Tag Archives: creative nonfiction

Clip: Resource Published My Article on Flashes of Hope

28 Aug

Resource

The summer 2014 issue of Resource features an article I wrote that I’m extremely proud of. I interviewed the founder of Flashes of Hope, a nonprofit that takes photographs of children with cancer, to talk about how the portraits empower these children. The professional portraits also serve as lasting mementos for the families of the 25% of the children photographed who don’t survive. The nonprofit shows just how powerful art can be.

Cancer is a personal subject for me. This summer I did a few readings from a chapter I wrote called “Grief Gone Wild” about the summer I lost both of my grandmothers to cancer a month apart from each other. I was glad to likewise get to put my creative nonfiction to positive use to write this article on Flashes of Hope and show that moments of strength, beauty and even joy can be found even in the midst of trying times.

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Memoirists to Resent

16 Jul

FINALtoastlogo1

Mallory Ortberg’s post “The Top Ten Writers Whose Success You’ll Resent This Year” (via Poets & Writers) on The Toast is hilarious and spot on. I kind of resent her for it. I mean, I could’ve written it. You know, if I’d actually thought of it.

Here’s what she wrote about memoirists:

The Memoirist Who Is Your Age And Whose Life Eerily Parallels Yours

“Nobody should write a memoir before they’re fifty,” you announce to your friends over drinks. You are not fifty. “Everyone seems to think being 27 and unhappy in love is all you need to write a book about your life. You should have to get licensed before you can write one.” You are on your fourth glass of wine. It is Tuesday. “You should have to–be Gore Vidal, or a cultural attaché, or have invented genocide or something.” You spilled a little bit of your wine during that last remark, but it has landed on your napkin and you don’t think anyone noticed.

You have never been asked to write a memoir, but you would immediately if anyone seemed interested.

I’m pretty sure I’ve said something similar in the past about why MFA students in their twenties shouldn’t be allowed to enroll in memoir classes.

In other news, I haven’t worked on my memoir in about a year. But I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and I recently realized I have a whole new spin on the ending. That’s the funny thing about memoir. Just when you think you have an ending, something happens in your life that changes the ending … which, PS, reinforces my statement that you should write a memoir too young.

What writers do you resent?

Behind the Curtain: A Magazine Roundtable

8 Mar

Everyone complains about the cost of living in New York City, but I’ve never lived in any other town or city that offered such amazing free events.  It was a Leap Day miracle when McNally Jackson’s Bookstore held a free literary event featuring the esteemed literary editors of top magazines.  Behind the Curtain: A Magazine Roundtable brought together Deborah Treisman of The New Yorker, James Marcus of Harper’s, and Ellah Allfrey of Granta for a conversation moderated by Granta editor John Freeman.

 

 

And like all worthwhile free events, this one was PACKED!  Even many who got there early had to stand in the aisles of bookshelves because there were so many attendees.  Those who got there late listened from the stairs.  It was worth it.

The editors discussed using interns—MFA candidates, mind you, not undergrad students—to read through the slush pile (unsolicited manuscripts).  The result was that some interns turned away some really great work before the editors had a chance to see it, while other interns erred on the side of caution, passing too many candidates along to the editors.  I’ve read through slush piles for my grad school’s lit mag and for the children’s book department at my office, and what struck me was how patient the panelists were.  Reading through slush piles is a lot like panning for gold: most of it is just dirt that should be tossed out.

 

 

The panelist of editors were genuinely excited about working with new authors—even to the point of overlooking cover letters with the nebulous “Dear Editor/Reader.”  At one point, Freeman asked Granta’s associate editor Patrick Ryan, who was in the audience, to come up and share heartfelt stories of giving first-time contributors their big break.  For those looking to break into lit mags, it’s reassuring to know that the editors really do want to find great, undiscovered writers and are even willing to go through several rounds—one editor mentioned an astounding twenty-one!—of revisions to get a solid piece of work from a writer just starting out in his or her career.

Treisman, Marcus, and Allfrey also talked about what sort of writing they’re looking for, and while responses and desires ranged it was clear that they’re looking not only for high-quality writing (in fact, they admitted to sometimes having to turn away well-written pieces simply because the timing wasn’t right) but for writing that is unique, that covers an area that is has been underserved.  This includes writers from areas of the world where literature isn’t being promoted in the United States or England.

 

 

The magazine editors addressed the VIDA controversy, admitting that magazines are failing when it comes to representing women writers.  Treisman said there is a generational divide.  Older women weren’t submitting work to The New Yorker at the same rate as their male counterparts.  Today’s younger generation of women writers, though, are more apt to submit their work to bigger magazines earlier on in their writing careers.  The practical application here is that women writers should be submitting their work to big-name publications.

The big take-away from the night was that the short-story form is not dead.  As someone with a book publishing background, I’ve been taught to be leery of short-story collections.  They just don’t sell.  I’ve repeated this to hopeful writer friends of mine, perhaps crushing their tender, creative spirits.  However, it was clear from the Behind the Curtain discussion that, though the amount of publications have diminished, there are still beloved magazines publishing works of short fiction.  A lot of these magazines also publish personal essays.

MFAism: Hosting Summer Writing Workshop

22 Jun

Even though the MFA writing program is officially on summer break — whoo-hoo! — some of us from the creative-nonfiction writing workshop decided we were having so much fun (or something like that) that wanted to keep on meeting.  Last Tuesday we had our first informal workshop.  It was so nice to catch up with everyone and to chat about our writing.

As I’ve alluded, everyone in my classes always recommends I read David Sedaris when they find out I write about growing up Greek American.  I do get a kick out of David Sedaris, but it’s his sister Amy Sedaris who captured my heart with her book I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. There’s just something about us Greek women — we love hosting and feeding people.  I barely had anyone over during the semester so I was super-excited to volunteer hosting the writing workshop in my apartment.

Since my classmates have been giving me feedback all semester on the Greek American memoir I’m writing — and since I’m the Queen of Theme Parties — I of course prepared Greek meze for them.  I served feta cheese (imported from Greece!  I’m stimulating the Greek economy!), sliced tomatoes with sea salt, pita, red pepper & eggplant dip, dried apricots, and almonds.  The other writers graciously brought delicious homemade (!) scones and sumptuous red wine.  I pretty much gorged!

We had a great conversation about nonfiction vs. fiction writing and talked about the role of blogging in our writing.  Then we spent some time critiquing each other’s works.  I got helpful feedback on a short reflection I’d written about my experience at the 2011 Gabby Awards.  I really enjoyed reading their new pieces too.  Everyone has such interesting stories to tell!

Now I’ve got to get to work on the next chapter to submit!

In the meantime, if anyone has any tips on how to run a writing workshop, please post in the comments section.