You Could Be Forgiven For Stealing Time Away From Work to Read These 10 Pieces...
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.
Catapult had been a partner publication until it recently folded, and I just want to pause for a moment to say how sad I’ve been to see Catapult go—as a columnist, contributing editor, and teacher at their school, but also as a friend and colleague of the many talented people who were summarily let go. Thank you to all the wonderful editors who put out such a wonderful and wonderfully diverse digital magazine, and all the incredible writers who contributed. 🙏 🙌🏼
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 the Stormy Sea, a Life Preserver,” by Brooke Siem, edited by Katie Kosma. 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…
The Silent Labyrinth
by Laurel Nakanishi
“I remember the sound of the water remaining in my left ear even after I turned away, pouring over itself, blocking out all other sounds. Later, I would tell my friends: “We were just hiking out of the backcountry. I could hear all day long; I felt fine.” Then, suddenly, there was a waterfall in my ear. Hummingbird in my ear. Or I was deep undersea. I kept touching that left ear. It felt physically altered — dead in some way — even though I could feel the warm skin of it. We were unconcerned at first.”
by Suzanne Brøgger, translated by Caroline Waight
“You’re the only one left who remembers when an ‘artist’ came in one day with coloured chalks and drew strange animals straight onto our bedroom wall beside our cots, which we lay in all day long when we had chickenpox or measles and couldn’t get up until the fever broke. And our doll’s house, which we always squabbled over and could never share. What was yours and what was mine? Whose was whose?”
Can Friendship Transcend Death? On Missing Your Best Friend
by Christie Tate
“This was my first eulogy. I wanted to honor my friend Meredith—the first friend I’d ever lost like this. To death, that is. I’d lost plenty of friends by other means. During my four-plus decades of life, I’d been in friendships that blew up or dissolved in both inevitable and unexpected ways. I’d withdrawn, drifted away, lost touch; I’d also ghosted and, more than once, watched seemingly close friends vaporize before my eyes. It was a miracle that Meredith and I enjoyed an uninterrupted run of close friendship for more than a decade.”
My Whole Life Has Brought Me Here
by Abigail Thomas
“When I say I live in the moment, it’s not a brag. Time makes no sense anymore, and the present is all I’ve got, and it seems a fitting place for an eighty year old woman. I think of each moment as a nautical swell, and I surf from one to the next, and never wipe out. Some moments are longer than others, some steeper. ”
In the Stormy Sea, a Life Preserver
by Brooke Siem
“As I watch the whale shark’s belly swell like the underside of a canoe as it takes in a wide mouthful of plankton-rich seawater, I start to cry. But for the first time since getting off all the antidepressants, these are tears of joy. Finally, a moment of beauty and serenity that serves as an equal and opposite force against the darkness. Here in the presence of this magnificent creature somewhere in the Gulf of Thailand, detached from all of my senses except the sound of my breath, I find a moment of wonder that can battle the hopelessness, and win.”
How’s the Writing Going, R.O. Kwon?
by Sari Botton
“…at the start of the pandemic, I was only writing one sentence a day. I had this novel deadline to deal with, and I was like, one sentence a day isn’t going to get me there. It wasn’t great, but at least I was writing one sentence a day. In those first couple of months, I could barely even read, which I know was also common for so many people.”
Essays from around the web…
Raquel Welch and Me
by Judy Bolton-Fasman
“In my childhood home, Raquel was all-out sexy to my American father and wholly validating to my Cuban mother. Raquel was one of us. How could she not be? My aunt's name was Raquel; my mother had a childhood friend, Raquel, in Havana. So, I think we knew Raquel Welch was Latinx before she recognized it herself.”
Letting Go: How I Found an Agent After Giving Up
by Brenda Ferber
“Was it possible to take what I’d learned from motherhood and apply it to my writing career? It would mean putting in the effort—which I always did—while letting go of the results. Easier said than done. I felt caught in a tug-of-war between wanting to make my dreams come true and wanting to feel at peace with whatever would happen.”
Better Things Taught Me How to Build a Home and Why It Matters
by Michael Colbert
“I’ve never had an eye for design. I have no clue what ‘goes’ together, and if you asked me what color my childhood bedroom was painted, I would genuinely draw a blank (maybe beige?). While interning for my home state’s monthly magazine in college, I wrote copy for their various special publications. Because I was an intern with time on my hands and access to Google, this meant that I was charged with writing descriptions of local artisans’ wares for the annual home design magazine. I described a cutting board as ‘handsome and serviceable.’ I wrote the sentences, ‘Rustic design with a modern industrial edge? Yes, please,’ and, ‘Who says you can’t have your eco-friendly cake and eat it too?’ When I watched Better Things almost a decade later, home design was still an afterthought.”
Francois Makes Corned Beef
by Sandy Silverman
“‘I made corned beef and cabbage,’ she said. ‘From Francois Pope’s cookbook.’… ‘Francois Pope made corned beef and cabbage?’ I asked. ‘Wasn’t he a French cook?’… ‘Yes,’ my mother said. ‘But on holidays, he made other things.’… She paused and said, with utter confidence, ‘It was a holiday.’ She nodded as if that made everything clear, that not only was she cooking, but she had whipped up corned beef and cabbage while living in a nursing home.”
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 Gayle Brandeis.
📢 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,” on the first day of spring, 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 Cheek, Gary Shteyngart, and Carolita Johnson, moderated by me, Sari Botton. 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 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!
If you received this email from a friend or found it on social media, sign up below to get Memoir Monday in your inbox every week!