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Three Things: The Gathering Edition

2015 November 23

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As we all gather for our respective Thanksgiving celebrations, let’s keep our pen and paper at the ready. This week I’m interested in a gathering of people, in whatever form that takes. (Happy Thanksgiving!)



Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Something Split and New, 2013. Acrylic, pastel, color pencils, charcoal, marble dust, collage and transfers on paper.



Eugene de Salignac, Painters on the Brooklyn Bridge Suspender Cables, 1914. Photograph. Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA.



Dead Paper, summer: boiled hotter than hell, 2011. Collage. Via flickr.


Hazel & Wren Staff Shelfie: Josh Johnson

2015 November 19
by Josh Johnson


The Writing Life

Editor’s Note: Dear readers — today, we share with you this staff shelfie installment, from another one of our newest staff members, Josh Johnson. (AaronWrenJessicaTaylor, and Cassidy have previously shared their shelfies.) We’re so happy to have Josh and his slightly flammable reading habits on the Hazel & Wren team. Read on!

I was tempted to clean up and (re)arrange when taking the photos for this post. Many of my shelves have fallen into states of chaos or unrest. The chess books are getting a little too familiar with speculative fiction, and I suspect fraternization between the poetry and non-fiction books. It’s a mad house.

Shelf #1 - Josh

Here’s a bookcase plunked down in the corner of the office. It was meant to house our sci-fi and fantasy books (or at least some of them). It has favorites of mine from various points in my life: The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander (top shelf, to the left), Ted Chiang’s incredible Stories of Your Life and Others (second shelf, right side), and Stephen King’s The Stand (down on the bottom, which seems to be the Stephen King shelf. The bookcase seems to be pretty consistent, but on closer inspection…

Shelf #2 - Josh

Here’s the fourth shelf down, and we have some of John Green’s books next to a biography of Tesla, which is next to the start of a fantasy series. I love all of these books equally, but I have no idea how they ended up on the same shelf together. I suspect midnight migrations.

Shelf #3 - Josh

One of my favorite things about our new house is all the cool, original woodwork. This cabinet, conveniently located next to our fireplace, has come to house new books and scotch. And I’m just realizing now how strange it is to keep bundles of paper and bottles of alcohol in an old wooden box next to the place where fires happen.

Shelf #4 - Josh

Here’s a slightly closer look. This is the place that has been getting all the new acquisitions in our household. Down there on the bottom—that blueish one with the red lettering—that’s the incredible and incredibly fun Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer. It’s a writing craft book, but it looks like this on the inside…

Shelf #5 - Josh

The title of this spread is “A Tale of Resurrection: The Beatification of a Failed Idea.” The perfect kind of book to enjoy while drinking scotch next to a burning cabinet.

Shelf #6 - Josh

To the right of that bookshelf is this little fella. Purchased from Target probably, this shelf holds up our unbelievably old radio and houses many of my chess books (the top shelf, left half) and a random assortment of literary fiction, non-fiction, and speculative stuff. Next to the radio is a copy of Kelly Link’s recent collection Get in Trouble, not shelved yet due to either my laziness or its unwillingness to play nicely with others.

Shelf #7 - Josh

This one is my favorite bookcase in the house. It’s right next to my side of the bed and holds a few different groups of books. The first, there at the top left, is the growing collection of review copies I’ve received for Hazel & Wren!

Shelf #8 - Josh

I’ve only received three review copies so far, but I’m still not over how cool it is to have someone send me a book so that I can read and write about it. Heck yeah!

How the States Got Their Shapes is a book acquired during a game Rachel and I like to play in bookstores. We go in and each try to find a book the other person would probably never buy/encounter/read in their life, and then we buy it. Browsing a bookstore with someone else in mind (especially when he or she is there, also browsing with someone else—you—in mind) is a lot of fun. Rachel bought me this book, partially because it fit the requirements of the game and partially because my grasp of even basic geography is shockingly bad.

The other books in this bookcase are all of my most immediate To-Be-Read books supplemented with books I’m sort of constantly reading or rereading. It’s a weird smattering of things, but if there’s a shelf (or case) that best represents me in the house, it’s this one.

And down at the bottom of the case are a bunch of the journals and notebooks I’ve kept over the years. Including this one…

Shelf #9 - Josh

I picked up this notebook when I was in England several years ago. It’s still easily one of my coolest possessions. I filled the first few pages with a novel idea that never went anywhere, and I’ve been waiting for the right idea to come along for the rest.

What do your shelves look like, reader? Are they carefully monitored or do you have intergenre mingling as I do?

Three Things: The Surreal Family Edition

2015 November 16

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Today I’m in a surreal mood. Let’s narrow that down a smidge, though, and focus our attention on surreal families this week. Have some real-life family strange-ness from which to draw? Even better!



Sammy Slabbinck, Seafood, 2013. Collage on paper.



Pablo Picasso, Family of Saltimbanques, 1905. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.



Slinkachu, Wonderland, 2009.


Hazel & Wren Staff Shelfie: Cassidy Foust

2015 November 12
by Cassidy Foust

The Writing Life

Editor’s Note: Dear readers — today, we share with you another one of our shelfies. AaronWrenJessica, and Taylor have shared their shelfies, and we’ll have yet another next week. Today’s post is from one of our newest staff members, Cassidy Foust. We’re so happy to have her and her book-stacking self on the Hazel & Wren team. Read on!

Friends, I have a confession. It’s a terrible, blasphemous confession:

shelfieI don’t own a bookshelf.

It’s not that I don’t have enough books to warrant one. As an English major who spent her college years working in a bookstore, I have accumulated more than my fair share of paperbacks, textbooks, picture books, and galleys. And yet, somehow, nowhere along the line did I ever acquire a bookshelf. Instead, I became… a book piler. I pile books under my bed. I pile them on top of my desk, on the top shelf of my closet, or just on the floor. Sometimes, they’re organized. Mostly, they’re precariously stacked in an entirely random configuration (and the book I most want to read is always, always found at the bottom).

This particular stack is my newest jumble of books. I stood next to them for scale. I’m 5’9″.


The top of this pile features several of my current favorite reads: Men Explain Things to Me (by Rebecca Solnit), a series of snarky feminist essays on “mansplaining”; The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop (edited by Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana, and Nate Marshall), a stunning anthology; and Welcome to Night Vale (by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor), a geeky sci-fi triumph based on the popular podcast.


The middle of the pile holds a book very near and dear to my YA-genre-loving heart: The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness. It’s one part homage to, one part satire of the dystopian/fantasy trope of the “Chosen One” — the story of what happens to the normal kids in town while the Chosen Ones are off fulfilling prophecies and sacrificing goats to vampires. It’s the Cabin in the Woods of young adult literature, if you will. Ness pokes fun at the genre (and also himself) while also explaining that it’s okay to love hokey stuff like this. At the end of the day, Ness says, we don’t read genre lit for brilliant plotlines or stunning worldbuilding (though those might be side-effects). We read it to connect to each other. We read it because, underneath the unicorns and alien abductions, we’re all just humans struggling to be.

The middle of this pile comes with a second confession (though this one is likely more familiar to most bibliophiles I know): I haven’t actually read about 85% of the books I hoard. I can’t walk past a bookstore without buying at least one thing. If I magically find myself at an event where books are being handed out for free, I take all of them. All of them. This bad (?) habit, plus the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day, means that I rarely ever finish all of my TBRs before buying new ones.

In my opinion, there are much worse problems to be had. Because of my myriad book stacks of unread titles, I will never face the agony of not having anything to read. My book piles may not be tidy (or accessible… or practical…), but they’re great conversation starters, and hey — I’m always prepared to stage an impromptu obstacle course.

What are some unconventional places you’ve stored books?