I confess that 2020 and 2021 have not been good writing years for me. After many years in which I was determined to keep three balls in the air — writer, parent, teacher — when the pandemic hit, I found that I could not do all three. Writing was the obvious ball to drop, because nobody was depending on me to produce literature, the way my children and students were depending on me to help sustain them through the “unprecedented” (to recycle an adjective only slightly less overused than “apocalyptic” ) blah blah blah.
But I want to celebrate the productivity and brilliance of three friends who did it: they somehow managed to juggle those same three activities and are emerging from the pandemic with impressive, writerly things to show for it.
Rebecca Starks just published a brilliant new collection of poems, Fetch, Muse. You can buy a copy now directly from Able Muse Press, or pre-order from your local bookseller.
Rachel Eve Moultonis finishing her second novel, under contract with MCD x FSG, to follow up her gorgeous debut, Tinfoil Butterfly. The second book promises to be even more amazing.
And last but not least, the talented Jennifer Jordán Schaller has finished a full length memoir. I have been privileged to watch this project evolve from essays that she wrote as an MFA student. Over the years, I’ve cheered as she published pieces of it in literary journals like Creative Nonfiction, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Cutbank, and on the iconic radio program This American Life. I can’t wait for the book to find representation, and a publisher, and many more readers in the wider world.
Thank you, talented writers, teachers, parents, and friends, for showing me it can be done!
I recently had an inspiring conversation with the brilliant essayist Anne Goldman about her new book, Stargazing in the Atomic Age, which was published by Georgia Review Books this month.
Here’s an excerpt from the first part of our conversation (which can be read in its entirety on the GR2 website, here) which suggests why these essays make such vital reading right now:
LSM: If catastrophe has an antidote you find it in “translating unspoken grief into forward motion.” And you give us exemplars who inspire us to keep thinking and creating.
AG: …Yes—even in grief, the most profound grief, people find their way forward. We don’t really have that much of a choice, do we? We either grind to a halt or stumble on. In my own life, I am very far from being a Pollyanna. My mind practically skips ahead toward catastrophe, so perhaps writing this book was one way of righting myself. But I also think we’re all subjected to stories of tragedy and despair—not least in every news outlet we find ourselves reading. What I wanted to do in this book is to push against the feelings we all struggle with, some of us, sometimes, on a daily basis, and never more so than in this last so difficult year.
In essays about composers, artists, mathematicians, writers, and scientists, Goldman weaves together diverse biographical threads to show the breadth of Jewish American achievement in the twentieth century. But more broadly, her book is about creativity and its redemptive powers, which we need more than ever at this hour of the twenty-first century. Buy Stargazing in the Atomic Age directly from the University of Georgia Press, or your favorite book retailer.
The Swedish translation of my essay “The Long Run” is now in print in this volume of travel narratives entitled Gränslös–which, I’m told, means “Without Borders.” When I received my copies in the mail this past weekend, I was pleased, but not quite sure how to honor the occasion. Reading the book was not really an option, as I don’t speak Swedish. I contemplated having a party at which I would read it aloud to my friends while throwing food around the room, Muppet-style, but that seemed a little disrespectful of my Grandmother Tongue. Instead, I just loaned the book to my one Swedish acquaintance here in Albuquerque. I hope she’ll enjoy reading it, and perhaps tell me what sort of fun the translator had with my words, and fill me in on the kind of company my essay will keep in this anthology.
If you know any Swedes who are interested in travel narratives, direct them to adlibris or bokus to purchase a copy.