Photo by Jorge Santiago

Neither MFA Nor NYC

My favorite story from my college years wasn’t one I heard in a Creative Writing workshop. I didn’t hear it in any lit seminar or poetry reading. I heard it on a Wednesday night in West Oakland, sitting in a metal folding chair at the twelve-step meeting where I clung to my tenuous new sobriety. The story was told by Milton, a teeny-tiny wrinkled old man, ... [Continue Reading]


Women We Read This Week

"It's Always Spilling Over the Edges": Jamie Green interviews Leslie Jamison on BuzzFeed I've been loving Leslie Jamison's essays from her new collection, The Empathy Exams, that have come out recently in The Believer and Harper's. They're narratives that plunge into the frustrating world of doctor-patient communication and the vulnerability of a patient's narrative. ... [Continue Reading]


Vela Writers On: Storytelling

Where do fictional characters come from; what does it mean to bear witness; is information the death of story? In three short essays, Vela writers explore both the nature and the craft of storytelling. In The Non-Bravery of Bearing Witness, Lauren Quinn wonders why she gets called "brave" each time she writes a personal essay, and considers this definition of ... [Continue Reading]

Photo by Guiliano Maiolini

Vela Writers On: Money

I remember years ago – five years ago, to be precise – after I'd decided not to take another teaching job, I announced to my dad on the phone, "I'm going to make a living from writing." If this sounds like a terrifying decision, keep in mind that my rent in Oaxaca was $150 a month and a massive bean-and-cheese filled tlayuda, paired with a forty of Corona, cost ... [Continue Reading]

Andrew's and Simone's feet

The Writer and the Army Wife

Recently, I published a short essay about saying goodbye to my husband before his first deployment. The piece is, as you might imagine, a crier, and it evinced a pretty strong emotional reaction in some readers: many of them reached out to me, thanking me for reminding them that men and women throughout the country are continuing to endure the sorrow of separation, ... [Continue Reading]

Doubt in wr

Vela Writers On: Doubt

We know it so well: that familiar feeling slinking up to assail us as we fight our way through a piece, as we send a hopeful and assertive email to an editor, as we sit down to lay out those first few sentences of a new story, as we watch the whisky fizzle over the ice after the latest rejection. Doubt. Perhaps more than any other emotion, it defines and dogs us. Here, ... [Continue Reading]

Photo by Rodrigo Jardón

Additions and Subtractions

I’ve tried a lot of different subtractions over the years: selling my plasma, going without health insurance, living in a house in the woods with no indoor plumbing, eating a lot of peanut butter, not owning a car. I did these things happily, as experiments that could give me more of what I wanted: time to write, travel, and work on creative projects. I’ve never made ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: Kevin Dooley

On Value

About a year and a half ago I wrote something that I'm really not proud of, for a reason I'm even less proud of: for money. For $60, in fact, which is what makes the whole thing so funny. $60 is not a lot of money to earn for writing a 900-word piece. But it’s also not nothing. Of course, I live in England, where $60 is actually, according to today’s exchange rate, ... [Continue Reading]

Photo by Jorge Santiago

Hopes and Fears of the Writing Life

Fears Fear that in the end, no matter how hard I work, no matter how many doors I bang on and with what frequency and obstinacy, no matter all the palliative nostalgia of laureled writers reflecting on the mounting failures that led to their breakthroughs, I just don't have enough talent. Fear of not reading enough. Fear of reading the wrong things. Fear of ... [Continue Reading]