is—as their name implies—a little rugged on the outside and full of sparkly surprises on the inside. They are a genderfluid, queer, and biracial multidisciplinary artist, writer, editor, poet, and shamanic practitioner of Korean and mixed European descent. They use trance methods and ritual in their creative process, which is rooted in using art and stories to heal. Their work is heavily influenced by the connectivity and relationality of the natural world and their includes animistic perspectives of honoring the soul in all living things, and a cyclical or non-linear perspective of time and history. Their formal training is an alchemy of many branching disciplines, and they are grateful for the life learning of travel to three continents, eight countries, and 37 states. Merle holds a B.S. in Zoology from the University of Madison, WI, and they have over 10 years of journalism experience and five years of intensive training in shamanic healing, ancestral healing, and transgenerational trauma—which involves healing both the individual and the collective. Stories are medicine. They have been a self-taught visual artist since they were a child, and it is an extension of their mixed and fluid identities to naturally gravitate toward mixed mediums, from black ink, to paint, to squid ink, to fire, and 3-D objects, including feathers, rocks, and items found on travels. In Madison, WI (where Merle lived the last 14 years) they were actively involved as an artist and collaborator in the ArtWrite Collective, and they were a volunteer contributor to Our Lives Magazine, Wisconsin’s LGBTQA+ publication, for nearly 9 years. After the tragedy of the shooting in Orlando, Merle created a community healing project called “Strength Stones”—hand collected rocks from Wisconsin’s lakes that were painted by Madison’s LGBTQ community, each with a word of strength, and shipped to Orlando, where they were placed at the Pulse memorial for carry with them for support drawing, on the grounding qualities of stones from water (a healing element good for grief), and the power of words. Here in the Twin Cities, Merle was a 2019 “Mirrors and Windows” fellow at The Loft Literary Center and they are currently an MFA candidate in Poetry at UMN Twin Cities. As a person living with a permanent disability (metastatic breast cancer, plus other chronic illnesses), the themes of finding beauty and purpose in the immediacy of each day also seeps into their work—and how to move toward inner places of fear with more peace.