Thursday, January 28, 2021

Dandelion Ghosts

"We were born into curiosity and raised with a light touch. We ran around trees and chased ice cream trucks down the street or stared at the world through cameras and recorded what we saw in bound journals. The crumbling concrete alongside our homes led to narrow alleyways that promised adulthood. We congregated on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and marched past the plump blackberry vines and fields of dandelions. Stopping to taste the fruit or flick the heads of flowers into the alley, we enjoyed the last bit of childhood beneath a blue sky. Dirty..."


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Friday, September 27, 2019

New site, late goodbye

Hello, Friends!

Observation: I am not actively blogging here anymore, but I never said goodbye.

I have never been great at goodbyes. But I'm not trying to duck out of the party while everyone blows out the candles. In fact, I never said goodbye because I never intended to stop blogging.

Meanwhile, my novel-in-stories, new day job, new (old) city, and new obsession with yoga + meditation kept me busy enough to keep me far, far away from this fading blogging site.

That said, I'm back in action! Got my routines, got some new perspective, finished the book ... and if you'd like to keep up with me, please find my new blog here:

Keep up with me. :)

xo Jen


Monday, November 26, 2018

Observations: November 2018

Happy Holidays, Friends!

Where have I been? Um.

The short answer is Ohio, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, writing a novel-in-stories, completing my Yoga Teacher Training, reworking my business, teaching leadership at OSU, writing short articles on leadership and alternative health, attending family events, and wishing I had more time to do more of all of it.
Time is of the essence, and I am realizing right now, as I write this, that I miss blogging. I miss connecting with those of you I know and those of you who happen here and read this for a few minutes instead of clicking on that latest story about the comb-over fascist, our melting planet, the new "hot" personal robot, autonomous car fatalities, or cool tricks you can teach a pet raccoon.

The last year has been elucidating in many (sometimes painful) ways. I put my writing ambitions in perspective, realizing that I am not a writer, but a person who explores the world through writing. This has enabled me to be patient as I accept my personal writing journey.

Sounds defeatist to some writers, I know, but the fact is, it’s quite the opposite. Saying “I’m a writer” is all fine and good, affirming and all that, but it’s not what’s important. I was getting addicted to the title and subsequent baggage and forgetting the value of the art itself. This realization led to a new energy around my writing, and though my writing time has been limited, it’s been incredibly rewarding. More so than it has been in ten years.   

What else, what else…

Well, I’ve adopted a daily yoga practice that morphed into a yoga teacher training experience (that I had no time for) that is morphing into active yoga instruction. And this + writing = my evolution.
Thank you to JMWW for posting my philosophical meanderings, Sivana East and Elephant Journal for publishing new essays. Thank you to Curious Fictions for allowing me a small income from recent stories.

I now offer meditations and yoga for writers (and all) on a modest and very homespun YouTube channel, and I have begun writing coaching again with an emphasis on CREATING SPACE through art. I offer writing and yoga workshops, along with my coaching practice, but I have refined the way I work, so that I can offer a more customized and intense writing support system to each client. I also decided that video conferences are helpful for online students, so I am integrating video modules.
It’s rewarding work so far. It always was, but it feels richer somehow. I love to see people learn to own their voices and release expectations. In doing so, the payoff is pretty great. J

I am looking forward to Portland in March to meet up with writer friends new and old. I will be on the outskirts of things (off-site events the whole way) because that’s how I roll.

Cheers for now.

xo Jen

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Observations: Dublin Vacation

Dublin seemed the obvious destination. We would be close to various restaurants and tourist attractions. It would be easy to call a cab or rideshare, and stunning natural sights, such as the cliff walk from Bray to Greystones, were close enough by to visit by bus.

When I booked our trip to Ireland, it was almost a year in advance, and the excitement around the idea was palpable. The trip kept my husband and I going on twelve-hour days, during the coldest days of winter. If the electricity went out or we got a flat tire, all we’d need to do was mention Dublin, and the vibration in the room would heighten. Now in our late thirties, this would be our first solo vacation. Unlike all previous trips, we were not going to visit family for the holidays, nor did we have work-related activities waiting on us. It was just us.  

I told everyone. Friends, family, and work associates were either excited or feigning excitement for me. All I could talk about was how refreshed I’d be when I returned. An incredible trip was non-negotiable. After all, every minute becomes precious when the overworked are finally able to breathe.

Off we went!

After a redeye and a half hour cab ride, my husband and I were equal parts exhausted and elated. We arrived at 8 a.m. in need of a place to lounge before our hotel room would be ready. That first day, we bummed around in the neighborhood near Phoenix park, taking walks nearby with our luggage stowed safely at the hotel. We talked about how crazy it was that we had an entire week to ourselves as we reveled in our haze of gratitude, which was augmented by a good island rain.

Then came the next morning.

The cappuccinos and breakfast and questions. Why did neither of us feel settled? And why in the hell were we both still thinking about work? It shouldn’t have taken so long to purge our to-do lists from our busy minds, nor should either of us have done the inevitable … checked email. Not only was the email checked, but it was continuously checked. In fact, our first full day in Dublin was riddled with work-related anxiety that piqued in the middle of our first nice dinner.

There is nothing to be done when the inevitable travel argument arrives.

We both saw it coming on the headwind of jet lag, strengthened by the persistent proximity that a small hotel room demanded. We traded a few mean jokes after a our meal, which were received sourly and soon became truly mean comments, then accusatory comments about whose comments carried more acridity.

This is when it dawned on me that a true vacation could be impossible.

There came a point when my husband and I, two tough-knuckled Gen Xers, almost forty now, getting invitations to 20-year high school reunions, needed to remind ourselves that we have opportunity to slow down, and if we don’t take it, it could be quite some time before the opportunity returns. Mindfulness, living in the moment—it’s all so trendy because it’s all so necessary to offset the constant churning. But how to turn off the switch?

I meditate daily, so I can say with authority, it can take more than meditation. Sometimes, it takes a bit of good, old fashioned, Gen Xer grit—the same grit it takes to work so hard—to slow down.
On Day 3 of our vacation, my husband and I wandered the streets of Dublin. We breathed in the rainy, overly green beauty; its unabashed street art and poetry; its brightly painted doors that led to museum after museum, pub after pub. To combat our busy minds, we agreed to shut down the phones and walk until thoroughly and appropriately soaked.

We walked to the EPIC museum (which stands for Every Person Is Connected), to the Writers Museum, and to the National Museum of Ireland. We walked to shopping malls with slightly better-cut clothes than those at home. We walked to cafes and used our phones for little more than pictures. We soaked in the island moisture as well as its pride; its widely-promoted and episodic history of oppression and uprisings, captured so adroitly on a plaque on Parnell Street that displays a telling message by Liam Mac Uistin that ends “O generations of freedom remember us, the generations of the vision.”

The freedoms of all people are often taken for granted, even squashed by our desire to achieve. Or another’s desire to achieve.

We worked long days for years to buy a home, to be able to travel; we went into indentured servitude for a higher education that enabled us to work through weekends in order to find these small bites of freedom in the form of a few days doing little more than existing and consuming. Seeing Ireland, a country home to ancestors on both sides of our family tree, was the prize. We worked our adult lives for the freedom to read Uistin’s message and do a proverbial face palm as we reflected.

After the grit-filled walk, our fast-paced purging of burdensome thoughts, the trip truly began.
It began in the middle, and we came to see what was all around us. After 21,000 steps, then 23,000, then 26,000, our heels screamed, but we could see and feel it all. The fighting could be dodged after that purging, a sleepless night could be embraced, and the hundreds and thousands of people we walked with and past, those with whom we traded words and shared music in restaurants and malls, could all be met with presence.

Even those people we merely read about in museums, who couldn’t have imagined a reality in which voyages were taken so easily outside the mind, were points of connection. Those who would laugh at the idea of a small electronic device that could reach out to family from across oceans and offer us every comfort may have also been able to predict the burden of such immediate connectivity. 

Our perceived inability to disconnect is a self-inflicted oppression that seems heightened during times of supposed reprieve. But this, like jet lag, can be eased with time. And so, after walking it off the way we Midwesterners are wont to do, we began to enjoy. If you go to Dublin, I recommend that you buy a good umbrella and walk. Dine at Chapter One (there's an affordable pre-theare menu), walk quickly beyond Temple Bar (photo opp is enough), savor a Nespresso at the standing-only coffee bar, enjoy the museums.

My husband and I spent our last days enjoying the food and sights thoroughly. We watched those outside moving with heads tilted down and smiled at the few who looked straight ahead or over to nod. 

We are all going somewhere, but sometimes we need to pay attention to what is here, now. 

Writing News: Fiction is forthcoming in Juked. A few essays at Elephant Journal. An excerpt from my novel-in-stories earned semifinalist status from the Book Pipeline Competition, so I hope to have news there soon. #stillwriting

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Observations: February 2018

I spent a bit of January in San Francisco, San Jose, and Sunnyvale. The rest of the month was a blur of snow, work, family, and writing. In that order, unfortunately. Nonetheless, I learned and/or observed in January/early Feb:

  • Silicon Valley is full of contradictions. And super nice bathrooms.
  • The value of visual art is at least 50% backstory.
  • You never know who you're talking to.
  • A needless sex scene can ruin an otherwise good move (cough ... The Shape of Water).
  • Irony is something people don't like pointed out, but it needs to be pointed out.
  • If people want rights to your image, it's not usually for a glamorous shot. :) 
  • When partying with rich people, go for the second glass of wine. 
  • Driving a van is easy, parking a van is - as feared - tough.
  • Writing is a gift, but it's a tough one to keep.
  • Nonprofits are going to have a tough go of it under this administration. As are people. I mean all people. 
  • Yoga is my jam.

Writing news: New work in The Disconnect (as the name implies, you need to go in Airplane mode to read it). More new work in Flexible Persona. This one won an award (2nd place ... I'll take it). 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Observations: January 2018

Is anyone out there?

Yes or no, I am back after a cross-country move,  a mystery stomach virus, a new job, and the quiet release of a new collection of short stories. It's been a busy couple months, and I have the eye bags to prove it.

It's 2018, and I have a few observations about the last few months, and the glorious/horrifying new year thus far. I thought I'd share...

  • Resolution should not be a bad word, and resolutions should probably never include any diet-related goals. 
  • Busy people are the most reliable solely because they have momentum.
  • Some fears are not evident until you are presented with a challenge. Case in point: I am thirty-eight, and I just realized I am afraid of parallel parking vans. 
  • Writers don't have a choice.
  • It's easy to lose focus when self-consumed.  
  • Mantras work, but they demand time. Same with meditation and any other mental training.
  • Health clinics in grocery stores are fine, but they need a separate entrance! Come on, people, don't make contagious sick people walk past registers, the produce section, and dry goods to get to the clinic. By that time, their airborne, germ-filled droplets have probably reached dozens.
  • #MeToo will only count if we continue the dialogue. This is not whining or lecturing. This is reality, and change is possible but only with conversation and consistency. 
  • Business people and artists seem to want recognition in equal measure. Likewise acceptance, respect, recognition. Same deal, different package.
  • Leaders are not necessarily good people, but there is such a thing as a good or principled leader, and we should demand that one lead our country. 
  • As much as we need to be entertained, not all entertainment serves us. (Just like as much as we need to eat, not all foods nourish us.)
  • Friendship is work, and it's the best work.

Writing News:

The Glass City is out! Buy a few ... you'll be glad you did.
The Best Small Fictions is out! 
Buy them both in multiples. Samples are here:

Friday, April 7, 2017

Observations: April, 2017

My father once told me he'd been a genius for a few days. For fewer than a hundred hours in his life, sometime in his early forties, everything made sense. All the pieces fit, and everything felt easy to him. In those days, art flowed (he's a visual artist), math was cake, the right word was always on the tip of his tongue. Answers came readily, and nothing felt overwhelming. The universal codes seemed to materialize everywhere. Then, he said, as fast as the feeling came, it disappeared.

I like to believe those genius days hit us all, though they will sometimes be more dispersed - seconds or minutes spread out over a lifetime. I woke up this morning, after what I think was a brilliant dream, worrying that all of my genius time will be spent asleep. One can hope we all have a few minutes to come.

Some observations from last month:
  • Today's terrorized are tomorrow's terrorists.
  • If you trust that people can rise to the occasion, good or bad, they usually will.
  • Belief in one's self is easy for a day, but becomes tougher to maintain as time passes.
  • Writers need to constantly remind themselves to value their words and value their time.
  • As I get older, I know what I like and I know what I don't like (but sometimes I still realize I'm wrong).
  • Artists need to fight harder, write/create more. #resist
  • Buying a house now is like building on a cliff when the view is most beautiful, just before the rampart begins to crack below us.
  • College lectures make me happy.
  • Human connections are everything.
  • A society is only as fiscally healthy as its people are physically healthy.
  • I should probably start journaling during these dark times. I think we all should.   
Writing News: "Lottery Days" was selected for inclusion in The Best Small Fictions 2017, guest edited by Amy Hempel. It should be out in September, and I'm really thrilled to be a part. I'll post a link when available. Also, The Glass City is in the works and should be out from Hollywood Books International around the same time. I'll post the date soon. In the meantime, I got in a few blurbs. Here's one...

"Jen Knox is a master cartographer of the human psyche. In the stories of The Glass City, she maps the depths and complexity of the human mind against the backdrop of a future so possible yet so surreal that it’s nearly futile to try to set the book down. I kept telling myself, just one more page before bed, just one more story—until I found myself turning the last page in the middle of the night, having forgotten to eat dinner. Ultimately, The Glass City is the miracle of artistic imagination at its absolute peak: read casually, it thrills and entertains us with insightful depictions of who we are; read deeply, it shows us who we can become." 
—Melissa Studdard, author of I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast
Prompt: Start a story or a piece of art with the line/idea "I never told anyone..." Write as long as you'd like.

xo Jen

Dandelion Ghosts

"We were born into curiosity and raised with a light touch. We ran around trees and chased ice cream trucks down the street or stared a...