Discover more from Memoir Land
Fourteen Personal Essays to Remind You that You Are Human...
Welcome to Memoir Monday—a weekly newsletter featuring the best personal essays from around the web, and a quarterly reading series, brought to you by Narratively, The Rumpus, Granta, Guernica, Oldster Magazine, Literary Hub, Orion Magazine, The Walrus, and Electric Literature.
***Submissions for First Person Singular are now PAUSED. An overwhelming number of new submissions have recently come in. There are more essays in my inbox than I could publish in two years. And I’m too overwhelmed to keep bringing in more to read before I go through all those already in there, even with help from recently appointed contributing editor Katie Kosma.
*Going forward, there will be a Submittable account and specific submission periods, which I will announce here. You can find submissions guidelines and more on the “About” page, but, again, submissions are currently PAUSED.
In other news, recently I launched “The Lit Lab,” a new vertical dedicated to interviews and essays on craft and publishing. It is primarily for paid subscribers. Recently I published a video interview there with poet/memoiristabout her process in writing her debut memoir, You Could Make This Place Beautiful.
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…
The Last Place We Were Happy
“Our hotel, Las Palomas, had an elm growing through the lobby, its roots in the dirt beneath the floor, as if the hotel had been built around something stronger and older than itself. We needed proximal strength.”
I’ve Been Conditioned to Slay if I Want to Live
“At 14, I discovered RuPaul’s Drag Race, where I watched Raja Gemini, an Indonesian drag queen, win her season. I stole makeup from the theater department and learned how to apply it by watching drag queens on YouTube. Eventually, I wore makeup, skirts and platform loafers to trigonometry class at 7 a.m., and what used to be a source of my peers’ interrogation as the femme kid in middle school became my source of social power as a trans person by the time I graduated. Having a sense of solidity and certainty in who I was, even if half-assed and performative, protected me from harassment.”
The Bolt Bus Was My Biweekly Bardo: Life Between Writer and Daughter
by Blair Hurley
“I had my weekday self, which I spent going to classes and feeling outclassed and intimidated by my cool New York classmates and trying to write; but come Friday afternoon, when my classmates were meeting up or going to readings or parties around town, I’d be standing in a line of lonely-looking students and lovers and grandmas on 34th street and Eighth avenue by the Tick Tock diner, waiting for my bus.”
Am I Still Here?
by Anthony Doerr
“I harbor a dark twin inside. He’s a sun-starved, ropy bastard and he lives somewhere north of my heart. Every day he gets a little stronger. He’s a weed, he’s a creeper; he’s a series of thickening wires inside my skull.”
I Was a Teenage Beauty Pageant Loser
by Natasha Ramoutar
“I frequently felt overlooked by the judges during that pageant weekend. When we learned the choreography set to Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In the World),” I ended up mostly hidden in the back. While I tried to cultivate a demure, polished manner, the voice that emerged instead sounded flustered and forced. I couldn’t disguise my discomfort with how out of place I felt. Instead of a chance to transform myself, my surroundings were reinforcing the very insecurities I had hoped to shed.”
Shuffle-Tap-Stepping My Way Back to Life
“When I tap dance I’m temporarily transported away from all that. I am dancing back to simple, silly childhood dreams that never stood a chance, sure, but better yet, I am laughing in the moment, and that’s what matters now. My body is running on the upbeat brain chemistry found along certain neural pathways, and joy….I’m not the oldest in our class, or the youngest. I’m definitely not the best, but I’m present. Our teacher has been dancing for over fifty years, and she’s beautiful and graceful and funny. What matters is that we have these bodies to tend to. ”
The Editors Challenging the Way We Think About Desire
by Julianna Bjorksten, in conversation with Margot Kahn and Kelly McMasters
“Historically, when the cliched question 'What do women want?' has been asked, the answer has always been trying to encapsulate all women. It really does women a disservice to assume that there is one answer to that question. That’s precisely why we wanted to have an anthology instead of a collection with all essays by the same writer."
Essays from around the web…
Grieving Someone Who Is Here But Not
by Dina Gachman
“I worried about Jackie in New York in the early days of 2020, as the pandemic hit. During the previous two years, she’d been heading down a dangerous path of drinking to the point that ambulances would take her to detox at least every few weeks. If the hospital had an available detox bed, Jackie would be supervised and safely weaned off alcohol and drugs for a few days, unless she decided to walk out on her own, which she often did. Thinking of her wandering out of detox as a dangerous pandemic swept across the country had me panicked. In those early days of Lysoling our groceries and locking ourselves away like petrified moles, the fear that a virus could kill my sister was real.”
Writing Advice for the Exhausted
by Stephanie Harper
“Because the world feels especially shitty right now and life is perhaps even harder than writing and we are all doing the best we can and also we are fucking exhausted. If any of this resonates with you, here’s what I tell myself when the weight of everything feels too great and I wonder if I’ll ever stare wide-eyed and excited at a blank page again.”
by Donna Cameron
“I always did my homework after dinner at our kitchen table. Many of those nights, I couldn’t help but overhear Mom and her friend Pam discussing Pam’s husband, her lover, and the challenge of managing both. It all sounded very complex. While I had read books and seen movies where couples engaged in adulterous affairs, they rarely addressed the more practical considerations. I found these almost as interesting as the actual sex.”
by Elle Lash
“My uterus has been bleeding for seven weeks now. My uterus, the psychic, saw the end times coming…When my uterus was a baby uterus nestled in my baby body, she was a tiny perfect sea sponge singing her song to my tiny, perfect personhood to let me know that I was a girl. We didn’t yet know that to be a girl in the world is to be the pointed end of the less-than sign, to be the angular tip of a witch’s hat, to be the whittled needle nose of a poison arrow.”
The Week Before My Sons Were Born, I Lost My Smile
by Elena Sheppard
“I resolved then that if my smile wasn’t going to return on its own, I would have to go find it. My sons needed me to smile, and so I would. I was already undergoing frequent acupuncture, and now I added a visit to a neurologist for an electrodiagnostic test to assess the extent of the paralysis. Nodes were attached to my forehead, cheeks, and chin, and electric currents were sent through to test if my muscles would move. They barely did. ‘I don’t imagine you’ll ever return to normal,’ the neurologist said bluntly at the end of our visit. ‘And even if in the future you think you’re smiling, you’ll probably be doing this.’ He scrunched up his face and made his eye blink rapidly. I left, angry at his callousness, with bruises on my face from the electric shocks and a pit in my stomach that he might be right.”
Why Perfectionism is So Damaging
by Yvonne Liu
“Like Ali Wong’s character Amy in Netflix’s Beef, I’m a perfectionist who was afraid to show my true self to family members. We both felt our parents' love was conditional. However, you can’t please an unpleasable parent. As children of immigrants, we were reminded how much our parents sacrificed for us. Failure was not an option. Yet suppressing our feelings can lead to terrible decisions.”
You Don't Know How Brave I Am for Not Screaming
by Kristina Kasparian
“You’re not asking the right questions. You’re not letting me speak! I wish he’d come with me. There’s so much I need to tell you. Don’t overuse adjectives, they tell us writers, us women. Don’t overdo metaphor. Don’t get all hysterical! I try to stick to the facts: I can’t function. I can’t think. I’m not me. It hurts all the time. I don’t know what to eat. I don’t know what to do. I’m so tired of pain. I’m so tired of life, if life means living like this. These are my facts. But they’re not facts to you. What do you mean by ‘normal’? How can the tests be normal? How can they not show this rot inside of me? I’m not imagining it, I swear. It ruins every day. Doesn’t that matter? Is that normal to you? Won’t you help me? I want to yell over your voice. I want to grab hold of your shrugging shoulders and shake you, humble you, remind you of your oath. I don’t want to cry—that’s what you expect me to do. That’s it? You’re sending me home? Like this? Now what?”
📢 Lilly Dancyger also has a few new workshops on offer, plus manuscript and essay consultations. Lilly is a talented writer, editor, and teacher who will help you improve your work. Check out her offerings…
📢 Granta Writers’ Workshops has two new courses on offer: Nature Writing: Rewilding Language, and Writing Memoir: Unlocking Memory and Shaping Experience.
📢 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!