. You get don’t get a lot of likes. You think you’re going to give up on social media because of how few likes you get. You are unlikeable.

So, you went to GenCon. You own four Star Wars posters. You dressed up for midnight premieres for 5/8 of the Harry Potter movies. You even went to the midnight book releases. You spent your whole afternoon watching Doctor Who and scrolling through Tumblr. You might find an inspirational quote and write it in your notebook. You might write it in 4 notebooks. You might write it on a post-it note and stick it on your mirror. You might find those words more comforting than ones spoken by a friend. Your friends don’t always understand, but words do.

Interview with Badass Author Megan Stielstra

(Written/Interviewed for class at Ball State University)

Transcript of Conversation

JW: Good afternoon,

            My name’s Jessica Weyrauch and I’m a student at Ball State University in central Indiana. We briefly communicated on Twitter (my handle is @jessicayrock) a while back. I’m a creative writing student taking an ‘apprentice’ course. We had to choose an author to study for the semester, and I was lucky enough to study you! I’ve had an absolute blast surrounding myself with your work. 

            For this class, my professor wants us to interview our authors. If you’d be willing to answer a few questions for me about writing, I would greatly appreciate it.

            Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you, 

MS: Hi, Jessica!

            Sure, of course! Send questions my way. I’m on a gnarly deadline right now and slightly insane, so if you’re cool with that we’re all good. Like, we can put a note at the top of whatever you hand in that says, Dear [name of your professor], Jessica totally transcribed that right. I’m bonkers right now. Give her a thousand A’s. Yours, M. XOXOX

JW: Good afternoon! My deepest apologizes for taking so long to respond to you. It was been one of those weeks, unfortunately. I’m thrilled that you’re willing to answer some questions for me. 

            First— it’s clear that your voice is naturally conversational, more like talking to a friend than reading an essay. Have you found it challenging to write in an, arguably, nontraditional voice? 

            Second, in your essay “Juggle What?” you talk about how your writing process has changed since you were in your twenties. I relate a lot to this as a nearly 22 year old creative writing student. What would you/do you say to students like me about finding time to write? 

            Third, I’m a speech and debate coach, and I got into writing because of prose performance, my competition event in high school. I’ve consumed so much 2nd Story footage! How did live storytelling become so important to you? Do you have a difficult time proving to people that’s a worthwhile form? 

            Lastly, I want to ask you about obsession. Your work is so clearly driven by your obsessions be it Kafka, superheroes, Indiana Jones, music, Chicago, etc. Can you speak to the important of obsession and passion in writing? 

            Thank you again for communicating with me. Being an apprentice to your work this semester has truly been a meaningful experience for me. 

MS: Jessica! Hi! This all looks wonderful.

            Quick question: when do you need this? I want to get these answers back to you for your class, but am wondering: I’m on deadline for next week Wednesday… possible to wait ’til after that?


JW: Well, as it turns out, we have the same deadline… But— I absolutely understand if you need to wait until after your deadline. I’d still love to hear the answers to these questions, but it’s possible for me to do the assignment I was given without them (we had to make a back-up plan since we knew some writers wouldn’t respond).

MS: UGH. I’m so sorry I can’t be more thorough! I have GOT to finish this other thing… 

            re: your questions about voice and performance, give a peek to this: and p.s. YAY speech and debate coaching!!!

            Let me see what I can do tomorrow…  hang tight! 

Stielstra’s Master Class

            Megan Stielstra is the best friend you can turn to at any time. Her job as a story-teller is to pull you in and make you feel something, but more importantly, Stielstra wants you to carry it around and share it with others. It’s so clear through her work that writing and performing is truly a release, an expression of the creative process through which Stielstra can masterfully evoke deep emotion from the reader. Stielstra doesn’t even like to consider her nonfiction works as essays, she prefers to call them stories because she is a storyteller first and foremost.

            Refusing to call her essays by their literary genre perfectly lends itself to the obscurity of her writing. “Channel B”, her essay from Best American Essays, is arguably her most essay-like work, but she couldn’t even believe that it had been chosen for such a top literary collection. Stielstra isn’t the writer that strives to be published for the fame or glory, but because she wants to start a conversation or contribute to the conversation in place. She’s passionate, political, and empathetic. These characteristics are what drew me in back in September when we chose our authors for this class, and what continues to make me a fan of her work.

            The power of words is a gift that was given to Megan Stielstra. She wraps it up and puts it in the hands of whoever needs it the most. Stielstra discussing in interviews of she receives email after email from women struggling with post-partum and their families thanking her for finally putting it all into words. For someone like Stielstra, you could pay no bigger compliment to her work. Being moved by the truth and being liberated by the openness of the her writing, is the ultimate goal for Stielstra.             This semester has taught me how to be honest with myself and my audience. Stielstra has taught me how to find the human core of the story, the emotions that are going to touch the reader, not just the plot points. Apprenticing myself to someone so compassionate about the world around them has made me more aware. Seeing the world through the eyes of Megan Stielstra has most importantly taught me how to teach, whether it’s teaching writing to my high schoolers or teaching my readers how to cope with their situations through my own experiences. Megan Stielstra is going to be a favorite writer of mine for a while, I imagine. The past few weeks have been vital to writing career, my future plans to teach, and my

The Less-Than-Magnificent Ambersons

(Fiction, Written for class at Ball State University, 2013)

You never think that falling in love is going to happen to you. You tell yourself that it’s not in the cards. At this age it’s just supposed to be about sex, right? I’m 17 years old. What more could anyone want from me? I work at Texas Roadhouse, I live with my drunk of a father, and I smoke weed 7 days a week. It’s not like women are lining up to date me, least of all someone like Sarah. I’d known her since the third grade and to be honest, she was infuriating. She was loud and bossy, never letting me get a word in. I grew up as the class clown and with every joke came one of Sarah’s famous eye rolls. I figured she was born with that stick up her ass. Nothing about her appealed to me, except of course those ridiculously beautiful green eyes. It also helped that her ass was perfection. I’m a guy, what can I say?

   It was late July when I caught the aforementioned virus. I had plans to go to this campy church festival with my friends. It was a stupid tradition that we had going: get high, eat cotton candy, and sneak into the poker tables. These plans were ruined because Jerry just had to invite Sarah. What a fun night, I thought, she’s not going to let us do any of that.

   “Explain the thought process,” I said to Jerry while we waited outside Sarah’s house.

   “She’s my friend? I don’t know what else to tell you. Since when do you dislike Sarah?”

   “I don’t dislike her, I just think she’s a wet blanket.”

   Jerry shook his head in disagreement.

   “Could she take longer?” I moaned.

   “Bro, calm down.”

   Sarah came running out of the house, her stringy brown hair blowing past her. She was wearing the most flattering pair of jean shorts known to man, giving her legs the appearance of being three times longer than usual. Her basic red v-neck allowed her blue bikini top to graze over her collarbones. I shook the vision of her untying the knot of fabric behind her neck, letting the straps fall to the ground along with the rest of the garment. I clearly didn’t shake the thought quickly enough. I came to reality with Sarah next to me in the car.

   “Hello?” she yelled into my ear.

   “No need to shout. I’m alive with two working ear drums.” I stuck my finger in my left ear. “Well, maybe one now.”

   There it was. That famous eye roll. It was going to be a long night.

    Tradition number one was a little pre-game toke, but since Sarah was completely against drugs, we decided to skip that part. Tradition number two was eating as much fair food as possible. I didn’t think Sarah would really participate given her recent development.

   “Guys, look at my stomach,” she demanded. We obliged.

   “What am I looking at here?”

   “My two pack, duh! I’ve been working so hard on this!”

   “You look great, Sarah!” Jerry was just feeding her ego I think.

   Sarah strutted into the festival with pride, shaking those hips with every step. When we got inside, she wouldn’t stop drooling over those potato chip twirly things. And candy apples. And any other fried object.

   “Didn’t you just lose weight? Why exactly would you want to ruin that?” I asked her. She immediately punched me in the gut.

   “Well that was just rude!” Sarah walked farther ahead of me after that, which gave me the heavenly and unfortunate opportunity of staring at her ass. I didn’t know what was happening to me. This girl is awful! Why on Earth am I thinking about her naked? She once again drew me out of my hormonal coma by screaming, “Hey slow pokes! I want to murder ya’ll!” She gestured towards the water gun race. Lord, help us all.

   Sarah had a competitive edge unlike any other woman I’d met. I imagined she came out of the womb trying to beat someone at something. Asking the nurses to check out her baby fat like it was any kind of accomplish. I, however, felt up to the challenge of taking her down. We played one completely over-prices round and I won, of course. Determined, Sarah paid for us to play again. She won. She pointed at this stuffed bear to claim as her prize. The swamp guy running the game told her it wasn’t worth her winnings. Sarah attempted to argue with the man, but Jerry and I distracted her with those potato chip twirls.

   As she ate, she jammed along with the music from the Christian cover band butchering the Gin Blossoms. I could see her getting happier with every crunch of the fried vegetable. If this is all it takes to sedate the beast inside her, I was content. After demolishing the food in front of us, I suggested we take a stroll through the flea market they had set up inside. The heat was really getting me.

   When we went inside, Sarah was looking around at every hand-knitted baby hat with intense curiosity. Ignoring the dusty surface, she touched every broken toy just to see if it would magically work again. I caught myself staring again. Something about her smiling at these insignificant trinkets made me think maybe she wasn’t such a bad person. Maybe I just didn’t see her in the right light.

   “Can I have this?” Sarah pointed at a framed movie poster reading, The Magnificent Ambersons. It was clearly from a few generations back.What could she possibly do with this frame? Was I missing something? I didn’t know what else to say except, “I’ll get it for you.”

   “Oh my gosh, thank you!”

   She took the poster under one arm and returned to her strut down the hallway. I shook my head at what I had just done. I could feel the smile on my face lasting a little too long. I made eye contact with Jerry. He knew.

   Sarah led us down the rocky path lined with fair games to a small booth in the back. It was being run by a young woman covered in tattoos and dressed in a camouflage tank top revealing the majority of two amazing breasts. Sarah motioned me to sit down next to her in these tiny black folding chairs. The sun was going down and the humidity had made Sarah’s hair get curlier by the hour. Behind those brown curls I noticed the sign for the booth: ‘Hair Color and Braiding’. What have I gotten myself in to?

   “Can you give me a pink streak? I’ve always wanted one.” Sarah’s eyes tried to avoid the rack staring back at her.

   “Of course, darlin’!” The women was talking even louder than Sarah.

   “I guess I’ll take one too,” I said to the woman.

   Sarah immediately whipped her head around to look me in the eyes. Her face was sparkling with delight. I couldn’t break contact with her eyes, so green and so large.

   “Yeah! Let’s do this!” Sarah yelled like she was at a Monster Truck rally.

   We sat there as Jerry took blackmail photos on his phone. The woman braided this small piece of pink faux hair into Sarah’s hair as she told us tales of her husband who won’t support her cosmetic career. When she finished with Sarah, she moved over to me with a can of hairspray. The woman ran her fingers through my bushy curls, putting her chest directly in front of my face. My eyes were locked on Sarah instead. She was flipping her hair over her shoulder repeatedly to see the small pink strands.

   “Ya’ll are real cute together,” the women said. Jerry immediately started laughing. I shot him a look.

   “We aren’t together. Just friends,” I assured her.

   “Uh huh. If my husband and I were as cute together as ya’ll maybe I’d have a kid by now.”

   I didn’t know what to say. I looked to Sarah for a cue. She was still playing with her hair, unaware of the conversation. When she finally came back to the conversation she demanded the woman, “Oo! Give him a faux hawk!”

   I reluctantly allowed this to happen. There I was, a six foot four, seventeen-year-old with a pink faux hawk. I didn’t let the shame get to me. Sarah’s grin was worth it.

   Jerry continued on his picture taking spree and begged for a shot of me and Sarah with our pink hair and movie poster. The flash was bright and blinding, similar to my emotions at the time. I reviewed the picture of Jerry’s phone. What a couple! Sarah’s petite form posing with her hand on her hip and my grand stature of 200 pounds taking up the frame. I looked ridiculous. She looked stunning. Pure happiness could be seen clearly. Her cheeks were glowing red with joy and a days worth of sun burn. Gorgeous.

   To this day, I have that picture on my wall, right next to the poster of the Magnificent Ambersons. She gave it to me a few weeks later as a memento of that night. My friends told me I was crazy. I knew I was crazy. Sarah made me crazy. I knew that it was going to be worth it, though. And it was.