My Year in Review: 2014

Me as I exited the train in PDX, at the end of my Amtrak Residency. Photo by Zac Hug, who met me there.
Me as I exited the train in PDX, at the end of my Amtrak Residency. I am just now noticing what looks to be a really happy cowboy behind me. Photo by Zac Hug, who met me there.

Best Idea I had in public, where people could hear it: the Amtrak Residency.

Best Semester Away: I spent the spring semester in Austin, TX, as the visiting writer at the UT Austin English Department, teaching in the MFA program there and eating some very fine food–and teaching some exceptional students.

Best Semester Home: In the fall, I returned to the Columbia University MFA program and taught a fiction workshop also with exceptional students.

Best New Trend In My Life: I published two poems–one at The Awl, the other, in Azalea.

Best Ending To A Long Story: I finished the changes to my second novel, The Queen of the Night, with publication planned for 2/16 (please, at that link, mark it as ‘to-read’ on GoodReads!).

Best New, Possibly Less Long Story: I then started a new novel, and have been drafting it longhand, in a notebook. I have over 100 pages of it now. I even used up a pen, something I hadn’t done in years.

Personal Best: I published two new short stories, “The Insincere House”, in Tin House, and in Time Out NY’s Fiction Issue, “Life Model”, my first science fiction story. I wrote reviews, for the New York Times Book Review, Slate, and the Barnes and Noble Review.

I also published many essays throughout:

  • In February, a memoir of serving as a caterwaiter in the Buckley household in Apology.
  • Also in February: a memoir of how I went from being someone who used to joke about MFA programs to studying at Iowa, in the n+1 MFA vs NYC anthology–excerpted on Buzzfeed Books.
  • I wrote what turned out to be an early essay on the culture of Internet outrage, for Dame.
  • This September, The New York Times Book Review ran a column from me thinking back to when I gave up reading men for almost three years (and, it was my first time being on the cover).
  • A look back at the three times I’ve moved to New York, for Never Can Say Goodbye, which I’m happy to say is on the New York Times Best Seller list for travel writing–and which is ironic, because it is about not traveling.

And, speaking of travel writing…

Best Travel Writing: In 2013 I had cover stories for both Departures and Departures Black Ink, on Shanghai’s The Bund neighborhood and the avant garde restaurant Ultraviolet (the Ultraviolet profile was print-only). I also did some blogging for Bon Appetit that year. This year I was pretty busy with the book, but managed to write about sushi in Narita airport for Bloomberg Pursuits, and about the inspiration for the Amtrak residency, for Afar, which honored me as one of their Travel Vanguard.

Best of Me on NPR: I spent a little time on the radio this year. I spoke to Melissa Block about the Amtrak residency. On All Things Considered, I talked about Maggie Shipstead’s Astonish Me. And on the Brian Lehrer show, I discussed my essay in Never Can Say Goodbye, and books that changed my mind.

2014 set the bar really high. We’ll see about 2015. I got started a little, over at Electric Lit, where Benjamin Samuel, partly inspired by my Times column on reading women, asked many of us for our literary resolutions. Mine is here.


    1. It was pretty great. And meeting you was part of it–I look forward to our irl hangout whenever that happens. XO

  1. A most successful year. Just one of those accomplishments would have been a worthy feather in any writer’s cap. I’m interested in the Amtrak residency and really….you were on NPR?! Wow.

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