MEREDITH HALL talks about her luminescent novel, BENEFICIENCE, about one Maine FARM family’s experience with a terrible loss, the way we absorb grief, and the subconscious way of art + thinking about characters long after

By Leslie Lindsay 

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~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS 

A deep, ravishing, quiet tale of a family upended by grief, a timely and topical exploration of what it means to be a family, and yet divided.

Years ago, I read and loved Meredith Hall’s sweeping memoir, WITHOUT A MAP, and knew I had to get my hands on her first fiction, which is every bit as luminous and perceptive.

When they met in the 1930s, Doris and Tup’s love was deep and visceral and immediate. Doris leaves behind her mercantile-minded family, where a life running her father’s shop was in the works, for Tup’s family farm, where his parents and grandparents and great-grandparents worked the land and are buried underneath the pines on farm cemetery. Their lives follow the calming–predictable–cycles of the seasons, the land. Cows are milked, calves are birthed, hay is rolled. There’s the garden and the canning, the laundry, the children–all three of them. Each day, they are grateful.

But then the unthinkable happens. Faith is shattered. Grief permeates the walls, the land. The tidy farm starts to crumble; Doris is no longer able to hold it together. Tup struggles, too. Here, the family is eclipsed by grief and guilt and more.

Under Hall’s expert hand, we are guided through these seasons, these cycles of love and grief, and farm work. We traverse decades and raw, unimaginable pain. Still, she writes with a full heart, with great, palpable compassion casting a light on the darker, but authentic sides of life.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Meredith Hall to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Meredith! Welcome. It is so good to chat with you. Years ago, I loved WITHOUT A MAP and then I ached for you to write something else. And you did. I am so thrilled. I always like to start with inspiration. So why this story, why now?

Meredith Hall:

After I wrote WITHOUT A MAP, I travelled around the country for a long time giving readings, speeches, workshops. My life became very public! When I was ready to start my next book, I decided that I would switch to fiction to allow myself a little cover. But finding the story was a long process. I roamed around my mind, and through old snippets of writings. I tried to enter many different stories over several years, and knew each time that I wasn’t discovering an idea that I could stay interested in for an entire book. That search took a very long time. Then one day, in a casual conversation with a friend, he said something that really caught my imagination. I instantly knew that I had my idea: how do we contend with great loss? I believe that we are pretty heroic in our ability to absorb grief and find our way to the other side of it. And while I believe that process is costly to us, leaving us deeply changed, I believe that we are able to make something positive and larger of those changes—the beneficence which is at the heart of this story.

And why now? I certainly would not plan on having my debut novel come out during an historic pandemic! But I think we are all feeling a deep sense of loss. BENEFICIENCE seems to bring reassurance and calm to readers, a sense of the light and goodness we will return to.

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Photo by Flora Westbrook on Pexels.com

A family’s only hope to heal their broken lives is the belief that love is stronger than grief.

Leslie Lindsay:

BENEFICENCE reads like it could be a memoir, it is written from multiple POVs, in first person, which could potentially be confusing to a reader who perhaps read WITHOUT A MAP. There were times I had to pause and remind myself, “No, this is fiction; it is not a memoir.” Also, I think there are some similarities between WITHOUT A MAP and BENEFICIENCE…of course there are. No one writer can’t not have an overlap in theme and overall voice. Can you talk about that, please?

Meredith Hall:

I love that you had to remind yourself this is not memoir! That means these people are very real to you. I recently had a reader say to me that he wanted to ask questions of the Senters and had to remind himself they aren’t real. An author’s dream!

Writing in first person creates an intimacy between the characters and the reader, a sense that we are listening to the story being told directly to us. For each strategy a writer uses, however, there is a cost. In this case, we give up the larger understanding an omniscient narrator can bring. But I felt moving between three voices accommodated that potential problem. By speaking their own perspectives and understandings, by telling us stories we don’t hear from the other characters, we slowly build a full sense of this family, their home, the farm that defines and grounds them, their individual experience surrounding this terrible loss and their struggle back to love and grace.

I was not aware in any way of similarities between my memoir—my life—and this story. I made up the characters and the place and the events from pure imagination, a very joyful and rich experience for me after writing nonfiction. I am certain that our subconscious mind is always involved in making any sort of art, and that subconscious interweaves our work. But I never saw my own life in the lives of these people. Of course, I have known loss, as all of us have, and my understanding of loss is expressed fully on these pages.

[Quick note from Leslie: These stories differ on many levels: memoir vs fiction, structural differences, plot, character, etc. but the overall atmosphere strikes a chord. Also, both books–at times–share a similar setting: a farmhouse, and the under arching theme of grief, loss, fear, and seeking, at least from this reader’s perspective]. 

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Leslie Lindsay:

I am currently at work on a collection of linked (fictionalized) family stories. They aren’t exactly memoir because they didn’t happen to or with me—but they shaped me. This is what I think of when I inhabit the world of BENEFICIENCE. These stories formed in your characters just as they did the land of the dairy farm. Do you feel as though home and land are inexplicably linked? Or, maybe not?

Meredith Hall:

Yes, for each member of the Senter family, home and the land they work on every day shape them and their sense of themselves in the world. Doris, the wife and mother, tells us in the first pages, as she looks out over the familiar land, that she and Tup know they are blessed people. She knows that they receive and love the beauty of the land, Maine’s fields and woods, the creek running through their pastures to the sea, the orchard, the great elms at the front of the house. All three people notice and are moved by the light, and shadow, that is part of their days as they work and rest together. And all three people speak of the sounds, the cows greeting Tup in the morning, owls calling back and forth across the land in the night, the wind sweeping through their summer fields of hay. Home is a rich and generous place. It requires their constant work and attention, and brings to each of them, in turn, a powerful sense of belonging and security. The Senters know a deep and trusting love for each other, and a deep and grateful love for home and the land.


“Hauntingly beautiful, emotionally devastating, and infused with great compassion.”

–Kim Barnes


Leslie Lindsay:

My daughter and I recently explored an old, abandoned farmhouse. As I read BENEFICIENCE, I ‘saw’ that home, the large barn in my mind’s eye. And we visited a pumpkin patch this past fall, too. On it, an old graveyard. My mind cobbled these pieces together and spun the world of the Senters. Does this family farm exist? Is it purely fiction? And isn’t it sad to see these farms being obliterated?

Meredith Hall:

This place is entirely imagined. But how I wish I could have lived there! I carry a strange sort of nostalgia for a life I have never lived, this life close to the land, the house that has protected generations of Senters. I didn’t go into this story with an idea to write a life I longed for, but it slowly shaped itself into a world that feels oddly familiar and beautiful. I grew up with sheep, and raised sheep and hens and big organic gardens while my children were growing up. That homesteading life was, I think, my expression of that old longing. But the Senter farm is entirely a fiction, drawn from imagination.

Any drive on our back roads takes you by barns that are collapsing, fields that have grown to young woods, and farm houses that have been lost to decay or have been renovated into suburban showplaces, beyond any recognition of their early, humble origins. But rural Maine is seeing a very welcome, small increase in the number of family farms, many of these young farmers finding niche markets with organic stores and farm to table restaurants. This reverses decades of decline, with farms abandoned and the displaced people moving into towns and cities to find work. I am hopeful because so many young families are making the decision to make a life on the land in Maine’s small towns.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Do you think about your characters after the last page, after THE END? Do they have lives beyond?

Meredith Hall:

Oh, this is a great question. Yes! Emphatically, yes.

I felt a great sadness when I completed this book. I love Doris and Tup and Sonny and Dodie and Beston. I felt, as I wrote, their full range of experience and emotion, and I did not want to leave them. It seems I haven’t! They are, yes, fully alive for me.

I am circling the stories that Beston, and maybe Grace, have not yet shared with us. So maybe my next book will explore and share their stories.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Meredith, this has been fabulous. I’ve so enjoyed. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten? Or, perhaps a question you’d like to ask me?

Meredith Hall:

I do have a question for you, about the linked stories you are currently working on. You said, “They aren’t exactly memoir because they didn’t happen to or with me—but they shaped me.” It sounds as if you are experimenting in the boundary area between fiction and memoir. This is intriguing territory. Is that freeing for you as a writer?

Leslie Lindsay:

It’s always a little challenging for me to talk about new projects, before I’ve really pinned them down myself, but yes–I think you are exactly right when you say maybe I am experimenting with the luminal space between memoir and fiction. It’s also very lyrical, so prose poetry, maybe? And circling back to what we touched on earlier, that some of these stories are interwoven into our subconscious–I see them as being fused within our DNA. I think that maybe, quite possibly, these stories are part of the mDNA that is shared from mother to daughter to daughter and so forth. And because of that, I  believe these stories are sort of ‘trapped’ within, begging to be liberated. But perhaps they weren’t quite ready, because the world wasn’t ready. Maybe that ancestor couldn’t possibly speak of her worries, infidelity, scandal, whatever. And now, that’s my job.  

Meredith Hall:

This has been a pleasure, Leslie. Thank you so much for the invitation to share my thoughts with your readers, for your great questions, and for your interest in Beneficence.

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Artistic image of cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook #amreading

FOR MORE INFORMATION, TO CONNECT WITH MEREDITH HALL VIA SOCIAL MEDIA, OR TO PURCHASE A COPY OF BENEFICICENCE, PLEASE VISIT: 

ORDER LINKS: 

~BOOK CONCIERGE~

I was reminded, in part, of the work of Kent Haruf, but also William Kent Krueger (ORDINARY GRACE) meets the classical writing of Willa Cather and a touch of Ursula Hegi (THE PATRON SAINT OF PREGNANT GIRLS)

Meredith Hall, credit Nick BrownABOUT THE AUTHOR:

MEREDITH HALL is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Without a Map, which was named Best Book of the Year by Kirkus and BookSense, and was Elle’s “Readers’ Pick of the Year.” The recipient of the 2004 Gift of Freedom Award from A Room of Her Own Foundation, Ms. Hall’s work has appeared in The New York TimesThe Gettysburg ReviewThe Kenyon ReviewThe Southern Review, and many other publications. She divides her time between Maine and California.

1B6B942E-E2D9-4517-9773-73A6A5162188ABOUT YOUR HOST: 

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir. Her writing has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-Station, and others. Her cover art was featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; poetry in the Coffin Bell Journal, and CNF in Semicolon Literary Magazine and The Family Narrative Project; the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available this fall. Leslie has been awarded one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.

~UPDATED, 2nd Edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA from WOODBINE HOUSE!~

Represented by Catalyst Literary Management MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness & Memory 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Lissa Warren PR and used with permission. Artistic image of cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook #amreading]

DANA HALL, “apraxia MOM,” author, & THERAPIST talks about her children’s book, BEYOND WORDS, how it was inspired by a tearful trip to the playground, plus mindfulness, modifications, patience, and person-first language

By Leslie Lindsay 

Not every child communicates in spoken words; however, that hardly means they have nothing to say.

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~APRAXIA MONDAY|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

KIDLIT 

Now more than ever, we are leaning toward a changing landscape. Our world must focus more on kindness, inclusion, and acceptance. Because our daily life has shifted in so many ways—in how we socialize, educate our children, and work, it’s so important to be kind, and to show our kindness in ways that don’t always require words.

Here, author, ‘apraxia mom’ and therapist, Dana Hall takes us on a journey that showcases the power of friendship, connection, and imagination. 

I am so delighted to share this darling book, which just nearly brought tears to my eyes. 

BEYOND WORDS is a must-have resource will compliment any home library, school, speech language program, or classroom. Through beautiful illustrations and thoughtful text, we come to understand the inner world of children that have differences others can’t always see.

The writing is warm and holistic, supportive, and nurturing. My only complaint is, I wish I had this in my toolbox when my daughter, Kate, was younger.

A bit about childhood apraxia of speech (CAS): 

Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) is a motor-neurological speech disorder that makes it a challenge to ‘get the words out.’ A child with apraxia of speech knows exactly what he or she wants to say, but has difficulty planning the sequences to do so; the words just won’t come. It’s a bit like having something on the tip-of-your-tongue.

Children with speech/language challenges such as CAS can often feel isolated and alone. BEYOND WORDS stresses the importance of ‘listening with your heart,’ using one’s senses to slow down and use patience, it’s about the ability to enter one’s world…without words. Because there’s more to friendship than speaking.

Be Kind.
Be Inclusive.
Be You.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Dana Hall to the author interview series: 

Leslie Lindsay: 

Dana, welcome! Oh, I love this book. It’s so sweet and so real and I promise you, I got a little teary-eyed. I always want to know what inspired a writer; why this book, why now? 

Dana Hall: 

Thanks, Leslie, I appreciate you having me. When my son was diagnosed the first edition of your book was the first book I purchased. It was a source of comfort in that early uncertainty. I am honored to be an advocate and share a piece of my son’s story through our book Beyond Words. The catalyst for writing it came about 2 years after his diagnosis. He was almost five and it was the summer before kindergarten. I took him to the same park almost every day that summer. He started this game where he was a lava monster and the kids would run and he would laugh. He was connecting, without words-or so I thought.

One day during our usual park visit, I did not hear the lava monster make his entry. I casually snuck away from the parent bench and began checking high and low.  Somewhere past the swings, I heard it. My heart sank deeper as I tracked the sound of muffled crying. I found the lava monster under the slide. As soon as my eyes fell upon him, I knew something was different. It felt like someone gut punched me. The light in his eyes had dimmed. I understood his approximation right away and it broke me. He looked up and said, “I no monster.”

This moment was harder than the day we received his diagnosis of apraxia. Maybe because on this day, I realized what apraxia had taken from us. I will never forget the echo of our tears under the slide. I came home that day and wrote in my journal the poem that became “Beyond Words.”

I know I’m not alone, so many parents fear the vulnerability of having their child step into the unknown world of school; will they be safe? Will they make friends? If I could help to prevent that light from dimming for one other child then this book has done its job. I never want anyone to feel like they have to be something they are not to be accepted.

BEYOND WORDS has helped us cope, contribute, and connect. Shawn-Michael drew the illustration of the lava monster in the story, it’s really special to see him own his story. I was fortunate to be able to be a guest reader in Shawn-Michael’s class and read the book. I created worksheets to enforce the message and to make it a living narrative. One such activity was the Kindness Challenge where students earn stars for being inclusive.

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Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay: 

One of the biggest messages in BEYOND WORDS is that we must slow down, use all of our senses when interacting with our friends who have CAS. But that’s also true for anyone, anytime, whether we have CAS, or not. It’s about mindfulness. Can you expand on that a little more, please? 

Dana Hall: 

Yes, exactly! Mindfulness is about observation in a non-judgemental way, through that observation comes awareness and engagement. The book points out ways children can use their senses to learn more about their friends and the world around them. This is important because statistically, we know that 1 in 20 children have a disability that means there are 20 opportunities to advocate and educate children on what the concepts of kindness, inclusion, and acceptance look like in practice. Too often the responsibility seems to fall squarely on the backs of the child with the disability to assimilate, we need to make sure all children are presented with the tools to create friendships and positive social engagement. Facilitating conversations about our diversity is so important, the variance we have as a society is truly one of our greatest strengths- not a weakness. Yes, as a mom I did grieve the loss of the perceived future, then I had to get over myself and see that his future was never mine to define. He is absolutely who he is meant to be and learning to connect to him beyond words has changed how I see the world.

Mindfulness is a process of self-awareness and brings attention to the impact that your interaction can have on someone. In a fast-paced world, BEYOND WORDS reminds us to slow down and act with intentional mindfulness and kindness. I want people to think first before they make comments that could be hurtful and see that spoken language is just one way we communicate.

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Leslie Lindsay: 

When my daughter, Kate, was younger, she loved playing in whole-body ways. We made a lot of forts, played hide-and-go-seek, staged scavenger hunts, and made art. Those whole-body activities can be huge fun, but they also are bonding moments—with friends and parents. What other suggestions might you give for fun that doesn’t always require words. [Note: there’s still plenty of laughter, squeals, giggles, and sounds]. 

Dana Hall: 

I am glad you mentioned hide-and-go-seek, this was a favorite for my son too. It took some parent coaching to get a game off the ground at the park since Shawn-Michael could not verbalize his numbers. With a little patience and creativity, a child at the park suggested he use a  bike bell to signal when he was ready to search. It was a beautiful bonding moment and so much fun to see!

We love to play Charades as a family and just laugh and laugh. He also loves painting and drawing. He also enjoys building with cardboard and tubing to create structures. Shawn-Michael is learning to code and loves mathematics; there are great learning applications and programs that foster his love of numbers. He also wants to start his own YouTube channel to showcase how he learned these games; I love it because it motivates him to practice his speaking. (Check out PocketfulOfPixels on YouTube). We also love nature and the outdoors, identifying trees and footprints are a lot of fun too.  Apraxia kids can do anything other children do with some modification, creativity, and patience everyone can be included in the fun.

Leslie Lindsay: 

In BEYOND WORDS, there’s a mention of signing, saying, and perhaps using a device to get the message across. Some might worry that signing or using a device is a ‘crutch.’ I tend to disagree, but what might you advise? 

Dana Hall: 

I wanted to expose children to various forms of communication and normalize their use in self-expression.  I have heard within the community the fear that the introduction of alternative communication strategies could delay the onset of verbal communication. As always I would defer to a qualified speech pathologist with a specialty in apraxia to develop a proper treatment plan for our apraxia warriors. However, my understanding is such, we use a crutch to help us walk. If someone cannot walk without assistance we wouldn’t take away their crutch and demand they run. That crutch can be a tool to foster greater mobility and balance, some may need it longer than others.

Similarly, many children with apraxia of speech, even at young ages, have some awareness of their difficulty and can exhibit frustration and anxiety by not being able to get their needs met. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and/or sign language may be appropriate for children with a diagnosis of CAS. It allows the child to connect, participate, and engage in conversation and can be a catalyst for building verbal communication in conjunction with speech/language therapies.

When my son was 3 he was non-verbal, the day he learned the sign for fries he went straight to the counter of a popular fast-food chain and ordered himself some fries. The look of pride on his face, I will never forget. Through AAC and sign language, I learned my son’s favorite food, color, and TV shows- he is now over 78% intelligible but for many years pieces of him were locked away from us. To this day if someone misunderstands him he will sign or draw or use his device to help himself be understood.  Parents should not fear using other forms of communication. Providing successful communication experiences only encourages the child to engage and participate in language acquisition.

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Leslie Lindsay: 

In this complex time of COVID and limiting social interactions, what might you suggest for families who want their children to spend time in play with friends, but still remain safe? 

Dana Hall: 

Remote learning has challenges for all children. For children with apraxia they rely a lot on the non-verbal aspects of communication to express and understand their peers and teacher. This is definitely challenged in a remote classroom setting. Also, because it takes him a moment to get the words together by the time he tries to insert himself into the conversation, the conversation has shifted away from that topic. I saw a lot of frustration early on. One way we worked with this is to use what I call a ‘space holder.’ For instance, if he wants to contribute to the conversation but needs more time he says, “I have an idea…” then it gives time for someone to ask his idea and lets classmates know to pause for him.

In general, I have noticed he is also remarkably less intelligible with a mask on. Additionally, I noticed that when I wear a mask my son understands less of what I am saying, and when I am helping him with pronunciation he struggles more to pick it up. I realized he is really looking at my mouth to understand what to do with his mouth, lips, tongue, and positions. To combat these two issues, we use masks with clear plastic inserts where the lips are gifted some to his friends as well.

Some ideas we have used to keep contact in a safe way have been having book nights where a friend would record or read a story to another. Since he enjoys building with LEGOs we have set up virtual playdates where the children build together and share their creations. He attends speech virtually and is currently in school so the social aspect is being met there. It has been a difficult time for apraxia kids in that we have seen a lot of regression without exposure to in-person speech therapy; however, we are hopeful for the gains to return once we are safe to return to more normative social practices.

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

~UPDATED, 2nd Edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA available from WOODBINE HOUSE!~

Leslie Lindsay: 

Dana, this has been so wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. Is there anything I should have asked but may have forgotten? 

Dana Hall: 

Thank you for having me! Just a few items of interest. In addition to the book, I’m creating a workbook that provides a social-emotional curriculum for children ages 2-8 years old. Currently, you can access almost a dozen free full-page worksheets on the topic of inclusion, acceptance, and kindness which can be used with or without the book by following this link: BeyondWordsWorkbook.  A fun fact is that the e-book version of Beyond Words looks amazing in the virtual classroom. Teachers can pick up an e-book, paperback, or hardcover copy of Beyond Words on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Also, I encourage parents, advocates, SLPs, and apraxia warriors to join me in the #BeyondWords movement on social media. Together we can create greater awareness for neuro-diverse children and adults. These children may be fighting for their voice, but you know as well as I do, Leslie, no one in this community fights alone!  To stay up to date on materials, book tours, and exciting collaborations we have coming up visit my website: DanaLHall.com.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, TO CONNECT WITH DANA HALL VIA SOCIAL MEDIA, OR TO PURCHASE A COPY OF BEYOND WORDS, PLEASE VISIT:

ORDER LINKS: 

~UPDATED, 2nd Edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA available from WOODBINE HOUSE!~

Tip/Hint:

You might consider putting together a gift bundle of both books–BEYOND WORDS for the little your life and SPEAKING OF APRAXIA for the adult caregiver.

DanaHallHeadshotABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dana Hall received her BA in psychology, summa cum laude, and graduated degree in community agency counseling from Saint Xavier University, Chicago Il. She is a licensed clinical professional counselor for over 15 years in the state of Illinois.

She successfully leverages her clinical work with social justice advocacy as an author, public speaker, and activist for inclusion and trauma-informed practices in education and counseling. She is an accomplished author with two new books which debuted this year: BEYOND WORDS: A Child’s Journey Through Apraxia and WE ALL BELONG: Musings on Inclusion, Acceptance and Kindness. She has been featured in Chicago Parent Magazine, and written articles for Deep Soulful Love and A Chronic Voice. She recently delivered the Keynote address for the national Spondyloarthritis National convention 2020 and has been published in print magazine Spondylitis Plus. She founded the #BeyondWords Movement on social media to create awareness for neurodiverse children and adults. She is married and has three young children who keep her grounded, thankful, and hopeful for a brighter future.

IMG_1175ABOUT YOUR HOST: 

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir. Her writing has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-Station, and others. Her cover art was featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; poetry in the Coffin Bell Journal, and CNF in Semicolon Literary Magazine and The Family Narrative Project; the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available this fall. Leslie has been awarded one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.

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~UPDATED, 2nd Edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA available from WOODBINE HOUSE!~

Represented by Catalyst Literary Management: MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness & Memory

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LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#apraxia #apraxiaofspeech #alwayswithabook #amreading #kids #BEYONDWORDS #SPEAKINGOFAPRAXIA #CAS #kidlit #mindfulness #authorinterview #kindness #inclusion #patience #diversity #AAC

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[Cover and author image, marketing logo courtesy of author and used with permission.]

IF THE HOUSE…an arresting collection of poetry that begs the questions of obsessions, motifs, memories, flaws, and so much more–MOLLY SPENCER ON this plus how poems ‘talk’ to each other

By Leslie Lindsay 

IF THE HOUSE…a lyrical and emotive collection of poetry about the most basic structures of creation and recreation.

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~WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

POETRY FRIDAY


Well-known spaces of homes are examined with lush and precise prose in IF THE HOUSE by Molly Spencer (University of Wisconsin Press, 2019), and being a ‘house person,’ I found myself completely absorbed. Here, we navigate the experiences of land and home, person and family, the cycles of nature, as well as ordinary and extravagant things–a kitchen table, a memory, the sky. It’s complex, it’s metaphorical, it’s all things good poetry should be. And like all good poetry, it is best savored and read aloud, and revisited–like an old homestead–often.

Molly Spencer’s poetry has appeared in various well-known and recognized literary journals. She is a poetry editor for Rumpus and this collection won the 2019 Brittingham Prize in Poetry.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Molly Spencer back to the author interview series.


Leslie Lindsay:

Molly, welcome back. I so loved IF THE HOUSE and HINGE (see last Friday’s Q&A if you missed it). I’m always curious about what inspired a particular collection. Was it a time period you wanted to explore, a feeling, a landscape? Did it start with one and blossom?

Molly Spencer:

I didn’t set out with any intentions for If the House, and I never do when writing. My first act of writing is often resistance: a scrap of language or an image will pester me, and I’ll try to ignore it. If it persists in pestering me long enough—if it really won’t leave me alone—I usually relent and see what happens if I write it down.

Likewise, I don’t purposely set out to write a particular book or a book, period. If the House was the second manuscript I wrote (Hinge was the first despite being published second) and began as my MFA thesis. At first, it was just a bunch of individual poems—I think I had to send ten pages of poetry a month to my faculty mentor. Only several months later did it seem to me like many of the poems were talking to each other and that, taken together, they might coalesce into a unified manuscript. At that point, I became more intentional about noticing themes, recurring images, and places where the manuscript might need some bridging by poems I had yet to write.

brown wooden desk
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

​”Spencer’s flat-out terrific debut collection of poems embraces the spirit of duende. Houses, meadows, lakes, even memories are places of refuge, but also pain. Through fresh, haunting imagery, Spencer exposes the ‘inevitable cracks’ of the domestic, love’s sorrows and shortfalls.”

Ellen Bass author of Indigo.


Leslie Lindsay:

I think that with poetry—a collection especially—there is a tendency to extrapolate themes and motifs, to have them all interconnect. In IF THE HOUSE, I noted a similar cadence, and a collection of images that repeated. Winter. Trees. Snow. But that could just be me, the reader, things I am searching. Because, the impending season? Can you talk about that, please?

Molly Spencer:

Sure. Well, I think writers and probably all artists have images that are kind of in their DNA. If you think about Pierre Bonnard, for example, he painted his wife, Marthe, in the bath over and over again. Louise Bourgeois made countless sculptures of spiders. Richard Diebenkorn painted, what, 140-some “Ocean Parks.” Many of the images in If the House are those “DNA” images for me, mostly rooted in the landscape I grew up in: West Michigan. So, shorelines, birches, dunes, hills, horizons, snow. At the time I was writing If the House I was particularly attuned to images of winter, mostly because for the first time in my life I was living without it: I lived in California at the time. And also, the winter landscape—bare and scraped down, revelatory, cold—was an apt metaphor for the season of life I was in at the time. So yes, those images repeat, for sure.

bouquet of dried plants placed near cup of coffee
Photo by Ann Nekr on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

With any reading, the writer and author are a sort of team. As the author, you give the reader truths, words. And the reader fashions her own experience. Do you see this as a particular partnership?

Molly Spencer:

I do, although I feel most comfortable with a loose partnership model. I want there to be a grand permission for the reader to take from a poem, or a book of poems, what meaning it has for them. And to go back to it later, and maybe find new or different shades of meaning, depending on what’s happened in their lives and how they’ve changed since the last time they read it.

I don’t set out to write a poem that means a particular thing. Eventually—and this can take years—I know what work a poem was doing in me, as a writer and as a person, but I don’t think about what it might mean to a reader. I’m fine with readers taking from a poem what they will. So, yes, there’s a collaboration there, but not one I have in mind while writing and not one that hog-ties the reader to what I think I wrote.

vase with pampas grass placed on desk
Photo by Ann Nekr on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

In IF THE HOUSE, I loved the poems entitled, DISCLOSURES. I mean, what’s a house if not full of flaws? Can you talk about, please?

Molly Spencer:

Flaws indeed. Well, on a very practical level, I was selling a house in California as I was writing these poems, and the subtitles of the “Disclosures” series came directly from the seller’s disclosures documents required by the State of California for real estate transactions. As usual, I got snagged on the language of those documents: “If you are aware of any nuisance animals…” “If the house is built on a hillside…”—I mean, who could resist those conditionals?

I’d also moved a lot in my life, and lived in, bought, and sold a number of houses, and each one I loved deeply and hated deeply for its beauties and its flaws. And I have always had a complicated relationship with any house I’ve lived in because of the burdens it places on me as a woman as the site of the care-work—cooking, cleaning, raising children, tending people when they’re sick—that women still do the majority of in this life. I love doing those things to an extent, but care-work can be overwhelming if you’re doing it all yourself.

At the same time, each of my houses—and especially the house I lived in as a girl—has been a protected and protective space for me. Gaston Bachelard says it in his THE POETICS OF SPACE:

“the house protects the dreamer.”

It’s the place where we can tend to our interior lives with the rest of the world held at bay.

So, probably all of this thinking and feeling subconsciously went into the “Disclosures” poems, which are also very much, for me, about what we say and don’t say, what we attempt to say and fail to say, and about the slips and double-crosses of language—how it can almost mean, as Jack Gilbert wrote in “The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart,” but not quite; how astonishing and frightening that is.

old wooden rural abandoned country cottage surrounded by bushes
Photo by Jou00e3o Vu00edtor Heinrichs on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Molly, thank you. This has been fabulous. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?

Molly Spencer:

I don’t think so. I feel much more comfortable reading and writing poetry than talking about it! But I’m grateful for this chance to think about your questions. I always learn something in the answering.

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Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Join me on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1 #bookstagrammer #alwayswithabook

For more information, to connect with Molly Spencer via social media, or to purchase a copy of IF THE HOUSE, please visit: 

ORDER LINKS:

~BOOK CONCIERGE~

I was reminded, in part, of Laurie Patton’s HOUSE CROSSINGbut also the specifics of space as depicted in Gaston Bachelard’s THE POETICS OF SPACE meets classical mythology.

Spencer-HorizontalABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Molly Spencer is a poet, critic, and editor. Her debut collection, If the House (University of Wisconsin Press, 2019) won the 2019 Brittingham Prize judged by Carl Phillips. A second collection, Hinge​ (SIU Press, 2020) won the 2019 Crab Orchard Open Competition judged by Allison Joseph. Molly’s recent poetry has appeared in Blackbird, Copper NickelFIELDThe Georgia ReviewGettysburg ReviewNew England ReviewPloughshares, and Prairie Schooner. Her critical writing and essays have appeared at Colorado ReviewThe Georgia ReviewKenyon Review online, Literary HubThe Writer’s Chronicle, and The Rumpus, where she is a senior poetry editor. Her poems have won a Lucile Medwick Award from the Poetry Society of America, a Glenna Luschei Award from Prairie Schooner, and a Writers@Work Fellowship Award. She holds an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop and an MPA from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. Molly teaches writing at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. ​

1B6B942E-E2D9-4517-9773-73A6A5162188ABOUT YOUR HOST:

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir. Her writing has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-Station, and forthcoming in The Family Narrative Project (FNP) and Semicolon. Her photography was featured on the cover of Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; poetry in the Coffin Bell Journal. The 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available this fall. Leslie has been awarded one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.

~UPDATED, 2nd EDITION OF SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming soon from WOODBINE HOUSE!~

Represented by Catalyst Literary Management: MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness & Memory

 

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#alwayswithabook #poetry #collection #houses #homes #fall #november #winter #trees #meadows #landscape 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of M. Spencer and used with permission. Author photo cred: Michelle Massey Barnes. Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Join me on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1 #bookstagrammer #alwayswithabook]

MEMOIR MONDAY: 2020 FAVORITES curated by leslie lindsay

By Leslie Lindsay

Great list of memoirs that really hit home, in this year-end round-up as curated by your host, Leslie Lindsay. 

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Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

~MEMOIR MONDAY|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

2020 YEAR-END ROUND-UP

Memoir is one of my very favorite genres. I think it’s because I love inhabiting someone else’s world, even if just briefly. I learn a lot about myself, and the world around me. Plus, there’s always resilience and strength and a new lens in which one gazes from the world. I am often moved to write when I read a memoir–but not always. There’s something about digesting someone else’s words and stories to help the reader excavate her own. Also, there’s learning, at least for me, that goes on ‘behind-the-scenes’ when I read a memoir. I look at pacing, structure, and character. I notice things like imagery and word use. 

It takes an incredible amount of guts write a memoir.

It’s cathartic, sure. I think therapy is a lot cheaper and faster than say, the years and blood, tears, and sweat  from revisiting (often) traumatic experiences. A person can stop going to therapy. A writer can stop writing. But if you’re holding a memoir in your hand, rest-assured that author has some perseverance. That said, I reviewed lots of memoirs during 2020. I feel terrible not mentioning every one. It’s all a bit subjective. An author has poured her heart and brain out; to say it didn’t work for me, well, it seems a bit mean-spirited, right? 

Top 2020 memoir pick for me: 

  • Couldn’t put it down.
  • Wanted to talk with someone about it–immediately!
  • Loved the language.
  • Related in some visceral way.
  • Made me want to write.

[In alphabetical by title]

GHOSTBREAD By Sonja Livingston 

“When you eat soup every night, thoughts of bread get you through.”

Poverty~homes~motherhood~resilience

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See my review here| Read my Q&A with Sonja | Order Links


HOUSE LESSONS: Renovating a Life by Erica Bauermeister

“I think anyone who saves an old house has to be a caretaker at heart, a believer in underdogs, someone whose imagination is inspired by limitations, not endless options.”

Renovations~Oregon~Art~Writing~Empty-nesters

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See my review| Read my Q&A with Erica | Order Links


INFERNO: A Memoir of Motherhood & Madness by Catherine Cho

“It’s difficult to know where the story of psychosis begins[…]”

postpartum psychosis~motherhood~Korean culture~childhood~legacy

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See my review|Read my Q&A with Catherine| Order Link


WHAT WE CARRY: A Memoir by Maya Shanbhag Lang 

How much can you judge another woman’s choices? What if that woman is your mother?

~mothers~psychiatry~aging parents~memory~Easteran Indian Culture~daughters

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See my review|Read my Q&A with Maya|Order link


WIVING: A Memoir of Loving Then Leaving the Patriarchy by Caitlin Myer 

“I’ve been fighting for years to break free of the story but the whole world lives inside the story; the only way out is to change the story itself.” 

~Mormonism~mothers~mental-health~trauma~grief~infertility~

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See my Review|Read my Q&A with Caitlin| Order Link

1B6B942E-E2D9-4517-9773-73A6A5162188ABOUT YOUR HOST: 

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir. Her writing has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-Station, and forthcoming in The Family Narrative Project (FNP) and Semicolon. Her photography was featured on the cover of Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; poetry in the Coffin Bell Journal. The 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available this fall. Leslie has been awarded one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.

~UPDATED, 2nd EDITION OF SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming soon from WOODBINE HOUSE!~

represented by Catalyst Literary Management: MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness & Memory

LOVE IT? SHARE IT! 

#alwayswithabook #memoir #motherhood #madness #trauma #mentalillness #2020roundup #bookrecommendations #authorinterviews

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[Artistic images of book covers designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 for more like this #alwayswithabook #bookstagrammer]

Poet MOLLY SPENCEr talks about her astonishing, award-winning collection, HINGE; serious illness, the body, growing up in orchards, how obsessions can often lead us to our writing material, PLUS the structure of roofs.

By Leslie Lindsay 

Myth, legend, landscape…lush and razor-sharp lines…HINGE is exactly that: revealing and concealing–sometimes squeaky–moments in time.

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~WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~ 

POETRY FRIDAY


Aside from the arresting cover, HINGE by Molly Spencer (Crab Orchard Series in Poetry, 2020) is a gorgeous meditation of motherhood, the passage of time, a stunted world–in terms of all–land, home, marriage, and body. There’s a great deal of tension and then well-earned release, the world and imagery rich in details and texture, about creation and recreation, told in a simply elegant, yet mournful voice. I have a wealth of images trapped in my mind from the words–and worlds–created within these pages. It’s about space and homes and how they all tie together, but also seasons and cycles and interiority.

HINGE is the perfect read for the bleaker days of late fall, into winter, as we naturally fold within ourselves.

Molly Spencer’s poetry has appeared in various well-known and recognized literary journals. She is a poetry editor for Rumpus, and this collection won the Crab Orchard Series Open Competition in Poetry 2019.

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Molly Spencer to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Molly, it’s great to chat. Thank you. HINGE…oh my! I love everything about it. It’s visceral, it’s chilling, it’s elegant. How can it be all things simultaneously? Can you talk about the origins of this collection?

Molly Spencer:

I began writing this collection many years ago, long before I thought I might ever have a book or be a poet. To put it in context, my kids were tiny when I began the work of this book—not even all in school yet—and now two are in high school and one is in college. The poems came out of my experience of serious illness and of being very ill but undiagnosed for about ten years starting when my oldest (now 19) was a baby—and then eventually getting a diagnosis of the autoimmune condition lupus. In many ways it’s an elegy for the life I thought I’d have and didn’t—a life in a relatively healthy body, that is, and capable of taking care of my family, capable of doing all the things I loved to do, and of playing with my kids, pushing them on the swings, taking them sledding. And it’s an elegy for the person I was before having to reckon with my own physical suffering and the limits of a chronically ill body.

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Photo by Adrianna Calvo on Pexels.com

“In Hinge, Molly Spencer speaks to us from both sides of a door ajar. As observer and observed, mother and patient, the poet recounts her constant movement between deep interior darknesses and the thin winter light outside. Tender and profound, Hinge’s powerful portrait of survival offers us a thing with feathers—a hope that flits between rooms, from shadow to light, before settling down to stay. What an extraordinary collection, every line fueled by a resilient, remarkable heart.

Jennifer Richter, author of No Acute Distress and Threshold


Leslie Lindsay:

Can you talk a little about your process? Are you a planner when it comes to poetry? Do you let the pen do the work?

Molly Spencer:

I’m not a planner. I let language do the work. For me poems usually begin with a scrap of language or sometimes an image that more or less announces itself in my mind, and my first impulse is always to resist it. To not write the poem. But for those scraps and images that won’t leave me alone, I usually relent and see what happens if I put it down on the page.

My process depends heavily on reading. I read more than I write, and about the admonition so often tossed about in writerly circles—that one must write every day—in my world, reading counts just as much as writing, if not more. It’s often the work of other poets that leads me to my own poem-making territory, or that somehow conjures those scraps of language, those seeds-of-poems. I can’t pretend I understand how that happens, exactly; only that it happens.

I write in the early morning hours, a practice I began when my kids were little because it was the only time of day when there was any hope of being undisturbed. And now it’s just a part of my day, like brushing my teeth and making the bed.

branch conifer countryside dark
Photo by Diverse Graphics on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I get the sense you’re inspired by nature and homes, family and fear, too. Which, yes…I adore. Can you talk about what you do to keep the saw sharp? What is going through your mind when the page is blank?

Molly Spencer:

Wordsworth, right? “Fair seed time had my soul, and I grew up / Foster’d alike by beauty and by fear… .” As a girl, I spent long hours outside wandering through the woods near my house, and felt a deep connection to the landscape of home in West Michigan’s orchard country, not far from the dunes and beaches of what Michiganders call “the big lake”—Lake Michigan.

But mainly I’m inspired by language. As I said, that’s where a poem almost always starts for me: with words that arrive and persist.

What do I do to keep the saw sharp? Again, I read. I spend a lot of time studying the diction and syntax of other poets, and examining how they handle the line—trying to understand the work these choices do in the poem and what they enact for the reader. And I write, even if it’s just one word or a short list of words. I don’t worry when the page is blank or mostly blank. I trust that if I attend to language and to my interior life that the poems will arrive in their time.

minimal concept of calligraphy writing of letter
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

What do you consider the best thing you’ve done as a writer? Whether poetry or prose?

Molly Spencer:

Just that I’ve kept at it. That’s all.

Leslie Lindsay:

While this collection is titled, HINGE, I found many references to ‘roof.’ And I love this. I love how roofs protect and crown, but also, they collapse. Can you talk about how you see this structure and were you aware of how frequently (at least to me), it seems to appear in this collection?

Molly Spencer:

Ah, the roof. One of my earliest memories is of standing on the roof of my girlhood home with my dad. He was probably doing something practical like cleaning out the gutters or checking for storm damage, but I was up there having an existential moment, seeing things from high up for the first time, surveying my little world.

I see the roof like any other boundary, I suppose, any other liminal structure like doors or walls. I think I tend not to trust such structures: the door can open or close on you, the roof and walls can shift, even fall in. But a roof also protects, right, keeps the rain off? And as a mother of young ones, I felt very much like I had to be the roof over my children’s heads, I had to keep the weather at bay. And at the same time, I knew I couldn’t, especially then, because my body was collapsing—so it was both figurative and very nearly literal for me at the time.

I’m sure I did not realize how often roofs were recurring in my poems for a long while, but yes, after a time it became clear that the roof was a recurring image in Hinge.

old wooden rural abandoned country cottage surrounded by bushes
Photo by Jou00e3o Vu00edtor Heinrichs on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I could probably ask questions all day. But one more—what’s obsessing you these days and how do obsessions fuel a writer’s soul?

Molly Spencer:

I’m about to repeat myself, I’m afraid, but I’m mainly obsessed with language, with its sounds and rhythms, and with what it’s capable of and what it’s not. I’m obsessed with silence, too—silence as “the nothing that is,” as Wallace Stevens wrote. Right now, I’m also a little bit obsessed with light, with quantum physics (which is to say space-time), with the horizon (so many childhood days at the beach, looking out across endless water), and with what I think of as the “late-early” work of Jorie Graham. I think obsessions are just a consciousness trying to perceive something. That something may or may not be directly related to the obsession itself. In this way, I think obsessions can lead writers to our material if we let them.

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Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Join me on Instagram @leslielindsay1 for more like this #bookstagram #alwayswithabook

For more information, to connect with Molly Spencer via social media, or to purchase a copy of HINGE, please visit: 

ORDER LINKS: 

~Book Concierge~

I was reminded, in part, of Laurie Patton’s HOUSE CROSSINGbut also the specifics of space as depicted in Gaston Bachelard’s THE POETICS OF SPACE meets classical mythology.

Spencer-HorizontalABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Molly Spencer is a poet, critic, and editor. Her debut collection, If the House (University of Wisconsin Press, 2019) won the 2019 Brittingham Prize judged by Carl Phillips. A second collection, Hinge​ (SIU Press, 2020) won the 2019 Crab Orchard Open Competition judged by Allison Joseph. Molly’s recent poetry has appeared in Blackbird, Copper NickelFIELDThe Georgia ReviewGettysburg ReviewNew England ReviewPloughshares, and Prairie Schooner. Her critical writing and essays have appeared at Colorado ReviewThe Georgia ReviewKenyon Review online, Literary HubThe Writer’s Chronicle, and The Rumpus, where she is a senior poetry editor. Her poems have won a Lucile Medwick Award from the Poetry Society of America, a Glenna Luschei Award from Prairie Schooner, and a Writers@Work Fellowship Award. She holds an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop and an MPA from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. Molly teaches writing at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. ​

1B6B942E-E2D9-4517-9773-73A6A5162188ABOUT YOUR HOST: 

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir. Her writing has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-Station, and forthcoming in The Family Narrative Project (FNP) and Semicolon. Her photography was featured on the cover of Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; poetry in the Coffin Bell Journal. The 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available this fall. Leslie has been awarded one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.

~UPDATED, 2nd EDITION OF SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming soon from WOODBINE HOUSE!~

represented by Catalyst Literary Management: MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness & Memory

LOVE IT? SHARE IT! 

#alwayswithabook #poetry #collection #hinge #houses #homes #body #childhood #marriage #parenthood #domesticlife #chronicpain

image1 (6)

[Cover and author image courtesy of M. Spencer and used with permission. Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Join me on Instagram @leslielindsay1 for more like this #bookstagram #alwayswithabook]

Is there a WRONG WAY TO SAVE YOUR LIFE? Maybe our experiences are so widely varied that there is no wrong—or right way? Megan STIELSTRA talks about thiS, motherhood, feeling stuck, being seen

by Leslie Lindsay

Raw, bold and ravishing memoir loosely hinged on the concept of fear.

wrong-way-cover

~MEMOIR MONDAY|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS

Book of the Year Award, Nonfiction, Chicago Review of Books, December 2017
Best Books of 2017, Chicago Public Library, December 2017
Best Books of 2017, Chicago Magazine, December 2017
Best Books of 2017, Heidi Stevens for the Chicago Tribune, December 2017
2017 Favorites, The Rumpus, December 2017
Best Nonfiction of 2017, Vol 1. Brooklyn, December 2017
Best Books by Women in 2017, Bustle, November 2017
Great Essay Collections of 2017, Book Riot, November 2017
Finalist, Book of the Year, Nonfiction, Chicago Writer’s Association, October 2017

Is it instinct, or distinct? I am not sure and I think both apply in THE WRONG WAY TO SAVE YOUR LIFE by Megan Stielstra (Harper Perennial, 2017). Here, we dive into so many topics that are forbidden at the dinner table: feminism, the perils of academia, the writing life, postpartum depression, childhood cancer, motherhood, sex. And fear. There’s so much fear under these words, it’s palpable. These essays–or stories–snapshots, however you want to define them are bold and powerful. They are not to be taken lightly, although the writing style is light and loose and at times, humorous.

THE WRONG WAY TO SAVE YOUR LIFE is structured around the concept of fear, but this is not overt. You don’t this as you are reading, not necessarily. Stielstra takes her life and breaks it down into decades lived, small sections for a particular year of life. You might have a dozen ’19s’ because all of these stories happened when the author was 19.

I was in awe. They are meaty, visceral, real. There’s an authenticity here that I don’t think I’ve found in any other writing,

And I was inspired—mostly in part by structure—the perils and pleasures of writing about one’s life.

But first, please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Megan Stielstra to the author interview series.

Leslie Lindsay:

Megan, this collection—can we call it a collection—is ravishing! I mean, that deer heart?! I am a former R.N. and not the blood-and-guts kind; blood kinda weirds me out. I have to say, I felt a little green reading some of these descriptions, but I think that just means you did your job. What inspired this?

Megan Stielstra:

I had called my dad in Alaska a few days after he had heart surgery and he was in the mountains hunting. The week before, he’d been med-evac-ed down that same mountain, his life in question. I was furious. Actually I was terrified, but anger is easier than fear. I started the essay with a question—why does he keep going up the damn mountain?—and got stuck immediately. He goes up the mountain because he loves it. Essay over, end of story. The better question—the one I chased for the two years it took me to write the thing—was what do I do with my fear of him going up the mountain?

That ended up being the guiding question for the whole book: What do I do with my fear?

I know there are writers reading this right now. Maybe some of you are stuck. It’s useful for me to ask myself if I’m asking the right question. Maybe that can be useful to you, too.

I was thinking about his heart, and mine, and my son’s. The DNA we carry in our bodies. The memories we carry in our bodies. And what our head makes of all of it. Twenty years of writing and teaching and I’d always engaged with the heart as a metaphor. As a lifelong big game hunter, my dad engaged with the organ itself, blood and veins, pump and muscle, knives in his pockets. When he was trying to explain his heart condition to my son, he drop-shipped us a box of deer hearts to dissect to see how they worked. I got… a little obsessed. I cut up hearts for another two years. Got pretty good at it (later I did the same thing with axe throwing and anger; trying to figure out an emotional response through committed physical action).

For me it’s an example of trusting the process. Something that came out in the writing was a shooting at the school where my dad worked in the Nineties. It pushed him to move to Alaska. Writing about that experience helped me reconnect with a friend from that time, a brilliant writer herself. Her work inspires the hell out of me and talking with her helped me wrestle with all sorts of baggage from that time in my life.

My point: writing isn’t just building sentences.


“When Megan Stielstra writes you can actually feel her beautiful heart pumping blood through every sentence.” 
—Samantha Irby, Meaty and We Are Never Meeting in Real Life


Leslie Lindsay:

If I were to say THE WRONG WAY TO SAVE YOU LIFE is graphic, how might you respond?

Megan Stielstra:

I’d say thank you.

I was writing about fear. We intellectualize it, sure, but at its core, fear lives in the body; breath, gut, muscle, bone.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Let’s talk structure for a bit, because this can be sneaky, wiggly little creature. Sometimes we have the best intentions with structure, and then it starts to fray. Did you think about this before or after you finished your first draft? What’s a draft for you, anyway? And do you find the structure morphs?

Megan Stielstra:

For me there’s a difference between the practice of writing and the choice of if, when, and how to share it. I write every day, and it’s a holy mess. No one will see it but me.

I live in Chicago, where the literary and performance communities are tangled together in all sorts of delightful ways. Much of what I publish was worked out on a microphone in front of a hundred or so Chicagoans; the best, most demanding of any audience. I don’t have to worry about my dad in Alaska reading it, or my kid ten years into the future. I can be really honest and see what works. Those spaces make me brave. I can tell right away by the response if the work has value and then I take it home and consider what it would need to have that effect on the page; structure, scene-building, narrative distance, etc.

When I made The Wrong Way to Save Your Life I was reading a bunch of lyric essays and messing around with fragmented and braided narratives. In the back of the book here’s a big list called “Tools or Weapons” of all the essays and art that guided me in the writing, but here’s your takeaway: I read and tried and fell on my ass and read more and tried more and dissected a bunch of hearts and got on a bunch of microphones and read and read and read and kept going even when I wanted to launch my laptop into the sun.

Keep going.

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Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Here’s what else is going on this book: politics and social culture. Yep. I didn’t think it would be there, but it was. A lot. And I was nodding my head and thinking, gosh, this book was published in 2017, and yet there are lots of parallels between ‘then’ and ‘now.’ We tend to have short memories and romanticize the past as being ‘great, just fine,’ but that’s not always the case; there are cracks and fissures. What might you say to that?

Megan Stielstra:

I have taught memoir for twenty years. People put their hearts on a piece of paper and hand those papers to me. Their stories have effected every corner of my life; how I think, write, parent, teach, vote, and throw my body in the street.

My work is political because all writing is political, but also because I am political.

With the breath left in my body I will fight for you and your goddamn beautiful complicated hearts. Thank you for trusting them with me.

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Photo by Free Creative Stuff on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Before we go, I think we need to talk about postpartum depression. This is a big thing in the world, and important to me—that’s the kind of R.N. I was—a psych nurse. And raising kids…it ain’t easy. Trying to write and raise them, that’s not easy, either. Can you expand a bit on those topics, maybe some advice?

Megan Stielstra:

I shy away from giving advice; to parents, to writers, anyone. We have such deeply unique lives and experiences, and something that works for me may not for you. That said: for me, writing about postpartum depression specifically and scary stuff in general has been a gift. Hard as hell, yes, but it got those feelings out of my body so I could see them and understand what I was dealing with. It got them into the world, my one small contribution to a greater cultural and political dialogue that we need to dig into on a policy level: affordable and accessible health care and mental health care.

Above all else: writing about it has showed me how not alone I am.

You are not alone in this: the hard stuff and the joyful stuff, the up-all-night worrying and the paralyzing, on-the-ground fear and the inexplicable, indescribable joy. I see you crying in the kitchen. I see you laughing on the sidewalk.

I’ve been there and I see you and you are not alone.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Megan, this has been so great. Thank you, thank you for taking the time. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten, or anything you’d like to ask me?

Megan Stielstra:

The designer Frank Chimero has this line I love: “If the thing you make goes anywhere, it’s because other people carried it.”

Thank you for carrying this book with such care, Leslie. And for making this space to talk about language and stories and why they so desperately matter in this beautiful mess of a world.

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For more information, to connect with Megan Steilstra via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE WRONG WAY TO SAVE YOUR LIFE, please visit: 

ORDER LINKS:

~BOOK CONCIERGE~

but I did find some similarities between THE WRONG WAY TO SAVE YOUR LIFE and also WIVING (Caitlin Myer), meets SMALL ANIMALS (Kim Brooks) as well as the work of Cheryl Strayed meets Jenny Lawson (FURIOUSLY HAPPY).

stielstraoaklandshotABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Megan Stielstra is the author of three collections: Everyone Remain Calm, Once I Was Cool, and The Wrong Way To Save Your Life, winner of the 2017 Book of the Year Award from the Chicago Review of Books. Her work appears in the Best American Essays, New York Times, The Believer, Poets & Writers, Longreads, Tin House, and elsewhere. A longtime company member with 2nd Story, she has told stories for National Public Radio, Museum of Contemporary Art, Goodman Theatre, and regularly with The Paper Machete live news magazine at The Green Mill. She teaches creative nonfiction at Northwestern University and is a mentor editor with The OpEd Project supporting women’s voices in public discourse.
She is a 2020 Shearing Fellow at the Black Mountain Institute in Las Vegas and a 2021 Civic Media Fellow with the Annenberg Innovation Lab at USC.

IMG_1175ABOUT YOUR HOST: 

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir. Her writing has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-Station, and forthcoming in The Family Narrative Project (FNP) and Semicolon. Her photography was featured on the cover of Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; poetry in the Coffin Bell Journal. The 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available this fall. Leslie has been awarded one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.

~UPDATED, 2nd EDITION OF SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming soon from WOODBINE HOUSE!~

recently completed: MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness & Memory

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#alwayswithabook #memoir #essays #collection #parenting #postpartum #depression #fear #motherhood #writinglife 

IMG_3052[Cover and author image courtesy of M.Stielstra and used with permission. Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by Leslie Lindsay. Join me over on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook #amreading #bookstagrammer]

The lovely & Talented Sonja LIVINGSTON talks about her astonishing memoir of growing up in poverty with a single mother and bevy of siblings in GHOSTBREAD

By Leslie Lindsay 

A truly magical, glowing memoir of a life of poverty, told in the most lyrical, haunting prose that will stay with you long after you close the last page.

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~MEMOIR MONDAY|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

AWP BOOK PRIZE FOR NONFICTION

ADAPTED FOR CLASSROOM USE IN THE U.S. 

A truly magical, glowing memoir of a life of poverty, told in the most lyrical, haunting prose that will stay with you long after you close the last page.

I always have such a hard time reviewing books I absolutely loved. When I finished GHOSTBREAD by Sonja Livingston (U of Georgia Press, 2009), my husband asked, “How many stars?” And I said, “Five.” He nodded, slightly unimpressed. And then I followed up with“Five GLOWING stars.” He was astonished. “REALLY?!” Yes, really. And I am not in the habit of handing out five-stars unless I really mean it.

GHOSTBREAD is about living in the raw corners of Western New York.

It’s about a single mother raising seven kids with five different fathers.Here, we are introduced to Sonja and her mother, her siblings, their neighbors, and other characters in a memoir-in-short-stories, that is, there are 122 small little snapshots, vignettes, if you will, of this challenging life. It’s not exactly an ‘easy’ read because the events that unfold are tough, raw, uncensored. But they are not long. Each story comprises no more than a few pages, sometimes only a long paragraph. Snippets, really. And what is a life but a collection of snippets?

This is a tale of living hand to mouth, of run down vehicles,

living in motels, on reservations, in small farming towns in New York, on dead-end streets.It’s about a mother who was in-over-her-head, who couldn’t make ends meet, but was somehow able to raise seven children. And she very well may have had mental health issues. Here we follow along as Livingston takes the death, decay, worry and spins it into a glimmering strand of beauty with her lyrical prose, deep insights. GHOSTBREAD takes the world-at-large and braids it into her narrative, so we follow along with her trajectory of living in the 1970s and 1980s, her early days as a writer. Here, we swirl and worry right along with her, and then, in the end, we are struck with a tremulous pounding of ‘now what’ and a bit of activism of how we might change the landscape of poverty– the cycle of girls and women, in particular, drowning in the clutches of poverty.

Please join me in conversation with Sonja Livingston:

Leslie Lindsay:

Sonja, I loved GHOSTBREAD, so much. It made me want to write. It made me talk about things happening in your book, it made me dive into genealogical research. But first, I want to know what inspired you to write GHOSTBREAD? Why then? Why now?

Sonja Livingston:  

Thank you, Leslie! The fact that it makes you want to write more of your own stories is the best compliment. As for writing this book, I had lots of feelings about the way I grew up, but the pervasive emotion was shame. This is because I was an especially sensitive kid but also because the larger culture has such trouble with poverty and poor people. I heard the scorn in people’s voices when they spoke about neighborhood where I lived and people like those I loved best. I internalized that shame and did my best to hide anything that might reveal our poverty. I never told anyone these stories and, like anything kept under wraps for too long, they flew to the surface once I began to write.

Why now? Well, we’ve come a long way in some regards, but remain incredibly divided in this country along racial, class and geographical lines. Too many kids and families in this country still struggle with crippling poverty. They live in neighborhoods and places that many of us don’t see. They attend failing schools and even if they somehow make it to high school graduation, have very few resources to help them chart their way into a different future. Memoir offers a unique way into this world and I hope, helps readers begin to “see” and understand how these families get and stay caught in cycles that often simply look like a series of bad choices from the outside.

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“Exquisite in its details and insights, GHOSTBREAD shows us the invisible undersides of poverty. Sonja Livingston renders this so solidly that we come to understand the roots of despair, and the beauty that can be found in the midst of squalor. In an age when memoir exploits the seamier sides of life, thrusting their authors into the limelight, this book holds back, quietly resisting shock value in favor of understanding.” 

-Judith Kitchen author of House on Eccles Road


Leslie Lindsay:

Let’s talk structure a bit. That, to me, is the trickiest part. There are all if these stories swirling in our minds, but it’s the tying them together that can be a challenge. How did you do this for GHOSTBREAD? Are you a visual writer, an outliner, do you just let the stories flow? Do you use notecards or Post-Its? A special writing/structuring software like Scrivener?

Sonja Livingston:

I love this question because it reminds me of all the things I should do!

I want to be the kind of writer who outlines and uses Scrivener but the truth is that I’m an intuitive write-whatever-comes kind of writer, at least when it comes to memoir. I’m working on a novel now and I’ve had to approach longer fiction with a little more of a game plan. But with memoir, I find that memory has its own logic and wisdom. With this book, I simply remembered something, wrote it down then went on to another memory. I call these snapshots. Once I’d assembled enough, I began to put them in rough order and revise, but not as much as another writer might have done. Writing in short segmented “chapters” or flash essays felt natural to me, but, back when I wrote the book, I didn’t know of many models for a memoir written in the same way, so I really just felt my way through it. Now the form is much more common. If I were writing a collection today, I would undoubtedly have other models and would do a little more tying together after letting the stories flow.

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Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

What might you say to a writer who wants to write about some of the more difficult times/things that happened in their life, but others are also a part of that narrative? They might worry about hurting the other person, or exposing them. What then?

Sonja Livingston:

This is such an important question! But it’s also a tough one. Most of us don’t live our lives in isolation which means that other people are necessarily be part of our narratives. The more troubled the narratives, the tougher this issue may be to unravel. Anne Lamott famously wrote,

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” 

Poet, Czeslaw Milosz, wrote:

“When a writer is born into a family, the family is finished.”

While both quotes speak a certain truth about writing, and, depending on your subject, your memoir may need to piss someone off or finish the family, but, in most cases, it really doesn’t have to. 

Finding a balance between the freedom to tell your story while protecting (or at least not harming) others is tough but not wholly impossible. In GHOSTBREAD, I tried to protect others with small choices, such as changing names, but also with much larger choices, such as by describing people honestly but without judgement. Even if someone had hurt me, I did my best to describe them fairly. When I write about the past, I like to think of myself as a photographer rendering images. Of course the “snapshots” I craft and share are a matter of perception but I do my best to stay true to the memories and let them guide me versus using them to construct a story I’ve already decided upon.

After writing four books of nonfiction, I’ve learned that some people are proud to be included in your memoir while others are not nearly as delighted. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include them! It just means that, even when we do our best be impartial or generous, we’re still rendering people and places through the filter of perception and can’t possibly capture the complexity of real life human beings. I agree with Anne Lamott that writers should write their stories without regard to offending others—in fact, many people really need this assurance to begin—but when it comes to publishing those stories, it’s essential to consider those you’ve written about, the impact of your writing on those relationships and the price you’re willing to pay.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Turning to your mother a bit—there are a few things I felt were alluded to, but not exactly explicit. Or resolved. For one, do we know what happened to Mr. Livingston? Other than the second cousins mentioned in GHOSTBREAD, did your mother have any other family? And…the elephant in the room: mental illness?

Sonja Livingston:  

No one talked about mental illness when I was a kid. I think this has changed a great deal but in the poor communities of my childhood, especially in the city neighborhood which was cramped and frankly depressing, there were lots of depressed and/or addicted people. It was almost the norm. Looking back I think my mother certainly suffered from bouts of depression and maybe even bipolar disorder. This seems evident in the days of hibernating punctuated by bursts of energy, the frequent mood changes, and so on.

Though I bear his last name, I never knew my mother’s husband, Mr. Livingston. He was out of the picture and back to his hometown of Albany, NY long before I arrived on the scene. The question you ask about extended family is so interesting. This books has been adopted in college and high school classrooms, which means I’ve talked about lots about the writing and my family and, in all that time, no one has ever asked the question! But it’s important. My mother did have two brothers who had children, so we had first cousins, but they lived in other states and we never really knew them and it’s clear that my mother and her siblings were not close.

When I write about poverty, it’s easy to focus on the lack of food in the cupboard or the outhouse we had in Orleans County, but one of the most precious resources my family lacked was an extended family and the sense of identity and security that stems from that. My sister Steph and I even called our grandmother, the Grandmother, which seems so strange to me now! But this very real disconnect—physically, emotionally—pervaded my mother’s family and carried down to us. Though most of us are no longer as poor as we grew up, we still struggle with the inherited “distance” of our family.

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Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

As a writer, whom—or what inspires you—how do you keep the saw sharp?

Sonja Livingston:

Travel keeps me sharp like nothing else. Nothing hones my observational skills like stepping into a new place. The place doesn’t need to be in France (though that is nice!) or even outside of my city. Just walking into a coffee shop I don’t normally go too is a great way to stay sharp. Music also inspires me. All kinds. From chanting nuns to quirky country singers like Lyle Lovett to 1980s New Wave. Language inspires me. Poets. Irish writers. Southern writers. Strong voices. People who take risks with words. Honesty inspires me. All kinds. One person speaking their truth is so powerful. When that happens—whether it’s in a song or a faculty meeting—I am blown away and reminded of the profound need we have for each other’s stories and truth.

Leslie Lindsay:

GHOSTBREAD concludes with a very touching epilogue that is sort of a plea to keep girls off the streets, to nurture and educate these young women so that the cycle of poverty ends. Can you talk a little about the work you’ve done in this realm and what you might offer for others who are interested in helping?

Sonja Livingston:

This book has connected me to so many great organizations and individuals that help girls and women, as well as others on the margins. These range from educators to social workers to philanthropists and clergy and food distribution programs. All of this work is incredibly hopeful and massively important but one of the most powerful things is getting to work with people whose stories have not usually been heard. To help people who have been largely “invisible” to begin to write or tell their stories is incredibly healing. What can we do? It may sound simple but sharing and listening to each other’s stories can connect us to each other is astounding ways.

Leslie Lindsay:

Sonja, I so loved this. Thank you, thank you for taking the time. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten? Or, maybe a question you’d like to ask me?

Sonja Livingston:

My question to you: How do you do it?!? You’re a talented writer, amazing photographer and engaged literary citizen. What keeps you charged and recharged? Advice please for those of us caught up in the exhaustion of these COVID days.

Leslie Lindsay:

My heart is bursting with this compliment. I love books–everything about them–the way they feel in my hands, how the words look on a page, the cover design; but also the words, how they fill my mind and heart with stories and possibilities. That’s not to say I don’t get run down. And I read at a relentless pace. I don’t watch television. I rarely ‘scroll’ social media mindlessly (although I do post). I multitask. For example. I eat and read. I read on the exercise bike or as a passenger in a vehicle. Art and writing nourish me, but so too, does physical activity. This might be how I am restored. Yoga and running and step aerobics, these are the times I can let my mind wander, return to center. I also like sleep. And ice cream. Like you, travel opens my mind and imagination and fuels me for days. 

As for COVID-fatigue, I try to find joy in small things. I relish in going to the mailbox each day. I seek beauty in nature. It might be the changing leaves, a rainstorm, or the smell of freshly baked bread. These are the things that get me through.

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Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #bookstagram #alwayswithabook

FOR MORE INFORMATION, TO CONNECT WITH SONJA LIVINGSTON VIA SOCIAL MEDIA, OR TO PURCHASE A COPY OF GHOSTBREAD, PLEASE VISIT: 

ORDER LINKS: 

~BOOK CONCIERGE~

I was reminded, in part, of THE GLASS CASTLE by Jeanette Walls meets EDUCATED, but also perhaps the work of Bobi Conn (IN THE SHADOW OF THE VALLEY) as well as Meredith Hall’s WITHOUT A MAP meets Meredith May’s THE HONEY BUS, with a touch of WIVING (Caitlin Myer), and also, maybe Sheryl Recinos’ HINDSIGHT.

livingston2020colorABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sonja Livingston’s latest book, The Virgin of Prince Street: Expeditions into Devotion, uses an unexpected return to her childhood church as an occasion to travel through space and time to explore the changes in the larger Church and in her own life. The result is a generous but unflinching look at the shifting Catholic Church and changing concepts of devotion.  

Sonja’s first book, 
Ghostbread, won an AWP Book Prize for Nonfiction and has been adopted for classroom use around the nation. Sonja’s two other essay collections, Ladies Night at the Dreamland and Queen of the Fall, combine history, memory and imagination to illuminate the lives of girls and women.  Her writing has been honored with a NYFA Fellowship, an Iowa Review Award, a VanderMey Nonfiction Prize, an Arts & Letters Essay Prize, and grants from Vermont Studio Center and The Deming Fund for Women.

Sonja’s essays appear in outlets such as Salon, LitHub, The Kenyon Review, America, Sojourners and are anthologized in many textbooks on creative writing, including: The Best of Brevity, Contemporary Nonfiction, Short Takes, The Truth of the Matter, The Curious Writer, Poverty/Privilege: A Reader, Brief Encounters, and Waveform: Twenty-First-Century Essays by Women.

1B6B942E-E2D9-4517-9773-73A6A5162188ABOUT YOUR HOST: 

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir. Her writing has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-Station, and forthcoming in The Family Narrative Project (FNP) and Semicolon. Her photography was featured on the cover of Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal; poetry in the Coffin Bell Journal. The 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available this fall. Leslie has been awarded one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.

~UPDATED, 2nd EDITION OF SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming soon from WOODBINE HOUSE!~

f361308f-8e47-46bd-ab06-5662fe502b14

 

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#alwayswithabook #memoir #mothers #poverty #cycles #family #legacy #writing #memoirinstories #fragments #homes 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of author and used with permission. Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #bookstagram #alwayswithabook]

THE GRINNY GRANNY DONKEY GREAT FOR RHYTHM, REPETITION, LAUGHS, SPEECH DEVELOPMENT, plus an activity

By Leslie Lindsay

Fun-loving, silly story incorporates repetition and rhyme for an endearing tale about grandparents and the children they love. 

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~FUN Friday|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

Children’s Literature with Activity

Another sequel to the laugh-out-loud viral sensation, THE WONKY DONKEY is here–just in time for the holidays from the

internationally bestselling creators of The Wonky Donkey comes a third member of the family!

There was a sweet donkey who lived on the heath.
She was so funny with her false teeth…
Hee Haw!

This time, readers will meet Dinky Donkey’s grandma: a grinny granky plunky-plinky swanky clinky-clanky zonky dunky-drinky clunky donkey! Brought to life by Craig Smith’s signature playful verses and Katz Cowley’s charming illustrations, THE GRINNY GRANNY DONKEY (Scholastic, November 10; ages 3-5years) is just as fun as her off-spring.

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SPEECH-RICH ACTIVITY TO TRY: 

Grab a little person in your life and read THE GRINNY GRANNY DONKEY together. Giggle and laugh and heck, read it again. Pay special attention to the silly, rhyming words, but also the repetition. Both rhyming and repetition are keys to driving home many speech development aspects. Kids with childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) particularly need exposure to these types of words and stories; it helps build the neural pathways needed for automatic speech. Next, allow your child to look for objects mentioned in the story. Can you find false teeth (those wind-up chatter teeth so popular around thisapraxiacover-01 (1) time of year will do wonders), how about old costume jewelry, hats, clips, brooches, eye glasses (on chains), doilies, whatever you may have on hand. Getting kids whole-body engagement is so much fun plus it offers more than just ‘fun,’ it can be educational, too… hours of creative play (and maybe you a few moments to gather your thoughts).

~UPDATED, 2nd EDITION of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming soon from WOODBINE HOUSE!~

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Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook.

For more information, to connect with the author/illustrator via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE GRINNY GRANNY DONKEY, please visit:

ORDER LINKS:

Priority-1-SlimABOUT THE AUTHOR AND ILLUSTRATOR:

Craig Smith is the recipient of the 2008 APRA Children’s Song of the Year for The Wonky Donkey. When not writing, Craig works as a musician and entertainer. Visit him at craigsmith.co.nzKatz Cowley is an illustrator and teacher who leads workshops in drawing, creative journaling, and self-expression.

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IMG_1175ABOUT YOUR HOST:

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) with second, updated edition coming fall of 2020 and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir, about growing up with a mentally ill interior decorator mother and her devolve into psychosis. Leslie’s writing & prose poetry has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-StationCoffin Bell Journal, and forthcoming in Semicolon Literary Magazine and The Family Narrative Project. Her cover art was featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal and shortlisted for the Manhattan Review. Leslie has been awarded one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.

~UPDATED, 2nd EDITION of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming soon from WOODBINE HOUSE!~

Querying MODEL HOME: Motherhood &  Madness 

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LOVE IT? SHARE IT!
#kidlit #funnybooks #grandparents #speech #rhyming #rhythm #repetition #CAS #children #speech #readingwithkids #extensionactivity #speechdevelopment #SpeakingofApraxia

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Scholastic and used with permission. Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook]. 

 

Amy ShEARN talks about her sublime new book, UNSEEN CITY, BROOKLYN, how she believes in ghosts, old houses, books she was influenced by and asks me a question, too

By Leslie Lindsay 

A multigenerational tapestry of homes, neighborhoods, ghosts, and more in this bold and atmospheric novel.

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~WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

When I heard UNSEEN CITY by Amy Shearn (Red Hen Press, September 2020), I knew I had to get my hands on it. It’s a bit of a love letter to NYC (Brooklyn, in particular), but also to those childhood books that shaped us as readers (and writers!) and also about a little-known neighborhood called Weeksville. But it’s also about love and grief and ghosts and oh gosh…it’s just so good.

Meg Rhys is a self-identified spinster librarian. She lives alone–with her beloved cat–in a rent-controlled Brooklyn apartment. On Friday evenings, she grabs her pile of holds from the library and bikes home, staying in most of the weekend, because that’s how she likes it. But she’s mourning the loss of her dead sister, who died tragically in an accident. She soon becomes obsessed with a library patron who is researching a possibly haunted house. His house. Rather, his parents. That house has it’s own story to tell, too. It’s about love and grief, war, race, more.

UNSEEN CITY is such a fabulous study in homes and architecture, neighborhoods, gentrification, and a little slice of history I knew virtually nothing about. The writing is wry and incisive. I found myself completely absorbed within the elastic walls of this narrative, wanting to fall into the folds of the book and research right along with Meg and Ellis.

I absolutely loved the sections when we go back in time, to the house in Weeksville, as we learn the history and reasons for it being haunted. Seriously: goosebumps. It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s touching…and really quite brilliant. Like all 5-star reads, this one makes me want to write. It makes me want more–more books like this, images of Weeksville. I lust for details.

But first, please join me in conversation with the lovely and talented Amy Shearn:

Leslie Lindsay:

Amy! Welcome. I kind of feel like we could be soul-sisters and I mean that in a good way. I have such a ‘thing’ with homes and architecture, hidden stories, and also we have this Twin Cities and Chicago connection, we’re writers and mothers…well…first, I have to know what haunted you into writing UNSEEN CITY?

Amy Shearn:

Leslie! Thank you so much for all your kind words, and for having me and my book on your site! That’s funny about the Midwestern connections – the Twin Cities – where I went to grad school — and Chicago – where I’m from — were so formative to me as a writer and a person. And I’m always happy to find another mother/writer/kindred spirit!

UNSEEN CITY, like all my books, came from a couple different ideas colliding in a way that surprised and excited me as I wrote. One piece was that I had been thinking about my parents, who met and fell in love after each had lost an immediate family member unexpectedly and young; I became fascinated by the way a shared—and/or mutually understood—sense of loss can kind of glue people together. So I knew I wanted to write about two people coming together and bonding over loss. I also knew I wanted this book to work on at least two levels, and have a kind of macro story as well, one that was also about how we as a people, as a country, heal, or don’t heal, after loss.

Another piece of this was that I like giving myself the challenge of writing in formats I’m not super familiar with. I’d always liked haunted house and ghost stories but had never written one or really studied the genre, so that felt like a fun challenge – and a haunted house felt like a suitable way to connect past and present stories of loss. I was thinking a lot at that time about houses and homes and what makes a place yours, the imprints we leave on the spaces in which we live, and about real estate in New York City and how gentrification is a kind of a ghost story.

And as soon as I started digging into New York City history, I was reminded that you can’t scratch the surface of American history without getting to a story of race, racism, and land trading hands in problematic ways. In my early research, I discovered the new-to-me history of Weeksville, a sort of utopian 19th-century farming community of free African-Americans in pre-Civil War Brooklyn before it was Brooklyn. The community was eventually subsumed into the rest of Brooklyn and much of its history forgotten, only to be rediscovered by amateur historians in the 1960s. I loved the idea of a story being lost then found like that. I was starting to write this book as the Black Lives Matter movement was first coalescing, and I was thinking a lot of about how our entire country is haunted by racism and a shared sense of unresolved grief.

So, a lot of forces and ideas were haunting me as I wrote this! Writing it didn’t resolve anything, but it was a good exercise for me in empathy and imagination – as any creative act should be.

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Leslie Lindsay:

Meg is a librarian and when she was younger, she and her sister, Kate, would read books like crazy, trading them back and forth. In so many ways, UNSEEN CITY is a bit of a literary love letter to all of those books that shaped us as readers (and writers). Can you talk about a few that really, really got you hooked? For me, I think it was A WRINKLE IN TIME, but before that, my dad would read picture books to me and I started thinking I’d be a children’s author/illustrator.

Amy Shearn:

Ah, I love this question! UNSEEN CITY is definitely a literary love letter, I love that description of it. Meg is one of those people who, like many readers, feels very much formed by the books she’s read and loved, almost like they are part of her cellular structure. I think I’m that way too, but I also think some of the most formative books for me in the way I think you’re referring to were not actually very good books. I know I loved actually great books like yes, A WRINKLE IN TIME, and also THE SECRET GARDEN, THE LITTLE PRINCESS, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, THE BOXCAR CHILDREN, THE WIZARD OF OZ books, anything where dreamy strange bookish girls got to have adventures – imagine that! But honestly, I think that like many future writers, I also got really hooked on not-great books that you can sort of devour compulsively, book series that are totally formulaic and artlessly written, where you can really just study said formula and learn how a book is put together, if that makes sense. I love the new podcast Wokefield that’s all about the SWEET VALLEY HIGH books – I was more in to the more innocent younger-readers iteration, Sweet Valley Twins, but I loved that series so much, and the podcast is really helping me to remember what absolute hot trash those books are. This may be sacrilegious to say but I think the NANCY DREW books are like that too – they’re very appealing but not actually great books. It’s funny to me – my daughter is 11, super smart, and very much a writer/future writer, and she often has gotten obsessed with terrible series of, like, junk food books – like, years ago, her poison was the Rainbow Magic Fairy books. And I had this moment, wanting to claw my eyes over those books, when I realized that consuming not great books just for the sheer silly pleasure of it is actually really helpful to a budding creator. It gives you a fictional world to escape to, yes, but it also helps you learn what to do and what not to do in terms of creating art.

I think maybe great books made me want to be a part of the conversation of writers and readers – there’s a sort of magic in that mode of communicating across time – and not-great books taught me to think about how books are constructed. It’s easier to study and learn from something where all the bones are showing, you know?

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Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

“Luminous…The presence of ghosts is easily believable, helped along by the characters’ shared sense of grief. Shearn’s nimble storytelling unearths a fascinating and fraught history.”

Publishers Weekly


Leslie Lindsay:

And houses! I totally geek out with homes. Older ones are better. Can you offer a few more details about the Weeksville house? Maybe something that didn’t make it into the book? And just what *is* Weeksville? Is it still a neighborhood in Brooklyn?

Amy Shearn:

Oh yes! New York City feels so haunted to me – there’s so much hidden and forgotten history in every nook and cranny of the city. And I love old houses too. I’ve actually never owned a house, though, so I don’t know how I would feel about old houses full of history if I had to deal with, like, the heating bills and roof repair everything. But I do love being in interesting old buildings.

So, Weeksville was this self-sustaining farming community in what is now Crown Heights, Brooklyn, not far from where I live. It was founded in 1838 by an African-American stevedore named James Weeks, and soon was one of the largest free Black communities in pre- Civil-War America. There were churches, schools, a newspaper, and this thriving community of activists and scholars. It also provided safe haven for Black people who were threatened and targeted by the violent 1863 draft riots in Manhattan – which I wrote about in the book. Eventually, the town was sort of subsumed in the rest of Brooklyn as the Brooklyn Bridge and Eastern Parkway brought populations further out into the farmlands.

Then in the 1960s, a couple of the remaining Weeksville houses were rediscovered by a researcher named James Hurley and his friend Joseph Hays, who was a pilot and flew over Brooklyn looking for evidence of the community. They found a handful of houses that were standing off the city grid, showing the evidence of the previous map of the area, and the shape of Hunterfly Road, which had been part of Weeksville. They spearheaded a campaign to save the old wood-frame farmhouses, three of which have been landmarked and restored and can be visited today. I went to visit the Weeksville Heritage Center a couple times when researching the book – it’s really incredible to be in those homes and see all the work they’ve done to preserve and activate the history of the area. It’s a pretty magical feeling place.

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Photo by Guilherme Rossi on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

It’s even better when those old homes are haunted. [She says with a twinkle in her eye]. Do you believe in ghosts? Because I do. Also, the house in UNSEEN CITY reminds me a bit of what I know of the house that was Margaret Wise Brown’s, an old farmhouse buried within the bowels of NYC (known as Cobble Court). Are you familiar?

Amy Shearn:

I love the idea of ghosts so much! I just wrote about this in an essay for Lit Hub. I don’t think I’ve had any compelling interactions with ghosts, but I really love the idea of them, and it makes sense to me that there are things in this reality that we can’t totally see or understand, that there’s some stage between alive and dead. I definitely feel like places hold the imprint of people who pass through them. It’s true even of our own lives; how walking through the city, where I’ve lived for 15 years now, I will often feel as though I’m encountering different earlier versions of myself.

I do know Margaret Wise Brown’s house! It’s tucked away in what is now Greenwich Village – very funny to be walking around in the city and come across this strange cute farmhouse. I love encountering weird hidden buildings or gardens or parks or houses that seem totally out of place and that you can just tell have stories behind them. New York City is great for that – there’s something inherently messy and chaotic about the way this city formed and continues to form.

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Photo by Scott Webb on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I’m also curious about your writing process. Particularly the research piece. It can be a rabbit-hole digging into the past like this. Fun, sure, but how and when do you have to cut it off to do the actual writing? Do you write and research simultaneously?

Amy Shearn:

This is the first book I’ve written that had a lot of research involved. I did a lot of it before I started writing – because I knew I wanted this historical piece but I didn’t know what it was at first. I had to do so much more research than I ever would use, too – it seems so inefficient but I think that’s just how it works – how you can create a fictional world that feels convincing. I’m not one of those writers who has a hard time starting or thinking of ideas though, so it’s not like I was in danger of using research as an excuse to procrastinate. It’s more like, I have to make myself wait until the story is ready so I don’t rush myself. So anyway, I did a lot of research before I started writing, and then as I wrote the historical chapters, I did a lot of trying to kind of live in that historical moment, if that makes sense. Like at that point I kind of had the facts and timeline down, but I still wanted to listen to music of the era, watch documentaries about it, look up things like what fabrics dresses were made of, what daily meals were like – so I would kind of dip in and out of my research materials as I wrote those parts.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Amy, I could probably ask questions all day. Is there anything I forgot, or something you want to ask me?

Amy Shearn:

Thanks so much, this is really fun! I’m curious to know why you started this great site of yours, and how you feel interviewing other writers helps you as a reader and author yourself. Is there one thing you’ve learned from interviewing so many writers that stands out to you?

Leslie Lindsay: 

That books are amazing. And the people who write them are, too. Writers are filled with so many curiosities and talents and magic. And not one of us is exactly the same. Our processes differ, but our questions are essentially the same: how can I tell an emotional story about ___? It’s about connection. Before, long before, I always thought most writers were plotters. That’s not the case. The ones I’ve interviewed, anyway, are instinct writers. This makes me grin. Because what’s writing if not exploration? Finally, I’ve learned, it never gets easier. It doesn’t matter if it’s book #1 or book #101, writing is damn hard and each book/essay/poem brings a new set of challenges. 

Why I started this site? Because books are amazing. And I was a little selfish. I think it started as fan mail. I wanted to learn about some of my favorite authors and books. It’s totally working. ; )

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Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Let’s connect on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #bookstagrammer #alwayswithabook

For more information, to connect with the Amy Shearn, or to purchase a copy of UNSEEN CITY, please visit:

ORDER LINKS:

~BOOK CONCIERGE~

You may also enjoy THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY (Matt Haig) because there are several overlaps with the character (librarian, self-proclaimed ‘spinster,’ gay brother, even some philosophical similarities). It also reminded me a tiny bit of ROSEMARY’S BABY–but no, don’t get the wrong idea. UNSEEN CITY is not horror; the similarities are the NYC apartment connection, the supernatural elements. Others, too might enjoy Fiona Davis‘s historical fiction on sites and landmarks of NYC. Also, another title to look at is Vivian Gibson’s THE LAST CHILDREN OF MILL CREEK (Belt Publishing, 2020), HALSEY STREET (Naima Coster) and also the collection of poetry in HOUSE CROSSING by Laurie E. Patton.

Amy Shearn Headshot 3 (1)ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Amy Shearn is the author of the novels Unseen City, The Mermaid of Brooklyn, and How Far Is the Ocean From Here. She is a senior editor at Forge, a fiction editor at Joyland, and her work has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Literary Hub, and many other publications. Amy has an MFA from the University of Minnesota, and currently lives in Brooklyn with her two children. You can find her at amyshearnwrites.com or @amyshearn.

 

IMG_1175ABOUT YOUR HOST:

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) with second, updated edition coming fall of 2020 and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir, about growing up with a mentally ill interior decorator mother and her devolve into psychosis. Leslie’s writing & prose poetry has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-StationCoffin Bell Journal, and forthcoming in Semicolon Literary Magazine and The Family Narrative Project. Her cover art was featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal and shortlisted for the Manhattan Review. Leslie has been awarded one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.

~UPDATED, 2nd EDITION of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming soon from WOODBINE HOUSE!~

Querying MODEL HOME: Motherhood &  Madness

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#alwayswithabook #amreading #NYC #gentrification #ghosts #Weeksville #homes #oldhomes #neighborhoods #Brooklyn

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Amy Shearn and used with permission. Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Let’s connect on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #bookstagrammer #alwayswithabook]

what if your parents left you at age 15 for another coutnry? THE MAGICAL LANGUAGE OF OTHERS by E.J. Koh talks about this, letting go, self-hood, and more

By Leslie Lindsay

Powerful, raw, and elegant memoir about mothers and daughters, legacy, generations, and distance–or perhaps, abandonment. 

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~MEMOIR MONDAY|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~

+

Writing Exercise 

After nearly a decade living in the United States, E.J. Koh’s parents return to South Korea for work, leaving fifteen year old Eun Ji and her brother behind in California, alone. Overnight, this young girl finds herself adrift in a world without her mother, lacking structure. But over the course of time–and the time keeps increasing as her parents extend their work contract in South Korea–her mother sends letters written in Korean. Eun Ji cannot fully understand these letters until she is much older, once she becomes a translator. 

As an adult, a writer, poet, translator, Eun Ji sifts through these letters in THE MAGICAL LANGUAGE OF OTHERS (Tin House Books, 2020)–and her past–seeking the tenuous thread that ties them all together, discovering striking similarities between them. 

My heart broke for Eun Ji–my own daughter is fifteen–it’s a tender, vulnerable age, somewhere between being an adult and craving the comfort and structure of a mother. I couldn’t imagine leaving my children at this age (at any age, but it must get easier as those children move into adulthood). 

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“A beautifully crafted saga, a testament to how the most complicated, often elusive truths and inheritances can shape us and reverberate across generations.”  

-Nicole Chung, All You Can Ever Know


Here, Eun Ji grapples with forgiveness, reconciliation, legacy, and intergenerational trauma, arriving at insights that most definitely make for essential reading for those who have to balance longing, love, heartbreak, and grief. But also, joy. 

THE MAGICAL LANGUAGE OF OTHERS is about self-hood, but also the bonds to family, place, generations, and also, perhaps, boldly, language–what is said and what is left un-said.  

~WRITING PROMPT~

Do you have letters from a parent? I have hundreds from my mother. We were estranged due to her virulent struggle with mental illness. For a long while, it was the only way we communicated. In many of these, she is completely unhinged, the letters blooming with frank mental illness, odd symbols, foreign language, and even lipsticked ‘kisses.’ Other times, they were completely cognizant. It provided a litmus test of sorts–just where was my mother in her mental illness? Was she stable, or not?

If you have letters, find them. Can you discern who your parent was if not your parent? What passions and interests fueled their psyche? How are you like them? How are you different? What might you learn about past generations? Not just their genetics, but their legacy? Their behavior? I find that behavior and responses to life events are almost ‘inherited.’ For example, is there a history of leave-taking? Of fatherless daughters? Of mother-daughter estrangement? What do you think attributes to that? 

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Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 for more like this #alwayswithabook #bookstagrammer

For more information, to connect with E.J. Koh via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE MAGICAL LANGUAGE OF OTHERS, please see:

ORDER LINKS: 

~BOOK CONCIERGE~

I was reminded of several books as I read THE MAGICAL LANGUAGE OF OTHERS…Jeannie Vanasco’s THE GLASS EYE came to mind, as did WRITERS & LOVERS (Lily King) particularly for the writing life connections, but there were similarities between this book and WHAT WE CARRY (Maya Shanbhag Lang) and PIECES OF MY MOTHER (Melissa Cistaro). Also, for some reason, I was reminded of the poetry and work of Laurie Patton (HOUSE CROSSING). 

img_9061ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eun Ji Koh is the author of the memoir The Magical Language of Others (Tin House Books, 2020) and poetry collection A Lesser Love (Louisiana State University Press, 2017)winner of the Pleiades Editors Prize for Poetry. Her poems, translations, and stories have appeared in Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Chicago Review of Books, Slate, and World Literature Today. Koh is the recipient of The Virginia Faulkner Award and fellowships from the American Literary Translators Association, Jack Straw Writers Program, Kundiman, MacDowell Colony, Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, and Vermont Studio Center. Koh earned her MFA at Columbia University in New York for Creative Writing and Literary Translation. She is completing her PhD at the University of Washington in English Language and Literature. She lives in Seattle, WA.

 

1B6B942E-E2D9-4517-9773-73A6A5162188ABOUT YOUR HOST:

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) with second, updated edition coming fall of 2020 and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N. She is at work on a memoir, about growing up with a mentally ill interior decorator mother and her devolve into psychosis. Leslie’s writing & prose poetry has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-StationCoffin Bell Journal, and forthcoming in Semicolon Literary Magazine and The Family Narrative Project. Her cover art was featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM) and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal and shortlisted for the Manhattan Review. Leslie has been awarded one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.

~UPDATED, 2nd EDITION of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming soon from WOODBINE HOUSE!~

Querying MODEL HOME: Motherhood &  Madness apraxiacover-01 (1)

LOVE IT? SHARE IT!

#alwayswithabook #amreading #memoir #literaryfiction #memoir #KoreanAmerican #SouthKorea #family #legacy #mentalhealth #generations 

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[Cover and author image from Tin House books/author’s website and retrieved 10.22.20. Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram @leslielindsay1 for more like this #alwayswithabook #bookstagrammer]