conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

And we’re back

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As a big old winner, mind you.


Written by kirkistan

November 30, 2015 at 8:25 am

A Story: When Pinky Proposed to Bette (#323)

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Originally posted on Dumb Sketch Daily:

NaNoWriMo in Progress

One weekend I flew in to Atlanta on my way to a conference. I had a day layover and I had arranged a dinner with Bette, at her favorite Vietnamese restaurant. It was a warm place, full of every tasty smell you can think of. Cabbage and long-simmered pork and beef broth. The place was a kaleidoscope of people, every ethnicity. Every shape and size. Each table a crazy combination of hues. All tucking into bowls of pho and vermicelli salads. I would be tempted to come to this place just to see the people.

But my business that evening had a more long-term ring to it. That is, I had a ring, which I brought out toward the end of the meal.

“Bette,” I said.

I held her hand.

“I know I can never replace Howie,” I said. “And I don’t want to. Howie was my…

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Written by kirkistan

November 19, 2015 at 5:55 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Tiny Capital

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Breaking from NaNoWriMo for four minutes because, well, you’ll see


Eirik Evjen Photography via 1001 Scribbles

Written by kirkistan

November 15, 2015 at 8:55 am

The Naked Copywriter (NaNoWriMo)

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I’ll be absent for a month or so.


November is National Novel Writing Month. Last year I wrote the 50,000 word Fresh Water Fetish. This year’s 50,000 words are dedicated to story and explication around what it means to live a creative life. This may be a novel. It may be creative non-fiction. But in 30 days and 50,000 words I’ll have a better idea.

If, in my absence, you wonder what “conversation is an engine” might say about any particular topic, just type your term in the search bar. There are more than 1130 posts here–feel free to browse.

Alternatively: write your own novel for NaNoWriMo!


Written by kirkistan

November 1, 2015 at 5:00 am

Does Faith Make You Stupid?

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Given current national examples, one wonders.

I want to say “No.”

As a person of faith, I want to think that trust in God does not make a person stupid. My own experience is that faith in God opens a world of possibility for thoughtful responses to life. Faith can be a platform for reading and testing and trying and understanding. Though more often faith is portrayed as a ridiculous intellectual straight-jacket; that half-truth is not the whole truth. I’m no historian, but I think I could find examples through history of people motivated by faith who moved us forward.


I get that lots of Christian churches don’t make a place for questions. I get that lots of people of faith don’t want to apply logic and reason to their scriptures and their faith, though logic and reason remain our primary tools for dealing with life on this planet.

I am also comfortable with the leaps of faith that defy logic—especially when we recognize when we are leaping. Still. Our leaps of faith must be informed by and grappling with and in tension with logic and reason. It cannot be otherwise and we cannot turn off one part of our brains and still expect to move forward. Knee-jerk, automatic responses, especially those that cater to our national fears, they simply don’t have a place in a thoughtful life. Automatic responses don’t help with seeking truth. Maybe it is the automatic responses and pat answers that make people of faith look stupid.

I resonate with Lynnell Mickelsen’s recent commentary about rigid, calcified thinking that stands as a barrier to forward movement. Mickelsen wrote of her fundamentalist upbringing and brought her experience to bear on current education hurdles. She was able to note that progress halts when we hold to a party line rather than continue to seek truth.

But…does faith make you stupid? Again: No. Some of the smartest people I know have a deep faith commitment. Accomplished people: physicians and professors and philosophers and writers and engineers and builders and mechanics and teachers and makers and organizers—all sorts of people. Smart, aware people. People who seek truth and have their listening-antennae raised quite high indeed.

Does faith make you stupid?

Not necessarily: but don’t look to the media (and especially the presidential race) for counter-examples.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

October 27, 2015 at 10:20 am

Happily Ever After

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Escape the orbit of your status quo stories

AnaLouise Keating names “status quo stories” as a chief culprit in reinforcing the same old binary direction choices we fall into day after day. In her book Teaching Transformation (NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), she details the ways she helps students identify and reflect on all sorts of status quo stories—stories from racial identity to sexuality to our cherished pull-yourself-up-by-your- bootstraps, I-did-it-my-way tales. The stories we tell ourselves have a way of constructing the world we inhabit:

In various ways and to various degrees, we co-create the world we inhabit.

–AnaLouise Keating


These very stories serve as guiding lights for much of our lives because they signal the direction we should take. But over time the stories can also serve as a sort of tomb, if they go unexamined. Part of that has to do with the custom nature of humanity: we’re not all the same (it turns out) and so we’re not all going in the same direction. And by the way, mass-marketing is heaving its last gasps. So there is good reason to stop and examine the stories that drive us.

Under a microscope, some stories hold up and even blossom with new suggestions that point in solid directions. Others of those stories start to smell like the dead mouse under the stove: rank and yukko. For myself, when I reread Luke’s account of what Jesus actually said, it is full of life (precisely because he points at death, strangely). And then I wonder how faith-stories in the United States have wandered so far into power-hungry, money-hungry, empire-building waters.

Many faith stories from the last several decades stink to high heaven.

Once you start to identify status quo stories, you see them all over the place. And that’s a good thing, because each needs to be examined and given a green light or a red light. As I prepare for teaching writing students, I am on the lookout for new stories that will help them craft a useful writing life full of daily meaning-making.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Notes on the Impossible: Work-Life Balance

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…in the deeper, unspoken realms of the human psyche, work and life are not separate things, and therefore cannot be balanced against each other except to create further trouble.

–David Whyte, The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship (NY: Riverhead Books, 2009)


Image Credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

October 19, 2015 at 8:38 am


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