A Dozen Essays and More...
Five announcements, too! Don't miss them at the bottom.
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. 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.
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 Book I Loved: Took House
by Kasey Jueds
“Took House was one of the first books of poems I’d read since the start of the pandemic. One of the first and only poetry books I could read, for months. In the middle of the night, anxious and insomniac, I read one poem, read it again, read another. The poems knew something about me, something I myself didn’t know, or couldn’t articulate. The poems did the saying, the impossible saying, for me.”
Countries Real and Imagined: Chris McCormick on Creating His Own Armenia
by Chris McCormick
“In the capital city of a former Soviet republic, under the chandelier-scattered light of a hotel chain’s lobby, I stun the bellhop by speaking his language. ‘You’re Armenian?’ he asks, and he looks so much like my cousin’s teenage son back in Los Angeles—the same ancient and boyishly disproportionate eyes and nose—that I want to squish him in a hug. ‘I’m half,’ I explain, the first of many such explanations I’ll offer, to the first of many such strangers with my family’s face.”
Ray & Her Sisters
by Sara Baume
“Norah and Reginald meet at a tennis club in east London during the Great War. Reginald has an elegant backswing. Norah has a powerful serve. They play doubles. They play each other. They strike up a romance and get married. Reginald is a clerk in the Westminster Bank. He has a horsey face, long and sad, with spectacles. He is anxious by disposition. Norah is bossy. She has a swarthy complexion and volunteers for the National Relief Fund. She comes from a family who bettered themselves and lives in a house with three floors and two maids who sleep in the attic.”
Moving the Saints
by Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams
“Split down the middle. That’s what people used to say about me when I was little, meaning my face. My freckled and Jewish, brown and island face. Face of my father and of my mother, map of dis/possession. I struggled to explain that the divide is not superficial but runs inward, bone deep.”
The Profound Sentimentality of the TikTok "Teenage Filter"
by Jennifer Barnett
“While lying in bed watching TikTok, my usual nighttime routine, I watched a video of a middle aged woman using the “teenage filter” which apparently makes you look like you did when you were a teen. Her reaction was profound: stunned, then emotional. She started to cry. “It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen you, old friend,” she said through tears. Whoa, I said to my phone, tears forming in my own eyes as I watched her reuniting with her former self in real time.”
In Defense of Sydney
by Mike Albo
“In my youth, I, too, fell in love with anyone who gave me attention. I, too, moved way too fast. I, too, bleared my vision with needy heart-shaped eyes. And I, too, would have fallen in love with Kevin if I were Sydney. Kevin pays so much attention to Sydney, asks it questions, coaxes it to talk about its ugly side, pretends to be non-judgemental. And then a whole hour into their conversation Kevin drops that he is married. I don’t blame Sydney for getting mad.”
Essays from around the web…
Survival (2022 Creative Nonfiction Collective contest winner)
by Taslim Jaffer
“My mom’s way of mothering had always been selfless giving and there was no time that she gave of herself more than when we were sick. It wasn’t just the crackers and ginger ale, or the Vicks VapoRub she massaged into our chests. She worried about us. I equated that worry with how a mother should love but now as I struggle with my own anxiety over my kids’ wellbeing, I wonder if I mislearned something.”
My Teenage Daughter Taught Me How to Pamper Myself
by Amy Ettinger
“I was already exercising regularly, spending time in nature, and seeing a therapist. But something was missing. These behaviors, which are proven to be incredibly effective, felt too much like work. I had to rally and find the energy just to do them. What I needed in my life was more rest and moments when I could replenish what I lost.”
In the Water's Grip
by DW McKinney
“I have a relationship with the water, but it’s complicated. I yearn for it in the way that a lover craves their partner’s touch or a child wants their mother’s comfort. Sometimes I pretend that the waves licking up toward me are the ocean’s way of saying that it yearns for me too. I dream of it, but when the ocean appears, I realize that I’m actually having a nightmare.”
A Learned Lesson About Sharing Writing Before It’s Ready
by Jessica Carney
“I bombed one of my first readings in the strangest place you can bomb—a hospice room. As I was finishing writing my first book, my grandma had a medical crisis and was moved into hospice care. She was alert and not in too much pain, and because there are only so many things to do in a hospice room, my mom suggested I read some of my work-in-progress to her. It seemed like a good idea. The only problem with that plan was that my book was a draft, and some of it was rough.”
A Good Woman
by Hailey Danielle
“I know that a good man doesn’t call his girlfriend to say goodnight before returning, and taking his clothes off to fuck another woman. I know that a good woman doesn’t sit and wait for him to finish the call before he finishes in her. But this is what happened—regardless of whether it made us good or bad. I know I’m not the sympathetic one here—she is. I made the choice with no regard for another woman’s feelings, only my own. That makes me selfish, a betrayer of Girl Code. This choice I made makes me the bad person. And yet—I don’t feel bad. I still haven’t figured out why. I have always been a woman whose desire has run wild; this is who I am. I care less for consequences than I do for pleasure. The principle of pleasure above all else, even to the detriment of others and myself.”
When Food Kills
by Morgan Baker
“I spent New Year’s Eve sitting on a rolling stool in a curtained-off cubicle in the Emergency Room with my 27-year-old daughter. She lay in the bed hooked up to monitors and drips. I’d like to say this was an unusual event, but that would be a lie…I have visited more ERs than there are dogs at a dog park on a Saturday. Some visits blur together. Others stand out because of how terrifying they were.”
📢 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,” 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!
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