Exploring the art of prose


Tag: Voice

Interview: Sarah Blake

Image is the book cover for CLEAN AIR; title card for Melanie Pierce's new interview with Sarah Blake.

  In Sarah Blake’s sophomore novel, Clean Air, the cause of the climate apocalypse comes as a surprise. It’s not rising oceans or wildfires or air pollution. The trees release enough pollen to suffocate humankind: a drawn-out, mass-casualty event known…

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Census by Jade Hidle

alt text: image is blurred, grayed screenshot of a government census form; title card for Jade Hilde's "Census"

  They always knock with questions and promises. They assure me that checking these boxes will only take a few. forward. minutes. But time winds serpentine when so many voices crescendo with each box that asks me to fit inside.…

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Yield by Jolene McIlwain

alt text: image is a color photograph of cows in a pasture; title card for the flash CNF piece "Yield" by Jolene McIlwain

Content Warnings—cesarean section, traumatic birth   I could not milk. Was it due to upset levels of oxytocin, prolactin, beta-endorphin? May have been the morphine pump I kept firing like a trigger from my hospital bed in the postlabor/delivery room.…

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Author’s Note

“Roach Farm” is about the fall of 2020, a period of intense national and personal unrest. The chaos of COVID, the election, and the general doom-fog felt separate from the chaos of my work and relationships. But, in writing this essay, I started to understand that the external and the internal were actually in conversation the whole time, behind my back.

I chose to work at the roach farm because I thought it might offer an escape. I’d be working in a remote warehouse, laboring over bugs—what I thought to be an apolitical life form—alongside strangers. But still, there was the ghost of politics in most of the conversations there. By the end of my tenure, even the roaches felt symbolic of gender issues.

In the fall of 2020, I wondered about my belief systems and what to do with them. I was constantly attempting (both with great self-consciousness and great ego) to figure out where I fell on the spectrum of being a person who cared about the well-being of the world. This attempt was complicated because the only problem actually keeping me up at night was a breakup. It was my first real breakup with my first love. It was excruciating.

This past year. I’ve been reading a lot of amazing braided nonfiction books and essays: Jia Tolentino, Carmen Maria Machado, Jo Ann Beard, Karla Conejo Villavicencio. I think it’s incredible when an author winds narrative and research so tightly together they feel like one story. “Roach Farm” is my attempt at braiding three stories at once: Dubia roaches, the politics of existing in 2020, and my breakup.

I read somewhere that if what’s on the page doesn’t scare you, you’re doing it wrong. With this piece, I set out with the goal to pursue honesty until I scared myself. So, here I am, totally scared.


JT BALDASSARRE is a freelance writer and filmmaker living in Brooklyn, New York. In 2020, she won the James E. Michael Prize in Playwriting. She just finished filming a pilot, and is currently writing a four-part miniseries. She is also developing new personal essays and nonfiction pieces. Find her current work and contact information at her website linked above. She’s on Instagram @jtbaldassarre.