So Many Stellar Personal Essays, So Little Time. Plus...Announcing the AWP Memoir Monday Reading!
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, Catapult, 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 in November, is “Listen, and You Will Hear Pain Speak” by Liz Iversen. The next original essay is coming this 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 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, I launched a new video interview series for paying subscribers. 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 to its First Person Singular original essay series. To support this work, become a paid subscriber.
Essays from partner publications…
Stripped: The Novel Didn’t Work
by Elissa Lash
“The year my baby turned sixteen was the year my novel died.The manuscript lies in a drawer now, after multiple revisions, it is over-processed sausage meat. It’s time to tell the truth about my years making a living selling the sexy promise of my female body. I am embarking on a memoir.”
Dear Academia, I Quit
by Kristina Kasparian
“My work expanded like a gas, seeping into every fissure. There was always more I should do, even when I was done. I was never in control of my own time, which was unfortunate since time was the currency that determined our success and self-worth ... Balance was an illusion. Open-ended meetings made any supper plans tentative. Vacation was an intention at best; despite booked flights and scheduled autoresponders, my thesis weaseled its way in, dissolving my peace. It didn’t matter that research was only one of my countless interests. The pie chart was meant to have only one color.”
Phil’s Carbon Copy
by Jasper Joyner
“I wanted his confidence and his wit and that gap-toothed grin, and that loud though noiseless laugh with mouth wide open, seemingly breathless, hand tapping knee, too amused to even make a sound. But instead of trying to emulate these things about my father, I did the opposite. A sort of ruse, if you will, to throw off the scent of my quiet though very present transness.”
by Tyler Orion
“Out here in the wild, I feel human beyond identity. I experience being in community without judgment, embraced by all the rooted, furred, feathered beings around me. I am learning how to love myself from every tree, stone, and star. I feel unconditional acceptance in a way that no human quite knows how to offer.”
by Karolina Ramqvist, translated by Saskia Vogel
“‘Nobody gets your family, Mum.’ We’re eating dinner in the kitchen, all five of us, and my son is responding to something I’ve just said about one of my best friends. He had asked if she was his aunt and I had said she was a friend, that she and I were not siblings. You know that, right? He shakes his head in pretend incomprehension, his little sister laughs and pulls the same face. No, Mum, nobody gets that. I look at my husband, who sits there quietly, his gaze drifting between the two of them. He looks at me. My eldest daughter puts down her cutlery. Her siblings are ten and eleven years old, she recently turned eighteen, darker hair, a different father. ‘Another one,’ as she would put it. She smiles. ‘Listen up, little nuclear family kids, what aren’t you getting?’ She’s expressing herself with my voice, a voice that could come from within me. She can hear what I hear when the younger children speak. Everyone who has grown up like them – with siblings, with a mother and a father – seems to want to note how far removed my family structure is to their own. Soon after people have asked me to explain, the message is always that they don’t understand a thing. I don’t know if I’m telling it badly or if it’s really that complicated.”
Dissolution Foretold: Neurosurgeon Henry Marsh on the Reality of His Own Diagnosis
by Henry Marsh
“It seemed a bit of a joke at the time—that I should have my own brain scanned. I should have known better. I had always advised patients and friends to avoid having brain scans unless they had significant problems. You might not like what you see, I told them.”
Essays from around the web…
by Ajay Makan
“As the child of materially successful immigrants to the West, you learn at a young age that you have been saved from the places your parents left. Even if there are no trips back to the home country, or multiple migrations have made it unclear where exactly home is, you understand that life there is brutal.”
“True Grit” is a Christmas Movie for Me
by Abby Alten Schwartz
“As a little girl, I couldn't wait for my dad to come home from the office. He'd greet my younger sister and me with a cheerful, ‘Hi, pals!’ and hand us each a treat from his briefcase: a box of Raisinets or a coveted sheet of ‘poppers,’ I'd later learn was just bubble wrap. I can still picture him walking in the door with a wool felt fedora on his head of black curls, as dashing as Don Draper in Mad Men. His hat, of course, was a Stetson.”
by Diane Joy Schmidt
“I made arrangements to watch a new film about the Holocaust that sounded interesting, Three Minutes—A Lengthening. But then, it operated on me like a surgical procedure: it brought unconscious deep fears to the surface that I didn’t even know I had. It upset me so much that two baby bull snakes and two gigantic Wolf spiders came into the house that night, as if my fear had reverberated down to awaken them in their nests and touch their webs, summoning them up from the depths to come for a visit.”
A Short History of Falling in Love with Words, and Becoming a Girl with a Voice
by Chivas Sandage
“I vividly remember sitting in AA meetings with my mother and listening to adults tell stories from their lives, sometimes overcome by tears and stopping mid-sentence. And I recall the silence until they could speak again, silence that held as much pain as their words. Each person holds many stories and one might not be able to change the past but can make it better, somehow, by telling it. By facing it. And making yourself utterly vulnerable. By standing naked, emotionally, and telling your story to a room full of people you may or may not know or ever see again. Copies of my poem written about an AA meeting ended up in everyone’s hands. That quiet child became a girl with a voice.”
Rain-Soaked Banana Plantations, Quetzal Birds, Garifuna Music
by Audrey Shipp
“My first trip to Guatemala, I assumed my liberation from the torment of work would be a brochure-perfect tropical paradise of white sand and clear-water beaches. My partner had done little to discourage my tourist fantasies about our approaching trip. It was December, the end of the official rainy season. But the rains lingered throughout the country, especially along the Caribbean coast and in the department, or state, of Izabal.”
by DW McKinney
“How can air be weaponized? Air’s presence or absence determines life or death. Too much of it weighs on the living, folding and pushing it toward the ground like a passing breeze on a stalk of grass or an immovable body crushing another body. Without air, there is a vacuum. Without air, beings that depend on it to breathe will suffocate. Remove the air from their lungs and they will gasp for the life-giving substance until they die. Air can carry odorless, invisible viruses and poisons to unknowing victims that infiltrate their bodies, causing damage until it’s too late to recover. Here’s the strongest truth: we all wield the air in our lungs like taut bowstrings ready to send our words like arrows into the world. Breathe in and pull the string; breathe out and puncture the air from another person.”
My Imaginary Friends; or, The Metonymy of Desire
by Whitney Buluma
“Our friendship, like a well-worn black-and-white photograph, is frayed, tantalizing in its vagueness, its imaginary perfection—Patience and I were never as close as we are now that I have lost her last name and address and phone number, now that her face is rendered a vague blur by years of fraught reimagining.”
Don't Try This at Home—or at School
by Tom Bentley
“It would take a while for the idea to crystalize, but the crystals soon lined up: if I could steal one cassette player, I could steal more. And somebody at school would probably pay for it. That supposition was proven true after I’d had the cassette player at home for a bit and decided to take it to school. There was no plausible reason to do this other than to show off — busted. Steppenwolf had released their ‘Born to Be Wild’ album the year before, and the title song was a hit I liked. After all, I was raised in the suburbs — wild, no? I stole that cassette out of a music store, and had been playing it a lot in my room.”
Get ready for the AWP offsite edition of the quarterly Memoir Monday reading series, hosted by Lilly Dancyger! This edition, in Seattle, features Raquel Gutiérrez, Erin Keane, Sabrina Imbler, and Comonghne Felix.
📢 Through February 5th, Memoir Monday founder Lilly Dancyger is considering memoir and essay collection submissions for Barrel House. Per the Barrel House site: “We're interested in full-length memoirs and essay collections that combine personal narrative with... something else. That could be reportage, criticism, history, etc. We're especially interested in projects where the external element has something to do with pop culture, and projects that do something unexpected and original with form and structure.
📢 Marlene Adelstein, author of National bestselling novel, Sophie Last Seen, and professional freelance editor of memoirs and novels, is now accepting new editorial clients. She offers developmental editing, critiques and coaching. Her authors have published with mainstream, small presses, and hybrid publishers. I highly recommend working with Marlene!
📢 A new virtual workshop this week at The Resort! Begin your year of writing with intention and purpose: Join writer and creativity coach Catherine LaSota for a live, 90-minute writing workshop on Zoom this Wednesday Jan 25th at 7:30pm ET. In this Chariot Year writing workshop, Catherine will discuss the themes of movement and change present in the tarot archetype of 2023, The Chariot, and facilitate your generation of new writing through a series of prompts on these themes! All participants also receive a recording of the workshop.
📢 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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