writing for money $$$$ confessions


My friend Karina thinks money confessions are the new taboo. So of course if something is taboo I need to write about it. Everything I list below, I did without an agent. There was no book advance for Legs Get Led Astray, and there haven’t been royalties for either Legs Get Led Astray or Women. The only times i really feel like I “sold out” for my writing was the GRAZIA interview and Men’s Health gig. But not even. I’m glad I did those things, they paid my rent. Everything else was written exactly the way i wanted to write it.

Age 25, pre-Legs Get Led Astray, 2011

  • Masturbating with Moxie, The Frisky, $75
  • Ortho-tricyclen ruined my relationship, The Frisky, $75
  • 7 Day Sex Plan, The Frisky: $50

(Jobs that year: Worked at my dad’s store, MUSICA, babysat)

Age 26, post Legs Get Led Astray, 2013

  • Heroin and Acne, Salon.com,  $150
  • Leaning To Sit Still, The Fix, $150
  • Five Senses of Sex, Men’s Health, $500
  • Audible (bought rights to LGLA), $900
  • The New Age Camp, an ebook by Thought Catalog (I get 40% of sale of this book, and this book doesn’t sell. I got a check from them for $2.35 once and something around $150 once.)
  • Reading at University of Southern Indiana, $500

(Jobs that year: Nannied/housesat/cat sat for Cheryl Strayed, worked part-time at Powell’s Books, Did some essay editing)

Age 27, pre WOMEN, 2013/2014

  • Sold WOMEN to SF/LD for $3000
  • Leaving My Groovy Lifestyle, anthologized in Goodbye To All That, $150

(Jobs that year: Worked at MUSICA, taught personal essay class through Litreactor.com, babysat)

Age 28, post WOMEN, 2014/2015

  • Interview with GRAZIA, $500
  • Audio rights to WOMEN, Audible, $500
  • Ebook rights to Emily Books, $500
  • Maggie and Me, Vice, $200
  • Behind The Till, Human Parts/Medium $150
  • Dyke Shopping, Human Parts/Medium, $150
  • Roommates, Human Parts/Medium, $150
  • Urban Eating, Human Parts/Medium, $150
  • Not My Cats, Human Parts/Medium, $150
  • Microphones, Thought Catalog, $1500
  • Soft Butch Blues, Thought Catalog, $175
  • Reading at The College of St. Rose, $750

(Jobs: Worked at Musica, worked for catering company, taught essay class for Litreactor.com, manuscript critiquing, essay editing, week-long nannying gigs in Portland for Cheryl, work at clothing boutique.)

Not included:

People that buy my books from me at readings or on my website. Random checks Amazon sent to Future Tense Books for my ebook that I would sometimes get part of.

For free since 2009:

The Rumpus, Poets & Writers, Jersey Devil Press, The Nervous Breakdown, Vol 1. Brooklyn, The Sun, Freerange Nonfiction, The Faster Times, Hobart, Everyday Genius, Gloom Cupboard, Smalldoggies, True Tales of Lust and Love anthology, Used Furniture Review, SMITH, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, NW Book Lovers.

I’ve been writing for publication since I was 24. 

So in five years I’ve made a grand total of:  $10,427.35 from writing. 

Which, if you’re a cup half empty or full person, this could either be incredibly dire or inspirational. I look at this list and think I’ve come a really long way. It’s obvious to say I would like more money.

The writing for free has led me to better opportunities, and I still write for free and think everyone should/has to at least for a little while. Writing for The Rumpus led me to so many friendships and paid gigs later. Etc.

I write often and whatever I want, but I am uncomfortable financially. Nothing I purchase is without panic and anxiety. Sometimes non-writers have seen some press I’ve gotten, and they say to me, “You’re doing so well, how do you feel?” And I begin to act strange, because I’m incredibly broke and unsure what they are implying. I have gotten LOTS of press and reviews, it’s completely true, and I’m eternally grateful for that.

Questions? Comments?

I was listening to James Frey on a podcast yesterday and he was saying he adamantly believes writers are like athletes, they peak and run out of steam in their fifties and sixties or earlier. I sort of agreed with him. He said it gets too exhausting, ambition runs out, and you don’t have it in you to sit at your desk eight hours a day anymore.

In the below photo I am twenty-five years old with my first check for writing–from The Frisky. It’s in my dad’s store, he took the photo.


playboy, conor oberst, sry abt my sucky website


Should be working on some essays right now but feel unfocused so here’s some updates. I also want to acknowledge that my website is mostly a place for me to talk about the press my books get. I feel really self-conscious ACTUALLY writing on my website. I save it all for my books or essays. I’m sorry if this is disappointing. I know some authors, like Maggie Estep for example, would write actual stories or essays or anecdotes. For some reason, I cannot do that on this format. But if you have any ideas of how I could make my site more interesting, email me. Maybe I could talk more about what I’m reading and watching and listening to because I compulsively read and watch and listen to things. Right now, I’m listening to Conor Oberst on Marc Maron! It’s pretty fascinating. I haven’t thought much about Conor since I was 21 and obsessed with him. I’m reading How To Grow Up by Michelle Tea. The movie I want to re-watch is The Beginners, and the movie I am DYING for is Noah Baumbach’s new one, While We’re Young. Oh and my new favorite band is Lucius. 

Playboy put WOMEN on this list. No clue how that happened, but it did so now my dreams of being in Playboy have been met, and I can sleep at night.


I wouldn’t necessarily call my book an erotica book, lol, but, whatever, they put me next to my friend Henry Miller.

First love—it’s something we all can relate to and vividly remember. Mine was Lance Bass from NYSNC, but we all know how that turned out. But WOMEN by Chloe Caldwell amps up this experience with her brave autobiographical tale about unexpectedly falling head over heels for a woman. The story is powerful, hot and will have you thinking 2015 is the year of the lesbian. Plus, Blue is the Warmest Color showed America just how hot erotic lesbian novels can be on screen.

I sold the rights of WOMEN to AUDIBLE, so if you listen to books on tape, you can listen. I’m not sure who will be narrating it, but they said I have some say in all that. I’m gonna push for David Sedaris.

Medium put Legs Get Led Astray on this list:

6 Books That Will Make You Want To Be A Better Human

Every paragraph will make you want to grab life by the horns and then cut the tips off the horns and suck the marrow out of the horns. These are personal essays—some in second-person, like letter-essays. Each is so compact and raw and real it’s like a neutron star. Caldwell doesn’t seem like a ~writer~ as much as a real person who is living her life and telling you the truth.

There’s an article called Sad Girls, about Lana Del Ray and Tragic heroines. It’s a really interesting essay.

Powell’s Books is embracing the notion of sad women who can conquer the world, with their new section of books that celebrate the tragic heroine. In literature, we see countless instances of the tragic hero, especially in Shakespeare, but tragic heroines are not a household phrase. Lena Dunham, Sylvia Plath, Chloe Caldwell and Zelda Fitzgerald find themselves in the tragic heroines section. They are among those who have something deeply powerful to say to the world: We are sad because we are oppressed. Whether a book is about a tragic heroine character or written by a tragic heroine, women are pouring their sadness into their art in order to develop a groundbreaking message.


Here’s a photo from my reading in SF last week. As I stated at the reading, I was in awful shape: jet lagged and sick from drinking margaritas and wine the night before. When in Rome.photo (2)

Happy Chinese New Year!!!!



february 12th marked the year anniversary of my friend maggie estep’s death. VICE magazine was kind enough to commission and aid me in writing a personal essay about the experience of getting know maggie, first through her art, and then in real time. when she died, we were looking for an apartment together. i’m really proud of this essay.


you can read it here: Maggie and Me: My Last Days with the Legendary Maggie Estep



Below photo by Dana Kinstler


At LAMBDA literary, Paige Cohen asked me some great questions about writing my books, and you can read my answers here


Time Out New York made a list called Ten Erotic Books Hotter and Better Than 50 Shades of Gray and included WOMEN on that list. It’s funny because a few years ago, they put LGLA on the same type of list. 


I got back from San Fran yesterday. Had so much fun–read at RADAR Reading Series, met lots of people old and new. Got to chill with my sister/friend Fran and had some amazing laughs. We walked ten miles just getting hopped up on coffee and later, wine. We stopped at 826 Valenica and Blue Bottle Coffee and Dogeared Books where I bought Michelle Tea’s new one: “How To Grow Up.” The entire city of SF smells of hash and weed. This is Fran sitting in Mission Dolores park watching all the stoned people eating huge meat and cheese sandwiches.

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I’ll be reading in NYC at Housing Works next Thursday.  Come out, drink wine and say hi.

Also: I have boxes of both WOMEN and LEGS GET LED ASTRAY right now. If you want a signed copy, email me for details cocomonet@gmail.com


vaGenre fiction


happy february! i love february. because december and january are over.

1. pretty happy that i get to read at elisa albert’s book party for her new novel “after birth”. my mom and i read a galley of this book over the summer and both adored it. NYC, Thursday, Feb 26th. See you there. RSVP here.


2. I’ll be attending and reading at the Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City on April 3rd (my 29th birthday OMG). Tons of bands and films and comedians and writers are going to be there. Seems amazing! Never been to Iowa, and speaking of, I wonder what will happen in Iowa on tonight’s episode of GIRLS, because I’ll be watching that, not the superbowl.


3. I leave for California soonish to read in San Francisco. 

4. Today on The Rumpus, I’m in conversation with Zoe Zolbrod about genre drama, sexuality, grief, writing, and all that jazz. 

5. I drank too much last night, sang too much karaoke, and now feel horrible. Turns out “Wrong Way” by Sublime gets people realllllly excited at karaoke.



When I moved to Portland, I got a job cashiering at Powell’s. I quickly befriended my co-worker Zach Ellis, or he befriended me, or it was mutual because we both hated when people say, “You rock”. Zach turned into one of my closest friends in town. We almost exclusively ate breakfast on Thursday mornings at Helser’s on NE Alberta. Like Central Perk in FRIENDS. I went to his house for homemade pizza dinners and played dolls and Barbies with his daughter. We both worked until 11pm on Tuesday nights and he gave me rides home in his car that we named Rufus, because we blasted and sang along to Rufus Wainwright in it. I had no family in Portland and was lonely at times, and Zach was truly a great friend to me. When I was at my lowest, he showed me how to collage a GOD BOX, if you can believe this.

During this time Zach wrote a lyric essay called BEING, which is, essentially, about being transgendered, as Zach was born a woman. His essay won an award and he flew to Scotland to read the poem at an event. Since then, he’s expanded it, and it is now a book that you can buy. It’s an ebook. Buy it and support him. It’s not easy to write (well!) about this shit, I imagine. This book is truly unique and one of the most moving things I’ve read in a long time. I’m so proud of him.

Zach and I sitting in Rufus

Zach and I sitting in Rufus

Here’s an excerpt:

i don’t know if you can mourn something you have never had, but i’m in mourning. when i want

to process something, i don’t capitalize words. unless they’re important words. that’s how you’ll


i was born without a penis. i was born with girl parts, but a boy’s brain and a boy’s soul and a

boy’s feelings and a boy’s heart. you just have to take my word for it. i don’t know what

happened, but i used to believe there was a mix-up somewhere in the roasting pan of my

mother’s womb. maybe it was that mexican food she might have tried or the msg at a chinese

restaurant. maybe it was a silent prayer i made for patience as a fetus. whatever the case, my

insides and my outsides were not a match. i realized very young that god had gotten my mom

and dad’s order wrong. the big problem is that there was no kitchen to send me back to and fix

the problem.

now & then


a week or 2 ago i spoke with Ashley Ford of Buzzfeed over the phone. she asked me questions about WOMEN the book, and WOMEN the people. read it here. it’s pretty juicy.

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i just got back from denver by way of  portland where i was staying with cheryl strayed’s kids while she attended the golden globes among other places. i went from having 0 kids to the below situation. i survived!

these don't all belong to cheryl!

these children don’t ALL belong to cheryl. that would be insane.

in denver, i read from WOMEN at The Book Bar, and spent time with my childhood BFF, lindsay. if i have unconditional love with/for anyone, it’s her. we were like sisters from when we were babies to age fourteen.


In Denver.

In Denver. We hadn’t seen one another in almost 10 years!

My 4-week personal essay/creative nonfiction class begins TOMORROW. so if you impulsively want to join the class, sign up tonight or in the early morning. 

I’ll be in San Francisco to do a reading on February 12th. I will be popping my SF cherry, as I’ve never been there before!

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Thursday, February 12, 2015
SF Main Library – 100 Larkin Street
Latino / Hispanic Rooms (Basement Level)
Hosted by Michelle Tea
Featuring fresh baked cookies during the artist Q&A

that’s all my news, i think!!! thanks for caring/pretending to care.



On Monday night, Karina was my date to the GIRLS HBO Premier at the Museum of Natural History. I had one of the best nights everrrrrrrr. Karina was hoping to meet Kristie Alley and/or confront Taylor Swift on feminism, and though neither of those things happened, we did intercept a bunch of celebs including Gabby Hoffman!!! And the chicks from the brilliant Broad City. I got told I look like Christina Applegate and Lena confirmed to Karina’s face that they do in fact, look alike.

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Everyone was talking about the last scene in the film Squid & The Whale

Everyone was talking about the last scene in the film Squid & The Whale.


Karina confronting Alex/Ray on the time he didn't tip her at the cafe she worked at in Greenpoint

Karina confronting Alex/Ray on the time he didn’t tip her at the cafe she worked at in Greenpoint

When we looked at these pics the next day, K and I both agreed..."we look like adult women"

When we looked at these pics the next day, K and I both agreed…”we look like adult women”


Lena and I getting cozy

Lena D and me getting cozy

<3 <3 <3

broken girl cookie

broken girl cookie

Afterwards, we had to take it down a notch and K and I ended up at Kellogg’s Diner with grilled cheese and chicken fingers and Budweisers. Overall, a gorgeous and memorable night. The two new episodes of GIRLS they showed were hysterical, and Elijah especially KILLS IT. I took this photo of him taking a selfie and he saw me……Oh well, YOLO, am I right?

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who is elle macpherson, really.


WOMEN made Electric Literature’s Best Novels of 2014 list. Along w one of my fave books: Department Of Speculation by Jenny Offill.

Best Novels

It was also featured in this list on Brooklyn Magazine! 

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If you liked
Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
Women by Chloe Caldwell

You know how Waldman’s debut novel was a look at a series of relationships with complicated, real women told through the POV of a smug, irritating male writer? Well! Imagine how awesome it would be to read something about a series of relationships with complicated, real women from the POV of a complicated, real woman? Pretty awesome, right? You have no idea; Caldwell’s Women will blow you away.


i was sitting in a bar in greenwich village last week w/ my friend erika drinking a negroni and got a notification that elle macpherson tweeted and blogged about my book WOMEN. i told erika, i don’t know who elle macphereson is. and she was like, “dude! duh! she’s a super model.” then i looked her up and remembered when she dated joey on FRIENDS. i used to LOVE FRIENDS. that’s what’s fun and interesting about putting your art into the world. you have no idea whose hands it will end up in.

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the block


I’m sort of getting around it in  2015. details below and hope i can see some of you somewhere.

Denver, Colorado

January 17th, 2015


Reading, Signing, and  Q&A



San Francisco, California

February 12th 2015

Radar Reading Series

San Francisco Public Library, 111 Larkin Street, Latino Reading Room, Basement Level

With  Brent Armendinger, Ryka Aoki e la Cruz, and Samantha Chanse.



New York City: February 26th 2015

Housing Works Bookstore

Elisa Albert’s AFTER BIRTH book launch

Elisa Albert, Paula Bomer, Anya Uilnich, Rebecca Wolff, Meaghan O’connell



Brooklyn, NY: April 9th 2015

Pete’s Candy Store

with Elisa Albert 



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FANZINE reviewed WOMEN. 

Women, like Caldwell’s first book, Legs Get Led Astray, is positively feral and coyly voyeuristic, inviting questions as to whether the memoir is autobiographical or not. Along with unpretentious prose that’s stripped of adverbs and metaphors but jacked up with dark humor, it’s the “is this or isn’t this” question that makes Caldwell’s work so readable.

Anyone who has suffered through apologetic fictionalized memoirs where the narrator spends every other page reminding you that she is 1) ashamed 2) confused 3) conflicted about the things that she is sharing with the reader will race through this nimble novella like a child gunning for the stairs.”