Hello New Year, Hello 30: Amy Monticello & Marissa Landrigan in Conversation

HER KIND: Ladies, Welcome to the Conversation. In “One Art,” Elizabeth Bishop writes: “Lose something every day. Accept the fluster/ of lost door keys, the hour badly spent./ The art of losing isn’t hard to master.” As we begin a new year, what do you think you will lose? By choice or not?



MARISSA LANDRIGAN: The timing of this question is particularly pertinent, as both Amy and I turned 30 this past autumn. I know we are both preoccupied with what that passage of time means – what, in that transition, we will lose, and what we hope to gain.

I’ve always loved this Bishop poem because it suggests a hierarchy of loss, how losing one’s door keys is so meaningfully different from losing an hour, from losing a family heirloom, from losing chunks of one’s own life, eras and places and loves. What the poem captures so stunningly well is how easy it is to slide from one loss into another. How once you begin losing small things, you allow yourself to lose time, and to drift further into the casual attitude towards loss that gives way to real loss, the kind that comes from not recognizing the true value of the intangible. But loss is a word loaded with negative connotation. Perhaps the art of losing is to recognize which things are worth losing, shedding the past like a snake sloughing off an old skin, and which things are worth clinging to, desperately, against the inertia of time.

Over the course of last year, I lost some of those latter, more significant things, larger things, both good and bad. I lost one home as I moved cross-country to start another job. This was a positive loss, and most definitely by choice. In fact, the inertia in this case would have been on the side of staying put, and choosing not to take the action it required to find a better job, to pack up a house and a dog, to drive for nearly a thousand miles, to start over again in the eighth state I’ve occupied in the last decade. But in making that choice, in letting go of my last place and all that I had become in concert with it, I opened myself up to gains of another kind.

As I think about “losing” my 20s, this is what I hope: that whatever I lose in watching the years turn— in a way that is inevitable and therefore, I suppose, not of my own choosing—  I gain something —  wisdom, or at least a better sex life —  in exchange. In gaining something from a loss, actually, I think we are able to transform that loss into something we chose. Rather than involuntarily losing something, we can see the transition as intentionally gaining something else. Perhaps this is what Bishop meant when, in the closing lines of “One Art,” she wrote that the art of losing may only look like disaster.


AMY MONTICELLO: Marissa, I’m so glad you placed this question in context of our both turning thirty, since losing practically feels like a prerequisite of making the transition to a new decade. And like you, I think I’ve been using thirty as a narrative marker specifically for loss-as-gain, as much as that goes against my tendency to cleave, to deny loss by never completing it. Recently, I noticed that much of the writing I did in my twenties brought characters right to the brink of loss in their lives…and then I left them there, sometimes hanging on the edge before an inevitable unraveling, and sometimes flashing forward to what the loss would come to allow. I never let my characters experience their losses all the way through. Instead, I cut the meatiest chunk right out. For me, the last line of Bishop’s poem— the speaker imploring herself to “Write it!” — speaks to the work of loss I’ve often avoided both professionally and personally, and the work I’m gearing up to do better.

Nowhere is the tandem between loss and gain more present for me than in my husband and I trying to have a baby. Very much by choice, I want to lose myself as the focal point of my life (and my writing, at least as the self-obsessed character I’ve come to know). And through this loss, I want to gain an edge on the low-grade narcissism underlying my most irksome and damaging insecurities. I know more mysterious gains await me in motherhood, but from where I stand now, as an only child and a writer of personal narrative, I’m looking forward to relegating myself to an oft-subordinate role. I’m excited to be diminished, to loom less large in my own mind.

Trying to conceive has been a series of losses and gains. My sense of control over my body has been obliterated. For the ten or so years I’ve been a cardioholic (running, cycling, doing any exercise that involves a pounding heart and buckets of sweat), and have drawn an intense emotional power from managing my body’s strength. The development of my endurance and musculature and flexibility, however incremental, has given me the false sense that my body is changeable by will. But if this were true, I would be pregnant as I write this. It’s an interesting time to experience this loss, given the current political discourse surrounding women’s bodies. Pregnancy has become a complicated metaphor for my politics.

And yet the diminishing of self has already begun. Historically, I’ve needed too many people and too much approval in my life, but in trying to get pregnant, my world has gotten a little bit smaller and a little more quiet. I lean on my husband without shame. The language of our house has shifted to center around an anticipated presence instead of all the absences (steady job, savings account, dishwasher, though, of course, I have to let those things go every damn day). For the first time maybe ever, I spend the majority of my present preoccupied with the future, not the past. Also, a better sex life!

What you say about the wisdom inherent in loss touches me deeply. The most sustaining thing about writing, for me, is trying to arrive at the elusive insight cradling both loss and gain, not necessarily privileging one over the other. So many of my essays start out with the urgency to preserve or resurrect a particular absence. But writing through that ache to have again almost always grants me the opposite; I get to hold the absence in my hands for as long as I’m writing, and then consciously set it free when I finish. In fact, neuroscience tells us that we engage the same brain circuits when we remember as when we imagine, so the version of an absence I write is the combination of my truth and my wishes. The loss on the page is both real and how I want it to be, and the art of creating that loss is what makes the losing easier (“Write it!”). My favorite endings say a final word between heartbreak and joy.

With writing projects, it’s not uncommon for me to let go and then return. Several years ago, I let go of my MFA thesis, a braided narrative I ultimately felt did an injustice to the two woven story lines. I had tried too hard to make them “speak” to one another in echoed voices, rather than letting them dialogue through their differences. I ended up separating the narratives and publishing one of them as a chapbook, but now that I approach nonfiction with a stronger embrace of its lifelike messiness, I’ve been considering recombining the narratives to see what happens when I let the ragged edges exist on their own terms.

Also, my research for a true crime book recently ran up against the barrier of my being denied legal access to crucial case files. For a few weeks, I thought this meant the project couldn’t proceed. But now I’m wondering if I just need to let go of my original approach to the book, which was a straightforward narrative based on facts, and find a new way into the material based on a dearth of information. Actually, once I started conceiving of the book as a lyric instead of a narrative, my enthusiasm for the project returned. In nonfiction, I think letting go may often be a content-form thing. We have to relinquish our attachment to material as we imagine it, and let a form emerge based on what that material really is.


ML: Amy, I completely agree that often, the most significant act of letting go we can attempt as nonfiction writers is to move on from our attachment to a particular narrative, or to a particular form of telling that narrative, in order to let the true nature of the material speak to us.

When you mention your true crime project, I think, strangely, of Lauren Slater’s memoir Lying, because I often think of it as one of the more honest explorations of the limitations of nonfiction writing. In it, Slater attempts to tell her coming-of-age story, but because her version of that narrative was plagued by mysterious illness, myriad mental diagnoses, and doctor’s visits which ultimately became opportunities for attention, she is forced to engage constantly with her own perception of the truth, and her tendency, based on her illness, to lie. By incorporating the construction of personal fiction into her memoir, she re-imagines the genre entirely, at times even admitting to readers that the last chapter might be entirely false. In this way, she successfully let go of the rigid boundaries of truth, and that allowed her memoir to transform into, I think, a much more honest narrative.

I’ve had similar experiences with my MFA thesis, which I now refer to, comfortably, as my book, because of the many times I’ve had to let go of something that was once a part of the narrative structure. The first incarnation of the book was written largely as an exploration of the subject I wanted to tackle—  I was starting from scratch in terms of the research and expertise I needed to write the book, so my first draft mostly just was regurgitated research. This was of course very boring, and very unoriginal. Over the next few drafts, I too attempted a braided narrative, wherein I wove together all that external research with a personal narrative, attempting, I suppose, to craft a full-length narrative of strung-together braided essays. This was a little bit more interesting, but obviously incredibly difficult to read. Finally, after about a year of thinking and some very helpful advice from friends and editors, I eschewed the research altogether, and had enough distance from the primary subject to rewrite the personal narrative in a way that incorporated my discovery of the research, without needing to rehash all the source material.

In order to do this, to fully let go of the past versions of the manuscript, I actually created a new Word document, put my seven old drafts in the corner of my office, and with nothing else on my desk, retyped my way through the entire narrative. This act of letting go was perhaps the most liberating thing I’ve ever done as a writer. In trusting myself to “remember the good parts,” I had already written, I was able to ignore any lingering attachment I had to material that simply did not need to be in the final version of the book. As a result, the draft I have now feels like the most complete, most honest, and most real version of the narrative I could create.


AM: I love the process you describe regarding the role of research in your book, and how it evolved from the primary focus of the book’s first incarnation to the invisible scaffolding behind your clean-lined final narrative. And the image of you writing that concentrated, high-octane version of your efforts at that uncluttered desk— I want that made into something I can hang on my office wall. Send me that, along with a bottle of whiskey, please. I never fail to be surprised (and relieved) when the simplest version of the story we could possibly tell ends up being the one we land on last. But it seems to me that all the complications—  all the murdered darlings of labor-intensive research and intricate plot structures— had to be written before you could see what was unnecessary, crowding out the essential story.

You and I write on the flip side, too. We write in the digital age. My process while writing essays intended for my blog or The Nervous Breakdown is very different from my long form process, especially in terms of letting go. Once, while discussing the control freak pleasure I take in line editing, the poet Sean Flanigan told me he hated revising; he’d rather write something new everyday. We were at Larry’s bar in Columbus, Ohio, which is the best dive bar no longer in business, and the things that got said between writers at Larry’s over dollar cans of Pabst were often romantic and impractical and not really indicative of our sober work ethics. But that’s what made Sean’s words so great: they captured the ineffable grace of the work itself.

I warn my students all the time about the emotional pitfalls of publishing–how the high of acceptance is almost always followed by dread and doubt. How the most pleasurable part of writing is simply doing the work. Being mid-fucking-sentence. Accumulating the hours. Losing the hours. I never feel better than immediately after writing–it’s when I most want to do anything, binge drink, have sex, bleach the floors. And because the rhetorical situation of the Internet values fast turnarounds and tight deadlines, I send TNB and blog essays to “press” insanely soon after initial completion. My online portfolio contains many, many first drafts, the scent of work hubris still on them.

It’s not uncommon for me to read these pieces later and cringe (I’ll admit to revising post-publication on these sites, whether readers notice or not), but the release of work in real time has become something of an addiction for me. First of all, I have an excuse to write more and revise less, so I’ve been a happier, more prolific writer. Second, and perhaps conversely, the response of an audience I’ve somewhat come to know on these sites pushes me to arc my essays, with deliberate conversation between previous and subsequent pieces. Privately, you and I have both wondered if we’re accidentally drafting essay collections through our work writing for digital mediums. Could this literary catch-and-release be partly credited for creating more coherent bodies of work, built more consciously than long form works written largely in isolation? And if so, then what do we make of the criticisms of online writing as “half-baked,” released too early in underdeveloped states?


ML: Strangely, revision is actually my favorite part of the writing process. I’m pretty anal-retentive, so I really enjoy the knuckles-in-the-dirt action of revision, the part where you take the mess of whatever you first threw on the page and shred it apart. I’m often visceral in my revision activities — actually slicing essays up into paragraphs and spreading them around on the floor to rearrange structurally, or sometimes balling up whole pages and tossing them into the air, to see where they land. For me, the blank white page (or, more accurately, screen) is the most intimidating thing.

I wonder if this is true for nonfiction writers more than other creative genres, but it’s often not until the second or third draft that I manage to see what my essay is actually about — that is, what it’s always been about that I couldn’t see when until I began. I write my way through subjects, and that leaves a first draft looking a lot like a big slab of stone that still needs a lot of chipping away and refining before it begins to look like a statue.

This may be why writing for digital media is so appealing to me, too. In being, as you say, necessarily more prolific, I have definitely felt my revision process speed up. I write a first draft without much consequence, and I’m never attached to them, knowing that the revision is where the real shaping happens. Writing fast first drafts for The Nervous Breakdown, then, comes pretty easily to me. But now that I have to produce a revised version on a faster deadline, I’m learning to establish that necessary distance between first and second and third drafts on a much shorter timeline, and I think this is making me a better writer by pushing me even further towards letting go of my initial drafts and perceptions of a piece.

Did I ever tell you, Amy, that your blog Ten Square Miles was my initial inspiration for diving into writing for online publication? Before I read your work on Ten Square Miles, I had always wondered why writers would blog. I thought of it as a drain on the finite resource of my creativity. If I was writing for a blog, I thought, I wouldn’t be writing “real” essays. I had only so much time, and I wanted to devote it to bigger, better things.

But your work on your blog, and in particular, your discussion of it as a place to test out ideas, to draft beginnings, to write without pause or consequence, allowed me to see that perhaps blogging could fuel, rather than siphon, my creativity. Shortly after you did, I began writing my own blog (albeit for a different creative purpose, and with a specific scope in subject), and I found that blogging, and later, writing for The Nervous Breakdown, and revising my full-length manuscript, became like practicing different stages of the writing process simultaneously. With so many projects, and so many outlets, my creative output short through the roof, as I allowed myself to develop new ideas, and practice craft-oriented revision in this very symbiotic way.

You’re right, too, Amy, that this faster turn-around is certainly leading to a more conscious body of work for both of us, and that faster than, doesn’t always mean half-baked. We all, as writers, have to learn to let go of the drafts that came before, and perhaps in developing an ability to do that more quickly, we are tapping into the recurring themes and thoughts we might always have eventually circled back to — we’re not spending as much time, perhaps, with our concentration broken, in between pieces. One of the most surprising aspects of writing for digital media in this way has been discovering just how much of my work is connected. In gathering together some TNB essays for a possible collection, I remembered and resurrected several years-old pieces that never made it past the drafting stages, and have found them to be of a piece. Without the need to develop more quickly for digital publication, and the thematic consciousness that produced, then, I might never have discovered the connections bridging years of my work.


AM: Marissa, I bet you’re wonderful for an arts and crafts night! Come to think of it, I always love those Facebook photos of you surrounded by stacks of paper, mid-reckoning, or those concept maps that look like deep space galaxies, or those lists you make with song lyrics around the essay titles like text crawlers. I’m such a boring reviser, all screen, all cut and copy and move and undo. I should at least start bedazzling my documents with MS Paint.

I detect another kind of letting go in your last response. It’s like you bring a piece as far as you can in one phase, and then, in order to push it into the next, you have to take it apart. Deconstruct it. Fracture it. I sense freedom in those scissors and balls of papers being thrown around the room. In my regular life, like when I teach, I’m always moving, bouncing, expanding to take up all possible space. But writing yo-yos me back to my most tightly-wound state. Our apartment is too small for a desk, so I write in bed, and I write in total silence. No open windows. No Pandora. I squeeze myself so I fit completely inside my laptop screen; the rest of the room disappears outside the walls I erect from either side of my computer. My husband likes to scare the shit out of me by standing in the doorway until I look up. I usually shriek.

But every writing session closes down not with calm exhaustion, but with manic energy. I have to go immediately to a spinning class, or on a really brisk walk, or to a loud, crowded bar. When I was in high school, I used to come home from school everyday, walk into the kitchen where my mother kept a portable CD player, turn on the Phish or Dave Matthews or String Cheese Incident I was mortifyingly into back then, turn the volume way, way up, and spend about an hour dancing in circles around the kitchen table. Uncreative dancing. More like flailing. I’d bump into and break stuff. Anyone who ever came home after school with me can attest to this because I’d make them dance, too, make them witness me all stripped down to limbs. I had to dance like that at the same time everyday. It was as though, all day at school, vacillating between secret nerd and social slacker, I’d taken myself to the edges of myself, and the only way to find the center again was to move as intensely as I could, shake up my core so everything could settle back where it belonged.

I fucking loved it.

What you say about the symbiotic relationship between writing for digital media and working on a book, how they require different energies and provide different outlets, makes so much sense to me. I never intended to become a blogger, either. All I knew was that I had wound down work on a group of essays I’d been revising simultaneously, and I wasn’t sure what to do next. I looked inside and didn’t see a memoir yet. But something had come to a close with those essays–a governing principle that linked them, I think–and I needed a new place to go in my writing. Ten Square Miles offered me a place, virtually. Well, whether it is or isn’t an actual space is starting to become blurry as I research the effects of the Internet on human cognition. It feels dimensional to me. I treat it like a rented studio with floor-to-ceiling windows, letting the production of writing become an exhibit. Writing for the Internet necessitates a loss of privacy (writing on stage is a different kind of vulnerability even for someone who once let teenagers watch her white girl dancing). The mix of people who have found my blog fascinates me, touches me, opens me to a new way of feeling human among humans. Some theorists claim chronic Internet use is chipping away at our capacity for empathy, but I never feel that way on my blog or The Nervous Breakdown. Quite the opposite, actually. The writing I do in those spaces has led to unexpected friendships and reunions and genuine correspondence with strangers who step in and out of my life like we’re riding a train together.

Writing for digital media also necessitates a certain loss of shame. I’ve written about my father’s heart attack and going to doctor’s appointments with him, about having early-stage cervical cancer, about stalking my husband’s ex-girlfriend, about being an atheist in a Christian family, about living very isolated in the South, and now, about wanting a baby I’m not sure I can have. I also write about my curly hair and eating oysters and this holiday we have in Ithaca called Skirt Day (not the first, but the second warm, sunny day of the year when all the college girls trust the weather enough to bare their legs for the first time in six months). My family sometimes worries about the impact of my online writing on my professional life. My old boundaries have fallen away for sure. I’ve unfurled a fist of fear deep in my gut. I’ve started, slowly, so slowly, to let go of judgment as an expression of my ethics.


ML: I agree that writing for digital media necessitates a certain loss of privacy— and with that, shame. I also worry from time to time about my online writing and my professional life. I’ve written a piece recently about gun violence that involved confessing to some of the more violent parts of my past, including a brief mention of a topic I’d always thought would be off limits in even my personal narrative work. Especially since online writing allows for such instantaneous and widespread sharing, and given our earlier mention of moving more quickly towards publication online, I have certainly found myself re-reading a live essay of mine online, via a friend’s Facebook page, and wondering whether it wasn’t terrifically stupid to have shared that piece of myself with such a wide audience.

But actually, I find this loss of shame wholly liberating (or at least, that’s what I tell myself to justify my shrinking desire to withhold parts of myself from my writing). You said it: losing shame, which in this sense means letting go of self-consciousness and letting go of fear. Releasing ourselves from embarrassment, and preparing ourselves for the judgment of others, which may be welcoming or ostracizing.

In fact, this circles back to a discussion of our mutual 30th birthdays, as well. As I enter this new decade, and begin to think about how I’d like it to be different than the last, one of my primary goals is to better welcome my multiple selves into a single sphere. A friend recently told me that his thirties was the time he felt he truly began to weave together the disparate threads of his self into a single being, and that’s what I’m working towards. The essays I’m attempting to collect right now, in fact, deal very much with the ideas of the personal and public selves, as manifested in different forms — our physical bodies, alongside, say, our political identities. Hopefully, in attempting to infuse personal, professional, and digital personae into one whole, complete, and ideally, more honest Marissa will lead to much letting go and release, both of the shame of bringing my personal life into my professional work, but also in terms of abandoning aspects of my personal life that might have seemed important to a woman in her twenties (rampant self-portraiture on social media, maybe?) but that aren’t a part of the woman I’d like to be in my thirties.


AM: Have you seen this interview with Cheryl Strayed over at The Millions? In it, Robin Grearson claims that Strayed’s alter ego, the popular advice columnist Sugar, “offers Cheryl’s mistakes as a light in the tunnel of someone else’s journey, lets the reader see someone’s failures, but there’s a key element in that, she never apologizes to the reader.” To my mind, this is where good confessional writing transcends the voyeurism or the navel-gazing it’s often accused of. Effective confessional writing doesn’t reveal the worst parts of the writer for the sake of unburdening or shock; there’s a humanitarian goal behind it. This semester, my creative writing students are writing Sugar-esque advice columns to each other using the personal essay form to respond to one another’s anonymous questions. The point is to use personal experience as an empathic bridge between them, and to practice nonfiction as an agent of growth and change. Serving this purpose as a nonfiction writer, for me, means I have to tell the truths that matter, and are often the unflattering truths.

Later in the interview, Strayed says, “I think that not asking for permission to be human is a really big part of being a fully actualized human. I think with all humility, you should be accountable to your actions. But also that, with that apology, be able to report what your actions were.” And a writing teacher of mine, Lee K. Abbott, once told me that all characters deserve “full citizenship” on the page. I think both Strayed and Abbott are advocating for the existence of those “multiple selves in a single sphere” for the good of the writing and the good of the writer. Shame, I think, roadblocks our acceptance of the contradictions we contain as people, and perpetuates stigmas that actually keep us from shedding or changing the worst parts of ourselves. The things I haven’t let into my writing because I’m ashamed of them are the same things I secretly know imprison me in real life.

With regards to age, I think you’re on to something. Most of the older women in my life echo your friend in that their true self-acceptance began in their thirties (and I hear our fifties are likely to be spectacular on this front). This reminds me of something you said at the beginning of our conversation: that with all losses, you hope to gain wisdom. This feels like the unavoidable wonder of aging. I couldn’t wait to leave my twenties behind–my husband actually bought me a pot of chrysanthemums to christen their grave–because I yearn to be wiser than I am, and the slow accumulation of years and experiences is the one thing I don’t have to actively work on in order to become wiser. And choosing the instability that comes with an artist’s life may be tempered by the direct application of age to art.


ML: I couldn’t agree more about the goal of confessional (or really, any kind of writing) being humanitarian in nature. I love what you say about creating an empathic bridge between reader and writer. This week, we hosted the poet and nonfiction writer Lori Jakiela here on my campus, and in advance of her poetry reading, she gave a lovely lecture on the role of art in the current pop culture climate. Using Youtube clips of The Jersey Shore and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, she made the argument that we live in a climate that tells us that personal experience is spectacle, which of course, ultimately feeds into the pervasive accusation that nonfiction writing is navel-gazing.

Challenging the “I’m so much crazier than you,” or “my pain is bigger than your pain” narratives, Jakiela said, comes from writers who are willing to bear all, not for the sake of being naked on the page or the screen, not out of some ego-driven desire to self-publicize, but for the sake of their reader. For the sake of finding something to share, of finding something in common.

I know both you and I, Amy, are sometimes plagued by our own pervasive need to be seen by a larger public sphere — we’ve made self-deprecating references to our active social media presences, and our frequent Instagram portraiture. We sense that we should, in some way, be ashamed by this desire to be noticed, knowing that it stems at least in part from a need for public validation. My graduate school professor, Dean Bakopoulos often joked that the subtext of every Facebook status update was “Hey! I’m not a loser! … (Right?)”. But perhaps this, too can be seen as an act of reaching out to connect, to find commonality with even those friends of ours who we know to be different personally, socially, politically.

At a reading I gave in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, our host Jeff Eyres kicked off the event by reminding us what we know from recent developments in biological anthropology — that the first settled human populations, and indeed, neurological developments in the human brain, are largely attributable to storytelling. Our persistent human need to connect to each other through collective narratives is both a community-building exercise and quite literally a way to extend our thinking by giving our brains a way to practice large-scale, complex thinking.

And in a world of of constant division and separation, especially during an election cycle, when we are so focused on our differences, Jeff said, what could be more important than sharing our stories? If storytelling made us human, than it has the power to keep us human, too.


AM: Marissa, have you ever read Seed? It’s a magazine that seeks to reunite the arts and sciences, and often publishes articles on the science of art-making. Both of us have mentioned the brain during this conversation, which I’d love to keep exploring with you.

I absolutely know what you mean about the self-consciousness of curating a social media presence, and especially one that’s both warm and enticing professionally. For my career, I’ve decided it’s important that I maintain Facebook and Twitter pages, but that means balancing the links to essays and blogs with other, more personal posts that help my followers feel connected to me (and, as you rightly point out, I, to them). It’s gratifying to propel people to my work in a way I actually somewhat quantify, but I also want to build a readership the way some presses do authorship, developing, as much as possible through screens, meaningful relationships with those who’ve invested time in my writing. In order to do this, I’ve had to let go of presenting myself seamlessly on the Internet. This means acknowledging the very narcissism I’m also trying to overcome. Some people griped when Facebook came out with the new Timeline format, but I appreciate the idea that I’ll have a permanent record of my online activity–some of it no doubt cringe-worthy, and public, like having the highlights of my seventh grade journal visible to a few thousand people. But some of it lovely, and some of it useful, providing a cartography of my adult life, showing me all the ways I’ve learned to let go, and all the things I’ve gained by doing so.

It has been wonderful trading perspectives on this similar moment in our lives and writing, Marissa. An invaluable experience of turning thirty. In many ways, having this conversation reminds me of another thing I plan to lose this year: a sense of myself as too young to be in any way wise. Articulating this part of my value system has shown me that I am, in fact, cultivating a way of being in the world, and has given me some vital confidence that I can model this system for my future son or daughter, and use it as bedrock in my nonfiction, and trust it to guide me as I make selections in the art of losing. Thank you for helping me shape so many complicated thoughts with your own.


Amy Monticello‘s work has appeared in Creative NonfictionNatural Bridge,The Iron Horse Literary ReviewUpstreetWaccamawPhoebe, and elsewhere. In 2012, Sweet Publications released her nonfiction chapbook, Close Quarters. She received her MFA from The Ohio State University, and now teaches writing at Ithaca College. In addition to contributing at The Nervous Breakdown, she is at work on new manuscript, The Way I Love You, which examines our penchant for nostalgia as individuals, communities, and a nation.

Marissa Landrigan‘s work has appeared in The Rumpus, Guernica, Orion, Diagram, Paper Darts, and elsewhere, and she is a regular nonfiction contributor at The Nervous Breakdown. She received her MFA in Creative Writing & Environment from Iowa State University, where she completed a food narrative tentatively titled The Vegetarian’s Guide to Eating Meat. She teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh – Johnstown, and blogs about becoming un-vegetarian at http://wemeatagain.com


Hello New Year, Hello 30: Amy Monticello & Marissa Landrigan in Conversation