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Musings & Meanderings: Caitlin Billings on the ‘construction of gender,’ her new mental health memoir, plus deconstructing flash, where to submit this June, being curious & varied

By Leslie Lindsay

A curated newsletter on the literary life, featuring ‘4 questions,’ reading & listening recommendations, where to submit, more

Leslie Lindsay|Always with a Book


Hello, Friends!

Curiosity. That’s what a writer needs. She also needs varied life experiences. A break in routine. I tell you this because…well, it’s true for me, but but because it ought to be true for every writer. Here’s why: stagnancy doesn’t produce dynamic anything.

So…are you…






Remember when you were a kid, maybe 4 years old or so, and well-meaning adults asked,

“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

I mean, we start early with this. Guess what?! I still don’t know!!! Lately, we’ve been taking our daughter on college visits. They all want to know what ‘school,’ or ‘major’ she’s going to select. She loves (and is good at) lots of things. So, how to narrow it down? Does she need to know? No. That’s the beauty of being inquisitive and multi-interested. Our ideas and constructs should change and evolve over time.

So back to that stagnancy thing. We have to stretch and reach as writers (and readers). If our interests never change, our art won’t.

Photo by L.Lindsay @leslielindsay1

How’s it going? Respond here in a comment, or find me on InstagramTwitter, or Facebook.


~Leslie : )

There’s more to this newsletter…keep scrolling!

You are reading Musings & Meanderings, a consistently inconsistent weekly newsletter about the literary life from Leslie Lindsay, author of award-winning Speaking of Apraxia (Woodbine House, 2020 and PRH audio 2021) and home of an archive of bestselling and debut author interviews.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

What I’m Distracted By

  • This review of Slow Fuse of the Impossible, a memoir by Kate Daniels, featured in Hippocampus Magazine combining psychoanalysis and poetry.
  • I’m taking this self-guided course through CNF Magazine: The Curious Writer: Putting the Pieces Together. This is about the hybrid memoir, being a collector, paying attention. They offer plenty more: flash fiction, lyric essays, writing the tough stuff, and more.
  • This piece about using the hermit crab essay to infuse humor into rather dark pieces, particularly memoir.
  • More on unique forms–these flash pieces deconstructed via Becky Tuch’s Lit Mag News with guest Mandira Puttnaik.
  • How to take your own book photos at home, this quick tutorial from Penguin Random House. Leverage this for your own title, or other #bookstagram–type accounts. HERE‘s mine.
  • Jami Attenberg’s #1000WordsofSummer is started June 4. Learn more HERE. I am sort of doing this. By sort of I mean: see above, about being a collector, an observer. I’m doodling, thinking. I wrote 1000 words of an interview…
  • Leslie Camhi’s translation of The Book of Mother (Scribner, fall 2021) by Violaine Huisman echoed many of my experiences with my own mentally ill mother. Annnddd…it was recognized as a finalist for 35th annual prize for exceptional translations from French. Read my interview with Violaine HERE.
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

There’s more to this newsletter…keep scrolling!

NEW! Four Questions: A mini-interview series

Caitlin Billings


  1. Without responding in complete sentences, what would you say IN OUR BLOOD is about?

Caitlin Billings:

Coming of age

Parenting teens

Mental illness/mental health



Sexual trauma



Radical Acceptance

2. Where did you write IN OUR BLOOD ? Do you have any special writing routines or rituals? Do they change with each project, or remain constant over time?

Caitlin Billings:

I began writing short vignettes about my experiences as a therapist and mental health patients at my kitchen dining table. We live in the San Francisco Bay Area and at the time owned a small house in the heart of the east bay. Many nights I sipped wine and typed with consistent interruption from my school-age children who needed my attention. I got very used to writing with noise and chaos as the ambience. I can picture it in my mind: our magenta countertops circa 1950, cluttered with dirty dishes, stacks of mail, and random assortments of Legos, paperclips, and hair ties. Pasta marinara in the air, taste of merlot on my tongue. The brush of a warm, small hand on my bare shoulder and the sunset out the large kitchen window. The whine and whir of the BART train moving on its tracks two blocks away. Chaos then, nostalgia now.

My writing rituals have changed with time. I now try to find time to write every morning because it’s when my mind is at its most clear and agile. I’m also devoting one day a week to larger writing projects. It’s a work in progress.

3. If you weren’t writing, you would be…

Caitlin Billings:

Reading or listening to an audio book or podcast. Watching documentaries about true crime, cults, or people of the UK creating baked goods. Drinking coffee and chatting with my husband. Doing yoga. Cooking vegan meals. Walking and talking with friends in other parts of the world. Facetiming my eldest and talking about the construction of gender. Supervising new mental health clinicians. And, of course, meeting with my therapy clients and improving my trauma psychotherapy skills.

4. What book did you recently read that you can’t stop thinking about?

Caitlin Billings:

There are two: Matrix by Lauren Groff and The Institute by Stephen King.

Photo credit: L.Lindsay @leslielindsay1

Get your copy of IN OUR BLOOD: A Memoir HERE or where books are sold. Check out Kristin’s website for more information.

IN OUR BLOOD will be published July 12 2022 from SWP. Please consider pre-ordering.

Recently-published Stuff You Might Have Missed:

  • A Conversation with Marie Myung-Ok Lee in The Millions, about her new novel, The Evening Hero, featuring aspects of immigration, Minnesota, color, and medicine.

Last Chance! Speaking of Apraxia Going out-of-print!

Woodbine House, will be closing their doors in June. This is a pandemic-driven decision. Woodbine House has been churning out top special-needs resources for 37 years, including SPEAKING OF APRAXIA.

The good news? All of their books are 50%, while supplies last.

If you–or someone you know–could benefit from the book, the time is now.

Calls for submission:

  • Visual Verse: An Anthology of Art & Words has their new prompt up. This is open June 1-15. The idea: generate a piece of writing from whatever image they select. One hour, 5-200 words. They only publish 100 per month. Be sure to read the guidelines first, but here is the current call/prompt.
  • First Person Singular is a Substack off-shoot brainchild of MemoirMonday founder Sari Botton. She accepts person essays up to 2,500 words and publishes approximately one per month.
  • The Jellyfish Review is looking for flash with ‘one great line of dialogue.’
  • Mudroom Magazine is seeking prose and poetry.
  • Exposition Review is looking for flash (under 405 words) on the theme: inheritance thru June.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Coming soon:

A piece in the nostalgia dossier of Levitate Magazine, about my childhood interest in a (vintage) kid’s rooms and spaces book.

Another about being a book ambassador, reading about family, inheritance, postmemory, and landscape in Moms Don’t Have Time to Write.

I’ll be sharing my published interviews here, on Wednesdays, after they’ve ‘gone live’ with their various publications. On Fridays, I’ll share any recent published fiction in this space as well.

There’s more to this newsletter. Keep scrolling.

What I’m reading:

I’m deep into Ann Leary’s new historical fiction, The Foundling, about a lesser-known piece of American history: eugenics. It takes a look at the innovative Kirkbride Cottage system, but also it’s about the terrible and horrific concept of confining feebleminded women of childbearing age to intuitions so they don’t procreate.

Photo credit: L.Lindsay @leslielindsay1

What I’m listening to:

On our most recent summer college-visit road trip, top down in the convertible, my girls and I blasted ABBA and Taylor Swift.

L.Lindsay archives.

You are reading Musings & Meanderings, a consistently inconsistent weekly newsletter about the literary life from Leslie Lindsay, and home of an archive of bestselling and debut author interviews. I’m also on twitter and instagram. I try to answer comments as best I canFeel free to find my book suggestions on bookshop.org, and also check out the authors I’ve hosted in in-depth interviews HERE.

In the meantime, catch me on:

Reviewing books and talking about them with others on-line and in-person is one small way to engage with & support the literary community.

Thank you for letting me guide you on your bookish journey.

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

Let’s walk this bookish path together.


Some of you have been reading my reviews, interviews, and meanderings for more than a decade now. That’s huge and I am so humbled. Thanks for being here.

Connect with me on Instagram, and Twitter. See what I’m reading on Bookshop.org. Find my reviews on GoodReads. I’m also a Zibby Books Ambassador.

Learn more HERE.

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