Real-Life Living Arrangements

Posted on 15 August 2010

Welcome to my website and blog, where I intend to post thoughts on writing, books, rejection, publication, cats, cupcakes, and why my organic lilac bell peppers are dying, among other things.

My big news is that my short story collection, Living Arrangements, recently won the G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction and will be published by BkMk Press in 2011. In the coming weeks, I’ll post some true stories from people who have experienced difficult, surprising, infuriating, terrifying, or wonderful living situations – from experiencing the catastrophic earthquake in Chile to finding a tarantula in the garage and more.

As I started collecting real-life living arrangement stories, I realized I’m a little boring in this department. I haven’t lived through any major natural disasters or endured psychotic roommates. In fact, most of the examples that come to mind either highlight 1) my “creative” but totally ridiculous housekeeping solutions or 2) my penchant for killing things.

In my first post-college apartment, for example, I thought it would be clever to use overturned storage bins covered with tapestries for all my tables. (I also didn’t own an iron and tried to tackle wrinkles by heating a pot on the stove and then pressing it against the clothing, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Later, I lived in a lovely old apartment with walls so thin that I could hear, in detail, every argument (and makeup session) of the couple who lived above me. The woman’s SOP included screaming “You don’t love me!” followed by manic pacing up and down the length of the apartment. In high heels. At 3am.

This was the same apartment with the kitchen sink that didn’t have cold running water for months, and a financially strained landlord who let the building’s heat get shut off during a surprise spring snowstorm. But it’s also the apartment with the old ironing board that folded up into the wall, beautiful hardwood floors, ample closet space and tons of natural light.

Today, I live in a different apartment (with running water and heat and an iron and everything) with my husband and two cats. We have an antique sideboard, a tiny kitchen, and a balcony overlooking a slice of Lake Erie. I love that balcony. It holds my portable hammock and an organic container garden, which this year has produced lots of lettuce and basil, grape tomatoes, some cauliflower-in-waiting (fingers crossed), and three gorgeous lilac bell pepper plants that bore lots of peppers…before contracting some kind of disease that made every last pepper shrivel up and die.

Stay tuned for more real-life living arrangement stories as well as some tales from my writing life, like how I managed to write 2,000 words a day for a month straight while working full-time and not losing it, or why I’m a gigantic cliché and write in coffee shops.

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