Thursday, November 17, 2022

A brave book of love and understanding: A Girlhood: Letter to My Transgender Daughter by Carolyn Hays


Listen up because this gorgeous, luminous, tear-your-heart-out and patch-it-together book is a love letter to the author’s brave transgender daughter. Please buy copies for friends, buy copies for yourself, buy copies for those who might rail against this so that they might read, open their minds and understand.

Carolyn Hayes is an award-winning, critically acclaimed, bestselling author who has chosen to publish A Girlhood; Letter to my Transgender Daughter under a pen name to protect the privacy of her family. Her novels have been published by Hachette, Simon and Schuster, and HarperCollins; her books are also widely translated. A Girlhood will have four overseas editions, including those by Picador UK and Flammarion in France. Her past books have been listed as New York Times Notable Books of the Year and Kirkus's Best Fiction of the Year, and she's written for National Public Radio and the Washington Post.   www.carolynhays.

So much of this beautiful memoir is about faith—the right kind of faith. Not about whose god is more powerful and why we should fight wars over it. Not about whose laws are more important. Yet, if you boil things down, the true nature of God is love, acceptance, kindness. (We also do not know if God is male or female or something uniquely God.) At several points you actually point this out to Catholic institutions. Why do you think people are so afraid to face their religions and say, maybe I want something differently, something more godly than what I’ve been told? How did your faith change?

If someone of faith truly admires and cherishes God’s creation—the rich beauty and complexity of our humanity—then why would they try to reduce gender to something that can fit in a box marked M and a box marked F. The complexity of our humanity (as well as the mysteries of the divine) have strengthened my faith. I’m awed, as I think we’re called to be. So, as I say in the book, in our house, we don’t snub God. We don’t try to reduce and simplify his work. 

We’ve had great support from the Catholic community and some heartbreaking rejections. 

What I want to say to parents is this: don’t let your faith leaders or politicians try to get in between you and your natural, abundant love for your child. If an organization is trying to make you choose between love and acceptance of your child and them, they aren’t a community of love. We’re made in God’s image. He loves us; we love our children. Full stop. 

The fascinating thing to realize is that your daughter is never stuck. The trauma belongs to you in this narrative—but not because you wish it weren’t so, but because you don’t know the right thing to do all the time. What was it like writing this book, and even more importantly, what was it like finishing it, and what is it like knowing it is going to be out in the world?

I knew I’d write this book one day but my hope was that it wouldn’t be necessary. That the rights and respect for the trans community would be strong and this memoir would feel antiquated. The opposite happened. The horror of having someone anonymously report you to Children and Protective Services for supporting your transgender child has since been signed into law by Governor Abbott of Texas where it’s being challenged while also terrifying the families who support their trans child. In eighteen states, transgender kids are banned from sports. In Florida, Governor Desantis is working to take away transgender medical care for kids in his state. There are death threats against doctors who serve trans youth; a bomb threat against Boston Children’s Hospital earlier this fall. This country has become completely unhinged around gender identity. Today? A New York Times piece that will be used as a battering ram to take away more trans healthcare, again targeting trans youth. 

But, as it was from the start, out there, the world is a mess. But my daughter? She’s thriving. She’s funny and smart and knows herself. She’s now a teenager and she’s kind and cheeky and brightens every room she walks into. My daughter is so elegantly and wholly herself. So many factions in American culture want to distort who they think she is, but they don’t know her. 

You said this astonishing thing: that every child teaches you how to raise them. This goes against every parental advice I’ve ever received (which I never followed) and it is brilliant. Can you tell us a bit about how your daughter taught you? 

Yeah, I guess parenting books don’t work when the writer admits each child needs their own unique parenting manual. 

When you’re on a journey with someone who’s had to fight to be their true self—their authentic self, you start to think about your own authenticity, not in gender necessarily, but in all the ways in which we hide who we are, who we could be, from not only strangers but those we love. It’s amazing to be reminded, over and over in simple daily ways, that you can be yourself. 

We’ve been taught, my generation, that the liberal thing to do was not to see color, not to see a difference if someone is gay or trans, but I’m learning that that is wrong. We should see those differences AND celebrate them. More books, more images, maybe what we love in the celebrities is their celebrating their differences. But what would you say to the people who say, oh it’s just experimentation, it’s just fashionable, kids cannot really know who they are or celebrity is fake? 

I’ve woken up every morning of my life and known that I’m a girl and then a woman. It’s been such a clear deep down truth that I don’t even acknowledge it. But then again, I don’t have to because every day of my life, the world around me has mirrored back to me that I’m a girl and then a woman. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a chart that shows the stages of development around a child’s understanding of gender—their own and others. My trans daughter followed that chart on the exact appropriate timeline, just not in the way we’d expected. Instead, she followed it as a girl; she was clear. Some kids do experiment with gender; some are non-binary. Some children would like to be out but have to reel it back in because their safety is at risk; this can be seen as a flip-flop but it’s actually a reaction to the flip-flop on supports around them. I’ll say this: it’s very different when a child is persistent, consistent, and acute. 

How is your daughter doing now? Are you worrying less for her? How will she approach the publication of your book?

She’s not thinking about the book at all. She’s busy with her life. Her French is really coming along. Math is sometimes tricky. She’s making a Christmas gift list that is, um, very long and detailed. She’s the baby of the family and roundly adored. I worry about all of my children in different ways; it’s something I’ve really honed. 

But yes, I worry about how this country is taking a new and hostile shape around her. I worry about the kids who don’t have the resource she has. I worry about the hatred that Republican politicians and influencers are stirring up against trans people in order to give their base someone to fear. These targeted attacks have real consequences for trans people--in education, employment, housing, self-harm, and death. I worry about the rates of violence against trans people in this country and around the world. And I can’t see a way to make these people in power stop targeting trans people. They’re getting so much out of it, from DeSantis to Chappelle. 

But I have hope that the tide will turn. And we’re seeing signs of it in the younger generation who came out strong to vote in the midterms. 

I have to have hope. My faith demands it. 

Stephen Policoff talks about Dangerous Blues, his "kind of a ghost story," being haunted and disorganized, and so much more.

Stephen Policoff's Dangerous Blues has been called "kind of a ghost story." It's about love and death and one man and his twelve-year-old daughter being haunted by the loss of the woman they both loved.
Says Susan Choi: "Policoff is a seer of the ineffable, the unbearable. A joy to read."

Policoff's first novel, BEAUTIFUL SOMEWHERE ELSE, won the James Jones Award and was published by Carroll & Graf in 2004. His second novel, COME AWAY, won the Dzanc Award, and was published by Dzanc Books in 2014. His third and most recent novel, DANGEOUS BLUES, was recently published by Flexible Press. He is Clinical Professor of Writing in Global Liberal Studies at NYU.

 A portion of the proceeds from Dangerous Blues will benefit the National Niemann-Pick Disease Foundation, a non-profit, patient advocacy and family support organization dedicated to supporting and empowering patients and families affected by Niemann-Pick disease, through education, collaboration and research.
Thank you so much for being here Stephen!

So, your other novels also feature Paul Brickner and Nadia and Spring in a chronology of events which I love. Was this always your intent?  Did you feel like one novel was speaking to you and urging you to write the next part? And will there be another book after Dangerous Blues?

I had no intention of writing a trilogy, and in truth if someone really cared to comb through the 3 books, the timeline makes very little sense (Nadia is pregnant with Spring in 1991 in Beautiful Somewhere Else, in Come Away, written 10 years later, Spring is barely 5, and in Dangerous Blues she is not-quite-12). Come Away (Dzanc Books 2014) was very much meant to be a follow-up to the first novel, but after that book, I was pretty sure I was done with Paul and his wife Nadia and their little girl Spring.  But when my wife Kate died in 2012, I wondered how I might write about this—writing is how I process almost everything really—and it occurred to me that Paul, who has some kind of porousness to the realm of the unconscious, might be the best vehicle for exploring what it feels like to be haunted by the past.  Right now, I think I am done with Paul. But I’ve thought that before, so who knows?
Music plays a huge part in this book, and I know your daughter was interested in music, “Music Today” won the Fish Short Memoir Award. What does music mean to your writing?

My daughter Anna, who died in 2015 of the dreadful rare, neurogenetic disorder Niemann-Pick Type C, was indeed a passionate lover of music, and some of the songs she loved (“Little Surfer Girl,” “Box of Rain,” “Love in Vain”) thread through Dangerous Blues.  Music is one of the things which gets me through life, certainly, and I often listen to music while I am thinking about whatever I am working on—though rarely when I am actually writing, because I am easily distracted.  In college, I had a friend who was a passionate blues aficionado, and I always found those melancholy/humorous songs to be tremendously relatable.  When I was formulating  Dangerous Blues, I heard some of those songs again for the first time in many years, and the hauntedness of some of the brilliant/desperate people who sang them really seemed to connect to what Paul goes through in the novel, how he relates to the world, how he learns to cope with grief, loss and fear.

I often say that the things that scare us are what we need to write about. We need to be the canaries in the coal mines everyone faces. Why do we write what we write, and how do you think we can get at that?

I was not sure that I wanted to write about losing my beloved wife Kate to cancer, but eventually I knew I would have to, just to understand how I felt about the world.  I think it was Flannery O’Connor who said that she needed to see what she had written in order to understand what she thought about things, and I fully embrace that aspect of writing. At the same time, I did not want to write a straightforward book about my loss and grief.  I wanted to allow other characters to feel haunted and obsessed by different elements of life and our weird world, and that intuition really helped me create the somewhat intricate realm of Dangerous Blues.

What kind of writer are you?

A disorganized one?  I think that can be said of many writers.  People have often said to me, You must be so disciplined and organized to write these books…which makes me laugh usually, because I am totally undisciplined and thoroughly disorganized.  But I am obsessive enough that I usually end up forcing myself to get down to work, and when I do that, I can get a fair amount done.  I hate it when I see other authors advising writers on how to do your work, on what makes a real writer.  A real writer is one who writes, regardless of the circumstances, success, or rewards.

You’ve said about your work, Love it. Hate it! Want to kiss the cover! Which I think is part of every novelist’s journey. I personally only love my work when I am writing it, then the terror comes in.  Is that your experience too?

I usually think when I am working on something that it is the best thing I have ever written and arguably the best thing ever written by anyone….then when I read it over, it seems lumpy, clotted, and vile.  When I was younger I hated revising; now I love it, and feel like that is where you turn the dross into gold (or fool’s gold anyway).  When it is published, I usually can’t stand to look at it, even if I know in my heart that I did a fine job. I am quite proud of Dangerous Blues, and reading from it at my various Book Events has gone well, but I can’t imagine actually reading the novel from start to finish again.  I need to move on, and hopefully will be able to get down to work on another project in the near future.

You don’t like to read fiction while you are writing? What work influences you?

I do read fiction while I am writing but I don’t like to read any novels which seem remotely like what I am working on.  I read some ghost lore, and some blues history while working on this novel but in my reading for pleasure, I have hugely eclectic taste: Denis Johnson, Kafka, Yiyun Li, Dickens, the Brontes…I dipped into all of those books while I was writing Dangerous Blues.  Music, too, influences me hugely.  I doubt any writer has influenced me more than Bob Dylan.  And Brian Wilson’s exquisite melancholy also finds its way into my writing process. And the beauty and sorrow of every day life.  That is what really gets to me every time.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

High protein vegan chocolate anyone? Meet my new fave company: Eating Evolved Chocolate + Protein!

Adventures in Veganland!

Yep, yep. I am mostly vegan. I have been a vegetarian since I was in my twenties—and for a simple reason. My first husband was a vegetarian and he did all the cooking, and by the time I was booted out of the marriage and had my first steak in a decade (I’ll show him, I thought), it made me physically ill.  Of course, I became more and more interested in diet and food, and now, my second husband and I are more vegan than vegetarian.

And we LOVE chocolate.

I became addicted to this chocolate, Eating Evolved Chocolate + Protein, and bought a box because, a. I love chocolate, and b. the box had ten grams of protein in just two little bites, and c. it was lo-cal and made with all sorts of delicious organic ingredients. And almost no sodium at all. All are soy-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free and gluten-free, too. Best of all they were delicious.

Of course, they were quickly out of stock and I couldn’t find them anywhere. So I wrote the company, which immediate sent me out three packages for free! Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut, White Macadamia and Chocolate, and Dark Chocolate and Quinoa.

BUT there are some issues, my fault for not looking closer. I misread and thought the chocolates were ALL vegan, but only the Dark Chocolate and Quinoa ones are, along with some other products, including the Brownie Batter Bites pictured above, which will be available in November. The others have "grass fed collagen," which is a protein that comes from the bones of cows. But that isn’t a deal-breaker for me as far as the chocolate, because the Dark Chocolate and Quinoa ones are delicious and don't have collagen—and besides that, there are tons of people who won’t mind the collagen.

I was also a little worried about the saturated fat, but then I did some research. The chocolates have 8 grams of saturated fat per serving. You aren’t supposed to have more than 13 grams to protect your heart, so not a deal-breaker, here, either. 

So I like this company a lot because they are sincerely interested in a better chocolate—and the box of Dark Chocolate and Quinoa is nearly finished! And of course I am going to order the Brownie Batter Bites.

Next up, I am test driving this extraordinary vegan cheese we had at ColettaNYC, a brilliantly inventive vegan restaurant in Manhattan. Because CHEESE.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Living on a carless island with her poet father. Molested at six. A former stripper. A former prostitute. And one of the most moving and honest memoir writers. Hannah Sward talks about STRIP.

Abandoned by her mother, living with her poet father on an island with no cars, and molested at six, Hannah Sward grew up to be a stripper and a prostitute with a taste for drugs. How she got from there to here-- being a writer so eloquent, so moving and so brave, that J. M. Coetzee, Nobel Prize winner, called her memoir STRIP "touchingly honest," is a story in itself. I'm so thrilled and honored to have her here. Thank you Hannah!

What I love the most about STRIP is your refusal to be beaten down, and your insistence on turning the broken pieces of your life into the whole beauty of this book. (In the acknowledgements you write: this is the book, I was afraid to tell, which makes me adore you.  Tell us how this book came to be, the why now moment when you were ready to tell it?

The now moment came when I could no longer take the angst that gripped me over not writing. It was unbearable. Yet the thought of sitting down to write, pen to paper, just me and that big blank page, that also filled me with terror. It would mean I would need to sit with myself. But the urgency to do so drove me. That was ten years ago beginning with two handwritten pages a day no matter what. 

So much of writing is reliving things we’ve gone through, which requires a different sort of bravery. What was that like for you? Did writing about this change you, and if so, how?

It changed me to my core. The process was excruciating. And it was slow. I couldn’t have written it any faster or at any other time because the very process of writing it coincided with my ability to tolerate sitting with myself. 

So many things changed. But one of the things was recognizing how dissociated I was. Like writing about the man in the brown car or the sex scenes with the different men. If I was going to capture what it was like, as you pointed out, I needed to relive it. To do that I really had to work on connecting to myself, getting in my body. That was horrible. I hated it. Yet it was crucial to my growth. 

I deeply admire and love the structure of the book, short chapters with whole worlds in them, always surprising, always shocking, and yet everything is so alive and breathing on the page, from how you began stripping to drugs to drinking to your own kind of redemption.  But some people never are able to reach that point. If you had to pinpoint one thing within you that insisted you would survive all of this, what was it? 

I think there was a sense, or maybe it was more of a hope, that one day everything I was experiencing would be material to create something. Like when I was working at the strip club, trying to hold back the tears as I watched my little sister twirl her beautiful self onto the stage. All those men watching her as they ate the lunchtime pizza special. 

Or when I was locked in the Murphy bed closet, snorting lines on top of The Sun Also Rises. As painful as it all was, I could feel the thread of humanity within it all. The beauty. Does that make sense? 

I keep thinking, and I am probably wrong, that there is a kind of metaphor in the word Strip. You are stripping away any pretense of your life in writing about stripping, among other things, but while doing them, did you feel you were actually adding on protective layers?

Not wrong at all. I do, yes. At the time, I think that what I was experiencing internally felt so unbearable that the drugs were my solution. Which is of course ironic considering drugs are what also took me down. But it was an attempt to escape the feelings that felt like they were going to kill me. That may sound dramatic, but I don’t think I’m alone in that. 

What’s your life like now?  What things from your travels do you carry with you now?


I never ever thought I would be able to not hate myself, to be the kind of woman I always dreamed of being. I used to come out of the bathroom at Rite Aid after locking myself in there for hours high. Across the street was the Hollywood Farmers Market where women were buying Gerber’s and organic basil. Women who wore sandals with painted toenails and women who, when they went to the bathroom, went in and came out in a normal amount of time. 

And now, all these years later I am no longer locked in the bathroom at Goodwill getting high or at Home Depot fixated on all the different kind of doorknobs and nails at 3am. God, I loved Home Depot when I was high. And gardening. If you could call it that. Like I describe in the book, it wasn’t so much gardening as it was wrestling with the poor Bougainvillea for hours on end. 

It sounds so cliché, but I love myself today. Not every day, don’t get me wrong. I have days, moments, hours where I’m completely off center. But I know my way back home. 

What’s obsessing you now and why?

Obsession. I’ve had so many. From carrots – when I first got sober I had a carrot addiction, so much so that I turned orange – to hummingbird feeders to working with incarcerated writers, that’s a jump I know, to salted chocolate caramel ice cream. That’s probably no surprise given food is a theme in Strip. 

But these days it’s frozen waffles, watermelon, and anything to do with recovery and writing.  

You know, one of the things my poet father always used to say about writing is, ‘Now what is it you really want to say?’  

My father was obsessed with words and as a child, I knew that when he was writing a poem, he wouldn't hear or answer me. Beginning when I was about six, sometimes I would sit next to him outside as he wrote in his journal, and I'd write in my journal too.

I swore I'd never be a writer, the no money, the constant revisions. And yet, in the end, it’s what helped me to heal. 

My father was an inspiration and before the pandemic, I had the joy of reading with him at a public event. But sadly, he passed earlier this year and in his last days at home, we had poetry readings around his bedside every night. The morning he passed we had read “On My Way to the Korean War”. And in that poem, there are a few stanzas that are and will forever be in my heart.

So it was, dear friends, I learned to fly.

And so in time must you

and so will the warships,

 and the earth itself,

and the sky,

for as the prophet says, the day cometh

when there will be no earth left to leave.

O me, O my,

O me, O my,

goodbye earth, goodbye sky.

Goodbye, goodbye. 

What question didn’t I ask that you had hoped that I would?

I loved all your questions. SO much fun, thank you Caroline. A dream to do a Q&A with you. 

It’s more a question I have for you, you don’t have to answer of course. But I was blown away when you wrote saying that I was your new heroine. What?! Maybe over coffee one day you could tell me why. That will be my new obsession. ‘Caroline Leavitt said I was her new heroine.’ 

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Ellen Meister talks about TAKE MY HUSBAND, writing a pilot, why she loves writing why women shouldn't put their needs second, and so much more.


Ellen Meister is one of the warmest, funniest, most generous writers around. I am so, so lucky to know her. She's the author of The Rooftop Party; Love Sold Separately; Dorothy Parker Drank Here; Farewell Dorothy Parker; The Other Life; The Smart One; and Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA. She teaches creative writing, does editorial and ghostwriting services AND she's the voice of Dorothy Parker on Facebook! I'm so thrilled to have her here. Welcome Ellen!

I always think writers are haunted or obsessed into writing their novels. What obsessed or haunted you?

That is so true! I was actually working on another book when I got the idea for TAKE MY HUSBAND. It was early in the pandemic, and I was close to losing my mind, cooped up in the house with my husband and three twenty-somethings, desperate for alone time that was utterly impossible. So I made a PLEASE KNOCK sign for the door to my little office, and tried to escape into my writing. My husband—who is smart, funny, and adorable but has little sense of boundaries—often ignored the sign and burst in while I was deep in concentration. Adding crankier signs to the door did nothing to help, and I finally snapped, coming up with the idea to write a book about a woman who wants to kill her beloved.

At first, I did NOT want to write this book! It seemed too… mean. And maybe a little too revealing about the darkest corners of my heart. So I tried ignoring it, but the idea would not leave me alone. And so, I gave chapter one a shot, deciding I would write this book if I could figure out a way in. The rest, as they say, is history.

The question here: could a wife’s husband’s death be her ticket out—is both hilarious and provocative. How much fun was it to write this?

Caroline, my dirty little secret is that I love to write. I don’t love plotting—that’s the part that makes me weep and moan and rend my garments—but once I know what needs to happen in a scene, I love to put my characters in the situation and listen to what they have to say. So, once I figured out the trajectory of my main character’s arc, and the story that drove it, I absolutely loved getting outrageous!

I always want to know if writers feel they have learned lessons from their last book that they can use in their new one. (I never was so lucky!) But did you?

I do think I’m always learning and growing as a writer, though I’m not necessarily conscious of the ways my writing is evolving. That all seems to happen under the surface. I will say, though, that my previous book had a young protagonist, and I was so ready to write about a late middle-aged woman. It felt liberating.

What was the writing like? And how do you write? Do you map things out, find your way in the dark?

I can’t write unless I have an idea of the structure. Because for me, it’s always all about the main character’s arc. So I need to think about where the character starts, where they end up, and how they got there. That’s not to say I come up with a rigid outline. It tends to be a pretty fluid document, because my characters often surprise me and won’t behave how I originally expected them to. To me, staying true to the characters is essential. So, I do a lot of rejiggering of my outline as I go along. 

What’s obsessing you now and why?

Oh! I teamed up with some great folks—Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry—and we are trying to sell TAKE MY HUSBAND as a TV series. David and I wrote a pilot together, and it was as fun as it was fascinating. Stay tuned for developments on this project!

What do you want readers to come away from the book thinking about?

As women, it’s so easy for us to fall into a pattern of ignoring our own needs for the sake of others. It’s the way we’re socialized from a young age. So I’d like them to think about standing up for themselves in their important relationships, and remembering that their needs and desires are just as important as their partner’s.  

Friday, July 1, 2022

Beloved book influencer, author, publisher, podcaster and mother of four, friend to all readers/writers/moms, Zibby Owens talks about her racking-up-the-raves memoir BOOKENDS, Thrive Causmetics mascara, and more!


Who doesn't know of and adore Zibby Owens? She is an author, podcaster, publisher, CEO, and mother of four. And a force of nature. And a great friend and supporter of anyone who writes, and anyone who reads.

Zibby is the founder of Zibby Owens Media, a privately-held media company designed to help busy people live their best lives by connecting to books and each other. The three divisions include Zibby Books, a publishing house for fiction and memoir, Zcast, a podcast network powered by Acast including Zibby’s award-winning podcast Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, and Moms Don’t Have Time To, a new content and community site including Zibby’s Virtual Book Club, events, and the former Moms Don’t Have Time to Write.

She is a regular columnist for Good Morning America and a frequent guest on morning news shows recommending books.

Editor of two anthologies (Moms Don’t Have Time to Have Kids and Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology), a children’s book Princess Charming, and now a memoir Bookends: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Literature, Zibby loves to write. She regularly pens personal essays, starting with her first one in Seventeen magazine in 1992.

Zibby lives in New York with her husband, Kyle Owens of Morning Moon Productions, and her four children. Follow her on Instagram @zibbyowens.

(Did you love Bookends? Email her about the book here.)

Bookends is her astonishing and moving memoir and it's racking up the raves.

Good Day LA made Bookends one of their "best summer reads."

Arianna Huffington called Zibby "one of the most be loved book influencers in America."

Town & Country named Bookends as one of its Best Summer Reads.

Bookends is so brave, so readable. What I loved the most about it was that I thought I sort of knew you, and I had this idea of you as this totally unflappable, always in control energizer, but you let us all see through the layers to the tender-hearted, grieving, shy (Zibby shy?!!! Zibby mute?!!!)) person who grew into herself, thanks to the help of books, friends, kids and husband.  So I want to ask, how scary was it for you to write this book? Did it get less scary as you continued to write? And does it want you to write another memoir? (I hope so!)

It wasn’t scary at ALL. This is how I process everything in my life – and always have! I’ve been writing and rewriting parts of this book since 2003 when I graduated from business school and took a year off to write it. Little did I know how much life I needed to live before my book was complete. I was slightly terrified when the galley started going out, but the reception has been so warm and positive that I’m not worried anymore! (And thanks for the kind words about the book!!)

You write so eloquently about loss that I was weeping. Yet, loss seems to have made you more aware of how important it is to cherish those we love every moment we have them, because loss is always nipping at our heels. Can you talk a little bit about this, please?

Yes, like so many of us, I’ve been through a lot of grief and loss, especially in my twenties. Death isn’t an abstract concept for me. I think about it daily, like the true neurotic New Yorker I am. But I use it to motivate me. I work fast and hard to beat the clock. I view life now as a fight to get as much in as I can before the sands in the hourglass run out. Similarly I value loved ones in my life knowing that our time together may be finite. 

You also write so honestly about the privilege you’ve had and your awareness of how it shaped you. But privileged or not, so many of your challenges, motherhood, work, writing, feel so universal. Would you agree?

Yes! I know how lucky I am to have been born into my family. I feel like I won the lottery and like to share the benefits whenever I can. But it doesn’t matter how lucky you are. Emotions and obstacles are the same. When my kids fight or one of them tantrums or gets sick or someone I love dies or a friend is in need or any of it, nothing can help. 

Midlife and its discontents run through the book, yet I have the feeling that as you are getting older, you are doing more, risking more, being more. But in a recent essay, you wrote that sometimes this can be a problem, and you are now stopping a bit to recharge. All of this makes me want to ask you, where do you see yourself in your eighties? I cannot imagine you sitting on a rocker with Kyle watching the sea, unless you both are going to write and film a documentary, too!

Ohh, good idea! A documentary with Kyle. (Haha.) If I’m lucky enough to live into my eighties, I hope I’ll be surrounded by my four kids, that they’ll be in happy marriages, that I’ll be visiting my grandkids often, and hopefully spending a lot of time at our home high on a hill in the Pacific Palisades, watching the sun rise drinking coffee with Kyle. But I also hope to always be creating, thinking, writing, and reading. I hope I’ll have a stack of books that I plow through daily, that I’ll have written many books by then, that I’ve seen my community really grow, that I’ve watched authors I love have even more success, and that I’ve started many things that improve people’s lives. One thing I wish? Fewer emails!!  

I loved the whole section of how you fell in love with Kyle, a tennis pro, and how while many expected you to be with someone high powered and connected, you realized that Kyle was the one who could unlock happiness for you. And what was most delightful, is both of you found what you were meant to do—he’s a successful film producer now, and you now have a life that not only helps so many, many others, but it helps you, too. How difficult was that transition from the life you’d thought you might have to the life you have now?

As in all transitions and periods of change in my life, it was tough – but it was all worth it.

I also loved how you threaded so many wonderful books throughout the narrative, detailing how they helped you, and in the process, showing how they might help others. Since you read EVERYTHING, I was wondering how hard it was to choose the books, and also do you reread certain books in certain times in your life, and then those books take on new meaning?

I rarely reread books but I have reread a few of my favorites and am shocked by how differently they land given where I am in life. It wasn’t that hard to choose the books but I left so many out and feel terrible about that. 

What’s obsessing you now and why?

To be totally superficial, my Thrive Causemetics mascara is obsessing me right now. It comes off in the shower! No make-up remover needed! And it stays on for days and looks like I’ve had my lashes done. And yes, they’re a sponsor of my podcast, Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, but I seriously love it!!!! (Go to for 15% off.) And to be honest, I just leased a Volvo XC90 and am totally obsessed with that car. It took months to figure out what to get but when two of my best girlfriends recommended it, I got one. It’s perfect for our family – four kids! 

What question didn’t I ask that I should have?

Maybe what I’m reading now? I just finished the most hysterical book I’ve read in my entire life. I laughed until I cried. Jenny Mollen’s I Like You Just the Way I Am. Hilarious. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Edie Meidav talks about grief, empathy, love, blindness in human relations, an alphabet to answer questions, and her new novel, ANOTHER LOVE DISCOURSE


I’m thrilled to host Edie Meidav .com on the blog today for her astonishing new book ANOTHER LOVE DISCOURSE. I’m thrilled to host Edie Meidav on the blog today for her astonishing new work, ANOTHER LOVE DISCOURSE, about love, pandemic and hope. Edie is also the remarkable author of the novels Kingdom of the Young, Lola, California, Crawl Space, The Far Field, and strange attractions. Instead of the usual Q and A, we have something different! Edie has provided “an alphabet of answers to imaginable questions,” and it is so great I am setting it down here! Thank you, Edie

One Shard 

An alphabet of answers to imaginable questions:

A: Toronto.

B. New York, Cuba, France, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka.

C. A former director of the MFA program at New College on Valencia Street in San Francisco, writer-in-residence at Bard College, and now at the UMass Amherst MFA program. 

D. Sea monkeys.

E. Language indeed a virus.

F. Ms., The Village Voice, Guernica, Artweek, The International Literary Quarterly, The Kenyon Review, Terra Nova, The American Voice, New Letters, Conjunctions and elsewhere. 

G. A Lannan Fellowship, a Howard Fellowship, a Bard Fiction Prize for Writers Under 40, Whiting research award, a Kafka Award for Best Novel by an American Woman, a Fulbright in Sri Lanka, Fulbright in Cyprus, Northern California Book Award shortlist, and other citations.

H. Books called editorial picks by the New York Times, the L.A. Times, the Electric Review, the Litblog Coop and elsewhere.

I. Overeducated women with a past; autodidact boys, occasionally scarred, often grown into men. 

J. Ocean.

K. Children.

L. Unterzakhn; The Map and the Territory; looking for Tanizaki.

M. Shange, Angelou, Woolf, Hardy, Faulkner, Morrison, Kundera, Paley, Baldwin, Flaubert, Rushdie, Cavafy, Lorca, Cortazar, Transtromer, Vallejo, Stendhal, Ishiguro, Coetzee, Jackson.

N. Poetry.

O. Generosity.

P. Spanish and French, German and Sinhala, Hebrew, some Catalan, Greek, Portuguese, Italian.

Q. One obsessive score for each book.

R. The stress of routine.

S. Loss of the perceiving mind.

And I want to let the high praise speak of Edie’s novel!

In Edie Meidav’s mesmerizing new novel, A Lover’s Discourse, we are in a Roland Barthian world, a rich explosive text about a divorce and failed love, the longing for a fully mothered childhood, and the ways that working hard often succumbs one to a hellish isolation and distance from life, the over-riding question being: can we ever be “happy” in such an existential tumble? We are engaged in these abstract questions simply because Edie Meidav is such a gifted writer. Meidav is one of our truest writers, and I feel only deep and profound admiration for the uneasy ways she has chosen to tell a story of the heartbreak of being a mother of three children, left by her husband.

 —Leora Skolkin-Smith, author of The Fragile Mistress and Stealing Faith

Edie Meidav’s Another Love Discourse shatters boundaries and expectations: her narrative voice—urgent, lyrical, raw—compels the reader into uncommon and intense intimacy. This powerful book will stay with you.

 —Claire Messud, author of A Dream Life

Edie Meidav is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and this is her best book, in a success of very strong books. It's open, wounded, true. 

--Rick Moody

Edie Meidav's Another Love Discourse is an uncategorizable triumph, and a gesture of radical intimacy with the reader, one of which Barthes would be proud.

—Jonathan Lethem, author of The Arrest 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Poets & Writers contributing editor Michael Bourne talks about his debut BLITHEDALE CANYON, writing fiction vs. being a journalist, California as a character, and so much more


All writers adore Poets & Writers and The Millions, which means they also love Michael Bourne, a contributing editor at Poets & Writers and a staff writer for the online literary site The Millions. His fiction and poetry have appeared in The Potomac Review, The Orange Coast Review, River City, Oakland Review, and online at Tin House's Flash Fridays. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. His debut, Blithedale Canyon, set in sun-soaked California is about a guy fresh out of rehab trying to put together the jagged pieces of his life in hopes of reclaiming his self-worth and the woman he loves. 

Says Edan Lepucki, "A story of love, redemption and hope. I couldn't put it down."

Teddy Wayne calls it "an ode to the pleasures and pains of the return to the familiar, to the gravitational pulls of addiction, friends and Springsteen on a car stereo, but mostly of home. A tenderly nostalgic and page-turning portrait of a man who cannot control his impulses, written by an author in full command."

Thank you for being here, Michael!

I always want to know what is haunting or obsessing an author into writing a book. What was it for you?

You could say that Blithedale Canyon is the story of the life I could have lived and didn’t. Like my narrator Trent, I’m an addict, and like Trent, I spent much of my twenties floundering and lost. But unlike him, I got clean fairly early and sidestepped the consequences so many addicts face – jail, institutions, lost jobs, wrecked relationships, and on and on. From the start, my sense of Trent was that he’s a good guy who does bad things. I did that for a while, then stopped. So while Blithedale Canyon isn’t autobiography and Trent is very different from me, I’ve always been haunted by that counterlife, the life I was lucky enough not to have lived. 

So you are so entrenched in the world of books from writing about them, reviewing, interviewing, the works. What was it like to be writing your debut novel? What surprised you about it? And did you love it more than writing stories? And if so why? (I've always heard that writing short stories is a passionate affair and writing a novel is a great marriage.)

One of the nice things about being a journalist is that if you want to know about something you can call up an expert and write a story about it. So when I wanted to learn what author newsletters were all about, I called a bunch of authors who were writing them. When I wanted to learn about contract publicists, I interviewed a bunch of publicists and writers who had worked with them. That’s all great, and I’ve learned a ton about the business of publishing from my work as a reporter, but all that helped me not one bit with the actual writing part. You can take classes and interview your favorite writers, but none of that changes the fact that writing a book is hard.

I guess that would be the thing that surprised me most about writing a debut novel, how hard it is to write a good one. I had two write two bad ones before I wrote a good one – and even then it took years of trial and error to get it right. The upside is that when you spend years of your life thinking you’ll never be able to pull something off, when you do pull it off, the sense of satisfaction is that much sweeter. The pre-pub buzz for Blithedale Canyon has so far been very positive, but at some very basic level I don’t care what the reviews say. I wrote something I’m proud of and that makes me happier than any outside kudos ever could.

As for short stories, I’m glad to put them behind me. I’ve published a bunch of them, but I don’t think it’s my natural form. I’m interested in long, complex story arcs, which stories can’t accommodate well. Writers like Alice Munro and Annie Proulx can write what feels like a whole novel in 25 pages. I’ll never know how they do it. Good story writers are like literary jewelers – they create beauty in the most compact of spaces. I love a great short story, but I’ve read enough of them to know I probably never write one.

Northern California is very much a character in your book. How did the meaning of that state change for you as you wrote about gentrification and love and trying to make ends meet?

I’m glad to hear you say that. I wanted readers to come away from Blithedale Canyon feeling like they know the town of Mill Valley, where the book is set, like a fully rounded character. In the novel, which is set in 2001, the town is undergoing a deep generational change. Trent’s family owned a local shoe store where his granddad worked out of the back repairing shoes. That business got destroyed by nearby malls, and now, as Trent says at one point, “All the old stores are gone. There’s nothing left in town but chain stores and art galleries.”

I very much wanted the town to have a story arc like the other characters in the book, so that at the same time Trent is trying to kick drugs and alcohol, the town is struggling to retain its small-town character where local people own most of the important businesses and people know each other. I think that’s a story that needs to be told. We get so caught up in all the shiny new toys of technological progress and we forget what our smartphones and mega-malls have replaced – towns that operated on a human scale. 

The Mill Valley of the novel is a fiction – the basic history and geography is factual, but the people and businesses are invented. But so far as I can tell, in the real Mill Valley, the battle to maintain the small-town character is over. The place remains gobsmackingly beautiful and if you’re in the market for some aromatherapy or a designer coffee, Mill Valley has you covered, but the town feels to me like a theme-park version of its former self, everything shiny and glossy and a little less practically useful than it once was. 

What's obsessing you now and why?

For a new book I’m writing, I’ve been researching ecoterrorists, and I’ve become mildly obsessed with understanding the logic of ecological terrorism. Unlike political terrorists, environmental activists rarely target people, opting instead to burn down buildings and disable machinery. Even so, people do get hurt. Their goals are often laudable – they’re literally trying to save the planet – but their methods are extreme and often extremely dangerous. I find the whole thing fascinating.

What question didn't I ask that I should have?

Maybe: “Dude, why? Why did you stick with writing fiction through decades of failure when there are so many other, easier ways to make a life?” This is a question I suspect pretty much everyone in my life has wanted to ask, and a few have flat-out asked it. My answer is always, “Beats me.” I’ve had success as a journalist and as a teacher and part of me wishes I could be satisfied with that, because I do derive a lot of satisfaction from those jobs. But for as long as I can remember, I’ve felt that I was put on this planet to tell stories. It’s not a logical thing. I’m glad I’ve published stories and now a book and I hope to publish more, but I’d keep doing this if I never published a word. I’m a writer, so I write. It’s really as simple as that.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Robin Black talks about Mrs. Dalloway, the book that mattered to her the most.


What books matter the most to us, and why do we turn to them time after time? I've long admired Robin Black, both as a person, a literary citizen, and an acclaimed writer, and I was thrilled to learn that she had written a book about why Virginia Woolf's masterpiece, Mrs. Dalloway, meant so much to her.  Thank you so much, Robin for being here!

First, the praise!

“This astonishing new book, by the brilliant Robin Black is an intimate meditation on reading and writing, aftermath and possibility, the tension between the never-stable, endlessly interpretable depths of a book and the fragility of life, the finality of death. I emerged from this breathtaking work with a transformed understanding of both Woolf’s masterpiece and the stream of consciousness in which we swim, “together and alone.”—Karen Russell

“Reading Robin Black’s astute and enlightening meditation on Mrs. Dalloway is like eavesdropping on a mesmerizing literary conversation, but one in which the participants are not two readers but a reader and a masterpiece. Black threads the very moving story of her own evolution as a writer through the exquisite fabric of Woolf’s great novel, and the result will fascinate everyone who cares about the craft of fiction.”—Ann Packer 

“I loved reading Robin Black’s take on Mrs. Dalloway. She generously shares details of her own life that offer an example of how a great book stays with a person, and goes deep into the intricacies of important craft aspects of the text, illuminating its brilliance. It’s a privilege to read alongside her.”—Alice Elliot Dark 

Robin Black’s story collection, If I loved you, I would tell you this, was a finalist for the Frank O’Connor International Story Prize, and named a Best Book of 2010 by numerous publications, including the Irish Times. Her novel, Life Drawing, was longlisted for ​the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, the Impac Dublin Literature Prize, and the Folio Prize. Her fiction has been translated into Italian, French, German, and Dutch.​

​Robin’s most recent book is Crash Course: Essays From Where Writing And Life Collide. Robin’s work can be found in such publications as One Story, The New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, Southern Review, The Rumpus, O. MagazineConde Nast Traveler UK, and numerous anthologies, including The Best Creative Nonfiction Vol. I (Norton) and The Best of the Bellevue Literary Review

I always want to know what was haunting or obsessing a writer into writing their new book. What was it for you?

I really had no idea until I worked on this book why I felt so almost magically drawn to Mrs. Dalloway. But now I understand that the topics of mental health struggles, and the satisfactions one does and doesn't get from a life defined by the domestic sphere, plus Woolf's genius use of craft all resonated for me when I first read the book at forty-two. As they still do. 

I love that line, "We swim together and alone." Please can you talk about this?

There is a quasi-magical aspect to the way Woolf treats consciousness in this book. Yes, she explores and, in her word, "tunnels" into individual consciousnesses, but she also writes in a way that suggests something like a shared societal consciousness, a fluidity of boundaries between individuals. This comes up especially in her depiction of mental illness. At the beginning of the book, all of London seems to think as one, except poor Septimus Smith whose perceptions are distorted due to mental illness. They all see one thing, a "royal personage" for example, and he sees something entirely different: a reflection of his own "wrongness." I think this is such a gorgeous, insightful, subliminal way of depicting the "out of step" quality of what having a mental illness feels like. That fluidity of consciousness, that understanding that at times people's thoughts converge, that a disruption of that is a lonely place to be, is what I call the "ocean of shared consciousness" - in which we swim together and alone. 

What surprised you in writing this book?

I was shocked and sometimes discouraged by how difficult it was for me to organize and articulate my perceptions and opinions and experiences of reading it. I don't think I have ever had to work with the same kind of concentration and precision on anything. Reading and rereading and rereading opened up such a wealth of responses in me. It was the challenge of my ADD brain's life to keep all that clear and make it comprehensible to anyone else. And I was shocked by what I term the "extreme craft" Woolf employs. I went from knowing it's a work of genius, to seeing how at least some of that genius works, structurally. 

What's obsessing you now and why?

Other than the state of the world, the horrors that abound, all of which dominates all our thoughts these days, I am obsessed with writing my new novel - which is somewhat lighter than my earlier work, and my first long fiction project in nearly a decade. I won't say more, for all the reasons you understand, but I am beginning to believe in it - a stage I am sure you also understand. 

What question didn't I ask that I should have?

Caroline! You ask all the right questions! But here's another: What's it like to write so personal a book about a novel that people are obsessed with and reverent about? Even worshipful. . . And the answer is, it's terrifying. But also felt important to me, because what I really try to do in this book is take a long hard look at what it means to be a reader, what it means for a reader to become a collaborator with a writer whom they will never meet. And that is a subject that belongs to us all. 


Monday, April 4, 2022

OUT TODAY! Gina Sorell's wise and witty novel< THE WISE WOMEN, about real estate, motherhood, family and so much more! To celebrate: a movie and a few silly questions...

30 Books we Can't Wait to read in 2022-- Parade

Read With Jenna's Most Anticipated books of 2022

"A fine job describing neighborhood tensions and the city's scene." - Publishers' Weekly

"Warm and quirky!" Kirkus Reviews

Gina's a friend since forever, partner in crime, screenwriting partner (hey, together we made finalist in the Sundance Screenwriters' Lab) and a cause for celebration because today is her pub day for The Wise Women. She's also the author of Mothers and Other Strangers, a Great Group Reads selection, and a 2017 best book of Refinery 29, Self Magazine.

To celebrate I'm asking her a few silly questions.

This is so exciting! And so different from your first launch of your first novel MOTHERS AND OTHER STRANGERS. So what food is it most like now?

A strawberry pavlova drizzled with dark chocolate.

What are your nerves like today? Hawaii on the beach or stuck in traffic in Mumbai?

Stuck in traffic in Mumbai--definitely!

Where would you be the most thrilled seeing people reading your book?

Outside, relaxing, with their feet up and a coffee or cocktail at the ready!

Go forth and buy this book at your favorite indie! Or mosey over to and order online.


Thursday, March 17, 2022

Women are rewriting their own story! Come see how in Gina Barreca's hilarious collection of flash fiction from some of the fiercest women around: FAST FIERCE WOMEN

No one writes a funnier bio than Gina herself, So here it is: 

Gina Barreca has appeared, often as a repeat guest, on 20/20The Today ShowCNN, the BBCNPR and, yes, on Oprah to discuss gender, power, politics, and humor. Her earlier books include the bestselling They Used to Call Me Snow White But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use of HumorIt’s Not That I’m Bitter, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World
If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse, and Babes in Boyland: A Personal History of Coeducation in the Ivy League. Of the other six books she’s written or co-written, several have been translated into to other languages–including Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese and German.  Called “smart and funny” by People magazine and “Very, very funny. For a woman,” by Dave Barry, Gina was deemed a “feminist humor maven” by Ms. Magazine. Novelist Wally Lamb said “Barreca’s prose, in equal measures, is hilarious and humane.” Her latest project is a book on loneliness that will be released in 2020!

Gina’s award-winning weekly columns from The Hartford Courant are now distributed internationally by the Tribune Co.; her blog for Psychology Today has well over 6 million views. Gina’s work has appeared in most major publications, including The New York TimesThe Independent of LondonThe Chronicle of Higher EducationCosmopolitan, and The Harvard Business Review. Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Connecticut, Gina’s also the winner of UConn’s highest award for excellence in teaching. She’s  delivered keynotes at events organized by national organizations in the U.S. and abroad, including Women In Federal Law Enforcement, Chautauqua, The Smithsonian, the Women in Science, Dentistry, Osteopathy & Medicine, the American Payroll Association, the National Association of Independent Schools, and the National Speaker’s Association, to name a few.

Her B.A. is from Dartmouth College, where she was the first woman to be named Alumni Scholar and the first alumna to have her personal papers requested by the Rauner Special Collections Library at the College. Her M.A. is from NewHall/Murry Edwards College at Cambridge University, where she was a Reynold’s Fellow. Her Ph.D. is from the City University of New York, where she lived close to a very good delicatessen. A member of the Friars’ Club, holder of a number of honorary degrees, and honored by the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, Gina can be found in the Library of Congress or in the make-up aisle of Walgreens. She grew up in Brooklyn and Long Island but now lives with her husband in Storrs, CT. Go figure.

And what I need to add is that Gina is my adored friend. I'd do anything for her. Well, maybe not eat a mayonnaise sandwich, but you know what I mean.

You and I have talked so much about how humor saves us. But so does being fierce!  Can you define what fierce means to you, and we ALL know it does not mean being a bitch, which is a word used to denigrate rather than empower? And can you tell us how the idea for Fast Fierce Women began?

Every time a woman opens her mouth and anything apart from a cooing noise or a compliment comes out, she’s called a “bitch.” I don’t like the word “bitch” and so I don’t use it--and I ask my students not to use it around me, not even as way of congratulating or praising each other. But “tough"? That’s a good word. Tough broads, tough gals, touch chicks (although “chicks" only worked until around 1982) are all seriously great descriptions. They connote resilience, resistance, and a refusal to stick to the code of benign, simpering femininity. Fierce is the BEST word, though, because it conveys an active desire not to settle for less than we’ve always wanted, which is a good time and a fair fight. 
I am absolutely loving all the books you do with flash creative NON fiction. I’ve never actually DONE flash fiction before you asked me, too, and I love the punch it really does pack. How did you come to decide on this format?

All great writing holds a mirror up to life and the short form holds up a compact mirror: you see a miniature, an accurate but scaled down weekly columns for than 20 years and, like you, blog for PSYCHOLOGY TODAY. I enjoy the short form; it’s the right cut for my weird shape (and what woman doesn’t think her shape is weird? That’s something for another collection).

Tell us about some of your fave pieces in the collection? And how hard was it to decide what to pick?! 

Every essay is about strength, focused power, passion, and determined intelligence, often coupled often with instinct, tenacity, persistence, resilience, rage, and inflexibility. These themes or ideas or stories are often coupled with humor, and deal with friendship, loyalty, talent and community—what’s not to like? Some of the emerging writers in the book, young women who have never seen their words in print before, have written impressive pieces:  “Black People Don’t Do This” by Ashaleigh Carrington, a former student, is both funny and heartbreaking—talking about going to therapy with her middle-aged shrink’s “white noise” going in the background, but her own wish to make her life better determining her commitment to mental stability; Nicole Catarino writes about a battle with OCD and, again, tells her story with ferocity and without self-diminishment—and also with humor. There are stories about flight attendants who finally got the revenge on the jerk passenger we’d all like to get, and stories about first jobs, old sex, and love—so many stories about love, we discover that fierce love is the most enduring kind of love there is. I’m proud of every piece, as different as they are—or maybe because they are so different from one another.

We’ve also talked about how with women, part of the reason we all go to the ladies’ room together, is to talk, to laugh. Even when we go alone, we start up convos with whoever is there, and soon become fast friends.  I have always felt that meeting you was like Friends at First Sight. I just KNEW immediately. And the more we know each other, the stronger our friendship gets. My husband often says that his best friends are women—because they go deeper, they are more honest, more real, and I was wondering why do you think the friendships are different?

Every woman I know believes her own friendships are endowed with a kind of secret significance. I certainly do—my friends keep me alive. Look, I’m not married to my best friend. I’m married to my husband. He’s a man I adore but he’s not my best friend. For that I am fantastically grateful. One of life’s great gifts is that there’s no taboo against having multiple best friends. You don’t have to go on reality television or into family court to explain or defend yourself. Nobody says “What? You’ve had twenty friends in twenty years? That’s terrible. How could you?” And that’s because friends are people you’re supposed to have in your life—the more the better. Nobody says that about spouses.
When we’re with our women friends, we believe that we are in extraordinary company; that’s how I felt about meeting you, Caroline, right from the beginning.  Making us feel rare and prized, our friends capture our imagination and offer us perspective. They remind us not only who we are, but also why we’re significant. Friendships inspire us. They allow us to express ourselves, even when we can’t stand the self we’re expressing or when we’re so far from our true selves that we turn to our friends to bring us back, as if we’d put our personalities in pawn and gave our friends the receipt for safekeeping—as if they were the ones we trusted, more than we trust ourselves.

What’s obsessing you now and why?

I wish I had smarter and more wide-ranging answers to this insightful questions. I’m scared by the news, which makes me rock back-and-forth, worrying about whether I should spend money trying to arm Ukrainian soldiers, or install just another generator and hoard more seltzer—I feel useless and ignorant. My greatest fear in life is being useless. I feel at my lowest when I feel as if I am trying my best and getting nowhere. When that feeling comes around, I go all self-torturing. Nothing I have done is enough, nothing I can do will be enough, who I am is absurd—and that’s why the question about friendship is crucial. When I feel this way, I turn to my friends and they help, lending me their own perspective when mine is wobbly. 

What question didn’t I ask that I should have?

You asked ALL the good questions. You are kind and generous, and I am lucky to know you. THANKS DOLL!!