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  • The football player who sits in the back corner of Expository Writing and doesn’t say much, then turns in a rather stunning personal narrative about what he learned from a child in Haiti who needed a glass of water. This was no fly-by-night church trip, but a longstanding engagement marked by humility and hope. These are the best kinds of surprises.


  • Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love, an almost shockingly good literary novel, every page of which reminds me of why the bookish life is the life for me. I go back over sentences two and three and four times to catch my breath, and to absorb the beauty of the language along with the compelling narrative.
  • On audio-book: Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon, and its narrator, 15-year-old Anais Hendricks. I’ve read reader complaints that she’s unlikeable and even un-redeemable. They seem to want her to have some obvious soft spot. I couldn’t disagree more. Also, kudos to voice talent Gayle Madine, whose reading is sensitive and smart.


  • Season Two of the British coming-of-age series Skins. It took half of the first season to hit its stride and take itself seriously enough to jump from entertaining and funny (if indulgent) to seriously poignant. Season Two was some of the best television I’ve ever seen.


  • My October trip to Michigan for a writers retreat with some of the best people I know. My friends who live and write at the intersection of art and faith have been a boon to me since coming to the Midwest over three years ago. I savor every chance I get to see them in person. This retreat even includes a poetry reading at the New Buffalo Township Library.
  • My November trip to the Sanibel Island Writers Conference. I’ll fly into Tampa to see my younger brother, his wife, and my barely-six-month-old niece, whom I’ll be meeting for the first time. Then I’ll roll down the coast to attend multi-genre lectures with many well-known exemplars of craft. Top it off with Gary Louris of The Jayhawks on hand and a keynote by Richard Russo.


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