who am i?

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i met my friend, the writer Frances Badalamenti about two years ago and we have not STFU talking since. we talk every day about writing, podcasts, movies, books, so we pumped out this conversation yesterday. this is installment one of: Who Am I? 2 writers talk about life and nonfiction. 

Fran in NYC

Fran in NYC

CC: Okay—So when we first met, in Portland, I had just turned 27 and you were 40? I remember you were working on an essay about turning 40. And you were thinking about abstaining from coffee and wine. I remember you saying about red wine— when we had coffee at Crema and I forgot my wallet you bought my coffee—you were like, “I can’t keep red wine around!” 

You were about to leave for France. Where you were obsessed with going to some writer’s grave, remind me…? 

FB: When we first met, we were funny around each other.  There wasn’t that comfort level that there is now, where we can talk about anything.  Our relationship reminds me so much of when you are a kid and you want to hang out with another kid and you are so awkward for a bit, kind of playing this little game and then you are inseparable.  In a lot of ways, we are inseparable except that we live on opposing coasts.  You were so upset that I had to buy you coffee at Crema.  I had asked you to help me with some of my writing, so we were figuring out where we stood with each other, what kind of relationship we were forming.  I’m glad we finally fell into place.  And now we’re this walking manic episode.  We feed off of each other in an interesting way.

Oh god, I always think about abstaining from coffee and wine and mostly I never do.  I love both of them so much and like so many other sick fucks out there, we try to push away things that we love.

We met to go over writing and then I was off to France for six weeks.  My family and I scored this sick house swap with a groovy French family, two artists, a choreographer and a writer and their kids.  We got their flat in Paris and an old family country home in Provence and they got our Portland bungalow and our beach cabin.  Both families were beyond stoked at the arrangement.  I thought that I would sit in cafes and write all day like I do here in Portland, but I was ashamed to bring my laptop into those beautiful environments, so I mostly journaled about the dead writers who were buried in the cemetery near the Paris flat, it is called Pere Lachaise.  Jim Morrison is there. Edith Piaf is there. I felt very connected and obsessed with that cemetery and it was literally right up the street from this flat where we were staying.  The writer who I felt most drawn to was Proust, but ironically I could never find him.  I think you thought it was funny because I said he was hiding from me, which he probably was.

CC: When the frenchies left your house, you told me I could stay there if I needed “somewhere to hang my hat”. You left the key on the slab of wood outside. 

I was embarrassed I forgot my wallet. I’d taken some strong melatonin the night before and was totally out of it.  

Funny, I felt like we were pretty comfortable at first, but I definitely didn’t realize how close we’d become so quickly. It was my first time making a friend I felt so aligned with artistically about movies and writing. Also seems like our chemicals are similar—-when we were in San Francisco together we passed out at 1030pm and both popped awake at 645am, ha. When people in LA refer to someone as, “my writing partner” I always think that’s like us, even though we aren’t writing anything together. 

Anyway, when you came over after we’d first met and we drank rosè and smoked some weed and watched GIRLS (which was kind of new at the time) and died laughing I feel like we secured our friendship. 

Actually, the first time we had coffee was at Ristretto, not Crema. All of my belongings were in Cheryl’s car and you and I were both wearing brown and sat outside. You told me me writers write because they didn’t feel seen as kids. At the time I thought that was insane but now I totally get it.

 

FB: I totally believe that artists make art to be seen. So many of us are fucked up from difficult childhoods or some kind of violence or trauma or school or shitty sex or addiction or just having to live in this challenging society, who knows.  I would imagine there are some artists who clearly want or need to be seen, they crave the attention because they didn’t get it elsewhere, but some of us want to share our pain with anyone who might care to listen.

You did have all your shit in Cheryl’s car.  I don’t know how you lived like that when you lived here; you were so untethered, a lost dog.  I will never forget when we were in my little counseling office pretending to work on a screenplay and you were so confused about leaving and I was like, I’ll bust out the I-Ching!  We had no idea how to use it, we just opened it to a page and read some random shit and I said, Yeah, you gotta get out of here.  We pretended I was some wise sage.

CC: I was totally a lost and feral dog when you met me. When we sat for coffee and I started talking you interrupted me and said—-Are you in therapy? 

We were good at pretending. Sometimes pretending is a helpful tool to get through life I guess. I would love to know how to use the I-Ching but it seems so complicated. 

What do you have against patè?

FB: I think it’s vile.  Mayo is worse.  Don’t get me started.

CC:  Okay I won’t. Why do you think we are both so into Frances Ha and Squid and The Whale???

FB: Because I was once a Frances Ha and you are kinda still a Frances Ha and we are both adult children of divorce (is that a real term???) and Noah Baumbach kills.  We both pretty much love the same scenes in those films.  We love when Frank in Squid drinks the beer and that 80’s music is playing and Walt goes, Who are you?  We constantly feed off of that line, saying to each other, Who am I?

CC: It’s a real term, I only learned it this past week and now am seeing it everywhere. 

Frances Ha is a total type of woman, the film felt like the first time I saw myself portrayed in a movie, it was so satisfying. Every single scene is golden. 

One of the funniest things we did was go to the Scenes From A Marriage play in the East Village and remember we couldn’t stop laughing, at really serious parts. And while walking to the play you told me it was something crazy like four hours long. And you were like, “Let’s not eat” like Parker Posey in that episode of Louie. “Let’s not eat, it’ll sharpen our minds.”

 FB: Dude, that was an insane evening.  I was staying down the Jersey Shore in Asbury Park with my husband and kid and I took the train into the city to hang with you and to see that show.  We met up in Union Square, as you do, and you were in that stupid budget department store, god I despise those places, they give me anxiety.  You were about to go on book tour and you were looking for cheap clothes.  You came up the elevator and then it felt like we pressed fast-forward on the cassette player for the next five hours.  That play was so mental.  I think we were church-laughing because it was so intense and emotional and it definitely triggered some old shit in us, so we were laughing because of the insanity of it all.  After that play, we were all fired up, talking about book deals and then we were laughing about how Mike Birbiglia talked about that time that he went to NYC to “get a deal” and then we went to the No.6 store and you dropped serious coin on the same exact pair of clog boots that I was wearing.  There was this moment when I had on my boots and you were trying on your pair and we were standing in one of those weird three-way mirrors and something about our reflection with those same pricey boots on made me laugh.  Who are we?  You said you felt European in them.  Then we had a killer pizza at Little Frankies and some wine and then we got all buzzed and took the train to Williamsburg because you had to pick up some shitty broke ass duffel bag at your friends fancy doorman building.  I was so happy to be there in that strange building, I only hung out in Williamsburg when it was grubby and I love posh shit.  We stopped by to say hi to your friend but she hovered in the doorway in a pair of those draw-string pajama pants and a tank and said that she was eating pot brownies and watching Parks and Rec with her boyfriend.  It was kinda awk and then I broke into the gym downstairs because I had to pee bad and I knew there would be a bathroom down there and I said, I knew there would be a bathroom here because I am a survivor.  What a dick.  And then you picked up your sorry duffel bag from the doorman and I was like, Dude, you need a new bag.  The zipper was busted and the shit was some garbage pink color.  I think you said you loved the bag.

CC: Those bitches in the store did not think I was going to buy the boots. I’m so glad I did. Listen, it was a Victoria’s Secret duffel bag, I’ve no idea where it came from. I have to admit it used to make me feel like I was wealthy cause I can’t actually afford Victoria’s Secret, it’s for rich people. I still have it!

You knew there’d be a bathroom but I was more stoked on the candy bowl. I grabbed a handful and after we parted ways at Penn Station you texted me: You grabbed that candy like a junkie. 

Two weeks ago, like Mike Birbiglia, I went to NYC to get a deal, and didn’t get one, which makes me feel close to him. 

How do you think your practicing therapy background informs your nonfiction writing???

FB: Well as you know, I closed my practice to write my book.  It’s a long ass story and I have so much to say about this, but I feel that there are so many parallels between psychotherapy and creative nonfiction.  Most of us are writing through our traumas, some from our traumas, some making art out of our traumas.  I think because I trained to be a shrink, I have opened myself up to see things at a deeper yet contained level, if that makes any sense.  I am probably not making any sense.

CC: Yeah once you said someone was writing from “inside their trauma” as opposed to from outside of it. I think about that a lot when I read my students’ essays. 

What nonfiction books do you think we’re your biggest inspirations for writing both your essay collection and memoir?

FB: You know how much I love Francisco Goldman’s, Say Her Name. Meghan O’Rourkes, The Long Goodbye was huge for me, because of the motherloss and making sense of grief.  Paul Auster’s, The Invention of Solitude has been really important to me too. You know how obsessed we both are with Jonathan Ames’ essays.  You know how we both love a good dark horse memoir, the deepest and the darkest and the most human and the most humble at the core.  I also think Louie CK fuels my writing life in an interesting way, because he is genius at making funny out of the dark.

CC: I remember one summer we both read Winter by Paul Auster that one is so good.  Louie CK’s stand-up often times sounds like personal essays. He’s a huge inspiration for me too. 

I called you last week on the verge of tears cause it was cloudy outside and I was feeling shame about writing nonfiction.  Do you ever feel that way about nonfiction?  I didn’t feel that way when I was younger but I do now.

FB: Well your shit has been way more exposed than mine and you definitely expose a lot of things that most people are shameful about:  sex and drugs.  We often talk about certain scenes in your work that you feel the most shameful about and I always share which scenes I would think you would be the most shameful about.  It seems that you are mostly ashamed because your parents will read them and that is embarrassing for anybody.  I am at a different place in life.  I have a husband and a kid and my mom is dead and my dad is an older guy and lives in Jersey and he is not enmeshed in my inner world.  Your folks are still part of your life in so many ways, you live near them, you depend on them to certain degrees still.  You worry about them worrying about you and I am more emancipated.  I have my husband to worry about and I honestly don’t give a shit what he thinks because he knows better than to give me shit.  If my books do get published, god help me, then I have a lot to worry about, so I am sure my time will come.  But I have a good therapist and I will lean on her like a motherfucker.  It will probably be me calling you crying like a jackass on a cloudy day.

But I do agree, as you get older, this shit gets more intense and real.  Frances Ha was not a person yet.  The real shit in life doesn’t hit you until you become a person.  I did horribly embarrassing shameful things when I was younger, who doesn’t?  It’s a right of passage.  Shame is a right of passage.

I remember we were sitting in Cheryl’s kitchen talking about her experiences over the past year or so and you asked her if it’s been hard on her and she said, You know who loves you. You still have your folks who have been super supportive and I have my husband and my kid and the two of us have each other.  We are comrades.  This work is vulnerable and hard as shit and you gotta lean on people who genuinely support and care about you and you need to stay away from people who want shit from you and in the end, it’s about the desire to make the art so some fool out there will connect with in on a deep level and not feel so shitty on a cloudy-ass day.

essay in photos bc i’m lazy

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some photos from the residency i was at last week. fun fact: there are no vineyards on martha’s vineyard.  it was cool–and I met three new interesting writers I now consider friends: Julia Dahl (murder mystery author) Angie Sarhan (mindfulness writer and finishing her memoir Give Me A Sign) and Helena Rho (finishing her memoir Infallible Intimacy: Why I Left Medicine). We laughed our asses off together.

calm.

calm.

the house we stayed in (i think it was haunted)

the house we stayed in (i think it was haunted)

 

me singing Britney Spears, freezing

me singing Britney Spears, freezing

dinner

Dinner. Julia Dahl, Georgia Clark, Steph Geogopolous, Karina Brisk

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on the walk from beach to oak bluffs

on the walk from beach to oak bluffs

i call this "karina laughing"

i call this “karina laughing”

Cynthia showing Helena her beach treasures

Cynthia showing Helena her beach treasures

p.s. I’m reading with a bunch of dudes in July at The Bookhouse of Stuyvesant Plaza for the release of Ben Tanzer’s new book, The New York Stories. Also with my buddy Daniel Nester, and Shane Jones.

p.p.s. but before that, i’ll be in Austin reading at Book Woman june 22nd.

p.p.p.s. this issue of GRANTA was in my room at the residency. a sign?

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teenhood

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I spent last week holed up writing a new essay called The Music and The Boys. It’s about my teenage friendships, music, and my parents’ divorce. Then I came across this photo, that sums up exactly the jumping off point for the essay. God did we LOVE to sing and dance and go to concerts. Marcy Playground, Shakira, Jack Johnson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Spirt of the West, Kanye, Nora Jones, Britney Spears, you name it. I was happy to find this photo because sometimes I’m worried I’m making stuff up. This photo is from a high school graduation party with a karaoke machine.

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How come French films have the best dancing scenes?

Heres two I’m obsessed with. The first one is from GIRLHOOD, which I saw with my Dad over the winter. The girls dance to “Diamonds” by Rhianna. This is exactly how it feels when you’re dancing that way as a teen (and in your twenties!) and it feels super epic.

And Lykke Li’s “I Follow Rivers” dance scene from Blue Is The Warmest Color.

In this new review of WOMEN, they actually compared the book to Blue Is The Warmest Color.

Just as original is the layout of the book. There are no chapters and frequently only one paragraph occupies an entire page. These fragmentary pieces of text are reminiscent of some of Shakespeare’s very short scenes, which are more flashes of action than fleshed out mini-stories.

yoga goth

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I went to Monster Cycle for VICE magazine, which is part of the whole #HealthGoth movement. Read my experience here! P.S. I’m the one in red in the back, fucking dying because I’m more of a yogi. Hard cardio is hard, nauseating.

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Photo by Amy Lombard

Photo by Amy Lombard

Gotta go because I’m supposed to be writing, like the Okkervil River song “On Tour With Zykos” (I go home/take off clothes/smoke a bowl/watch a whole TV movie—I was spose’d to be writing).

skipping town

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my interview with maggie nelson for Salon:

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i was interviewed at The Fanzine

i won 100 bucks from Word Riot for $ for readings, which was nice….if you’re reading this and you’re a writer who travels to and fro from events and readings, apply!

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i liked this essay Flavia Stefani wrote about drinking wine with Cheryl Strayed—it’s classic Cheryl, and then it led me to watch Monica Lewinsky’s TedTalk on being publicly shamed.

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next week i leave for the martha’s vineyard writers residency in edgartown…..along with these talented writers and friends:

Georgia Clark:

georgia

Stephanie Georgopulos:

STEPHBOOK

Steph

Steph

Karina Briski:

Karina at my desk in Hudson

Karina at my desk in Hudson

 

and Cynthia Tassinari, who I grew up with in Spencertown.

me and Cyn in Vermont last summer

me and Cyn in Vermont last summer

never been to a residency OR to Martha’s Vineyard, v excited.

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life is grand

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we went and conquered miami, i think. swam in the ocean, went to a strip club, got tattoos, watched CATFISHED, long walks on the beach, drank tons of coffee….etc.

sangria!

sangria!!!

WOMEN was shortlisted for best novella for the Saboteur Awards. If you have a second, please vote for it, because you could help me win 125 euro Josephine Baker champagne, which would spark joy (inside joke with people who have read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up) in my life. It’s open to vote until May 24.

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novellas

I’ve an interview coming out with Maggie Nelson (MAGGIE NELSON!!! as the people call her) in Salon about her new book THE ARGONAUTS some time this week, maybe today? This book is really shaking the lit world up–it’s exciting to watch. My only disclaimer is that I had a week deadline to do this interview. I am berating myself for the interview not being amazing and perfect—I’m usually not on this side of the bar, and I now have much more compassion for everyone who has asked me interview questions in the past. It’s harder than it looks! Also–it’s hard for me to talk about writing in many ways. It’s too ephemeral. 

WOMEN was reviewed in WEIRD SISTER:

Chloe Caldwell’s Women Isn’t About Anything and It’s About Everything

Next month, June 23rd, I’ll be reading from WOMEN, funnily enough, at BOOK WOMAN in Austin, Texas with my one of my best buddies Erika Kleinman. Erika reached out to me in 2012 after seeing Cheryl Strayed reccommend Legs Get Led Astray on this Barnes and Noble list. We started emailing and I helped her edit some essays, like this one. Since then we’ve become really close friends and met for the first time this past December when she visited me in New York. She’s a really special friend and I can’t wait to read with her. Erika’s essay, The Perfect Pair, is one of my all-time favorites–I always teach it in my classes.

Also, every time I go to Austin I have a blast. The first time I went was with my brother and dad when I was 20. We listened to Bright Eyes a bunch, took a road trip to Blooming Grove, I bought clothes I vividly remember from Buffalo Exchange and various thrift stores, and my brother and I went to see The Fruit Bats.

The last time I was there was for book tour in 2012 with Mary Miller and Elizabeth Ellen. Dang, I look young! Isn’t it sad how you think you look fat/gross, then you look back and see you actually looked fine? Never mind, I’ll save this for therapy.

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Two more days to sign up for my class: Polish and Publish Your Personal Essay. If you want to sign up but have questions about stuff, feel free to email me: cocomonet@gmail.com

Life is good!!! I should get a Tshirt.

“making art about relationships is hard”

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The Rumpus published a review of WOMEN in illustration form by the talented Sara Lautman. Check it out here

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drugs

 

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unnamed

 

A reminder that Polish and Publish Your Personal Essay starts MAY 7. The class goes for 4 weeks and we meet on Thursdays, online with a new lecture and assignment from yours truly. It’s an amazing time and we make friends and you end class with 4 essays ready for publication.

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But now I’m leaving for Miami w these b******. It’s like a book tour reunion.

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a nice old lady with a tattoo

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been thinking a lot about this thing i heard desiree akhavan say on a podcast. they were asking her about her movie appropriate behavior (how much is autobiographical? how does your family handle you writing so nakedly?) and she was like, i failed every where else. i had all these tutors and they were like, wtf is wrong with you? i was embarrassingly mediocre every where but my art. to say i related would be an understatement. i started getting bad grades in middle school. i wasn’t on the high honor roll, lucky if i got on the honor roll. in my art i fail, obviously, but i fail less and i fail in a way that doesn’t bother me. it’s like writing is the only thing i’ve seen success in.

the reading at pete’s candy store last thursday was awesome. thanks to everyone who came out!! one of the best ambiance/vibes of a reading i’d done in a long time.  great stage for readings. i remember seeing some music there with my brother in like 2006.

with the loveliest Elisa Albert

with the loveliest Elisa Albert

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sunday afternoon in hudson at courville gallery, i read with abigail thomas, author of three memoirs and two novels. it was such an honor to read with her. i’ve owned her book “thinking about memoir” since i was 22 and highly rec it for anyone writing CNF. abigail read one part where a student described her as ‘a nice old lady with a tattoo’. she was shocked because she doesn’t consider herself nice, or old, or a lady. “didn’t he see me smoking and shooting tequila?” she said.

Abigail Thomas w her lizard tattoo

Abigail Thomas w her lizard tattoo

How lazy I am for SITTING while I read

How lazy I am for SITTING while I read

memoir   uhhh what else. no more readings going on for a bit. how boring are these photos of IMG_4703me standing with a book? do writers really feel that invisible? i explored this a little bit in my essay Microphones, but i find myself thinking about it A LOT lately.  though it wouldn’t feel authentic i guess if i were posting photos of like, animals and landscapes. saw the movie ‘while we’re young’ last night with my mom. funny. this is a little free library in the town i grew up in. i stop at it each time i drive by and yesterday found a copy of ‘on the road’, ‘traveling mercies’, and ‘nine stories’. score, am i right? IMG_4807   at penn station the other day, i did this:

one of these things is not like the other

one of these things is not like the other

april readings

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some april events. thursday, april 9th in brooklyn. sunday, april 12th, in hudson. see you somewhere, hopefully.

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Facebook event is here. Maybe I’ll coordinate my dress with Elisa’s tattoo yet again.

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Sunday April 12th with Abigail Thomas. Facebook event.  I’m told the below reading will have nice cheese and wine.

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Someone emailed me once many months ago, and was like, bummed out that I don’t sign my website posts “love, chloe” anymore. Haha! I thought that was really funny.

Yesterday I turned 29. Here’s a photo my mom took when I was…..six?

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LOVE

CHLOE

shades of bleu

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Another anthology I’m in along with Courtney Love, (!!) Pam Houston, and Angela Patel. Releases September 2015, but you can pre-order it now.  

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From Amazon:

30 Shades of Blue collects the perspectives of well-known writers on depression, sadness, suicide, and being blue, through stories as personal as they are unforgettable. The silent epidemic of depression affects millions of people and takes dozens of lives everyday, while our culture grapples with a stigma against open discussion of mental health issues. Editor Amy Ferris has collected these stories to illuminate the truth behind that stigma and offer compassion, solidarity, and hope for all those who have felt blue.

Contributors to 30 Shades of Blue include:

  • Pam Houston
  • Beverly Donofrio
  • Matt Ebert
  • Caroline Leavett
  • Courtney Love
  • Chloe Caldwell
  • Kitty Sheehan
  • Christine Kehl O’Hagan
  • Jimmy Camp
  • Ruthe Pennebaker
  • Sherry Amanstein
  • Laurie Easter

30 Shades of Blue brings the conversation around depression and sadness into the open with real, first-hand accounts of depression and mental health issues, offering empathy to all those who have been affected by these issues.

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I guess I’ll come out of the closet and say I’m almost done putting together a brand new essay collection, titled:

I’ll Tell You In Person. 

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Anthologies are sort of the best, in some ways. When I was 21 or something I read a tip for writers which was: submit to anthologies. That way you can meet other writers and do readings and stuff.

Also, it was fun to find this anthology at the library the other day because my friend, the late Maggie Estep has an essay in it that I never knew about, called Lisa The Drunken Slut, of course.

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I published an essay on Medium called The Laziest coming Out Story You’ve Ever Heard and I was really surprised at the response! I got lots of emails from strangers and friends it was also a top 20 read on Medium. I’m sort of unclear about why. I don’t mean that in a fishing for compliments way. I just mean like, I wasn’t afraid to publish it and didn’t spend a long time writing it like I do with most my essays. So I was surprised it spoke to people, that must say something about labels, the culture, etc. It’s a short version, and the longer one is going to go in my new book.

I saw Elisa Albert and Jenny Offill in conversation at Oblong Books 2 weeks ago and will be reading with Elisa Albert  at Pete’s Candy store in Williamsburg, April 9, 730pm.