A Dozen Stellar Essays, Part II of an Interview, and a Few Announcements...
Basic arithmetic for writers and readers.
Welcome to Memoir Land—a newsletter edited by, now featuring three verticals:
Memoir Monday, a weekly curation of the best personal essays from around the web brought to you by Narratively, The Rumpus, Granta, Guernica, Oldster Magazine, Literary Hub, Orion Magazine, The Walrus, and Electric Literature. Below is this week’s curation.
First Person Singular, featuring original personal essays. Recently I published “Roast Duck Soup for the Chinese-American Daughter’s Soul” by. A new essay is coming Wednesday.
The Lit Lab, featuring interviews and essays on craft and publishing, plus writing prompts and exercises. It is primarily for paid subscribers. Recently I posted “On Keeping (a Giant Chest Full of) Journals,” by.
Memoir Monday is a reader-supported publication that pays contributors for original essays and interviews. To support this work, become a paid subscriber.
Essays from partner publications…
by Kyo Maclear
“When my father died, I began making weekly visits to a public grief house. I mean greenhouse. For seven Mondays, I rode the streetcar across town to warm myself in a glass building full of plants. No one had warned me that hard-hitting losses sometimes take the form of ordinary problems such as temperature-related discomfort.”
No Regrets — Just Some "Counterfactual Curiosity" about Roads Not Taken
“Back when Dag had finally agreed with me about not having kids, that seemed done and dusted for us both. So he was puzzled when now I began to wonder aloud if parenthood makes the reality of the last stage of life less daunting. If a grandchild is not just a comfort in old age but also a big distraction.”
Stephanie Land on Beating Writer’s Block and Finishing Her Second Memoir (Part II of an interview)
“I think there’s a system in this country that is a caste system and that we really don’t talk about that much. And part of that is keeping a population of workers hungry and poor and sick and uneducated. And we rely on the low-wage workers because they do all of the work that nobody else wants to do and it makes all the other work possible. And there are a lot of artists that don’t really get to go to school for that. I barely did. I was just very stubborn. I just knew I was never going to be happy unless I at least tried to do this one thing.”
The Call of the Void: Hannah Lillith Assadi on Losing Home, Identity, and Her Father
by Hannah Lillith Assadi
“On the telephone from the hospital, my father tells me he wants a cigarette. He has fallen again. His once hearty frame is now so frail, I can hardly bear to look at him. The cancer is in his bones. The cancer is everywhere. A wise friend once said that gazing upon death is like staring at the sun. But it’s worse than that. The last time I saw my father before this call, I was shocked by how thin he had become in the course of months, and he said to me, you look at me like I’m some strange man. I didn’t say, it’s far worse than that.”
Send the Barbarian in First
by George Murray
“While my dad, however unwittingly, introduced me to a pastime that would consume my nerdy teenage years and drive my hyper-Christian mother apoplectic, he certainly didn’t play Dungeons and Dragons with me. It was just a gift to give his nerdy kid who spent too much time reading indoors. He didn’t understand the game or care about it. But the dads I’m coaching have a different framework, a different set of fond memories. And they’re eager to pass them on.”
Roast Duck Soup for the Chinese-American Daughter’s Soul
“Seeking the cutthroat bargain rates of Chinatown, my dad took as his responsibility trips from our home in Suffolk County, Long Island to a dentist there, where cash was king and everything was negotiable…It was a struggle for my father to get me there. Threatening me with punishment resulted in kicks, screams, and frantic tears that dried on my cheeks in salty rivulets. It was as much of an ordeal for my parents as it was for me — until my father stumbled upon the one thing he could bribe me with: soup. My parents discovered that nothing quieted down an angry, sobbing, newly-gap-toothed child like a big bowl of slightly cooled soup with tender duck morsels slowly congealing into eggy noodles.”
Essays from around the web…
by Leila C. Nadir
“Did Madinah just twist restrictions on women’s bodies—gender segregation, menstruation taboos—to get what she wanted? All those rules my father dictated about how Afghan girls should act and how I always failed, and here was Madinah, straight from the home country, headscarf on her hair every Sunday, breaking rules I didn’t even know existed?”
As a Disabled Person, Experiencing Joy Often Comes With a Trade-Off
by Brijana Prooker
“I spend much of every day making decisions designed specifically to avoid physical pain, saying no to most social invitations, and waving goodbye to passions and ambitions that once lit up my soul. But every now and again, I'll willingly sacrifice my physical health for my mental health. I'll choose to be in pain just so I can feel some joy.”
Such a Beauty
by Amy Scheiner
“People used to compliment my long, thick eyelashes so one day I went to my grandmother’s vanity, took a pair of scissors, and cut them…I remember this because it was the weekend of Princess Diana’s funeral. I didn’t know who she was but every TV station showed a long procession of crying people wearing black so I assumed she must have been someone important. I was newly seven and all I knew about Diana was that she was beautiful and that her beauty was now gone.”
Making Peace with my Nightmares
by Jason Prokowiew
“Michael Myers started haunting me when I was 6…I’d gone with my brother and sister, five and eight years older than me, to a Halloween party at our neighbor’s house. Dressed in my plastic Yoda costume — the one my mom got me from the now defunct Bradlees — my siblings quickly ditched me at the door when the kids their own ages surrounded them. With no other kids my age to hang with, I wandered around the party like a ghost.”
How Lesbians Taught me Queer Love Could Thrive
by Jerry Portwood
“Maybe it’s that some part of me believed women loved more intensely. Women loved better. There were few examples of men loving men when I was growing up. And the only examples that I managed to glean from literature or films were often tragic tales. We were told that men fucked, and they got sick, and they died.”
Talking Shoes, Leave Me Be!
by Marion Winik
“After the cobbler made his final pronouncement, I had to accept the situation. With one so mangled, the other was useless. As heartbreaking as it was, the shoes would serve no further earthly purpose. I squeezed my eyes shut and turned away as I gingerly dropped them behind my back into the kitchen garbage can.”
I Keep Waiting for it to Happen to Us
by Kevin Koczwara
“I can’t remember what I said, but I know I didn’t tell them that a gunman had murdered kids their age that afternoon. That the police stood by with their big guns and all their power and did little to stop it, because in America it’s about having power over the powerless, and that sometimes means letting some children die in yet another massacre. One that could have been avoided if we didn’t fetishize guns and gun culture.”
📢 Submissions for ’s second annual Memoir Prize are open now.
“Through Thursday, November 30, 2023, Narratively is accepting entries for our 2023 Memoir Prize. We’re on the hunt for revealing and emotional first-person nonfiction narratives from unique and overlooked points of view. The winning submission will receive a $3,000 prize and publication on Narratively.”
📢 Writing Co-Lab has some new classes on offer…
Writing Co-Lab provides dynamic online classes and workshops in every genre to deepen your craft, sharpen your publishing acumen, and ignite your imagination. Writing Co-Lab is cooperatively owned and run by teaching artists, so up to 90% of your tuition goes directly to the instructor. With free open mic nights, early morning writing clubs, and faculty “ask me anything” sessions, Writing Co-Lab is committed to fostering community inside and outside the classroom. We have upcoming classes taught by acclaimed writers like Edgar Gomez, Bushra Rehman, Omer Friedlander, Natasha Oladokun, Kyle Dillon Hertz, Mila Jaroneic, Amy Shearn, and Alexandra Watson. Check out our full class listings and come write with us!
📢 Contributing editor is offering an online Music & Memoir Writing Workshop November 7th from 7-8:30 pm EST.
“Whether your goal is to write a personal essay, a book, or simply unlock your creativity, writers of all levels will have the opportunity to write and share their stories using music as a portal for inspiration. The goal is that participants will leave feeling empowered by their own stories regardless of whether they decide to share them and that the workshop will foster a love of storytelling.” All levels welcome.
$55 regular fee, $40 early registration—sign up by Oct 24th Register by emailing email@example.com. Zoom link provided after payment is received.
📢 Attention Publications and writers interested in having published essays considered for inclusion in our weekly curation:
By Thursday of each week, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org:
The title of the essay and a link to it.
The name of the author, and the author’s Twitter handle.
A paragraph or a few lines from the piece that will most entice readers.
Because of data limits for many email platforms, going forward we will only include artwork from our partner publications. No need to send art.
*Please be advised, however, that we cannot accept all submissions, nor respond to the overwhelming number of emails received. Also, please note that we don’t accept author submissions from our partner publications.
You can also support Memoir Monday—and indie bookstores!—by browsing this Bookshop.org list of every book that’s been featured at the Memoir Monday reading series. It’s a great place to find some new titles to add to your TBR list!