Mysterious Amazingness

DayDeadVader

Day of the Dead at Mysterious Galaxy!

Yay for indie bookstores!

Special thanks to the amazing Maryelizabeth Hart and the crew at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego for supporting local writers and always hosting spectacular events, including the monthly local authors events and the recent Day of the Dead reading and signing. Death and I were able to hang out with some amazing HWA writers and heard some truly fantastical stories (some of which were a little scary for Death and me, but we got through it!)

See below for a sneak peak at the reading!

 

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creepy little bookstore display!

Maryelizabeth

Tiffany, death poems and Maryelizabeth, aka indie bookstore guru

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beth Accomando and me

KPBS horror geek Beth Accomando snagging a copy of death poems’ for her mom’s birthday. Yes, I just said that.

local authors mysterious galaxy

Local authors event in July. (Death poems require humorous delivery.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tiffany Joins a Panel of San Diego Indie Writers!

Tuesday July 8

San Diego Writers, Ink has graciously invited us to host an event on indie publishing on Tuesday, July 8 at 7 pm. Join us for an evening of book signings, readings and publishing discussions.

The Ink Spot Gallery Space in Liberty Station
2730 Historic Decatur Rd.
Barracks 16, Suite 202
San Diego, CA 92106

This free event is hosted by:

Tiffany Tang, author of the recently published creepy little death poems

Dominic Carrillo, author of Americano Abroad, 2014 SD Book Award Finalist for Travel Writing

Laura Preble, author of OUT, 2014 SD Book Award Finalist for Young Adult Fiction.

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…introducing ‘creepy little death poems,’ the book!

creepy little death poems picAs most of you will recall, in September of 2012, I wrote a blog entry entitled “Write Out the Dark Spots” about the transformative power of writing. It was a vulnerable post, exposing my struggles with overcoming depression. However, it was also a necessary post. In order to mine my creative worth, I had to explore the obstacles. In this post, I introduced my “creepy little death poems.”

The response was quite supportive, and people sort of became fans of the poetry. It was dark. It was funny – at least I thought so. People were probably surprised. As I mentioned in the post, I’m not someone who typically walks around talking about death…

Because the response to this blog post was so positive, I decided to take advantage of National Poetry Month in April of 2013 to post 30 days of “creepy little death poems” on Facebook – mostly on a dare. What followed was a month of humor and darkness that got everyone around me giggling. Well, most everyone. My mother was worried about me. Peripheral Facebook connections were either hesitant about commenting on my page or over the moon about the poems.

But mostly, people really dug them. I was happy. I dug them, too.

Early in 2014, I was cast in a production of “Macbeth” at Intrepid Shakespeare Company, where I was handed a challenge: find an illustrator, create a book and we will sell your ‘death poems’ in the lobby.

Challenge accepted.

I found a ‘death poem’ kindred spirit in Lizzie Silverman’s clever artwork and together we created this compilation. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that people want to have this on their bookshelves.

What started as a very awkward step towards uncovering the darkness has turned into thousands of points of light and I am grateful to have people around me who say they believe – in me, in the amazingness of creating work, and in the idea that when we support each other’s artistic pursuits, we all benefit.

Thank you!

Grab a copy of “creepy little death poems” here.

 

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Featured in the U-T San Diego!

UT1San Diego’s newspaper, the Union-Tribune (U-T), recently invited me to do a four-part series for the Sunday Arts section chronicling a behind-the-scenes perspective of my role as a Witch in Intrepid Shakespeare Company’s Macbeth. Thanks to Arts & Entertainment Editor Michael Rocha for giving me the space to say things like “prosthetic glue boogers” and “pig intestines” in print. That is what I call ‘trusting a writer’ and I am very grateful.

James Hebert, theatre critic for the U-T, says, “If you haven’t had a chance to check out our ongoing ‘Actor’s Diary’ by Tiffany Tang, who’s now appearing as one of the witches in Intrepid Shakespeare Co.’s Macbeth, you’re missing out on some excellent writing and vivid behind-the-scenes insights.” Aw, shucks, Jim.

Links to the four installments of the ‘Actor’s Diary’ are below.

Part 1: Summoning the Sisters

Part 2: Coping with the Opening

Part 3: Bewitched Backstage

Part 4: Final Moments

Also, check out the U-T‘s accompanying video package on Macbeth.

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Americano Returns: Author Interview with Dominic Carrillo

Dominic Carrillo has created a new holiday tradition: Fly home to San Diego, spend time with family and friends, host a book signing for a recent publication at a local trendy hot spot, and return to his adventurous life abroad.

Since the debut of his first book last year, To Be Frank Diego, a novel which follows the struggle of a racially mixed main character as he navigates growing up just north of the Mexican border, Dominic has been eager to compile his more autobiographical pieces into a second offering.

This year, Americano Abroad is the result: a compilation of essays lifted from his popular travel blog of the same name. The San Diego book signing will be held at the evening before Dominic returns to teaching in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Deciding what to include in the collection was no easy feat. Publication of some of his pieces in the San Diego Reader helped make the decisions as well as an expat writing group in Sofia. Separated into three sections, the book begins with an exploration of Italy, Dominic’s first experience living abroad, The writing then moves through Nigeria, his first official teaching stint, and into Bulgaria, where he now resides.

Although he describes the book as “memoir,” Dominic is quick to point out that it is no Eat, Pray, Love. In addition to reflections on his local surroundings, the book is also interspersed with homecomings and analysis of American culture. In fact, as much as the essays seem to be an exploration of Dominic’s travels, his writing spends an equal amount of time unpacking what it is to be an “American,” as the title of his book suggests.

“At a certain point in defining what it is to be American, it’s necessary to be outside of America to reflect on that and figure out what that means,” says Dominic, continuing his navigation of themes of identity which began with Frank Diego. “If I think about myself as Mexican-American. But then I’m in Bulgaria, and to locals, I look Turkish or Greek. And then in Nigeria, I might say to others that I’m half Mexican, but to them, I’m white. To be in these three different places and then trying to position my identity in those places, it’s kind of a weird twist.”

In addition to the geographical location, what also shifts in Dominic’s book is the tone.  While Italy is full of humor and expectation, Nigeria’s tales settle into ominous simplification, as he takes in his surroundings moment by moment. The narration shifts from the gentle self-deprecation of first person to the stark immediacy of second:

The loud buzz of the generator engine dies. The lights go out. Now it is only you and the insects— most of which are outside— producing a harmonious chorus of humming and chirping. The live creatures inside your room have already been accepted as a fact of life and simply categorized into “good” or “bad.” The gecko eats other insects, so he’s welcome. The cricket is harmless. But spiders here are large and potentially poisonous, and scorpions are not uncommon, so you kill them if you can, before the lights go out. (“Reading at Night in Nigeria”)

“In Italy, I tried to turn my complaints into humor and joke about it,” Dominic says. “In Nigeria, the switch was that I realized I didn’t have the right to complain about anything. There’s such poverty and every reason for people there to be hopeless and pissed. And people were awesome. They were genuine and happy and welcoming.” The awe in his voice is unmistakable, even though it’s been many months since his stint with the boarding school there.

From there, everything changes. The writing from Bulgaria is infused with appreciation, as if the practice of moment-to-moment living Dominic gleaned in Nigeria has never really left him. Even Dominic has noticed the difference in his own “Americano” analysis of his foreign surroundings.

“It’s a different kind of reality check,” he says, commenting on how his teaching colleagues stationed in other countries would ask about Bulgaria with a smirk, as if this situation was somehow less glamorous. “Everything after [Nigeria]… I just felt thankful and grateful for everything I have.” Dominic has just re-upped for a second year of his English teaching position in Sofia.

Those feelings of gratitude also extend to his local fan base. Sharing his new book with family and friends in San Diego is becoming part of the publication process, and he continually finds the support overwhelming. The reactions of these readers who have followed his blog since its inception have had a huge impact on his voice, Dominic says.

“In the beginning, it was trial and error,” he says, explaining that his first pass at travel blog writing resulted in guided tour analyses, containing very little personal commentary and very little humor. Three blog entries later, with a little exposure to David Sedaris and some positive feedback on the more sarcastic portions of his pieces, Dominic wrote what would become the first chapter of the book – a humorous commentary on teaching English in Italy and feeling like a fraud. This entry caught the attention of his eighth grade English teacher in San Diego.

“I posted that and Jeanine Bennett wrote back to me and said that she woke up at 6 am to go to school and read that and was cracking up. And of course, I almost started crying. In Italy, I was like, ‘Oh my god, are you kidding me?’ I got a few more comments like that from that story and I thought, this is the voice, this is where I should be writing from.”

dominic  and books

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La Gilbert

Liz BN EventSay what you want about behemoth bookshops. Barnes & Noble has been quite good to me over the years, if only for the fact that they have provided me with opportunities to exchange a laugh or two with people who completely inspire me.

(Note to self: tell the story about meeting the graceful Susan Egan in a New York City BN and how she subsequently, divinely, and synchronistically sent you the elusive sheet music you had been seeking out for months. Well, actually, that’s pretty much the story.)

Last Monday, Barnes & Noble sent me Elizabeth Gilbert.

Yes, I’m a big Eat, Pray, Love fan. Who isn’t? Who didn’t read that book and all of a sudden treat themselves to luxurious artist dates consisting of solitary brunches and meditative labyrinth walks? Who didn’t follow her journey and repetitively conjure up friend after friend who would appreciate this section or that? “Oh, Suzanna would love this part about Italy,” I would think to myself while reading, and “I wonder what Stacia would think about this part in the ashram?” or “I can absolutely see Lisa and Tatiana and I having this conversation over dinner at French Roast.” And on it went. Book clubs happened. Copies were wrapped in Christmas paper and sent to the post. It was, and still is, at the top of my reading recommendation list.

But I think the appeal of that book is more than the fact that it’s a good read. I think the appeal comes from the fact that it’s so incredibly relatable. The voice is not an unfamiliar one. And as we watch the author “Frankenstein” her way through her experiences, as she might say, we get a sense of how to go about unpacking our own journeys, or at least perhaps how to  summon the courage to try. (Please note: the word “Frankenstein” can only be used as a verb if it is accompanied with the proper Frankenstein’s monster-ish walk, a proper illustration of what it is like, sometimes, to do “new and scary things.”)

“Writing is the thread that has sewn my life together,” said Elizabeth Gilbert at the Barnes & Noble event space adjacent to the loudly colorful children’s section. At least, I think that’s what she said. In a moment of haste, regretting the absence of a notebook in my purse, I busted out a pencil and started scratching in the back of my copy of her latest offering, The Signature of All Things. Anyone who knows me has witnessed those moments when I am caught scrutinizing my own writing as if it were a secret message from Orphan Annie and I am sans a decoder ring. (Yes, my life revolves around Christmas references. Get over it.) So, bear with me.

I think anyone who calls herself a writer would recognize that notion of not being able to truly understand things until they’ve been… I was going to say “written down,” but actually I think “written through” is the more accurate preposition. To “write something down” has such finality. To “write through something” implies work, journey, understanding. Joan Didion said it so many times in her personal essays: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” Even now, I have a dear friend who is Frankensteining her way through unpacking her childhood abuse, writing through her experiences, bringing light to the dark corners.

I don’t know if Liz Gilbert feels exactly this way, but she contended that she even after the great success of EPL, she knew she couldn’t leave writing behind, get a big house, and “raise Corgis.” And so it is. Writing as necessity. In her own “Thoughts on Writing,” she says, “I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write.” Joan said, “We tell stories in order to live.” Indeed.

Of course, this blog is about the not writing, the question of what happens when that is true and yet the words/space/time/healthy psychological headspace don’t seem to come. Liz had some things to say about this, too.

Starting with something like “stop trying to find your passion.”

Instead, she said, seek out curiosity. “Passion” is a word so fraught with anxiety, she said, that it becomes yet another weight to bear sometimes. Follow curiosity, that “small tap on the shoulder that makes you turn your head just a quarter of an inch. It’s smaller, quieter, and less intimidating.”

Cue the cumulative sigh of everyone in the room abandoning their stressful adherence to “finding their passions.”

I love this about Liz. (I can call her “Liz,” because we are obviously BFFs now.) She completely dispels the idea of the tortured writing process. “Artistic torment is a really romantic idea,” she said in an interview with Globe and Mail last month, “but it’s not very conducive to output.” In other words, she admits that her artistic process “would not make a very good biopic.”

Since she was raised on a farm, she says, her writing process is seasonal: the season for inspiration, the season for research, the season for writing, editing, and finally, for rest. Sometimes these seasons can take days, and sometimes they can take months. Sometimes, like winter in Westeros, they can take years.

The Signature of All Things was written from a 70-page outline, which was constructed from the index-card fruit of three years in the research season. (Shout out to her West Civ teacher, Mr. Kisco, and his index card research methodologies.)

Three years of research. Three years of preparation. Three years of curiosity. After that, writing was like painting a room where the the furniture had already been moved and the windows pre-taped.

“I feel sorry for the girl I was in my 20s,” she laughed, who would often try to paint only to realize there was a couch in the way. She spoke of sitting and staring at the blank page wondering where the inspiration was going to come from. She would later discover the way of the creative warrior.

“Inspiration is like a one-night stand,” she said. “Creativity is a 40-year marriage.”

elizabeth-gilbertTEDOf course, we’ve all seen her eloquent TED talk, where she outlines the potential parameters of genius, inspiration, and creativity.

But the counterweight to creativity? Compassion.

In a discussion about women and artistic pursuits, Liz pointed out that we are very likely a “new species.” We have no role models, no history, no mythology to reference as we go about our lives making decisions about family and career and balance. Never before have we had such freedom of self-determination. Here, she referenced Martha Beck, fans of her Facebook page, and also her sister as examples of the one thing that will enable us to truly embrace who we are and shine appropriately – compassion, for each other, but most importantly for ourselves.

“Martha Beck defines the mystic as the woman who chooses family, or career, or both, but has enough compassion for herself not to constantly berate herself for not choosing the other path,” said Liz, sort of. She then told a tale of her sister and a significant gesture of compassion she extended towards another mother who was spiraling into an oblivion of unworthiness after witnessing the gingerbread houses that her own kids had put together while being babysat by Liz’s sister. That conversation started with “You’re a better mother than I am” and ended with, simply, “Let’s not do this to each other.”

The Facebook has become an extension of this compassionate community, aka “Tribe Liz,” and visiting her page is like a run-in with someone offering free hugs. But, the cool part is that she is quick to return the embrace. She keeps track of her people, reaching out to them when necessary, tethering them to the font of support which that space has become. There is the story of the young woman on the other side of the world who has shared her hardships on the page, who was sent a copy of The Signature of All Things, who responded in broken English with “You care on me!”

“Yes,” said Elizabeth Gilbert. “I care on you.” And, the funny thing is, in this world where our heroes are constantly disappointing us, she really does.

Check her out on book tour now.

me and Liz

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Eat an Elephant Beetle

dreamDreams are funny.

Typically, I feel as though I have two kinds of dreams.  One is some sort of processing activity – random images and feelings that are actually a decompression of my life experiences. The second are the dreams that seem to be something a little more. You know what I’m talking about: The dreams that seem like intricate stories or movies in your mind. The ones that come complete with sounds and colors and smells. The ones that actually seem to mean something.

Recently, I’ve been having some income work/creative work balance issues. That is, I am challenged by the time I spending on my writing obligations to others and my writing obligations to myself. I have blogged before on this topic, settling on the 10% theory, as a way of guaranteeing my creative funtime. But the 10% wasn’t working. I ended up spending way more time on my creative writing than I did on my income writing, or vice versa, and I was feeling deeply anxious about keeping up with everything. I needed some sort of plan beyond the 10% to help me right myself on the page. This was on my mind as I fell asleep a few days ago.

That night, I dreamt about a creepy insect. It would not leave me alone. It was everywhere: this giant beetle-like creature that I did not recognize and could not name. It infused my dream, like some sort of gruesome action sequence out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Upon waking (and resisting the urge to vomit into my pillow), I pretty much assumed that this was some sort of stress dream. Still, I was so perplexed by the pervasiveness of this insect in my dream that I had to sketch it out (which is an odd impulse for me since I draw like a worm). As I drew, I found that I kept wanting to add some sort of long appendage to the insect’s nose. I kept picturing it in my head, this black beetle with a…trunk.

Elephant Beetle

How strange, I thought as I sketched. I wonder. Is there such thing as…an elephant beetle?

Google taught me a lot about the insect world that morning (and freaked me the frak out). I did actually discover the existence of said Elephant Beetle, an insect I had never seen before and probably would not be a fan of actually encountering. (I can’t even look at this image for very long without cringing in my desk chair).

elephant beetle actual

The Elephant Beetle was a perplexing discovery, as the picture is remarkably close to my own kindergarten rendition of my dream beetle. My logical mind had been under the impression that dreams could only consist of images I had actually experienced in my waking life. This must be some magical message from the universe, I decided. Maybe it was a warning of danger to come. Maybe it was a sign to pay attention to where I am walking. I decided to delve further.

I paged through the Google listings, discovering oodles of information on Elephant Beetle native habitat (not California, thankfully), flight activity (WTF, these things fly?), and their potential to be weaponized (“future sci-fi thriller material,” I note in my journal).

Then, Google eventually led me to a hit on YouTube which caught my eye. It was entitled “The 6 ‘P’s to Overcoming Procrastination.” I was intrigued. Why in the world did this come up on a search for information on Elephant Beetles?

I started watching the video. It was good, full of interesting techniques to deal with procrastination. Okay, cool. Just when I was about to switch it off, at about the five minute mark, there it was.

All of a sudden, I knew why I dreamt of this creepy critter.

Beetle Procrastination

 

According to Kirsty O’Callaghan (who has the most amazing Australian accent, by the way), if you are having trouble balancing your necessities with your funtime, the first order of business in the morning is the thing you don’t want to do. There’s always that one thing that you have to do but you would much rather put off. Do it. Because after you do it, you will be free from the burden of it for the rest of the day, leaving your mind open to enjoy and explore.

She calls this “eating an Elephant Beetle.”

When I read this, something clicked in my head. Was this the answer to my balance frustrations? I thought about her advice. Yes, I could still spend my first 10% creatively – journaling, meditating, whatever I needed to do to wake up and feel grateful for the day. But the next step was not necessarily to delve into my creative funtime projects. The next step is to eat an Elephant Beetle.

It makes a lot of sense. Part of the reason we creative types resist the urge to indulge our projects is that we always feel the weight of something more pressing in our list of obligations. We try to compartmentalize, but sometimes it bleeds into our work without us being able to stop it, and all of a sudden we are making a “To Do List” in the margins of our morning pages. Perhaps if we spend the first task of the day eating our Elephant Beetles, they wouldn’t come creeping and crawling into our creative writing (or in my case, my dreams).

Maybe I will keep this Elephant Beetle picture by my computer each day until I actually finish whatever it is that would qualify as “eating” one. Then, I will give myself permission to turn the picture over and get to the things that fill my soul. Because, honestly, this picture terrifies me.

But it doesn’t scare me as much as not actually getting to write today.

 

Dream work, creative work and the illustrious Elizabeth Kemp (one of my grad school acting profs)

More from Kirsty O’Callaghan

Do you have any suggestions for links to dream interpretation? Please comment below.

writing

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The Sticking Place

Preschool“We’re lost.”

Bridget looks at me, her big eyes filling with tears.

She’s right.  I look up towards the crest of the canyon and the fence we hopped a half an hour ago.

Then, I realize: I don’t care.  Because I am four-years-old.  And I have just staged a prison break from my preschool.

I was never a rebellious child.  Okay, I did start that petition in the fourth grade denouncing mandatory recess activities.  So, political?  Maybe.  But, rebellious?  Never.

This preschool prison break was special, a moment of divine timing.  Sitting on my stiff scratchy school cot the day before, prepping for naptime, I noticed that the teachers did not check to see that all of us kids had made it in from the playground.

My mind began to race, the escape plan formulating quickly.

The next day, I approached the playground with a very specific agenda.  Phase #1: Act natural.  Phase #2: Take cover.  Phase #3:  Wait.  And that was as far as the plan went.

I played tag that day like my life depended on it, so as to not arouse any suspicion.  I carefully watched the teachers out of the corners of my eyes, tracking their positions.

After what seemed like an eternity, like, ten minutes, the bell rang.

It was naptime.  Phase #2 was a go.

I sought cover.  My fellow munchkins were now picking up sweaters, juice boxes and big red bouncy balls.  I waded through them upstream as they filtered back into the classroom.  I knelt behind a rock.

Time for Phase #3.  I pretended to tie my shoe.  A good cover story.  All I had to do now was wait.  The playground was emptying.  Almost there…

“Come on.”

Bridget’s voice startled me.  She wore a pink sundress and stared down at me from behind dark, mousey hair.

“You’re gonna miss naptime.”

“I’m coming,” I said, hoping she would take the bait and run along ahead of me.  She didn’t.  She waited.  Staring.  My time was running out.

I hadn’t planned on taking hostages, I mean, on having an accomplice.  I considered her.

“What’s your name?”

“Bridget,” she said.

Hmm.  I glanced at the classroom door where a teacher was ushering the last of the preschoolers inside.

Bridget would have to play ball.  Right now.

I grabbed her hand and pulled her into hiding.

“It will be fun,” I told her, because that is how you convince anyone to do anything when you are four-years-old

Bridget looked at me dubiously, but did not protest.  Minutes later, the rest of our classmates disappeared and the teacher shut the door, without a second glance outside.

And in that moment, we were free.

It was a feeling of freedom I would later come to recognize as the first-day-of-summer-vacation free.  Or the I’m-in-love-with-someone-who-actually-loves-me-back free.  Or the yay-I-have-health-insurance-again free.  And on that day, in that moment, with my accomplice Bridget, on the precipice of an adventure, it … was … glorious.

And then it was…confusing.  Now what do we do?

“Let’s hop the fence!” I suggested.

The preschool was perched on the edge of a canyon, a cavernous wasteland, full of strange adventure, portals through time and space, dinosaurs and aliens.

I yanked on Bridget’s arm and we darted across the empty playground.  She hesitated.

“What about the crows?” she whispered.

The teachers would sometimes take us on short walks through these badlands and if there was one thing we all knew for certain, it was that the canyon crows would eat you alive.

“I think they made that up,” I told her.  “So we wouldn’t run away.”

A few rusty metal scratches later, we were on the precipice of a new world.

The thought that we might get lost hadn’t occurred to me.  However, I wasn’t concerned.  At four, I would often ask department store clerks to announce my name over the loudspeaker because I had spent too long hiding inside a circular rack of dresses, pretending it was a fairy woodland, and I’d lost my mother.  I knew how to handle myself when things got dicey.

But, Bridget was about to lose it.  Thankfully, that’s when we stumbled upon a canyon oasis: a creek!…which was actually storm drain run off, but to us, an exotic swimming hole.  When you are four, your undergarments can always double as a bathing suit.  We immediately stripped to our skivvies and dove in.

And we swam.  We swam and dove and jumped and frolicked…right up until the point when the cops showed up.

My mother had come to pick me up from preschool, and for the first time the teachers realized that Bridget and I were nowhere to be found.

I tried to make conversation with the burly policeman who wrapped me in his big puffy jacket and carried me back up the hill.

“Hi, how are you? What’s your name?”

He didn’t answer me.  For the very first time that day, I wondered if I had done something wrong.

I look back on this now and my first thought is always the same.  Who WAS that four-year-old in that canyon?  And, more importantly, when can I get her back?  Because if there is any of her courage and confidence left inside of me somewhere, I’d really like to harness it and channel it into dating and job interviews, and I don’t know, taking over the world?

But that’s what’s great about childhood.  That’s what’s great about four-years-old.  When you run across these moments of truth, you do nothing but listen and believe.  The world has not told you any differently yet.  It will, eventually.  Eventually it will teach you about self-doubt and insecurity and the limits of your own safety.  But maybe not yet.  Maybe not at four.

April VAMPMaybe at four, you still believe.

This piece was written for So Say We All‘s April VAMP
“It Was Just a Phase,” performed on April 25, 2013
at the Whistle Stop in San Diego, CA.

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