I had always wanted to cook, but my first kitchen, no more than a 6-foot-by-6-foot linoleum-tiled square in my tiny walk-up apartment, stopped me from cooking anything more than couscous salad and the occasional batch of pumpkin muffins. I had always longed for a green thumb, but my first garden was a strip of shady, rocky soil, so I halfheartedly planted a few pansies and basil plants and waited patiently for another house that would have a garden with direct sun. I had always wanted to write, but I didn’t have a room of my own.
For a long time…
I’ve heard that a lot of writers have a similar origin story: They’re reading a novel and suddenly stop. “Holy crap,” they say, “I can do better than this!” Then they close the book and sit there, or they fall down and lie there, dazed.
“I can do better than this,” they whisper. “I really can.”
This is my story. It happened with a book my mother gave me called The Strumpet Sea. I don’t remember the book, but I think it was about a strumpet and a sea.
By the way, what’s your book? Which one made you cry…
We hear it incessantly: We’re living in unprecedented times. Something we hear just as often but talk about a lot less is this: We’re all under constant pressure to use this unprecedented time. Everyone, it seems, has been taking up hobbies, baking banana bread, nurturing houseplants and sourdough starters, developing and fine-tuning complex skin care routines. Time is a gift, and who are we to waste it?
By all accounts, this past year should’ve been a boom time for creatives. While we were once expected to pick out outfits and commute and dine in restaurants and attend friends’ gigs and…
I asked “When you told your friends you don’t love me anymore, how did they feel?” and you said “Not surprised.”
Three days later you posted a photo and your friends were like “You’ve never looked happier!!!” and they were right.
My friends don’t ask me where you are anymore because they know I don’t know.
I guess we were ships crashing in the night.
So now my memory of you is like money in a glass case in the sea: beautiful, untouchable, distorted, seductive, sinking. …
I’ve recently had a revelation that should have been obvious but for some reason wasn’t; the older you get, the less charming it is to tell stories about yourself.
As someone who spent at least the first half of her career mining her life for interesting/funny/embarrassing/emblematic-of-larger-cultural-phenomena anecdotes that I could write up for magazines or whip out at dinner parties, this sparked a bit of a crisis. Who am I if can’t take my daily micro-dramas and recast them as zany antics for fun and profit? What happened to the girl who could turn a bad date into a 1,500-word…
I was already a bit of a mess a year ago, just as the world changed forever. I bit my nails, pulled out strands of hair. I stared at the ceiling some nights, convinced I could hear a faint, constant ringing. “Aren’t you nervous for your book to come out?!” people asked. “Not really,” I answered. I don’t know why it felt right to lie. Not right — essential, as though only by performing cool-girl calm could I show my panic who was boss, shove it back into its hole.
I’ve had a lot of lives as a writer. I started out as a poet. At 26, I was in grad school for fiction. By 29, I freelanced personal essays and worked as an editor at an alt-weekly, writing art criticism. At 31, I wrote my first book, a memoir. By 33, I was writing widely on gender and culture. At 34, I wrote my second book, a reported memoir. By 37, I’d tried my hand at my first episode of television. And now, at 40, I’m working on my first feature film script.
Some people might accuse me of…
There are a handful of dates in history that mark watershed moments for the English language. The year 1066: the beginning of the Norman Conquest of Britain, which would introduce a wealth of French borrowings into what was then a purely Germanic tongue. The year 1590: Shakespeare’s first foray into playwriting. And 1959: the year that E.B. White published his revised version of William Strunk Jr.’s The Elements of Style, a work that, in the decades to come, would inform popular opinions about how to competently express oneself in writing. In particular, it triggered the phenomenon of “which-hunting,” the systematic…
My son, completely at wits’ end with Zoom education, left for boarding school last month, so my husband and I became, a few years ahead of schedule, empty nesters. I had not yet given this phase of my life much thought; my son is in 10th grade, so I had assumed I had three more years of hands-on parenting. …
SETTING: A dark, bare stage. Beaten wood floors, well-trod. Two chairs are set out at oblique angles to one another.
YOUR CHARACTER: Can we talk?
YOU: Sure. What’s up?
YOUR CHARACTER: I feel like we’re growing apart. Like we don’t know each other anymore.
YOU: Oh. (scratches chin) Okay.
YOUR CHARACTER: Don’t get defensive.
YOU: No, I’m not —
YOUR CHARACTER: Don’t make excuses either.
YOU: I —
YOUR CHARACTER: Just hear me out.
YOU: Okay, okay! You got it. What’s this about? What can I do?
YOUR CHARACTER: Thank you. This means a lot to me. Because this is…
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