A Damn Fine Compliment

photo-12A funny bit of trivia: When I first arrived at the University of Pittsburgh in 1997, my goal was to become a Great American Novelist. Pitt has the oldest creative writing program in the nation (a fun distinction, even if it doesn’t really mean anything), and I wanted to study fiction writing. I was salivating to write mind-blowing short stories and books and then publish them everywhere. Since I had odd tastes, I fancied myself the future Umberto Eco. Continue reading

Beach Town

Brasilito 1

I really envied the dogs.

They wandered the roads with abandon. They slept wherever they wanted. They were shaggy and street smart, and they didn’t keep much of a schedule. Most dogs had no collars or licenses, and they went by several names. They’d follow us down the beach. They made a show at dinner, circling our table and eagerly eyeing our plates for scraps.

Really, the dogs set the tone for Brasilito, one of Guanacaste’s most laidback beach towns. Clocks don’t matter much here, nor do fences or rules. From the moment we stepped off the bus, I imagined what it would be like to live in such a place: I could set up a crab shack, talk up travelers, and scratch a stray dog’s ear for a few hours a day. I’d have a boat, obviously. And maybe a motorcycle. Continue reading

BIG NEWS: “Pura Vía” to Debut in The Tico Times


After 14 years, my dream is about to come true: My 11-part travel series, Pura Vía, is about to debut in The Tico Times.

Last April, I attempted a long bicycle trip in Central America. I don’t want to spoil the story, so that’s all I’m going to say about it. The physical journey was important to me, of course, and I relished the challenge. Friends saw some reports on Facebook—photographs of lakes and volcanoes, bits of text here and there—but I wanted to keep the particulars quiet, because I had bigger plans. Continue reading

Short Story: “Quarter”

2010 Pix 155

I wrote the following short story in October, 2002, while I was wasting away in a ghetto apartment in Burlington, Vermont. I found the story by accident this morning while going through some retrieved files from an old laptop. The story was instantly recognizable, and I thoroughly enjoyed rereading it. I have trouble revising and submitting such old works to literary journals, because they feel like they were written by a previous incarnation, and therefore (in a sense) another person. But I love finding old drafts, because of their archival significance, just as I love the posthumous “found stories” of favorite writers. Continue reading

100 Years Later: The Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

To commemorate the centennial of Franz Ferdinand’s assassination – the event that started World War I – here is an excerpt from my book The Archipelago. During my visit to Sarajevo, I stumbled into the Latin Bridge, where Ferdinand met his maker. An author I admire recently praised my description as the most eloquent re-imagining she had ever read, which was a tremendous honor, considering her mother grew up in the Balkans and she spent several years there. More importantly, the “shot heard round the world” also beckoned the modern era of “total war,” where any target is fair play. Continue reading