What I’m Digging Right Now #7

Through the magic of my Roku device, I’ve been gorging on biographies of people who kick serious ass. These films equate to a nonfiction lover’s Avengers series. In each one our hero goes against some serious odds and comes out the other side penning Supreme Court dissents, producing stunning music and art, or scorching the tennis court. I can’t think of any better therapy right now.


Are you kidding me? Who ARE you, Ruth Bader Ginsberg? Working till 4 in the morning and showing up at the court at 9—in your EIGHTIES? Your quiet rage is everything. Favorite moment: Justice Ginsberg planking next to her personal trainer. “She’s a cyborg,” he says, describing her relentless will at the gym. Bonus: The doc lends a face to the voice we know as Nina Totenberg. There’s never been a better time to watch this documentary. Available now on Hulu.

badBad Reputation 

Joan Jett is the RBG of the rock world, just steadily killing it and paving the way for other women with rare modesty and humility. Favorite scene: Joan singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at Nirvana’s induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Here we are now, entertain us. Bad Reputation is in theaters right now. I rented it through FandangoNow for 6.99. Worth it.



Fascinating walk through the life of a musician and producer who broke through so many barriers. Many juicy behind the scenes peeks at his marriage to Peggy Lipton (The Mod Squad!), his relationship with Michael Jackson, the production of “We Are The World” and more. Favorite moment: Quincy walking on stage at the opening of the National Museum of African American Art and History at the Smithsonian with his daughter Rashida Jones. Netflix.

serena.jpgBeing Serena

I have a temporary HBO subscription so I can wolf down Season 3 of Insecure and found Being Serena there. Mesmerized by Serena, I’d watch her in anything and this series is compelling in its portrayal of her determination to come back to tennis after her pregnancy. However, Being Serena felt a little bit like an infomercial and I preferred the grittier view of her offered by the 2016 documentary Serena

dianaDiana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel

Interesting look into the work of a woman with a limitless imagination and a tremendous sense of style. Pay equity issues fought, glass ceilings cracked.Amazon Prime.

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What I Read this Summer

In no particular order:

there thereOrange, Tommy. There There (This book is exquisite).

Kaling, Mindy. Why Not Me? (Not quite as good as her first book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? but that’s an awfully high bar).

Albertine, Viv. Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys.

Taylor, Sonya Renee. The Body Is Not an Apology. (Essential reading for owners of a female body).

Reber, Deborah. Differently Wired. (If you have a kid who marches to their own beat, this book is a wonderful differentlyresource).

Coulter, Kristi. Nothing Good Can Come From This.

Simon, Tami. The Self-Acceptance Project.

Brown, Brene. Braving the Wilderness.

Painter, Nell Irvin. Old for Art School.

Hurston, Nora Zeale. Dust Tracks on a Road.

Jerkins, Morgan. This Will Be My Undoing.

they can'tAbdurraqib, Hanif. They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us.

Rich, Adrienne. Essential Essays. (To be honest, I skimmed the literature essays and read the ones about her life and politics with rapt attention. The essay about motherhood is at least two decades ahead of its time).

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. (This book was read aloud to me by my daughter Grace. I’m still counting it).

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Book Giveaway!

I’m hosting a giveaway of California Calling: A Self-Interrogation this week tCover_CaliforniaCalling_finalo celebrate my friend Natalie Singer’s birthday. Yay! To enter for a chance to win, click on the link here and follow Natalie’s Amazon author page. The giveaway will end on June 1st or when the two giveaway copies have both been awarded. Sorry, only 18 and over and U.S. residents may enter the drawing.

Already read California Calling? The best birthday gift you can give an author is a nice review on Amazon or Goodreads.

theo and nat

Me with my friend Natalie

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How to Write a Personal Essay (That Stands a Chance)

writing in mexico2The live event has now passed. Purchase the digital recording of the webinar and its handouts by paying via Pay Pal below. A compelling personal essay transports the reader into the writer’s life and offers up a chance for the reader to see her own life anew. At its best, the personal essay is a form that illuminates the universal in the individual, that wrestles with the questions that haunt us all.

But, before you’ve written an essay that’s done all that, you’ve written a first draft resembling the scribblings of your teenage journal.

So how do you get from here to there? How do you transform your draft into something publishable, something compelling? Something that might have a hope of moving readers the way you’ve been moved by writers like Roxane Gay, Junot Diaz, Kiese Laymon, Cheryl Strayed, Leslie Jamison, and Ann Lamott?

In the class How to Write a Personal Essay (Sunday June 10th at 11am Pacific), I will guide you through the steps of writing, editing, and submitting a personal essay (that stands a chance of getting published). I will share in this two-hour webinar everything I possibly can about how to write that essay you’ve been trying to write (or avoiding writing altogether).

Buy Now ButtonTo register, pay $49 via Pay Pal now. Shortly after receipt of payment, I will send you a confirmation. (The confirmation email is not automated so “shortly after” means “after I see your email.) The live event has now passed. You can still purchase the digital recording of the webinar and its handouts by clicking on the Buy Now button above.

How to Write a Personal Essay will cover:

  • How to generate material compelling to both you and your readers
  • How to build up that material step-by-step into a essay
  • How to revise your opening paragraph so it catches an editor’s attention
  • How to build a story and an argument
  • How to land the final paragraph
  • How to find markets for your essay
  • How to write a zinger pitch

Webinar participants will receive:

  • A packet of recent example essays
  • A formidable list of publications currently seeking personal essays
  • Examples of actual pitches
  • A recording of the webinar
  • a Power Point slideshow with detailed instructions for writing a personal essay

Webinar format:

100 minutes of live instruction plus 20 minutes Q &A.

How to Write a Personal Essay starts at 11am Pacific Time on Sunday June 10, 2018.

author photo 4How to Write a Personal Essay Instructor: Theo Pauline Nestor is the author of Writing Is My Drink: A Writer’s Story of Finding Her Voice (And a Guide to How You Can Too (Simon & Schuster, 2013) and How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over (Crown, 2008), which was selected by Kirkus Reviews as a 2008 Top Pick for Reading Groups and as a Target “Breakout Book.” Her personal essays have been published in the New York Times, New Mexico magazine, The Establishment, The Rumpus, ParentMap, Happenmag, WomensDay.com, Alligator Juniper, Huffington Post, and numerous other places. See examples here. An award-winning instructor, Nestor has taught for the University of Washington’s Professional & Continuing Education program since 2006 and also teaches at Hugo House in Seattle. Nestor has produced a number of writing retreats, such as the Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat, Bird by Bird & Beyond, and the Black Mesa Writers’ Intensive, featuring keynotes from Anne Lamott, Cheryl Strayed, Julia Cameron, and Natalie Goldberg. You can follow her on Facebook here and on Twitter @theopnestor.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How does it work? At 11AM Pacific Time on Sunday June 10th, you will log into the GoToWebinar webinar by clicking on the link emailed after payment and registration. Even self-proclaimed technophobes have said they found the user experience of the GoToWebinar classes pretty straightforward.

The logistics: Shortly after you pay the class registration fee, you’ll be sent a confirmation email with a link to register on the Citrix webinar page. Citrix (GoToWebinar) will then send you a link for the course. Just before 11am on June 10th, you will be able to click on the link to enter the class. If you miss the class (or want to watch to it again), the recording will be available for you to watch at your convenience.

What if I miss the class? Shortly after the live webinar has ended, you’ll receive a link to a recording of the webinar, which you can watch anytime.

What if I know I can’t attend the live event but want to ask a question during the Q & A? Register for the class and email Theo your question at theonestorprods@gmail.com.

What if I want to ask a question about the class before I register? Email Theo at theonestorprods@gmail.com.

Can I pay via check, money order, or Venmo? Yes, email Theo at theonestorprods@gmail.com for instructions.

Can I purchase recordings of Theo’s other webinars via Pay Pal?

Yes! See details below.

Shortly after completing your purchase via Pay Pal, you will receive an email with a links to the recordings. (The email is not automated so “shortly” means “as soon as I see your email.”)



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Q: Do I need connections to find an agent?

Q: Do I need connections to find an agent?

A: No, you can find an agent without connections, but you do need to be prepared before you initiate the search.

Here are some guidelines:

1) You need to be at the right moment with your work. The moment to find an agent is when you have a completed manuscript or when you have a completed nonfiction book proposal. Literary agents make their (commission-based) living by selling manuscripts and proposals, so they’re not interested in representing writers who don’t have a finished manuscript or proposal.

2) You need to have revised, edited, and proofread your query letter. Your query letter needs to tell the agent: Why you’re writing to that particular agent, what your book is about (in three-four sentences max), and who you are. Your query needs to do all this in approximately 250 words. I think about “screenfuls” with agents and editors. I want to get my message to them without the need to scroll. Looking for help with your query letter? Check out this post from Jane Friedman. Jane is a great resource for all matters publication related. She has an excellent new book out this month: The Business of Being a Writer 

3) You need to be prepared to endure a long search and to regroup if needed. I’ve heard it said that an agent search can take six months of steady work. If you’re not getting bites on the query letter, there’s something in the query that needs fixing. The manuscript might be completely marketable, but if the query isn’t doing its job, no agent will ever read your book. Conversely, a great query can get nibbles even if it’s for a terrible book.

Resources for finding an agent to query:

1) Acknowledgement pages. Look at some of your favorite recent books acknowledgement pages for the line “Thanks to my indefatigable agent…” .

2) Use the database on Publishers Marketplace or agentquery.com. 

All that said, connections DO help. But you don’t have to be born with connections; you can make them. A magazine editor I worked with connected me to her agent. Later, when I needed to find another agent (a long story…), another writer connected me to her agent. I met these connections through writing and sending my work out and going to readings. You can meet connections too. Write. Submit. Participate.

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Q: Can I have it all?

Another great anonymous question from one of my students…

Q: Is it reasonable to think I can do grad school/kids/job all at the same time?

To be honest, I haven’t done exactly that. I did one grad degree when I was single with no kids (advisable!) and the other one (an MFA) when I had a three year old (and I had a baby halfway through the MFA program), but I didn’t work full time then, just part-time as a contractor. I found that challenging but doable (partly because I had enough support at the time to pull that off. More about that below).

I do have friends, though, who’ve done MFAs while working full time and raising young kids. They were extremely busy during those two years and seemed to be able to do it because they had all or some of the following: 1) A true partner who truly does half the work of keeping the family going and will at times do more without resentment; 2) A job in which you work some or all of the time from home and therefore have more flexibility to manage the three arenas of your life; 3) hired help with the kids and house; 4) a willingness to let other parts of their life go for a while.

Low-residency MFAs do seem to work better than traditional MFA programs if you have a family and full-time work. On the Poets and Writers website, you can access a full list of MFA programs and search for low-residency programs. I also like this list (although it includes some non-CW degrees). I have heard good things from students/others who’ve attended these low-res Creative Writing MFA programs: Goddard, Pacific University, Warren Wilson, Bennington.

It’s important to look at advantages and disadvantages when answering these questions for oneself and to understand that a lot of times other people’s privilege isn’t visible to the naked eye. Sometimes we don’t see the family money motoring away making a creative life possible or the spouse who does most of the child raising, just as we don’t see the invisible struggles many face. So ask yourself: How much support do I have to take on grad school right now? Can I/we survive if I work less hours for pay? Do I have savings I could draw from? Will I have help with my kids? Something I always tell myself is “I’m only as good as my support.” We can have it all, but only if we have some form of help..childcare, house cleaning, cash, carpooling, understanding….something.



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What Will My Family Think?

I just finished my quarter as the Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Seattle University. I hadn’t taught college-age students in a long time and was a bit nervous, but they were so, so engaged. So willing to dig in. So brave. And so good at supporting each other. On the last day of class, I asked them to anonymously submit any questions they had about becoming a writer. I didn’t get to answer all of them in class, so I started writing up my answers and posting them on our class bulletin board. I thought I’d share a few of them here this week. Here’s the first one….

Q: They say you should write like your parents are dead, but what if they are alive? Do people ever get mad?

A:  Yesterday in class we talked about the fact that yes, people can indeed be angered/hurt by things you write. We also discussed one strategy for initially avoiding dealing with some of those feelings (i.e. Not telling your family about the publication and not sharing the work on social media). This is obviously a strategy with huge limitations as avoidance strategies are never full-proof or very effective for the long haul.

Here are some other ideas:

1. Write the things you really desperately need to say that will likely hurt/anger others, but do not publish those pieces. Just the act of writing these things down can be extremely helpful as it can allow us to move on and write about other topics and sometimes the writing act can open up ways into the material that might not be so hurtful to others, such as:

2. Focus on your part, your feelings. If you minimize the parts of the story in which the Person Did the Bad Thing and talk more about the impact on you, it can make for a more interesting story and also minimize the focus on the person who did the bad thing. You might also think about your part in the situation. This really only works for stories with an adult narrator as children aren’t complicit in their circumstances, but with your adult narrator ask yourself the question, “Did I play a role in creating this problem?” If you did not (sometimes people are hideous and we did nothing), you might think of other stories in which you were less than perfect. Showing those narratives adjacent to the stories of in which Someone Did a Bad Thing  creates a more balanced view of life and a more trustworthy narrator.

3. Think about books and essays in which someone told the truth and that truth made you realize you are not alone. Most writers possess a list of books and essays that changed their lives. When you write the truth about your life, you are offering a gift to your readers. You are sacrificing some of your own privacy so that they can have the experience of knowing they are not the only ones who’ve ever felt those feelings. As Anne Lamott once said, Now it’s your turn to be the host. It’s your turn to tell the truth–and to live with the consequences good and bad of telling that truth.

4. Remember that it’s not our job in life to cover up for other people. Of course, we don’t want to run around needlessly hurting people or stripping them of their privacy, but we also don’t have to hide how we’ve been hurt so they won’t be embarrassed.

5. Avoid using names. Whenever possible, change details that identify the person. Read the author’s note in multiple memoirs and see how those writers have given themselves permission to change identifying details.

6. Build that writing community. When you spend time with other people who spend time trying to write the truth about their lives and living with the consequences of doing so, you will likely be emboldened to do so yourself. Or, at least you’ll have some people to invite over for Thanksgiving.

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Jennifer Haupt: Create Rituals to Keep the Faith in Your WIP

Hi Readers,

I greatly enjoyed this post about keeping the faith by Jennifer Haupt and hope you will too. Jennifer’s debut novel In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills (Central Avenue Press) is available now. In Seattle? Jennifer Haupt will be in conversation with novelist Jennie Shortridge at the book launch for In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills at Elliott Bay Book Company on Friday April 6th at 7:00pm. 

More soon!


Create Rituals to Keep the Faith in Your Work-In-Progress

by Jennifer Haupt


I’ll never forget when I finished the manuscript for my novel. The first time.

Eight years ago, I sat in a cafe with a friend from my writing group who was also under the mistaken impression that her novel was fully baked. We clinked glasses of chardonnay and toasting to our imminent success. Six-figure advances! The New York Times bestseller list! Maybe even Oprah’s book club! None of that happened. Instead, all 35 editors who my agent sent my manuscript to said in one way or another: “Nope, this isn’t even close to finished.”

10,000 Hills High-res CoverIn fact, it would be a total of 11 years from the time I first stared at a blank “page one” on my computer screen until publication of In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills.  How did I keep the faith during all those years? The truth is: I didn’t, not at first. It was a daily battle that some days I won and some days, well, I ate a lot popcorn and guzzled ginger beer (my comfort foods).

There were many days during those first three years and beyond, if I’m honest, when I beat myself up pretty thoroughly for not writing enough or deleting more than I saved (despite Ann Lamott’s blessing to write crap).  At some point, though, during the year after 35 editors rejected my manuscript, I realized I need to develop some self-compassion skills, not just writing skills, if I really wanted to finish this novel — and sell it.

I know, it sounds cliché to say, “Success is found in the daily process of writing, not just the end-game of publication.” I’m not saying having a publisher finally — finally! — accept my manuscript wasn’t cause to pop the champagne cork. But if you measure success only by publication, the odds are high you will be disappointed. You will, without a doubt, beat yourself up on a regular basis. Worst of all: you may quit long before you reach that champagne-worthy end goal.

Creating rituals, not just for writing but for a writing life, can be to keeping the faith in your work in progress (WIP). It was for me.

Beginning to write has become a mindful process: sitting in a leather Barcalounger, my designated fiction chair, lighting a candle, patting the head of my pink quartz Buddha, turning my amethyst crystal so that the eye is toward me, setting the timer on my phone for 30 minutes, taking three deep breaths.

I get very little accomplished, as far as putting words on the pages of my manuscript goes, during those first 30 minutes. I hold my mug with both hands, swirling coffee. I read a passage from The War of Art, which has become my bible. I write in my process journal, maybe puzzling a piece of troublesome plot or getting better acquainted with a character. These rituals are all signals to my soul and also, I believe, to a higher power  — I call it my WIP muse. (You may choose to call it something else.) I am ready to enter novel-land.

These rituals, while they may seem unimportant or even obsessive-compulsive, served to keep me grounded me in my work during the past 11 years. They helped me to keep the faith. Hopefully, they’ll help you — or you’ll make up meaningful rituals of your own.


Jennifer Haupt went to Rwanda as a journalist in 2006, twelve years after the genocide, to JenHaupt_Author Photoexplore the connections between forgiveness and grief. She spent a month interviewing survivors and humanitarian aid workers, and returned to Seattle with something unexpected: the bones of a novel. Haupt’s essays and articles have been published in O, The Oprah MagazineThe RumpusPsychology TodayThe Sun and many other publications. In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills is her first novel.

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Cover_CaliforniaCalling_finalThis week I had the pleasure to interview my dear friend and new author, Natalie Singer, on the publication of her new memoir, California Callinga gorgeous coming-of-age story that takes a hard look at what it means to grow up girl and offers up a complex and nuanced investigation into how we become who we are. Lidia Yuknavitch says of the book: “California Calling split my heart open.” And the book–to be released next week–is already getting rave reviews. It’s a beauty. Get it. Read it. Tell your friends.

THEO NESTOR: Welcome, Natalie! I’m excited to dig in and ask you about how this book came to be.

A question I get asked a lot is “How long does it take to write a book?” I find this question hard to answer because I’m often drawing upon material I wrote long before I officially started a book and because I’ve usually written in fits and starts in between bouts of teaching and parenting and staring out the windowWhat about you? Do you remember when you truly started California CallingIs there a scene in it that you think of as the book’s genesis? 


Natalie Singer

Natalie Singer

NATALIE SINGER: I agree with you, it’s hard to pinpoint. In a way I was writing this book since I was about three years old. I believe all our most important memories come back to us obsessively, or else sometimes stay subconsciously hidden until the right moment, so that we are compelled to do the important work of interrogating them. We need to investigate these intense memories in order to understand how our experiences have shaped us. This understanding is essential for our self-indentities, to know who we are. A handful of memories from my childhood have preoccupied me for a long time, and I think I have always known that I would eventually write about and out from them. One of those memories, of standing on a courtroom witness stand, is the scene I would say is the book’s genesis. But a handful of scenes—the courtroom when I was sixteen; me as a toddler listening to my parents’ records while they looked on; me at twentysomething driving down a dark California highway, windows open to the artichoke-and-garlic-scented air—are at the center of the book’s origins.


About eight years ago I began to write some of the material that eventually became the book. I first worked on a version that was driven by a more traditional narrative structure. I played around with versions of the surface story—after my family kind of exploded I moved from my Canadian city to California, a place I had romanticized since I was a girl. And as I worked and reworked the story, leaving it and coming back to it, I realized there were deeper themes at play, beyond the coming-of-age story. About three years ago I decided a more fragmented, lyric approach was what I needed and the book in its current form began taking shape.

Oh, and staring out the window is 100 percent part of writing!

NESTOR: California Calling is subtitled “A Self-Interrogation.” Why? 

SINGER: The book is built on a scaffold of queries, where an interrogative voice asks the narrator questions, often probing, sometimes confrontational. The book deals with both a literal silencing, having to do with that courtroom memory, and thematically with what I call the silencing of girlhood. These questions, which sometimes act as chapter titles, provide a way for the narrator to confront the state of being silenced. While this is the form I chose for this particular book, I think in a more broad way that memoir as a genre is always a type of self-interrogation.

NESTOR: “The silencing of girlhood.” Wow. I’ve never heard it put that way, but yes, that rings so true.

 When I met you nine years ago, you’d recently decided to take a break from journalism and were just starting in on writing personal narrative. But most of those years in between you’ve been working full-time as well as raising a family. What helped to keep you on the path of getting your own writing done?

SINGER: Feeling that I wouldn’t be a good enough person if I didn’t write this book. Ha, how’s that for exposing my insecurities? Practically, participating in a series of classes and writing programs, starting with your yearlong memoir class nine years ago, helped me continue to move forward with my writing in spite of the intense demands of “real life.” Juggling writing with work and family responsibilities is challenging, but that pressure, for me, is also very motivating and even generative. With so little time, I learned to maximize the moments I had to think and write. I wrote parts of this book in between school pickups, on the soccer practice sidelines, in the driver’s seat of our minivan, at midnight in bed, at 7 a.m. Sunday morning when I could slip out undetected, and at weekend retreats where I could impose a necessary isolation.

Deadlines help me a lot—my journalist background—so being in an MFA program, which I completed in 2016, helped me push through and complete an earlier version of the book. The intensity of motherhood has actually fueled my writing. As a mother, I’ve learned to be selfish. It’s a bargain I made and live with: I love my children beyond all logic, but I am not willing to give up my art in order to mother them. Sometimes that means I miss things; sometimes that means I chose myself and my work. And yet I am still their mother and a damn good one. Somehow as women we have to answer for the quality of our mothering when we shave time off for art; men do not have to answer for this.

NESTOR: But what message would we be giving our kids if we deferred our dreams? If you have kids of your own one day, you can put your hopes on hold and then one day they’ll do the same for their kids? When does it end?  

Okay, back to CALIFORNIA CALLING. What about your road to publication? What was that like?

SINGER: Magical and anguished. I knew I wanted to have the book traditionally published, but I tried to keep my focus on writing it and not worrying ahead about what would happen after. As I finished the draft I began to think about what the right publishing scenario would be. Because the book became a hybrid lyric memoir that I feel pushes up against the boundaries of the genre, it felt like an independent publisher committed to bringing readers more experimental or overlooked story forms, from traditionally marginalized writers including women, would be the right home. I entered the manuscript in a handful of contests with such publishers. I decided that if nothing happened with those contests, I would begin the work of finding an agent. I was a finalist in two 2016 contests—the Autumn House Press nonfiction contest, and the Red Hen Press nonfiction contest, where I was the first runner up.

During that busy and exciting contest season, I had nearly forgotten that I had sent my manuscript to what I had decided early on would be a dream publisher: Hawthorne Books and Literary Arts, based in Portland, Oregon. Among other excellent books, Hawthorne published Lidia Yuknavitch’s breakout memoir, The Chronology of Water, a book that had become one of my totems.

The day Hawthorne publisher Rhonda Hughes reached out and said she wanted to publish California Calling was one of the most ecstatic of my life. I knew right away that she saw California the way I framed it, and that she would help bring the book to life in its perfect form.

Pursuing book publication can be very fraught. What helped me in addition to keeping my focus on the work while I was creating it was the opportunities that both contests and essay publication afford. In addition to being a finalist in those two manuscript contests, I’ve had several essays that were early versions of book excerpts published. One won the Alligator Juniper nonfiction contest, and one won the Pacific Northwest Writers Association nonfiction contest. Every publication and win helped embolden me and exposed my writing to editors and publishers who could become supporters. Submitting your work to journals and contest also builds the perseverance muscle: rejection becomes easier to deal with, and you nurture the grit to continue.


excerpt cc

from California Calling


NESTOR: What’s been the hardest part of the process of writing the book and bringing it into the world? What’s been the most fun? 

SINGER: The hardest process was figuring out how to structure the book, what form it should take. Before it was a book it was a pile of feelings inside me, and the process of translating those intangible feelings into a narrative felt at times insurmountable. One really fun thing: seeing the cover, and the book as a physical object, come to life. I’m not an e-book reader; I love the concreteness and beauty of a book as a paper-and-ink object. One reason Hawthorne is a dream publisher for me is that it prioritizes high quality covers with double-scored flaps, silky nonscuff matte lamination, and full-cover art (including flaps, back and spine), all designed by Adam McIsaac and Sibley House. I almost cried when I saw Adam’s visual interpretation of California Calling: the colors, typography, and overall design perfectly conjure the feel of my story and wink at some of the major themes in the book: the seventies, music, pop culture, and the chimerical nature of California and our personal mythologies.

NESTOR: OMG. That cover is to DIE for. Love it!

Natalie, thank you so much for visiting with me here on Writing Is My Drink!

Readers, If you’re in Seattle, come to Natalie’s book launch at Elliott Bay Book Company on Monday March 5th at 7pm.

Natalie Singer is the author of the memoir California Calling: A Self-Interrogation (March 2018). Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in Proximity, Hypertext, Literary Mama, Largehearted Boy, The Nervous Breakdown, Full Grown People, the anthology Love and Profanity (2015), and elsewhere. Her awards include the Pacific Northwest Writers Association nonfiction prize and the Alligator Juniper nonfiction prize. She has taught writing inside Washington State’s psychiatric facility for youth and is a 2017–2018 writer-in-residence at On the Boards. Natalie holds an MFA from the University of Washington.









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What I’m Digging Right Now #6


insecure.jpgYou guys, I’m so excited! I found a show I want to binge on. I’m always hearing about bingeing and I’ve only had a few shows that I’ve liked well enough to really want to devour them*. I can’t watch violence or even–sadly–shows with suspense because I’m such a nervous nelly, which rules out a lot of Throne of Games and Bad Breaking.

I know probably a lot of you discovered Issa Rae during Insecure‘s first season or even when she had her Awkward Black girl web series, but I just found her and I love her and the hilarious and oh-so-easy-to-relate-to character Issa in Insecure. I had to fork over cash for a month’s subscription to HBO, but it’s been well worth it. The only trouble is there are only two seasons and I’m almost all caught up. There’s going to be a Season Three though! Yay! Oh my God, watch it! (after the kids go to bed. You know, because HBO)

*Transparent, Mad Men, Friday Night Lights, Girls


We Are Never Meeting in Real Life

irby.jpg Samantha Irby’s We Are Never Meeting in Real Life is hella funny, but it also catches you off guard here and there and tells some disarming stories about growing up poor in America.

Speaking of devouring, I’ve read about 2/3rds of this book in the last twenty-four hours and plan to savor the last third as I know it’ll be a while before I read a book this funny and this insightful again.

Here’s a taste: “John was the kind of dude who already looked like someone’s dad; you know what I mean? Like, the kind of dude in mirrored shades who chews bubble gum really hard with his arms crossed over his chest, the kind of perpetually tan, leathery-skin motherfucker who always looks like he’s standing on a sideline somewhere.” See?

Ten-minute Workouts

weight watchers

I stumbled across this 10-Minute Belly, Butt & Thigh Tone ups DVD in the library (What would I do without the serendipity of the library??) and have made the amazing discovery that I can exercise even highly atrophied aspects of my body (belly) if I understand IT WILL ONLY BE FOR TEN MINUTES. Sometimes I even sweat my way through two 10-minute segments in a row. And all in the comfort of my own home. I froze my gym membership for the summer so I can spend money on healthy activities like HBO bingeing (see above).



Growing Gills


I discovered Jessica Abel’s work on creativity last year when I got hooked on her podcast Out on the Wire. The focus of the podcast is the process of radio storytellers, but the lessons in narrative and getting the work done are easily applicable to other genres. I bought Growing Gills for only 2.99 as an e-book and I’m linking to the e-book version here even though it’s also available in paperback. The e-book is just such a good deal and makes it easy to connect to the downloadable Growing Gills companion handbook (with helpful exercises). Abel seems to be an indefatigable worker, and at times her productivity advice can feel a little hyper, but she has great strategies for breaking the creative process down into doable chunks and practical ideas for finding your way through every long project’s inevitable “dark forest.”

The way a book has a life of its own

I’m not a huge John Meyer fan, but I’ve always been struck by the recalcitrant joy of these lines from “No Such Thing”:

I want to run through the halls of my high school
I want to scream at the
Top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world…

wimd-34And the way that twentysomething narrator wants to stick it to his teachers who used “the real world” as a means to  incite fear echos how I feel about the book promoting advice I felt beaten during book launches: “The first three months of publication are your one chance to get the word out there about your book.” Those words terrified me. Through both my book launches, I continued to teach, freelance write, and be a divorced parent of two. I could only do what I could do to get those books out into the world. It never felt like enough. I always felt guilty and like I’d let my books down because I didn’t drive to every bookstore in the state and shake hands with the booksellers, because I didn’t tour every blog, because I kind of suck at radio interviews.

paperback cover large fileBut since then I’ve come to understand that a book has a life of its own. Sometimes a book goes underground for a while and seems to disappear. But then it pops up. Your book has reached someone and they’re writing to you or they’re writing about your book or your book pops up on a list almost a decade after publication. This month I was so touched to read Nilofer Merchant’s post about how Writing Is My Drink inspired her when she was writing her book The Power of Onlyness. And then 26-Minute writer Amy Lemmon wrote a post about how she keeps going back to Writing Is My Drink and Bustle listed How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed in an article about books born out of Modern Love columns.

And I have to tell you, it feels really nice to know that these books born in 2008 and 2013 have lived on and are still finding their way into readers’ hands. I wanna run through the halls of my high school….






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