Follow Me on Medium!

Hey there friends! I’ve recently signed on to a new account at for an all new creative (and business) adventure.

Follow me @mavankerckhove

Right now, I’ve published a few things from the archives as well as a new piece that’s basically a finished something from the archives (I keep everything.) I’ve also started thinking about launching a couple Medium publications to give things a little focus. This may just be the right platform for all this.

I’m also in the Medium Partnership Program which pays writers based on reader response. I’ve been reading a lot of analysis of how that works and about the algorithm and all that, but I won’t bore you all with that here.

You can sign up for a free account. However, a paid membership gives you unlimited views to all Medium content. And your membership funds go toward the pot to pay writers. Hooray!

A good place to start is my latest story, I Made 5 Cents my First Week on Medium where I link to all my other stories and reflect on this new adventure.

I’ll also be better about posting links to new stories here on the mother ship site. Thanks in advance for reading. Cheers.

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash. (Not me, but I have a little tattoo envy.)

An Official Hello (Again) To Chicago

I realized that while I’ve updated my various social medias and other parts of this site, I haven’t really made an “official” Back to Chicago blog post. So I thought I’d write a little something to here. Perhaps not as extensive as my Official Farewell, but a little something to at least curb any confusion.

I moved back in July after some adult conversations, spring into summer travels, and much personal reflection (and tears, to be honest). I almost didn’t move back for what I’m calling Chicago 3.0 (1998/2009/2018). But as I wrote in my story Salzburg, my resistance was eroded away by the Lake, a couple BFFs, and several PBRs.

I haven’t seen that Lake much these past few months, though there’s no reason I can’t bundle up and make a winter sojourn. That’d be cool. The above selfie was taken back in October on one of my many Lakefront Trail bike rides. The Montrose Harbor area is a favorite.

I am happy to be back, connecting with old friends and making lots of new ones; connecting with old places and making new discoveries. My vintage courtyard building apartment in my new neighborhood is coming along bit by bit and I love it. As you may have noticed, I’ve jumped right back into the Chicago storytelling community with group and solo appearances. I look forward to continuing that journey.

Now that I’m (sort of mostly-ish?) settled, I am taking 2019 to dive into more freelance and other job opportunities. I have a great restaurant job, but frankly I don’t want to do that forever. I’m looking to take my writerly/arts/nonprofit/hospitality experience points to the next creative level(s). Feel free to contact me about any opportunities you may have handy. (Thanks!)

I suppose I could go on, but I’ll save further waxing poetic for another time. I’ll simply end with It’s good to be home.

New Publications Roundup

Happy New Year! Before I solidify some writerly goals for 2018, I thought I’d start the year off by sharing a Publications Roundup for the past few months, starting with my most recent (this week!) It’s been a pretty exciting time!

Check out these latest print and online publications. See all publications information at my Publications Page. Thank you for reading and for all your support!


Off The Rocks, Issue 21, January 2018.

My first official published short fiction piece Survival is included in the 21st edition of NewTown Writers‘ journal of LGBT writings. I’d like to thank them for welcoming me back into the fold for this issue.

Everyone Should Go to Live Lit Events

Proximity Magazine‘s TRUE Blog, December 7, 2017.

TRUE is Proximity Magazine’s space for conversations around true stories. I write about the importance of attending live lit events for writers and non-writers alike.

Swim Lessons

Waxing & Waning, Issue 02 (_print_), Fall 2017.

Waxing & Waning is the literary magazine of Nashville-based April Gloaming Press. My nonfiction piece Swim Lessons appears in this issue.

A Love Poem for Sleepaway Camp

FreezeRay Poetry, Issue #14: Putting a Band-Aid on 2017 With Sweet Nerd Poems. November 2017.

The editors of FreezeRay Poetry, an online quarterly literary journal dedicated to the poetry of pop culture, have included my “A Love Poem For Sleepaway Camp” in the latest issue (#14). The piece was originally written for and performed at Flick Lit: Reel-to-Real Storytelling at the Logan Theatre, Chicago, May 11, 2016.

You can also listen to me read it via a new audio recording of the piece. I let out my inner Judy. The audio is a little NSFW.

Other Me Can Sing

Eclectica Magazine, Vol. 21, No. 4 – October/November 2017.

The Editors at Eclectica Magazine published my new poem “Other Me Can Sing” as part of their Word Poems special feature. The words for this issue are: parallel, tide, knot, and lantern.

The Pantry

Rust Belt Chicago: An Anthology, Belt Publishing, August 2017.

I am thrilled to be a part of this exciting collection! This piece about my experiences volunteering at the Lakeview Pantry began life in 2013 as coursework for my Truths & Lies in Creative Nonfiction class at DePaul University. Thank you to my instructor Rachel Shteir and my classmates for their help in shaping it. I presented it at the 2013 DePaul Univeristy English Conference.

An Official Farewell to Chicago

It’s been a little over seven months since I said “Farewell” to Chicago and hit the road for new adventures in Nashville. Seven months since it snowed in March for the movers after seventy degree days in February. Since sitting in my car with my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and breakfast sandwich after my final packing/cleaning/walk-through/put our condo keys and parking lot gate opener on the counter/taking my time shutting the front door and looking wistfully like the final episode of a beloved sitcom. All with minutes to spare before the new residents received their keys and had their first walk-through before closing. I had no interested in accidentally meeting them.

Since basically my final shot of Chicago was, while filling Bud’s gas tank at the BP on Broadway and Irving Park, I see Honey West sauntering cautiously across the lot with her poofy pink winter jacket and big-gulp sized drink. Taking me back to a pivotal Chicago moment that first Monday after 9/11 out of our apartments and ourselves, and my dear friend MK (before he was “MK”) and I hit the Boystown bars and we ended up at Gentry and ordered one more drink we probably didn’t need and Honey sang the WWI classic “Over There” and I completely effing LOST it. Yeah.

Seven months of moving into a new house and trying to not rely on my phone too much to get around (I miss the Chicago grid!) and making my way into a new literary community and job searching and all that goes into relocating. And I finally have my new site ready, and I’ve been brewing this “Farewell” post in my head for a while. Because I kind of feel like I just “ghosted” out of town. Between Ernie’s moving down early to start his new job at Nashville Children’s Theatre that’s brought us here in the first place and the packing of life and work and all that, there just wasn’t a whole lot of time to see everyone and visit everywhere and get too sentimental. Even though I did find time to walk by all my apartments, including walking the ally to visit my West Barry coach house place. It would’ve been cool to have a big going away bash somewhere, inviting (most) everyone we ever knew in Chicago. But it just didn’t work out. We left once before, but not as far. South Bend, Indiana was close enough to keep our dentist. This time, not so much. This is it.

So, farewell to mine and my college mate Sarah’s first apartment (1998-99) down the road from Wrigley, a “garden apartment” with its cat pee soaked carpet and rat problem. To (re)discovering Boystown and to all the boys and friends I knew and loved and crushed on and all that, numbers written on Roscoe’s business cards with golf pencils that I maybe still have tucked in an old phone book somewhere (okay, I know where). To being single via landlines and answering machines and payphones, oh my.

A Thank you to all my peeps at Chicago Dramatists and the Living Room Project and NewTown Writers for all your inspiration and opportunity. To the Chicago Live Lit Community and all the writers I’ve shared a mic with or listened to from the audience–and to all the audiences who took ten minutes here and there to listen and maybe say a kind word after. You are all amazing!

To my DePaul University MAWP classmates and professors. You seriously rock! Thank you for getting me to the place as a writer I am today. Thank you also (and especially?) to the DePaul Writers Guild! I miss “stretching my tuition dollars” every Thursday (etc.) and am honestly still feeling a little lost without you. I know you still have my back.

I miss you, big fat Lake I could walk to or ride my bike along, stare into, get a sense of direction from. A particularly sweltering spell this past August, all I wanted was to be with you. The Cumberland River doesn’t quite cut it in comparison. I miss more daily biking and walking in general, late night rides down Clark Street from Andersonville, cutting across Sunnyside and its funny pedestrian-only way. Feeling badass riding Milwaukee Avenue home from Wicker Park.

I get my Chicago Instagram fixes primarily through @Chicagotod and @Chicagomotives. Thanks, guys!

I read my copy of Rust Belt Chicago: An Anthology from a distance, much of it sitting on our back porch overlooking our sometimes overgrown backyard, early mornings, coffee, birds and bugs chirping, a train whistle in the distance, light (and sometimes not) city noises. Far away from our condo’s arm-span sized balcony that served as our outdoor space (for which I was grateful!) overlooking Sheridan Road from where my young nephew once shouted excitedly, “TWO AIRPLANES!” as he kept watch of our O’Hare flight path. I love the collection and am proud to be a part of it. But it made me miss the city: a Chicago I could directly connect with, sure, but also a Chicago just before my time there in neighborhoods that I only visited but never lived. And a Chicago that was not my version of Chicago. It kind of drove home that life in Chicago for me is now truly in the past. 20 years ago I was saving my dollars (literally–as a waiter!) to get myself there. But things end and it’s all a part of myself, ourselves.

As is Unabridged Bookstore and Joys Noodles and Melrose Diner (RIP) and the Golden Apple and all the coffee shops I wrote parts of my soul in (Dollop, “Cariboy,” and more) and the stages at the old Bailiwick and the Strawdog cabaret (also RIP) and all the theatres I went to with Ernie and before I knew him. And that moment when each night Charlie’s transitioned from cowboy bar to late night dance club. And walking quickly to Halsted without a coat in winter because who wants to deal with coat check? And both the romance and torture of all the CTA train lines. And the entertainment of the Broadway bus. And restaurant jobs and temp jobs. And the Art Institute on my birthday. And driving back into the city at night, the skyline lights welcoming us home. And, and, and more things I’ll think of and remember after I finish typing this.

I could think about things I won’t miss or places I never made it to. But maybe some other time for all that. I want to keep the glow nice and warm as the weather is finally (finally!) properly autumnal down here in Tennessee. Just in time.

New Site October 2017!

Hey there! So, as part of my move earlier this year from Chicago to Nashville, I wanted to give this site a much needed update and makeover. These things take time, but here it is with new layouts, images, and details about my Publications, Performance, and Stories. It’s been fun putting it all together. Enjoy!

A huge thank you to Borja Cabada for adapting one of his illustrations to grace these pages. I love my little stand-in dude. I guess this means I can’t shave my beard anytime soon (not that I was planning on it). When I saw the original, I kind of teared up some and was like Give him a beard and a purple shirt and that’s basically me….

There are still a few things to work out and update. I’ve noticed the site title is wonky on my iPhone browser, so that’s on my list. I also need to update the Theatre section to include more directing and acting archives. This will mean a date with my scanner. In due time…

I’d also like to post more on this blog. A couple posts to write: my “official” Farewell to Chicago and Hello to Nashville posts. Even though it’s been 7 months now. 🙂 If you haven’t already, feel free to subscribe to Blog to receive email notices of new posts.

Thank you for joining me in my new adventures.


Upcoming Spring 2016 Events

Hey Friends, I have three (3!) upcoming live lit events in the next couple months. I hope to see you out at one or more. That would may me way happy. It’ll all be really very. (No not a hint as to what movie I’ll be talking about at Flick Lit…)

Is This a Thing Logo

Is This a Thing? – Are You There God, It’s Me..? @ O’Shaughnessy’s, Ravenswood, Chicago. Monday April 11, 2016 @ 7:00. More on Facebook and the Facebook Event Page.

I’m revisiting an old story friend for this one.


Essay Fiesta New

Essay Fiesta @ The Book Cellar, Lincoln Square, Chicago. Monday April 18, 2016 @ 7:00. More on the Essay Fiesta website , Facebook, and the Facebook Event Page.

My triumphant return after a six year hiatus!


Flick Lit Logo

Flick Lit: Reel-to-Real Storytelling for Movie Lovers – Bad Movies @ The Logan Theatre. Logan Square, Chicago. Wednesday May 11, 2016 @ 7:30. More on Facebook.

A newer show on the block I’m way excited about.


Happy writing, reading, listening, living, Everyone! 🙂

Voices of the Middle West Lit Fest 2015 – Some Takeaways

This year, I was able to make it back home to Michigan to attend the 2015 Voices of the Middle West Lit Fest, brought to us by Midwestern Gothic, and the Residential College at UM Ann Arbor. The photo above was taken at the BELT Magazine table as I proudly hold my purchased Detroit Anthology. (You can read my story On The Rouge on the BELT website!)

The book fair was a fun opportunity to talk with Midwest presses and lit mags, spend money, and enjoy some giveaways. I had to go to my car part way through to unload my acquisitions. I now have new readables from Two Dollar Radio, BELT, Cream City Review, Mid-American Review, Michigan Quarterly, Pleiades, Southern Indiana Review, and more! Plus my book of matches from Hobart.

Matt Bell signed my copy of his story collection How They Were Found, and Stuart Dybek signed my copy of his Coast of Chicago. (It was also cool talking WMU for a minute. He was teaching while I was there, but alas, I never had him for class). I also met and talked to other attendees, including the writer Adam Schuitema who I’d only been Twitter buddies with up to that point.

I also read at the open mic, which was pretty rad.

I attended two panels: The Midwest as Place and Midwestern Fabulism. Here are a few takeaways as jotted down in my notebook. Most of the time I didn’t write down names next to notes, so credit to ALL the panelists and moderators!

Midwest as Place: Melba Boyd, Caitlin Horrocks, C.J. Hribal, Marcus Wicker; Mod: Aaron Burch

– “The Great Lakes keep  me anchored.” (Melba)

– “We’re a Laverne & Shirley re-run. We are complicated. (C.J.)

– We are writing into a voice of the popular mindset of what the Midwest is. We are working against, with, around, etc. the images and spaces people have.

– The Midwest is often defined by what it isn’t.

– The Midwest can still affect our writing even if a story isn’t specifically set here.

– We are stewards and critical champions of the Midwest. We’re outsiders even when inside. Our internal rhythms change even when moving around within the Midwest.

Midwestern Fabulism: Matt Bell, Laura Kasischke, Alissa Nutting, Anne Valente; Mod: Elizabeth Schmuhl

– We can use fairytale tropes even in more realist work. (Matt)

– Fairytales have so much contemporary potential; they are story shapes you can’t wear out; the building blocks have so much life in them.

– Magical realism allows you to bend the world.

– Nonrealism helps in approaching issues and problems from the side. (Matt) Also, as a male writer, it can be a more palatable way to approach sensitive subjects.

– Writing imitations of fairytales can help with inspiration.

– In fairytales, when you need something, it’s there. Let things happen without clean cause and effect to make way for other interesting things to happen.

– Magic needs to be in the DNA of a story, not just added like a bad Instagram filter. (In magical realism, the magic by definition HAS to intersect with the realism.)

– To indicate or not to indicate at the outset that the story will delve into the fabulist…

– Fantasy elements from the subconscious–let the writing surprise you in the first draft. Put everything in there and then deal.  (Matt)

– We all pick different magic. What magic to I see?

– “Euchatastrophe”: the good that comes out of a tragedy.

– Fairytales use exaggeration to make a point.

Stuart Dybek Keynote

– Writers are builders of place.

– Chicago writers are humanists, but we’re also realists. We’re not afraid of sentiment. We’re writers of class.

– Midwest writers work with landscape (rural) and class (urban); those who stayed vs. those who ran away; realist vs. fabulist.

– His Chicago is a made up place.

– The Midwest is not an area that values pretension. We have a good talent for smelling it out.

Looking forward to 2016!

A Place for Grandma

My grandmother, Julia Elizabeth Van Kerckhove, passed away on October 17, 2014. She recently celebrated her 92nd birthday on October 11. The following is what I shared at her service on October 22, written earlier that morning.

So the story goes that after the performance of the Greasepaint Players’ production of Deadwood Dick that I saw when I was 3 going on 4 years old (that I also fell asleep during), I went back stage to greet Grandma and declared that THIS is what I wanted to be when I grew up. After several school plays, a theatre degree, and my current job running a national arts organization for children’s theatres, I’d say I’ve kept to my word.

Our girl Julia was many things to all of us: sister, cousin, mother, aunt, grandmother, great grandmother, friend. The kind of friend you can navigate through various disagreements with—from simple things like taste in music and the spice level in your dinner (note: she liked absolutely zero) to deeper, more ideological issues—and then keep going with the grounded, positive relationship that you started with. We all have our ins with her. In my case, theatre, art, and to some extent writing (dibs on her vintage typewriters!) are mine.

Here then is a montage of things she is to me, and as these moments wash over you, I invite you to riff on your own.

Julia is waking up early and eating blueberry pancakes around the chrome sided kitchen table at Bedford, and then driving to the Detroit Institute of Art—either solo, or with Steve, and sometimes Mark across the street—where we’d roam through galleries of paintings, jade sculptures, and suits of armor, and also touch the bronze the donkey.

She is practicing her Art in the Schools presentations with us in the Bedford dining room. And driving across town for sessions with MY 4th grade class, and letting ME run the slide projector.

She is late night stories around the same kitchen table, lit by the glow of her Blessed Mother nightlight—our own Virgin Queen campfire. Including the book about the little ghost where the family, whose house he haunts, one day decides to oil all the doors in order to silence this mysterious search of a new house to haunt, only to discover they are already taken by other ghosts.

She is cold meatloaf sandwiches on white bread with butter; she is carrot Jell-o and Raisin Bran.

She is watching Murder She Wrote and scandalous 1980s miniseries. And asking me if the TV show The Facts of Life is about sex.

She is asking me if Michael Jackson is “the one with the nice personality” while questioning my love of Prince and Madonna.

She is my silver sequined sparkle vest she made for one of my dance recitals, where she sat with Mom and Dad in the audience on metal folding chairs across Redford Township.

She is “Graham Crackers” a nickname that probably came from the classic snack of graham crackers and butter.

She is insisting on my washing my hands before heaving thinking of touching her piano–or doing anything really. (And any neuroses I have in this area is all her fault!)

She is saved Quaker Oats canisters recycled as Star Wars action figure fortresses and pencil holders wrapped in brown contact paper; birthday cards with newspaper clippings; and tubs and tubs of previously unpublished photos.

She is bonding with my husband Ernie over the musical Gypsy.

She is a cookie tin filled with colored foiled stars; she is a shouted “FRANK!” echoing throughout the house.

She is “Judy” as Grandpa called her, which of course made me think of Judy Garland cos that’s how I roll.

She is asking about school and grad school and my writing and work, and giving me her pride and support up until the very end.

She is a million other things I’m not thinking of at this moment in part because the house is a whirlwind this morning and cartoons are blasting from the downstairs TV and live goes on, but I know they will all come to me in the days and months and years ahead. As they will for all of us. I mean, I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to forget such a present, powerful, inspirational, and downright stubborn force in my life. For real.

So, Thank you, Grandma!