January 12, 2023
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
The stories in Chelsea_Stickle's chapbook Everything's Changing are timely and timeless, deliciously inventive and marvelously told.
Siân Griffiths wrote of the book:
“In Everything’s Changing, Chelsea Stickle plants a foot in the world we recognize and pushes off into the most delightful and unexpected directions. Anything is possible in these pages: Characters might find themselves encased in marble or immortalized in marionettes. As readers, we inhabit the experiences of Medusa, of ghosts, of the lover of a man who literally lassos the moon. Each story offers a singular, illuminating glimpse into a fractured world whose most startling element is its similarity to our own.”
Whenever I write I have over-the-ear headphones on. Bose noise-canceling ones. I’m sensitive to sound, so they’re an essential part of my process. Music is always playing. Usually one song on repeat. Once that spark shows up, I keep it close by playing a song on repeat. These are some of my favorites and some of the ones I listened to while writing Everything’s Changing.
1. Everybody’s Changing by Keane
When I started arranging the stories in this collection, I kept hearing snatches of this song. I’m not a big Keane fan, so I had to google the lyrics to figure out which song it was. From then on, it became the song my brain played when I thought about Everything’s Changing or when it was reminding me to get back to editing.
2. Let It Be by The Beatles
Paul McCartney’s churchy “Let It Be” is perfect for the opening story: “Worship What Keeps You Alive.” Instead of Mother Mary, the family in this story converts to Immortal Mother Mushroom that keeps them alive through Hurricane Florence. For an added bonus, check out the version of this song off the Let It Be…Naked album. It’s Paul’s remix of the classic album.
3. Moral of the Story by Ashe
For “More Beautiful Than the Moon,” this Ashe song really sums it up. Sample lyrics: “You can think that you’re in love / when you’re really just engaged.” “Moral of the Story” is a searing song about loving the wrong person. One of my favorites with that theme. It can be listened to with several of the stories in Everything’s Changing.
4. Happy Pop by Elizabeth & The Catapult
This satirical song inspired by singer-songwriter Elizabeth Ziman’s real life struggles with her label, who wanted her to write a happy pop song, is my favorite song about needing to be emptily positive to please others. A perfect song for “AITA for falling asleep at a dinner party?” Relevant lyrics: “It can make my old man smile / make him tap his knee / for just a little while / nothing’s real.” Feel your feelings, people.
5. Graveyard by Halsey
When the pandemic began, I had been obsessed with Halsey’s “Manic.” Everything shutting down only made the album more relevant. I could honestly write an entire Halsey playlist for my work, but, for now, I’ll stick with “Graveyard.” It’s the perfect fit for “My, What Big Teeth You Have.” It’s a story about a lonely little girl who befriends a fox until she’s betrayed. Relevant lyrics: “It’s crazy when / the thing you love the most is the detriment…When you go down all your darkest roads / I would’ve followed all the way to the graveyard.”
6. Weighty Ghost by Wintersleep
At twenty-two, I went to culinary school in Seattle. I was obsessed with this song. It always reminds me of taking I-5 toward Mount Rainier with the windows down and the cool air rushing in as the sun set behind me. It’s a peaceful memory. Weirdly fitting for “Modern Ghosts.” Lyrics: “A ghost just needs a home / oh, have you seen my ghost?”
7. Boss Bitch by Doja Cat
I first heard this during Birds of Prey and loved it. The unrepentant badassery is admirable in a world that punishes women for showing an ounce of self-esteem. Listen to this while you read “Second Life” for a unique experience.
8. For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield
For years the lyrics of this song would randomly pop into my brain. It was what we sang at camp and I couldn’t recall anything about it. I once tried searching what I could remember of the lyrics and didn’t find it. It wasn’t until I heard it again on the radio that I found it again. I couldn’t believe it. I’m pairing this one with “Luck Soup,” but it also goes with all my stories about towns. Relevant lyrics: “It starts when you’re always afraid / Step out of line, the men come and take you away.”
9. Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Greg Laswell
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” was written as a sad song. Cyndi Lauper made it something else. I prefer this Greg Laswell demo that captures the mood of the lyrics. This song is great listening for “Another Night.”
Relevant lyrics: “Some boys take a beautiful girl / Only hide her away from the rest of the world / Not me, I want to be the one in the sun.”
10. Do You Recall by Royal Wood
I love the piano and energy in this song that could easily have turned into a dirge. One of my favorite kinds of songs are those with tons of energy and sad lyrics. Exactly the kind of song I’d want for “Belly Full of Witch’s Stew.”
11. Control by Halsey
Okay, so I had to include at least one other Halsey song. This is from her first album. If you find yourself wanting to scream-sing this one after hearing it for the first time, you’ll be in good company. This fury-filled fuck you is about the effect of Halsey’s bipolar disorder, but I’ve always heard PTSD and who is in control after trauma? Goddamn right you should be scared of her. Medusa, too. This one is for “Medusa Wasn’t Born a Monster.” If Poseidon hadn’t raped her, if Athena hadn’t punished her with snake hair and a face that freezes anyone looking at her, who knows who Medusa might’ve been? She was what they made her. Make a girl a monster and you lose control. Relevant lyrics: all of them, really, but “I’m well acquainted with villains that live in my bed.”
12. Bad Reputation by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
Let’s lighten up with “Bad Reputation.” “I told you I would take your hand” is about a generation of women who are blessed with sharp objects protruding from their bodies. When men touch them without permission, they take a finger. Three strikes and you lose a hand. I can’t think of a better song for this one than “Bad Reputation.” Fuck anyone who ignores consent.
13. Shake It Out by Florence & The Machine
This is one of the songs that was so popular that I’m not sure people actually heard or listened to the lyrics. I’m a fan of Florence & the Machine and while I’d like to pick something more personal or obscure, this is the one with the following lyrics: “And I am done with my graceless heart / So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart.” Fuck yes. It’s the song I blast when I’m done with a shitty phase of life and I’m ready to move on. Shake that devil off your back. Pair this with “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream” or any other story where a woman is at the end of her rope and ready to suffer and hope.
14. Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig Van Beethoven & Hypnotize by The Notorious B.I.G.
Obvious choices for “Ghost Girl Ballet.” The girls dance to “Moonlight Sonata” because it’s so common that they can all hum it. When I was in middle school, I played it on piano. Such a lovely sadness. As far as rap goes, I’m more of a Run-DMC girl, but it’s hard to deny the classic that is “Hypnotize.” That’s what the janitor is listening to at the end of the story.
15. Seize the Power by Yonaka
I want to end with “Seize the Power.” It always gives me that “burn it all down” feeling that so many of the women in this collection could use. Relevant lyrics: “They’re not brave like you, they’re too scared to do / Anything that’s different, anything that’s new.” Pretty much all the women and girls in this collection are in a bad spot. I want everything for them. They might have to take it.
Chelsea Stickle’s debut flash fiction chapbook Breaking Points was the Editor’s Choice in the Spring 2020 Black River Chapbook Competition and was released by Black Lawrence Press on October 26, 2021.
Her second flash fiction chapbook is Everything's Changing. It contains stories of strangeness.
Her work appears in Cheap Pop, Chestnut Review, CRAFT, matchbook, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, among others. Stories from her Screaming Meemies series can be found in Milk Candy Review, Janus Literary, Five South, Gone Lawn, Tiny Molecules, The Los Angeles Review and others. She’s an Assistant Fiction Editor for Pithead Chapel and an Associate Fiction Editor for Pidgeonholes.
In 2022, her micro “If You Want It Bad Enough” was selected for Wigleaf‘s Top 50. She’s been nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best Microfiction, Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. “Postcard Town” was selected for Best Microfiction 2021. In 2019, her story “I Told You I Would Take Your Hand” was a runner-up in the Mslexia Flash Fiction Competition.
She has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and a Diplôme de Pâtisserie from Le Cordon Bleu.
She lives in Annapolis, MD with her black rabbit George and a forest of houseplants. In her spare time she embroiders and plays bass.