the Jesus year

The weather was complete shit in Chicago so we made our own fun taking photos in bathrooms. Then we did a reading at Unabridged bookstore which was really fun b/c we all read from NEW stuff! The night before the reading we saw Knausgaard and Shelia Heti in conversation at the Chicago Art Museum which I had too high of expectations for so was somehow riveted and disappointed simultaneously.

Juliet Escoria, Chelsea Martin, Mira Gonzalez, Elizabeth Ellen, Amanda Goldblatt, me
Juliet Escoria, Chelsea Martin, Mira Gonzalez, Elizabeth Ellen, Amanda Goldblatt, me

I’m teaching a 4 week personal essay class online for Litreactor, it begins May 31. Sign up and get more info here.

I’m co-teaching a one-day workshop in NYC with Ashley C. FordHow To Be A Freelance Writer—August 6th. It’s open to like 15 people.

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Date: Saturday, August 6th
Time: 1-5pm
Fee: $150
Number of Students: 12-15
1140 Broadway, Suite 704, NY NY 10001
Co-sponsored by Electric Literature

In this one day session, Chloe and Ashley will demystify what it is to be a full-time freelance writers, covering everything from process to time management to filing taxes. Focusing on craft (what you want to write and how to write it), community (how freelancers build a support networks), and comments (dealing with assholes and trolls on and off the net) they will give tips from their own experiences on what works, what doesn’t, and how to get PAID. Students will leave with concrete goals and an action plan for making their dreams of freelance success a reality.

Q & A, reading, and discussion with Ashley and Chloe follows class. With wine and snacks, of course. Apply here.

I was so busy in April and have two trips I haven’t unpacked from but am heading to NYC today for more shit, and I remembered this part of Bill Clegg’s memoir Portrait of an Addict As A Young Man where he mentions his early thirties being the busiest time of his life. Of course the difference is, he was getting addicted to crack and I am not, (I’m getting off it) but I still relate. Maybe my Jesus year came early. Here’s the paragraph:

I go to Mark’s and there is a blur of smoke and flesh and other people, and in the morning, this time, I don’t want it to end. The lunch is the next day, but still, somehow, it feels far away.  A whole day and night and morning between now and then. It will work out. It always does. But this is the first night that wants to be two. Why this one and not the others? I look at the calendar from that time and it is graffitied with ink. Scribbled notes about lunch meetings, coffee dates, phone dates, drinks dates, trips to London, L.A., Frankfurt. Weddings, birthdays, benefits, plays, operas, book parties, screenings. So much to show up for, so much to camouflage for, to worry over. There is no busier period than that year when I am thirty-two and thirty-three. Someone—was it Marie?—always joked about thirty-three being the Jesus year—how it marked the end of one life and the beginning of another, the end of youth and the beginning of the undebatable status of adulthood. But I was twenty-four when she turned thirty-three, and adulthood seemed a world away. 

P.S. My website domain expires in 7 days and I *am* gonna move it over to a Square Space website with the help of my friend and student, Juliana Mann! Juliana and her husband Jonathan have this podcast I love, The Manns, where they speak very bluntly about conflicts in their relationship, check it out here.

P.P.S. When I arrived home from Chicago on Sunday night, my box of review copies was waiting for me. I love how they look!

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medium skinned

I was interviewed for the series THICK SKIN by Andrew Lipstein. I love this series, he’s basically trying to deconstruct negative feedback from the author’s point of view. I loved reading the convos he did with Shelia Heti, Porochista Khapour, and Emily Gould. For better or worse, I am comfortable with getting negative reviews. I know my books are flawed. There’s no way around that. There are no perfect books. Are there? In the interview Andrew did with Laura van den Berg, she’s like, has any writer every told you they couldn’t continue the interview? Because having mean words about you quoted back to you is very overwhelming.
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I saw this draft in my emails last night that I wrote to myself. “Write about why you hate blogging” it said. I want to write a little about why I dislike having a website. Unlike my writing, or rather, in a different way, this website makes me feel very exposed. I’ve never been a blogger who is able to churn their normal day into an entertaining blog post. If I were writing blog posts often about my life I can guarantee you I’d feel incredibly depleted. But what makes me sad/embarrassed is that now my website has turned into just a place where I promote myself. I guess that’s what author websites ARE. I started this website in 2011 and now it’s 2016 and I’ve just never found a rhythm for it. I tried Tumblr and couldn’t do it for whatever reason.

Maybe I should get one of those websites where I don’t have to post stuff on the homepage, like Chelsea Martin’s or Elisa Albert’s. I think I’d like that a lot. They get less ‘traffic’—who cares? What’s held me back about having one of those is that they cost a big chunk of $$$$. But perhaps it’s time. I’m willing to stop drinking wine for a month to get an essay made for me. Maybe.

The other confusing thing is I have no clue who my audience for this website is. At first it was a few fellow writers I know from like, The Rumpus, then there’s my aunts and my mom. But when WordPress chose my post On Picking My Brain as a WordPress Discovery or whatever and received 2400 new followers making my total 2481. Who are you people?

I suppose I could link more often to what I’m reading/other people’s work. I have no clue why I don’t do that. But I wanted you to know that the reason I don’t expose myself here is because I expose myself in my books and I don’t get paid to write on my own blog. So I keep it short and surface-y. I don’t like that people can Google me and see whatever I post on my website, especially when it’s lame and self-promote-y. But I save the things I want to say for my books and essays. I have strange logic about my books, I always feel you can hide the most exposing parts in the middle. Because people don’t actually read that part. Haha. On this website, I always either want to write too much or nothing at all and just post a photo.

In May I will probably pay the $28 or whatever it is to renew this website for another year, though I always secretly want to get rid of it.

What do you think? What do you most like reading about hear? The writing process? Books I recommend? I normally don’t have ‘what is my voice/tone’ problems but I do on this website. In fact, during the writing of this post I’ve convinced myself I want to hire someone to build me a website. Anyone reading this want to discuss?

I just read (thanks to my friend Logan) these two pieces that I enjoyed v much:

I don’t think this piece has a name but it’s by the wonderful Katie Heany and about her first book contradicting where she is at now, IRL.

The Year of Numbered Rooms by Emily St John Mandel about her scarily long book tour.

Another essay that’s so interesting is The Ambition Condition: Women, Writing, and the Problem of Success in BITCH Magazine.

Anyone who’s stepped into a literary community—readings, performances, writing workshops, mfaprograms—will testify to the disclaimers that issue regularly from the mouths of women writers in particular. “This is just something I thought I’d try,” and “I’m not really a poet, but…” are words regularly uttered even by those who made drastic life changes in order to carve out time to write. I prepared for months for a major fiction contest in college, for instance, which I entered five years in a row, claiming to others each time that I just “threw something together.” Later, I applied to a single mfa fiction program, and told no one until I got in. I just didn’t want anyone to know what I wanted most. Perhaps I was preparing for failure: If I said openly that I not only wanted to be a writer but that I worked hard at it, my ambitions could be judged against external rewards—and easily dismissed when I missed out on them.



p.s. Galleys of I’ll Tell You in Person have arrived at the Coffee House offices. Email Amelia Foster if you want one for a review or interview. I should have my own copies, today, hopefully! You can also pre-order the book on Amazon or wait and pre-order from a more independent bookstore, like Powell’s. Regardless, thanks for all of the support, readers.

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indie bookstore day

The ‘bad women’ event at The Strand was rad. I was nervous as hell, not gonna pretend we all didn’t chug wine before we went on stage. If you’re interested, you can listen to it podcast style on Joyland Magazine. Sort of amazing how many people attended. It says something about something, women, and writing, but I’m not sure what.

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probably talking about eileen myles or jill soloway
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Isaac Fitzgerald, Emily Schultz, Anna North, me and Jenny Zhang

I’m reading in Chicago on April 30th with Chelsea Martin, Elizabeth Ellen, Juliet Escoria, Mira Gonzalez, and Amanda Goldblatt at Unabridged Bookstore the day AFTER Karl Ove Knausgaard reads there (lol) as part of Independent Bookstore  Day, presented by the publisher Curbside Splendor. Sounds like there’ll be free hoppy beer.

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Last night was the last of my 6-week personal essay workshop at Catapult in NYC.

Sniff sniff. We played a (drinking) game called HIT SEND where the girls all submitted essays to publications in real time.

we played a drinking game last night called HIT SEND
From L to R: Aneri, Jane, Jessica, Kristy, Jessie, Becca, Ashley, Juliana Daria


Aneri, Jessaica, Jane, Jessie, wine bar downstairs



Applications for my next class at Catapult are open.

Instructor: Chloe Caldwell

Dates: Wednesdays, July 20 – August 24

Time: 6:30 – 8:30pm

Fee: $495

Number Of Students: 6-9

1140 Broadway, Suite 704, NY NY 10001

Co-Sponsored By Electric Literature

Submit a writing sample here.


I have a box full of my book WOMEN, if you want a signed copy, paypal $15 to and I’ll send one out.

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bad women

This event at The Strand is in three weeks. 1k ppl say they’re going, so, uh, wish me luck with my stream of consciousness talking. More info here. Hope to see you there on Apr. 21st.

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My 30th bday was sweet, here’s a pic from a dinner I had w some bad (ass) women at The Jane Hotel.


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photoshop by Logan Sachon

In the past month or so I read some great essays about turning 30. Click the photo to read the essays.

The late 20s and early 30s seem to be a turning point in many modern women’s lives. For a while I’ve been taking note of creative women I admire who come into their own and start producing amazing work on the cusp of 30. Margaret Atwood and Joan Didion published their first books at age 29. Patti Smith recorded Horses at 29. Tina Fey was 29 when she was named head writer of Saturday Night Live. bell hooks published her first major work, Ain’t I a Woman?: Black Women and Feminism, when she was 29. (No wonder everyone loves a 29-year-old.) Oprah had just turned 30 when she landed her first TV talk show. Martha Graham was 32 when she opened the Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance. Diana Vreeland landed her very first job in magazines at age 33. Dorothy Parker published her first volume of poetry at 33. —Ann Friedman

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“On Turning 30” by Molly Crabapple on VICE

For me, many of the privileges of getting older have been bound up with getting cash. As an artist, I’ve done better than most.  Each year I’ve managed to hack together more opportunities, and paint with more mastery, until one day, I realized I was no longer flailing just to stay afloat. Being 30 is sweet. Saying I was 30 I pointlessly despised. Molly Crabapple

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Sure, my boobs were a bit perkier at 25, but I didnt have the right bra.

Karley Sciortino

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But my favorite paragraph about growth, maturity, getting older is from Elisa Albert in her essay Currency, on leaving NYC.

Its just you miss the reckless girl who lived here. Retarded funny stubborn blind unforgiving little wench, beholden to no one, blindly enacting her will on everything, everyone. It was your youth! Now youre older and wiser and better in about a thousand ways. A halfway decent sense of self on a good day, for starters. Now you know some things about where to put your energy, about what it means to build up instead of tear down, what its like to nurture good things so they grow. You wouldnt trade anything for anything. All of this is true. And yet let us not skirt the issue that something was lost. Something has been lost.” —Elisa Albert

Thanks to The Strand (apparently they think I used to work there) for putting my book in the window with Patti Smith. Nice book placement is helping me finally earn royalties, wheeee!

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Major Dramatic Question

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!!!

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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. 

Ashley C. Ford
Ashley C. Ford beaming

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.


Complimentary champagne
Complimentary champagne


Donate To A Hungry Ghost

Part 1: On Saturday I went to yoga class, and afterwards my deceased friend who used to teach that Saturday morning class, Maggie Estep, was loud in my head. Then I realized her birthday had just passed. And I started reading her blog. And found this post I’d read before. I’m pasting it here:

I’ll Buy That For A Dollar by Maggie Estep, 2013:

A while back, the prolific and excellent writer Joe Lansdale posted something funny on his Facebook feed.  I can’t find the post, but it was really good.

The post said something about how, oftentimes, when you tell someone you meet you’re a writer, they ask:

“Would I have heard of you?”

“How the fuck should I know?“

Okay, actually, I don’t think that was Joe’s post, but his was about going to the dentist and the dentist saying:

“You’re a writer?  I’ll expect a signed copy of your next book when it comes out. “

And Joe says:  “Good, and I’ll expect a free root canal.”

Totally paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it.

I laughed and laughed.

A surprising number of people don’t understand that writers and musicians and painters are not waifish dilettantes flitting about, subsisting on flowers and good lighting.

This is how we make our living.

Buy our shit or we die.

Most people grasp that Adele and Stephen King have products in stores that can be bought, but seem to assume that, if they haven’t heard of those of us who are less well known, then our work cannot be bought, or is perhaps shitty and shouldn’t be bought.

Sometimes people tell me:  Oh, after meeting you I went to the library and took out a copy of  one of your books. I really enjoyed it.  And then I loaned it to my entire family.

It’s a compliment, I suppose, but, really, can’t you just buy ONE of my books? They’re not all great,  but they don’t cost more than a cappuccino and a muffin and they’ll make you feel things.  I promise you that.

More and more, a lot of us do give our work away for free — or for whatever a person wishes to pay for it.  We blog.  We put up pay-what-you-wish downloads of our records.  Etc.

See the indefatigable Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk, The Art of Asking.  It’s part of why I finally decided, Fuck it, I’ll ASK!

All the industries behind the arts are in upheaval.  I’m not going to snivel about it. The world changes, sometimes quite rapidly. That is one of the beautiful mysteries of being alive.

It was seeing Jon Katz’s “Donate” button that was the final straw for me, that made me rip at the resistance I felt about ASKING.  And I’ve installed a “Donate” button on this blog.

Nurture the things you love or they die.

So I think it’s okay to offer people the opportunity to donate to this blog.

I might die tomorrow. You might die tomorrow.


(she did die 'tomorrow'.)
(she did die ‘tomorrow’.)

If you found one of my books in the stuff your ex left behind and read half of it then forgot it on a park bench, you could give me a dollar.

If you saw me on MTV when you were 15 and thought I was hot and put me in the spank bank for future masturbatory fodder, you could give me five dollars.

If you’re a high school student performing one of my poems in speech competitions, you could give me a dollar.

If you wonder how I’m going to keep from going to debtors prison before finishing my next novel, you could give me several dollars.

Or not.  That’s fine too. You can just think nice things about me.  In the yoga philosophy, they say this is really powerful. This thinking of nice things.  I have found it to be true.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite Bob Holman poems:

You know things


And then, if you want, give me a dollar.



Part 2: There’s a long essay in my forthcoming collection titled Hungry Ghost. It’s about a time 2 years ago when an über famous celebrity was supposedly coming to sleep over at my apartment. The essay is about success, money, status, the internet, female friendship and ambition.

The essay was originally called The Celebrity. But when I was holed up in a cabin in Rhododendron, Oregon for a few days to work on my book, my friend Fran  told me about the Hungry Ghost concept after reading a draft of my essay. I spent those days working on my essay and listening to Tara Brach talk about what it means to be a Hungry Ghost on her podcast.  I promptly changed the title of my essay.


So I was surprised on Saturday when I came across a post called Lulu The Hungry Ghost on Maggie’s website, about her cat. Then I was even MORE shocked when I read this paragraph so eerily similar to one from my essay. I will paste them back to back below:

There is, in Buddhism, the figure of the hungry ghost.  A revenant with a tiny mouth and a huge belly, constantly hungry but unable to sate itself through its miniscule mouth.  It’s meant to symbolize beings who crave insatiably.  Often, it refers to addicts.  In some cases, beings who eat, um, FECES and the bodies of dead humans. No one can fill our big hungry ghost stomachs.  I think we have to come to terms with wanting or be doomed to die wanting. Wanting more and more and more.  Too much is never enough.

—Maggie Estep, April 19, 2013

In Buddhism, the term hungry ghost refers to the person whose appetite exceeds their capacity for satisfaction. The visual of a hungry ghost is a Buddha-ghost with a tiny mouth and an enormous stomach. They’re greedy, starved for money, sex, drugs, power, status, all the good stuff. More is never enough. Though I’ve done my fair share of self-work—therapy, books, yoga teacher training, meditation—I have hungry ghost tendencies I must keep in check. When I started what I thought would be this epic friendship with the Celebrity, I really did want to be close and intimate with her, but my hungry ghost started haunting my dreams, surprising even me.

—me, 2016, Hungry Ghost, I’ll Tell You In Person

Damn! I mean…uncanny. Really.

Here’s the thing: I’m sure 70% of people have a Hungry Ghost inside them. It’s normal. It’s being aware of it that matters.

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Then I drove to Maggie’s grave and delivered flowers.


Part 3: In July, it will have been one year that I have been working full time for myself.

I am doing better financially, as I approach my 30th birthday, then I’ve ever done. I have gained traction in my 29th year. (See: The Power of 29) I still worry over money every day. But I ask for more. I was recently asked to write an essay on any type of pain for a launching publication in LA called END PAIN. The editor could pay me 400, she said, for 1500 words. I asked for 500. Absolutely, she said.

I love this essay Story of The Fuck Off Fund on The Billfold.

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I’ve been wanting to do this for a year now, so finally, yesterday, Samuel Sargent helped me install a DONATE button on my site. You can see it on the right side bar underneath my books.

And if you ever feel inclined to donate a few bucks to me, I am grateful.

I would not have been able to work for myself if it hadn’t been for Gotham Writer’s Workshop, Litreactor, Catapult, and the people (probably you) who sign up for those classes. (I’m planning to write a post called LETTERS TO PEOPLE WHO PAID ME b/c many of you buy my books directly from me, and pay me to work with you one on one. Thank you.)

But, I’m still poor. It’s just how it is. I’m doing better, but my version of ‘better’ is relative.

I work for myself, i.e. I work for a million different people.


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p.s.  I have also written about $$$ here and here and here.

p.p.s. I love this essay by Ann Friedman, One Weird Trick For Keeping Female Employees From Quitting as well as this conversation about $$$ between Logan Sachon and Emily Gould. 


2 classes & an Interview

I’m teaching an online 10-week memoir class at Gotham Writer’s Workshop beginning May 3rd-July 12th. If you sign up before March 21st, you get $30 off.

You must use the promotion code EBN30B16 when registering
Code expires Monday, March 21 at midnight!


I’m also teaching a 6-week personal essay class IRL in NYC, beginning July 20th. APPLY HERE.

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Cosmonauts Avenue did an interview with me about WOMEN. Caroline Rayner wrote a beautiful intro and asked some really interesting Qs I’m never asked.

I read Chloe Caldwell’s novella, WOMEN, for the first time last spring. I was still getting used to living alone after my boyfriend suddenly broke up with me and moved out. I was counting down the days until I’d leave Virginia for Massachusetts. I was trying to work and read and write constantly.

Last year I promised myself I’d read more books by women, and I found out about Chloe Caldwell through a Shabby Doll House list where Lucy K. Shaw picked WOMEN as one of her favorite books of 2014. I remember flipping to the epigraph the day WOMEN showed up in my mailbox. “‘Girls are cruelest to themselves.’ Anne Carson, The Glass Essay.” I remember texting my friend something like, “I am already devastated.”

I wrote in my journal after finishing WOMEN that it made me feel torn up and that I wanted to read it a hundred more times. The narrator moves to a new city and falls in love with a woman for the first time, a much older woman named Finn, and everyone, including the reader, knows that it cannot work. But you still ride it out. I recognized bits of myself constantly, like when the narrator says, “It’s just that I love a good train wreck, possibly to distract me from my own.”

Like when she freaks out and smashes her phone. Like when she can’t quite let Finn go. I felt raw, and for weeks afterward I thought about how dangerous it can be to let yourself disappear inside the world of someone you love. I was trying to create my own world, but I wasn’t quite sure who I wanted to be.

Read the whole thing here.


I was supposed to share my cover in a few weeks but yesterday I saw that Amazon and Goodreads (add it to your to-read list!) already has it up. So here it is! Designed by Patricia Capaldi. If you want to do an interview or review it for a publication, you may request a galley from my publicist, the great Amelia Foster. They will be available April 28th. The book will officially release October 4th, 2016. (Which is weird b/c WOMEN also released 10/4. 10:04! Like the Ben Lerner book!)