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“Jen Michalski’s second novel is an intense emotional commitment, but a worthwhile one.” – Ploughshares


“Jen is an astonishingly sensitive writer.” – HTML Giant


“Jen Michalski excels in subtlety that is made possible by her nuanced understanding of voice.” – The Rumpus


“Jen is a writerly heavyweight.” – Nate Brown, American Short Fiction


“We’re lucky to have Michalski before the rest of the world discovers her. But they will.” – Baltimore City Paper

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The Gift

I'm feeling a lot of pressure to complete my holiday wishlist to send to family (who have requested it), and that is exactly what's wrong with the holidays. I don't need anything, and there's nothing I particularly want. Even if I tell my family not to get me anyhing, they still will, and then I will be stuck with a lot of candy cane-scented lotions, holiday socks, candles, DVDs, inspirational/gift books, and the like that I will probably donate to Goodwill. So I may as well try to think of something I can really use. Like Johnson's Baby Powder. I never buy it for myself, yet I always regret it, especially after working out and feeling chafed. And bubble bath.

What I would really like is a day or weekend in a room somewhere far away (a few hours is fine), where it is quiet and nothing stands between me and my novel. Then I'll see what I'm really made of. The gift of being left alone, of having no deadlines or events to attend to friends to catch up with is what I really want. I guess it's also the gift of myself, since I always seem to put my writing last behind a long list of other things I feel I should do first. The gift of myself would be comforting or frightening, depending on how one looks at it. I've never applied for a residency or gone to a writing conference or otherwise spent time on my writing that wasn't taken by squirreling away a few hours here and there. Although it's worked, for the most part, I wonder how much more I could produce if I really just gave myself the time.

But how does one ask for time? And how fair is it to take a weekend away when your partner stays at home? I struggle with how much time alone one deserves, how much time one should get. How not to appear selfish. Writing makes people a lot of things—crazy, selfish, short-tempered, self-absorbed. It's the gift that keeps on giving. But the few times when we get it right, the paragraph, the sentence, the story, wow, everything is so great. And that is the real gift.