Mary Mann is the author of Yawn: Adventures in Boredom. Her essays and criticism have appeared in Smithsonian, The New York Times, The Believer, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, among other publications, and she holds an MFA from Columbia University’s writing program. Mann is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Fellowship and a 2015 CATWALK Art Residency, and she is the associate editor of the New York Times bestselling collection Women in Clothes. She is currently employed as a writing associate at The Cooper Union. Mann lives in New York with her fiancé, Grant, and dog, Maya.
EB: How did you start writing nonfiction?
MM: I moved to New York because I wanted to do some writing for somebody somewhere. I loved to read. If I wasn’t writing, I wanted to be editing something—I wanted to be involved with words. I wanted to be in that world. And I moved into nonfiction because that’s just how things shook out. I had an internship at The Onion when I first started out. Obviously those stories are not real, but they treat it like journalism—writers spit-balling stuff off each other. I liked that world. I got a copyediting job after that. I wasn’t crazy about it, and that’s when I applied to Columbia, because that was when I decided I wanted to do something different. I applied to the nonfiction program because it felt natural. I feel like I don’t have a good answer. Continue reading
Sarah Dickenson Snyder is poet based in Massachusetts and Vermont. She is the author of The Human Contract (Kelsay Books, 2017) and the chapbook Notes from a Nomad (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Snyder’s poetry and prose have appeared in Bloodroot Literary Magazine, Teachers & Writers Magazine, Comstock Review, Damfino Press, Chautauqua, West Trade Review, The Main Street Rag, and Passager, among other magazines and anthologies. In May of 2016, she was a 30/30 Poet for Tupelo Press, and she has been selected to be part of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. In addition to writing poetry, Snyder worked as an English teacher for thirty-seven years.
EB: First off, congratulations on your two books of poetry coming out this year! Do you primarily identify as a poet?
SDS: I write some prose—I had a piece recently in in Teachers & Writers Magazine about teaching writing, which is the first chapter of a book I’m playing around with. The book is tentatively called Teacher Land and it’s about the things I’ve learned from my years of teaching—something a beginning teacher might read. I’ve really enjoyed writing it, and I do like writing prose, but, really, I feel more like a poet. Continue reading
Dodai Stewart is a writer, editor, and self-described pop culture junkie. Stewart is the Editor In Chief of Fusion.net, and the former Deputy Editor of Jezebel.com. Her writing has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, Glamour, and the New York Times, amongst others. You can find a sample of her writing here, and you can follow her on Twitter @dodaistewart. Stewart lives in Manhattan with her misanthropic Chihuahua.
E.B. Bartels: How did you begin writing in general and nonfiction specifically? Continue reading
Photo Credit: Jolene Siana
MariNaomi is the author and illustrator of Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0 to 22 (Harper Perennial, 2011), Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories (2dcloud/Uncivilized Books, 2014), Turning Japanese (2dcloud, 2016), and I Thought YOU Hated ME (Retrofit Comics, 2016). Her work has appeared in over sixty print publications and has been featured on numerous websites, such as LA Review of Books, Midnight Breakfast, and BuzzFeed. From 2011-2013 her comics appeared as the column Smoke In Your Eyes on The Rumpus.
MariNaomi’s comics and paintings have been featured by such institutions as the Smithsonian, the De Young Museum, the Cartoon Art Museum, the Asian Art Museum, and the Japanese American Museum. In 2011, Mari toured with the literary roadshow Sister Spit. She is the creator and curator of the Cartoonists of Color Database and the Queer Cartoonists Database. She has taught classes for the California College of the Arts Comics MFA program, and is currently a guest editor at PEN America.
E.B. Bartels: How did you begin writing and drawing nonfiction? What attracted you to the genre?
MariNaomi: As a girl (as early as age five) I thought I’d grow up to be a novelist, and by age 21 I’d written two novels. I was determined to be a best-selling prodigy. Well, that’s not how things turned out, and I quickly learned that trying to get published is a different game than making up stories, and that I don’t deal well with rejection. After a particularly cruel comment from a publisher (“Who would ever want to read a book like this? It’s too depressing.”) I was shamed into novelistic silence, and I put away my typewriter (yes, both novels were written on typewriters!). Continue reading
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh is the founder of MuslimGirl.com, an online magazine and community for Muslim women. Her memoir, Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age, was published by Simon & Schuster in October 2016 and was listed as a New York Times Editor’s Pick. Al-Khatahtbeh’s work has appeared in New York Magazine, Time, and Teen Vogue, among others. You can follow her on Twitter at @xoamani. Al-Khatahtbeh is based in New York.
E.B. Bartels: First off, how did you start writing nonfiction?
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh: I started writing nonfiction as a means of survival. For me, writing was the only space I could squeeze myself into. Chronicling my experiences became a way to make sense of them. It also felt like the only way I could get my voice out there. When I held the pen, I was the one with the mic. It not only empowered me with a platform, it also connected me with my friends and other likeminded people.
EB: You created the website MuslimGirl.com. Could you speak a little about the history of the site and how you have used nonfiction to form a community online? Continue reading
Eula Biss is the author of On Immunity: An Inoculation, which was named one of the 10 Best Books of 2014 by the New York Times Book Review, and Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism in 2010 and was the winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize. Biss’s first book, The Balloonists, was published by Hanging Loose Press in 2002. She has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Howard Foundation Fellowship, an National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, and a Jaffe Writers’ Award. Her essays have appeared in The Believer, Harper’s, and The New York Times Magazine, among others. Biss holds a B.A. in nonfiction writing from Hampshire College and an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. She teaches at Northwestern University and lives with her family in Evanston, Illinois.
BARTELS: How did you begin writing nonfiction?
BISS: I began writing nonfiction by writing poetry, which is nonfiction in the sense that it’s not fiction. I earned my undergraduate degree in nonfiction under the mentorship of three poets: Martin Espada, Deb Gorlin, and Paul Jenkins. I studied the tradition of prose poetry in college and I was writing what I called prose poetry by the time I graduated. I thought of myself as a poet, and my community was a community of poets—that hasn’t changed. My transition into writing essays was fairly organic. The prose poems I was writing gradually became longer and longer, and heavier on information. There’s a fine line, if there’s a line at all, between a 3,000-word autobiographical prose poem and a short personal essay.
BARTELS: I’ve heard your first book, The Balloonists, described as a book of poetry. But if the line is so fine, do you really see it in that genre? Continue reading