This past weekend, my husband took our kids to Colorado. I was sad to miss the mini-vacation he planned-horseback riding with the kids in Pagosa Springs and mountainside fun in Durango and Purgatory-but I wanted to finish the second draft of my memoir manuscript. I wanted to stop saying, “I am writing a book.” I wanted to be able to say, “I wrote a book.”

Some of the chapters appeared in literary journals like Creative Nonfiction, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Cutbank , so I mean, editors have liked my writing. …

Jennifer Jordán Schaller interviews Gregory Martin

Image: Panorama over Albuquerque by Mike Tungate on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

I have known the author Gregory Martin for almost twenty years. I took a workshop with him when I was an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico. He was the first teacher who told me I should go to grad school. I was twenty-three. I thought graduate school was for old people, but I took his advice anyway. I changed my plans (which included being a bartender and writing poems at 3 a.m.) and three years later, I was attending a Master of Fine Arts program with a focus on Creative Nonfiction. Greg was my dissertation director.

To say…

Charity, by French painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau is in the Public Domain

The picture above, Charity, by French painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau, illustrates what it means for me to be a mom, teacher, and writer. I have all these little creatures I help sustain: not just my children or my family, but also my creative self. To play these different roles, I have to nurture my creativity. Passion and inspiration don’t cultivate themselves.

Letting Go

While raising two kids, I have dislodged food from airways, planned developmentally appropriate play dates, volunteered with the Girl Scouts, coaxed constipated toddlers to give it one more push, and Dutch braided my girls’ hair hundreds of times. For years…

Image by SanduStefan on Pixabay

Thus far in my writing career, I have gathered lots of wisdom. For example, a writer is a person who writes. You’re welcome. That pearl was free. Here’s another: a successful writer is a person whose writing is read.

Basic, simple things.

Now that I have this knowledge, the question remains: how do I become accustomed to the strangeness of disseminating my ideas online? The freest, most viral, most accessible medium of communication is social media, but how do I navigate the Internet as a socially anxious writer-person? Interacting online sometimes feels like dropping stones into a pond and watching…

Image by Tumisu on Pixabay

I have this problem. You could call it peculiar. I have anxiety attacks while plotting my manuscript. Sometimes I fear I will not be able to engage a reader for 180 pages, and the thought of someone putting my book down, forever in disgust, feels like a terrible first date. Who wants to experience so many terrible first dates? My last first date was so long ago, and what if I never pull off a good date again? What if I never convince someone that they should keep me, maybe put my book on a bookshelf, maybe read it to…

By Jennifer Jordán Schaller

Image by Daniel Reche from Pixabay

When I was a six-year-old child, it was the eighties. I sometimes stayed overnight with my Grandma Virginia in the South Bronx. My Grandma Virginia only spoke English when she talked to people like me, people who can’t speak Spanish. I remember walking with my little, gray-haired grandmother one cold and blustery New York morning. Her native tongue was one of many languages I could hear while exiting the subway with her. Icy wind sliced through buildings and blew through my grandmother’s gray, curly hair.

I remember my grandmother cupping my mittened hand inside her jacket pocket as we headed…

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Do you enjoy pain? You must. Investing so much time in a piece of writing — why work to the point that you start questioning yourself? Then you wonder not only if you enjoy the feel of flogging yourself, but also if anyone wants to read the story you’ve been writing for years. And yes, having this thought means you are sabotaging yourself, but on the other hand, weighing your choices makes sense, so you aren’t sure if you are being self-deprecating or level-headed.

This isn’t how you the reader think. Or, maybe it is.

But it’s what I think…

Are you having trouble writing the third version of your memoir? Have you been told that your story of overcoming structuralized inequity is cliché?

Figure 1: Visual representation of structuralized inequity /Image by Ichigo121212 from Pixabay

Memoirs have been disgorged by virtually every­one: survivors, thrivers, depressed people, addicted people, impoverished people, weight loss advocates; anyone who has ever taught an underprivileged child, adopted an under­privileged child, or been an under­privileged child; anyone who was raised in the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s, not to mention the ’50s, ’40s or ’30s. Anyone who has owned a dog. Run a marathon. Found religion. Held a job. …

We all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.

— Pablo Picasso

Still Life with Compote and Glass by Pablo Picasso, Public Domain

The above painting by Pablo Picasso, coupled with the quote above, help me think about the relationship between the art of memoir and truth. What is a painting beyond strokes of paint on a canvas? And what is a memoir beyond a story of what happened? They are both an interpretation.

In the memoir essays I write, the story is not only about what happened. What happened is a frame; the narrative is a vehicle to deeper meaning. …

No crude collection of cold facts has ever once told a story all on its own. Every story, be it fiction or non-fiction, must be found among the facts and then be shaped from them.

— Madison Smartt Bell

Structure has been the most elusive craft feature for me. I have trouble creating structure in my day to day life — my office is cluttered with papers, my car is littered with sandwich and candy wrappers. It’s an archaeologist’s dream. …

Jennifer Jordán Schaller

Words: @cnfonline @thisamerlife @sonorareview @emptymirror @brainchildmag | Web: | Tweets: @jenniferjschall

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store