The Local Hive (with a giveaway)

Creating buzz around a book can produce stingers or honey. Fortunately, the artistic community in Minneapolis/St. Paul has been good company. The folks below have supported Triptych in various ways and I’m glad to recommend their work for some cross-pollination. Also, we’ll do our first giveaway this week introducing the work of calligrapher Allegra Rose.

“Poetry, says one poet, is where word and world intersect. Triptych, a poet’s memoir, is such a place. In finely crafted, incisive language, the work probes the possibilities for meaning and self-acceptance in a world where neither comes easily, especially, perhaps, for a woman and a believer. That the story is sometimes unsettling is simply testimony to its honesty and insight.”

Daniel Taylor, author most recently of Death Comes for the Deconstructionist, which won Christianity Today’s 2016 Award for Fiction. Dan’s other books include The Skeptical Believer and In Search of Sacred Places. Besides saying kind things (“a poet’s memoir”!), Dan has helped me navigate the business of publishing by offering feedback on contracts, encouragement in editorial exchanges, and mentoring through the details with trademark good humor.

“It’s the author’s voice—incisive, focused, and most of all, honest, that pulls us into this memoir. We are caught in her honorable, heart-wrenching struggles to understand and stay true to her faith, to come to terms with her own passion, to make peace with embodying and being both a woman of faith, who prays with intensity, who wants to live a moral life, and being a woman who also wants a life of ardor, a life blessed with easy communication and passionate connection with her partner. This is a book about struggle and grace, blessings and confusion, a book that shines with the author’s desire to make clear, both to readers and herself, what kind of life, what kind of faith, what kind of love is worth claiming and fighting for.”

Deborah Keenan, author of ten collections of poetry and winner of the Minnesota Book Award. Deborah’s most recent collection is so she had a world, a collaboration with painter Susan Solomon. Deborah’s inspiration during my MFA studies, guidance on my thesis– which was an early (bumbling) draft of Triptych— and the rhythms of her own poetry deeply influenced the lyric voice of the book. She offered many of the ‘first permissions’ I needed to brave the work.

“Sometimes we rhyme slow. Sometimes we rhyme quick.
Lovers of: pressing onward. Haters of: the game.”

A farmland triptych from Paper Antler:

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Paper Antler is dynamic photography duo Jonny + Michelle Hoffner. Their work reaches clients from Doomtree Records to Glamour to Pixar, and they shoot the most beautiful wedding photographs you’ve ever seen (I promise). Paper Antler has allowed their images to accompany many of my essays and to appear in Triptych’s Instagram feed. I want to be like Jonny + Michelle when I grow up: making beautiful images, and full of generosity and grace.

“Let’s start something beautiful.”

This week we introduce the creations of Allegra Rose, an emerging designer whose quiet, lovely work helps us focus on daily beauties. Allegra has hand-lettered five phrases from Triptych that will be available as 8′ x 8′ prints on fine paper.



Click the links to see lines graced by Allegra’s hand, then follow the directions below to enter our giveaway for the print featured above.

To enter the giveaway:

  1. Follow @triptych_memoir, @TriptychMemoir
  2. Tag 3 friends in a comment
  3. For an extra entry, repost the image with #TriptychPrintGiveaway
  4. Giveaway will be open until Friday


Creative Community 101: “What if we…?”


Designer Heidi Kao, who penned the vines and branches, adjusting cover objects in preparation for production photography.

Creativity is hands-on and communal.  My students will tell you I regularly rant that we are essentially embodied and the solitary artist is a destructive myth (this sometimes involves standing on tables, and always includes gargantuan arm gestures). So, as this book contract came together, I was challenged to practice afresh what I preach. How could this new venture honor embodiment and community?

To attempt an answer, I’ve spent the last year beginning conversations with, “So– I’m not sure this would even work– but what if we…?” It’s been scary: my ideas could be stupid, the drafting is public, and I’m asking people to invest themselves in ideas that may fail. We’re in it together; and time, money and reputation (those currencies of the finite) are at stake. But to borrow a friend’s favorite phrase: “Not easy, but worth it.”

One of the earliest “what ifs?” was the idea of crafting a cover by working with students in Bethel University’s Art & Design programs. Thanks to design faculty and a publisher game to experiment, and a group of students willing to begin working for free, we opened the project to advanced design students and offered a contract to the winner.


Reviewing second-round developments from additional designers including Brita MacInnes and Allegra Rose.

Art and community are messy, but, damn, are they rich.

By risking collaboration, I now know the work a dozen more artists, have stronger relationships with my colleagues, have helped emerging designers launch their careers, and better understand my own work.

Talking with Allegra, and Jessie, and Brita, and particularly Emily and Heidi, through their processes has helped me understand better– not just language or my own text– but ideas, and the human mind, heart and spirit: the ways we can connect and include each other, the ways we can probe the world.


Sketchbook iterations from Allegra Rose.

And I’m less lonely. Going public with work (especially memoir) can seem like a project in ego, but publishing is also a writer’s avenue to community. Getting a book out in the world allows me to participate in rich conversations with people who are fascinated and perplexed by some of the same ideas I am. By collaborating on the cover with my embodied community, those provocative, enlightening conversations have already begun– and will be able to last far beyond an evening’s reading.

Emily and Heidi on their design process:

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Our process was anything but glamorous. At our first meeting, we came up with several ideas from using unconventional materials like glass, water, or live plants to attempting new fabrication processes. Looking back, we laugh at how far-fetched those initial ideas were. But we realize now that those early steps in the process fostered the kind of creativity we needed to embody April’s vision.
Later that week, we sat down in the studio and began aimlessly doodling and experimenting with discarded pieces of drywall. We were getting nowhere fast. It wasn’t until we started referring back to April’s words and discussing how her content and style related to who we are as artists that we were able to gain a sense of direction. In playing to our strengths, we decided that Heidi would execute the drawing and Emily would focus on the sculptural and digital editing processes. At the end of the day, we had  several visual compositions in ink and drywall that we were excited about.
During the execution process, our design continued to evolve. Once the drawing and sculptural elements were completed, we were able to experiment with different compositions quickly—which was one major advantage to creating a tactile, analog design. We presented several versions to April and, with her guidance, began working through the final iteration. Once we had a strong foundation, we were able to focus on other important details like typography, use of drywall elements, and overall composition.
The final design was really a product of who we are as designers and who April is as a writer. In the end, we surprised ourselves with what we were able to create. Though it wasn’t always easy, the process of translating our physical work into a thoughtfully designed book cover proved to be an experience that exceeded our expectations.

Heidi and Emily’s two-person show, Architectural Junkyard, begins this week. Opening reception Tuesday, January 14, 4:30 pm. You are cordially invited.