Make Time for these 10 Stellar Personal Essays...
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, and Orion Magazine — plus many additional publications.
In addition to the weekly curation, there are now original personal essays under the heading of First Person Singular, for paying subscribers. The latest original essay, published in the First Person Singular series last week, is “The Bedroom” by Kate Vieira. The next original essay is coming Wednesday.
***Submissions for First Person Singular are now PAUSED. An overwhelming number of new submissions have recently come in (I think because some websites have posted my submissions guidelines and email address?). There are way 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. (Welcome, Katie!)
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, launched “The Lit Lab,” a new section of this newsletter dedicated to interviews and essays on craft and publishing. It is primarily for paid subscribers. I’m bringing over from Catapult my “How’s the Writing Going?” interview series, beginning with a chat I had with 15-time author Bernice McFadden, who’s currently working on her memoir.
In The Lit Lab, Check out “How to Be Your Own Agent,” the latest video interview with Chloe Caldwell, author of four books including The Red Zone: A Love Story, published last April. Chloe and I talk about how she has acted as her own agent, for the most part, in publishing her books with indie presses.
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…
Welcome to America’s Most Elite Girls Boarding School. Let the Hazing Begin.
by Anastasia Mills Healy
“Everyone’s eyes were glued to the robed figures. They walked slowly while repeating the chant, then stood still in a line facing the tables. One spoke in a booming voice, something to the effect of: ‘We are the Terrible Ten. We keep order. Anyone who does not obey the Old Girls will answer to us.’”
Camonghne Felix on the Gentle Balance of Writing about Trauma
by Camonghne Felix
“I knew it was important to include the authenticity, and important that I help inoculate my reader from the trauma, two goals that felt irreconcilable. Does it have to hurt the reader for them to get it? Must they really be in my shoes? I spent a lot of time considering this in my own work, and for a while came to no good answers, so for almost a decade I refused to write anything about trauma, unsure of whether or not I was doing more harm to my readers than not.”
The Night of Little Big Man
by Charlotte Gullick
“When I think about my father, and who I was in that moment when the boys were chasing me, maybe it had been easier to show aggression in the face of racism—to lean into that dominant narrative both because it was easier and it had power. And maybe that was the case for my father, too. That there was some comfort in simply being dangerous. But there was so much of him that the dominant narrative never touched.”
by Mari Naomi
“It’s 2016. I’m a 42-year-old woman trying to get closure on a friendship that ended in my 20s. Why is this so hard?”
Betwixt and Betwin
by Taiye Selasi
“You and your sister are five years old. You are told not to talk to strangers. Strange, you think, as strangers seem to love to talk to twins. ‘Which one’s older?’ Crouching and smiling, pantomiming comparison, swivelling their heads and darting their eyes from you to your sister and back again, scanning your bodies in a manner that anyone would otherwise find inappropriate. As if playing a game. As if, moreover, you have asked them to play.”
How’s the Writing Going, Bernice McFadden?
by Sari Botton
“How much of myself do I reveal? How much of my family do I reveal? I’ve been writing about myself and my family for two decades, but masking it in fiction. And that made it easy. But now I’m putting myself out on Front Street. Who do I write about? Who don’t I write about?”
Essays from around the web…
Eat Your Feelings
by Grace Dunbar-Miller
“She’s convinced herself that fifteen pounds down, three inches here, an inch there, is happiness. No longer gorging on Red Vines, stir fry noodles, and fish & chips to numb the pain, my mother gained control by going out of control.”
In Memory of Wisty—the Best, Best Girl
by Julie Klam
“Since I’ve been writing about dogs for years, lots of people reach out to me when they lose a beloved pup; they all want to know how they’ll get through it. A good friend told me his dog’s death was worse than his father’s. I understand that. Our pups are woven into the fabric of our lives so that nothing happens without some dog-related consequence. The buzzer rings, they bark. You put your shoes on, they stretch in anticipation of a walk (even if you hadn’t planned to take them). You cook, and there they are by your feet as if to say, I will help with what falls here!”
Why I Watch the Closing Credits of Every Movie I See
by Emma Kantor
“There’s a line in Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” that suggests attention is a form of love — a statement that resonates in this era of diminished attention spans. That’s one of the reasons I linger to watch the credits, and I encourage anyone with an appreciation for movies, and for the people who make them, to stay after the final scene. One look at the credits is enough to challenge the myth of the genius auteur calling all the shots. Credits are the closest that many behind-the-scenes, below-the-line artists and technicians get to a curtain call. These unsung collaborators — the crew members we don’t see hitting the talk-show circuit or strutting down the red carpet, but whose long workdays and skillful labor are an essential source of film magic — deserve their moment in the spotlight.”
by Lauren Scherr
“Grandma died two and a half months later. We gathered around her frail body and buried her next to Grandpa under the shadow of Diamond Head. We combed through moth-eaten Banker Boxes of their hoarded histories: sketches for Grandpa’s patent submissions, the birthdays of long-dead relatives, a Buddhist altar with someone’s ashes—no one knew whose. No matter how much I sorted and tossed, there was always more—the promise of understanding in the next box….Mom and her siblings seemed less desperate to weave these scraps into stories. They learned, long ago, to leave space for the unspoken. They grew around that silence like a house built around the roots of an ancient tree.”
Get ready for the AWP offsite edition of the quarterly Memoir Monday reading series, Saturday, March 11th, hosted by Lilly Dancyger! This edition, in Seattle, features Raquel Gutiérrez, Erin Keane, Sabrina Imbler, and Comonghne Felix.
📢 The Woodstock Bookfest is back, March 30th to April 2nd in Woodstock, NY! If you attend, don’t miss the personal essay panel on April 1st, featuring Alexander Cheek, Gary Shteyngart, and Carolita Johnson, moderated by me, Sari Botton.
📢 Memoir experts Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers are offering a new memoir intensive over six Tuesdays, beginning March 14th. “Anyone who has a memoir-in-progress knows how valuable a dose of inspiration can be to keep you writing, focused on why you're writing your story in the first place, and away from the inner critic messages that stand in the way of you doing the work you've set out to do. This 6-week course, taught by memoir experts Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers, touches upon the following important concepts—Freedom, Memory, Truth, Self-revelation, Meaning, and Inspiration. You’ll write in community. You'll get feedback on a submission of your choice. And you'll be inspired each week alongside others who care about memoir as much as you do.”
📢 The Essay as '“Attempt”: Making Sense of the World with Personal Essays— Former Catapult editor Matt Ortile will be leading this three hour workshop via Kundiman on Sunday, March 5th from 2-5pm Eastern. *Open to all writers of color. Scholarships available.
📢 How to Write a Tragicomic Memoir with Elissa Bassist. This Saturday, March 4th. “Learn how to transform your tragedies into comedies—or at least make your tragedies more entertaining—with an acclaimed author and humourist. A signed copy of the instructor's memoir Hysterical is included with the class.”
📢 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!
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