The Artiste

Not long ago, I signed up for a comics-making class. I’ve made some comics in the past and had several published, and I thought it would be a good idea to have an outlet for expression that wasn’t just words. I’ve always made comics by taking photos and using digital means to manipulate them into what looked more like art. This time I’m going to try actually drawing. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at it. I’m good at the words, and the storytelling, but my art is not strong. It’s not even close. I’ve made a few ahead of time, and I bought some colored pencils. So far, they’re pretty ugly. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s what you tolerate.

Enjoy my work? Buy "The Tumor." It’s been called "a masterpiece of short fiction."

Sexing a Pigeon

Awhile back, I wrote that I’d be sharing the latest developments that I have regarding my investigation into the sexing of a war hero pigeon named Cher Ami who may be a hen or a cock. This issue is important for several reasons, including that the bird is identified as a cock at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where the bird is stuffed and on display. If the plaque that identifies the bird as a male is incorrect, it matters, given how many people visit there every year: 4.3M visitors in 2018, apparently. In any case, here’s an email I got from a reader and fellow Person Interested in Cher Ami—I hereby christen us: PICAs—who came across my posts: Dr. Marianne M. Gilchrist. Also, I’m excited to report I’ve gotten a very interesting lead from the National Archives. So, more to come. Thank you, Dr. Gilchrist! You can find the full thread of my Cher Ami posts here.


Email subject header: Cher Ami the Pigeon

Date: November 17, 2018

Hi, Susannah!

Having recently discovered Cher Ami's story, and your blog thread on her, and being very fond of pigeons, I just thought I'd add an observation on gender:

While it's difficult to be sure, given that the bird is stuffed, and taxidermists can change an animal's shape, my suspicion is she's a hen. Cock pigeons are chunkier and tend to have a thicker neck, with thicker feathers that they can puff out as a ruff in courtship dances. Cher Ami's neck is more slender. Cocks also have bigger ceres (the white 'nose') above their beaks.

I found these images online that demonstrate sex dimorphism in pigeons. Cher Ami looks to me more like a girl pidgie.

best wishes,




[My reply on January 17, 2019]

Thanks, Marianne, and apologies for the delayed response. Would you mind if I posted your email on my blog? I could use your name or not.


[Dr. Gilchrist’s reply on January 18, 2019]


Yes! I've also read that she was discovered to be a hen when she was stuffed.

I wonder if the stresses of war had stopped her laying eggs? She was an adult bird.



Enjoy my work? Buy "The Tumor." It’s been called "a masterpiece of short fiction."

To Be Read

Image via  Rakuten

Image via Rakuten

ForbesLife did a roundup of their most popular posts for 2018, which included my coverage of France’s first sex doll brothel. As of this writing, that post has 97,096 views. Here are a few thoughts on making content clickable.

  1. People tend to write for themselves. In the click economy, that’s not so smart. You must consider your content as seen through the eyes of the readers. Readers suffer from the paradox of choice. Why should they click on your content instead of others’ content? If you think about topic and titles from their perspective, rather than your own, they’ll choose you.

  2. Content doesn’t sit in a series of discreet buckets. It’s not binary. It’s fluid. Feature writing, copy writing, and long-form journalism pull from the same well to fill various vessels. Borrow and merge. Remix and redeliver. Stop being a snob about your words and care to be read.

  3. The external real audience is just a projection of the audience inside your head. The critic, the fan, the artist, the voyeur, the flaneur. They’re in the world, but they’re in you, too. The path to finding your true self winds through them like trees, their boughs brushing as you pass.

Enjoy my work? Buy "The Tumor." It’s been called "a masterpiece of short fiction."

Wait for It

The nice folks over at Seriocomic have asked me to write a short piece about the comic of my choice. Seriocomic is “a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite comic books, comic strips, and graphic novels.” My contribution will be appearing in the spring. For my “comic,” I chose the graphic novel version of Paul Auster’s City of Glass.

Enjoy my work? Buy "The Tumor." It’s been called "a masterpiece of short fiction."

About That Pigeon

Some time back, I got interested in trying to figure out if a war hero pigeon that’s stuffed at the Smithsonian is a cock or a hen. In the interim, I’ve gotten various emails from various people, from a bird expert to a pigeon fancier to a fan, and I’ll be updating this blog with that information in the coming days and weeks.

Buy my short story "The Tumor" — it’s been called "a masterpiece of short fiction."

An Excerpt From an Unpublished Essay

An excerpt from an unpublished essay:

“The tumor was mine. Arguably, it was my malignant baby, for my body had created it, and it was growing inside of me at an aggressive pace. But I did not want it. I wanted it out. There was a lot of debate over the best way to address the monster within me. The first oncologist wanted to chop off both my breasts and yank out my reproductive organs. After that, a plastic surgeon showed me his photo album filled with pictures of women whose heads were clipped out of the frame and whose breasts had been ravaged by cancer, the interior flesh of which had been removed by him, and which had been reconstructed in ways that did not, to my eye, look at all natural. Finally, a physician’s assistant came in the room after the plastic surgeon had left. I said I didn’t realize it would look like that, and he said he understood. He held one hand in the air palm up, and he held the other hand in the air palm down. His top hand made a tent over his bottom hand. He said my breast was like a circus tent and having a mastectomy was like taking away the tent pole. With that, he flattened his top hand against his bottom hand like a circus tent collapsing, crushing all the circus animals, carnival performers, and acrobats in the process.”

Buy my short story "The Tumor" — it’s been called "a masterpiece of short fiction."