Whole Heart Hiatus 2018


Friends: WHL is on hiatus while I work on several fiction manuscripts that I have in the works. I really miss this blog and the world it creates/allows. I plan to return.

In the meantime:


South & Bardwell Book Hutch Refreshed


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It was falling into disrepair (but not disuse, clearly, considering the continued pile-up of books, magazines, flyers, random household items), and now it’s not. In fact, there’s a fresh, new structure to frequent. THANK YOU, mystery carpenter!



Honoring an Architect of my Personality: Kirsten Quatela


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I wish I could recall where I learned the phrase, this idea that one’s personality is not just birth and place and time and opportunity, but also a construct of unseen, inscrutable influences. Non-fixed, perhaps with some central elements, and definitely with strong strands reaching back to lineage, out to family, out to friends, loves, and chance meetings of heart or intellect, forward to those who come next. For me, it’s not always obvious who architects of my personality are, until I lose one.


Flower bud by Kirsten

Around the time that I met Kirsten Nordt in high school, a favorite family member had warned me away from the path I was tripping down –me: a slightly boyish girl who loved animals, who loved words and books, who unwisely made friends with white kids. I have no doubt that my family member’s desire was for me to thrive, but what I remember most were words that tore at what I was trying to build. His and my truths were not the same, and one of my truths was Kirsten.

Far taller than me, paler, red-haired, with a laugh that invited. Still strangers to one another, we stood in a narrow hall while volunteering as ushers for a high school play and Kirsten joyfully punched my shoulder hard enough to hurt. Friends from that moment forward, she never harmed me the way my family member feared. 


Flowers up close by Kirsten

When a person sees and can articulate what you are worth, you become that worth. I have learned that people are reflections of one another. Kirsten reflected humor, artistry, generosity, and thoughtfulness. I reflected my budding feminism, curiosity, silly gifts purchased from toy shops, and word-craft. She introduced me to what today remain some of my favorite media, from Bjork to the Wishbone television show to the Griffin & Sabine novel trilogy.

From Kirsten I learned how to respect and celebrate faith, even one I did not share. We shared a love of picture books and the natural world. I spun college and post-college experiences into letters and cards, sailed them across the miles. She became Kirsten Quatela, mother of two and inspired photographer in Portland, OR. I remained Phoebe Sinclair, writer and wanderer, partnered and thriving in Boston, MA. We inspired one another to continue to reach out, by letter, holiday card, art-gift, quick note typed into a blinking message field.


College-age Phoebe by Kirsten

All ends. That is not a choice, but a reality and what I did not expect, I must still accept. In one of our last correspondences, I expressed love and concern, and Kirsten responded: “I appreciate you reaching out and your kind words. Life took an unexpected turn a year ago, but I am walking forward and taking what I can from it to be the best Kirsten I can be.

That she was.


High school Kirsten by Phoebe

Starting the Year Off Right


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One of my surprises at the conclusion of 2016 was, despite being devoted to so many jobs and efforts and recurring piles of laundry, I read over 50 books!* How I managed this is a mystery . . . and yet not. I truly cannot keep myself from checking out a book or magazine or CD whenever I visit a library. I visit often.


Then there’s my life-long penchant for padding my numbers with picture books (this proto-cheating behavior was inspired by Summer Reading Challenges at my local libraries wherein every ten books or so won a certificate for a ‘personal pan pizza’ at PizzaHut.) Also, I happen to love picture books and keep my own collection, despite the noticeable lack of children in my house.

So. Here we are in 2017 and I discovered I already had a sizable stack of library materials on loan. (Pictured above.) Way I see it, startin’ the year off right.

*You should see my fanfiction numbers. We’re talking 100s!

My Blog Talks to Me



The spark.


I’m biking, walking, working, showering, and suddenly there’s a voice. It’s my voice, but not. It’s Whole Heart Local.

Ideas spool out. Emotions, snippets, funny asides. In my head, a dialogue that I don’t quite direct. Mostly, I listen. Mostly, I feel it out . . . a blog post is born.

I write what I hear. Listen more. Worry some (though not nearly as much as when engaged in writing fiction), and consider possible repercussions. I edit, then post.

To some this might sound like magic. Just another writer/artist out there, myth-talking my process. Others know this process well -they flirt or fight with their own versions.

For me, there is a type of magic, but more an experience of wonder and gratitude. The effort can be delicate, sensitive to disruptions. Which is why, WHL posts recently dried up. Too much on my plate.


When I’m not writing for WHL, I miss it. There is a satisfaction that comes with getting a blog post just right -unexpected spelling errors, spacing issues, left-out conjunctions, and all. The imperfect perfect that I stretch for.

Am I back on task with WHL? Nope. Fall was just as event, activity, and responsibility heavy as last spring and summer. But it still speaks to me, WHL. I race to capture the words –whether I’m biking to work, showering, reading, whatever.

As long as it speaks, I’ll try to keep listening.

Mild MBTA Misbehaviors: Overdue Apology #3 – Sorry I Weirded You Out


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Skin is so soft and smooth and warm. Sometimes I can’t help but kiss it. Which isn’t a problem, not really. Though perhaps . . . inappropriate if that skin is my own? My soft, smooth, warm bicep, presented to me so alluringly as I hang, drunk with exhaustion or maybe simply distracted, by one arm from the too-high stainless steel grip bar on the Green Line, Red Line, Orange Line.

Perhaps you do this, too? I can’t be the only smooth customer holding myself aloft by an act of might, resting my mouth against my arm, too-early in the morning/too-late at night.

Boston transportation planning

Anyhow, fellow passengers, my apologies. Sorry if I weirded you out.

A Visit to Sandy Hook National Park


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My birthday wish this year included visiting Sandy Hook, a barrier spit and Jersey Shore National Park that my family frequented in our younger years. I remembered the long, flat, pale landscape sandwiched between the Lower New York Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Smell of salt and pines and sand. Charming tide pools and holly trees.

But I’d forgotten the abundance of prickly pear cactus. The visage of old armaments.


Remembered horseshoe crabs. Forgot fiddler crabs.

Remembered how the ocean pushes. Forgot how it pulls. Remembered seeming stability of sea-earth beneath a swimmer’s toes which can just . . . disappear.

Then, driving past blond, brick buildings, most now dilapidated beyond use, I remembered the smell of thick, shiny floor varnish, the sound of a wide, wooden door squeaking shut for the evening, warm light in a kitchen, and camp counselor taking time to be silly with just-me. I remembered the fierce bloom of affection for that person, those moments among preteen GirlScouts I met once then never again. The swoop of a windsurfing board catching wind to take my ten or eleven-year old body, long-limbed, nervous yet ecstatic, tacking across the water beneath a sky that stretched, pure blue, over everything.

There was the special treat of the holiday weekend: a Sandy Hook I’d misplaced, regained.


Fanfictions I Have Loved: An Interview with Nonymos


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Welcome to my first WHL interview! With a writer no less! A fanfiction writer! I’m so excited!!! Clue screaming and wavy arms, a la Muppets.

Okay. Now I’ll quit with the exclamation points. But I can’t stop won’t stop my gratitude towards Nonymos, whose exciting, smart, adventurous, and well-composed fics prompted me to establish a OTP before I even knew what the term meant. It was through interacting with her in the comments section of a story that an idea was birthed: maybe other folk who’ve been curious about fics but feel too shy to try ’em . . . or people who love learning about artists’ processes . . . or maybe even interview-junkies, will want in on this conversation, too. You’re welcome.

Nonymos was ever so gracious as to embark on this effort with me. Who knows where it will lead? Here we go. Oh, wait. In the spirit of full-disclosure, some non-graphic but nonetheless adult themes are discussed below. If you click through to fics, please be aware of the same (save for the non-graphic part).

1. Starting from the beginning, what did your early reading life look like and who are your writing influences?

Most of my life has been devoted to reading. Even as a little girl it was all I wanted to do—I exhausted my parents asking for my favorite books to be read again and again and again, and that is actually how I learned how to read, when I was four years old.

When I was a kid, I read a lot of early YA stuff and a boatload of Franco-Belgian comics (I still know them by heart.) I’ve also been very interested in manga for a couple few years. After I got into fandom I started reading American comics, and my collection is steadily growing. All of this taught me about the importance of having good characters and an engaging plot.

The love of beautiful writing came when I started my Literature studies. During those years I caught up on all the classical reading I hadn’t done before. It taught me how to analyze, criticize and dissect a piece of fiction; and it also helped me understand the value of poetry in language—aka why it’s possible to write a good book about nothing as long as it’s well-written. But I firmly believe truly great books are the ones that know how to combine good writing with good content. I was already writing a bit then, but that’s when I really started seriously, and I haven’t stopped since. Won a couple of prizes for short stories, which was very encouraging.

My Masters thesis was about the fantastic in modern fiction. Most of it focused on Argentinean author Julio Cortázar, who taught me how to use words beyond their immediate meaning, and Neil Gaiman, who… NEIL! GAIMAN! I think I can safely say he’s my favorite author. I’m still not done talking about American Gods. I never will be.

I’m in the middle of another Masters now (in publishing) and working a part-time job in a publishing house. My job there is to screen the manuscripts, which as you can imagine fits me perfectly. It’s also teaching me to see books from the other side of the publishing barrier for the first time. I’m still learning a lot inside and out.

2. When and how did you arrive at fanfiction?

I first became familiar with the concept of fanfiction when I was fifteen, thanks to the manga community. What little I read was in French, and as embarrassing and cringey as you can imagine. Baby’s First Fandom! I quickly lost interest in it, and for a couple of years I was convinced I was done being into stuff “so obsessively.”


Illustration by Parisa for ‘War, Children’ saltdryad.tumblr.com

Oh what a fool I was.

The year 2012 was a game-changer. It’s ridiculous but it’s true. If I hadn’t decided to go and see Avengers with friends, my life would have been very, very different. I came out of the movie absolutely hyped up on fun. My classical training infused me with a vague contempt for mainstream stuff—but Avengers smashed through those barriers. To the point that I yearned to stay in that universe for a bit longer; a feeling I hadn’t had since my manga days. Mostly I longed to explore the fallout of what had happened between Clint Barton and Loki Laufeyson. So I wrote a fic. It’s still on the AO3. It’s absolutely terrible. But it sated my need at the time. I stepped back thinking I was done.

But then I wrote another one. And then another one. I fully expected the obsession to fade eventually, like it had every time such a thing had happened to me before. But it didn’t fade. It just branched out; through it I discovered a lot of new things (Tumblr, its particular brand of deadpan cynicism, and many things about gender and sexuality) and learned a helluva lot about writing, thanks to the feedback of my readers and my own continued discontent with what I was posting.

3. Your style has a lot of interesting rhythm: bold sentence variation and moments where characters go completely stream of consciousness. Is this flow intuitive, are you drawing from influences and/or writing instruction? Maybe a mix?

Thanks! And no—I am utterly unable to follow instructions when it comes to writing. Europeans in general consider that writing cannot be taught, only learned. I mostly agree. I write what feels right. Same goes for influences; I let myself be influenced, it’s not conscious work. So yes, it’s mostly intuition.

It’s when I reread myself that some instructions come into the mix—kill your darlings; show, don’t tell; substance over style. I try to delete as much as I can. Tighten up my writing to the max. If I’m using several sentences to express one idea it’s not good. Reread, delete again, aim for maximum efficiency.

4. What’s easiest and most difficult about writing fanfic?

Writing fanfiction is addictive. Mostly because it’s so easy. (It’s a slippery slope, too—my first stories were bad because I mixed up easy and cheap.) The characters are already there. The universe is already there. All you have to do is combine them in new and exciting ways. And you get so involved in it—because you’ve spent so much time there, it’s like home. I’ve read stories I would have found absolutely inane if they’d involved original characters; but since they were about my OTP they were suddenly fascinating.

There’s nothing I find difficult about writing fanfiction in itself. The difficult part happens when it’s time to break the habit—aka when I work on my original stuff. I get frustrated with my characters because I do not immediately love them and know them. I must relearn patience and worldbuilding.

5. What’s it like writing in a second language?

Immensely satisfying regarding the punctuation. Bet you didn’t think I’d say that!

The French dialogue is in hyphenated form, and it’s absurdly frustrating.

“Wait,” said Bucky. He was shaking. “That’s not what I meant.”
Ahh. So clear. So clean-cut.

And now with French punctuation:
— Wait, said Bucky. He was shaking. That’s not what I meant.

I HATE THIS. Of course you could use French quotation marks, but it’s a tiresome and frankly old-school business. Punctuation forces me to pace my writing (and particularly my dialogues) differently in English and in French. Same goes for vocabulary. Some things cannot be translated. Such as “What the hell?” There is no equivalent in French. Of course, it goes both ways—I’ll think of a perfect French phrase, and then I’ll grumble trying to express it in English.

Mostly I’m a lot more confident when I write in English—and that’s because I am tone-deaf to a lot of preconceptions and subtleties. I learned English at school. I’ve become more comfortable with the language as I wrote and I read and watched movies in it. But it’s not organic to me and it never will be. When I write in French I agonize over every single detail; I am aware of the hidden meanings under every single word; every single sentence seems either too heavy or too bland. In English, I’m happy when I achieve proper grammar and when I manage to get my point across. It’s relaxing.

6. In the first story of yours that I read, “In The Details” from “The Marvel Fractions” series, New York City factors largely. Have you ever visited? What is important to consider about describing a location not your own?

Nope! Never been to New York! (I did spend three hours in JFK once, on my way to Arizona. But that was after writing the fanfic, anyway.) But it didn’t matter. I wasn’t writing about New York; I was writing about Clint’s building in Bedford-Stuyvesant, which is largely described and explored in the comics. I didn’t feel the need to learn anything about the real New York. That happened later—when I wrote War, Children. For that one I did a lot of research.

I think the most important thing to consider is this: if you’ve never been there, then you’ve never been there. You don’t know how it actually is. No amount of research is gonna change that. So don’t spend too much time waxing poetic about the atmosphere of the city—describe the building or the street you need, and move on.

7. Continuing with “The Marvel Fractions,” this series was my first time reading about a deliberate and positive mismatch in sexuality. One protagonist – Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye- identifies as straight and the other -Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk- doesn’t specify any sexual identity, yet [spoiler alert!] they get together. Of course, both are solidly heterosexual in the Marvel Comics canon. What drew you to depicting the characters this way?

I actually already wrote a huge rant about this here http://archiveofourown.org/comments/28327105 if you’re interested.

I’m tired of heterosexuality as the norm. But I’m also a bit tired of “everyone is inexplicably queer” rewritings in fandom (though I ain’t judging—I’ve done it before and will do it again!) I wanted to try something different. Clint Barton is conspicuously heterosexual in the comics, having had many affairs with numerous women. Bruce Banner spends too much time on the run to ever really focus on romance, so his canon is more flexible and so he was the one I chose to depict as (presumably) pansexual.

And I really like writing about uncategorized love. In the end, are Bruce and Clint boyfriends? Are they “just” friends with one-sided benefits? It doesn’t really matter. They’ve become family to each other. The rest is just… technicalities.

8. Continuing with this subject, sexuality and sexual situations factor significantly into fanworks. I’m fascinated by the idea that many (female?) writers are not only focusing on same sex male pairings, they’re also imbuing men with feminine values, strengths, and cultures while at the same time remarking on masculine values, strengths, and cultures. What are your thoughts on this?

Fandom is definitely a female-dominated space. It’s amazing in many ways, but it also has its shortcomings. People have criticized the staggering amount of M/M pairings by accusing the female writers of fetishism (the same way straight guys enjoy lesbian porn.) For some of them it’s definitely true, but in our general defense (speaking for the MCU fandom here) I can say this:

– Setting aside love interests (Peggy Carter, Pepper Potts) and secondary characters (Maria Hill, Darcy Lewis) we only have two female characters: Natasha Romanov and Wanda Maximoff. Neither of them has their own movie, and I can’t recall a single line of dialogue between them.

– Fanfiction is about pushing back against a very patriarchal mainstream media; so we write lots of queer characters, lots of men who are actually allowed to access and express their feelings, and lots of women who do not engage in sex and/or romance. When you add all those factors up, you get a predominance of M/M pairings.

– Seriously. We’re desperate for male characters to finally get a bit of sweet lovin’, and we’re desperate for female characters to do literally anything else with their time. Look at how Tumblr reacted to Pacific Rim, Captain America: Winter Soldier and Mad Max: Fury Road. It was like a breath of fresh air.

Society and entertainment influence each other. People do what they see, and write what they do. I think writing stories is essential to shaping ourselves as a culture. Despite the very real threat of fetishism, I think fanfiction is mostly a feminist endeavor.

9. It’s not an exaggeration to say that fanfic writers crave comments! How does reader input impact your process? Do you have rules around criticism or negative comments?

In my author’s notes I’m regularly screaming I LIVE FOR COMMENTS! and encouraging readers to leave comments as long and detailed as they want. Feedback is essential to understanding what works and what doesn’t when it comes to posting a story. You learn how to reference it better, so readers find it more easily; you learn how to pace it better, so your readers will be hooked after the first chapter and willing to bear with you for several thousand words; you learn how to maximize the emotional impact of your writing, so readers will want to read more of your work. Puzzling out all that would be a lot more difficult without comments!

And it’s about the joy of sharing, too. The happy feedback loop of fanfiction is so pure. I had fun writing this; you had fun reading it; let’s rant about the things we love!

Criticism is always difficult to absorb, but it’s also needed. If it’s polite and legitimate, I’ll welcome it. But negative comments—people who just come in to say “I didn’t like it”—those are just malicious. If I’m reading something I don’t like, I just close the tab. The author doesn’t need to know about it. Thankfully, gratuitous rudeness isn’t encouraged in fandom at all, and I’m happy I never had a lot of comments like this.

10. Name three other artists, writers of fanfic or otherwise, to whom you’d like to give a shout out. What should we know about them?

Speranza! One of the most amazing writers in the MCU fandom, imo. (20th Century Limited should be illegal.) Everything they touch turns to gold.

M_Leigh! Her works are spectacular (I am still sobbing over Middletown)—and she’s the co-founder of Big Bang Press. Now that’s applied fanfiction.

bluandorange! Their writing and drawings leave me breathless—but mostly it’s their meta I’m awestruck by. Their opinions on Steve Rogers heavily influenced the way I write him.

11. Okay this last question is inspired by one of my new favorite podcasts, Fanbros. At the beginning of each episode, the hosts dub themselves with funny and clever code-names, which they call AKAs (also-known-as). In the spirit of fanfic, where writers largely go by pen names, what other monikers might you choose for yourself?

Oh, I didn’t know about that—thanks, I’ll go listen to them! And um… I don’t know… This is Nonymos, aka Nobody Expects the Superhero Obsession. Keep writin’!

Love Wins



Back in my high school days, I made a choice. Can’t say what it was born of, exactly. Can’t say what the future will hold or whether today’s ‘forward’ momentums will one day seem ‘backward.’

Can say: I’ll try the best I can to understand and hold space and embrace. Can say: If and when I fail, I’ll hold tight to the truth of Love. Even just a moment spent loving grants strength that’s hard to deny.

Love wins.jpg