The second time I've watched this episode of PBS American Masters---
Pete Seeger: The Power of Song

And remember when he was on Letterman? ♥ "Take it from Dr. King" ♥

90 years old and still going strong! Did you know there's a movement to give Pete Seeger a Nobel Peace Prize? Check it out:

Martindale Literary Prize for Short Fiction

Remember that short story contest I mentioned a little while back? Well, somehow---I won! For a short story I first wrote in 2007, called "Wet Season."

I still can't quite believe it. My first writing prize! And the first time I've actually made money through my writing. I totally got all teary and shaky when they called me up to the little podium last night, even though I'd promised myself that I wouldn't.

They made the announcement at the opening reception for the 2009 Pima Writer's Workshop. A reading by Peter Turchi, (the judge for 2009 and a faculty member at the workshop), was the main event.

Linda Lyons won second runner-up for her story "Footsteps." Tom Printsner (sp?) won first runner-up for his story "Leonard and Martha," but unfortunately he was out of town.

Peter Turchi was nice enough to sign my copy of his short story collection, Magician, even though I was all mumbly and nervous.

Meg Files was super-sweet, and she signed my copy of her craft book, Write from Life. (Laura Van Etten, my workshop instructor from this past semester, gave that to me as a going-away-to-Minneapolis present! If you're ever looking for a writing class in Tucson, check out one of Laura's, it was great. And she recommends Meg Files' class highly. Judging by this book, I absolutely agree, and I'm sorry I never had the chance.)

Nancy Wall gave me the call to tell me, last Tuesday. She was really nice. I cried. She made me promise not to tell anyone until after the announcement---it was so hard to keep my mouth shut!

Nancy Wall, reading Peter Turchi's comments about "Wet Season." Meg Files, taking a picture.
(PLEASE disregard my terrifyingly bad posture, eesh.)

Peter Turchi was the judge for 2009. Here he is reading his work. (Pardon the craptastic photo quality.)

Linda Lyons getting her certificate from Nancy Wall

Meg Files, Chair of the Pima English Dept. and Pima Writer's Workshop founder

It's called the Martindale Literary Prize. It's an annual prize for short fiction, it began in 1988. The rules are that you can only submit one unpublished story, you can't have won before or be Pima faculty, the story has to be between 5,000 and 10,000 words AND you have to be taking at least one class at Pima Community College---so the applicant pool is pretty much limited to people in Tucson.

And the award is $1000! I'm still hyperventilating. I can't even explain how much this will help with my move to Minnesota. Things have been looking really grim on my financial front, lately.

As much as the money saves the day for me, this really does mean even more to me on an emotional and professional level. I feel SO grateful and so lucky. I hope this post doesn't come off as braggy, because that's not what I want. I'm just really happy---the MFA, and now this? It's like the world is telling me: Go ahead, do this. I've got your back. (And I go: Well, I was going to go for it anyway, but this really helps!)

The prize is a bit obscure, I have to admit. You'll have trouble finding information about it on the internet---apparently they don't have a website set up for it. (I'm tempted to ask them if they'd like me to make one for them! But I know that's crazy talk.)

So please forgive me---I'm going to indulge myself a bit here, and tell you everything you'll ever never want to know about the Martindale Literary Prize.

I'm warning you ahead of time. I'm going to blab and blab, so feel free to skip this. Okay? Okay.

Kaleidoscope, published by Pima Press in 2007.
Kaleidoscope is an anthology of nineteen winning stories from a yearly contest at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona.

The competition, sponsored by the Martindale Educational Foundation, awards an annual prize of $1000. As Mr. Robert C. Martindale explained in 1987 at the first meeting to discuss this competition, his foundation was offering a substantial award, and he therefore expected substantial stories.

The judge for each year's competition is a well-known fiction writer, and all of the judges have commented on the unusually high quality of the work submitted. Several of the authors appearing in Kaleidoscope have had short story collections or novels published, while the work of others has appeared in serious literary journals, some publications containing the stories from this anthology.

Hey, wanna know who won the Martindale in 2000? Tayari Jones! Remember when I read Leaving Atlanta and loved it? She did her MFA at ASU, and she's fiction faculty at Rutgers-Newark now. The Untelling is on my list of must-read-soons.

Here's the flier that started this whole thing:

Wanna know what's funny? Peter Turchi and Charles Baxter (faculty at Minnesota) edited a book on craft together! It's called Bringing the Devil to His Knees: The Craft of Fiction and the Writing Life. Turchi was the director of the Warren Wilson MFA program from 1993-2008, and Baxter still teaches there, I think.

In case you're thinking, Hey, that sounds fishy!, let me assure you that this is just a wonderful cosmic coincidence. Check out the flier: They didn't say who the judge would be, and Turchi never saw my name. Even if he had, I can promise you that at this point I've said about seven words to Charles Baxter, (Hello, it's so good to meet you), and he has no idea what I'm doing with my insignificant little summer, or what kinds of longs shots I'm shooting for. Turchi did his MFA at the University of Arizona, so really it's not so strange that he's here to do the Workshop. But I just love unexpected connections like this.


What about the story? "Wet Season" was part of my MFA application portfolio. I wrote it for a summer fiction workshop taught by the excellent Rachel Yoder. At the time she was an MFA student at the University of Arizona. It was my first creative writing workshop, and she was just such a really engaging, dedicated, supportive teacher. Please, please go check out NewPage's review of Alligator Juniper, Prescott College's literary journal---she edited this issue!

I've revised the story a few times already, and I plan to keep working on it. After taking Laura Van Etten's awesome short fiction workshop this past semester, I realize that what I probably need to do is go back and cut, cut, cut. She has this way of saying things that really made stuff make sense to me in all kinds of new, sparking and/or comforting ways.

If you check out my earlier post, you'll see that I submitted this story to a few other contests/journals, and struck out. I guess it goes to show---just keep trying! You never know.


While I'm at it, I'd like to thank:

(Well, my family, of course, and S. But those are givens! Always.)

Rachel Yoder, Emily Lundin, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Manuel Muñoz, Laura Van Etten, Carlos Gallego, Tenney Nathanson, Judy Blunt, Terry Woronov, Praise Zenenga, Bridget Radcliff, Wendy Burk, Susan White, Ilham Khuri-Makdisi & Ron Grant. Thanks for being such inspirational (& dedicated!) writers, teachers and advisors. Your classes & workshops/story-essay-poem comments/advice, guidance & encouragment/recommendation letters/help ETC! have made such a huge huge difference in my life. Many of you probably have no idea what a big impact you've had on me---I really ought to do something about that.

There are SO many more wonderful teachers I'd like to mention here, but it would take miles...I hope you know who you are.

Not that most of these folks are likely to see this : )


Phew! It's ridiculous how long I've rambled on. Goodnight, world!

It's So Simple

Like Me?

This photo made little cartoon hearts swirl around my head.


From the Official White House Photostream:

President Barack Obama bends over so the son of a White House staff member can pat his head during a family visit to the Oval Office May 8, 2009. The youngster wanted to see if the President's haircut felt like his own.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

PS---Love, love.



Secret Identities

So---I've decided to blow my cover. I feel like I've gotten over some of my initial embarrassment, largely thanks to those of you who keep visiting, those of you who've taken the time to say a few words. So thanks for that.

Yes, I get pretty silly here, and no, it's nothing fancy. But it's me, or at least it's a little bit of me. Why be ashamed about that? I can put together a more professional-ish site if I ever get to the point where that's necessary.

My other concern was about privacy. The internets frighten me, to be honest---and that's weird, because I tend to be a bit of an internet addict. But I've been delving into the world of blogs more and more lately, and there are plenty of real people out there who use their real names to blog, and they seem none the worse for wear. My friend S. does, and she hasn't had any problems. Same with Twitter---apparently it's no big deal. I guess I'm just more old fashioned than I thought.

I want to be able to share stuff, and sometimes that means I can't be anonymous. Like now: Look, the Minnesota MFA program is welcoming our incoming class! Me, right there, it's real! *happiness*

I'll try it out for a while. If the sky doesn't come crashing down, I guess I'll stick with it.

Here we go (knock on wood):

Hi, I'm Wahida. It's nice to meet you!

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW: LIMITING OR AUTHENTIC? Blog post at Racialicious, by Neesha Meminger

I want to talk about this excellent, thought-provoking Racialicious guest post, by Neesha Meminger, when I'm not so tired. Here are a few excerpts:

Is it cool for white people to write from the perspective of people of color? How about [...] for men to write from the perspective of women? [Etc, right?]

[...] in an interview on, Sherman Alexie, author of Ten Little Indians and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, as well as the writer/director for Smoke Signals, jokingly suggested a “10-year moratorium for white writers so that Indians can tell their own stories instead of having white people tell them. ‘The fact is, when white authors step away from their typewriters, they’re still white. When I get up from the typewriter, I’m still an Indian.’ He wants those authors to question their privileged positions.”

So maybe that is the key: questioning our privileged locations within the social and economic framework within which we all live, write, and create, and then allowing that new consciousness or awareness to shape our work before we set it free to impact and help culturally define our world.

Alexie’s statement seems less about the products being created, and more about the systems in place that privilege and advantage some over others. In other words, rather than continually going to authors and filmmakers who already have a voice and platform, perhaps authors and filmmakers from under-represented communities should be sought out and nurtured/cultivated so that they can find, hone, and have their own voices heard.

[...] As a South Asian author writing YA, I know from experience that many editors are hesitant to pick up more than one novel with an Indian-American protagonist written by an Indian-American author – even if the two novels are different genres and about entirely different subjects – because both novels still fall under the Multicultural category. This often creates the “everyone elbowing for the one seat on the bus” phenomenon among the marginalized authors who have to fight for that one lone multicultural spot. But I digress…

Yet, as we all know from visiting our local bookstores, or taking an online stroll through Amazon, there is an abundance of books/films by white writers writing on every subject, in every genre – with more than one writer often covering the same topic for varying perspectives. A publishing house can have several white fantasy authors and historical romance authors, even a few writing about spiritual journeys and all of those books are seen as different books. None of my white author friends have ever had their agents come back to them with, “No, this editor declined because she already has a European title about identity issues.”

I, on the other hand, have heard that exact same phrase, substituting “European” with “Asian.” [...]

So, my question is this: would having more white writers producing books and films about people of color help writers of color? Would it be beneficial for there to at least be characters of color out there for people to read about and watch on screen, regardless of who writes them?

If white writers or filmmakers write and create the experiences of people of color, does this open doors for authors and filmmakers of color?

And what about the “limiting creativity/artistic expression” argument? Is it reasonable to ask white or male writers and filmmakers to “take responsibility” for the images they produce? What if we extend this to say that authors/filmmakers who have not experienced rape cannot write about or create films about rape? Or artists who have not lived in another country cannot write about or produce films about living in that country?

What about the converse: if men cannot write from the perspective of women, and white writers from the perspective of people of color, then what about women writing from the perspective of men? Or people of color from the perspective of white people?

What say you, oh Racialicious readers? If someone were to write a book or make a film about your life, who would you want telling your story? Would it matter what their background was? Or would you rather have someone teach you how to use the tools of the trade effectively so that you could tell your own story?

Meanwhile, go read the rest of it, and check out the discussion over at Racialicious. What do you think?


Check out this article over at the New York Times. They didn't talk to any writers, but it's still relevant.

Tight Times Loosen Creativity

Published: May 20, 2009
Hundreds of artists told us how the economy is affecting their lives and work.

There's a little video linked there, too:

The Recession-Proof Artist

Alexander Conner is an interdisciplinary artist continuing to make his art despite living on $12,000 a year.

Ha, "despite living on $12,000 a year?" It's a how-to for my life, and future : )

He lost points when he said "I'm a really great artist," or whatever he said, because who says that? With a straight face, no qualifiers, on camera?

If I EVER say "I'm a really great writer," please pinch me, really hard, and then stop speaking to me until I snap out of it.

Plus, he's got no student debt. He's got a job at a museum. This guy is living the sweet life, at least for now.

Hey though, good for him.

DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL, by Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse (visuals by David Lynch)

I've been feeling pretty burned out on music for a while. This really kicked me awake. I listened to the whole album (via the stream over at NPR) at least three times in a row today.

Apparently there were legal problems with the label (they wanted to shelve the album?!), so the project is being sold as a book of photography by David Lynch, along with---get this---a blank CD-R. Guess what you're supposed to do with it?

I can't wait to check out the art (can't exactly afford the $50 book right now, but I'm hoping there will be other ways to view?) You can also get a $10 poster/CD-R package.

Check it out at the official website:

"Danger Mouse's project Dark Night of the Soul consists of an album length piece of music by Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse and a host of guest vocalists, along with a collection of original David Lynch photography inspired by and based on the music.

The photographs, which provide a visual narrative for the music, are compiled in a limited edition, hand numbered 100+ page book which will now come with a blank, recordable CD-R. All copies will be clearly labeled: 'For Legal Reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will.'

Due to an ongoing dispute with EMI, Danger Mouse is unable to release the recorded music for Dark Night of the Soul without fear of being sued by EMI.

Danger Mouse remains hugely proud of Dark Night of the Soul and hopes that people lucky enough to hear the music, by whatever means, are as excited by it as he is."

Hint, hint. An article at NPR lists the collaborators:

In addition to Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, other artists appearing on Dark Night of the Soul include James Mercer of The Shins, The Flaming Lips, Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals, Jason Lytle of Grandaddy, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, Frank Black of the Pixies, Iggy Pop, Nina Persson of The Cardigans, Suzanne Vega, Vic Chesnutt, David Lynch, and Scott Spillane of Neutral Milk Hotel and The Gerbils.

Now go listen!

How to Fail, Saturday Style

1) Assemble file boxes.

2) Tear house apart.

3) Say, "Screw this."

4) Eat ice cream, watch TV.

5) Trip over huge paper mess for next few weeks.

Oh, and while I'm at it, this amuses me:

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Also in recent news, I saw the new Star Trek at the drive-in last Saturday night. Completely awesome, and I've come to a realization, (see Armali.)

I am Spock!

Live long and prosper, folks.

Poetry in the White House!

Who woulda useda thunkit? Things really are looking brighter, in places.

From the White House blog:

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Poetry, Music and Spoken Word

Tonight, the President and the First Lady will host an evening celebrating poetry, music and the spoken word. This event is designed around the theme of dialogue, showing how dialogue is important in every aspect of who we are as Americans and as human beings, and demonstrating how communication is a constant throughout the ages. The hope is also that this evening's gathering helps ensure that all voices are heard, particularly voices that are often not heard. We are fortunate to have a wide variety of upcoming and legendary performers such as Joshua Bennett, James Earl Jones, Eric Lewis, Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, Mayda Del Valle and Esperanza Spalding.

We have invited students from American, Galludet, Georgetown, and Howard Universities to participate in the event. And of course we also invite you to join us, as we're streaming the event live at 7pm on

For anyone who might be interested, Saul Williams is there somewhere. Check out his updates tonight on twitter: @SaulWilliams

(Here's a fun one I saw a little while ago: SaulWilliams They're playing Nina Simone in the white house!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! )


PS, an update.

I asked around. Apparently I'm the last 25-year-old on earth to start graying. Who knew? It must be my strong Armali (Armenian-Somali) blood.

My grandmother wrote me a letter, I got it yesterday. She's always so sweet and supportive, in a strange and wonderful way:

We will be okay and pray that all of our loved ones will also be okay.
(I'm sure we all will as we have strong Armenian constitutions.) xxxoooo

I love you too, Gramma.

Happy Mother's Day, Mamas.


I found a white hair today. I'm 25. At first it freaked me out, but then I thought of my mom's awesome white streak. I kinda want one.

What People Say About the Midwest in General, Minneapolis in Particular

Coming soon.


"But really, what interesting happened in a home?"

Last Minute Story (Bad, Writer)

  1. Icon_lockladies and gentlemen, 4058 words. and i think we have an ending here. goodnight, seattle!
  2. Icon_lock@ms. x: i'm required to put a word count in the header. less than 4000 or over 5000 and we get docked a grade. thems the breaks.
  3. Icon_lockthey're closing the Boston Globe?! (...300 to go.)
  4. Icon_lock400 left. my pace is slowing...i'm getting sleepy. and distracted. @ms. x: i wish there was a patch for this.
  5. Icon_locktook a break for dinner, against better judgment. up past bedtime. 500 words left @ms. x: admitting we have a problem is the 1st step.
  6. Icon_lock600 to go...must. find. ending.
  7. Icon_lock3135... @ms. y: thank goodness, it's how many words i have done. thanks for the luck! i'm getting so close. just need to find an ending.
  8. Icon_lock3015...@ms. x: thanks for the encouragement! let's hope i get over this procrastination thing before grad school : )
  9. Icon_lock2845.
  10. Icon_lock2436.
  11. Icon_lock2263. i think tweeting about it actually helps keep me motivated.
  12. Icon_lock2028 down! over the halfway mark. but my bedtime is 10 pm, since i have to wake up at 4 am for work. so i'd better get moving.
  13. Icon_lock1846 down.
  14. Icon_lock2678, i suck at math.
  15. Icon_lock1322 down, (4000-1322=wait...2778? oh crap) to go
  16. Icon_lock900 words down, 3100 to go. This is pathetic.
  17. Icon_lock@ms. y: I know the feeling!
  18. Icon_lockbad writer.
  19. Icon_lockturning off the internet, writing if it kills me.
  20. Icon_lock@ms. x: thanks for the stories, you're my hero : )
  21. Icon_lock@ms. x: good suggestion, thanks. i've been looking over prompts. i have about six different starts, but feel crappy about all of them.
  22. Icon_lock@ms. x: ugh, i'm so blocked, and i need a story by monday. why must i be such a procrastination junkie? and now i'm twittering...
  23. Icon_lockdevoid of ideas.

Something Beautiful (Happy Birthday, Happy Graduation Sisters)

Our Mama.