Flash in the Pan

Art All the Time

Category: Uncategorized

Art, Influences, and Pancakes

by Robin Criscuolo






Today’s inspiration: 




I am sitting on my floor reading this book, Share Your Work by Austin Kleon.


I am a third of the way through and I want to jump up and knock on my roommates door, the one who is making it working for himself with his photography and film editing, and give the book to him, but I’m only a third of the way through the book and I am selfishly going to finish it first. 


My thought process: “I must give this to him as soon as I’m done. I must email my writing buddies from college. Remember the lapsed blog we started together? Remember Hilary’s offers to help me with a website. Oooh, I must share this book with my new writing group!” And so on. 


Austin Kleon says share what you truly like, what you are inspired by. Shout it from the rooftops, he says and you will find your people, your following, your scene.  Anne, from Anne of Green Gables, calls them “kindred spirits”




Today I am inspired by this girl.


She is on my list of top ten childhood influences and what kind of person I want to be when I grow up. I’ve had this image saved to my desktop for weeks now. This girl is at her stove, pot boiling over and splatters on the floor as she leans back, all her focus on flipping that one pancake. The motion of her wrist. It feels so right to be this girl, in this moment, in front of this stove, flipping this pancake. 

“And then she got out three eggs and tossed them high in the air. One of the eggs landed on her head and cracked open, making the yolk run into her eyes. But the other two she easily caught with a saucepan.

They smashed into bits in the pan.

‘I’ve always heard that egg yolks are good for your hair,’ said Pippi, wiping her eyes. ‘Just wait and see, my hair is going to start growing like mad.'”


Her constant companions, Tommy and Anika, look on goggle-eyed, but Pippi is oblivious to their judgement because she is flipping her pancake, which is, at the moment, her life’s work. Everything (plucking the egg shells out of the batter, beating the batter with her bath brush, singing a pancake song made up on the spot) has lead up to this moment: egg yolk dripping down her neck, pancake in mid-air about to land with a hiss and sputter of hot grease. It will sizzle to a golden tan and then she will throw it across the room onto plate and urge her incredulous friends to “Eat! Eat, before it gets cold!” They will gobble it up and declare it the one of the best pancakes they’ve ever eaten. She is sharing what makes her happy and she is doing it just as it occurs to her. 

I want to be that girl. 




I keep a card  from my dear friend  Zach Danneman by my bed. Zach spent Christmas week with me a couple of years ago and we stayed up late talking long into every night. One drizzling evening, we talked about doing what we loved. He shared with me a favorite phrase from one of his friends or relations, an aunt or grandmother, perhaps: “Do whatever flips your pancake!” Used like the phrase “whatever floats your boat” or “whatever turns you on.” When Zach left, he gave me this card: on the front was a photograph of a majestic waterfall with water splashing down over rocks smoothed from centuries of moving H2o. Next to the image of the waterfall, he had written “Dat shit be flippin’ my pancake like ten times!”




Here’s to what is flippin’ our pancakes today. Here’s to giving our pancake flippin’ our all, just as it occurs to us. And here’s to sharing the process, messy and eggshell-y and all.


 And read this book.


Get it from an indie bookstore:





Image credits: 


1980’s edition of Pippi Longstocking from Buccaneer Books, illustrated by Louis S. Glanzman.


The Perfect Day

by Samantha Capps

“How do I master / the perfect day? / Six glasses of water / Seven phone calls” – “It’s Not Up to You,” Björk

If you asked me, I’d tell you my perfect day looked like this: I wake up, go for a run, make a good, healthy breakfast for myself, go to work at my library job, eat a good, healthy lunch, work hard and well and with joy, come home to a house/apartment (it really doesn’t matter) that has lots of plants and lots of sunlight, eat a good, healthy dinner with someone I love, and have time in the evening to read, write, meditate, watch a movie, call a friend, spend time with someone I care about, and go to sleep for a full seven to eight hours next to someone I love, but not before writing in my journal.

Though I know I am young and still have (one would hope) plenty of time to create my perfect day, but I find myself getting so frustrated with how little my life matches up with my ideal. Yes, I have a library job, which I love and am very thankful for (I try to think about how thankful I am for this job during my walk from my parking lot to the library. Sometimes I forget just how awesome an opportunity this gig is for me.), but it’s only part-time, so I’m doing a lot of work on the side for my dad for extra money and searching for either a second part-time job or a full-time library job. Money is a constant problem for me. I have an apartment, which I got while I was still working full-time before my joints decided to start hurting me, forcing me to quit my very physically intense second job. I am paying my rent and my electric and internet and student loan bills and my gas, but my mother is still taking care of my car insurance and my phone bill. I want to save money so I can go to grad school mostly financially independent, but with my current circumstances, saving is practically impossible. I feel guilty over about every dollar I spent. I seriously spent a good five minutes earlier this week debating whether or not to buy string beans because I want to cut down as much spending as I possibly can (I eventually decided to buy the string beans, but the market near my library where I was going to buy them ended up being closed due to an emergency. Life is funny.) I was recently turned down for a job at a YMCA, but even if I had gotten the job I would have said no because it required me to work four pm to nine pm Monday through Friday, which I would have loathed. I want to make money, but I don’t want to sacrifice my well-being to do so.

I’m eating better than I ever have before in my life. For the past three months, I’ve had three eggs, a banana, and oatmeal for breakfast, as opposed to my usual sugary cereal, and it’s made a big difference. I haven’t stuck with diet change for this long ever before, and it feels great. But I get lazy with my other meals. I still eat Big Macs when I’m in a rush and when my roommate is too busy to cook real food for us, I make Rice-a-Roni or canned soup for dinner.

And my greatest qualms are in my non-working-or-eating time. Sometimes I can go a whole week where I can keep my daily goals. I WILL meditate twenty minutes a day (it really does make a difference if done regularly). I WILL write for thirty minutes every day. I WILL go for a walk every day. I WILL make a dent in my reading list every day. I WILL update this website every week. I WILL work on the three self-help workbooks I am working through every day. But inevitably I get bored or tired or lazy and slip up. I am a depressive trying to live my life without medications, and sometimes after work all I want to do is lie in bed. Sometimes I just want browse my favorite websites and not have to think or work or make any substantial effort toward anything. And then the guilt sets in, the feeling that I am not living my life the way I should be, that I am not meeting my potential, that I could be better if I just tried harder, but the energy for such effort just isn’t me.

I have so many doubts. I doubt that my perfect day is possible. Sometimes I think my perfect day is impossible because of the nature of existence, the external imperfection and error and dumb mistakes. Sometimes I think it’s impossible because of me. I could write forever about my history of psychological troubles. I struggle to remain emotionally stable. My romantic relationships (and occasionally my platonic friendships) are tumultuous and brief and intense. At the moment, I am caught up in a very confusing situation with a boy who is leaving for California in two weeks, and it’s bringing out the worst of my co-dependency and clinging and mood swings and depressive thoughts. I doubt that I have the strength to create what I really want in my life. I doubt that I will ever be a stable, mostly optimistic person who can handle life’s curve balls without falling apart. But I have a new therapist who I think is helping to get me on the right path, and sometimes I think maybe contentment is possible for me.

I like getting drunk. For reasons I still don’t understand, I am much happier on mornings when I wake up hung-over. I feel more at peace, more able to tackle the day. Being drunk lets me write more freely. I am drunk right now. But I set limits. I don’t (for the most part) drink unless I don’t have work the next day or until after I’ve taken care of any pressing issues (today, I made myself work on the prescription paperwork I process for my father and take a shower before I opened this bottle of cheap Wal-Mart merlot). Sometimes I am afraid I am on the path to alcoholism. Sometimes I think I can incorporate drunken nights into my perfect days.

I can’t run because of my chronic joint pain. Not that I particularly like running, but I believe it’s a practice that fosters discipline and endurance, both of which I want and need. But I try to be grateful for my mornings, even if they don’t include a refreshing run. The library doesn’t open until ten. I wake up at eight and cook my breakfast and never feel rushed to get out the door.

So maybe the perfect day isn’t possible. Maybe our lives are like mathematical equations with that approach a limit but never reach it. Through hard work and a little luck we can get closer to that perfect day, but our imperfect lives prevent us from ever getting there. Maybe I will always struggle with whether or not tonight is a drinking night or not, whether or not I will I feel okay with not writing for three days straight, whether or not I am can be content with my apartment with very little sunlight and lots of insects but with the potential for a garden in the front.

I discovered this week that Montreal is an extremely possible location for my graduate library science studies. I would be living abroad and be immersed in French, but not overwhelmed by it (I would still be fairly close to home, the school is English, and as long as I continue to work on my French skills, I think life in Montreal is entirely possible for me), which would pave the way for me to go back to France. In the next week, I am going to open a savings account and start saving up the little extra money I have, and there is still the possibility that in the near future I will get a phone call from the full-time library jobs I have applied for. Though I don’t write every day, I feel more confident in my abilities and potential than every before. Every week, I go to my Codependents Anonymous meeting and my French conversation group, both of which bring me a lot of joy and both of which I learn a lot from. In two weeks, my sort-of-but-not-really boyfriend is moving to Santa Cruz to create his perfect day, and as much as I am dreading his departure, I know it is good for me in the long-run that he does so and I am happy that he is going off to do what he really wants to do. I am still struggling with my very intense emotional fluctuations (this has been the worst two weeks in quite a while) but I do like my therapist, and I think once the object of my current unhealthy attachment has relocated to the west, I’ll be able to put more focus on getting better and creating a stable life. This post probably has a lot of errors, but goddammit, I’m writing!

In the same song quoted at the beginning of this post, Björk also sings, “The evening / I’ve always longed for / It could still happen anyway.” 

My perfect day is no guarantee, but neither is the a lifetime of the confusion and despondency I am currently wading through. God grant me to courage to see this point of my life through, whoever the fuck you are.

A Thought while Waiting for the Green Light So I Can Merge onto I-85

by Samantha Capps

Whenever I ride shotgun in a car or am stopped at a light, I have a tendency to stare at the drivers of the cars next to me. I’ve been a starer my whole life. I catch myself staring at walls, at other people, at pages of books without reading them almost every day. But it’s different on the road. I do it intentionally. And almost every time, even though they are staring at the road in front of them, these drivers know that I am staring and turn and give me a “What you lookin’ at?” look. Is it a sign that human beings are all really connected, this intuitive sense that someone in the car next to you is staring at you? I wonder what they’re thinking when they catch me staring? Are they as perplexed by my gaze as I am by their sudden turning in my direction? Or am I thinking too much again? The Hispanic man smoking a cigarette turns his head towards me with a glare, and I look back at the road in front of me, just as the light turns green.

Who the Fuck Are You, Anyway?

by Samantha Capps

It’s a question I keep struggling with: who the fuck am I? Part of the answers is what I do. Another part is what I want to do. Another part is how I think, what I’m good at, what I’m not so good at, the things I’ve done in the past, the thing I want to do in the future, my flaws, my contradictions. Who the fuck am I anyway?

I am a twenty-two-year-old college graduate living in her first apartment with a friend from high school. I work in a library, which is the bees-knees, though I spend a lot of time working with homeless or impoverished folks who don’t have a lot of computer skills, which is frustrating and challenging and rewarding. Last week I had my first experience of a patron thanking me for helping him create a resume that got him a job. I have a cubicle and an e-mail address and my own phone line and my own designated parking spot in biggest metropolitan area in North Carolina, which is all very strange and feels too adult-like for me.

I am a late bloomer. I had my first kiss at 18. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was almost 20. I never had a job before college. I am shy, self-conscious, always comparing myself to others. I own a hell of a lot of books. I get panicky in new situations. I have an irrational fear of making phone calls which has gradually become less severe. I cry a lot–I’ve cried in class, at work, to people I barely know, to my best friends, while driving, while in the shower, during sex, after sex, while having a conversation with the editor of my favorite literary journal.

People say I’m smart, but I often feel like I am only smart on paper. I make a lot of dumb mistakes. I am gradually learning to forgive myself for this and surround myself with people who don’t judge me for it.

I am a daydreamer. I spent a lot of time in my head. I get a lot of enjoyment out of simply sitting and thinking. Sometimes I wish I could stop thinking so much.

I have an extensive background of psychological treatment. I saw my first therapist at age seven. I was put on anti-depressants at age ten, and since then have taken just about every psychiatric drug on the market: Prozac, Zoloft, Abilify, lithium, Seroquel, and on and on. I have spent a little over a month in total in psychiatric hospitals. I have been off meds for almost two years now. Last week I got a new therapist. I worry a lot about what goes on in my brain and what it means for my future.

I once went to Catholic school. In high school, I became an atheist. Now I’ve started praying again to who knows what.

I want to go to library school. I want to go back to France. I want to get the heck out of North Carolina.

I get attached to people too easily and too quickly. I am not good at good-byes.

I spend a lot of time being sad. I spent a lot of time not wanting to get out of bed. And interspersed between my bouts of melancholia, I have many beautiful and joyful moments that I struggle to remember when the sadness hits me again.

I am terrified of failure.

I can finally look at myself in the mirror and think that I am beautiful.

I spent a lot of time in doctor’s offices for pain problems that I am afraid are going to stop me from doing what I want to do with my life.

I have some pretty amazing friends, which makes me think that I must be doing something right.

I wrote my first short story at age fifteen, after refusing to write for my creative writing class out of a belief that I was the worst writer ever. I wrote my first novel the following summer. I spent a lot of times doubting my abilities. I have had to slowly teach myself not to care if what I write is good or not. I have about fifteen rejection letters from literary journals saved in a drawer in my room. The most recent ones are the most encouraging ones I have received. Last night, in one of my now frequently-occurring drunken spells of self-pity, someone told me that he believes I am going to be a great writer some day. Two days ago, I started another novel.

I spend a lot of time wondering what the fuck I am dong and whether or not I am doing it well.

Sometimes I ask people who they think I am and whether or not I am living my life well.

I know no one can answer that question for me.

I am a person like everyone else that wants things and does things and eventually isn’t around anymore to want things or to do things.

I am a fucking writer. Today that feels like a good enough answer.

On Second Guessing Ourselves

by Robin Criscuolo

My generation is more than a little fucked. Almost all the early twenty-somethings I know feel lost and directionless much of the time. We bounce back and forth between ideas and reality, awash in a sea of feelings and doubts, triumphs and doubts, doubts and more doubts. Decisions loom large and feel momentous. A friend of mine is in knots over a decision whether to move or not. Another frets over whether to quit a job or not. I experience mental anguish for several days over whether to end a relationship. I could name many more examples, but if you are a twenty-something yourself, you can just pull from your own personal supply of dilemmas, and if you are beyond this stage in years and experience, I don’t want to bore you with the endless foibles of youth. If you are honest, I’m sure you can recall.


There are so many things in life: people, trees, animals, and God; little fiddly details to be worried over and life’s work and small decisions and big decisions, and what struck me this morning as I pushed myself up on my elbow in bed and looked groggily at the day was this: maybe they are all really the same size. Maybe the ones like quitting a job, moving, or ending a relationship are no more to be agonized and fussed over than which flavor of ice cream to chose at the ice cream counter. And yet, even there, last week, I hovered before the frosty, humming case, debating, thinking, analyzing: which flavor will make my life consummately perfect for the evening? I tasted many samples on little wooden paddles, trying to get a sense of which was best. But the analysis was short. When I quit thinking and listened to my body (namely my tongue and stomach in this case), it knew. It knew what it longed to experience. And so I chose (a split scoop of Pineapple-Mango and Jack’s Cayenne Cocoa Nut Butter) and was happy with what I was suddenly slurping up off my sugar cone. I was no longer thinking that maybe if I had chosen Grasshopper or Chocolate, then I would be happier, enjoying myself more. It didn’t matter. Enjoying myself enough in the moment, I did not look back and second-guess the choice. Could this method of choosing work with other situations that seem larger? Could it be the reality that all choices are created equal and that each turn we take, each person, place or thing we reach for or don’t, has an equal impact on the course of our lives? We can make any of them into as big a deal as we want; could it be we can also choose the opposite? Maybe we choose as best we can and God takes care of the rest.


My friend will soon decide to move or not, and perhaps neither will be The Wrong Choice. My other friend decided to quit her job to take care of her health. I experienced my mental anguish for several days and then ended the relationship. (For me, this was an improvement over the usual several months.) We can stick our tongues into as many sample flavors as we like, but in the end that’s just stalling. In the end, we choose, not by comparison and analysis, but because something just does or doesn’t feel right. And while we can’t fully explain our motivation, after making a choice, it seems that we don’t need to explain fully after all. To my friends (and there are a few of you), for whom decision making is a straightforward and simple affair, to be fretted over no more than whether to stretch first in the morning or rub your eyes, I salute you. And for those of us who go into a tizzy which escalates into a crisis which eventually resolves and we continue on our confused way, weaving about like a drunk insect, I salute us all the more. Those of us who spend hours spinning anxiously in our minds over some choice that we have already made or have yet to make, we have hope. We are reaching the tipping point of our agony, and we are good at nothing if not being unsatisfied and seeking new answers. We are good at extremes, and for my friends and I, no matter what we choose, the future will be extremely interesting. And none of us are alone.

Writer’s Block

by Samantha Capps

I am not sure when it started, that feeling of dread when I sit down with a blank Word document, that self-loathing as I type out a mess of malformed sentences and immediately delete them, the disappointment as I close the window and browse Tumblr in an attempt to distract myself from another failed attempt. I can’t write. Everything that comes out seems stilted, fake, dumb. I’ve been here before, but it’s been a long time. I remember days when I was first trying to write a novel, and I rewrote Chapter One over and over and over again because each time I hated it. No progress was made. Eventually I gave up.

Something changed eventually, though, and it wasn’t my skill. I stopped being so self-aware and critical. I stopped caring about how good what I wrote was. I stopped fearing failure. I decided to stop indulging in these thoughts that were blocking my progress. And from that came an unstoppable flow of energy and productivity. In a month, I wrote my first short story, which came to 40 single-spaced pages. That summer, I wrote my first novel.

Both of these creations are abysmally written. I want to burn both of them.

But if I hadn’t written my whiny, angsty short story and novel at the age of fourteen, I wouldn’t have gone on to write more mature and better written stories that earned me a Regional Gold Key Portfolio Award in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards (the highest award at the regional level) my senior year of high school. I wouldn’t have been able to complete my creative writing BA at Warren Wilson, and I wouldn’t be going to a writing retreat on a full scholarship in two weeks.

Why, now that the wall of procrastination and unworthiness is once again in my way, why am I so afraid? I’ve been here before. I can climb this wall again. It’s time to go back and face these old fears. I am ready.


by Samantha Capps

Life is beautiful and weird and surprising and every time I think I have it figured out, something jumps out at me, out of nowhere to remind me just how much I don’t know, how inscrutable the future is, how hazy the past is, how even the present is obscure, hidden behind discrete intentions and words whispered from one ear to another that someday, maybe, might reach me in the future and then I know that what I thought about the present moment was wrong and that the truth is blinding, devastating, sharing only a brief glimpse of the full picture, and with each day I wake up knowing that I am part of a knitted existence, one stitch that cannot possibly conceive of the unity of the whole but is aware that there is a whole, there must be, or how could I fit so perfectly in this space with my neighbors and my solitude, and on days when I feel the hopelessness returning I know that I am wrong, that surprising are always out there, that even if in the end we die alone and without the full knowledge we seek, there will be days when we sense the whole and feel our place and feel that here, right now, something is happening that fits perfectly in the woven strands of time from the back then to the now to the one day, and here I am, in the midst of all, in awe.

Sam Contemplates Shoplifting

by Samantha Capps

The local ToysRUs store, the one I had visited as a child, the one where I bought my purple translucent GameBoy Color and my first Pokemon card cartridge, was having a moving sale: every toy in the store at least 40% off. One of my newest obsessions since moving back home and having access to television was the Cartoon Network show Adventure Time, and my desire to buy some Adventure Time toys for dirt cheap won out over my increasingly anti-consumerism attitude, so I recruited a friend to go check out the sale with me.

We scoured every aisle of the store. Among all the Barbie dolls and Bratz dolls, I found one Adventure Time toy, a doll of one of the main characters from the show. He was in a good condition but with no tag, and once I noticed this details, an idea came to me.

“There’s no tag,” I said to my friend. “I could just, you know, slip it in my bag, and no one would know, and no one could prove I stole it.”

I expected him to be offended or scold me, but instead, he surveyed the aisle in search of security cameras.

“Looks clear. It’s up to you.”

I have never been much of a rebel. Four years of Catholic school drilled a strict moral code into me that had thus far proved indelible against seven years of agnosticism (with a few years of atheism mixed in). I was the girl who never broke the rules, who asked a lot of questions just to make sure I wasn’t breaking any rules, whom others sometimes feared to be a snitch. A coworker in college called me a goody-two-shoes one day for my insistence that we not exaggerate the hours we worked on a project for our time cards.

“What does that even mean, really?” I asked him while denying my goody-two-shoes status.

“It means you keep your shoes clean just because you’re supposed to.” Maybe I was a goody-two-shoes.

But this wasn’t just breaking the rules. This was breaking the law. College had broken me of my avoidance of victim-less crimes, though it took me until my junior year of college to final indulge in a bit of underage drinking. I had always thought that as a good girl, I would avoiding the many tragedies of more rebellious acquaintances, but in college someone told me that most of the alcoholics he knew didn’t start drinking until they turned twenty-one, and during my final semester of college, three months after my twenty-first birthday, as I lay drunk and crying on my friend’s floor, it occurred to me that maybe that guy had been right and that my years of sobriety had only prepared me for a lifetime of drunken suffering.

But in that case, I was only hurting myself. By stealing, I was taking something that belong to someone else. That someone else happened to be a ToysRUs store. Did ToysRUs really deserve that level of respect from me? They probably employed countless underage workers in China to make toys just like the one in my hand that I wanted so desperately. By paying money for this toy, I was contributing to a corrupt capitalist system. But if I really wanted to avoid capitalism, I wouldn’t have gone to ToysRUs in the first place.

I thought of a friend, who, as I drove us to the YMCA weeks earlier, had criticized me for stopping at a red light when there was obviously no one else at the intersection.

“It’s stupid!” he declared, and I couldn’t figure out who I wanted to punch in the face more: him or my inability to accept that maybe he was right and that stopping at a red light at an empty intersection is the epitome of my sheep-like “moral” behaviors.

I wanted to steal the toy to prove him wrong, to show him that I could break the rules. But breaking a rule simply because it’s a rule struck me as just as blind and sheep-like as following the rule. In that case, paying for the toy would be the true rebellion, an affirmation that I am more than a petty rebel. I’ll save for my rule-breaking for things that matter, not for material gain or a few extra seconds on a drive to the gym.

I decided to pay for the toy. It took the cashier five minutes to look up the toy on a computer and find the price for me. It wasn’t until after we left the store that I glanced at the receipt and discovered that she had charged me for the wrong toy, one that was probably more expensive than the one I actually had. I was tempted to think that the universe was punishing me (another remnant of Catholic school. I no longer believe in a God with the power to punish sins, but whenever things go wrong, I can’t help but think it’s a form of punishment from above). I had made the wrong decision.

Then I remembered that the toy I bought, the one that was in great condition and that I still only had paid five bucks for, was the only one in the entire store and was exactly what I had been looking for. I make countless decisions every day, some of which are more morally respectable than others (unless you want to go into the Nietzschean concept of morality, but that’s for another day, dear reader), and regardless of whether I made the right choice by not shoplifting, in the end I had gotten what I wanted, and my friend had gotten what he wanted (a Nerf gun and camo-colored bullets), and maybe we were contributing to a corrupt capitalist system and blindly following the rules of our Christian upbringings, but for now we were satisfied and that’s kind of all that really mattered.

by Hilary B. Bisenieks

Cross-posted from the Urban Phantasy blog.

Urban Phantasy

My essay about bicycles, my father, and growing up, in roughly that order, is now live at Philadelphia Stories, where it appears in their Spring 2012 issue.

You can read the essay here.

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