Monday, February 28, 2022

Karen Babine, In Praise of Zero Drafts

I was really young the first time either my parents or my grandparents taught me to find the North Star, then the Big Dipper, then the Little Dipper. I didn’t understand stars beyond star light star bright first star I see tonight, which never netted me the sweater for my Cabbage Patch doll that matched my own. But as a kid growing up in northern Minnesota, it meant something to always know where to find North Star, how to use my tiny imagination to connect those dots to create a vessel to catch the Milky Way. I grew up in a small northern Minnesota town free of light pollution, a place that named its hockey team the North Stars, before the team moved to Texas and lost one of the most unique names in professional sports.

Anne Lamott has shitty first drafts. I have Zero Drafts.

If SFDs are a constellation, then Zero Drafts (ZDs) are the darkening of the sky so that the stars have the space to become visible.

I was really young the first time either my parents or my grandparents taught me to find the Big Dipper, then the Little Dipper. I didn’t understand stars beyond star light star bright first star I see tonight, which never netted me the sweater for my Cabbage Patch doll that matched my own. But as a kid growing up in northern Minnesota, it meant something to always know where to find North Star, how to use my tiny imagination to connect those dots to create a vessel to catch the Milky Way. 

  • In the UK, it’s called the Plough—and I like that imagery too. The digging into the ___ to find what’s buried. 
    • The ZD leaves room for placeholders, for repetition, for putting things in multiple places to see where they fit best.
    • The value and function of placeholders, so you don’t lose your momentum. Here be dragons! Wrong words in brackets, blank spaces for the phrasing that just isn’t coming to mind.
      • The movement, momentum—it’s tough for a zero draft to catch momentum. Maybe, instead, the ZD is the sails themselves—if the sails themselves aren’t up, the boat isn’t going anywhere.
        • Polishing the brass, constructing the map because I know what this book is about, but the sails aren’t up, so there’s nothing to catch the wind.
  • The gathering, the tipping out, the excavating, the gathering of water.
  • A Shitty First Draft would have decided it’s a dipper, a Zero Draft is still playing connect the dots.
  • Trying out connections, some connections feel more fruitful than others.
  • This might be where I’m going, but not decided. 
    • Sailors using the constellations to navigate, but not sure where I want to go. In some ways, a Zero Draft is still building the boat.
    • Feeling my way through which metaphors might work.
    • This might be a separate essay, but might not, so I’m keeping it here.
    • I think this thought might be connected to this one, but I’m not sure how or why yet.

Is a Zero Draft a place for idea dumping? Possible source texts and quotes/examples, thoughts, questions. Might not all make it into the same piece, but becomes a staging ground for how you’re framing your ideas until you figure out what’s relevant.

  • What is the motivation—or what is uncovered—by a Zero Draft? My point is that it’s not yet a SFD, but it’s more than scattered notes in a notebook. A lot of the time, mine looks like a fat outline, and it’s more an expansion than it is a linear path of discovery. The outline/bullet point works because I can start to organize similar thoughts together.
    • Weird hybrid of thought, bullet points and bolding and sentence and thought fragments
    • Making visual what the brain is doing
  • A zero draft recognizes that the blank page is the scariest part of the process and does whatever it needs to un-blank the page. 
  • The purpose of a zero draft is to manage risk, not create or foster it. A zero draft writes all the painful, ugly, hurtful things that you know will never make it past a third draft, because you need to write all that emotion into the atmosphere you’re creating. When I was drafting Acadie, I wrote all the things I really felt about my paternal grandparents, all the things I wish I could have said to them, but knew that I’d revise all that out because to keep it would hurt my dad in the long run, and that wasn’t something I was willing to do. It’s not so much that you can do anything in a Zero Draft, but the purpose of a zero draft is to create the atmosphere that your page will breathe (to paraphrase Janet Burroway). If you want an underlying atmosphere of pain and hurt, it starts here in the Zero Draft, not the shitty first draft. Even if you revise out the cutting thing your grandmother said when you were fifteen, the specter of it, the space that it once occupied in the draft, still remains. 
    • The zero draft shows the viability of the page, which is not something we had before. But it’s complete enough that it’s not just freewriting, or notes. 
  • A SFD is complete as a draft, it has all your thinking laid out—however thinly—on the pages. Zero Drafts are still transparent. Zero Drafts are playing with technique, trying out what might work. 

We don’t always write Zero Drafts—sometimes we go straight through to a SFD. 

  • Zero Drafts have a sense of potential, of creating enough material on the page to craft and manipulate between our fingers. There’s little vulnerability to a Zero Draft because it’s not to that place yet.
  • A ZD is a bunch of light sources, bearings—because you don’t know how to navigate it yet.
  • Stars are pretty, but constellations have a function?
    • Which light sources are significant? Which are pole stars, which  are lighthouses, which are somebody with a flashlight on a beach,  random shooting star?
  • The point at which your collection of thoughts has a function? A bearing? Actual movement? The moment where you think I KNOW WHAT THIS IS ABOUT, I KNOW WHERE THIS GOING—because you haven’t quite gotten there yet.

Vulnerability, viability.

On the wall of my parents’ house, there are two 8x10 photographs my father took while a navigator on C-130s for the Air Force in the 1970s. One is of the Acropolis, the other of a thunderstorm taken above the cloud layer. The shape is sharp against the pale blue beyond and it reminds me how I grew up with this language of anvil clouds, wind shears, and how to count the beats between lightning and thunder to know how close the storm was. I remember once he showed me the sextant he had to learn how to use, just in case the mechanics failed somehow and he needed to still get the plane into Guam, or Hawaii, or South America. 


Karen Babine is the author of All the Wild Hungers: A Season of Cooking and Cancer (Milkweed Editions, 2019) and Water and What We Know: Following the Roots of a Northern Life (University of Minnesota, 2015), both winners of the Minnesota Book Award for creative nonfiction. She also edits Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. 

Monday, February 21, 2022

Being Swallowed Whole and Spat Back Out: an Interview with Abby Hagler

The following is an interview with Abby Hagler, the winner of the 2020 Essay Press Chapbook Prize. The chapbook, There Was Nothing Left But Gold, dives into the landscape of Nebraska, dwelling on what it means to grow up in a small town only to leave it in order to understand forgiveness and what it means to accept one's self. Meditating on the breakdown of her relationship with her mother, Hagler reaches for Willa Cather as a fellow Nebraskan exile, Derrida's hauntology, and theories on girlhood development. These essays construct a portrait of girlhood and Nebraska as wild and hungry, full of mourning, tenderness, and rebellious figures. 


Hannah Hicks and Tory Irmeger: Could you talk a bit about your childhood and your path to becoming a writer? 

Abby Hagler: In relation to childhood, I think about being alone quite often. My family had a farm and everyone was very busy with work, which resulted in me being by myself on a day-to-day basis. I’m really grateful for that. Periodically, I see articles like this that talk about giving children alone time and letting them get bored. I’m not trying to tell anyone how to raise their children. I’m just saying that I read these articles in reference to myself as a child. It’s helped me to realize the profound effect of a childhood spent in fields, with animals, and on dirt roads marked on no map. 

I like the way Amy Wright characterizes her rural upbringing in the introduction to her book Paper Concert. She says, “I was pretty free as a kid… I did not have to direct myself toward anyone else’s expectations for hours at a time. Those hours, too, were an essay, a foray into life’s experiment, and they taught me that research always begins and ends in the field.” That moved me because I know the prism of those hours she speaks of. 

However, I consider my time back then to be more constructed. There was expectation. My family all worked together but I am the youngest and the only girl so I didn’t do the same jobs. I never had to fix machinery or run the combine until midnight or get up at 2 am to check for newborn calves in February. From an early age, I was the one burning piles of thistles, filling the water tank for the heifers, mowing cattle pens, watering the rows of treelings that would grow into windbreaks. And also doing the grocery shopping, cooking, and housework. My parents taught me to drive around age seven. The old 4020 was my favorite tractor because it piped thick black smoke like a cartoon and the seat was sproingy. 

There was also adult responsibility in my childhood—possibly the way it is for any child who is part of their family business. There was also a noticeable transition between being an employee during the day and being a kid in the evening. Sometimes I feel like I was raised as both a hired man and little girl. But that is a false dichotomy. I was a tomboy and a reader day and night. Always with a book on me and always writing diaries out loud. Which means I was imagining myself as a character in mundane places in the past, in fantastic situations that never happened. Fay Bound Alberti writes about a similar experience growing up after her family moved to Wales in her book A Biography of Loneliness. She said, “I was isolated and alone. And yet I did not endure loneliness. I enjoyed it. A natural introvert, I spent my days in the woods, making up stories, plotting alternative lives. My community was populated by fictional characters.” And I, too, don’t remember feeling all that lonely. There’s a connection to writing in that.

Remembering what I thought about as a kid is something I treasure in adulthood. As if I know and stay true to one more thing about who I am at core. Maybe writing as a process of saying aloud the associations that have long existed in our minds is also a method of connecting to time gone, time that did not exactly exist, time that is experienced by a person uniquely. Or maybe it just means time became a room of my own built inside my brain since I was usually asked to show my practical self at home. I don’t know. Maybe, through a larger lens, freedom alongside work ethic is a metaphor for what writing really looks like in my life. I’m not shooting for a metaphor here. At the time, I was very caught up in my imagination and was most definitely an awful employee. However, I don’t remember ever feeling bad about it. The part of me interested in telling stories has always been a clear, refreshing voice to me. It’s always been a buoy.

Hannah Hicks and Tory Irmeger: We are taking a class that emphasizes the ideals of creating a lifestyle of writing, specifically not limiting ourselves to writing when there is a grade and diploma attached to it. What is your “day job” and how does this influence your writing life?

Abby Hagler: I manage research grant funding at a university. It took me several years of working multiple jobs to get this one job (in an office with so many people dedicated to kindness, no less) that can support me, which is a big deal. This job doesn’t influence the topics I write about but it does have an effect on whether or not I have the health, energy, and emotional space to get writing done or participate in the literary community. This may fall into “the work of work” conversations—what basics a person necessitates in order to show up to do anything requiring labor. So many little things go into this on a day-to-day basis. People living paycheck to paycheck will know what I’m talking about. That’s something that’s often missing from the discussion of what it’s like to make art. How does one actually arrive at the page? Sometimes I think it took me years of commuting, working through broken bones, eating cheap, choosing to pay the fines on my taxes for not having health insurance because it’s cheaper than the actual insurance, stretching my last $10 for a week before payday so I could to get to the morning I wrote the first paragraph of this chapbook. Overall, I’m fine with being a writer outside academia. As college becomes more unaffordable, I see more opportunities open up for writers without the degrees or the faculty appointments. I think it’s important for working class writers to be publishing and speaking to their experience to boost these equalizing efforts. I wouldn’t mind seeing more writing published stemming from this perspective. 

Hannah Hicks and Tory Irmeger: Right off the bat, we connected with the themes within your chapbook, particularly, “If you grew up in a small town and you got out, you deserve a medal.” For anyone who moves away, I think there is an element of growth, and often grief, inherent in becoming a person outside of the context of that small town. While this could be a rewarding experience of “finding yourself,” it’s isolating, as there is no trail to follow or step-by-step guide to finding a new place to belong. Amidst these tensions, what was your starting place when writing your chapbook? 

Abby Hagler: I love this question because it gets at the idea that perhaps growth and grief are concurrent. Like two rail lines running next to one another. I relate very much to the way you describe growth. To me, when I first left home, the yawn of what exactly all those years ahead of me could contain felt obliterating. I was so ready for it too. There were, as is common in small communities, impressions of me that people had in my hometown that I was ready to shed. But, more than that, leaving was like stepping into living that really felt alive. 

And I think Cather might have felt a little bit of that growing up knowing she was gay in Nebraska in the early 20th century. To me, her life goals were simple. She wanted to become a career artist and to find real love. And Nebraska outside the University—I mean Nebraska as a social body—was not going to easily afford those to her. So she left in pursuit of getting to the page. However, even after she’d become a writer and found a wife, Cather had to write several books before she could move on from Nebraska. That kind of return is so ingrained. Our minds are always grappling with the past, trying to wrestle it into a narrative that will, without doubt, be blown up with some new realization. Return, to me, feels inevitable, especially if there’s hurt there. It’s important work whether it is done physically or in thoughts. I think I have been writing myself into and out of Nebraska for almost 20 years.

I also don’t want to say that grief, anger, trauma, or any layered emotion ever really gives way. I’m more interested in how people co-exist with these complexities instead of the overdone narrative of trying to resolve them. I’m interested in a relationship with feelings. When I was drafting the essays that would become this chapbook, I had already been thinking a lot about holding two different people in my body in the same way we can hold two (or more!) separate, even conflicting, emotions. 

It was no mistake that I purchased Hermione’s Lee’s book on Cather titled Double Lives in the Cather Museum bookshop. “Double Lives” was also the first essay I read. Discovering that Cather characterized her childhood as being “buried alive” blew my mind. I had no idea, though her contempt is hardly disguised in the fiction. Realizing her anger was liberating to me because a lot of writing about Nebraska seeks to make it a quaint and bloodless place. Buried alive is a strong image. Both death and not-death present. A kind of Jonah and the whale. I knew the story I was telling was an act of return but I also knew it was wrong to write about it as some kind of hero’s narrative centered on healing or conquer. I wanted this narrative to be true to those of us who left for a reason. Return in this instance, whether physically or emotionally, is an akin to being swallowed whole and spat back out. 

Hannah Hicks and Tory Irmeger: You are careful in writing about your mother to acknowledge the generational trauma and context of your mother’s behavior. This speaks to a genuine struggle for many as they reach adulthood and struggle with shifting parent/child dynamics. How did you balance writing about family, knowing they might read the chapbook?

Abby Hagler: This chapbook didn’t happen in one draft. It was two other books before it reached this form of three long, meandering, grass-dense essays. The first was a book of prose poems called Everybody’s Girlhood. It’s a riff on Gertrude Stein’s Everybody’s Biography and used a definition of girlhood some friends and I thought up one night in my living room. The definition didn’t really have anything to do with sex or gender, just what existentially demarks girlhood from other -hoods in life. We discussed the age range of girlhood and how this time period is different from childhood, boyhood, manhood, womanhood, adulthood, etc. Age started to feel arbitrary to the characterization we were going for, as if, through descriptors, each of these periods became spaces people enter or exit. I started wondering: Is it possible to slip into girlhood even if one is not a child or a girl? And so I started writing poems out of memories of my own girlhood, then moved onto moments in my family members’ lives when they might have been experiencing a girlhood too. 

I took parts of the girlhood poems and made them into a chapbook of researched essays titled Goldenrod of the Here and Now. However, the essays were too focused on telling my mom’s story, which felt wrong. That’s her story to tell, even if things that happened to her have an effect on me in a generational sense. 

All of my anxiety in writing any of these drafts was focused on claim and how to change the ideas of claim I have inherited. My goal was to release claim where it felt necessary in order to honor someone else’s struggle. 

Letting go of any claim to my mom’s history—especially after our relationship dissolved—was what propelled me to look for other ways of writing another person into an essay that honors boundaries. Two books that were really helpful were Anne Boyer’s The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer, and Care and T. Fleischmann’s Time is the Thing a Body Moves Through. The way they each use research to shift narrative focus is fantastic. After reading these authors, my strategy became: When I felt I was going too far into territory that isn’t mine, I reflected instead on my own body, my own feelings. And from there, that smaller place of myself, I could start growing a discussion about the larger issue of a government, a history, and an economic system that imprints its brutality onto our love and relationships. 

Hannah Hicks and Tory Irmeger: When writing “To Fill the Spaces Where My Body’s Been,” you listed examples of the color gold you found in books by Willa Cather. Did you know early on that Cather’s presence in your chapbook would be so prevalent? How are you hoping your book emulates Cather’s legacy, or would you rather readers understand your relationship with Cather differently? 

Abby Hagler: I actually didn’t know that I would be writing about her starting out! She was one of several authors in the book pile. After deciding to start the essays over, I cast a pretty wide net for what I was researching. Louise Pound, who was not only Cather’s classmate in college but was also a great folklorist in her own right, was a favorite. Pound’s work led me to making a map of places where myths and legends occurred in Nebraska—or allegedly occurred anyway. A map of places that don’t necessarily exist and events that didn’t exactly happen. The slippery space of legends about land and people. But the trip was a bust. I didn’t have the energy for it after falling out with my mom. So I spent the day in Red Cloud at the Cather Museum and bought Hermione Lee’s Double Lives, a book of Cather biography and criticism that opened up the whole project. 

To me, Willa Cather has a double legacy much like Nebraska. In the classroom, her identity is never really discussed. At least, I don’t remember learning anything about her life or personality or beliefs in general education. History’s process of simplifying and forgetting. As an author, she is remembered in conjunction with Nebraska’s mythology—as bland, quaint, nature/ farm-focused. This legacy has asked us to forget that she was determined, and she was aware of oppression and inequality in America. She was not religious, was critical of Christianity, and was unabashedly queer from a young age, which is not present in her Nebraska characters. But her anger is. Anger often disguises pain. I didn’t want that to be forgotten. It was a reminder not to forget who I am in writing either. There are lots of ways we are erased even as we live and breathe, lots of ways we obfuscate or erase parts of ourselves, especially in efforts just to get by or fit a mold. I suppose I’m seeing myself in the legacy of time passing, in the legacy of a life lived American culture would like to fabricate for us all. 


Abby Hagler lives in Chicago. She is the author of There Is Nothing Left But Gold (Essay Press, 2021). Previous work has appeared in Entropy, FANZINE, Ghost Proposal, and Deluge, among others. With Julia Cohen, she runs an interview column at Tarpaulin Sky magazine called “Original Obsessions” about writers’ childhood obsessions manifesting in their current work.

Hannah Hicks is from Atlanta and attends college in Cleveland, TN. Her work has been published in the American Poetry Library and Whale Road Review.

Tory Irmeger is from Elizabethton, Tennessee and attends college in Cleveland, TN, where she is an English writing major. 

Monday, February 14, 2022

The #Midwessay: Anna Baker Smith, Croissant

It's possible all the writing I've done over the years has been in some way a response, a pushing back against the isolation and loneliness I felt at sixteen, driving an endless loop between home and school and work, speeding through the rolling country 'burbs of southeastern Wisconsin. There, a farm. There, a subdivision. There, a snowy field. Lots of trees. Another farm. Another subdivision. Endless fields. Growing up in this landscape my edges were smoothed; I was shaped. For me, this landscape was so cold, isolating, lonely. Constantly, I seek warmth, body, connection; I seek community, conversation. 

To some degree, all of us here are shaped by the landscape, by the way the highways bend, by the way one watershed tilts towards the lake, another to the river, and by all the cold and snow this winter. And yet, each of us inhabits a landscape uniquely our own, built of our own experience. We are Wisconsin-born, -bred, -rooted, but we live alone in our own version of wherever we are. And Essay Daily, this #Midwessay project, what are these but elaborate feelers, searching, finding, sharing, celebrating a coming-together? I'm not sure I care all that much about what a Wisconsin essay is or isn't. I just want to hear your voice, your thoughts, your stories. The Wisconsin essay is whatever you say. 

Craig Reinbold

We'd love for you to join the conversation. Reach out @craigreinbold // craigreinbold[at]     

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Marcia Aldrich, On Edge

It’s awkward to speak of one’s own work. We want to believe an artist’s work should speak for itself. When I received my copy of Edge and sat down to read it through, I was surprised by the physical intensity of my response. I was shaking, shivering, and shot through with some kind of vibration that resists a neat definition. It was physical, that’s for sure, but emotional too. Euphoric. Cathartic. The vibrations encompassed my whole self, the whole system that makes up who I am as a person and a writer. I have no idea if anyone else will feel the way I do reading Edge. That’s the writer’s dilemma, isn’t it? As a writer I have to go my own way, write what it is my lot to write, and hope that what I communicate speaks to others. I suspect if anyone responds to Edge it will not be the way readers follow a narrative. They will be responding to the lyric intensity, the lack of masks, the voice, the way certain images walk out of their frames. The painter Edward S. Casey has remarked that “the edges of a painting act not to close off but to open up possibilities for the emerging image.” So too, the essays in Edge while discrete have edges that open up the possibilities of amplification. In the writing of Edge I can’t name a particular work that has influenced its composition. It feels as if Edge has emerged from a lifetime of reading, especially modern poetry, especially William Carlos Williams’s long poem Paterson. Edge is my ode to Michigan.

This is a way in. 

I grew up in Pennsylvania. Born in Allentown and until the age of seven I lived in a white house with black shutters smack-dab in the middle of the block on 22nd street. It was not a wild place but there were fields nearby on the outer edges that had not yet been turned into subdivisions. My mother was a believer in turning me out as early as she could. She was not troubled by the troubles I might find or make. As a consequence I don’t carry powerful memories of the house itself on 22nd street. I don’t have rich memories of my room, for example, or the kitchen. I was more attuned to what I might find in the alleys running between streets, to the fields backing up behind the neighborhood houses and the river at the bottom of the hill. It was in one such field that I found my sister’s cat caught in a trap where I heard him crying and brought him home where unfortunately he died. Rescued but not saved. That phrase might describe my early experiences. I was always trying to save an injured bird or animal and mostly failing, learning the limitations of my human interventions. I remember the trap better than I remember the dolls I was given. Metal with teeth. Ghastly lying deep in the tall grasses. I almost stepped on it. What I didn’t know then and don’t know now is why there were animal traps in the fields by the river. Who set them and what were they trying to catch and to what purpose. I didn’t have answers but that experience was the beginning of my story when I was awakened to what I’ll call the contact zones that clash between animals and human beings and ideas about who has the right to the land that they both inhabit. Human beings have the upper hand and this was my first encounter with that dark truth. Now I’m amazed that as a girl of six I stepped out of my zone to pry open the trap and release the cat.

Not long after when my older sisters went off to college we moved to a place strangely called East Texas, about twenty minutes outside Allentown where the Little Lehigh River ran through fields of corn, wheat, and soy beans and dilapidated farms, once brightly painted red and now faded, anchored the corners of rambling roads. My parents bought ten acres with a house sitting on the crest of a hill that overlooked the curving river below and was banked on both sides by woods. During the time I lived there, the land around us remained undeveloped. There were threats of a highway being put in behind our house but it never happened. If there’s any place I should feel connected to this is it because that’s where I grew up, where I kicked around largely by myself, accompanied by my dogs. That’s the river I skated on in winter and fell through the ice trying to save a trapped dog, the roads I rode my bike along, the woods I scrambled through on my way to my neighbors. Again it was not the house that called me or made me think home, it was everything around the house and the life lived outside, what might be called home range that anchored me. The mundane life of my parents struck me as almost alien. My mother often called me in at the end of the day and I would not come, at least not at first. I would step back behind a screen of trees or stoop in the high growing wheat at the top of the hill and watch my mother and father go about their nightly routines. I lived in the spaces between the life of the house and the life of the fields and woods, a back and forth that has shaped me.

Much later, after graduate school and marriage, I took a job teaching at Michigan State University and moved to East Lansing, a town built of neighborhoods bounding the large sprawling university. There was the town and the university and the contact zones between them. We bought a modest house on Orchard Street named for the orchard that had once existed in the town’s history but was now erased. From our house on Orchard I could walk to campus and my children could walk to elementary, middle, and high school. Everything was walkable on tree-lined streets with broad sidewalks. From our house I could smell what was cooking in our neighbors’ houses, hear their arguments when the windows were open. Close-knit is what I’d call it. Heavy on human presence, low on privacy. 

And then later still, when our children went off to college, I couldn’t wait to get away from the domesticated town of East Lansing and we moved to Tacoma Hills in Okemos, a place that once again resembled the move my parents had made from Allentown to East Texas. We named our house in Tacoma Hills Riverhouse because it sat up on a hill overlooking the Red Cedar River. Once again woods bordered both sides of our property. It was as if an invisible hand was leading me back to a place I might call home. Homecoming, however, was complicated for I was no longer a child standing at the edges, I was a home owner, implicated in the damage we do to the natural world and the animals in it. In my name fences were built to keep out unwanted animals and mark ownership. In my name roads with high density traffic plowed through old farmlands, displacing the animals and driving them into unsafe territory. I also rediscovered my identification with that animal world, specifically the deer who shared a home range with me. The writing in Edge emerged out of that kinship. Living on the Red Cedar River in Michigan I became reacquainted with myself as someone who wanted to rescue and save but largely failed. My husband recently asked me if the local officials in charge of reducing the deer population I write about in the essay called “Edge” would have been swayed if I gave them a copy of Edge. The answer would be no. Sadly they would not understand what it means to say “That is the deer I know.”


Marcia Aldrich is the author of the free memoir Girl Rearing, published by W.W. Norton, and of Companion to an Untold Story, which won the AWP Award in Creative Nonfiction. She is the editor of Waveform: Twenty-First- Century Essays by Women, published by the University of Georgia Press.