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Installment # 13: The Fragile Egos


Chloe & Frances Badalamenti talk about The Museum of Natural History, worrying about each other, and other shit. These bitches are all over the place.

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CC: It’s Friday night and I’m home. You returned from your low-res MFA program this past Sunday where you were for 10 days, and I handed my book in on the same Sunday. We always seem aligned in funny ways.

I was worried about you and your program a little, because I know how intense writers isolated together can be. But you were stoked and it sounded rad as shit. I’m sort of jealous.

What’s something you learned about ‘writing’ while you were there? Like, if you had a gun to your head, what are three things you learned? Since I’m teaching lately, I’m so interested in writing teachers do, since writing is so elusive. In fact, I’ve already stolen the idea about giving students individual reading lists and I am gonna do that at my next workshop in Hudson. Which book are you most excited about on the list your mentor gave you?

FB: My biggest takeaway from living in the woods with a gaggle of writers is that we are so similar, like our personalities are so aligned in regards to how we see the world and what makes us tick.  I have to say, this does not seem true regarding the poets and I am not saying that to be judgmental or sounding like we are better than them.  I mean — there is just something fundamentally different about the poet personality that I had not been aware of previous to this residency and to be honest, I don’t even know how to explain what I feel is different.  Not yet.  Nonetheless, I am intrigued.  I also think there are these major differences in worldview between those who mostly write fiction versus those who mostly write nonfiction.  I really got a kick out of some of the dude fiction writers, they reminded me so much of the dudes that I hung hard with in high school.  It was really comforting.  But overall, the residency was challenging as fuck and it literally took me four days to recover both emotionally and physically.    

If I had a gun to my head (WTF?), three things that I learned: I am for sure a fucking writer no matter how much I resist, art-making is not for the faint at heart and ego is a real thing.

The book that I am most stoked on is The Essential Ellen Willis.  Willis was a long-time rock critic (New Yorker, Village Voice).  And I’ve been really into the idea of writing about music and weaving personal narrative with some historical bits around music, mostly around my own coming-of-age in the 90’s and working at a killer indie music venue.  You and I have spoken at length about our love of music but how it is this love relationship that is formed from a distance, as we are not practicing musicians ourselves.  Both of our fathers are lifelong musicians and so we grew up around music and we are very obsessed with music and it definitely affects our writing indirectly.       

But I have a big stack of books to read and that stokes me out, mainly because they are not books that I would generally read.  You should definitely give your students books you think they should read because again, they are probably books that they would not have chosen otherwise.

I am also going to read Proust.  

I want to hear more about how you feel about sending off your book.  This is the first book of yours that I have really seen a progression of from cover to cover.  I mean, I feel pretty close to Women, but this new book I feel more of a sisterly kinship with and I worried so much about you and this book, kind of how you worried when I went off to residency.  Fuck.  So yeah, what did it really feel like to send off this latest version to your editors?

CC: I shouldn’t have said that gun to your head thing, it’s a fucked up expression. I can’t believe you’re going to read Proust, you sound like Frances Ha right now. It was funny when we spoke on the phone last week and you kept dropping the bomb, “Prose Poem.”

Yeah last February you and I were in San Francisco, sitting at the waterfront eating yogurt and drinking Blue Bottle coffee and verbally sketching out my collection. We came up with a theme of female friendship and mentors, because I was writing that essay about Maggie Estep and her death and our friendship and I think I told you I wanted to write an essay about not having a sister and my relationship with CS’s daughter which I ended up doing.

And now the collection is broken into 3 parts like we talked about.  I think you’ve read the FIRST version of almost ALL of the essays besides the ones I wrote a few years ago. Thank you. This is only one of the many reasons I’ve dedicated the book to you.

In January the book will go through a few rounds of copyediting, in Feb, proofreading, and in May, galleys. The final proofread is due in late June, and the book will be released in November. I am excited to see how it will be received. Turning it in has opened my brain back up and I don’t have to think in such tunnel vision anymore. I’m going to write for fun (for fun! imagine?) and not worry about a next book or anything like that. I want to enjoy writing without the pressure, the way I used to. I feel ten pounds lighter and I mean that literally. 

I love the music idea so much; I’m wondering how that Jessica Hopper book you read was?

I do agree that fiction writers move through the world differently than non, and we’ve talked about this at length. For example, the anxiety of releasing a personal essay collection is very different than, say, a novel or short story collection. It’s very exposing. Like Mary Karr said on Bookworm the other day, there are psychological consequences.

You’re working on a new book that I love—are you thinking of fictionalizing it, sort of like Department of Speculation or do you think of it as a memoir? If you weren’t a writer, what kind of artistic expression do you think you’d have? Like, were you ever into drawing or any visual art or crafts? We’ve never talked about this–do you enjoy crafting? I hate it.

What are you looking forward to doing in NYC when you come in December?

FB:  I feel tightness in my chest around the fact that your new book will not be released for another year, as if things will be so different and we will be these different people in a full year, living in some far-flung location like France or Indonesia, almost forgetting that you wrote that book of essays.  But we will probably be the same people doing the same thing, neuroticizing about food choices and acupuncture and tinctures.  And then the book will come out and we will have something to focus on other than figuring out if someone is a narcissist or not.  

Planning and organizing your book in the very early stages was so much fun my heart starts racing thinking about it. I get really excited about talking about other people’s writing and discussing over-arching themes and outlining and deciphering how a book will be organized.   Um, if I had my shit together and had an inkling of who I was as a person, I probably should have been a book editor back in the day instead of working in corporate advertising — being the band manager for The Fragile Egos.

Speaking of bands, that Jessica Hopper book, The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, kills.  I think you would dig it.  It’s music criticism for sure, but her writing is way more casual and relatable than say Richard Hell.  I mean, she has gone to a shit-ton of shows and knows how to write about it in a way that makes you feel like you were there too.  I’ll send it to you in our next batch of postal book-swapping…..  

And to answer your question about what artistic expressions I have other than writing, dude I am sooooo Miranda July, I am into so much shit.  No really, just kidding — I dunno, I have always been super creative and artsy, but I never had any confidence in myself.  I dabbled with just about everything:  photography, drawing, film-making, ceramics, music……and the only thing I found my way back to was writing.  Writing has been constant.  But never crafting.  This girl ain’t crafty.  I don’t have the patience.  John is the crafty one around here — he makes the Halloween costumes.  I buy the shit and plan out the ideas.

Not sure what the book I am working on is going to turn out to be — it is kind of abstract right now to be honest, but I am glad you have been digging it, that helps in so many ways.  But I do picture it being 120pp for some reason, which a friend pointed out is the length of a screenplay.

But who fucking knows.  It is a painful book to write.  It hurts my stomach.  

Yup, NYC in December.  Hang with you for sure.  See family and friends.  Eat at Angelica Kitchen.  Go to the Russian Baths.  Catch a couple of films.  Take the kid to The Museum of Natural History – you should come with us!   

CC: I know what you mean about a year away–in my sort-of-foreword opening essay (you read first draft) I acknowledge and explain my thoughts about that notion, and say that some of the sentiments in the following essays are not true anymore. I wrote some of the essays in 2013 so there’s sort of a range of perspective in the book. I think the emotional distance from it will be good.

Museums can be hit or miss with me and I’m not great company at them, I get tired and depressed in them, but I will come cause I wanna hang and because of Squid & The Whale.

I ask about your book because I just remembered something I heard Lidia Yuknavitch say on an interview. She was being asked about her book DORA: A Headcase, and she goes, “See, after I wrote my memoir, I needed to have fun.” Makes sense, right?

I didn’t get it then, but I do now. Her memoir must have been fucking grueling to write and then she needed to work on fiction, and have fun. I remember when you sent me your essay The Light (I think?) a few years ago, and in the subject line, you wrote AHHHHHHHHHHHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGGH. Because it was such dark and difficult content.

My last Q: The other day I read in Sallie Tisdale’s essay collection VIOLATION that the reason some people are so attached and anal about remembering dates and little facts, the way I am, it’s cause they came from chaotic childhoods! I’d never heard that before, what about you?

You’d be a great manager for The Fragile Egos. We should write a screenplay with that name.

FB:  Dude, I am totally dragging you to The Museum of Natural History just to witness you getting depressed and fatigued in front of those weird-ass dioramas.  That will be our album cover photo shoot.

I have not heard that Sallie Tisdale comment specifically, but I totally get it…..and in therapy parlance, it is called being hyper vigilant.  I am super hyper vigilant and it is so exhausting but I think it has allowed me to have such a crazy ability to remember details.      



movie matinees


I went to Angelika yesterday as I do almost every week and was like, WTF? to see people in the theater, cause I usually go to movies mid-day on Tuesdays or Mondays or Wednesdays and even in NYC,  I often watch movies with only a couple of people around me. I like it that way! I’m spoiled now and yesterday I couldn’t stand to hear people breathe or eat around me. Last week I walked in on this Shia Lebeof extravaganza.

I teach 2 memoir classes on Tuesdays so in between I go to movies to clear my head. It keeps me off the streets and out of H&Ms. Multiple. I know where they ALL are.

I drink Perrier or San Pellegrino while I watch.

Here’s what I’ve seen alone this fall, and my ratings out of 5. MOST of these movies are based on books! Everything is based on a book. What movies would there be if it weren’t for books???? Also: I cried at every single one of the movies.

I have an older woman in one of my memoir classes who has a hard time critiquing her peers work. I either loved it or I hated it! she exclaims. I’m the same with movies, I told her. Not great at breaking down why or why not, I think because I never learned to think critically. But I don’t have to be good at it, that’s what critics are for. I just want to be entertained. Anyway here are my reviews:

AMY 3 stars As my dad noted, the left out all the interesting stuff, like her actual SINGING work and voice lessons and practices. My friend Elisa Albert is reading this book right now, saw it at her place over the weekend.

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The End of Tour 4 stars. Lacked emotion at times and something else I can’t put my finger on, but I also loved this movie.

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Diary of A Teenaged Girl: 5 stars. Excellent movie. Great soundtrack, too. I heard the actress in an interview say she didn’t read the book before starring in it, which I thought was weird, but maybe smart.

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Room: 5 stars. Loved it. I read this book in 2011 in the car with my mom and my aunt on our way to Rochester. Brie Larson is EXCELLENT. This movie was WAY better than I expected.Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 8.53.29 AM

I Smile Back: 4.5 stars. Pretty fucking good. I’d like to read the novel now.

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Freeheld 2.9 stars Not great, but like I said on Twitter, Ellen Page could charm a doorknob. She’s an incredible actress. The writing of this movie kinda sucked though.

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Carol: 4.5 stars. The acting and writing in this film was amazing. This book was mentioned in a review of WOMEN or someone recommended it to me. I’m gonna read itScreen Shot 2015-11-23 at 9.07.04 AM


We Don’t Live Here Anymore. Okay this one I watched at home. My mom told me about it, then turned out she had the novella on her shelf which I’m planning on reading because this movie is scary, sorta like Scenes From A Marriage level. 5 stars. Plus it stars 2 ppl I love, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Krause, and Laura Dern.

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Goodbye you FUCKER!!!


I am so relieved to be done with working on the twelve essays in this book. Today Emily Books sent the manuscript into Coffee House so I don’t ned to wake up and look at it every morning which I’ve done since last January. My favorite line from GIRLS popped in my head today….”Oh hello…..YOU FUCKER!” It is stressful working on a book! The more I worked on these personal essays the more self care I needed to do. Good food, a massage here and there, lots of sleep. I got cystic acne I needed an antibiotic prescription for and I was prescribed 800 mg ibuprofen for my awful menstrual cramps and lower back pain. I was prescribed folic acid for something else I will keep a secret. Point is, this shit isn’t easy, but it’s what I love. And I’m feeling better already, and proud. I hope people enjoy it!

Emily and I did a fun thing at our workshop last weekend where we showed the students 2 different versions of an essay in this book called Hungry Ghost, originally titled The Celebrity. The first version from last Feb was 8 pages, and the new version in the essay is 24 pages. It was cool to see the progress and fun to read from the book for the first time.

Galleys in May! Pub date November 2016.

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2 thingz


I was interviewed about my writing process in The Inklings which is a new magazine you can subscribe to via Human Parts. Here’s an excerpt. Read the rest by subscribing here.  Thanks for the fun interview Qs, Steph! Though it looks like I forgot to answer the first Q so I’ll do it now. I don’t really begin projects with form in mind. I can say that WOMEN was NEVER written as a personal essay. I started it by writing brief paragraphs but didn’t know (choose?) it would be a novella. Once SF/LD bought it, Elizabeth and I brainstormed and decided the novella form would be perfect for it.

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I also forgot to mention that I edited the most recent issue of Story Chord. I was told to choose one musician, one artist, and one writer. This is what I came up with.

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Your Personal Essay


Just about 5 more days to sign up for my personal essay class, which starts this coming Thursday, online. It’s a two week class–the first week we’ll focus on editing your personal essay and the second week will be focused on places for you to submit and publish your essay.

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If you’re interested in taking an IRL personal essay class, I’ll be teaching one at Catapult in NYC, starting this February, for 6 weeks. For more information on that email me at The class is only open to 6 people so act fast!

the awesome class at catapult yesterday!

the awesome class at catapult yesterday!

Emily Gould & I discussing editor/writer relationships

Emily Gould & I discussing editor/writer relationships

this is not a good story


A few weeks ago I was talking to Uzodinma (the new SF/LD author) at Cakeshop. We realized we had a bunch of people in common from The Strand (Uzodinma works there and my brother used to).

“Oh yeah your brother was like fuck this place and quit, right? And he wore flip flops and shit?”

Well, no, that was not my brother, that was a different Trevor, but I was friends with him too. My friend Noelle worked with him at The Strand and sometimes we’d walk from my apartment on 181st Street to his apartment on 120-something street. It took a couple of  hours. Trevor–who we called Tray-156 to differentiate him from my brother (we had insane nicknames for people and they didn’t always make sense) lived with his girlfriend and his cat. He had more cool books than I’d ever seen. His place was kind of dirty, the kind of place with pasta left out for a few days and the smell of cat piss. But we liked visiting. I was twenty-two, and catching the writer bug. I’d walk around the apartment an jot down names of books I wanted to get later in my life. Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me by Richard Farina. Chelsea Girls by Eileen Myles. Tray-156 let me borrow Chelsea Girls and it turned me into a writer. He let me borrow whatever I wanted. Even special editions. He was generous that way. I didn’t go to college therefore was never assigned books therefore I remember clearly and am interested in how I came to find certain writers and books. I had to find them on my own and am lucky I did.

I don’t have the book anymore so from here on out, I am quoting from memory. Everyone has their Eileen Myles story and mine is no different except that it’s mine.

There’s a part in Chelsea Girls where Eileen writes she was wearing a striped shirt, sitting on the ledge outside the Strand, smoking a cigarette, because her friend had died. I was wearing a striped shirt and smoking a cigarette at the Strand when my friend died, too! I could to believe the uncanny feeling of being legitimized through this.

I’m the kind of person who keeps diet pills in the pockets of her faded jeans.

It’s my book party. Of course I have my own cocaine. 

Time passes. That’s for sure. 

All of my books that I cared about during this vivid period were Black Sparrow Press. Ask The Dust by John Fante, all of Bukowski’s books.

So it’s 2008 and I read this book aloud to my friends on the subway. Because I can’t believe it this book exists, because I’d never read a NOVEL that read this way. Casual. Conversational. Honest. I’d never read anything by a lesbian before either, that I knew of.

I couldn’t believe it–that when I wrote, I was allowed to just say what happened. That’s what I’d been doing anyway in my writing classes, but here was a published book written that way! The author was probably rich and famous!

I sent Eileen a FB message back then and said, you made me want to be a writer! you changed my life or something like that. she responded, Well, it doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

In Portland when I worked at Powell’s, a friend got me a copy of the book when one was sold back to the store.

When I left Portland a year later, I should have kept it, but was so poor I sold it back.

If anyone wants to get me a copy for Christmas….that’s basically why I wrote this post.

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Another thing: (“don’t say thing!” I will now hear in my head forever) Some years ago, a woman on Facebook messaged me. I cannot remember who. Oh! I just remembered: Sarah Greene, she’s a musician. Anyway, Sarah said something like, Legs Get Led Astray reminds of that part in Michelle Tea’s Valencia where her red beads on her bracelet break.

I searched and searched for this part of Valencia that year and couldn’t find it. I’m so weird I think I even ASKED Michelle which book it was in. I don’t remember This was 2012.

So yesterday I was looking up the reprint of Chelsea Girls and opened to the first page on Amazon.

THE RED BEADS WERE THERE. Not in Michelle Tea’s book. I hadn’t thought about this red bead search for four years!

I hope I have this story somewhat correct. Maybe Sarah did say Chelsea Girls and I got confused with Michelle Tea’s memoir, The Chelsea Whistle. Either way, I can’t believe I found the red beads passage four years later while not looking. This is a very anti-climatic blog post for anyone but myself, C’est la vie.

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I emailed with Eileen the other week because I’d sent her a copy of my book WOMEN. She said she was having self-care Friday. It’s 4p.m. I said, and I just brushed my teeth.

The day starts late, she responded. That’s just how it is. 

Sounds EXACTLY like a line from Chelsea Girls. 

for the crazies


in your life. the Strand Bookstore knows what’s up. I have FRESH new 2nd edition copies of WOMEN with an intro slash essay my editor/publisher Elizabeth Ellen wrote that is NOT in the 1st edition. It will make a great holiday gift for your ex, daughter, lover, cousin, or frenemy. just tell me who to sign it to, and Paypal me $14.00 at for a personalized signed copy and a surprise.


thank you gracie wilcox


I feel compelled to apologize for self-promoting on my website. WTF? It’s MY website. Plus, isn’t that what people do all day on Tumblr? Re-post shit about themselves? So I’m going to re-post things, too. I don’t have a tumblr.

When I lived in Portland in 2013, I taught a class ONE Saturday at the Independent Resource Center. In that class, I met my BFF Fran and also Ben Jatos. Ben was such a kind and funny guy and some how had read Legs Get Led Astray (how, Ben?). He invited me to Fort Vancouver High School where he taught English. He taught some my essays to his students and thought it would be cool if I came to talk to them. He picked me up in downtown Portland where I as dog sitting/housesitting for the writer Cameron Pierce.

Yesterday Ben got in touch to tell me one of his students, Gracie Wilcox wrote the below piece. If I didn’t admit this mde my day…I’d be a monster.

Sniff, sniff! It is particularly moving to me when teenagers read and enjoy my stuff. I was such a shitty student and failed my high school classes. I did not know I wanted to write. I did not know high school girls would ever be reading a book by me. I love you too Gracie. You will definitely become a writer–you already are one. <3 <3 <3