Back in November, I spent a couple days on the job with Dr. Linda Ellington, the kind of veterinarian dogs love even more than their own humans—but even among the humans who love her, just say her name and their eyes turn into giant pulsing cartoon hearts. Cats don’t even completely hate her!

Shadowing her was fun and sad and really really smelly. After two days I had more than too much to include it all, so just one day made it into the story, which you can read now in the new (animal-themed!) issue of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine.

Andy Lee took the photos (which I wanted to happen even before I knew his Great Dane, Leon, loves Dr. Ellington almost more than anyone else on earth).

I’m really proud of the whole issue—illegal dorm pets! frat bros and their giant dogs! bees (not “animals” but I decided not to care)! And after nearly three years with the magazine, it’s my last. New adventures begin next week and I’m so excited.

Last year some pals of mine started a little magazine called Brother. Sometime after the first one came out Andy asked me if I wanted to write the second one and I did not even have to think for a second before saying YES. A couple months later we went to Charleston for a day or so and hung out with CLAMMER DAVE whose name is not officially spelled in all caps but, once you experience him, seems like it should be. I knew basically nothing about bivalves or aquaculture or any of this stuff before before but it’s a weird, delicate, gnarly business and Dave is one of the most, uh, “character”-iest people I’ve gotten to meet and write about in a while. Andy took the fantastic photos, Alvin made it look awesome; I just got my copies yesterday and can confirm that it feels real good to hold in your hands. You can get a copy here for $11 (or, if you’re in Atlanta, at either Octane location, plus some other places soon). If you are someone who needs John T. Edge’s approval before you commit to anything, here you go. Or, if you would like to see a photo of me standing on top of a rickety houseboat in Charleston Harbor, posing like a goober to conceal my fear of what at the time seemed like imminent death or tetanus contraction, you are also in luck.

What I Wrote, 2013

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I reviewed albums by Laura Stevenson, Iron & Wine, Jessica Pratt, Lady Lamb The Beekeeper, Torres, Anais Mitchell & Jefferson Harmer, Frightened Rabbit and Laura MarlingI poked at the lonely pleasures of The Postal Service’s Give Up. I talked with Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman about the debut of their very long-delayed musical. I explored the buddy-buddiness of weed and country music.

I burned out on “music writing.”

I took a road trip with my mom. I rode MARTA and wondered why

I interviewed and profiled and obituarized a bunch of staggeringly brilliant people and made four issues of what I think is a pretty fine looking alumni magazine.

I thought about an old neighbor and Girl Scout cookies. I thought about childhood and fear of death, my own at least. I thought about Christmas trees and the life-cycle of traditions

I came clean about my lady mustache. I told a room of strangers that I once believed my husband when he told me grizzly bear penises make a hissing sound when fully erect.

Also I met a clammer named Dave, spent some time in Dayton, Tenn., talked to a bunch of young country music people and thought about hunger, literal and figurative, but you’ll have to wait for 2014 for all that.

HIDDEN BONUS TRACK: What I Didn’t Write, 2013

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but late last year I decided that I would have written a book by the end of 2013. Or, a “manuscript” I guess is what you call it, a thing that wants to be a book but doesn’t yet exist in its intended form. The plan was to write one piece a month for twelve months and by the end of the next December a book would sit in place of what had once been nothing but vague rectangular yearning. As 2013 rolled in I was very pleased with myself for coming up with this. This undertaking I had dreamed my whole literate life of undertaking suddenly seemed so easy! Which should have been my first indication that things would not go as planned. 

In June, when I finally felt as if I had finished what-would-be-the-book’s first piece, the goal still seemed attainable, the timeline just… compressed? But not discouragingly so! Here now in December, I somehow don’t feel all that bad about what now has only a few hours to not be a complete failed promise. At first I thought the problem was that a year was not enough time to write a book, and then I wondered if a year was too much time to write a book—maybe I had allotted myself too many minutes to potentially be diverted into some other non-book-writing activity? Maybe if I’d had less time I would have used it more wisely? Maybe, or maybe the answer is that this thing needs to happen on its own timeline, which will only reveal itself to me once I’m at the far end of it.

Not that the plan was a complete bust. I did write some part of what might one day become something, or maybe it won’t, but mostly what happened this year was I learned a number of boring but, ugh, apparently much-needed lessons about patience, pacing, rejection, drafting, revising, breathing, edit-taking, expectation-management, jealousy-management, and most importantly the various means by which to adjust Word and Google Docs windows to just about but not entirely block out the entire rest of the connected world. (Bless you, Freedom.) I learned a lot, but apparently not enough to not carry the goal over into 2014. I figure I can squeeze at least a year or two more out of it before it ascends to the level of neutered perma-resolution, a la “floss more.” We’ll see!

HEY, BUT ALSO

To anyone who read anything I wrote this year, or anything I wrote any other year, I would like to say a big sloppily earnest and sincere thank you. When I stop and think about it too hard or too long it starts to seem very strange that I would expect anyone to give up any amount of their precious finite life to sit and move their eyes over words on a screen or a page that I in turn spent possibly too much of my own precious finite life arranging and rearranging, and rearranging and rearranging. Very often this strikes me as possibly insane behavior, even when things are going very well. It can be easier to imagine writing into a deep black void, because that at least is a bottomless receptacle with no to-do list, no partner or children or parents or friends to spend time with and tend to, no job to do or dogs to walk or self to feed and take care of. I am never going to waste that void’s time. The void has time to spare. But I am always in danger of wasting yours. And the goal is to not do that. The goal is to make that time better, or at least not worse. I hope I have. At the very least, I’m very grateful to have been given a chance.

Onwards! Onwards into the future!

Apparently I am a complete cheeseball of a human being and have written A Christmas Thing almost every year for the past few years. Here they are, on the off chance you are weary of wassailing and present-wrapping and navigating interfamilial micro-aggressions!

2009: On the best Christmas album ever (Hanson’s Snowed In, doy), for my old Paste column. (Oh, baby Rachael. Oh, dude commenting three years late to be like, “I’m not gonna argue with you, but lemme argue with you.” Oh oh oh.)

2010: On Christmas houses and the great weird raggedy old documentary Ten Thousand Points of Light, for the Paris Review Daily.

2011: On working in a candy store, and “Marshmallow World,” and snow, for the Paris Review Daily.

2012: On… oh, this actually has nothing to do with Christmas proper, but Slate ran it last Christmas Eve and I associate Les Mis with wintertime familystuff anyway, so I will count it.

And 2013: On Christmas trees real and fake, and dying traditions, over at The Billfold.

Something I have not written about but that I think about a lot is how one time Mr. T dressed as Santa Claus and met Nancy Regan and he gave her a Mr. T doll and she sat on his lap.

Happy Whatevermas, y’all weirdos. Hope it’s a good one.

Barry Manilow. Barry Manilow! When I told my mother-in-law that I was going to interview him, she shrieked. I am now considering making all career choices henceforth based on what will make my mother-in-law shriek. In the meantime, my story/Q&A—with Manilow and his long long longtime songwriting partner Bruce Sussman about the musical they wrote years ago, which is finally getting properly premiered at Atlanta’s Alliance Theater next month—is in the September issue of Atlanta magazine and online right here. It’s very pink.

In the August issue of Atlanta, I’m all up in a Jamie Allen and Brooke Hatfield sandwich: We were each dispatched to go on a road trip to visit some Georgia small towns, north middle and south, and I got middle. I took my mom. We touched many antiques that we did not buy and ate pie that I sometimes still think about. You can read the story in the for real real print magazine or the 99¢ digital edition right here.

theparisreview:

“How do I tell a story when I haven’t yet lived the end? When I may have lived the better part of the story already, or when I may not even be one-quarter through? And when, either way, whenever the end does come, it will render untellable everything that came before?”

Rachael Maddux on her childhood fear of death.

Very grateful and unexpectedly terrified to have this gnarly thing out in the world today. 

In the June issue of Atlanta, I’ve got an essay about the gross, harrowing, annoying, weirdly life-expanding and -affirming experience of riding MARTA, Atlanta’s beleaguered transit system. Kendrick Brinson took the photo; we had adventures! Also, I need to stand up straight, Jesus.

Things that happen at work, sometimes: My deeply crappy magazine cover mock-ups (complete with ludicrous fake math equations, please do not look too closely), become really super beautiful for real-real magazine covers. Also: I write about coffee, corn fungus research, balancing judgeship and parenting, and how to be wrong. Hey!

Here is the great video for Pistol Annies’ “Hush Hush,” which has been lodged in my brain for more than week now. And here is something I have written for Slate about the seemingly unlikely but increasingly cozy relationship between weed and country music. And now I would like some green bean casserole please.

Laura Stevenson’s The Wheel is out today and I can’t think of the last album that I felt this way about. Like it was possibly made in a lab for me? Which is a perhaps deludedly narcissistic way to feel about art, but I feel it. I reviewed the record for eMusic—here—but it feels insufficient. To even come close to explaining exactly how deeply I feel this record I would have to spend months trying to write through/about my very early-dawning (still lingering) awareness/fear of death… which happens to be something I’ve been doing anyway, so that’s convenient, but not exactly something to burden casual eMusic browsers with. Anyway, this record. You should hear it.

My First Love Was A Lion Tamer (Redux)

A few years ago I wrote a thing for Thought Catalog about the first great love of my life, Gunther Gebel-Williams. Then last fall I reworked it for True Story (where readers do a show-and-tell with a personal artifact that relates to their piece) and then this reminded me that I had intended to post the betterized version here but never did. So here it is. 

Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer’s Child Ballads collection is so super wonderful. I wrote about it for Pitchfork and you can listen to the whole thing here (and then other places after it comes out tomorrow). My favorite moment on the album is on “Tam Lin” when Mitchell kinda chirp-gulps “a naked man!” but I couldn’t figure out where to stick that in the review.

This started out as a piece to read at Vouched Presents last month. For a minute I wasn’t sure if I wanted to find it a home outside of that little room at the Goat Farm, but then I was like, “HEY, go hard or go home, Maddux!” Because sometimes I give myself lil pep-talks like I’m my own roided-out high school wrestling coach. So here it is at Salon.

And now, a Girls GIF to confirm my self-awareness:


And while I’m GIF-ing anyway: