Musings & Meanderings
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Musings & Meanderings: Residencies and Workshops, writing anywhere, writing fragmented memoirs, Rebecca Makkai on boarding schools and murders, and so much more

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


Welcome to February, Friends!

Let’s just say January was a rough start to the year. Did you feel it, too? It felt like every-other-day was another hurdle, and it wasn’t even the weather! I’m not sure if there was something in the air, or what. But I will share that I took a Zoom class on writing your memoir that was hugely validating and supportive. Maybe it’s because the presenter told us what I was doing was the ‘key to unlocking’ narrative.

Okay, it wasn’t just me, but her entire spiel. The idea?

Fragments. Found objects, notes. Lists. Collaging. A mosaic. How does this all work in a book? Does it work in a book? How about lyrical essays? Found forms? A play with structure? Poetry? All of it. Yes, all of it.

Why am I doing this? Will it work for you? It might. Here’s why:


Time is fragmented and precious. We all learned that during the pandemic (hellooo, work-from-home-with-kids), and not just that, but we are continually bombarded by more fragmented things: scrolling. Tweets. Texts. You get it.

Image-obsessed culture.

This is not just about appearances, but that’s there, too. Think: Instagram and Facebook. TV. Billboards.


Many memoirs are rooted in some kind of trauma. It may be death/grief, divorce, mental illness, suicide, abuse, kidnapping, illness, and more. That’s hard stuff. Choosing to write hard stuff in fragments makes it a little easier to work through. You don’t have to construct a straight-on narrative, either. Play with the space.


Manipulating documents, calendars, photos, all of that can really help you access memories on a deeper level and make your story as ‘truthful’ as possible. It’s a bit of an investigation.

There’s more, too, but for now, I’ll leave you with this…


Would this style of narrative work for you? What might you access to write something along these lines? Documents? Hospital records? Yearbooks? Town maps? Would you read something like this? Would it change the way you look at the form?

Speaking of questions, I’ve got the lovely and talented Rebecca chatting about her forthcoming book, I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS FOR YOU. Keep scrolling.

Respond here in a comment, or find me on InstagramTwitter, or Facebook.


~Leslie : )

Photo by charan sai on

This issue of Musings & Meanderings is jam-packed with some really great stuff to get your [writing and reading] year off on the right foot. Classes and workshops, bookstore events, book recommendations, journals to submit to, reading recommendations, author interviews, recently published prose, and a quick 4 questions insights interview with Pulitzer prize and National Book Award finalist Rebecca Makkai on her forthcoming novel, I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS FOR YOU (Viking, Feb 21 2023)

By the way, I do not get any ‘kick-backs’ or other kind of payment (in-kind, or otherwise) for mentioning these classes/workshops/books/individuals. Sharing because if helps me, maybe it’ll speak to you, too.

Some Writerly Things:

  • It’s hard to know if you are writing enough, too much (it’s a thing–remember to care for yourself and other parts of your life), check out these great TIPS from Danielle Lazarin, originally published in Catapult Magazine. I love the tracking sheet and just might make my own!
  • if you’re interested in seeing what else Writing Workshops has to level your writing practice, check out their FEBRUARY offerings.
  • If Thursday mornings work for you participate in live Zoom meetings on craft, check out OCWW, that’s off-campus writing workshops, which is celebrating it’s 75th year…you’ll find their February OFFERINGS here with information on how to register.
  • Do you write hybrid? CRAFT Literary has a call that might really entice and excite. Judged by Nicole McCarthy—who is lovely and thoughtful, I just interviewed her–it’s open now thru Feb 28. Details HERE. There is a $20 reading fee, but it if they are small pieces, you can include two for that price.
  • APUBLIC SPACE, a pretty prestigious literary journal offers Writing Academy Classes. This one struck my eye, all about revision, making it fun and experimental…a revision lab with writer Anne Elliot, Sundays via Zoom, March thru April. Check it out and REGISTER here.
Image retrieved from Story Studio website 1.25.23


Musings & Meanderings | Insights

Rebecca Makkai


A Most Anticipated Book of 2023: TIME, The Seattle Times, Good Housekeeping,, Souther Living, and CrimeReads 

The riveting new novel from the author of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist The Great Believers

Leslie Lindsay:

Without responding in complete sentences, what would you say I HAVE SOMEQUESTIONS FOR YOU is about?

Rebecca Makkai:

Ooh, no complete sentences! Hmm. Literary feminist boarding school murder mystery. New Hampshire. 1995. A shrine to Kurt Cobain. Wrongful incarceration. #MeToo. The passage of time.

Leslie Lindsay:

Where did you write I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS FOR YOU? Do you have any special writing routines or rituals? Do they change with each project, or remain constant over time?

Rebecca Makkai:

This one lived in my head a long time, but I started it in earnest during a residency at the Ragdale Foundation in early 2018. I normally rely on residencies much more, but Covid really interfered with that plan, so I did a lot of housesitting in order to be alone to write. I don’t believe in routines or rituals. If you have some special magic teacup and then your teacup breaks, where does that leave you? I need to be able to write in hotel rooms, on airport floors, at Starbucks…

“[Makkai adds] intriguing layers of complication . . . Well plotted, well written, and well designed.”

 —Kirkus Reviews

Leslie Lindsay:

If you weren’t writing, you would be…

Rebecca Makkai:

Probably still teaching Montessori elementary school, which I did in my 20s and early 30s. Every day was different, every kid was different, and it was impossible to get bored.

Leslie Lindsay:

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

Rebecca Makkai:

I’m still figuring out Trust, by Hernan Diaz, and I’m meeting with a couple of friends next weekend to discuss it because we all need to work out our theories. It’s a wonderful puzzle of a book.


Rebecca Makkai’s last novel, The Great Believers, was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award; it was the winner of the ALA Carnegie Medal, the Stonewall Book Award, the Clark Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; and it was chosen as one of the Ten Best Books of 2018 by The New York Times. Her other books are the novels The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House, and the collection Music for Wartime—four stories from which appeared in The Best American Short Stories. A 2022 Guggenheim Fellow, Rebecca is on the MFA faculties of the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe and Northwestern University, and is Artistic Director of StoryStudio Chicago.

For more information, to purchase a copy of I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS FOR YOU, please visit Rebecca Makkai’s WEBSITE.

Browse my for more books featured on Musings & Meanderings, what I’m reading in 2023, and some of my favorite books on writing...and more!

Some Recently Published Interviews, Prose, Etc.:

  • This piece, ANSWERS TO QUERIES, was recently published in the final issue of Scissors & Spackle, part of the ELJ Editions family. Who doesn’t like a family history mystery? Check it out.
  • THE HOUSE, a love letter of sorts to my late grandfather and our newlywed home, recently released from Heimat Review, which is all about ‘your reflections and nostalgia, your narratives of familiarity and strangeness, the things that draw you back to where you are – and where you hope to be.’ C’mon in.
  • Y’all, I am super-excited about this illustrated review in DIAGRAM, which has sorta been like a dream place of mine to get work published. It’s a beautiful melding of all things that bring me joy: fonts, words, ideas, art, books, and the human body. I mean…the only obsessions missing for me is architecture, travel, nature, and basset hounds. Check it out and the book, YOUR HEARTS, YOUR SCARS: Essays by the late Adina Talve-Goodman (Bellevue Literary Press, Jan 24 2023), which happens to be a Powell’s pick for January.
  • Gayle Brandeis and I sat down for a conversation about her breath-taking essay collection, DRAWING BREATH: Essays on Writing, the Body, and Grief in Hippocampus Magazine. The book is available Feb 7th from Overcup Books.
  • Also? Gayle and I will be in conversation IN PERSON at City Lit Books in Logan Square, Chicago Tuesday, Feb 7th 6:30-7:30pm CST. Come join us!
My illustrated review of YOUR HEARTS YOUR SCARS (Bellevue Literary Press, Jan 24 2023) as it appears in DIAGRAM 22.6
  • Kathryn Gahl in conversation with me about her poetic memoir, THE YELLOW TOOTHBRUSH (Two Shrews Press, September 2022), about her incarcerated daughter, perinatal mood disorder, more in MER, November 28, 2022.
  • Sarah Fawn Montgomery’s HALFWAY FROM HOME (Split/Lip Press, Nov 8) in Hippocampus Magazine, about her working-class unconventional childhood in California, moving across the country to pursue writing, home, displacement, and so much more November 13, 2022.
  • A conversation-in-review with the EIC of Salon, Erin Keane, about her memoir, RUNAWAY: Notes on the Myths that Made Me (Belt Publishing, September, 2022), in Autofocus Literary, November 12, 2022.
  • A conversation with Sheila O’Connor about elegantly exploring the nonlinear, (a total obsession of mine), in her EVIDENCE OF V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, Fictions (Rose Metal Press, 2019), in Fractured Literary, October 25, 2022
  • A review-in-dialogue with Su Cho about her debut book of poetry, THE SYMMETRY OF FISH (Penguin Poets, October 2022) in The Cincinnati Review, November 1 2022.
  • Prose in SEPIA Journal Oct/Nov 2022 issue. Interiors is about an Appalachian family, black bottom pie, trains, and ear aches. It was inspired by my own family lore, and also: this journal is STUNNING!
Image retrived from SEPIA website

There’s more to this newsletter. Keep scrolling.

Photo by Leslie Lindsay

What’s Obsessing Me:

  • Basset hounds. Always.
  • Are books ghosts? How about bruises? Postcards? Photographs?
  • Getting my oldest daughter into college. We’ve been accepted…now we just gotta jump through all the hoops!
  • Getting my younger daughter her driver’s license. Why do they make this so complex and cumbersome?
  • Houses and homes and this book on architecture.
  • Clearing clutter. How did the crawlspace get so full, anyway?
  • This book, STRANGERS TO OURSELVES by Rachel Aviv

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, 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 L.Lindsay @leslielindsay1

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.

More than 2,800 folks read Musings & Meanderings.

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Wishing you much comfort and joy in the New Year!

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Created by Leslie Lindsay. I’m a proud book nerd. Connect with me on Instagram, and Twitter. See what I’m reading on Find my reviews on GoodReads. I’m also a Zibby Books Ambassador.

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