I feel the pull of the world…🌎💔😥

 

 

 

 

Flying home from Colorado, smudges of snow cling to the mountains. I’ve been teaching at Aspen Summer Words and I’m equal parts energized and exhausted. A week immersed in natural beauty and smart conversations, engaged with inspiring and challenging writing, making new friends, participating in terrific panels—was a gift! Please, put yourself in the path of beauty and creative growth. No matter how you express your creativity seek the company of talented and dedicated people. (Maybe a week at the Oregon Coast could be perfect? Join me! retreat.write.energize)

At 10,000 feet, I feel the pull of the world. My students broke the SCOTUS news to me in workshop, and though I knew the repeal of Roe was coming, I was overwhelmed by an instantaneous flood of sorrow and rage. Politicians and ideologues have taken away freedom to make decisions about our own bodies. We’ve failed to preserve dignity and opportunity for our daughters and their partners. Maybe you feel exhausted, even hopeless. Rest up. Stay hydrated. Nourish yourself (creatively too). We have a lot of work to do. Opportunities for action at the bottom of this note.

 

 


read

I just finished Tom Perrotta’s novel, TRACY FLICK CAN’T WIN. I was all in. The characters were funny. There’s a sweet, lesbian love story, a twelve-step program, and the pacing… fantastic. If you have trouble with the rate-of-revelation in your work, if you worry about page-turnability, reading Perrotta is a master class. Take notes. How does he hook you? Humor, characters misbehaving, stakes, causally related actions, some cringe factor… all of it is tantalizing.

And yet, ultimately I was angry! (Spoiler ahead) First off, Perrotta doesn’t write female friendship. By the time poor Tracy makes a friend, the writing turns to summary. We are never in scene with the women laughing, listening, and supporting one another—you know, the way we all spend time with our female friends! Second, in the world of this novel, the only way Tracy Flick wins is by taking a bullet in a school shooting? Seriously? A woman has to get shot to get the promotion she deserves? Perrotta honestly couldn’t think of any other way for Tracy to get her due? It felt like a cheap (and easy) way out of her predicament.

Here are 11 books that celebrate strong women who struggle, screw up, and thrive on their own terms. These are the books we should be reading now. If you have some favorites of your own, please, I implore you, send me the titles. (And yes, I know I should read CIRCE, Madeline Miller)

I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECK, Nora Ephron
THE VANISHING HALF, Brit Bennett
INDIGO, Ellen Bass
BECOMING, Michele Obama
WILD, Cheryl Strayed
STATE OF WONDER, Ann Patchett
I AM MALALA, Malala Yousafzai
IN PRAISE OF DIFFICULT WOMEN, Karen Karbo
HARRIET THE SPY, Louise Fitzhugh
THE LAST BLACK UNICORN, Tiffany Haddish
MANHATTAN BEACH, Jennifer Egan
HAMNET, Maggie O’Farrell

 

Just a quick reminder, I’ve created a read.write.eat. Bookshop Store, where you can find many of the books I’ve recommend in the newsletter.

 



write

Two things I gleaned at writing camp:

Stay current! Expand your TBR stack with books entering the zeitgeist now. Look to the finalists (not just the winners) for awards like the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the PEN America Awards, Smart, incisive readers have vetted these books for you. 
  
Authority. We can talk about this from two angles. Narrative authority refers to readers’ confidence and belief in the narrator. We want our readers to trust they’re in good hands, and we make that happen with a true and consistent voice, with vivid and believable settings (even if it’s a made-up world).
 
We must also have authority to tell our stories. When we don’t believe we have any business putting words to page, when we worry about our right to speak, the work is of course wobbly. We have to learn to value and recognize what interests us. We have to pay attention. (And, maybe don’t internalize our self-deprecating jokes?)
 
“Who’s going to give you the authority to feel that what you notice is important? It will have to be you. The authority you feel has a great deal to do with how you write, and what you write, with your ability to pay attention to the shape and meaning of your own thoughts and the value of your own perceptions. Being a writer is an act of perpetual self-authorization.”
from SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING, Verlyn Klinkenborg

A prompt: On your way to coffee, to work, to the market, to meet friends for dinner, pay attention to the world around you. When you reach your destination, make note of seven things you noticed. Use all your senses. Just seven things. You can make a voice memo, send yourself a text, or jot them down. Make a habit of noticing. And then, make a habit of noticing what you notice.

Another way to give yourself authority is to invest in yourself:

RETREAT.WRITE.ENERGIZE!

an opportunity to focus, to validate, and to get some serious work done. A week on the beautiful Oregon Coast, October 9-15.

  • workshops each day
  • craft talks
  • writing timeAll the info is here!

For more opportunities to work together, check the updated TEACHING page.

 



eat

I sat on a panel in Aspen in which we discussed maintaining our writing momentum at home. One question from the excellent moderator: where do we turn in low moments, when we may be despairing. A colleague suggested The Marginaliananother colleague suggested reading poetry, and I, forever the outlier, suggested baking. When I feel low, I like something with a satisfying and easily achievable beginning, middle, and end. I like to stir, and dice, and move my body around the kitchen.

Brown Butter Nectarine Cobbler/Cake ala NYTs

  • 3 c fresh nectarines in 1/2-inch slices, or a combination (about 1 pound)
  • ½ c sugar
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • ¾ c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 ½ t baking powder
  • ⅛ t salt
  • ¾ c buttermilk
  • ¼ c sliced almonds
  • 2 T Demerara sugar

 

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the fruit slices, ¼ c sugar and lemon juice. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a simmer, then take the pan off the heat.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until it smells very nutty, turns golden, and flecks of dark brown appear, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the brown butter into an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking dish.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, remaining ¼ c sugar, baking powder and salt. Pour the buttermilk into the dry ingredients and mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  5. Scrape the batter on top of the brown butter, use a spatula to even out the batter but be careful not to mix it into the butter. Scatter the nectarine slices and juice on top of the batter without stirring. Sprinkle with the almonds, and Demerara sugar.
  6. Bake until golden brown, 50 to 55 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm.

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A little program note: I’ve been writing and sharing what I love for nearly 3 years! I love it and many of you write to let me know how much you enjoy my thoughts and recommendations, and for that I am truly grateful. Honestly, it makes my day to hear from readers. Also, it takes time and consideration to put my thoughts together twice a month. Maybe you’d like to show appreciation buy clicking below:

buy me a cup of coffee!☕️

 

To help women with no access to abortion, consider donating to:
National Network of Abortion FundsTo help normalize abortion please consider sharing to:
Jessica Yellin at News Not Noise. She asks, “Have you had an abortion? Has someone you love had an abortion? Please share your story and we will share here. Call our voicemail at 805.222.6462.”

If you need help obtaining an abortion pill, please check here:
Plan C

This will be a long battle. Make noise. Vote. Do what you can.

Stanley sends his love.

Please, remember to tell your people you love them,
xN