100 memoirs project #1: The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr


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karr cover

I wanted The Art of Memoir to be the first book I read and posted about for my 100 memoirs project. It’s not a memoir, but it’s about memoir, and Karr is an expert who frequently delves into autobiography while dispensing her brilliant advice, so it counts.

It took me a long time to finish this book because I was underlining so much. Then I stopped underlining and just started writing things down. Then my hand got tired so I started taking pics of whole passages so I could carry them with me.

The Art of Memoir made me think two conflicting thoughts, sometimes both at once: I can/can’t do this.

“Writing a memoir is knocking yourself out with your own fist,” you see.

Here are some actual notes-to-self I made in my journal, and some of the most impactful quotes or tips I absorbed, while reading The Art of Memoir: Continue reading


100 memoirs


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I was looking at this big stack of books in my home office, books I’m dying to read, and rhetorically asking myself how to make time for them. I thought, I need someone to hold me accountable.

Book club? Omg if I schedule one more thing to have to go to…

Some kind of email book club? Still probably a deadline, and I want this to be fun and loose so I actually do it.

Goodreads? No more social media.

So I’m gonna use this space to hold myself accountable. I’m going to read memoirs and blog about them. Not really reviews, just informal responses, maybe with a little real life splashed in. No rules. Some of the memoirs I read will be second or third reads. Sometimes I will link to posts I’ve done on these books elsewhere. Sometimes I will write a lot, sometimes only a little. I might read three in a month and then none for three months.

But I’m going to read 100 of them. Continue reading

Third birthday of my after-me


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Content warning: domestic violence


Three years today.

Last year on this day, I wrote about getting stronger. Two years ago on this day, I wrote about my proclivity for leaving.

This year, I want to claim this day not as an anniversary like I have previously, but as another birthday, a rebirthday, because despite this ongoing healing process, I still feel—I am, I was—ripped into two halves: me before domestic violence and me after. Continue reading

A Response to Jia Tolentino’s “The Personal-Essay Boom is Over”

“…to say that the personal is no longer political seems like just a new way of telling women to shut up about themselves because there are more important things in the world to talk about.” All the yes. Don’t shut up. ❤

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

zoeBy Zoë Bossiere

A couple of weeks ago, a piece by Jia Tolentino came out in The New Yorker called “The Personal-Essay Boom is Over.” The title alone was enough to deluge social media feeds with writers stepping forward to defend the vitality of the personal essay in spite of the article’s assertions, or otherwise agreeing with Tolentino that the personal essay is, in fact, “dead.” The only problem is, the article isn’t actually about what we writers know as the personal essay at all, but rather a separate subgenre of nonfiction called the “confessional essay.” If we want to get even more specific, Tolentino’s article is talking specifically of the confessional essays typically printed in online “women’s” publications such as xoJane, Jezebel, Salon, and others. To compare the personal and the confessional is a common false equivalence, and a great underestimation of all that first-person nonfiction writing encompasses.

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Alive in the superunknown


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superunknownMy alarm went off today at 5:45 and the first thing I saw when I grabbed my phone to hit snooze was the AP alert that Chris Cornell was dead.

I know I’m a writer and I’m supposed to be able to describe these feelings in a way that you might not have heard before, but to which you can also relate, but fuck me if I can do that right now.

I cried in bed. I can’t cry about any aspect of my own life to save it, but SPCA commercials, songs, movies, my kid saying unexpected poetic things, dead children in Syria, dew on a spiderweb–beauty and pain, beauty and pain, beauty and pain, there go my eyes. It’s never buckets. It’s an ache that rises and squeezes an offering of empathy to my face, cheeks, hands, to evaporate into some shared space. It’s permission to feel. I might be broken but I heal.

When there is a very public death of someone we don’t know “in real life,” especially when we lose an artist, I always think that it isn’t the person so much as the loss of possibility that we mourn. I’d like to revise that sentiment. Continue reading

Someone I love is being abused: Notes from the other side


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A friend of mine recently shared with me that she’s been dealing with emotional and physical abuse at the hands of a guy she was seeing.

I say was because she has fortunately left the relationship, and now is when I worry about her the most.

The most dangerous time for a victim is immediately after escape.

My friend was safe last night and this morning. She has a plan and she is strong.

I’m not going to share her story because it’s not mine to share, but I do want to talk a little about being on the other side of this for once—being the friend who listens and believes and doesn’t say should, the way my closest friends listened to and believed me and didn’t say should. (And guess what, not saying should isn’t easy, so thank you, friends. You’re incredible.)

I’m not new to people telling me they’ve been abused. Writing about domestic violence in a public way means that women frequently contact me and tell me about their own experiences. It’s the most positive feedback I receive—which might sound strange, but those messages always come with a thank you, I feel less alone since I read what you wrote. Good, that’s why I wrote it.

What I’m new to is being close to someone, seeing warning signs, and still practicing what I preach about listening instead of instructing. Continue reading

Taking over the Elizabeth Ayres Center for Creative Writing: On gratitude and humility while still owning one’s success


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Friends, it is not very often I get to share news this big, and I’ve been sitting on it for nearly four months, so here goes.

I’ve been teaching and designing online writing courses for the Elizabeth Ayres Center for Creative Writing for almost three years now. The Center is independent, founded in 1990 by Elizabeth in her own home, and exclusively online and expanding since 2000. It’s wonderful work and I’ve been so happy doing it. On this past New Year’s Eve, Elizabeth called me to say she wants to retire to follow a lifelong dream of hers (this incredible woman has many, many dreams), and she offered me the Center: to take it over, run it, grow it as I see fit.

After I picked myself up off the floor, I accepted her offer. Continue reading

My little thunderstorm


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It occurs to me I haven’t written about Jax in a long time, so I have to tell you about his obsession with thunderstorms, and maybe commit to sharing a funny or adorable Jax story on a more regular basis. There are, after all, zillions from which to choose.

Jax has always been a little jumpy about thunder. A couple weeks ago, it started thundering while we were eating supper. Our kitchen table is directly in front of a big bay window overlooking the back yard, with woods behind it, so we started to see some lightning and the first drops of rain. I checked my weather app and sure enough… Continue reading

Just a quick reminder about how badassly powerful we are


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Last Friday, 45 pulled his disastrous excuse for a healthcare bill after learning he didn’t have the votes to pass it via a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

This is what victory looks like. Or rather, this is what incremental victory during would-be-apocalypse looks like.

I don’t know how many calls and faxes I made to my representatives in defense of maternity leave, covering those with preexisting conditions, keeping Medicare intact, etc. etc., but I made them. I was deeply concerned about accessibility to affordable healthcare for all Americans, and I spoke up, along with millions of you, and look what we did. Continue reading

#Mustread: “Resistbot Turns Your Texts Into Faxes to Elected Officials”


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botYou guys gotta try Resistbot!

Also, we all should be reading more Teen Vogue, for real. Last week, this mag featured an article about a tool called Resistbot, and it sounded interesting so I bookmarked it and promptly forgot about it until sippin on a hot toddy last night after putting kiddo to bed at the end of a particularly patience-draining day of another kind of resistance (i.e., preschooler to mother about EVERYTHING). I was scrolling through my bookmarks and whoa, hold up, you can text a message through Resistbot and it will fax it to your reps for you?

Yep. Resistbot is a thing. I just used it to fax Casey and Toomey about (again) opposing the new healthcare monstrosity legislation.

Here’s how it works: Continue reading