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Where I Get My Ideas

From readings, where I scrawl notes in tiny, messy handwriting on the backs of old receipts I’ve dug up from the bottom of my bag.

From weddings, especially if something goes wrong.

From plans for imaginary roller coasters.

From anyone with an eccentric obsession.

From my birthstone or a lock of hair or the moles on my body.

From old homes I cannot return to.

From the energy and benevolent chaos of a film festival.

From domestic chores, a single phrase, or The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

From an old nature atlas with a half-torn spine.

From friendly, helpful morticians.

During a writing exercise led by one writer I admire based on the work of another writer I admire.

From a National Geographic found in a hospital waiting room, followed by a Paris Review interview with Elizabeth Bishop, in which she said, “I once walked from Nauset Light—I don’t think it exists anymore—which is the beginning of the elbow [of Cape Cod], to the tip, Provincetown, all alone. It took me a night and a day.”

From the lost pet signs tacked onto telephone poles.

From a jazz show performed in a barn in rural Ohio while I attempt the beginnings of a story on the back of a flattened-out Chipotle bag.

From a writing exercise and the persistent image of a girl and her books.

From the cat who circles my head above the yoga mat.

From fire where fire is not meant to be.

From long-ago car rides through Pennsylvania coal country.

From the wooden Buffet Crampon clarinet I played as a child.

From fairy tales, origin stories, exaggerations, and lies.

And finally, from books. From books about stars and death, seeking and wandering, psychology and history, sex and crime, friends and family. From the words written by others. From these words absorbed into my own.