I can’t believe this is our TENTH issue–and we have interviewed 30 memoir writers so far! I really think this is terrific, considering the primary mandate has been to focus on writers and books that may have received less attention than their quality merited. I have broken that “rule” a few times, with last issue’s interview with Nick Flynn, whose name comes up over and over in our final question to all writers to name their favorites, and of course, Roz Chast–interviewed by Charlotte Hildebrand in this issue–has a huge following. Still, if I can say this with a slight blush, I think on some level Nick and Roz are our kind of memoir writer: quirky, thoughtful, in love with language, not afraid to look into dark corners, or perhaps worse, take a long look in the mirror.
In this issue, we also interview travel memoir writer Peter Wortsman, about the months he spent at the American Academy in Berlin, chasing ghosts, and snacking along the way. I neglected to bring this up with Peter, but he has some wonderful adventures with German food. Scott Johnson‘s memoir, The Wolf and the Watchman covers a lot of geography, too, but is more an exploration of the emotional territory between father and son, one of whom is a journalist; the other is a spy. Amy Biancolli has written a memoir that might appear to be too painful to read. The quick description is that it is about how she coped (by Figuring Shit Out) in the aftermath of the suicide of Chris, her husband, the father of their three kids. Amy is a very funny person, a very gutsy person–and all I can say without sounding like I’ve joined the cult of Amy is that her book is a reminder to all of us why life is worth sticking around for.
Jude Marr has written a haunting essay for this issue’s Writing a Memoir section, about her mother. The essay evolved after Jude submitted a wonderful short memoir for the Readers’ House prompt we ran in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue, called MOTHER. I accepted her submission, and I sent her an e-mail asking her if she’d like to send along a photograph of her mother to be posted with her short piece. She wrote back that it was a long story, but she didn’t think she had any photographs of her mother. I said, How’d you like to write an essay about that for us?
Finally, this time around, Readers’ House presents short-memoir submissions on the topic of A BODY OF WATER. I think that the variations on this theme are the most diverse of any so far. I hope you will enjoy them, and please consider submitting if you connect with this topic. Submissions will continue to be accepted through January 1, 2015.
A word about my friend and comrade-in-arms, Melissa Shook, who has contributed an interview with an author of her choosing to every issue except this one. Melissa stepped back a bit after a too-busy summer, spending as much time as possible at her beloved Suffolk Downs, the racetrack outside Boston where she has devoted so much energy documenting the people–her friends–who work on the “backside” with the horses. Suffolk Downs closed in October, for good–and with it a large chunk of history. Luckily for us, Melissa has published two books about her years spent with the memorable folks at the track: in 2012, she published My Suffolk Downs, and just this past month, He Says, She Says, I Say, and Nobody Tells the Truth, Whatever That is, on the Backside of Suffolk Downs (a narrative). Info on both books is available at her website, melissashook.com; work specific to Thoroughbreds is at www.pennyanteproductions.com. Another piece of good news: after far, far too many years of relatively low-key acknowledgement as a first-class documentary photographer, Melissa is now being represented by one of the premier photography dealers in the country: please check out her incredible work online at the Joseph Bellows Gallery: www.josephbellows.com/artists/melissa-shook#1.
Thank you, as always, for your loyal readership. Spread the word!
Stay warm this winter, be kind to your friends and neighbors; and by all means, if it’s necessary, stay warm with your friends and neighbors. You can tell all the juicy details in your memoir.
Susan T. Landry