Today my essay Major Dramatic Question published in Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s Lenny Letter. It grapples with teaching writing when a) you identify as a writer, not a teacher and sort of detest teachers and b) teaching writing having not gone to school for writing and c) can writing even be taught? Do we kill it the more we talk about? I hope you enjoy it!!!
Staying on the topic of teaching writing, last night Ashley C. Ford came to visit my personal essay class at Catapult, which is made up of 9 ambitious, smart, lovely, women. Ashley and I had wine downstairs at my new favorite bar, Vin Sur Vignt—where I’m definitely going to meet my future French husband—beforehand. We talked about how we’re both teaching and writing full time. (Her at New School, SkillShare, and Catapult, me at Litreactor, Gotham, Catapult.) We talked about how we met online back in April 2012. Ashley had tweeted asking about personal essays. Can someone share some great ones with me? she asked. I jumped at the chance and emailed her. Are you a writer? I asked. Yes, I’m a writer she said. In the midwest. I just published my first essay on The Rumpus. From then on, though Ashley and I weren’t BFFs hanging out all the time, we were on one another’s side. We supported each other’s work.
Since 2012, Ashley moved from Indiana to NYC and went from working at Buzzfeed until she took the plunge to freelance full time. Now she writes for Elle, Lenny, The Guardian, regularly. It felt REALLY GOOD to sit across from one another and be like, hey, we made it. We’ve accomplished stuff. We are suddenly in the same place. (Catapult. NY. A wine bar.) Neither of us ever thought we’d be teaching writing.
We told my class how we both wrote for free for years, until now. Now we are both at the point where we solely write for pay. We both agreed on one thing: to see things happen in your writing life, you have to take risks. Nothing will happen until you do. No one will give you permission or ask you to write for them if you don’t put yourself out there. Also, get on Twitter. Reach out to people. Find your tribe. I’m pretty sure Ashley quoted Oprah at one point.
Why not you? we asked the class. Many people think there’s cliques of writers around, Ashley told them. Like you think you’re on the outside and don’t know how to get on the inside. I felt that way too, I said. Everyone does. It’s not true. Why not you?
Check out Ashley’s class: Forget The Clicks: Writing Great Essays For The Web.
And stay tuned for an event Ashley & I are doing together this fall at Power House Arena.