"Follow your obsessions," a writer said, or probably many writers have said. And for a few months now I have been obsessed with mushroom houses. I'm not high. I don't eat that many mushrooms, magic or otherwise.

I think it started when I discovered, via a now-forgetten series of random links, the photography of "Mister Mushroom." This guy photographs bright colored miniature sets staged with figurines--Moomin Valley, Totoro, gnomes, mushrooms, and other fanciful flora and fauna. His whimsy returned me to childhood and my once sincere belief in gnomes, thanks to a gullible mind, indulgent grandma, and the encyclopedic book "Gnomes." I'd curled up for hours as if it were the Bible. Replete with maps, statistics, tales of encounter, and detailed drawings, the book read like a nonfiction for this seven year old. (I watched the "Smurfs" in those days too, who of course reside in mushroom houses.)

I wouldn't mind being a child again for a moment, believing that if I opened the door to one of these houses, I could step in...



A quick update: I'm excited to share that the new season of readings at NYU will launch on January 31 with the beloved Lorrie Moore. I can't believe I'm going on five years coordinating these readings, while surrounded by all of these remarkable people. (I never imagined, as a kid raised in the cornfields of Ohio...)
    Did I say remarkable? Strike that, I meant fabulous. Check out this photo essay of a day in the life of professor and writer Darin Strauss. I wonder if his talent and photogenic quality will just sort of ... rub off on me? Sink in via osmosis? 
    Speaking of talent, I've recently hired Bianca Stone to illustrate my first book cover. That process is in early stages, and as we know, anything can happen--but it's not too early to laud her gorgeous illustration for Ana Bozicevic's book.  
     A fun and nervy part of working on a first book is asking  for blurbs. "I read the whole thing" would be fine (takers? Mom?). I want to ask my dream blurb-er, Li-Young Lee, who is teaching at this year's Kundiman Retreat. (What? He's what, where?) I remember clutching a copy of "Rose" at his reading in San Francisco, circa 1994. Years later, I drove him around in a mini van when he read at University of Maryland. 
    Do writers remember their groupies van drivers? 
    Finally, I want to congratulate my coworkers for their new writing projects unveiled this week. Adam Soldofsky is the author of pamphlet #49 published by Greying Ghost Press, and Zachary Sussman launched his website The Verbose Vine, which compiles his prolific work as a wine writer. Happy reading!