Crafting Memoir and “Doing Grief”: An Interview with Melanie Bishop

This week's guest writer, Melanie Bishop, was one of my first writing teachers at Prescott College, a small liberal arts and environmental school in Arizona. Here’s what I remember about my writing classes with Melanie: There would be ten, maybe twelve of us sitting around a table, a common manuscript in hand, intently discussing craft. We were just as engaged in that ... [Continue Reading]


In the Form of Birds

The summer my father died I bought a book on Southwestern birds. It was he who had given me my first feeder on my 8th birthday, back when we lived in New Orleans. He’d gotten the bird-feeding bug, I’m guessing, from his mother. At his parents’ house in Springfield, Pennsylvania, there was one of those open platforms—a plywood landing about six feet high. My ... [Continue Reading]


Women We Read This Week

Mac McClelland's "How to Build a Perfect Refugee Camp" in The New York Times Magazine Mac McClelland always brings the spot-on reporting and her latest piece on a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey is no exception. This is not the expected story about a refugee camp--there are no tents, no sewage, virtually no crime. What there is instead: preschools, infrastructure, ... [Continue Reading]


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]


Women We Read This Week

Leslie Jamison’s "The Empathy Exams: A Medical Actor Writers Her Own Script" in The Believer In Leslie Jamison’s brilliant (seriously, please go read it right now) essay “The Empathy Exams: A Medical Actor Writes Her Own Script,” Jamison compares and contrasts playing a patient (as a medical actor) with being a real one (describing her abortion and heart ... [Continue Reading]


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]


Women We Read This Week

Maria Konnikova’s “An Antidote for Mindlessness” on The New Yorker’s Science and Tech “Elements” blog If you practice yoga and meditation, you know the word: mindfulness, and if you’re like me, it strikes terror. Sprawled on the mat, you’re supposed to focus on your breath but all you can do is imagine the pizza maker, whose shop shares the building with ... [Continue Reading]

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 by Luca Setti

A Story About Hanoi

This is a story about moving to Hanoi. This is not a story about moving to Hanoi as an American. This is not a story about eating phở cuốnby the lake where John McCain was shot down. This is not about learning to call the Vietnam War the American War. This is a story about moving to Hanoi, but this is not a story about moving to the capital of a communist country. ... [Continue Reading]


Women We Read This Week

Casey N. Cep’s "The Allure of the Map" in The New Yorker Literary cartography fascinates and guides the way that actual cartography does; that’s why we keep and carry stories in the same places we carry and keep maps: on our walls, in our pockets, and on our phones. Beginning with a map that moves from pockets, to dorm rooms, to Maryland and the U.K., Cep uses ... [Continue Reading]