Discover more from Memoir Land
Thirteen Great Personal Essays to Improve Your Week...
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.
*Submissions are currently paused for First Person Singular. I’ll do a limited submission period this fall. Stay tuned…*
The Lit Lab, featuring interviews and essays on craft and publishing. It is primarily for paid subscribers. Recently I published “Private Storm on Black Mesa Landscape” by Jean Iversen there, without a paywall.
*Soon I’m going to launch a new, paid-only feature in The Lit Lab called “The Prompt-o-Matic,” in which I share a writing prompt, and you can respond with a paragraph in the comments.
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…
I Stole My Neighbors’ Tragedy To Write a Short Story
by Rebecca Meacham
“When it comes to story—old, new, repressed, overheard, uncovered, expressed, distant, or in-progress—writers are gossips, colonizers, appropriators, vacuums, tornadoes, Great Devouring Beasts, the Borg: absorbing facts and anecdotes at diner counters, combat training, even at the deathbed of a loved one. Once we’ve gathered, we repurpose. So, maybe it’s more like writers are swallows, wasps, termites, crows: scavengers who pluck dog hair pufflets from the lawn, and dirt from ancient ruins, all to craft a kind of nest—a living, and shared, space. It’s a nifty skill. But does it make you lose your soul?”
Journal Excerpts 1997-1999
by Lydia Davis
“A bus driver yelled at me, as I drove behind the back of the bus station today: ‘Buses only! – pay attention!’”
My Mother’s Clocks: On Losing Time with Dementia
by Jennifer C. Nash
“I measure the last few years by watching my mother’s clocks deteriorate. I know nothing about what the pace of their deterioration means—but I know enough to understand that even on days when she could draw a clock, we are well past the stage of hope. As her doctor coldly told us, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, only the slow—and sometimes fast—pace of deterioration which will cruelly accelerate with time.”
by Prachi Gupta
“I had once thought of mental illness as a faulty switch, or a loose screw, or a jammed knob — machinery that had stopped functioning properly and must be reset to factory settings. With clinical diagnoses came a list of symptoms and drugs to stabilize, medicate, numb. I had found this view oddly comforting.”
The Taliban Is Dangerous to Me. I’m Dangerous to the Taliban
By Soraya Amiri
“Around 4:30 that afternoon, a Taliban leader, whom I had previously invited for one of our news programs, called me on WhatsApp. I didn’t pick up. Later, he sent me a voice message: Soraya, we have arrived in Kabul, he said. He wanted me to produce a special program for him to appear on. It was then that it started to sink in that we were going to lose the media freedom we had enjoyed for so long. Not even my boss had ever told me whom to invite to the program. Then the Taliban leader sent me another voice message, in a more serious tone.”
When We Melt
by G. Ravyn Stanfield
“I used to panic when someone was angry or weeping, try to fix it, shut down the flood. Now, I can sit with someone else’s tears all day and night. Now, I am so big; I am an ice cave inside. It does not frighten me to get down on the floor with you and become a barrier for what is melting. Now, I can hold it all, the cold rage stones, the bottom of your life. Our stories are worth telling.”
“ I am starting to wonder about Death. Will it knock or burst in? Will it stick around for weeks or zap me in an instant? Will it want a snack? Haha. On this subject my body can offer no help.”
Essays from around the web…
The Psychic Is In
by Mishele Maron
“The psychic closed his eyes and moved his eyeballs back and forth, something I would later recognize as the telltale sign of psychic activity. When he opened his eyes, he explained that the information coming to him pertained to one of my past lives, when I’d been a leader in a witches’ coven in the fourteenth century. My dalliance in the black arts had involved sexual rituals, and I’d harmed myself vaginally with a knife, which apparently led to ‘significant health problems.’”
Running Through Grief
by Michelle Mathai
“My family died in front of me, and each loss resulted in the building of a fortress around my ever-tender heart. I held the deep understanding that life had irrevocably changed when my parents fell victim to a car crash when I was just 26. I carried a heaviness, not from the elephant tears that flowed from me — the weight of such intense grief — but from being the only survivor of the accident.”
What Experience Are You Supposed to Be Having?
“I complained to the teacher, Jason, during our one-on-one interview. ‘This isn’t what I signed on for,’ I said. ‘I don’t feel like I’m having the experience I’m supposed to be having.’ Jason looked at me, his face as open as the sky. ‘What experience are you supposed to be having?’ he asked…Immediately, I got it. Shambhala wasn’t a spa.”
The Animal of a Life
“Some kind of happiness has settled over me. It’s not about knowing I will die. I was born knowing I would die. It says so on my birth certificate. It’s that I’ve become better at things I’ve practiced my whole life. I was saying this recently to a friend at lunch. I said, ‘When I look back, I can see more clearly the ways I’ve been an asshole to other people. There’s less defense.’ She said, ‘How were you an asshole?’ I said, ‘It’s hard for me to see what other people need and give it to them.’ She said, ‘Are you less of an asshole now?’ I said, ‘No. I’m a better writer. The writing forces you to know things that are true.’”
In the Shadow of Camelot
by Donna Cameron
“When Mom awakened us early on that chilly November Sunday and told us to get dressed for church, my sister and I weren’t sure what that meant. Sunday mornings were a sacred time in our house. Our parents slept late, read the fat San Francisco Chronicle over coffee or gin fizzes, and then contemplated brunch. I stayed in bed, reading paperback adventures or comic books until roused by the smell of bacon frying. We’d never gone to church as a family. And never would again.”
Chasing Hope, Losing Omar
by Indlieb Farazi Saber
“Omar had a roughness about him, that on first inspection seemed to need sandpapering down. But shuffle slightly closer, and, in time, you'd find that he had the kindest heart….The first time I really spoke to him, we were in the canteen of the drab office building where we both worked. That was the day he proposed.”
📢 The Resort writing community is hosting its first IN-PERSON retreat for writers. Come to Your Senses is designed for NYC-based writers and writers who will be in NYC on Oct 7-8, 2023. For two days, get inspired and reconnect to your creativity with chef-prepared food, soothing acupuncture, art viewing, craft making, lots of generative writing prompts, and more. Hosted by Resort founder Catherine LaSota, this retreat is open to all genres and experience levels. It is limited to eight participants and priced to be as accessible as possible, with a payment plan available.
📢 Writer/Instructor Blaise Allysen Kearsley has some great writing workshops coming this fall.
📢 Take my Skillshare workshop on blending the individual and the collective in your essays!
📢 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!