Talk on Charmed Particles for the Network of European Institutes for Advanced Study #NetIAS


In this talk, originally delivered on Thursday, November 5, 2020,  I discuss the role of borders in “Big Science.” I’ll share excerpts from my novel Charmed Particles and discuss the research I conducted in preparation for writing it. As part of my background research for the book, I worked in the archives at Fermilab (one of the sites under consideration for the SSC), interviewed theoretical particle physicists working at Fermilab at the time of the SSC proposal, and combed through Environmental Impact Statements and transcripts of public hearings to bring voice to both sides of the conflict over the push, in the late 1980s, to find a location in the United States for the proposed (but never completed) Superconducting Super Collider (SSC).

Listen here.

A Quick update from Germany

Hi, friends,

A quick update from the Kolaya/Millers. We are still here in Germany, currently feeling as safe as possible and very well cared for by the remarkable staff of the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg (HWK).

Many things are closing, but for now, shops and transport are still in operation; however, it seems likely that within the week, the government will impose a lockdown similar to what we’re seeing in Italy, France, and Spain. For now, though, the grocery stores are still reasonably well stocked, and we have everything we think we might need in the coming weeks.

Brook and I are still working on our book projects, though it’s sometimes challenging to focus with the news changing by the minute and so many heartbreaking stories coming over the wire, but we’re enjoying time with our fellow fellows—smart and interesting and kind folks from all over the world. We’ve been painting together, watching movies, learning German, and experimenting with some creative writing prompts!

As many of you are now experiencing, schools have closed here for at least a month, but the fellow kids have gotten creative! Here’s a pic of the boys and their new friend Kathryn from this morning, ready for the first day of their kid-designed HWK school.

We are thinking of and missing you all—love from all four of us!

Adventures in Germany!

This semester, my husband and I are fellows and writers in residence at the Hanse-Wissenchaftskolleg (HWK) as part of the Fiction Meets Science project.

He’ll be working on a new scholarly book about Cognitive Literary Studies called Narrative and Experience and I’ll be finishing my next novel, a book about a 19th Century naturalist who goes in search of a mysterious creature he learns about from the natives of an island he’s sent to explore.

Our two sons (12 and 13) are attending the Max-Planck Gymnasium here in Delmenhorst, which has been a crash course in German-language immersion for them. Thankfully, there are many kind English-speaking teachers and fellow students to help them along!

I’ve been settling in to work on my book, tentatively titled The Second Voyage of Audley Worthington. It’s been especially dreamy to have an office space devoted only to my writing where I can put up what I like to call my “murder wall”—post-its of all of the dates and timelines and big and little ideas I’m trying to hang onto while writing this book!

Our fellow fellows ;- ) come from all over the world and are studying all sorts of interesting things. Everywhere you turn, there’s someone fascinating to talk to!

We’re especially loving the interdisciplinarity of the HWK. On Wednesday, we went to an outstanding lecture by Kenny Coventry of the University of East Anglia on his research into the way particular words used for spatial concepts work across languages. Later there was a lovely dinner, followed by drinks in the cozy fireplace room, where  Lida Sherafatmand, an Iranian-born artist now working in Malta, drew a portrait of me!

(Review by Ellis: “Wow! That is amazing! But she forgot to put in all your wrinkles.”)

The staff here at the HWK (or Hah-Vay-Kah as it’s pronounced here) have been incredibly welcoming and helpful to these four bungling Americans with only rudimentary German-language skills!

Special thanks to Kerstin Schill, Dorothe Poggel, Thurid Werner, Wolfgang Stenzel, Christine Gehrking, Bijan Kafi, Michael Killig, Jens Bagull, and Kerstin Labusch for helping us get oriented!

Initially, we thought we’d all four be squeezing into a single tiny 500-800 square foot apartment and likely to murder each other before our time here was done. Instead, the HWK staff surprised us with two adjoining apartments!

The boys are delighted to have their very own flat! They’ve had fun exploring the institute’s ping pong and foosball room and getting to know the other kids and families here at the institute.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Dr. Schill and the HWK team, to Susan Gaines and the Fiction Meets Science board, and to our departments and universities for making this adventure possible for us!

Writer friends, scientist friends, artist friends, social science friends, I cannot say enough good things about this place—it is THE DREAMIEST! To quote the text I sent to our family when we arrived: “It’s ten thousand times better than we even expected!” If you’re interested in applying, you can find more information here.

More soon!

Publication Day!


Today’s a special day for me. It’s the publication day for my new book, Other Possible Lives.

A few things to share:

Thank you to everyone who’s already pre-ordered! If you’re interested in ordering the book, you can do so direct from the publisher here. Ordering direct from indie presses like Broadstone helps support the vital work these small presses are doing in making a home for poetry.

If you’re in Orlando, come celebrate with me at the launch party: Monday, October 21, 7 p.m. at Park Avenue CDs. There will be books! There will be sweet jams! And best of all, thanks to the good folks at Park Avenue CDs and Orange Blossom Brewing, there will be free beer!

If you read the book and don’t think it’s terrible, I’d be super grateful to have you rate and review the book on Amazon, and/or Goodreads.

I know it’s unusual for book clubs to read books of poems, but one of my biggest goals as a writer is to make work that invites readers in–especially folks that think they don’t like poetry. (Top Secret Confession: I used to think that, too!) I’d love to talk with your book club in person or by video chat. If you’re interested, you can reach me here.

Do you or someone you know run a reading series or host literary events? I love to read, talk to budding writers, and connect with readers. You can reach me here.

Are you a book reviewer interested in reviewing the book? I’ve got a box full of ARCs, and I’d love to send one your way! You can reach me here.

Do you love the cover as much as I do? Check out more art by painter and generally awesome person Michael Eble here.

And finally, thank you times one million to friends and colleagues who’ve helped this book find its way to readers via blurbs, excerpts in publications, readings, etc.



New Book!

Launch Party: save the date!

Hope you can join me on Monday, October 21, 7 p.m. at Orlando’s Park Avenue CDs to celebrate the launch of Other Possible Lives. Stay tuned for more details coming soon!

UPDATE: 😍🤩😁 Look how beautiful this cover is!! Thanks to Michael Eble for the cover image and to Larry Moore and Broadstone Books for the design!

I’m excited to share the news that my next book of poems, Other Possible Lives, is coming out this fall. I’m looking forward to sharing the cover and blurbs soon.

Here’s my wish for this book: that it will find its way to readers who will love it as much as I do. Thanks in advance for putting up with the occasional promotional post over the next few months, and deep gratitude to the friends and colleagues helping this book find its way to readers via blurbs, excerpts in publications, readings, etc.

One of my favorite things as a writer is connecting with readers; I’d love to visit your campus, talk with your students and book clubs (in person or via Skype), participate in your reading series, etc. If you’re interested, I’d love to hear from you! You can drop me a line at chrissy AT

As you may know, with all new books (but especially with books of poems) it’s challenging to get them on readers’ radars. Pre-orders are one of the most helpful things you can do to help give a book legs, and this one is available here.

And finally, word of mouth is key, so I (and ALL writers!) deeply appreciate it when you’re able to review, give books as gifts, ask your libraries to order copies, invite us to your campus/institution/book clubs to read and give talks, and share books you like via social media and IRL recommendations. It doesn’t have to be for this book—just do it for the last book you really loved, especially if it’s one you think isn’t getting as much attention as it should. I promise there’s a grateful author on the other end!

Photography Inspiring Poetry Inspiring Composition Inspiring Performance

I’m so glad to have a video of this performance to share!

Here’s the backstory: years ago, after seeing this photograph of graffiti on a wall near the ruins of the World Trade Center taken in the days after September 11, 2001, I wrote the following poem, which will appear in my new book, Other Possible Lives.

Annus Mirabilis

“See, I have written you 

on the palms of my hands”

—Isaiah 49:16

You are alive.

The words cling to the side of the wall,

a statement of desperate belief,

that she might come walking—

and who knew—

out of the rubble,

a year of miracle and wonders.

I will never forget you.

See, I have written you

on the walls of the city.

When I arrived at the University of Central Florida (UCF) this fall, I met the composer Alex Burtzos, who asked if I’d like to collaborate on a piece he’d be writing for the UCF Chamber Choir to perform during the annual UCF Celebrates the Arts event.

He picked this poem, composed a gorgeous, haunting, and innovative piece around it, and then passed it on to David Brunner, whose chamber choir performed this last month at the beautiful Dr. Philips Center for the Performing Arts. 

My husband and I in the front row of this gorgeous performance space, just before the premiere.

Photography inspiring poetry inspiring composition inspiring performance! You can see the performance here:

Poetry Cocktail Party

Looking forward to reading this Friday, (4/26) with this stellar lineup of Orlando-area poets, including Orlando’s Poet Laureate, Susan Lilley!

Winter Park Paint-Out, Kerouac Project of Orlando & the Polasek Museum present the 2019 Poetry Cocktail Party

Friday, April 26th

5-8 p.m. cocktail party at the Polasek Museum

6pm: Naomi Butterfield (Kerouac House Board)

6:15 p.m.: Amy Watkins

Amy Watkins is the author of the chapbooks Lucky, Milk & Water, and Wolf Daughter (coming in June 2019). She lives in Winter Park with her husband and daughter and a mean-spirited ginger cat.

6:30 p.m.: Nylda Dieppa

Nylda is an author, educator, coach, and social justice activist living in Orlando, FL. She is the author of the award-winning book Alborada: A Poetic Memoir Across Cultures and has read her poetry in a variety of venues in Orlando and New York City. The proud grandmother of six delightful grandchildren, Nylda is the leader of the Maitland Writers Group and publishes its eponymous newsletter.

7pm: Stacy Barton

Stacy Barton is the award-winning literary author of Lily Harp (2015 INDIEFAB), Like Summer Grass, and Surviving Nashville: Short Stories. Her work has appeared in various literary journals including Gargoyle, Best of Potomac Review, Ruminate, and Southern Women’s Review. Stacy is also the author of picture books, plays, animated short films—plus hundreds of live shows for Disney, SeaWorld, Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey and others.

7: 15 p.m.: Chrissy Kolaya

Chrissy Kolaya is a fiction writer and poet who’s brand new to Orlando, having lived all over, from Chicago to California to rural Alabama, and, most recently, the frigid wilds of Minnesota. She teaches creative writing at UCF and is the author of two books: Any Anxious Body: a book of poems about family secrets, and Charmed Particles: a novel about high-energy particle physics, gifted and talented teenage girls, Mary Kay ladies, and one woman’s obsession with novelty convenience foods of the 1980s.

7:30 p.m.: Susan Lilley, Orlando Poet Laureate

Susan Lilley is a Florida native and is currently serving as Orlando’s inaugural Poet Laureate. Her poetry and non-fiction have appeared in American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, Poet Lore, The Southern Review, Drunken Boat, Saw Palm, Hippocampus, The Florida Review, Sweet, and other journals. Her two chapbooks are Night Windows and Satellite Beach. She is a past winner of the Rita Dove Poetry Award and has held a State of Florida Individual Arts Fellowship. She has taught at University of Central Florida and Rollins College, and currently teaches literature and creative writing at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park. Her new full collection, Venus in Retrograde, was published spring of 2019 by Burrow Press.