WORDS, WORDS, WORDS.

IMAGE // Via katlightner

A few days ago, during Christmas morning, I watched my three year-old twin nephews play with glow in the dark dinosaurs on the living room floor.

“T-Wex!” one cried out, thrusting his Tyrannosaurus high into the air, a proclamation of this particular dinosaur’s terrible, mighty power.

“Stegosauwus,” the other murmured quietly, scooting his dinosaur along the ground in a show of humble deference.

Both the Tyrannosaurus and the Stegosaurus then mounted the edge of the couch, facing each other. This could only end badly.

The Tyrannosaurus charged the Stegosaurus like a Tyrannosaurus does — fast and ruthless. The Stegosaurus cowered at the end of the couch, awaiting certain death.

Just then, the Tyrannosaurus stopped short. “Where is my mommy?” it politely asked the Stegosaurus.

My nephew handling the Stegosaurus then reached down underneath the couch, to reveal an even larger Tyrannosaurus toy.  ”This is the mommy,” he said.

Then, mommy Tyrannosaurus and baby Tyrannosaurus turned tail and walked away from the Stegosaurus, leaving him in peace. It was a close call.

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Every long holiday — Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. — I momentarily cut my ties with social media, letting my Twitter and Facebook go fallow for a week or so while I do things like observe a Tyrannosaurus Rex pine for its mommy. I’m not sure if this is the way you’re supposed to do it as a blogger, and yes, I do feel smug admitting this to you. Like, look at me! I can walk away! My blog does not control me! I’m the one in charge, blog. Me. Tolly.

But to be honest with you, it does take a few jumpstarts to get my writing muscle going again after I take a break like this, even on Twitter. I’ll come up with some half-baked witticisms to share…and then, they just evaporate. It’s exactly like being a runner, lacing up your shoes again after a week of ham and pie consumption, and your legs feel like lead. You’re all, “hey, aren’t I the same badass who can run around Town Lake five times?” But, your body parts, and specifically your wheezing lungs, don’t quite remember that.

So here we are. I am Stella. And I am trying to get my groove back.

Whenever this happens, I go in search of good writing. Reading a snappy, funny essay can help me correct course, and restore my ability to draw out whole sentences and paragraphs again. I’m not sure how many of you are writers. But because you’re still reading this blog post, I’m willing to bet you are a reader, eh?

There’s this too. While the end of Christmas (and especially New Year’s) can feel like an emotional denouement of sorts, a sagging “meh…now what?” kind of feeling while you huddle over a cup of sad seasonal Starbucks, a wonderful, subtle thing happens.

Everybody chills the fuck out.

People stop being hyper-productive.  I mean, those of us who work still work — but we’re a tiny bit lazier about it. And I love that. For one delicious week or two, it’s OK to goof off.

So with that collective easing up, coupled with my own personal need to write well again, I’ve compiled a list of short, single-sitting articles and stories. They are just long enough to gulp down with your morning coffee, or to read on a subway or bus, if you’re in a subway or bus kind of place. Enjoy!

<< GOOD WRITING FOR THE WINTER: 9 GEMS >>

1. “The Year That Was and Wasn’t,” via The Morning News. A handful of thoughtful, funny writers answer the question: What were the most important events of 2012 — and what were the least?

Quote: “Based on what I gleaned from my Twitter feed, there were tiny monkeys in sheepskin jackets in IKEA, but they were all sold out by the time I got there.”

2. “What I Wore,” via The Fabulous Geezersisters. Before fur coats fell out of style, they symbolized something weighty and real to children of the Great Depression. My favorite Austin blogger, author Ruth Pennebaker, writes about inheriting her mother’s.

Quote: “I wore it last week. It settled on me with the odd weight an inherited item carries — the aspirations and the triumphs it represented to those who bought it.”

3. “As Loud as I Wanted,” via Orangette. Oh, Orangette. Blog-begun-during-Web 1.0 Orangette! You can’t link to single blog posts on Orangette, because blogger Molly Wizenberg has either a) not figured out how to enable this function on Blogger or b) has bigger things to worry about, like having a baby and operating two successful Seattle restaurants and generally being awesome. Either way, it’s OK, because I’ve linked to the November 2012 archive and that’ll take you straight there. Anyway! This sweet post is an update, just an update, on Molly’s life, but her turns of phrase and crafted sentences are so calming and quality and real that it’s worth your time. This is an especially good one to read at home, all snuggly on the couch, like I am now.

Quote: “Someday, when she’s moaning about how ancient and uncool and deaf we are, I’ll tell her about the days when we were seeing Springsteen and sacrificing our hearing and she was drooling shamelessly all over a borrowed hotel playpen.”

4. “Nobody Says I Love You Anymore,” via The Morning News. God, I cannot get enough of Sarah Hepola, the author of this essay. I fear my fandom is turning awkward because I know Sarah, sort of, if you count email relationships. Sarah published me in Salon earlier this year, for which I am incredibly grateful, but Sarah’s real gift that keeps on giving (to me, anyway) is her storytelling. This is an essay any Texan can appreciatie, especially if you live in Austin, and most especially if you live in Dallas. If you have even a rough sketch of these two cities in your mind, go read it.

Quote: “When I moved from Manhattan back to my hometown of Dallas last June, people asked the same question: “Why?”

5. “The Rumpus Interview with Molly Ringwald,” via The Rumpus. This was the article that clued me into the fact that Molly Ringwald is an author! Did you know that? I didn’t. And by the looks of this interview, she sounds like a pretty good one, too.

Quote: ”Time is a beast that my husband Panio and I struggle with every single day. We negotiate every night who gets to write, and who has to pick up the kids, go grocery shopping, etc. He likes to say that it’s just a matter of desperation—whoever is the most desperate and looks like they will sink into a pit of despair if they don’t get some writing time in is usually the one who gets the hours in the next day.”

6. “Christmas in 3-D,” via This American Life. So this one is a podcast, not a written story proper, so you’ll either have to whip out your headphones or find a safe, quiet place to listen. It’s the story of a couple of parents who try to make Christmas as real as possible for their children, but not in the conventional way — rather, in a dark, somewhat deceptive way.

Quote: “His parents were determined to make the magic of Christmas come alive for their three kids, Colin, Adam and Erica, — but they went further than any parents I know.”

7. “Why Won’t Bacon Go Away?” via Time Magazine. Josh Ozersky, my “Hungry In” cohost and personal food writer icon, tackles a question I’ve pondered, too. Haven’t you?

Quote: “I love bacon. I’ve rhapsodized about it on TV, had it sent to me in the mail, even written a poem about it. I eat it almost every day. But bacon as a trend is a monster that won’t die, and I can’t understand why.”

8. “It’s Decorate Gourd Season, Motherfuckers,” via McSweeney’s. Oh my God, I’m not sure when I discovered this essay earlier this year, but I just remember LOSING IT within the first three sentences, then shoving it into people’s faces for a solid month. There’s no way to describe it except as: An enthusiastic take on fall interior decor.

Quote: “I may even throw some multi-colored leaves into the mix, all haphazard like a crisp October breeze just blew through and fucked that shit up.”

9. “No Evidence of Disease,” via Idle Words. I heard about this story on a podcast I listen to, and while long, it is so creepy and chilling and worthwhile. The premise is this: A girl with cancer becomes close with another cancer patient, until the latter goes in for a major surgery — and then, things take a really interesting turn.

Quote: I’m not even going to quote it since I don’t want to give anything away! Just promise me you’ll go read it.

  • Not a frilly girl

    I read Sarah Hepola’s essay and totally get it. I had the same upbringing in Dallas (Mesquite) and also went to college in Austin in the early 90s. Austin was so sparkly in comparison.

    I’ve been in New Jersey for 15 YEARS – it’s not New York, but to my family in Texas, it might as well be.

    • http://www.austineavesdropper.com Tolly Moseley

      I know. I grew up in San Antonio, which I’ve come to appreciate now that I’m older — but I remember driving down Guadalupe for the first time when I was 20, with a girlfriend, and it just blowing my mind.

      Also, a coincidence connects us. Most of my best friends are from Jersey! Which part are you from?

      • Not a filly girl

        In the middle of the ‘burbs – Somerset county

  • Laura K

    Wow, that last story “no evidence of disease” was caraaaazy. Such an interesting read. Thanks for sharing all the great links!

  • Breanna

    Oh mah gawd. When I first read that McSweeney’s article waybackwheneverthatwas, I died. I just reread and am dying again. If I were ever to write something for McSweeney’s, this is the type of thing I would like to write.

    I heart Orangette. So much.

    I’ma go read that creepy article now.