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
~MUSINGS & MEANDERINGS~
Can you give me some feedback?
I’ve been working on a visual narrative project for awhile. It’s not just a memoir, which is personal, but it involves my words, childhood images from a traumatic time. It’s cool. I like it. But it’s also hard.
Just as when we were kids, when we scribbled something or made mud pies, or whatever, we wanted feedback. Preferably ‘good’ feedback. We wanted, “WOW! I like how you ____.” We wanted someone to stop what they were doing and give it–and us–a little praise. Right?
But sometimes, the people in our lives–lovely amazing partners, spouses, friends, critique partners–don’t always know what to say other than, “Great, I like it.”
That’s not really helpful, is it?
Here’s what is:
What are your favorite aspects?
Ask them to be specific. Is it the colors (if visual art), the way things are arranged on the page/aesthetics, the flow, the sound, the imagery,
What do you find the most compelling/greatest strength of this piece?
Again, we writers relish in specificity. Tell us a story about the way you interpret the piece. Start with what you first noticed and go from there.
What feelings/emotions does this piece evoke?
You’ll usually have an immediate gut feeling. What is it? Be honest. Sometimes it’s shock, admiration, humor. Tell us.
What’s bothering/nagging you about this piece?
This is the ‘constructive part,’ so tread lightly (we creatives are sensitive souls). You can say:
“I love so much about this, but this one line seems a little rough. Here are some ideas to soothe it out…”
You can try:
“I’m not sure if this color right for what you are trying to convey in this image…have you thought about…?”
Maybe even something along the lines of:
“This just doesn’t ring true for me. I’m wondering if you could move it here/dig a little deeper/change this word to something more like ____.”
In what ways do you like to receive feedback? Do you give your partners ‘advance warning’ [hey–later can I read what I wrote and you can give me a little feedback?], do you show them? Take it to writing group? Which of these ideas do you like best? Is there a suggestion above new to you? What else might you add?
Respond here in a comment, or find me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.
~Leslie : )
P.S. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and holds a special place for me. Not only was I a child/adolescent psychiatric R.N., my mother died by suicide in 2015. I have a few books, writing workshops, and more to offer on this topic within this newsletter.
Check out my Bookshop.org list of other memoirpersonal essays you might be interested in reading. And this list of books with a mental health element.
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. Coaching, book recommendations, journals to submit to, reading recommendations, author interviews, recently published prose, and a quick 4 questions insights interview with Mirinae Lee on her novel, 8 LIVES OF A CENTURY-OLD TRICKSTER (Harper, June 13 2023). I have new poetry up at Ballast and Empyrean, and a photo-essay featuring miniatures in On the Seawall.
There’s more to this newsletter. Keep Scrolling.
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:
- Iowa Writer’s Workshop is offering some really great summer intensives. This one caught my eye, a generative course on flash fiction with Robert Anthony Siegel . June 9-11. This is fee-based.
- Granta, a well-respected literary journal since 1979 has recently started a writing workshop offering. They have two courses starting soon–one on nature writing and the other on memoir. Both sound excellent. Check them out HERE. Fee-based.
- Are you familiar with Sarabande’s FREE Zine Lunches? For about an hour, each Friday (typically), an author/artist/creative will lead a discussion and hands-on zine-making session. Some topics have been ‘make time to play,’ Earth Day things, collages, multi-media, and more.
- Writing Workshops is offering an online prose poetry workshop with Lindsay Tigue starting June 5. Check this out for more details. Fee-based.
- Historical Fiction more your speed? You might like this virtual 6-week workshop with Jenny Bhatt. Fee-based.
- For $200 or $60 ala cart, you can participate in Cleaver Magazine’s virtual master-class writing bundle workshops. Topics: POV, Delusions of Grammar, Urgency in the Personal Essay, and Building Your Writing Brand. First session begins May 28. Learn more and register via SUBMITTABLE.
- Along the lines of mental illness, you may have a mental illness narrative you’re interested in sharing. It’s not an easy feat to write about these things. Check out this virtual class offered through Cleaver Magazine by Sam Heaps, beginning June 8, meeting weekly. Fee-based.
- Always FREE, always a RE-PLAY, join The Writer’s Bridge with Allison K. Williams and Sharla Yates, two writers who promise to tell it to ya straight, about the writing life. Sessions held ‘live’ on zoom Tuesdays once a month. Here are the DEETS.
- Watch the REPLAY of Writer’s Bridge in which Allison and Sharla talk to three memoirists who got deals without having a huge platform. Next Writer’s Bridge: May 30.
Where to Submit:
- P&W recently released THIS LIST of places you may want to submit your work. New additions: Harrisburg Review, WayWords, and Persimmon.
- The Rumpus is looking for reviews and interviews.
Some Readerly Things:
- Is this a readerly or writerly thing? You decide. Narrative Magazine is featuring A Word, please by cofounder and editor Carol Edgarian. You’ll learn a little of the history of the word, how we use it today, more.
- This essay by musician Lucinda Williams really hit home. It’s about her mother’s mental illness.
- More about her memoir can be found HERE
- What’s it like being inside another person’s delusion? Check out this essay by Jonathan Rosen about smuggling a book into the psych ward. His book, THE BEST MINDS is available now through PRH.
- Nicole Chung talks to The Rumpus about her recently-released memoir on grief, A LIVING REMEDY, how she never thought she’d ‘never write a book like this.’
New! Featured Author|Insights
8 Lives of a Century-Old Trickster
“A turbulent novel traversing decades of Korean history, 8 Lives of a Century-Old Trickster interrogates love, identity, betrayal, and everything it takes for one shape-shifting “trickster” to survive. Lee writes with sharp, ferocious energy, and I was riveted from the first page. An exquisitely accomplished debut.”
— Mira T. Lee, author of Everything Here Is Beautiful
A fascinating look at survival, trauma, and family, 8 Lives of a Century-Old Trickster is an incredible literary debut from a bright new talent.
Without responding in complete sentences, what would you say 8 LIVES OF A CENTURY-OLD TRICKSTER is about?
Mirinae Lee :
One Trickster, 8 Lives
Where did you write 8 LIVES OF A CENTURY-OLD TRICKSTER? Do you have any special writing routines or rituals? Do they change with each project, or remain constant over time?
Mirinae Lee :
8 Lives of a Century-Old Trickster is my first novel so it’s hard for me to tell if my writing routine is going to be different for my second, third books. So far there has been nothing special about it: I’ve tried to write about four hours every day, four days a week. It took me about four years to finish my novel which is approximately 300 pages, so I consider myself slow. I still struggle with time management, and I find myself easily distracted by things that go on around me. So I have an immense admiration for authors who can just wake up at 6 am each day and start writing although there’s no boss who keeps an eye on your performance and punctuality. I guess I still have a lot to learn and a lot to work on as a writer.
As for workplaces, I’ve been writing mostly either in my office or at home. I used to write in cafes, but as I get older I realize I can no longer concentrate well on writing in public spaces. During the pandemic I began to rent a small private room in a shared office due to my kids having remote classes at home, and I wrote about one third of 8 Lives in the office room. And yet, the best time and place for me to write is still at home in the morning, from 8 to noon, after my children leave for school. I think my peak performance comes rather in the morning than in the afternoon.
If you weren’t writing, you would be…
Mirinae Lee :
I love cinema as much as I love literature, so I think I would be doing something related to filmmaking, such as directing.
What book did you recently read that you can’t stop thinking about?
Mirinae Lee :
Intimacies by Katie Kitamura. I read the novel last year but I still think about it for I just love it so much. This novel had completely riveted me from page one to the end, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt such strong emotions for a fiction book. Oh, that subtle, mysterious tension that never takes a break! It instantly became one of my absolute favorite novels of all time.
Kitamura writes prose with such bare elegance, depicts all the complicated subtleties of human emotions with such simple poignancy. I’m always interested in umpteen nuances of human languages, so the way she explores the pitfalls of languages and their translations in the book dazzled me.
For more information, to purchase a copy of 8 LIVES OF A CENTURY-OLD TRICKSTER or to connect with the author via social media, please visit her website.
About the Author:
Mirinae Lee was born and raised in Seoul. Her short fiction has appeared in the Antioch Review, Meridian, Black Warrior Review, Pleiades, Shenandoah, and the Massachusetts Review. 8 Lives of a Century-Old Trickster is her first novel. She lives in Hong Kong with her husband and children.
Browse my Bookshop.org for more books featured on Musings & Meanderings, and see what I’m reading in 2023…and more!
Some Recently Published Interviews, Prose, Etc.:
- This piece, MODEL HOME: A Study Under Compression, in On the Seawall, is something I am so proud of. It was conceived in a craft store when I wandered down the model train aisle. At home, I already had the moss and tiny house and vials. I wanted to depict something with words and photography that would spotlight my family falling into disarray…my mother’s mental illness, the ‘perfect’ home, the family divided. This was my answer. It’s my first text + image publication. Here’s a sampling:
- I am bowled over by the reception my poem, CREVASSE, received by Luke Johnson in the Spring 2023 issue of Ballast. Check out our dialogue about one another’s work HERE. Also, that landing page! Swooning.
- You can find some of my other poetry at Empyrean Literary Journal. This piece was conceived in a workshop at StoryStudio Chicago in which the prompt was to combine two totally different things with one’s childhood street. I chose my grandfather’s profession as stained-glass artist and the year 1989. The resulting piece is COLLAPSE.
- This interview with poet Pattiann Rogers in LitHub was such a dream. Pattiann is 82-years-old and still writing and publishing poetry. This piece is about nature, curiosity, and the flickering that happens in all creatures.
- 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.
- Hippocampus Magazine…Juliet Patterson’s SINKHOLE: A Natural History of a Suicide (Milkweed, September 2022).
- 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.
- 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!
- An essay about an experience at a workshop/retreat, featuring design/architecture, and how we are all works-in-progress, in The Smart Set.
- Speaking of Apraxia: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, 2nd edition (Woodbine House, 2021) through some online retailers, your local library, used bookstores (it’s now officially out-of-print), and the audio edition is downloadable (with additional PDFs, resources) through Penguin Random House.
There’s more to this newsletter. Keep scrolling.
What’s Obsessing Me:
- Graduation prep. There’s seriously so much to do. And maybe I make it that way?! Because…well, me. But there’s also this thing about nagging kids.
- Books. It’s a blessing and a curse.
- This book, YOU COULD MAKE THIS PLACE BEAUTIFUL is really, well…beautiful. I love the cover, but more–the form and style (written in short vignettes) really speaks to me.
- More books like this–I am finding they really exist! Text + image, poetic memoirs, fragments, and experimental writing.
- Multi-genre is not the same as mixed media, but this interview with Ronit Plank on her memoir and podcast is illuminating. Check it out in Hippocampus.
- Ragdale! I recently had the opportunity to attend this premier artist’s residency in Lake Forest, Illinois and loved the architecture, the grounds, the community, and mission. In fact, I applied for a 2024 residency. Fingers crossed!
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 can. Feel 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.
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.
Wishing you much comfort and joy in the New Year!
Created by Leslie Lindsay. I’m a proud book nerd. 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.
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