Personal Essays Rule
We've got a dozen of them here, plus announcements about classes, editing services, a literary festival and more...
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. This week The Walrus joins us as a partner publication, and next week, Electric Literature comes on board!
In addition to the weekly curation, there are now original personal essays under the heading of First Person Singular. The latest original essay, published in the series last week, is “In Defense of Sydney” by Mike Albo. 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. 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—although the most recent piece there, “Writing and Rushing” by Richard Mirabella, is free.
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…
How I Tried to Stop Snoring, Fix My Sleep Habits, and Confront My Mortality
by Jordan Foisy
“I snore. Badly. My girlfriend has shown me a video of it, and it’s horrifying: my thin, wheezing inhales are interrupted by a wrenching tear of a noise. It sounds like someone ripping a carpet in half inside a cave. It sounds like a Hans Zimmer score. But it’s hard to take snoring seriously as a health problem. It seems more like a joke, like a health problem that a sitcom dad would have after getting electrocuted by Christmas decorations.”
by Eliane Brum, translated by Diane Whitty
“Since I moved to the Amazon in August 2017, the banzeiro has moved from the river to inside me. I don’t have a liver, kidneys, or stomach like other people do. I have a banzeiro. Overcome by the whirlpool, my heart beats in concentric circles, sometimes so fast it won’t let me sleep at night. And it misses the pitch, goes off-key, like a dissonant symphony. My doctor says it’s arrhythmia, but doctors don’t know about bodies that mix.”
The Stripping of Threads
by Jamal Mahjoub
“When my brother first came out, I would make an effort to go and visit him. Back then he was living in a grotty house in Earls Court – an area he had no connection to, but where he would remain for the next twenty years. All of his stuff had been lost when he failed to pay his former landlord. The guitars, records, books, clothes: all of it was either thrown away or sold when he went to prison. He was given a tiny room at the bottom of a house inhabited by other ex-convicts. In the hallways you stepped aside for former offenders with no idea of what they might have done to wind up here. Some of them were violent, one threatened my brother with a knife.”
Skeletons in the Closet: On Mad Men and White America’s Willful Amnesia
by Kelly Shetron
“As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to watch the news on TV, and we didn’t talk about current affairs or politics at home. My world was strictly curated by my parents: family, school, church, sports—a confined bubble I suspect was typical of a conservative, white family like mine. It was meant to protect me, to keep away anything controversial, from the O.J. Simpson trial to Bill Clinton’s sex scandal. I internalized the message that I wasn’t supposed to worry or wonder or ask big questions. When I did anyway, I felt like something was wrong with me. I was the oldest child, and I wanted to be good.”
by Clinton Crockett Peters
“I look out for lurking horror, would-be stories on land and sea that may treat me and my young daughter as prey. They make me remember how monstrous I can be.”
Coffee Shop Days
by Michael A. Gonzales
“While delivering packages in 1984 for Archer Courier Service in Manhattan, I patronized a cafe called Miss Brooks. Located on the corner of 56th Street and 6th Avenue, its staff wore green t-shirts with the shop’s name on the left breast pocket, and the smell of coffee wafting through the shop reminded me of when I was a boy returning home from church on Sunday mornings as grandma’s tin percolator released that splendid aroma throughout our Harlem apartment…One evening, tired of trooping through the city as a messenger, I decided to try getting a job at Miss Brooks.”
Essays from around the web…
Lemonade (This Bird)
by Meghan Lennox
“On July 20, 1997, after 22 years, 8 months and 14 days of human form, my sister turned into a bird. That very first day, a finch—she perched, beak open, eyes to the sky, on the hood of my parents’ car, waiting for them in the hospital parking garage; unflinching as my father opened the passenger side door; stock-still as the leather seat accepted the weight of my mother’s collapsed will.”
by Geetha Iyer
“Give me a quarter for every one of those women who goes to India to learn what yoga does for her body, a dollar for every one that says, I don’t mind taking a tour, but can we rent a car with an AC? Give me a job while she tries to find herself, a sabbatical when she confesses to me, unprompted, I’m scared of it, actually scared to be on those streets, as if her honesty has become our friendship. She’ll fly home, eventually, but I’m left turning over her loose change in my hands as if I can afford a comeback. Maybe she’ll start up a business selling chai-flavored tea, clarified ghee-butter, detoxifying turmeric milkshake.”
The Knowledge of Missing Out
by Diane Shipley
“Sometimes I draw a line. I unfollowed a Facebook friend who kept posting about how stressful it was to move to her new country mansion. Other times I poke the bruise. I watch the Instagram Stories of an actress my age who looks ten years younger, vacations five times a year, and receives tottering piles of free skincare. I want to slap her luscious face.”
Christina Applegate Is the Fearless Disability Warrior I Needed Growing Up
by Brijana Prooker
“Anger isn't an emotion deemed appropriate for the chronically ill. We're supposed to be 'humbled' by illness, grateful for the 'lesson' that suffering will surely teach us. But I would have loved a 'Jagged Little Pill'-era Alanis Morissette type to emulate, a badass disability warrior to give me permission to be angry that my body was betraying me... Because I'm plenty angry.”
Pop-ins and Floggings: Inside the Senior Porn Revolution
by Nancy Jainchill
“I’ve always wanted to move differently in the world. Then again, as a feminist, I’ve never been able to reconcile the goals of feminism and sexual freedom. Certainly, accepting myself has become more difficult as my body has morphed over the years. Yet, the early porn feminists I’ve been studying teach that the right to pleasure—at any age—is key to gender parity. I’m hoping that seeing it happen right in front of me will be transformative.”
Fahrenheit 2023: Even in Mississippi’s segregation academies, we learned about Emmett Till
by Deirdre Sugiuchi
“The year I was 15, I liked nothing better than driving my 1979 Caprice Classic out into the Mississippi Delta. As long as I was in town, I'd follow the speed limit, but as soon as I crossed the bridge spanning the Tallahatchie, I'd slam the gas pedal flat to the floor, racing down Money Road, a long straight shot cutting through the flat expanse of cotton and soybeans fields. There was only one sharp curve where you had to be careful, right near the Little Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, where Robert Johnson is buried.”
📢 Narratively is currently accepting submissions for their 2023 Profile Prize contest. They are looking for profile pieces that tell the story of ordinary people or communities doing extraordinary things. The grand prize winner will receive $3,000, and the two finalists will receive $1,000 each. Guest judges are renowned journalists Gay Talese, Lisa Lucas and Rebecca Traister. For more information and to submit a story, use their pitch form. There is a $20 entry fee and the deadline to submit is April 14.
📢 Looking for a way to jump start your writing practice?'s Essay Camp is a free five-day workshop in the write-along style, with thousands of participants. For this session we'll explore different classic essay forms, and focus on how to bring an essay from the inspiration phase through to revision, and then on to the final draft. Daily emails include suggested readings, prompts, and a choice of assignments to fit any schedule. Sign up for the free emails to participate.
📢 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…
📢 Writer, educator, and writing coach Vanessa Mártir is offering the first in a series of a generative virtual Writing Our Lives workshops called “Writing for the Seasons,” this evening, March 20th, at 7pm EST. “The theme of the first class is NEW BEGINNINGS because spring is the promise that everything (us included) can begin again.”
📢 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, at 3:30pm, featuring Alexander Chee, Gary Shteyngart, and Carolita Johnson, moderated by me,. Also, I’ll be one of three judges at the Bookfest’s story slam on Thursday, March 30th. Don’t miss it!
📢 Attention Publications and writers interested in having published essays considered for inclusion in our weekly curation:
By Thursday of each week, please send to email@example.com:
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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