Sweet St. Louis

Wow, y’all. I believe this is now my SIXTH Sigma Tau Delta International English Convention- my fourth as an alumna. The first two were in Pittsburgh, PA and New Orleans, LA during my undergraduate years. Then came Minneapolis, MN, Louisville, KY, and Cincinnati, OH. And now, St. Louis, MO!

I’ll never forget when I was in the Uber, heading from the airport to my hotel, when I caught my first glimpse of the Gateway Arch.

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I stayed at a hotel right in downtown, where I could see it from my window. I also checked out Busch Stadium, Forest Park, the Cathedral Basilica, and Citygarden Sculpture Park. There was plenty more to see, but as usual, I was only in the city for a couple days. I presented my poetry collection and made a couple new friends, and tried the best BBQ ever.

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I also visited the Botanical Gardens, shown here.

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As you can see from my photos, one of my favorite things about this city was the incredible street art and murals!

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These images were taken on a rainy walk through the Mural Mile.

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Such wonderful memories here in sweet St. Louis!

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Next year, the convention will be held in Las Vegas– so make sure to stay tuned to find out if I get accepted and what adventures await, if so!

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Cincy

In the past, I have written a couple posts about the Sigma Tau Delta International English Convention. Read my first post here, and about the 2016 conference in Minneapolis and the 2017 conference in Louisville.

I just returned from the 2018 convention in Cincinnati. It was a whirlwind of a weekend! On the way there, I started off with a stop at one of my new favorites in Columbus: Winans. Chocolate and wine, you can’t go wrong…

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Once in Cincinnati, I spent most of the first day exploring. It was a cloudy day, but still beautiful nonetheless. Below are some of my favorite sights in the Queen City:

*Roebling Suspension Bridge, Smale Riverfront Park*

*Great American Ball Park, Findlay Market*

*Hathaway’s Diner- I could eat all my meals in this charming, old-school place.*

 

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10/10 recommend!

I gave my presentation on Saturday afternoon and connected instantly to the brilliant writers: DeAndra, Eric, and Korbin.

*Rhinegheist Brewery*

Speaking of murals, Cincy has plenty!

*At the Red & Black Conventions Award Gala with my two guys, where my poetry collection was awarded a prize.*

And the next night, I got to reunite with my best friend from high school, who was visiting town.

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Already can’t wait to see what next year’s convention has in store.

See you in 2019, St. Louis!

 

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La La Louisville

Some of you may recall my trip to Minneapolis last year for the Sigma Tau Delta Convention.

I was lucky enough to be accepted to present again this year at the 2017 Convention, held in Louisville, KY.

Although it was a short trip to the south, we covered a lot of ground. (If you haven’t realized by now, I like to do that.)

Without further ado, here’s less than 72 hours in Louisville!

We arrived on a Thursday, checked into our hotel and immediately headed out to find a place for dinner. Right near our hotel was 4th Street Live, an entertainment district with a lot of restaurant chains. It wasn’t overly crowded when we arrived, but then again, it was still early. There was the famous guitar outside the Hard Rock, the impressive Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse, and neon lights outside every lounge/club.

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The next morning, I presented my poetry collection, “Leaving Season” at the Marriott.  I met another presenter from Pittsburgh and we gushed about some of our wonderful teachers and poets in the Pittsburgh poetry community.

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Reading from my poetry session.

After my session, I traded my heels for some comfortable shoes and we set out to explore what we could in the short time we had. We stopped into the Louisville Visitor Center for a map and some helpful hints. I tried on fancy Derby hats while JJ pretended to not know me. We were given some recommendations for restaurants and things to do, and decided to not waste any more time. We headed straight to the river, where we saw the Belle of Louisville (think the Gateway Clipper of Pittsburgh) and walked along the waterfront.

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Belle of Louisville.

Although it was cloudy, we pressed on. Since we only had the day, we decided not to go to the Louisville Slugger Museum (although we walked by the field) and also skipped the Muhammad Ali Center. By the time we reached the Waterfront Park, the sun peaked through. We stopped at a playground to sit & swing for a short break. We’d done a lot of walking!

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Feet in the clouds.

We decided to rent a bike to adventure across the Big Four Bridge to Indiana. It might have saved us some time, but trust me- it wasn’t that much easier. We both pedaled our hearts out to reach the top of the ramp to the bridge. Once we got to the top, we finally caught our breath. From there, it was a breeze pedaling across the bridge, not to mention an incredible amount of fun.

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Ominous clouds over the ramp & our sweet ride.

Having beat the rain, we found our way around a couple neighborhoods, like the East Market District. We ducked into an adorable coffee shop, Please and Thank You. I mean, if you put a sign like this out front, I don’t see how I’d be able to stay away!

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Not to mention that we discovered the bathroom had this framed inside:

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Pittsburgh & Louisville!

There were tons of cool shops, not to mention the street art everywhere!

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We saw Thomas Edison’s house, where he invented the light bulb, walked past the KFC Yum! Center, and ate at an awesome place called “Troll Pub Under the Bridge Pub,” which was exactly what it sounds like. So sure, we didn’t have fried chicken or go to the Derby, we both had colds and it could’ve been better weather, but we had a BLAST. We loved our time in Louisville!

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Crossing off our bucket list one trip at a time.

And that’s a wrap!

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From left: JJ & I at the convention, beautiful blossoms by the river, 4th Street Live, and trying on Derby hats!

 

OH. And one more thing- I was awarded two prizes for my collection! We were unable to be at the convention awards Saturday night since we drove back to Pittsburgh early for Andrew McMahon & The Wilderness, but I found out that I got first place (for the second year in a row!) & an honorable mention. I didn’t find out the good news until days later when it was announced on the website. I was beyond excited!
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So for those of you who have already been, what did we miss in Louisville? Would love to hear your thoughts!

 

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Thx, Mpls.

This time last week I was watching the sun rise over Chicago, headed to Minneapolis to present at the Sigma Tau Delta Convention. You can learn more about my experiences at past conventions here.

Without further ado, here is a wrap-up of our visit to the City of Lakes.

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Flying out from Chicago.

 

After arriving, we checked in to our hotel and headed to the convention to pick up all my conference materials. We explored the city through the skyway, which is a wonderful thing to take advantage of in cold weather, but confusing as hell at first.

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Minneapolis Skyway.

Walking around, we saw the Orpheum Theatre, State Theatre, The Skyway Theatre, Target Center, Target Field, Nicollet Mall, and the Convention Center. We had a drink at Union and people-watched.

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Orpheum Theatre.

We chose a spot for lunch called The Newsroom. The bar is in the shape of a ship, as you can see below, and the entire place is designed with eye-catching newspaper articles. Certainly a unique atmosphere, with pretty good burgers, too!

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The Newsroom.

That evening called for an early night, as we were running on only 3 hours of sleep and I had to get up early for my presentation the next morning.

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My biggest supporter.

I was up and dressed at 6:30 a.m. Right before my session started at 8 a.m., I got the chance to see one of my professors from college, Dr. Vaccaro! It was fantastic to have her in the audience. There were four others presenting at that time, all with their own interesting creative works. Afterward, we had a wonderful discussion analyzing themes of language, the idea of home, and the writing process.

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Dr. Vaccaro & I.

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Presenting my poetry collection.

*Note: It’s pretty hard to get a picture of someone reading. You either have your mouth wide open or are looking at your paper. But you get the idea.

 

After my presentation, I kicked off my heels and changed into something more comfortable. We headed to Matt’s Bar for the famous Jucy Lucy- a burger with the cheese melted inside the meat instead of on top. It may not look like much from this picture, but it was one of the best burgers I have ever had. Melted cheese is everything! I love discovering hole-in-the-wall places like this.

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Jucy Lucy!

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Matt’s Bar.

 

Next, we headed to the Mall of America. You’ve got to see some of the touristy stuff! Although we didn’t buy anything but ice cream, the four levels of shops were incredibly impressive. Lots of window shopping and walking. This place even has a theme park inside!

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Mall of America.

Later that night, we got dressed up and headed to the Guthrie Theater after a nice Italian dinner. We saw The Critic/The Real Inspector Hound, which was hilarious and thoroughly entertaining, a murder mystery with a surprise ending.

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Guthrie Theater.

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Drinks before the show.

Check out one of the shirts I got at convention. Seeing the merchandise is one of my favorite parts simply because of how witty and creative English majors can be.  Like magnets that say “Metaphors be with you.” I mean, come on. I live for this.

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Best shirt.

After breakfast Saturday morning, we scored big with getting into the Walker Art Center for free. Because it was a gorgeous day, we left Loring Park and the well-known Spoonbridge and Cherry to explore Lake of the Isles Park.

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Spoonbridge & Cherry.

This place was fantastic. Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun, Cedar Lake, Lake Harriet, etc. There were runners out everywhere, and moms pushing babies in strollers, and plenty families with their dogs out for a walk. I can only imagine this place in the summer!

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Lake of the Isles.

Saturday night was the Red & Black Gala Dinner and Awards. I ran into Dr. Vaccaro and was able to meet several students from Westminster College, my alma mater. We all sat together at dinner, which was lovely. JJ & I recounted memories from our time there during undergrad, and they told us of what all has changed since four years ago. Reminiscing and swapping stories brought back a lot of feelings of nostalgia.

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WC group.

Then, to my complete shock, my name was called during the award presentations! As soon as I heard “This Side” I froze and said, “Oh my God” and then my brain reminded my legs to move, and I collected my prize (a check for $375) and got my photo taken with the Executive Director of Sigma Tau Delta, William Johnson. My poetry collection “This Side of the Sun” had taken 1st place in the Alumni Epsilon creative works category.

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1st place!

It’s a well-known joke that writers don’t make any money, so I was overwhelmed with shock/happiness when my name was called. I am so glad JJ was there to share this experience with me.

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At the gala.

After the gala, we met up with the rest of the WC group for drinks at The Local, where I awkwardly got hit on by a very drunk man on my way to the bathroom and also had one of the best Irish whiskey cocktails in existence.

Might have to take that back…because after we left The Local, we saw a blues rock band play at Dakota, a swanky yet intimate jazz club. The atmosphere was great but the live music and drinks were even better. I don’t even like gin that much, but Sweet Thunder was delicious.

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Cocktails at Dakota Jazz Club.

 

Sunday morning after breakfast at the hotel, we took an Uber over to Minnehaha Falls. Our flight didn’t leave until the evening, so we had time to kill.

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Hiking.

I’d been told that no matter what season you visited in, this was a beautiful place, and it didn’t disappoint. Many people were ignoring the “No Trespassing” signs and climbing out onto the ice.

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Minnehaha Falls.

Because I was starving (and I get very hangry) we had my favorite meal of the day at Nicollet Diner. And ohmygosh. I couldn’t even eat my chicken sandwich like a normal human being because it was dripping and spilling its goodness everywhere. Don’t even get me started on the milkshakes. So delectable and the full size is no joke.

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Yummy.

Although we could barely walk after, we wandered around Uptown, and then after checking out of our hotel, got a view of the Stone Arch Bridge, the old flour mill, and Mississippi River.

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Walking across the Stone Arch Bridge.

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Mississippi River.

All in all, I got to reconnect with friends old and new, tour a city I’d only passed through, hear some amazing written work, present my own, consumed such good food, and went home feeling accomplished.

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Flying home.

 

Until next time, Minneapolis.

 

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Prose Before Bros

Yes, I said it.

I thought I was in love when I kissed my first crush, Seth, on the cheek when I was seven. We were behind a tree during a family camping retreat for the Boy Scouts, which both he and my brother were part of. (Smart girl-learning to break hearts at a young age.)

…But it wasn’t exactly a fairy tale ending.  He immediately straightened his glasses, gave me a weird look, and ran away. We didn’t speak after that. But that’s okay, because I learned a different love- escaping with a book instead of chasing boys.

Since then, writers from Sylvia Plath to J.K. Rowling paved the way for my love of literature. Teachers from elementary school to college classes taught me to create my own by nurturing and guiding my craft. I couldn’t ever explain it, but words empowered me. I mean, who needs a man when you’ve got countless characters to fall in love with? There was nothing quite like losing myself entirely in a story, or better yet, discovering myself between its pages in the process. And when I wrote? Indescribable. It was like I held the power. Let’s get real here- The last lines of Sylvia Plath’s Lady Lazarus are a perfect example.

“Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Beware
Beware.

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.”

Come onnnnn. It still gives me chills! But somewhere between that first kiss to writing poetry in my bedroom to getting my first apartment, I lost touch with the paper and pen. When I wrote in college, it was only for an assignment. I stopped reading for pleasure altogether. In fact, I stopped reading. I skimmed, or would use Google. And I definitely couldn’t remember the last time I sat down to write for me. I was caught up in relationships and social life,  and then just trying to get a job like most college grads. Then I got a job and an apartment, and was trying to figure out happiness and paying the bills but still traveling, and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. (Spoiler alert: I still don’t know.) When I finally wrote again, it was hard. It sucked. I wasted years not reading and writing, and all I could see was how far behind I was.

Which brings me to the here and now. I created this blog to keep writing, and as a place to bring my stories of travel. I joined a writing class. I’ve been submitting my work.

I delayed posting until this week because I was waiting to hear whether or not I got accepted to the 2016 Sigma Tau Delta’s International Convention, and I am THRILLED to announce that I received the e-mail last night.

So hold on. What exactly is Sigma Tau Delta, you may ask? First off, it is not a sorority. It also isn’t a sexually transmitted disease. Although that is, in fact, what the acronym implies. Ha. STD is an International English Honor Society.  (And yes, believe me, we tried to get “Prose Before Bros” or “STD: Gotta read ’em all!” as our T-shirt sayings, but it didn’t stand a chance against administration.)

I joined Sigma Tau Delta in 2010, and, in my junior year of college, presented at the 2011 Convention March 23-26th in Pittsburgh, PA (shown below). The convention theme was “Beyond Words.”

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With friends Samantha and Laura, exploring the ‘burgh and attending presentations (below).

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Practice makes perfect!

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I presented an original poem, “Discoloration” which I wrote about my father.

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 A year later in 2012,  I had the time of my life at the convention, which was held in New Orleans, LA from February 29-March 3. The convention theme that year was “Reawaken.” New Orleans was a beautiful city, and I heard such beautiful writing in the sessions I attended. I was a senior in college then, and even now I am amazed by the memories I made there, from Bourbon Street to friendships I stumbled into. I hope to go back someday.  I’m still craving beignets from Café du Monde…

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Some classmates/fellow STD members with our professor, Dr. Andrew Ade (above) and below at the Red & Black Gala Dinner and Convention Awards.

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I told you I take eating seriously.

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Presenting poetry from my collection “The Art of Baptizing.”

Now, it has been over three years since I graduated college. I rediscovered Sigma Tau Delta recently and joined the Alumni Epsilon Chapter. Shortly thereafter, I realized I could still submit, and if accepted, present at the convention. Naturally, I was stoked and submitted as soon as I could pull something together. I have been racking my brain waiting these past couple months to see whether or not I would be accepted. Seriously. Not knowing was brutal, and so was trying to prepare myself for rejection.

But, this has a fairy tale ending after all. I am so happy to announce that this year, I am one of 24 Sigma Tau Delta alumni that will present at the convention in Minneapolis, MN from March 2-5, 2016. The convention theme is “Finding Home.” I will be reading ten poems from my collection “From This Side of the Sun.”

Are there any other Sigma Tau Delta members out there? Would love to connect with you!

 

Stay classy readers,

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P.S. I went to Minnesota when I was younger and all I remember is the Mall of America. What is at the top of your list for things to see & do in the City of Lakes?
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