Michelle Kuo was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan to immigrants from Taiwan. After graduating with a degree in Social Studies and Gender Studies from Harvard College, she joined Teach for America and moved to the rural town of Helena, Arkansas, located in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Kuo’s memoir, Reading with Patrick, is about her time teaching in Helena and, later, returning to the Delta to help one of her students after he is imprisoned for murder. Kuo teaches in the History, Law, and Society program at the American University of Paris on issues related to race, punishment, immigration, and the law. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, the LA Review of Books, Poets & Writers magazine, and Literary Hub, among others. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @kuokuomich.
EB: What drew you to writing nonfiction? Continue reading
Sarah Perry is the author of After the Eclipse: A Mother’s Murder, A Daughter’s Search, a memoir about her mother Crystal’s murder when Perry was twelve and the subsequent over-a-decade-long investigation. Perry holds an M.F.A. in nonfiction from Columbia University, where she served as publisher of Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art and was a member of the journal’s nonfiction editorial board. She is the recipient of a Writers’ Fellowship from the Edward F. Albee Foundation and a Javits Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education, and has attended residencies at Norton Island in Maine and PLAYA in Oregon. Perry’s prose has appeared in Blood & Thunder magazine, Bluestockings Literary Journal, Elle.com, and The Guardian. She lives in Brooklyn and should not be confused with the British author Sarah Perry.
EB: How did you begin writing nonfiction?
SP: I was a self-identified writer as a kid, a big nerd, and as I mention in my book, I liked to write stories. But after my mom died, it became not fun anymore—the trauma of the incident had filled up my imagination. I always wanted to get back, though. I wrote bad poetry in high school, like we all did—
EB: Yup. Continue reading
Daisy Hernández is the author of A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir and coeditor of Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism. The former editor of ColorLines magazine, she has written for The Atlantic, The New York Times, and NPR’s All Things Considered and CodeSwitch, and her essays have appeared in the Bellingham Review, Fourth Genre, Gulf Coast, Hunger Mountain, The Rumpus, and Tricycle. She is an Assistant Professor in the Creative Writing Program at Miami University in Ohio.
EB: What first attracted you to writing nonfiction?
DH: It’s interesting because now that I teach nonfiction [at the college level], I start with the premise that we don’t really teach students in high school and elementary school to look at nonfiction as a genre. We’re big on fiction and poetry, but we don’t look at nonfiction in the same way, and yet we have young students engaged with nonfiction all the time through essay-writing—torturing them with it. Continue reading
Samantha Irby is the writer behind the blog bitches gotta eat and the author of Meaty: Essays (Curbside Splendor Publishing, 2013), New Year, Same Trash: Resolutions I Absolutely Did Not Keep (Vintage, 2017), and We Are Never Meeting In Real Life: Essays (Vintage, 2017). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Rumpus, and Jezebel, among others. You can follow Irby on Twitter at @wordscience.
EB: First off, how did you start writing nonfiction? Have you always been a nonfiction person?
SI: When I was in high school I used to write fiction that was either imitating things I was reading at the time or was like fairy tales—well, not really fairy tales in the traditional sense, but thinly veiled fantasies of mine. Things like crushes I had that I wished could become real. I thought I could write them into existence maybe. I wrote fiction for a long time, but, oddly enough, writing fictional characters is more sensitive for me than writing about myself. I get real protective of my fictional people. I just couldn’t do all these things to them. Continue reading
Miranda K. Pennington is the author of A Girl Walks into a Book: What the Brontës Taught Me about Life, Love, and Women’s Work (Seal Press, 2017). Her work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar online, The Ploughshares blog, and The Catapult Podcast. Pennington received her MFA in creative nonfiction from Columbia University, where she also was a University Writing Instructor. In addition, she has taught academic writing at Touro College, SUNY Empire State, and the LEDA Institute, and she has led creative writing workshops for the AmpLit festival and Uptown Stories. This fall, Pennington will join the writing faculty of American University in Washington, D.C.
EB: How did you start writing nonfiction? Continue reading
Scaachi Koul is a senior writer for Buzzfeed News. In addition to Buzzfeed, Koul’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Hairpin, and Jezebel, among others. Her debut collection of essays, One Day We’ll All Be Dead And None Of This Will Matter, was published by Doubleday Canada and Picador USA in May 2017. You can follow her on Twitter at @scaachi. Koul is based in Toronto.
EB: How did you start writing in general and nonfiction in particular?
SK: I don’t have any other transferable skills. The only thing I can do is write. If there was another option I would have picked something that required less self-loathing. I’m also a really bad liar—I’m not great at inventing narratives that feel honest. I’ve never been able to see a way to do that. My existence has been rife with its own pains—I don’t need to make stuff up right now. I started writing around twelve, thirteen, fourteen. I had a lot of journals and a lot of feelings. And that created this perfect storm that I have yet to escape. Continue reading