emotionally distraught & bored


 I have read Women cover to cover twice, and flicked through it endlessly. Every single time I am both emotionally distraught and bored. 

this review of Women is fascinating to me, so am re-posting. it is both incredibly flattering and insulting. it is, essentially, exactly the person i want to read this book–or rather, to keep with the motivation to write this book, i kept hoping it would one day lend comfort to an ’emotionally exhausted’ woman going through a break up with another book. it was the book i’d been looking for. the writer says the anecdotes feel like they were ripped from her life. when i read, that’s usually what i’m looking for, so hearing this makes my heart happy. i do not know the writer’s name, but this is her tumblr.

reviews of Women never hurt me even when they’re bad, because i know i did my best. for my essay collection though, coming out next year, i am planning to not read reviews. i can’t. it’ll fuck me up, i know it. when people attack your essay collection, they are usually attacking you too, or at least it feels that way.

i was listening to an interview with jenni konner & lena dunham, and jenni was like, “i always tell lena her gravestone is going to say, she read the comments.


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Women is a story that came into my life exactly when I could most appreciate it. I bookmarked the webpage, intending to buy it, one day after my first girlfriend had broken up with me. I was heartbroken and confused, but it wasn’t until two months later, still in the midst of the same breakup (and just the right type of emotionally exhausted to really connect with the writing), that my best friend lent me her copy.

I feel like this novella is the type where everyone who reads it takes something very different from the experience. For me, this was less of a love story than a breakup story. There are situations documented in it that are wholly peculiar to having your heart broken by the first woman you ever slept with and loved (and obsessed over). At times it felt like the anecdotes had been ripped straight from my life.

I have sent at least five, badly-edited photographs of passages from Women, to my ex, my real life version of Finn. Hours after picking Women up for the first time she messages me to say that she’s taken the train all the way to my house (I live over an hour away from her), only to realise that we are now broken up, and turn back to the station. Unsure of what to say, I send her the first photograph. 

“Well, it’s cool that my first was you. I’m glad it was you, I say.”

She says she remembers me quoting this to her before. In fact, I said something entirely too similar during our first and official breakup. But I’ve only just finished the book that night so I can’t have quoted it then.

Truthfully, I’m not sure if I can say Women is a good book. It is overwhelmingly maudlin, and saturated in detail. It turns me into all of my friends who told me to just block her already, goddamnit; I want to take the protagonist firmly by the shoulders and make her see that she needs to stop feeding the fire before it burns her out.

Page 42 starts, “On a park bench one evening, after Finn gets out of work, and before I go in, I read her poems from A Dream of a Common Language. She says Adrienne Rich scares her a little. I am learning that many things scare her a little. She has a Tea Tree toothpick in her mouth. She has the posture of a teenaged boy. I want to pummel her, wrestle her in the grass, give her new blue jeans grass stains, hump her leg.”

I understand, I do, the details are important. In love, in heartbreak, they feel like everything. They make it real. They transported me into the protagonist’s world so that I could feel her infatuation myself, so I could feel like Finn was my lover too. They do not become interesting. I have read Women cover to cover twice, and flicked through it endlessly. Every single time I am both emotionally distraught and bored.

I’m not sure if I can recommend this story to you. It feels as if it can’t have been written with any other audience in mind but me. And besides that, it feels like heartbreak–and not the self-indulgent kind. What it feels like is catching the train home after your latest fight with her: you have to keep living your life in the interim (before you see her again), and you have to deal with your feelings while you wait.

I ordered my copy on Monday; I will not be reuniting my best friend with hers until it arrives.

Installment 12: Chloe & Fran are cranky babies


Chloe and Frances Badalamenti discuss writing, escapism, milky drinks, and Friends.

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Fran Badalamenti:  It’s good to start this conversation; it’s been a while.  You’ve been really busy editing your book and going to the city for readings and teaching courses and I’ve been busy beating myself up over the new writing project that I am working on and preparing for my first MFA residency.  

It seems that when we both need to be truly comforted at the end of a hard day, like most dumb-ass Americans, we tend to curl up with a movie or a TV show.  Last night, we were chatting about how you watch Friends and that I watch The Golden Girls when we need to feel super cozy and safe.  Ironically I was listening to an older This American LIfe (episode 226, Dec 6th 2002) the other day on the topic of watching rerun sitcoms for comfort.  Like there is something about a sense of comfort in watching old shitty reruns instead of say first runs that are just airing.  The woman Ira Glass was talking to said reruns makes her think of a kid laying on a shag rug in a suburban living room and that makes her feel cozy.  

As quirky as that is, I totally get it.  Like I have these memories of being an adult in my old room at my Dad’s house in Jersey feeling super overwhelmed from spending too much time with family and being stressed and jet lagged by travel and being on eggshells because my stepmother is so OCD but then turning on nighttime cable and finding these reruns of great old shows.  I’m on the crappy pullout couch with my kid who also loves old sitcoms like Seinfeld and The Golden Girls and Full House and then I am suddenly overcome with this true sense of warmth and comfort and familiarity that is almost hard to explain.  I mean, nothing comforts me more than a good book, but is a different kid of comfort because you still have to use your brain to read whereby when you watch a stupid sitcom you can lay in a pool of drool with your brain on the nightstand.  

Is that what you were looking for last night when you said you were gonna watch Friends?  Who is your favorite character on Friends?  Didn’t whats-his-face have a pet monkey for a while?  WTF?

My favorite Golden Girls character was Dorothy, who was played by the late Bea Arthur.  Dorothy is hysterical and dry and had such an epic sense of style.  God I love those old bitches!

CC:  Yeah Ross had a pet monkey with a funny ridiculous name, I forget. To be honest I like Rachel. I really liked her body shape before she got really skinny. I’ve always liked her skin and hair color. If I had to date one of the guys I guess it would be Ross or Chandler, how bout you?? The night I talked to you, I ended up not watching Friends, but Conan O’ Brien. My ultimate escape and comfort though, is Sex & The City.  Last night I watched the one where she gets a job as a freelancer at Vogue, and when she gets there her editor rips her to shreds. 

Lately I’m working a ton on the last leg of my book and teaching so I give myself some sort of treat at night. I notice I bribe myself with chocolate or wine or a movie if I’ve worked all day. It’s so heady—my essays and my students’ essays, so at night I need to not think. I am obsessed though, with this writer Therese Bohman and her novels are my new great escape. I feel about her how people feel about 50 Shades of Gray, I think. She writes about these small towns in Sweden and her narrator always gets in these fucked up psychological affairs and is generally really misanthropic. I wonder, when I am done with my book edits and teaching less if I will still need such escape at night. You recently said you need a hot milky beverage to comfort yourself like a baby while you write. What else do you comfort yourself with? I was just telling my roommate that sometimes at like 6pm. I’m like, yay, the day is over, I don’t have to look at my book for some hours, I can sleep it off. I get excited to go to bed. And then repeat the same thing tomorrow. Is that depressing?

FB:  I think that the pet monkey that Ross had was named Marcel.  I didn’t look it up, I swear.  I would date Chandler over Ross and then Ross over Joey.  Sex and the City is an epic escape, I agree.  One of my all time favorite New Year’s Eves I spent alone on a pullout couch at my brother’s old apartment in Jersey City binge-watching old Sex and the City episodes.  What I didn’t know is that I was about leave my husband for the guy that became my second husband, so it was this beautiful calm before a crazy storm in my life.  

So I do comfort myself with these silly shows and movies that I love like Woody Allen’s Manhattan or like we’re talked about, Lost in Translation.  I also weathered a super depressing and difficult time in my life on a lumpy couch in a damp rental cottage on the Oregon coast with old VHS tapes of the amazing British comedy series Absolutely Fabulous.  Like we are saying, these things become pure escapism from our lives and from the hard work that we do as writers.  Turning to books is wonderful, but like you are saying, sometimes the heady stuff does not fare well during these heavier times and we need to turn to escapist novels that take us to Sweden or Norway or some shit.  I binged all of Vendela Vida’s novels over the summer in that exact way.     

Yes — when I write, I need to have a hot milky beverage near me. It makes me feel like an insane baby who cannot self-soothe.  I also need music, but it has to be a certain kind of music that sets the mood for what I am working on so I often listen to Miles Davis and an assortment of singer-songwriters.  Sometimes I simply have to leave the fucking house and calm my nervous system by being around other human people.  Although the other day, I was working in a café and someone got their laptop stolen while they were in the bathroom.  That has changed my perspective on working in cafes because I pee a lot and can’t imagine dragging all my shit into the bathroom.  Fuck.

I don’t think it’s depressing at all that you punch out at 6pm and find relief in not having to look at your work until the following morning.  It’s more of a survival mechanism, kind of how I feel about shoving my kid out of the house in the morning so I can unravel and feel like a person again.  You take on a lot by publishing the books that you publish and teaching those classes and reading through people’s traumas.  Without proper self-care, you would burn the fuck out and become a dick.  We made a promise to each other that we wouldn’t become dicks, so do what you gotta do to face the work head-on.        

CC:  You’re kind of pulling a Maggie Nelson right now (like in The Argonauts) and writing about someone you live with during the day, and then….living with them. is that weird at all? Do you compartmentalize?

FB:  Writing in what therapists refer to as the “here and now” has been really fucking challenging in ways that I cannot even describe.  I need so much warm milk.  It is also very rewarding and a way to make sense of the current state of my life which is something that I have never really done before.  I have always lived through shit in a pretty checked out state leaning hard on pot and wine and then I would have to somehow face it all later.  Looking at it and dealing with it currently through the writing is very painful because it is very real like a living documentary as opposed to remembering things through the filter of memory or making things up.

Jesus, Who am I?

One more for you — What part of the writing process do you think has been the most painful?  

CC: You are smart.

The most painful part of nonfiction, I’d say isn’t the beginning or end of works. The beginning and end are exciting. But the middle hurts. It’s where the hardest work is being done, and what makes it even more painful is that there is no one to really share it with at the point–it’s the point when it’s still so raw that it’s not ready for feedback from even friend’s or your first reader or editor yet. It’s isolating, but also like a delicious secret you have with yourself. No one is making you do it. I don’t mean the literal middle part of the essay, I mean the middle of the process.

I remember having some bad days while writing Women. I would get angry or hurt, thinking about pain I’ve had in relationships.

Writing some new essays for my new book were depressing at times. It gets to be a bummer—reliving shitty memories. Getting it down is fun, crafting it later, alone, is harder. It’s mind muscle exercise.

Now I’m in the fun part of my book. For example, I mention Cheez-Its in the essay about my parents’ divorce, and my editor Ruth, in her line edits, commented, “Cheez-Its! Remind me to make you my homemade ones sometime.”
I can’t even start to explain how much more fun it is to have Ruth and Emily in my manuscript. It’s so relieving, like, I don’t have to be alone anymore! It is strange to be having this light conversation in the middle of the essay when writing the essay was so dark. When I was in the throes of it, there was no way I could envision someone commenting about home-made Cheez-Its. Her comment was like the light at the end of the tunnel.

Cheez-Its are so fucking good. The ultimate comfort food.




i had such a good time at KGB the other night. i’ve been to so many cities w chelsea and elizabeth: tuscaloosa, st. paul, montreal, toronto, los angeles, oberlin, oxford, even montego bay in Jamaica….you get the picture. but we’ve never been in NYC together.

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(last night chloe chelsea and i stayed in our hotel room with a bottle of whiskey and played a game where we each took a turn picking a different music video from the 90s to watch/sing/dance along with. i was SHOCKED and DISMAYED that neither chelsea nor chloe had heard this song or (even more shocking – they call themselves feminists!) ‘violet’ by hole (wth). go on take everything, take everything i want you to…–e.e.)

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The Standard Hotel

The Standard Hotel

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at the chelsea hotel

at the chelsea hotel

i acquired three books last week: e.e. gave me BAD SEX by Clancy Martin, i swapped a copy of WOMEN w/ Uzodinma Okehi for his just released book, OVER FOR ROCKWELL, and i bought this book, which is pretty great so far.

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blurb as a verb


been asked to blurb as a verb some interesting stuff in like, the past 2 months. this poetry book by sara sutterlin is being released by a cool press: electric cereal.  and i really enjoyed it.


this book, The Other Woman which i still have to write my blurb for and which blew. my. mind. the title is kind of lame and that’s because it is translated from german, but anyway READ THIS BOOK when it publishes in february. i didn’t leave my apartment for two days and just read. it is intoxicating and smart.

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now for the real fun. i was also sent a copy of this book, Irrelationship. once i got over the shock of being thought of for a book like this (would love to know how they thought of me/found me for this one), i actually tried to read it, and i swear, it made no sense. like, it was poorly written and robotic and dumb. so i can’t do it. unfortunately, cause i was looking for tips. i am not above self help books, i love them. but this one kind of blew.

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but not i must be on some kind of self help spam galley list or something cause i was also asked to blurb this. i said sure, send me one (love free books) but now they claim they have none left.

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anyway. bye.

the sentence is a lonely place


some all over the place thoughts, because i can:

it is interesting that emily gould is the one editing and publishing my next book. when i was 25 and had an essay collection being published, i didn’t know how to prepare, or who to model myself after. there was just emily. she was the only other young (female!) contemporary writer who had published an essay collection. i watched emily get totally shit on in so many places. jimmy kimmel. the new york times, who counted how many times she said “I.”

i was working with melissa febos a few years earlier (when i was 23/24) on my essays at her apartment in bushwick. melissa wrote on a slip of paper for me, “emily gould, meghan daum, sloane crosley.” my roommate james at the time worked at the strand and i texted and asked him to get me the book. “she’s hot,” he said. i brought the book And The Heart Says Whatever and sat (with wine? tea/coffee?) in the back of MUD on 9th street and read it in one night. during that time i was working as a waitress at Pillow Cafe in clinton-hill, and co-workers would talk about how emily gould would come in for coffee. she lived nearby.

i couldn’t sleep one night before the publication of LGLA and read all the mean things people said about emily. people were going to say these things about me, too. i was terrified. but emily and i were coming at it from different places. she had a huge following from gawker. i didn’t have a following of any kind.

is publishing essay collections ‘irresponsible’? the thing about publishing one at 25 means that you wrote the book in your early twenties. no doubt in your early twenties you do STUPID things, and then you write about them so they are documented forever.

the day Legs Get Led Astray came out, Cheryl posted a photo of it. The author Kerry Cohen said, “I love essay collections and no one ever publishes them anymore! Also you published your first book at 25? You bitch!”

my friend fran thinks it’s super unique that i published such an exposing essay collection so young and that my next book should be a reflection on that. i’m not sure.


todayish i am supposed to be receiving my manuscript for I’ll Tell You In Person back from Ruth Curry, with line edits. then i have one more month to work on those, and then i hand in the final, november 15th.

after that, i will take a break. and go to yoga without thinking i should be working on my book. have dinner without thinking i should be working on my book. talk to people without hoping they will leave soon so i can work on my book. teach my classes without thinking of the time it takes from my book. wake up in the morning without thinking of my book. read at night without thinking i should be working on my book. it will be shift, and it will be sad in a way. and then i will romanticize this process i am presently going through instead of remembering how much it hurts, how hard. similar to birth, i imagine.

having editors is such a god send. i am the worst writer. i really am. i should probably take some grammar classes. i sent my friend elisa albert a new essay a few weeks ago and she gave me some notes including, “your grammar is fucked at times.” my editors fix that! ruth sent me an essay by gary lutz called the sentence is a lonely place. it’s a piece about reading, how lutz came to writing, how he came to THINK about what writing IS, and being a writer. the sentence is a lonely place. this is some of the best advice i’ve ever gotten. sentences are uncomfortable. writing is uncomfortable. we want to get out of the sentence quickly. move forward. ruth basically told me to stop doing that. stay in the sentence. craft it. think about how you want it to sound. read it out loud.

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emily told me she wouldn’t let me end an essay with “or something”. i’m always telling my students not to end their essays with questions or crying or slamming the door.

it’s lonely inside our sentences and books, and if we’re lucky, we have editors swoop in and take some of that heaviness off of us.

the last page of WOMEN gets a lot of credit. people mention it to me often. my editor for that book was elizabeth ellen, and when she sent it back to me at one point, i said, woah, did you add something here? nope, she answered. i just rearranged what you wrote. GOD BLESS EDITORS. the tenses were all fucked up in WOMEN for a long time. “I’m gonna kill you,” EE would often say to me, about the messy manuscript, the tenses i couldn’t decide on. we decided to leave the last line in present tense even though it’s not grammatically correct. no one ever comments how the book is past tense 30 pages in, then switches to present.

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EE reading WOMEN in Miami, 2013

EE reading WOMEN in Miami, 2013

“People think WOMEN just EDITED ITSELF,” Elizabeth once joked.

a writer named belinda mckeon wrote this beautiful essay The Art of Going The Distance. she quotes Women in it:

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Exactly. This is why it can be frustrated to work with editors at times. Because, though they are amazing, they are not the ones losing money while they write.

This is what my agent (I know I’ve just switched to using caps, my style/grammar is fucked, am owning it) talked about all last winter and spring. Editors wanted me to do more, write more, include more, stretch more, they were giving me amazing (free!) advice and notes and I was lucky for that. But I was the one sitting for seven hours at my desk writing about the past, my family, my pain, my acne, my horrible choices. I was the one suffering, back aching, eyes bleary. I was the one losing money doing this. My agent explained finally to these publishers that I couldn’t afford to. I simply could not afford to work on the book and re-submit it to these high top NYC editors. I am poor. I was grocery shopping at CVS. It was a gray and cold and raining day, about 10a.m. my time and 7a.m. my agent’s west coast time when she called to tell me the BIG publisher had sent thorough feedback and she wanted to warn me about it before i read it. they were not making a bid and also not taking if off the table. the editor called me a ‘closed book in some ways.’ during a moment i am not proud of, almost breaking down into tears, i said to my agent, “does she want to do it? does she want to sit in a chair for 8 hours writing about divorce and drugs and acne and low self esteem and body dysmorphia? then she can do it, if she can do it better than i can.” then i cried in the shower.

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this is why it’s so nice to have editors who are also writers/publish books. i just finished ‘portrait of an addict as a young man‘ by bill clegg. he’s published 2 memoirs and is also an agent. i heard him on a few interviews, and he said he used to take for granted the stuff authors did–the leg work of interviews and readings and fielding questions. he said he sees now from first hand how generous it is, how draining.

back to emily. i was re-reading this post by her yesterday and it rang SO TRUE. i cannot wait to not be writing an essay collection. not writing an essay collection will be a vacation. a beauty treatment. i knew exactly the feeling emily describes here. another time i had that feeling was when my book advance was wired to me. my bank account normally fluctuates  from $50 to $600 so when i have money i can actually put in my savings, i feel like i’m on vacation in hawaii or something. you know what i did? i upgraded my Spotify to premium and i bought the new yorker. ( :

emily, on the day she turned in her novel:

 I experienced the feeling of “TGIF” for the first time in years on 10/11 and I probably don’t have to tell you that TGIF is A GREAT FEELING. I’ve had so much time these past few weeks to hang out and have fun and organize and clean and budget and transfer balances from one credit card to another and make obsessive plans for the future. Does that not sound fun? It has been GREAT. One of the things about working on a book, at least for me — and probably it doesn’t have to be this way! — is that you spend a lot of time in “finals week mode.” Like, years on end. Neglecting your body, your friendships, your family and your finances because nothing is more important than your book. Some of that damage will take years to undo (financial, mostly), but my skin already looks better. Not writing a novel is a beauty treatment. Not writing a novel is a spa vacation. Not writing a novel is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, except the nagging terror that this happiness is temporary and fake and could shade into misery the minute I try to start another one.


Even these past 2 weeks, while Ruth and Emily had the new version of ITYIP, I felt like I was on vacation, even though I was teaching and hosting workshops. I was able to READ without guilt! I read 2 books faster than I ever do. It felt like having a babysitter take my kid off my hands for a couple of weeks and i had to do everything I could before I was a slave to the desk again.

Writing is very fun. It’s also very hard. But because of my Ruth & Emily, I like my book SO MUCH MORE than I did 2 months ago, 6 months ago, a year ago. At dinner with them in May, I said, “I want to like my book more.” “No one likes their book at the stage you’re at,” Ruth comforted me.

I told my friend Logan I was getting ‘line edits’ from Ruth and she said, “That sounds scary.”

It is!!!!!!!

“Line edits. Sounds cozy,” my friend Fran said.

I secretly think Ruth and Emily and Coffee House are gonna say, Whoops, never mind. Not publishing this. YOU SUCK!

But they haven’t. We have signed papers. CONTRACTS. A book with Coffee House! I feel so lucky I could cry. Now I just have to finish it. Don’t turn a good thing into a bad thing, as I mentioned in LGLA.

Right? My mom speaks the truth:

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Getting It Down: Nonfiction bootcamp w/ Chloe & Emily Gould


This workshop I’m doing w/ my friend (and editor) the writer Emily Gould is happening in less than a month! It’s gonna be so fun.  APPLY HERE. 

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Sometimes the hardest thing about writing is getting inspired. This day-long intensive writing bootcamp, led by writer Chloe Caldwell and writer/editor Emily Gould, will help nonfiction writers of all levels access their storiesand figure out how to tell themthrough engaging exercises, mini-lectures, and on-the-spot writing prompts. Caldwell and Gould, both known for their fierce honesty in writing about money, sex, motherhood, envy, and femininity, among other things, are not only friends and fellow writers, but collaborators (Emily Books, Gould’s imprint, is publishing Caldwell’s next essay collection). They will spend the final portion of this bootcamp talking about their publishing relationship and how writers build community and identify their best readers, with an eye towards helping students develop strategies for blazing their own path in the literary world. Wine and snacks will be served, guts will be spilled, and fun will be hadthat part, we promise.


1-2:30pm: Group A with Chloe Caldwell

1-2:30pm: Group B with Emily Gould

2:30-4pm: Group B with Chloe Caldwell

2:30-4pm: Group A with Emily Gould

4-5pm: Emily Gould and Chloe Caldwell talk shop, making a book, collaboration, and the editor/writer and writer/writer relationship. This discussion will only be open to students enrolled in the bootcamp—wine and refreshments will be served.




Last Tuesday, Adam Armstrong of OUT magazine, and I went to lunch at Fabienne’s in Williamsburg. I had curried chicken salad and greens and he had tomato soup & espresso and he asked me 10 Qs and told me to be succinct in my answers, and I totally wasn’t. I don’t know what I said and am too embarrassed to look, but it’s a nice thing, especially since it’s the year anniversary of WOMEN.


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Read the whole thing here.

Yesterday was the second writing workshop (women only) I hosted at my apartment in Hudson. If you’re interested in coming to one of these workshops, email me at cocomonet@gmail.com.

Sarah, Therese, Jillian, Juliana, moi, Megan, Emily, & Julie. Photo cred: Jessica

Sarah, Therese, Jillian, Juliana, moi, Megan, Emily, & Julie. Photo cred: Jessica




Brooklyn Baby


my good friend Steph just moved to LA after spending her whole life in NYC where she was raised. i miss her! we got to hang out once a week since July because she decided to take my memoir class. we spent hours before and after class in horrible 34th Street restaurants, talking, talking, talking…

Steph & I in Woodstock last November

Steph & I in Woodstock last November

If you want to read about literally anything you’re worried about, Steph has probably written about it: Birth control, going to the gynecologist, suicide attempts, musician fathers, being female, Uggs, rape, body image, the list goes on.

When I had to hand my new book, I’ll Tell You In Person, in to my agent last March, Steph copy edited it for me THE NIGHT BEFORE. Instead of telling what an asshole I was for asking her to do this THE NIGHT BEFORE, she said, “Great, this will get my mind off of my problems. Let me go to the bodega and get some cigarettes, then I’ll do it,”

And she did it!

Anyway. Go read some of her work.

Or watch this video she did with Chelsea Fagan about how to ‘make it’ freelancing:

Hot Residency Tips


My student Allison emailed and asked me for some advice on writing residencies or to do a blog post about it. She is going to a residency in Arkansas and then India. Her questions are below. I’m answering them in a “Here’s what I would do” way.

  1. Ratio of allotted time: Amount of time to spend writing vs. reading to be inspired vs. wandering the colony/retreat to be inspired

I would write 75% and read and wander 25%. I’d spend my day writing from 7/8a.m to 4p.m. and give myself nights off to read/walk/eat. 

2. What to pack and what to leave behind

This is a funny question. Bring your computer, headphones, journal, favorite pen, two books that you want to write towards, (I keep books of essays on my desk while writing a book of essays to remind myself that essay collections are in fact, a thing, and I know you (Allison) are working on an essay collection. Bring comfortable clothes, things that comfort you. When  write I usually wear yoga clothes/pajamas all day and get dressed in real clothes late afternoon.

3. Social media: to cut off or not to cut off?

When I was at the Martha’s Vineyard residency I didn’t cut it off, and start posting dire tweets, because I get dark sometimes when I am writing about ‘myself’ for 7 hours a day. So dire that my friend ended up sending me an album called Blue Moods of Spain, an album that meditates on loneliness. It’s great! Anyway, sure, why not deactivate? Both Facebook and Twitter make it easy to deactivate and you can even put in a custom date that you want them to reactivate for you. I think you should deactivate. Unless of course, you want to be the type of person who HUMBLE BRAGS about your residency on Facebook or posts about how productive or unproductive you are being. Boring. Lame. Outdated. Get off that shit and work on your book. You could do this thing my friend Logan does: she takes pics throughout her trips and posts them all at one time when she gets home. It saves you from obsessively posting to IG while within the experience. I did deactivate Twitter when I was working on my book in Portland last month. 

4) Is it worthwhile to keep in touch with people from home? Or take the monastic approach and retreat from the world?

I’m a big phone talker. When I was at my residency I spoke with my agent on the phone, my mom while I grocery shopped, and my friend Fran. I think it can be nice, you already have so many hours alone and if you take my advice and cut off social media, you’ll need this! Support is good. 

5) Did you start every day with a goal? an outline? Or is it better to put the butt in chair and see what comes?

I hate goals and outlines and plans. I do have goals often but I don’t think of them that way. I just choose something to work on. You’re working on a collection of essays? Choose one to finish and one to start AND finish (at least a draft). Choose the one you’ve been putting off. 

Your Q is hard for me to answer because I don’t know how far along you are in your book. But  yeah, since you have the space and time, work on the one thing you’ve been putting off, maybe think about the order you want your essays to be in. Maybe read your collection out loud. While do this, you catch errors and often think of more details and anecdotes and changes you want to make to your essays. 

6) Is it a good idea to restrict/limit internet surfing?

Yes! We already went over this. ( :

7) What helped you to feel connected to the experience: exercise? journaling? other activities?

My situation was different because I went to the residency with three other close writer friends. I made friends with some of the other women there, and that bonded everyone. Towards the end of our stay we went out to bars together, and we had dinner together mostly every night. It can be tempting to isolate yourself (at least for me) so forcing yourself to do something social is good. Or even going to see a movie. In India go eat food and take pics and walk around. In Arkansas, I have no idea what to tell you. 

8) Any other advice would be a gift :)

Get sleep. If you can–go to bed and wake up at the same time every night. This helps with structure. I took a hot shower each night before bed. 

Choose an essay you’re working on and read it out loud and record it on your iPhone. In the evening take a walk and listen to your essay on head phones. This helps trigger more memories.

Stretch and move. At one point my body was so tensed and shoulders so stressed that I walked into town and got a massage. Total game changer.

Something else but I forget. Good luck!!!!

My bedroom at Noepe Center For Literary Arts

My bedroom at Noepe Center For Literary Arts

p.s.  Here’s some more epic advice I recently gave:

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