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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Amy Lemmon’s 26-Minute Memoir

385px-California_26.svgThe 26-Minute Memoir is back! I have a big backlog of wonderful 26-Minute Memoirs that readers of Writing Is My Drink have sent me over the last two years, and I’m going to start posting them here again. Here to start us back up is a beautiful twenty-six minute piece from Amy Lemmon.

If you’d like to write one of your own, you can read about the 26-Minute Memoir project here.

Amy Lemmon’s 26-minute memoir  (a self-portrait)

I am a mother, a writer, a college professor. I am a caregiver, an amateur cook, a wanna-be tidy-upper, a control freak, a decider who is often indecisive. I am on the run from myself because I am afraid I am not the person everyone thinks I am—a long-suffering parent of a child with a disability (and one without), a passionate reader and writer of poetry and prose, a committed educator always available to students and colleagues. Recently I have added “middle manager” to my self-description and that is one of the areas of which I am most ashamed. I make mistakes, the kind often made by someone whose passion outweighs her power, whose vision overreaches her limits, who refuses to take no for an answer without a reasonable explanation and who does not consider “because _______ says so” to be reasonable.

I am often subjected to the misplaced admiration of friends and acquaintances, along the lines of “I don’t know how you do it”: How do you keep up with scheduling deadlines, respond to emails within 24 hours, manage the care and coordination of fifty-plus teachers of English and Communication Studies, only a handful of them full-time? How do you mentor colleagues new and old, meet with students, field endless complaints and requests from all of the above, go to the endless meetings, meetings, meetings required at every step? And then they see the photos, sadly outdated, of my son and daughter on the corkboard above my desk. “I forget you have this whole other life,” a coworker once said. Sometimes, nay, often, in that office with its view of ever-under-construction Midtown West (aka Hells Kitchen), so do I.

My whole other life is an exercise in stretching, of spreading one layer’s worth of buttercream thinly enough to cover a double-decker cake. There are bare spots and even places where a chunk is missing. I do not have enough for a “crumb layer” and so must cover as best I can, trying to comfort myself with the knowledge that the icing is made with the freshest ingredients, all organic, from scratch. The metaphor crumbles, since my children’s lives and education and health and happiness are much more complex than any cake. My son Bobby entered the world on the last day of November, with Bach playing in the background and the scent of lavender massage lotion overpowered by the smells of a birth, in all its unmedicated messiness. They laid him on my belly, a long lizardy creature the temperature of my own insides, still connected by a still-pulsing cord. We have a blurry photo of this and others of his blurry father blurrily cutting the cord. His father’s unconditional love for him was never in doubt—he wrote “He’s killin’” (a jazz musician’s term) as P.S. to our birth announcement email. For me, that level of commitment came later; it took me a week or two to fall in love with my little son, who cried and cried and would not latch on. We hired a lactation consultant and took the baby to her home in suburban Queens, where she would not let me rest until he nursed. She wrote a plan: If Robert is frantic, calm him first. I persisted despite the pain and we eventually became a “nursing pair.” I pumped at work and he chugged down bottles while I was away.

The story of my son and me is ordinary to the point of boredom; my daughter’s story was different. I have written elsewhere of the birth a scant three weeks after 9/11/01, of the same midwife being on call, of the knowledge of her diagnosis of Down syndrome almost as soon as she was born, of the heartache we felt and the surgery she needed to repair her own heart at age nine months. What I have not written about is the third baby I wanted so badly, the baby their father did not want, the decision that ended a life and, later, a marriage. For it was this decision, or rather the predicament of pregnancy, unplanned at age forty-three, that more than any other pulled thread unraveled the tangled mess we had become.


You can read more from Amy Lemmon on her blog here: http://saint-nobody.blogspot.com/

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Fans Of New York Times’s “Modern Love” Column Will Fall Head-Over-Heels For These 16 Books

Since October of 2004 readers have been flocking to the New York Times — not for the latest breaking scoop or political analysis (which the daily has been printing since all the way back in September of 1851) but for the Times’ weekly Modern Love col…

Source: Fans Of New York Times’s “Modern Love” Column Will Fall Head-Over-Heels For These 16 Books

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Everything You Wanted to Know about Memoir (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Recording of August 5th Memoir Writing Q & A with Theo Pauline Nestor

This event has now passed, but you can listen to the recording by clicking on the video above.


Hi All,

I am hosting a (free!) Q & A about writing (and publishing) memoir online this Saturday August 5th at 1pm Pacme (3)ific Time. Please bring any questions you have about memoir, and I’ll answer as many as I can in an hour. If you want to write out your question ahead of time, send it to theonestorprods@gmail.com before Friday at 9pm.


Hope you’re having a great summer!


Can’t make it on Saturday? Register now and I’ll send you a link to the recording after the webinar.







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What I’m Digging Right Now #5

I love this time of year! My two yearlong classes* have wrapped up, and while I’m still coaching and teaching a few classes, I’m mostly reading, writing, getting my yard under control, and hanging out with friends and family. So, yay!

Here’s what I’ve been digging lately:

Hunger by Roxane Gay

hungerI read Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body in one day. And that was an important day. That was a day when I thought a great deal about what it means to possess a female body. That was a day when I thought about how a single day can change the course of a person’s life. I thought about how the omnipresent threat of violence changes who we are and how we move through the world. I thought about my daughters and I thought about myself.

And since I’ve finished the book, I’ve been thinking about all those things and these haunting lines: “I finally did say no. And it did not matter. That’s what scarred me the most. My no did not matter.” (Page 51).

The lead up to Summer Solstice

solticeThe light! The light! Things just keep getting better and better! The days keep getting longer and longer!

Until June 20th and then….Okay, we won’t talk about that.

Let’s just enjoy the light while we have it!

Noise-canceling headphones

headphonesI recently took Shonda Rhimes’ Television Writing Master Class. Tons of insight into storytelling was packed into that class. Yet, the big takeaway for me was Shonda’s secret for teaching herself to write anywhere: Noise-canceling headphones. She shared that she’s trained herself to write (anywhere! anytime!) whenever she puts her headphones on. I had a hunch headphones might work for me as for a long time I was able to write (anywhere! anytime!) if I simply put my hoodie hood up. Somehow under a hood, I felt like I was under The Cone of Work. Under the hood, no one could interfere with me–not even myself.

My research quickly led me to the conclusion that good headphones can be super expensive. But I decided to splurge and go for some middle-of-the-road (but still, in my mind, very expensive) ones, justifying the expense with ALL the writing I was going to get done (!). I picked these Sony ones  and I have to say I love them. I’m trying to train myself that when headphones are on, I write (Pavlov’s dog!). But I’ve “cheated” a bit and have also worn them at the gym, where they worked really well to block out the super annoying sound of people running really fast and hard on the treadmills. You know the people I mean?


The art of Ross Penhall

penhallI’m loving the way Penhall brings my favorite city to life in the luminous and surreal paintings featured in Ross’ Penhall’s Vancouver.



You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessie Klein

51BvNtfqCnL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_I hesitated to even take this book out of the library, thinking: Oh, it’ll be another one of those collections where there’s one good essay, one pretty good essay, and the rest is filler. But I took a chance and checked it out. (High stakes gambler at Seattle Public Library!). And guess what? I totally dig 90 percent of the essays in You’ll Grow Out of It. My favorites are “All the Cakes” and “The Cad.” Poignant AND laugh out loud funny!






*I teach a yearlong memoir manuscript class at Hugo House in Seattle. The next one begins in September. If you’re interested in that class, be sure to register during the Members Only registration period as that class fills fast. I have also taught a yearlong memoir certificate course through the UW’s Professional & Continuing Education department since 2006. Starting in the 2017/18 academic year, UW PCE will  just be offering one Certificate in Writing (rather than individual genre certificates), and I’ll be teaching four different classes for that certificate.

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