Surprise! Tin House online has published my first piece of fiction in two years. It's one of the stories in the collection I'm writing about fundamentalist girlhood, inspired by my own childhood.

These are the wild days. We girls grow our hair long and insouciant like horsetails. We don’t think about boys. We don’t dress for them or take pictures for them or worry about what they’re thinking. Someday we’re supposed to submit to them, but not now. For now, they’re just boys. They’...

For the first time, I've written about the spiritual experience I had in my early teens, and how it helped me begin to heal from child abuse. This piece is also my coming out as having narcolepsy, and an exploration of how science and spirituality intertwine to make us who we are.

"A miracle and a disorder met at a perfect confluence of science and faith."

I have a new article up at VICE looking at how the death of a parent impacts kids' mental health. The response to this piece has been really moving. One woman shared how much she related to the main subject, Nicki, even though their experiences seem very different from the outset: Nicki lost her mother to an overdose in the U.S. and the commenter lost both of her parents to the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. People have shared stories of losing their parents at all ages, yet many of the feelings are the same. Grief is a universal human experience that needs to be honored as a lifelong process.

An estimated 1.5 million US children lose one or both parents by the age of 15.

Six years ago, my amazing grandfather passed way after a surgery to address an untreatable infection. He died exactly three months before my wedding. I was devastated.

The official cause of his death was kidney failure, but that wasn't the whole story. It didn't capture the role the infection played in precipitating his passing. His death inspired me to look into how little we know about antibiotic resistance and the damage it's doing. This piece is the result. It was a long reporting process, but I'm really proud of it.

"The infections just kept coming back and back, bigger and stronger.”

I have an article up at Tonic on helping kids manage anxiety. My goal was to make it as practical as possible, so it has specific strategies on how parents can break down anxiety-inducing tasks and empower kids to face their fears.

Kids are super anxious these days, but little things like this could help.

Many parents struggle with how to help their children manage anxiety.

I wrote a new piece about my grandmother, my namesake, a woman who's woven into my identity, who's present every time someone asks about our shared name, but whose death makes her a stranger to me. Thanks to Modern Loss for giving it a warm home.

Photo credit: Gina Meola Photography

Whenever I meet someone new, they often ask how my name is pronounced and where it comes from. “Ver-jee, like Virginia,” I say. “It was my grandmother’s.” I’ve had this conversation countless times since kindergarten. On the surface, it’s a...

My pick for editor's choice week at SmokeLong Quarterly is up. Micros are notoriously difficult to write, so I was impressed with the rich detail in David Lerner Schwartz's 'Safe'. It's also surprisingly complex thematically, raising interesting questions about money, sex and consent, and race.

"I slept with the teller in the vault, with all the Presidents around us green with envy."

This week's story is "Safe" by David Lerner Schwartz, selected by guest reader, Virgie Townsend. Collage by SmokeLong Quarterly.

I slept with the teller in the vault, with all the Presidents around us green with envy. She tasted like copper. The floor was metal. This is the secret, I told her, close to her ear, like I'd heard on the radio. Alchemy. Lead becomes gold. Soft becomes hard. Two become one. She nodded because I was...

Guess what! I'm guest reading for SmokeLong Quarterly this week. No need to bribe me with riches or baked goods. Just send me great stories of 1,000 words or fewer.

The story from this week's submissions will be selected by a member of our editorial staff. All stories submitted between December 4-10 will be read by Virgie Townsend. Themes, topics, or styles I'm drawn to: I have a soft spot for magical realism. I'm often interested in stories that explore collec...
Virgie Townsend updated their profile picture.
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You've probably seen articles and news shows talk about babies who are "born addicted to opioids." I interviewed neonatal opioid exposure experts and a woman who grew up being called a "crack baby" to find out why being called a "baby addict" is both medically wrong and hurts children.

“They can be born dependent on a substance, but there is a difference between dependence and addiction.”

Here's an opportunity for short fiction writers: SmokeLong Quarterly, where I'm on the staff, is offering a fellowship for writers of flash fiction (stories of 1,000 words or fewer). The winner of the 2018 Kathy Fish Fellowship will be considered a virtual “writer in residence” at SmokeLong for four quarterly issues and receive $500.00. Each issue will include one flash story by the fellowship winner.

The fellow will also get to workshop their stories with staff, which may be the best perk of all. The most helpful feedback I've received is from our team.

Apply by Oct. 31.

SmokeLong Quarterly is now accepting submissions for its 2018 Kathy Fish Fellowship for new and emerging writers. The fellowship honors Kathy Fish, a former editor here at SmokeLong, a fantastic writer herself, and a continuing champion of new and emerging writers. The winner of the 2018 Kathy Fish…

My second magazine feature this year is out now in the Sept./October issue of Currents magazine. Check out the six-page spread.

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I've wanted to write this piece for five years, since the day I read the words in my fourth great-grandfather's will: "I give to my Son William my negro [woman] Lucy and her six children now is his possession.” For most my life, I had heard that my ancestors on my dad's side were humble farmers. But it is also true that I'm descended from four families that intermarried to help form a slaveholding landed gentry in the South. The more I learned about my ancestors' lives, the m...ore I learned about the lives of the people whom they enslaved, and how my ancestors robbed them and their descendants of wealth, education, and in some cases, their lives.

When white supremacists chanted “blood and soil” in honor of a Confederate general in Charlottesville this weekend, they were invoking me and people like me. As a descendant of slaveholders and Confederate soldiers, I want to tell the truth about the evil that my ancestors perpetrated, the repercussions their crimes have today, and how I still benefit from their actions and white supremacy.

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A descendant of slaveholders opens up about their crimes—and vows to do better.

My On Parenting from The Washington Post milk donation essay has been reprinted in The Lily. A+ image and quote selection.

With a surplus of breast milk, this woman mails “packets of bodily fluids to strangers in New England.”

PERSPECTIVE | It’s an experience that has been both deeply rewarding and somewhat bizarre

I have a new article up today at the Washington Post. Did you know parents who have extra breast milk can donate it to human milk banks?

I became a breast milk donor after I realized I produce more milk than my baby could ever possibly eat. As a kid, my mom used to recite the adage “to whom much is given, much is required.” She probably meant something like I should play the piano in church. Instead, I mail packets of bodily fluids to a human milk bank in New England. From there, the milk bank pasteurizes it, combines it with other donor milk to balance the nutrients, and then delivers it to NICUs for preemies. It's been a weird, incredibly rewarding experience. I highly recommend it if you can.

With an overabundance of breast milk, I learned how to donate it to babies in need.

My husband probably saved a life today. He went to the Red Cross and donated platelets, which help form clots and stop bleeding. We pretty much constantly have a nation-wide shortage of platelets.

He decided to donate after we read about Lauren Bloomstein, a first-time mom who died 20 hours after giving birth to her only child (see her story here:…/die-in-childbirth-maternal-dea…). Lauren had a hemorrhagic stroke after her blood pressure spiked fol...lowing delivery. Surgery could have saved her life, but the New Jersey hospital where she delivered didn't have any platelets on site, and wasn't able to get any for hours because of the platelet shortage. By the time a batch arrived and they could perform the surgery, a CT scan confirmed that her brain activity had stopped.

Blood product shortages cost people their lives. Donating can help save them. If you meet the eligibility requirements (…/eligibility-requirements), make an appointment.

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The U.S. has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and 60 percent are preventable. The death of Lauren Bloomstein, a neonatal nurse, in the hospital where she worked illustrates a profound disparity: the health care system focuses on babies but often ignores their mothers.

My first magazine feature since law school. It was such a different style from newspaper or fiction writing that it really stretched my skills.

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The SmokeLong staff have read more than 300 flash fiction fellowship applications since the fall, each with four pieces. That's more than 1,200 stories, or up to 1,200,000 words. It's been one of the most intense, rewarding reading experiences of my life. Now we're down to 13 finalists, and even I'm excited to find out who will be our next fellow.

It was tough, but we've narrowed it down to 13 finalists for the Kathy Fish Fellowship. Thanks to everyone who submitted this year. We were stunned by the talent in our queue.

Congratulations, finalists!

Out of more than 300 applications for the 2017 Kathy Fish Fellowship, our staff has narrowed the list to 13 finalists. We'd like to congratulate and honor these 13 writers for their accomplishment. The finalists are: Maria Alvarez Joy Baglio Jacquelyn Bengfort Rebekah Bergman Hedgie Choi Tayler Heus...