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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 Big Chew

I found out, during a visit to the storySouth group on Facebook, that they nominated me back in November for the Pushcart Prize (presumably for my story, "From Here," which appeared in the Fall 2011 issue). If this is true, and not some error, if they did in fact nominate "From Here" (and believe me, I'm very skeptical and superstitious of everything), it would be my first Pushcart nomination, and I'm very excited it's from storySouth, for whom I have such great respect.

It seems as if a lot has been happening lately. There was The Tide King winning Black Lawrence Press's Big Moose Prize earlier this month. We finally made plans and are going to Paris in May. Finally, it turns out, after planning to search for rentals, we just bought our first house instead. There were several things I wanted to do before my 40th birthday, and in a great karmic rush, they all happened.

At the end of 2011, I couldn't wait for the year to be over. Our beloved dog had died, other personal turmoil still simmered, and my life felt like overchewed gum smeared across a sidewalk. Crying felt normal, like breathing. I cherished it secretly because, in some way, it confirmed I was alive, the burn in my eyelids, the dull pain in my chest. Each day seemed its own labyrinth victory. Small steps, low visibility. I found comfort in the modest gains of a long journey.

Of course, things go in cycles, and while I may be bursting with bubble flavor now, I'm sure I'll become more fibrous and less tasteful again soon enough. I might even get stuck to the bottom of one's shoe. Sometimes, though, I like it that way. Not because I feel safe in failure, but because I don't know how to feel about success and accomplishment. I'm used focusing intensely on goals, of being the underdog in my own life. I feel a little rudderless right now. Maybe I should approach my new gum feeling the same way as the used sticks—one bubble at a time. Big, face-splattered, cut-gum-out-of-your-hair bubbles. Chew until your teeth hum with pain bubbles, until your jaw becomes a creaky hinge, until your cheeks scream uncle. Seek out every last bit of syrupy flavor. Retrieve gum out of trash for one more whirl, even though its harder than bathroom caulk. You never know when you're down to your last pop.

For your enjoyment, the history of chewing gum.