100 memoirs project #14: Heating and Cooling, by Beth Ann Fennelly

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Fennelly cover

The subtitle of this book is 52 Micro Memoirs, which intrigued me as much as the fact that Beth Ann Fennelly is a poet.

A poet writing a memoir. As a poet writing memoir-like prosy things and calling them poems (ahem), I can relate. Continue reading

I’m (finally!) hosting a writing retreat

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Write for your life_FB

For as long as I can remember, I’ve NOT dreamed of hosting a writing retreat.

When I completed my MFA, I remember being vocal about how un-confident I was about teaching. I was only 24 years old. While most of my grad school colleagues prepared to enter academia or return to their established careers (as lawyers, massage therapists, marketing professionals, and so on), I got a job at a university press. Then at an academic library. Then at a newspaper. Then back to higher ed. I wrote and edited and blogged and archived and social media-ed, but I didn’t teach.

Concurrent to all these “day jobs” that I felt better suited for, I guest-lectured in classrooms, a thrilled poser who was about to be outed as someone who had no business talking to young(er) people about writing, or really anything. I worked paid and free gigs with various literary orgs and presses, and I published poems in small mags, then bigger ones. Then I published a chapbook, and a full-length, then another chapbook, then another full-length. I co-founded and ran an online mag for a decade.

Then…bad life stuff.

Then…I found the Center for Creative Writing. Continue reading

What are your favorite memoirs?

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I’m making an effort to blog more, in between memoir posts. More about the craft of memoir, about my own essay-writing progress, and about pitching essays (and, if you’re me, getting rejected but occasionally getting a “pitch us again” and much less frequently, having something accepted).

It’s been a while since I asked, but what are your favorite memoirs? Comment, please! I have a stack I’m working through for 100 memoirs project, but I still want to hear from you. One can never have too many books. Right?

books

Photo by Glen Noble on Unsplash

Right.

 

Five minutes to honor five years of survival and (es)capability

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This year’s rebirthday flowers.

CW: Domestic violence

Five years ago right this instant, I was a determined, focused, vigilant, nervous wreck.

I was racing around a falling-down house, breathing heavily, blood pounding, sweating, more than one fresh bruise blooming across my skin. I ignored the mess of a broken plate, the hole in the drywall. I was trying to collapse my one-year-old’s pack-and-play and get it into the car. I was overloading his diaper bag and jamming important papers–birth certificates, social security cards–into my favorite, giant, mustard-yellow leather tote. I was forgetting to eat, as I did a lot in those days. I fed the cat, though. I swore (which I do often) and prayed (which I don’t) and obsessively checked his parking spot in the driveway to make sure it was still empty (it was). I kissed my baby, tucked him into his car seat, and darted outside to snap the seat onto its base in the back of my ’01 Honda CR-V, the first car that was ever mine. I got in, untangling from the criss-crossing straps of multiple bags hanging off my limbs, and drove off quickly, checking my rearview a dozen times before the highway, then a dozen more on the three-hour drive. More than once, I was sure, for at least a couple minutes, that he was behind me, gaining on me, about to run us off the road… Continue reading

100 memoirs project #13: No Walls and the Recurring Dream, by Ani DiFranco

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no walls

YESSSSS. OMG YES. Ani’s memoir.

Sorry, all the other memoirs on my bedside table. I bookmarked all of you when I bought Ani’s book on its release day, because I have been FEELING lately, and returning to her music (and Tori’s, and Bikini Kill’s, and Sleater-Kinney’s, and 7 Year Bitch’s, and and and and) because it’s an angry-female world I live in and I need a soundtrack.

…Some guy designed this room I’m standing in,
and others built it with their own tools.
Who says I like right angles?
These are not my laws, these are not my rules!

The first Ani song I ever heard was “Dilate,” which a friend put on for me after a particularly bad breakup:

And when I say you sucked my brain out,
the English translation
is ‘I am in love with you,
and it is no fun.’

Hooked.

But this post isn’t about music per se. Well, maybe that’s untrue. It’s about a memoir by a consummate musician. Without music, there would be no memoir. There would be no Ani. There might be no Stacia. Continue reading

100 memoirs project #12: Sick, by Porochista Khakpour

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Finishing Porochista Khakpour’s Sick on Election Day 2018

My literary bestie gifted me Sick on last year, and it moved to a top position in my stacks and stacks of memoirs to read. I’ve been following this writer for some time and could hardly wait to dive in.

Election Day 2018 was a while ago, right? I’m only just sharing this post now because Khakpour’s book was so compelling and complicated that I read it again. I could go another round, too, but it’s been more than half a year since I did a memoir post, so here we go.

There’s something about an illness memoir. Memoir usually promises, for better or worse, redemption, so reading a memoir about illness, for which redemption would seem to be relief from illness, is further promising a cure, a balm, an antidote.

Khakpour says, I wish. Continue reading

That time I was on the BBC

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CW: brief mention of domestic violence

Yes, that BBC. Squeal.

Big writing moments are few and far between for many of us, so forgive me for reveling a bit.

One day a month or so ago, I woke up to an email from a BBC producer who had found my essay “I failed at breastfeeding my micro-preemie,” published last year in Blood+Milk. He works on a radio show called The Food Chain, which deals with all things food (it’s really wonderful. Please listen to some episodes.). He invited me to participate in a conversation with two other moms about our challenges with breastfeeding, which would be recorded for this show.

I was completely freaked out and scared, the kind of freaked out and scared that lets me know I have to do something. Continue reading

Letter to the world on my publication day

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DH cover

CW: allusion to domestic violence

I published a chapbook that I have only just barely resisted branding with Dickinson: This is my letter to the world that never wrote to me…

Resisted because, melodrama much? And how perfectly, maddeningly apt that this is my reason because that self-conscious certainty that speaking up and from the wound will open me up to accusations that I’m seeking attention, creating drama, blah blah patriarchal nonsense is precisely the reason this chapbook almost wasn’t born. Continue reading

100 memoirs project #11: Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain

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Kitchen ConfidentialI’ve had this book for a while, but when the world lost Anthony Bourdain on June 8, I was devastated and forced myself to read it, finally, even though I knew it would hurt.

It definitely hurt. Tony’s first book, the one that made him famous, made me ache, made me belly-laugh, and made me hungry. Usually all at once.

I was on vacation, sweating in a kayak on Lake Erie, when I read about the author’s life-changing first slurp of oyster, the pre-adolescent moment that made him a foodie. “Everything was different now,” he wrote. “…I had had an adventure, tasted forbidden fruit, and everything that followed in my life…would all stem from this moment. I’d learned something. Viscerally, instinctively, spiritually—even in some small, precursive way, sexually—and there was no turning back.” Continue reading

Still here: Reacting to Kavanaugh as a survivor, voter, former smoker

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CW: Physical and sexual assault bc hey, America

Sometimes, even when no one is calling to check in, and maybe especially when no one is, I feel this urge to stand up on something and wave my wild arms above my wild wavy-haired head and proclaim, hey, I’m still here! Still surviving! Still writing! Still me! If anyone cares!

This isn’t a pity party, either. It’s feminist ire.

Our government doesn’t give a shit if we’re here, us women. It hasn’t cared for a long time. Those of us who enjoy other types of privilege besides being male, like being white and/or being cisgender and/or being heterosexual and/or being middle-to-upper class and/or being able-bodied and/or being mentally well and/or being documented citizens, have known before the women who look and live and love like me.

For women who look and live and love like me, the world has felt only moderately, episodically, hostile toward us. It’s felt like there have been some misogynists on the fringes of government and the realms of law and order. Like a small minority of rednecks were driving around flying Confederate flags and ordering their women around, while most men were probably ok, if a little rough around the edges.

When I learned about misogyny and sexism as a teenager and college undergraduate, I thought I was learning about a system of oppression that was dying out, and that feminists like me were necessary to ensure its continued destruction. Continue reading