Julie Marie Wade


The Southeast Review Volume 30.1

         I always had “good bones,” the doctor said, tapping my knee with his tiny hammer. “Fine bone structure,” it was clear to see, like my mother, who—by her own estimation—was still beautiful despite her large bones. “But women like us,” she said. “We have to work a little harder.”
          Women like us. I swallowed the words. What kind of women were we? I attempted the math. How many kinds of women could there be?

          I had been dancing with Katy Parker since kindergarten. There was nothing plush about her, nothing soft. Her body an X-ray of itself—the bones always showing, always poking through like nails in plaster, with a face blank and bare, as if someone had forgotten to hang a picture. Small and flexible, she slid down easily into the splits; strong and confident, she rose up easily onto her toes, pirouette after pirouette, followed by the perfect curtsy.
          I could not dance. I moved awkwardly through the motions, body at a distance, a thing to be reckoned with, separate from myself. They kept me in the chorus mostly, in the back because I was tall—a choreographer’s ready-made alibi. It didn’t matter about the spotlight. I didn’t want to be showcased; I knew I had nothing to show. But at the end of each night, each performance on the Chief Sealth High School stage, Katy’s parents brought her roses. She held them in her arms like a newborn baby, rocking them, the green tissue paper drawn back so strangers could see their pretty faces, red and pink and golden. The fragrance filled the dressing room. Other girls gathered around to admire.
          When I mentioned it once to my mother—this spectacle of roses—she said only, “What do you need cut flowers for? You have a whole garden waiting for you at home.”
          It was after dress rehearsal, one of those nights in late spring, that an idea came to me, washed up on the shore of my mind like a note in a barnacled bottle. My grandma and Aunt Linda sat patiently in the auditorium. They praised me effusively on the car ride home. Then, my grandmother said, “You know, Linda used to dance ballet. It lasted until she was twelve or thirteen. She wanted to get her pointe shoes. She wanted to dance in Swan Lake.”
          “Did you?” I asked, thinking of the pink ribbons that older girls braided around their calves, bodies like a Maypole on the day of celebration.
          “No,” she replied. “It turns out that dancing en pointe is very painful. Your toes bleed something awful, and it requires a great deal of strength to support yourself that way—something I didn’t have.”
          “Yes, dear. Your aunt was always a delicate girl. She didn’t have your … hardiness. Sometimes, in a windstorm, I thought she would be swept away.”

          So my aunt was sad because she had small bones, soft bones, the kind that snapped easily under pressure. She had worn so many casts and slings, endured so many settings and sutures. She hated being brittle, which was a gentle accusation, a euphemism for deficient or weak.
          But I didn’t like being called hardy either. Certainly, I was. Apart from tutus and leotards and nights on the stage, I was a tomboy, a kickball all-star, the kind of girl who bristled if a boy called her a girl or accused her of playing like one. This didn’t mean I wanted girls to call me a boy, to see me as “big-boned” and “masculine,” where moxie replaced grace or the possibility of it. Couldn’t I have both? Couldn’t I dance like a girl and play like a boy and come home with a bouquet of roses in my arms?
          The kitchen table was set with white bowls and wooden spoons, and my grandmother asked, “Who wants vanilla with chocolate syrup, and who wants Neapolitan?” There were wafers too, arranged on saucers—pink and yellow and brown—and a pot of coffee percolating on the counter.
          “Thanks, Grandma, but I’m really full tonight.” This was my idea.
          “Nonsense! You’ve been dancing for two hours! You must be famished!”
          An idea that the body was simply bone shrink-wrapped into certain sizes; that the size could be changed by shrinking the wrap itself, winnowing the skin.
          “Oh, it’s okay, really. I don’t feel like ice cream. My stomach’s been a little upset.”
          “You have the heartiest appetite of any girl I know,” my aunt remarked. “It’s not like you to turn down ice cream.”
          “I know,” I blushed. “I’m sorry.”
          In my grandmother’s shower, I scrubbed my hair and listened to my stomach rumble. Ten minutes later, turbaned and robed, I sat down at the table and requested my bowl. “I changed my mind,” I said. “Neapolitan please—lots of strawberry.”

          Then, the years of dancing came to an end. I focused on piano instead. “You have long fingers,” the instructor said, “long and thin.” His observation conveyed approval.
          Once, my whole body had been described this way—long and thin. Like my father—a tall drink of water. But I was a shapeshifter then, jutting out and curving in like a coastline—abruptly bumpy, suddenly ridged. Softer too, so the bones hid under the skin. You had to press hard if you wanted to see them.
          “You’ll never believe it!” my mother exclaims, bursting in on me in the bath. I pull my knees up to my chest. I clutch my fists under water. “Someone has anonymously nominated you for the Miss Pre-Teen America Pageant!”
          “Well, don’t look so surprised! There’s more to you than meets the eye,” she beams, “and this is your chance to prove it.”
          Skeptically: “What do I have to do?”
          She consults the grainy cardstock from the envelope. “First, you have to write an essay explaining why you are a good candidate to be Miss Pre-Teen America—what you have to offer.”
          “What do I have to offer?”
          My mother perches on the toilet seat skimming the documents, but when I say this, she looks up at me and scowls. “What do you mean what do you have to offer? Poise! Confidence! Leadership ability! You are an ideal representative of America’s pre-teen girls.”
          “That’s unfortunate,” I murmur, thinking of Katy Parker, her taut body of contradictions: strength and grace, power and elegance.
          Now my mother sticks her toe in the water and splashes my face. “Am I hearing you right? You’ve been given an opportunity of a lifetime, and you’re making light?!”
          “Where does it lead? I mean, if I go to this pageant, and I win—”
          “When you win,” she corrects me.
          “Then, what happens?”
          “Then, you go on to compete for Miss Teen America, and from there—you could become Miss America! You could win a scholarship to college and be the envy of every young woman in the country!” From the way she says it, raising these two possibilities like silver platters on her hands, I can’t tell which she values more, the scholarship or the capacity to incite envy in others.
          “You also have to send a picture and a résumé detailing your accomplishments…. That should be easy enough. You’ve done plenty of extracurricular activities and volunteer work with the church, and as far as the picture goes”—inching her slippers back on her feet—“I think I still have some 4 x 6 glossies from Yuen Lui.”
          “Those are old pictures,” I say. “I’m ten in them.”
          “You’re thinner then—and you don’t have acne.”

          So it happens that around this time, my father and Katy Parker’s father decide to go fishing. We have been invited to a barbecue on Camano Island, and Mrs. Parker suggests that Katy and I go out in one of the canoes. “It’ll be fun,” she says. “Katy’s been moping around here all weekend, and I think she could do with a bit of fresh air.”
          “I’m not in the mood, Mom,” she retorts, not looking at me, swinging her braid in a way that indicates displeasure.
          “Be that as it may, we have guests, and you’ve been ignoring everyone all day.”

          In the boat, Katy eats string cheese and looks bored. She doesn’t want to row, so I do my best to guide us away from the shore. In the distance, we can hear our fathers’ muted conversation, the splash of her sister and brother throwing rocks into the sea. “Neil! Nora! You better not be doing what I think you’re doing!”
          “We’re not trying to hit Katy!” Neil replies. “I’m teaching Nora how to skip stones.”
          “He’s throwing rocks at us, of course,” Katy says. “But he throws like a girl, so don’t worry.”
          I shrug my shoulders. “I wasn’t worried.”
          “My mom says you’re starting at a new dance studio in the fall.”
          “I am? Funny. That’s the first I’ve heard of it.”
          “Maybe you should join a sports team or something. You’d probably be good.”
          I intercept her eyes before she can look out at the water again. “Why do you say that? What is it about me that makes you say that?”
          “God, don’t get so intense,” she sighs. “It’s just a hunch. You don’t seem like you like dancing very much.”
          “So why do you think I’d like sports instead?” We go to different schools, so she doesn’t know I’m tetherball champ three years running or that I can outkick Carl Lull on a good day in kickball. 
          Katy stretches her legs, which are bruised and bony and smoothly shaved without a scratch or gash. She points and flexes her toes out of habit. “Okay I’ll play. Have you ever seen that wretched movie Freaky Friday?”
          “Well, I have to watch it like a hundred times a week because of Nora, and—I don’t know— you just remind me of the girl in it. Whatever her name is.”
          “Annabel Andrews?” This is incredible. Annabel Andrews is one of my heroes.
          “I hope that doesn’t offend you. It’s just an observation.”
          “Why would it offend me? She’s awesome! She’s such a rebel, not to mention phenomenal on water skis.”
          “See. There you go. You’ve got that athletic thing that she has. And you know, at the end, she goes to the beauty salon and starts to look a lot better. That neighbor guy even wants to go out with her.”
          “But Boris is a doofus,” I protest.
          “So what? He still wants to go out with her.”
          There it was. Why hadn’t I noticed it before? Part of the equation was making ourselves enviable to other women; the other part was making ourselves desirable to men. I knew this, of course, but I kept forgetting. I kept falling into body amnesia whenever boys were around.
          Annabel Andrews states her weight in the opening monologue, then hurriedly mentions that she’s “watching it,” as if to reassure us. Of what? Even though we see her only a few scenes later eating a rum raisin banana split for breakfast—the undeniable lure of ice cream at any time of day— she knows that her body must be closely monitored, the appropriate ratio of bone to skin maintained.
          We saw this body awareness other places, too. We saw a trend of women being replaced— in talk show hosts and second marriages. Sometimes, with plastic surgery, women were replacing themselves.
          Even on Roseanne, a television show I wasn’t allowed to watch—a show about “vulgar, overweight people,” my mother said—they had upgraded to a different daughter. Becky, the blond one, the archetype of the daughter that I was clearly not, had been replaced by a newer, blonder daughter. They were trying to make her the same, as close as possible to the original, but better if they could. Thinner.
          Later, I would observe the same trend on a show I was allowed to watch—Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman. When Jessica Bowman replaced Erika Flores as Colleen, they weren’t even trying for look-alikes. The blond, bosomy daughter came back from hiatus a rail-thin, dark-haired girl, a Katy Parker. My mother remarked approvingly, “Now there’s a switch.” Even under the frumpy pioneer dresses, her bones sat straight and small and polished, like a row of good white teeth.

          The pageant will take place at a Marriott Hotel in SeaTac, Washington, the day of and the day following my thirteenth birthday. As long as you are not yet thirteen when you complete the required paperwork, you are allowed to compete for the Miss Pre-Teen America crown. But I am not so interested in the crown. What keeps me engaged is the prospect of the roses, the pageant-purchased bouquet lavished upon the winner when she walks down the elevated aisle, waving and smiling, Vaseline thick on her teeth, and those roses—long-stemmed with thorns removed—decadently draped on her arm.
          I am beginning to spend more time in front of the mirror. My mother says we will “do whatever it takes” to camouflage the blemishes on my face during the days of the pageant. For now, I have a speech to write and a sonatina to memorize, and in general, whenever possible, I should practice walking in my evening gown with high heels and a book balanced carefully on my head.
          “Use the Bible,” my father says. “It’s heavy, and it’s a sure sign God will be with you.” He laughs at his own joke, but I find it hard these days to even meet his eyes.
          I am also eating less and learning to control my hunger. With the first pang, I take a glass of water. With the second, I chew the ice. When my stomach deflates like an empty balloon, it’s time to go swimming. A sport of leisure has become a rehearsal of martyrdom. I must outswim the hunger now. Twenty laps, forty, sixty…. When I get tired, I frog-kick with the board.
          My mother looks favorably down from the kitchen window, from the rockery with shears in hand, from the verandah with the small shrubs and hanging baskets. “We have to get our money’s worth on that pool,” she says. “I bet you’re glad we had it built in-ground—none of those blue plastic monstrosities—and a long way from wall to wall.”
          Look at the story embedded under the words, like an obscure painting with a notorious one preserved beneath. I have heard the word aesthetic, meaning “pleasing to the eye.” Now I learn its sound-alike word—ascetic. A smaller word, thinner. Their resemblance is no accident. The one leads into the other, and the other corroborates it.

          Once, that summer, I strayed. The garden club was coming over, but there were fewer guests than my mother had expected. On the stove-top, the lure of leftovers. They were baked goods, from a real bakery with a shiny white box. I had never seen this kind of pastry before, this puffy bread that tapered at the ends, its thin skin that flaked when you touched it. I held one in my hand, felt its paradox of levity and heft.
          I ate the first one standing at the window, vigilant, in case someone should see. The second one I gobbled, its taste dissolving on my tongue like a communion wafer, but this one buttery, sweet, a gustatory blessing. The third one I took to my room and savored. I stretched out on my bed and gazed at the wreath of dried flowers encircling the overhead light. A bite. I studied the framed pictures of ballet slippers that adorned the walls, the one crystalline pair that dangled on a pink thread over my mirror. Another bite: slow, thoughtful. Who had put those things there? I never chose them. Some of them had always been there, and others seemed to subtly appear—the mobile, the dollhouse, the miniature rocking chair, the little crocheted wall-hanging that read, in pink script, Girls are sugar and spice and everything nice, and the plaque, reclining on its tripod, that read, in garish gold cursive, A daughter is a mother’s pride, a father’s joy … their dream come true. I finished the croissant and fell asleep.
          When I woke, my mother was seated beside me, her shoulders heaving
as she sobbed.
          “What is it, Mom? What’s wrong?”
          “There were three croissants left in the box. Did you eat them?”
          “Oh—I thought they were leftovers. I thought they were ours to keep.”
          “Julie, tell me you saved them, at least two of them. Tell me you didn’t eat them all.” She wiped her eye shadow on her apron, which was also blue—a light shift patterned with flowers.
          “I’m sorry. I guess I was really hungry.”
          Her red mouth froze in horror. “So you did—you actually ate them all?”
          I nodded. “Do you want me to pay for them?”
          “Do you have any idea how many calories are in a croissant, how many fat grams?”
          I shook my head, sitting up now, feeling the acid rise in my throat.
          “Julie, I only ate a fourth of one. They’re so fattening I felt I could
only eat a fourth! You’ve eaten three of the most decadent desserts a person could eat!”
          “I thought it was bread, just fancy bread. I didn’t know it was dessert.”
          “Get up! You’re just laying there with all that fat in your stomach!”
          She was in a panic now. “No more food for you today! You can have a vegetable at dinner. Go, now, go!”
          “What should I—”
          The tears were streaming down her face faster now, taking her mascara with them in thick, black rivers. “I don’t care! Run around the block, for starters. Get in the pool. If there was ever a day for lap swim, today is that day.” I am lacing up my tennis shoes, heart pounding loud in my ears. “Do you have a jump rope?”
          “Yes … in the garage.”
          “Some women jump rope to lose weight after giving birth. Go get your jump rope and bring it down to the back yard. Later,” she promised, “we’ll tap-dance together.” We did this sometimes, in the basement, each on a piece of plywood, listening to show tunes. It was part of my mother’s work-out regimen. “What are you waiting for?” she cried. “For the cellulite to settle?”
          Outside in the bright July sun, I jumped rope. When my feet were tired of jumping in unison, I skipped between them, like running in place, like a buoy bobbing on the water. “Keep jumping,” my mother called down from the deck. I could hear ice clinking in her glass. She was clipping coupons at the white, wrought-iron table directly above me. The cat watched from his hiding place, a cool spot under the lawn swing, which floated gently back and forth in the breeze. “Are you sweating?” she shouted. “You need to be sweating. Let’s hope you can sweat three croissants out of you by the time your father comes home.”

          We are far into the summer now, so far that the nights are cool again, and autumn’s burnished fingers pinch the horizon at its edges, like wrinkles around an eye. “I like the name Autumn,” I remark on the drive to Katy Parker’s house. “I think I’d like to name my daughter Autumn—two daughters, Autumn and Amber.”
          “Yet another reason I’m glad you’ll be saving yourself for marriage and your mothering for the years after medical school.”
          There is no point in correcting her about my future career, but I don’t understand what she means about the names. “Do you think they’re bad names?”
          “Let’s just say no grandchildren of mine will be called Autumn and Amber. Are you living in a fairy tale?”
          “No, ma’am.” The word glides through my teeth before I can intercept it. This is shoddy vowel work, which my mother is apt to mistake for mockery.
          “What did you say?”
          “I said, no, Mom, not a fairy tale at all.”
          Katy Parker has locked herself in her bedroom—miraculously, she has a door that locks!— and will not come out, she says, until she is good and ready and her makeup looks just right.
          “Honestly,” Mrs. Parker sighs, resting her hand on my mother’s wrist, “that girl is going to be married—or worse—by the time she’s seventeen. Shall I put the kettle on?”
          I slide almost unnoticed into their breakfast nook, a sticky turquoise booth that curves with the wall and easily accommodates five.
          “What is she up to?” my mother inquires.
          “Well, I’ve told her she’s not to see him again, but that senator across the street—his son—Matt—is apparently quite interested in Katy, even though she’s thirteen and he’s sixteen.” Each time she whispers a word, Mrs. Parker’s voice drops at least one octave and several decibels, making it difficult for me to hear.
          “So you’d say she’s becoming boy-crazy then?” My mother seems cautious, nervous, enunciating her words.
          “And how! With brushing her hair a hundred times a day, and the fancy soaps and creams—squandering all her babysitting money—and the makeup…. Well,” Mrs. Parker rubs her large, black glasses on a dish towel. “You must know how that is with Julie.”
          “Oh, of course…,” Her voice trails off.
          “Just wait till she fixates all those hormones on a single boy. Just you wait!”

          A door slams, and we all turn as Katy makes her entrance. “Katherine Margaret Parker, where do you think you’re going—and all dolled up like that?”
          “Out,” she says in a clipped, confident tone.
          “Julie’s here, and the two of you should go out together—with one stipulation. You are not to see that Talmadge boy tonight, understand?”
          “Yeah, whatever. Come on, Julie.”
          “I mean it, young lady.” Mrs. Parker follows us into the hall. She is the tallest woman I know, close to six feet, with dark, cropped hair and legs as thin at the top as they are at the bottom. Tonight, she wears fitted jeans—dark blue denim with bright gold seams—and a peasant blouse gathered at the neck. In a dress, she would look nearly identical to Popeye’s Olive Oyl. At Halloween, she would hardly need a costume.
          “I get it, Mom. Julie’s with me. We’ll go ride bikes or something.”

          Outside, the evergreens cast their long shadows across the sidewalk, the last traces of sunlight seeping through like honey. This image reminds me I am hungry, that I haven’t eaten all day. I follow Katy around the corner of her house, to the part of the yard where rose bushes grow untended, sprawling and toppling over against the warm brick. “These need to be staked,” I tell her, “or you could use a trellis and let them climb the length of the wall.”
          “Forget about that,” she whispers. I notice she is wearing her performance makeup, but this time with little sparkles—stars, I think—ornamenting her temples and cheeks. “I need you to wait here and pretend that we’ve been playing the whole time. Can you do that?”
          “What do I do if they come looking for us—for you?”
          “Then, make something up. I don’t know. I’ll be back when I can. I just—you wouldn’t understand.”
          “What wouldn’t I understand?”
          “Matt and I are in love. Our families want to keep us apart, but they won’t win. They can’t.”
          “It’s like the Capulets and the Montagues,” I smile.
          “The who?”
          I shake my head. “It doesn’t matter. But I do understand.”
          “Have you ever been, you know, really crazy about someone?”
          I think of Mrs. Miller, how she had left our school and gone on, I heard from others, to be a stay-at-home mom. Someone would be lucky to have her, even as a mom. “I guess not,” I say. “Not yet.”

          The rose garden, which is more like a thicket, a great thicket of roses at the apex of bloom, can only hold my interest for a while. By the time it is truly dusk, all the shadows blending together into one dark haze, I turn detective again. “Spying” seems a safer practice than its twin, “voyeurism,” the uninvited watching done by those not in the gumshoe profession. I slink through the trees. I step warily around the pine cones.
          At the Talmadge house, most of the windows are lit, though the curtains are drawn. The inhabitants of the house are oblivious to the happenings in their own sparse garden. Katy Parker leans against the wall. Why are women always leaning against a wall? The boy, who I have never seen up close, is pressed against her. They are kissing vigorously, his hands moving under her shirt.
          Perhaps I am a little envious now. I like the idea of being desired, of someone wanting to kiss me that way—with such enthusiasm as he is kissing her. Perhaps being desired is only possible for the skinny girls. I regard my own frame, the way my clothes hang loose over my skin, the way my skin pulls taut over my bones, the compressed feeling inside like two Slinkies in a single box. Fun for a boy or a girl.
          But there is something else, too. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I know it has to do with what I want—with being an agent of desire, not only a recipient. Katy fumbles with his zipper. He reaches down to help her, to draw her hand inside. I look away, partly out of respect for their privacy, and partly…. It is a thought I can’t finish. There is no other world but this one, I murmur, a phrase I have learned somewhere, a phrase that was meant to inspire. I go back to the rose garden and lie down in the grass. I spread the stray petals wide and place them over my eyes.

          Today my father will walk me down the aisle. It is not my wedding of course, but my mother snaps picture after picture and daubs at her eyes.
          “Like a rehearsal,” she says. “A rehearsal for your Big Day that won’t be
so far away now—now that you’re thirteen.”
          The pink lace dress, with its tiers of ruffles and notable absence of straps or sleeves, has become too large since the start of summer. My mother has to fold it in and fasten along the seam with safety pins. No one seems alarmed. In fact, I have received nothing but compliments.
          “No sooner did the baby fat come in than she’s grown out of it again,” our neighbor said, waving over the roof of his truck.
          “Now remember what we talked about. This is the last time the judges are going to see you before they make their final decision,” my mother instructs. “You need to hold your head up and pull your shoulders back and be sure to make a lasting impression.” My father straightens his tie. “As for you, Bill, remember: you’re just an accessory. I don’t want to see you hamming it up out there.”

          The lights on the stage burn hotter and brighter than even in my dancing days. The auditorium is dark and crowded, pulsing with the body heat and eager breath of hundreds of strangers. “I’m so proud of you,” my father whispers. “You look just like an angel.”
          I almost say, but then I bite my lip—If I were a son, you’d be proud of me for other things besides my body. But he means well. My father always means well.
          When it is our turn, we step onto the platform. The disembodied announcer’s voice booms through the speakers, reading from the biographical statement my mother has written about me. As he reads, we process slowly down the walkway, father and daughter, arm in arm: “Our next contestant, Julie Marie Wade, hails from Seattle, Washington, where she has distinguished herself as a student of academic excellence. In addition to her high grades and leadership in the classroom, Julie is also a dancer, singer, swimmer, pianist, and downhill skier. She regularly volunteers at the Lutheran Compass Mission and the Hickman House Battered Women’s Shelter. When not studying or performing, Julie enjoys reading, cooking, gardening, and playing croquet with her family. She plans to become a pediatrician.”

          Later, I stand alone just off-stage, listening as the names of the finalists are called. My mother’s pearl-and-rhinestone necklace weighs on me, heavy against the spears of my collarbones. I long to take it off, to slip into my jeans and sneakers and a ragged t-shirt, the kind my mother only permits me to wear at home.
          The absence of my name is not a surprise. I cannot even say that I am sorely disappointed. Some of the girls are sobbing now, and somewhere in the vast ballroom, my mother is formulating her explanation for this slight. I stay leaning against the wall, my hip to its groove, watching and waiting. They have narrowed the competition to three girls now. They stand in a row, holding each other’s hands and grinning. Just beyond the spotlight, a contest affiliate holds the deluxe bouquet of roses, waiting for his cue to release them into the winning girl’s arms.
          “And the winner of the Miss Pre-Teen America Pageant, who will go on to compete for Miss Teen America, is—” a drum roll, a collective intake of breath—“Miss Christina Shoemaker!”
          She had been chosen. She was the one most heartily admired, or desired, or some combination of both. It might be said that she had preened herself best of all of us.
          Later, my mother would weep, “To think we were going to name you Christina! Think who you might have been if we had!”

          Christina Shoemaker wore a dress the color of clear sky with a soft trim of lace and delicate powder blue slippers. She had blond hair and blue eyes and an unblemished face and a body that seemed not to have betrayed her. She could probably dance, too, I imagined, and there was probably a boy somewhere in the wings, waiting for her.
          They placed the sparkling tiara on her head and handed her the ribboned assemblage of roses—all garnet-red and long-stemmed with buds just beginning to open. In my mind’s eye, I saw her mouth open and fluttering on a boy’s mouth, his hands ascending under the ruffles. I heard her apologizing for her perspiration and running to the bathroom to “freshen up.” I saw Katy Parker turning a dozen pirouettes without stopping, the dance teacher lauding with applause.
          Then, like a keyhole vignette in an old-fashioned movie, the landscapes of memory and imagination narrowed and closed, and everything was eclipsed by the roses.

Julie Marie Wade has received the Chicago Award in Poetry, the Gulf Coast Nonfiction Prize, the Oscar Wilde Poetry Prize, the Literal Latte Nonfiction Award, two Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prizes, the AWP Intro Journals Award, the Arts & Letters Nonfiction Prize, the American Literary Review Nonfiction Prize, and an Al Smith Individual Artist Grant from the Kentucky Arts Council. She is the author of two collections of poetry, Without (Finishing Line Press, 2010) and Postage Due (White Pine Press, 2013), and the lyric essay collection, Wishbone: A Memoir of Fractures (Colgate University Press, 2010), which received the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir. “Bone” appears in her new collection of lyric essays, Small Fires, available shortly from Sarabande Books.