“It is dangerous and illegal to walk on the highway.”
—Quote from the Michigan driver’s ed manual 
I grew up in Detroit, Motor City, and so my delight in carless transportation has always seemed a bit perverse. But anybody who is a writer knows the feeling. What we do might not be dangerous or illegal, but it can sometimes look a little crazy from the outside.

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Modern Love

Posted by on Aug 29th, 2016 in Lives Lived | 1 comment

Modern Love

My essay, A Single Mom Escapes the Friend Zone, One Non-Date at a Time, appeared in the Modern Love column of the New York Times on Sunday, August 21st. Follow the link here. Some people have asked me for advice on writing a Modern Love essay. My best tip is to listen to Ann Hood’s podcast, How to Write a Kick-Ass Essay, and do what she says. She should know; she’s published more Modern Love essays (three) than anyone else. Follow the link here. My other advice is common sense: Read the Modern Love guidelines. Follow the link here. This...

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Letter to My Thirteen-Year-Old Self

Posted by on Jun 4th, 2016 in Writing Life | 1 comment

Letter to My Thirteen-Year-Old Self

In my first-year memoir class, we cover Bill Roorbach’s excellent craft book, Writing Life Stories, in a year. My favorite chapter is the one about voice. The first exercise is to write a letter to someone, a letter you won’t send. Roorbach says, “This exercise always produces the best writing of the term up to the time I assign it. . . . When we address a particular person . . . we know what’s vital and urgent. . . And all this knowing gives us a clear, confident authoritative voice.” For our in-class writing assignment, I asked my...

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Country Roads, Take Me Home

Posted by on May 21st, 2016 in Writing Life | 0 comments

Country Roads, Take Me Home

It was the week Prince died. Music was on our minds, so I gave my class this writing prompt: Write about music you loved or music you hated. Let it take you back in time, in your head and on the page. We did a three-minute meditation, then wrote, nonstop, for fifteen minutes. This was mine: I don’t remember my mother singing me lullabies. But I know she did because I sing them to my own children. When my son, my first, was a colicky newborn, I’d often spend the whole night dozing on the rocking chair in his room, as I held him against my...

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Writing Joy

Posted by on May 17th, 2016 in Writing Life | 0 comments

Writing Joy

In every memoir class I teach, we do a writing exercise. I used to find it difficult to write along with my students. I was too busy looking at the clock, planning what to say next. Or maybe I worried they would judge me. What, you’re the teacher and all you could come up with is that? But now I do the three-minute meditation and the fifteen-minute exercise, too. If they’re willing to be vulnerable and raw in front of others, shouldn’t I be? At the last class, we discussed the “Writing the Body” chapter in Tristine Rainer’s Your...

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The Retrospective Voice: Why Memoir Matters in an Age of Shootings

Posted by on Oct 2nd, 2015 in Writing Life | 6 comments

The Retrospective Voice: Why Memoir Matters in an Age of Shootings

Yesterday—yet again—a lone man opened fire on a school and killed people just because they were there. My Facebook feed filled with pleas to DO something about this epidemic. I sat at my computer and prepared a lecture for my next memoir class, wondering if there’s anything we writers CAN do. Memoirists are sometimes accused of being solipsistic. Why write about your own life, instead of big, important topics—like war and poverty and climate change? Why not write about something that could change the world for the better? You know,...

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Stepfatherhood

Posted by on Aug 27th, 2015 in Lives Lived | 2 comments

Stepfatherhood

“Happy Stepfather’s Day!” said no one, ever. That’s an exaggeration—but not by much. I haven’t been the world’s most grateful stepdaughter. Nor has my son been the most emotionally demonstrative stepson to my husband James. But I hadn’t realized how maligned stepfathers were until I watched Boyhood with James last year. “What a shame the Evil Stepfather showed up again,” he said. “Whenever there’s a stepfather in the story, he’s always the bad guy.” That couldn’t be true. Weren’t stepmothers the ones who were...

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Foie Gras, The Vegetable: On Food Transgressions

Posted by on May 8th, 2015 in Lives Lived | 1 comment

Foie Gras, The Vegetable: On Food Transgressions

During my junior semester abroad, I worked as a companion for Anne-Marie, a famously reclusive French poet who died a couple years ago. She had a rule I knew well, though she never explained its origin: She didn’t allow herself to drink. Not one drop. Except through me. She often hosted dinner parties, microcosms of the French intelligentsia—at least I imagined them that way, at twenty. We would always prepare the same dishes: lamb chops with rosemary, radishes with crème fraîche and herbs, and stinky Muenster cheese. After the salad...

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The Girls of Usually by Lori Horvitz (Book Review)

Posted by on May 8th, 2015 in Reading Like a Writer | 0 comments

The Girls of Usually by Lori Horvitz (Book Review)

I met Lori Horvitz several years ago at an artists’ residency, where she was writing this book, then tentatively called “Dating My Mother.” She read the title piece, about her recent break-up with a woman whose eccentric restaurant behavior rivaled that of Lori’s mother, who once responded to a bug in a bowl of soup by saying, “It’s pepper. Just eat it.” The piece was sad, not only because it was about a failed romantic relationship but because the mother in the title died young, when Lori was in her early twenties. I was moved...

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Single Dads and Terrorists

Posted by on May 8th, 2015 in Lives Lived | 1 comment

Single Dads and Terrorists

Before the Boston Marathon bombers were identified, my friend Genevieve said a prayer: “Please don’t let them be Muslims.” She is married to a Muslim man from Morocco. When they lived in America shortly after the World Trade Center bombing in 2001, he was routinely pulled aside by security officers because he “looked like a terrorist.” Now they live in Paris, and they hope that the recent shootings at the offices of Charlie Hebdo won’t cause another wave of anti-Muslim hysteria. I hope so, too. But I know how easy it is to imagine...

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Stain

Posted by on Dec 15th, 2014 in Lives Lived | 0 comments

Stain

Here is a link to my newest essay over at The Rumpus: Stain

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