Cheryl Strayed

The Dipper - June 2019

"The Dipper" is our monthly newsletter, where we highlight readings, events, calls for submission, and other literary-related news for the coming month. If you have news or events to share, let us know

 

June News

Rena Mosteirin

Rena Mosteirin

Dan Chiasson

Dan Chiasson

GennaRose Nethercott

GennaRose Nethercott

Drumroll, please….!

It’s finally time to announce the featured poets for Poetry & Pie III. We are beyond thrilled that Rena J. Mosteirin, Dan Chiasson, and GennaRose Nethercott will be joining us at Sweetland Farm in Norwich, Vermont, on Saturday, August 3, from 3:00 to 5:00 pm.

Poet-for-hire Taylor Mardis Katz is returning with her Remington typewriter so that she can write custom poems for you. As in past years, we welcome you to read your own, original work at our open mic. New to Poetry & Pie this year, we’ll have a musical interlude by one of our favorite local musicians, Laura Jean Binkley (who also performed at last November’s Writers’ Process Night). And, of course, we’ll ply you with every kind of pie—sweet, savory, gluten-free, vegan—that you can imagine. Get the details and RSVP on our Poetry & Pie page. We look forward to seeing you there!

Rena Mosteirin, a Poetry & Pie featured poet, is also the author of the first Little Dipper, our new handmade chapbook series. Rena’s chapbook, tentatively titled half-fabulous whales, is a collection of erasure poems crafted from the pages of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. We’re producing a limited edition of 25, numbered and signed, and will have them for sale at Poetry & Pie. If you’d like to reserve a copy in advance, let us know!

Our friend Ocean Vuong’s debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, comes out on June 4, and we couldn’t be more excited. You might remember that Ocean was one of the featured poets at last year’s Poetry & Pie, where he read an excerpt from the novel. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous has received rave reviews—including starred reviews from Kirkus, Library Journal and Booklist—and is the number one Indie Next pick for June. You have a few opportunities to see him in New England in June and he’s going to be at Bookstock in Woodstock, Vermont, at the end of July. Not only is his writing amazing, but he’s a wonderful reader of his own work. Not to be missed!

In case you missed it, we have some new goodies on our blog, including a Friday Reads selection by writer Sierra Dickey, and an interview with local writer, Rachel Barenbaum about her debut novel, A Bend in the Stars.

 
 

Slow Club Book Clubbers are leisurely making their way through our spring selection, Wioletta Greg’s Swallowing Mercury. If you’re not a member yet, you can read our recent, mid-season check-in letter about that book, and you can sign up to be notified about our summer book, which we’ll announce very soon.

 
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And finally… we recently changed our website from .com to .org. We’ve always imagined ourselves more as a community organization than a business, and we want our website to reflect that. The old website address will automatically take you to the new one for the time being, but, when you get a chance, please update your bookmarks to the new address: www.literarynorth.org.

June’s Shooting Stars

A cool literary find from each of us to help light up your month!

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  • I recently discovered a new favorite podcast, Everything Else, a culture podcast from the Financial Times. My favorite episode is “Ways of Seeing: Sheila Heti on Pierre Bonnard, but there are so many good ones. Richard Grant, Alexander Chee, Kerry James Marshall, Sally Rooney. Give it a listen! —Shari

  • If you have a spare ~24 minutes in our day, listen to Mary Ruefle read her essay “My Private Property” on KCRW’s Bookworm podcast. Every time I listen, it leaves me speechless. —Rebecca


June Highlights

Shomari Wills

Shomari Wills

Brooklyn journalist and author Shomari Wills reads from his book, Black Fortunes, in the historic Barn House at the Clemmons Family Farm in Charlotte, Vermont, on Saturday, June 1, from 4:00 to 6:00 pm.

If you haven’t had a chance yet to see James Crews talk about his book, Healing the Divide, he will be at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, along with Julia Shipley, Todd Davis, Carol Cone, Alice Gilburn, David Axelrod, and Michelle Wiegers on Sunday, June 2, at 2:00 pm.

Helen Macdonald

Helen Macdonald

The Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference and Translator’s Conferences offer many readings open to the public from Friday, May 31 through Wednesday, June 5 at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont. Some of our favorite writers will be on hand, including Megan Mayhew Bergman, Claire Vaye Watkins, Dan Chiasson, J. Drew Lanham, Helen Macdonald, Emily Wilson and more.

The Thing in the Spring—an annual festival of music, art, and literature in Peterborough, New Hampshire—features readings by Mary Ruefle and Arielle Greenberg on Friday, June 7; Adar Cohen, Doug Valentine, and Ed Symkus on Saturday, June 8; and Iliana Rocha and Rage Hezekiah on Sunday, June 9. All readings take place at the Toadstool Bookshop. Check our calendar for reading times.

The Joan Hutton Landis Summer Reading Series kicks off on Sunday, June 9, at 5:30 pm with Angela Palm and Nathan McClean. The series takes place at Big Town Gallery in Rochester, Vermont, and continues through September 1.

Amitava Kumar. Photo by Snigdha Kumar

Amitava Kumar. Photo by Snigdha Kumar

Amitava Kumar, author of Immigrant, Montana, is reading at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, on Thursday, June 13, at 5:30 pm.

Sunday, June 16 is Bloomsday, the day we commemorate the life of James Joyce and his novel Ulysses. If you’re in the Upper Valley, you can celebrate with a brunch, readings, and discussion with professor James Heffernan at Jesse’s Restaurant in Hanover, New Hampshire, starting at 11:30 am. $32 per person. Registration is required.

The 2019 Hyla Brook Reading Series continues in Derry, New Hampshire, on Friday, June 14, at 7:00 pm with keynote speaker Bruce Bennett and Frost Farm Prize winner, David Southward.

David Huddle and Gregory Spatz read from their latest works of fiction at The Vermont Bookshop in Middlebury, Vermont, on Thursday, June 20, at 7:00 pm.

Zinzi Clemmons. Photo by Nina Subin

Zinzi Clemmons. Photo by Nina Subin

Cheryl Strayed will speak at the Latchis Theater in Brattleboro, Vermont, on Tuesday, June 25, at 7:30 pm in celebration of Brattleboro Area Hospice’s 40th anniversary.

On Friday, June 28, Zinzi Clemmons will read from her debut novel, What We Lose, at the Norman Williams Public Library in Woodstock, Vermont. The reading begins at 4:30 pm.

This year’s Justice - And Poetry - For All, put together by the Sundog Poetry Center, will focus on the poetry of immigrants. As of press time, the date and lineup haven’t been announced, but Sundog’s website says it’s happening in June. Check their website for updates.

Visit our calendar for detailed information about these events and more!

 

Worth a Drive

  • Yaddo presents Amy Hempel at Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs, New York, on June 6, at 6:00 pm. Reservations are required. She will be in conversation with Elaine Richardson, President of Yaddo.

  • Robert MacFarlane, author of Underland, will be in conversation with Sebastien Smee at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on June 11, at 7:00 pm.

  • Regina Porter will be reading from her debut novel, The Travelers, at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Massachusetts on June 20, at 7:00 pm.

  • The Juniper Summer Writing Institute hosts public readings during the month of June. Readers include Joy Williams, Ross Gay, Ocean Vuong, Mitch Jackson, CA Conrad, and more!

 

Worth a Listen

  • Check out last month’s Brave Little State from VPR, where they looked into just what draws so many writers and poets to Vermont.

  • Pam Houston on the OtherppL podcast.

  • Preti Taneja joins Andy Miller and John Mitchinson on the Backlisted podcast to discuss Beloved, by Toni Morrison.

 

We're Looking Forward to These June Releases

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Calls For Submission and Upcoming Deadlines

Frost Farm Poetry Conference
Accepting registrations for this year’s conference (June 14 to 16). Registration includes workshops, a one-on-one meeting with your instructor, keynote with Bruce Bennett, critiques with poet-in-residence Rhina Espaillat, panel discussions, readings, a reception, breakfasts and lunches.
Deadline: June 1 | Details

Juniper Summer Writing Institute
Accepting applications for this summer’s institute (June 16 to 22). The institute includes manuscript consultations, craft sessions, workshops, readings, and other events, led by a wide range of instructors, including CAConrad, Gabriel Bump, Ross Gay, Khadijah Queen, Bianca Stone, Ocean Vuong, Dara Weir, and Joy Williams.
Deadline: rolling admissions until full | Details

The Frost Place 2019 Conference on Poetry
Spend a week at “intensive poetry camp” (July 6 to 12) with writers who are deeply committed to learning more about the craft of writing poetry. The Frost Place Conference on Poetry offers daily workshops, classes, lectures, writing and revising time in a supportive and dynamic environment. $25 application fee.
Deadline: June 15 | Details

Vermont Studio Center Fellowships
Twenty-five VSC fellowships open to all artists and writers living and working anywhere in the world, in addition to six special fellowships for writers. These awards are for residencies scheduled between September 2019 and May 2020. Every VSC residency opportunity includes private room, private studio space, all meals, and full access to their schedule of evening programs and events. $25 application fee.
Deadline: June 15 | Details

Zig Zag Lit Mag
Accepting fiction, non-fiction, dramatic forms, poetry—any genre, any topic. To submit you must live, labor, or loiter in Addison County, Vermont.
Deadline: June 30 | Details

Green Mountain Writers Conference
For five days each summer (July 29 to August 2), people who have been coming to the conference for years and first-timers joyously tackle the job of putting words together to tell story, to craft poetry, to communicate, to share, and to learn from one another under the close tutelage of published authors. Faculty this year includes Dede Cummings, Jensen Beach, Yvonne Daley, and Gary Margolis.
Deadline: Call (802) 236-6133 for availability or email the director, Yvonne Daley, at yvonnedaley@me.com | Details

The Frost Place Poetry Seminar
Join a select community of poets for 5-1/2 days (August 4 to 10) to refresh your artistic inspiration in a setting of great natural beauty. Have your poems-in-progress given generous and focused attention in this intimate setting. The seminar offers unparalleled access to a faculty of celebrated contemporary poets. The goal is to send you home charged up to re-enter your own work. $25 application fee.
Deadline: July 1 | Details

Hunger Mountain Issue 24: Patterns
General submissions are open in prose and poetry on the theme of patterns. Work must not have been published before, including online.
Deadline: October 15 | Details

Lifelines Magazine
Accepting submissions of original and unpublished short stories, nonfiction, poetry, and artwork for their 2020 issue. While they consider a broad spectrum of subject matter for publication, they are looking for pieces that speak to the experience of medicine in some way.
Deadline: October 31 | Details

Center for Cartoon Studies, MFA Degree and Certificate Programs
Now accepting applications for the MFA, One- and Two-year Certificate programs, Low Residency second-year option. Learn all you need to know about making comics, self-publishing, in a prolific and dynamic environment and community. $50 application fee.
Deadline: rolling admissions until programs are filled | Details


Upcoming Workshops and Classes

Helping the Poet Make a Better Poem with Steven Cramer
Saturday, June 8, 1:00 to 4:00 pm

In this three-hour workshop, we’ll honor both the critical and creative faculties of our brains (perhaps discovering that they’re closer siblings than we might have thought). We’ll first discuss work-in-process by participants, asking ourselves the only question worth asking in a workshop: how might we help the poet make this poem the best it can be? Then we’ll engage in one or two writing “experiments” designed to encourage using language more as paint than as a vehicle for conveying information, favoring the sensory over making sense.
Location: The Ford House, SNHU, Manchester, New Hampshire | Cost: $65-$85 | Details

Elements of the Novel Workshop with Eileen Charbonneau
Saturday June 8, 15, 22, and 29, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm
Do you think you have a novel in you?  Have you written one (or more!) and want to make it better and closer to publication? Eileen will cover topics such as setting, characterization, voice and dialogue. All are encouraged to write during class and learn how to critique each other and self-edit.
Location: Village Square Booksellers | Cost: $5 per session | Details

New Hampshire Writers’ Project Write-In
Saturday, June 22, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm

The NHWP holds seasonal Write-Ins for its members where they can come and hang out with fellow writers and have a dedicated time to write. We write all day, break for a social lunch, and then get back to writing or take part in an optional ad hoc critique session with fellow writers.
Location: The Ford House, SNHU, Manchester, New Hampshire | Cost: free for members | Details

Do I Have a Book in Me? with Bill Schubart
Tuesday, June 25, 7:00 pm

As an author or eight fictional works—both self-published and traditionally published—Bill will answer questions about the work of writing and the new business of publishing. Bill will also discuss his recently published novel, The Priest.
Location: Phoenix Books, Burlington, Vermont | Cost: free | Details

Tapping into Your Write Brain: A Workshop for the Creatively Inclined with Joni Cole
Friday, June 28, 6 to 7:30 pm
In this workshop, you will participate in a creative writing exercise using thematic prompts that stir up…who knows? And that’s the fun, freeing, and always powerful experience of writing and sharing from a “prompt”. No writing experience is required. Space is limited. Please register by June 21 through the Hood Museum of Art’s website.
Location: Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, New Hampshire | Cost: free | Details

Write Here, Write Now with Barbara Steiner
Saturday, June 29, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm
Beginning and experienced writers are invited to a day-long creative writing workshop at Aryaloka Buddhist Center. Based on the Amherst Writers and Artists method, we’ll write in response to prompts (which you are free to ignore) designed to help us bypass our inner critic and write from what comes to us.
Location: Newmarket, New Hampshire | Cost: $45-$85 | Details

The Dipper - December 2018

"The Dipper" is our monthly newsletter, where we highlight readings, events, calls for submission, and other literary-related news for the coming month. If you have news or events to share, let us know

 

December News

December is a quiet month in terms of readings and literary events. (If you squint at the month of December on our calendar, it looks a bit like a snowy field dotted with a few bare, beautiful trees.)

This month might be the perfect time to catch up on your TBR pile and your Slow Club Book Club reading. If you’re like Shari, you might want to start searching out titles that you want to add to your wish list for 2019.

In the new year, be on the lookout for our “Year in Reading” posts again, as we follow suit with The Millions.

Remember that books make great gifts! Support your local independent bookstores. Happy Holidays from Literary North!

December’s Shooting Stars

A cool literary find from each of us to help light up your month:

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  • BBC Radio 4 invited Cheryl Strayed, Ocean Vuong, and Sharon Olds to visit Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst and to write in her room. Many interesting reflections on her life and work. —Shari

  • Speaking of snowy fields, do you know about Shelley Jackson’s beautiful, slow Instagram story written in snow? She’s been writing the story, word by word, during the snowy months in New York since 2014. I absolutely love the slow pace of this project, and the way it meanders through the months and years. (Tip: If you’re not good at reading a story backwards, you can read at least the first six sentences in their correct order on Electric Lit.) —Rebecca


December Highlights

Leath Tonino

Leath Tonino

Leath Tonino will be at Flying Pigs Books in Shelburne, Vermont, on Saturday, December 1 at 6:30 pm to read from his essay collection, The Animal One Thousand Miles Long.

On Saturday, December 8, at 6:00 pm, Andre Dubus III will be reading from his latest novel at The Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont.

Louise Penny, author of the Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series, will be at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, New Hampshire, on Sunday, December 9, at 1:00 pm. Ticket are $38 and include a signed copy of the latest book in the series, Kingdom of the Blind.

Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith

US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith will be at The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Wednesday, December 12, at 7:00 pm to accept the 2018 Hall-Kenyon Prize in American Poetry. Tickets are $5-10.

Mitchell S. Jackson will be at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, on Wednesday, December 12, at 8:00 pm. Jackson’s new book, Survival Math, is due out on March 5, 2019, and we’ve heard excellent things about it!

On Friday, December 14, at 7:00 pm, George Howe Colt, will be at The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont, to read from his new book, The Game.

Madeleine Kunin will be reading from and discussing her memoir, Coming of Age, at The Norwich Congregational Church in Norwich, Vermont, on Wednesday, December 19, at 7:00 pm.

Visit our calendar for detailed information about these events and more!

 

Worth a Drive

  • Idra Novey will be reading at Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Massachusetts, on Wednesday, December 5 at 8:00 pm.

  • Also in South Hadley, Massachusetts, poet Eileen Myles will be reading at the Art Building at Mount Holyoke College on Thursday, December 6 at 7:30 pm.

  • On Saturday, December 8, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm, the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, will hold an open house to celebrate the poet’s 188th birthday. During this free program, visitors can tour the Homestead and The Evergreens at their leisure; enjoy holiday decorations and traditional music; decorate an ornament with a special birthday message; and, of course, enjoy coconut cake made from the poet’s own recipe.



Worth a Listen

Shari has been enjoying the Keeping a Notebook podcast by Nina LaCour. The episodes on writing are short, inspiring and thoughtful.

 

We're Looking Forward to These December Releases

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Calls For Submission and Upcoming Deadlines

The Hotel Vermont has asked the Burlington Writers Workshop to assemble a small collection of Vermont writing for young people to be available to guests in their rooms at the hotel. The hotel already features BWW writing for adults in all its guest rooms and would like to add work specifically aimed at children and teens. If you have work you are interested in submitting for consideration, please contact the Burlington Writers Workshop.

The Burlington Writers Workshop is seeking a writer/editor to write for their Opportunites & Announcements blog once a month. If you’re interested, please contact the Burlington Writers Workshop

Marble House Project is a multi-disciplinary artist residency program in Dorset, Vermont, that fosters collaboration and the exchange of ideas by providing an environment for artists across disciplines to live and work side by side. The three-week Artist Residency is open to artists in all creative fields, including but not limited to visual arts, writing, choreography, music composition and performance. Applications for 2019 residencies are open through December 16. The application fee is $32. For more information, please visit the Residency Applications page.

Bloodroot Literary Magazine is accepting submissions of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction for their 2019 Digital Edition through December 31. For submission guidelines, please visit the Bloodroot website.

The Frost Place is accepting submissions for their annual Chapbook Competition. The competition is open to any poet writing in English. The submission fee is $28. Submissions will be accepted through January 5, 2019. For more information, please visit the Chapbook Competition page.

Applications are now open for the Dartmouth Poet in Residence program at The Frost Place. This is a six-to-eight-week residency in poet Robert Frost’s former farmhouse in Franconia, New Hampshire. The residency begins July 1 and ends August 15, and includes an award of $1,000 from The Frost Place and an award of $1,000 from Dartmouth College. The recipient will have an opportunity to give a series of public readings across the region, including at Dartmouth College and The Frost Place. Applications will be accepted through January 5, 2019. For more information, please visit the Residency page.  

Every summer, the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, awards residency Fellowships to artists in seven disciplines, including literature. A Fellowship consists of exclusive use of a private studio, accommodations and three prepared meals a day for two weeks to two months. The deadline for the 2019 Summer MacDowell Literature Fellowship is January 15, 2019. The application fee is $30. For more information, please visit the Residency Application page.

The Juniper Summer Writing Institute in Amherst, Massachusetts (June 16-22) is now accepting applications. The institute includes manuscript consultations, craft sessions, workshops, readings, and other events, led by a wide range of instructors, including CAConrad, Gabriel Bump, Ross Gay, Khadijah Queen, Bianca Stone, Ocean Vuong, Dara Weir, and Joy Williams. The non-refundable application fee is $40. For more information and to apply, please visit the Juniper Institute website.


Upcoming Workshops and Classes

The Burlington Writers Workshop annual meeting will be held on December 2, from 2:30 to 5:00 pm at the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington, Vermont. All members are invited to attend. To RSVP, please visit the BWW website.

The League of Vermont Writers’ annual business meeting and winter writing craft workshop will take place at Trader Duke’s in South Burlington, Vermont, on January 19, 2019. For more details and registration information as it becomes available, visit the League’s Facebook page.

The New Hampshire Writers’ Project is hosting a Travel Writing workshop, led by author Dan Szczesny on the campus of SNHU in Manchester, New Hampshire, from 10:00 am to noon on January 19, 2019. Registration is $50 for NHWP members; $70 for non-members. For more information and to register, please visit the NHWP Workshops page.

Interview: Hannah Howard

Feast.jpg

We had the pleasure of reading advance copies of Feast (Thanks, Little A!) in the heart of the winter and knew we wanted to feature Hannah and her compelling memoir on our blog. Hannah Howard is a writer with many years of experience in the food world. From working in restaurants to hosting cooking classes and creating videos—she's done it all. She has a BA in Creative Writing and Anthropology from Columbia University and is currently working on her MFA in non-fiction writing at the Bennington Writing Seminars.

Megan Mayhew Bergman says of Feast, "Hannah Howard's debut memoir Feast is a gorgeous, painful reckoning with food, femininity, and ambition - a moving look at a young woman becoming herself in the grueling culture of New York City restaurants." We couldn't agree more.

Thank you, Hannah, for sharing your book and your thoughts with us. And happy book birthday to Feast!

BONUS! Read an excerpt from Feast at the end of our interview with Hannah!


Literary North: What was the initial seed for Feast? Did you know everything you wanted to write about when you first started, or did that change as you wrote?

Hannah Howard: I knew I wanted to tell a story about working my way through restaurants, falling in love with food, and recovering from an eating disorder. I'm definitely the kind of writer who thinks and discovers on the page, through the process of writing itself. The book grew, morphed, shrunk, grew again, and shape-shifted dozens of times throughout the journey of transforming from a bunch of paragraphs and ideas into an actual manuscript. I wrote an outline as part of my proposal, and it looks almost nothing like the finished version of Feast.

LN: Do you have any favorite books/writers in the food memoir genre? Whose writing inspired you as you began to write your story?

HH: Absolutely! As far as memoirs go, I love all three of Mary Karr's memoirs, Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life, Cheryl Strayed's Wild, and Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face. In terms of food memoirs, it was reading Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain and Heat by Bill Buford that made me decide I wanted to work in the restaurant biz. Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones & Butter is my favorite restaurant memoir of all time, and Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone is a beautiful book that tugs at my heart. And I have writing heroes who I keep way up on a pedestal where they belong: James Baldwin, Virginia Woolf, Alice Munro, Joan Didion, Junot Diaz.

LN: The first few chapters of Feast were really compelling and pulled us immediately into your story. Did you write those chapters first, or did they come later?

HH: Thank you! I had written them early-ish in the process, but it wasn't until much later that I had the revelation of starting Feast with my epic last binge and using recovery as a frame for the story. I kept obsessively rearranging chapters and scenes-figuring out a structure was one of my biggest challenges. When I landed on something that felt organic and right, it was a huge relief.

LN: Feast describes your path from feeling like an outsider, unhappy with your body and your relationships, to becoming much more self confident and in control of your life. How did writing your story affect this sense of confidence and control?

HH: When I started writing Feast, I felt like I was a good place with my eating disorder recovery. I didn't anticipate how grueling it would be to dig up the hardest, darkest moments from my life and really linger there. I started seeing a therapist again, which was a great idea.

It was only after the writing was behind me that I felt anything like catharsis. Being able to make stories from those unhappy times and share them feels like such a gift. It's given me confidence to hear readers say what feel like truly magic words: that reading Feast made them feel less alone. In turn, I feel less alone. So many people of all ages, shapes, sizes, and walks of life struggle with a destructive relationship with food and their bodies. Telling our stories helps dissipate shame. That's been huge for me.

LN: You write very candidly about your relationships, including with some probably identifiable people in the food and restaurant world. Did you struggle at all with how open and honest to be with regard to other people in your book?

HH: Totally! I'm still worried about hurting people. Feast went through a thorough legal review, where we changed some identifying characteristics and details. My intention was to be as honest and kind as possible.

LN: What advice do you have for young women who want to be a part of the restaurant world?

HH: Work with people you admire. Be a sponge. Read everything you can. Watch food TV. Cook at home. Take a risk. Be kind to yourself.

LN: Can you tell us a bit about your path to publishing with Amazon via Little A? How has this experience been for you?

HH: My wonderful agent, Andrea Somberg, had been pitching the proposal for Feast around. She believed in the project, which helped as the rejections started to roll in. So many of these rejections were truly lovely-they'd rave about the beauty of the writing only to end in an apologetic "no thank you." One of the publishers had put out a food memoir the previous year and thought mine was too close; another thought a restaurant memoir and an eating disorder memoir should be separate projects for separate audiences, not combined into one book. (Ha!)

At some point, I realized that I knew the wonderful poet and writer Morgan Parker, who at the time was an editor for Little A. Morgan acquired Feast. One of the biggest reasons I chose Little A was that I felt like the story was so personal, and knowing my editor beforehand felt like some sort of protection. Morgan was an excellent editor but ended up leaving Little A. My new editor, Laura Van der Veer, ended up being a perfect fit for me and for Feast. She's brilliant in a different way than Morgan is, so Feast got even better.

The whole team at Little A has been patient, supportive, and incredible. I think Little A is the best of both worlds-there's the personal attention and intimate feeling of a small press, plus the marketing muscle and impressive resources of Amazon. I feel immensely lucky.

LN: Are you working on any new writing projects now?

HH: I'm actually writing something about the anxieties associated with second books. I have a bunch of small projects, but am still looking for the heart of the idea that will become the Next Big Project.

LN: What was the most memorable thing you read in the last month? The most memorable meal you ate?

HH: I loved Ariel Levy's memoir The Rules Do Not Apply. I also read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy in Kerala, India, where I went with my mom. There's something awesome about traveling somewhere and reading a novel that takes place there-right out the window.

The most memorable meal I ate was a simple dinner I cooked with my fiancé when I got home. We seared some stunning lamb chops on our cast iron with rosemary, garlic, and a little chili pepper. We set off the fire alarm, which is always a good sign. We ate them with roasted asparagus, orzo, and juicy Spanish red wine on the couch with Netflix. Perfection.

Hannah will be at Bridgeside Books in Waterbury, Vermont, on Thursday, May 3, at 6:00 pm.


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Thank you to Hannah for providing the following excerpt from Feast.

 

Tonight when you are ripped open
down to the very seed,
when you feel that hunger, know:
you are not what you pack up now for next year,
you will not be put up on the shelf in jars.

Rena Mosteirin

 

Cookies

On the night of my last binge, New York City is raw. Even my teeth twinge with cold. It’s November, I’m twenty-four years old, and I have just moved back to Manhattan after a stint managing a fine dining restaurant in Philadelphia. I feel at home for the first time in years. Everyone is welcome here, everything allowed. On my worst days, now, I feel pregnant with loneliness, exhausted from loathing my body and the rest of me; I walk east on 95th Street to the park and think, I live here, which is sweet consolation. New York buoys me up and up again. I rarely miss my boyfriend Ari—ex-boyfriend now—although I feel guilty for abandoning him in Philadelphia. He calls me most nights, late. I always regret when I answer.

After looking at dozens of tiny but inordinately expensive NYC apartments—maybe the kitchen consists of one burner and a minifridge; or the bedroom is actually a living room, which the landlord needs to walk through to access her own bedroom—I find a little slice of the Upper West Side which is actually kind of (not quite, but I’ll take kind of) affordable. I sign the lease on the spot.

I love my new studio on West 95th Street, how the light saunters in every morning, the wide countertop that separates the kitchen from my new post-Ari mattress in its wrought iron frame, the window ledges that I use as bookshelves. Mostly I love that it’s mine.

I hang a sparkly red tapestry I bought with my best friend Ursula in Thailand. The quilt on my bed is bright as watermelon. If I lean to the left and squint just so, I can catch the start of the green expanse of Central Park outside my window, past avenues of traffic and scarf-wearing ladies wheeling shopping carts.

My parents invite me to dinner at their friends’ Upper East Side apartment. I walk across Central Park in new motorcycle boots, filled with a particular New York brand of hope. Everyone here is fulfilling vast dreams to make billions, redefine modern dance, launch artisanal ginger ale companies, and they are all in the park tonight: crowds, dogs, tourists, families, the setting sun and its reflection against the still surface of the reservoir, the last few burnt-orange leaves illuminating the trees.

At Joy and Alec’s place, intricate carpets overlap each other. A gray puppy jumps its little legs onto my knees. Joy pours me a glass of wine in a glass as big as their puppy. Alec shakes my hand before pulling me into a hug.

“Your mom tells me you have a new job. Fairway, huh?” I’m tall, but Alec towers over me benevolently. He speaks with the slightest Greek accent.

“That’s right.”

“I can’t get enough of their smoked salmon.”

“We’re Fairway smoked salmon addicts,” Joy agrees. “And the mini bagels, the mini everything bagels! Come eat. We’re going to sit in the living room like the slobs we are.”

But nothing feels slobbish about this endeavor. Their sofas are upholstered in silk and the giant coffee table is set with porcelain chopsticks and goblets for water. Dissonant jazz plays on the speakers. I wonder if this is how everyone lives on the Upper East Side.

“Did you get a haircut?” my dad asks. “I like your hair.”

He is trying to be nice; my hair is the same as always. “No haircut. But thanks.”

“Well.” Joy gestures to the spread of sushi rolls and slivers of sashimi, gyoza and edamame, little bowls of ginger and wasabi. The feast covers the entire table. “Don’t be shy.”

My dad fills his plate first. My mom pulls a soybean from its green shell with her teeth. At first, I partake like a normal human being, dip a salmon avocado roll in soy sauce, add a dab of wasabi. And then another and another. Everyone is eating; a pause in the conversation.

Then, there’s a shift. Something is awakened in me, a hunger that feels like a foreign, malicious force curled up in my stomach and reaching its monster limbs into my mouth and through my hands. I can’t stop eating. My mom gives me a sideways glare. I know that look, the same one from when I was a kid. It means You are eating a lot and I am noticing and it is not okay. It means You are not a skinny girl and you are not okay. The only thing worse is when she actually says, out loud, “You know, dinner is coming.” Or “Save some for everyone else.” Or “Don’t you think you’ve had enough to eat, maybe?”

I wait for my mom to say one of those things, or something worse, but she turns to Joy.

“How is your aunt? Oh, I’m forgetting her name.”

“June is healthy as a horse, with killer lipstick. We just celebrated her ninety-fourth birthday.”

Mom turns away from Joy to give me The Look again. I see what I usually see in her eyes—embarrassment, judgment. And past all that, I see something new. Compassion?

I am practically snuggled up with Mom and Dad on Alec and Joy’s sofa, but the conversation feels far away. I can’t stop hand to mouth to hand to mouth, no matter how much I will myself and no matter how much I hate myself for my lack of self-control, my irrepressible gluttony. I hate the bulk of my body, and I hate that I am failing to shrink it. I watch the way my thighs squish and unfurl onto the sofa.

Somehow I manage to stop eating sushi before the entire tray is consumed. Joy and Alec’s fluffy dog curls up in my lap, its little head rests, soft on my knee.

“So tell us about Fairway. Do you know the secret of the smoked salmon yet?” Joy asks.

“I only know the secrets of the cheese. I’m starting behind the cheese counter. It’s a temporary situation until they figure out a job in the office for me. But the cheese is right next to the deli counter, where we have all the lox and the geniuses who slice it.”

Joy and Alec’s kindness feels as soft as the pup, and I find it touching that they want to know about the minutiae of my life. I tell them about the light in the morning in my new apartment, Central Park out the window. I tell them about Fairway, the way I spent my first day breaking down a wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano, how we use the rinds to flavor soup.

Then dessert is served: a giant plate of cookies, set right in front of me.

“They’re just from the deli next door, but I think they’re the most outrageous cookies in New York,” Alec says, proud of the cookies.

“We’re not really sweets people,” my dad chimes in. He must be using the royal we; cookies are my favorite.

“We really shouldn’t be eating them either,” Joy says.

My mom looks at me again. I don’t meet her eyes.

There are five of us at the table and probably enough cookies for a party of twenty, or even more. Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, butterscotch, peanut butter. The cookies are fat, round, as big as my face. Everything else fades out of focus. All I see are cookies.

I am Odysseus and the cookies are sugar sirens.

My parents and their friends fade to a fuzzy scrim.

I start with a little wedge each of oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip. That seems a reasonable way to start. But it also seems reasonable that I should try the other varieties, because they indeed turn out to be exemplary cookies—sweet but not too sweet, crunchy but with give, buttery and dense. The cookie sends a rush, electric almost, from my mouth to my brain. The other cookies, from which I snap off pieces to chew on slowly, are excellent, too. And by this point, I haven’t eaten a whole cookie, just pieces, which doesn’t feel like enough, really, so I eat some more pieces, and then some more. It’s a crime to leave a piece of cookie, broken, naked like that, prone on the platter. It’s my duty to eat it. The rush vibrates and surges to my stomach, my temples. My fat thighs disappear from underneath me. I feel the sugar and the butter surge to my toes, as if I have been switched on. I transform.

My mom’s eyes say cease and desist, but more cookies are the only answer to the problem of her embarrassment, and of my own. I willfully lose track of how many cookies I eat. Eight? Twelve? More?

The gigantic platter is empty, save for some crumbs. It takes all my energy, not diving into those crumbs. Still, we laugh and sip our wine like nothing is awry, and the dog sits at my feet now, panting, until it’s time to go home. Everyone hugs me goodbye like I am human, not a cookie monster.

They are wrong. I am all monster, wired, ravenous, manic. I get a cab home because I can’t fathom the interminable wait for the subway or the long walk with myself across Central Park. My face is hot with humiliation.

At my building, I ride the elevator to the eleventh floor. Inside, I don’t take off my shoes. I don’t take off my coat. I go straight to the fridge and empty its contents: leftover pasta, bag of grapes (I leave the garlic cloves, salad greens, milk). I eat the pasta and the grapes so fast I hardly register them. The pasta is lubed up with olive oil, and it glides down my throat. The grapes I inhale by the handful, their skins snapping around juicy flesh.

I don’t keep a whole lot of food in my kitchen for fear of exactly this. Sometimes I manage to go for a week without a binge, a month, even two, but other times I am ravaging my kitchen every night in insatiable panic. In my cabinet: a bag of dark chocolate chips, a box of cereal (the super-healthy kind, but that doesn’t matter when you devour a whole box in one sitting), some dried figs, a half-eaten jar of almond butter. I lay out the goods on my countertop. I will eat every last bit. Waves of nausea pummel me, but I keep going. Heaping spoonfuls of the almond butter, then I scrape out the sides of the jar until my knife scratches empty plastic. The almond goo is glue on my tongue, the back of my mouth, the insides of my stomach. I need to scarf every last bit. I tilt the bag that lines the cereal box down my throat, sucking up the cereal pulp. The figs instantly make me want to puke, the seeds stick in my teeth, but I eat every one, barely pausing to chew. The chocolate chips—they’re the good stuff. I manage to save them for last.

When everything is gone I open the fridge again, and then the cabinet, looking for more food. I am desperate. There’s some raw quinoa, a softening apple I need to toss. The food quiets my panic. Without it, dread rises in my chest, my heart beats gunfire.

I think of going downstairs, out into the night. The fro-yo place is still open. I could get a bucket-sized vanilla yogurt smothered in all the candy and sprinkles and chocolate sauce. I could go to the grocery store and restock my reserves with cereal and chocolate and maybe some more cookies. Cookies for twenty people aren’t enough for me. Not even close. I am possessed.

Somehow I manage to kick off my shoes. They ricochet across the floor.

I use the food because it works. It is an instant cure to whatever ails me, save the paltry price of the morning after—waking up and needing to barf and not being able to, vowing to eat nothing for a day, a week; the self-imposed, relentless suffering. When my friend Amanda didn’t invite me to her sixth-grade sleepover, when my thighs rubbed together under my blue polyester school uniform, when I listened to easy conversation from the solitary confines of my college dorm room and felt loneliness drowning me, food was my friend. And when I won a poetry prize, and the sun shone on a springy day, and my chest swelled with love, with lust, there food was, an ever-loyal companion. Sure, food is my answer to anxiety, sadness, boredom, anger, but also to excitement, possibility, and joy.

And just like starving is the answer, bingeing is the answer.

Life is big and scary. Food is constant, safe, dependable.

Food blots everything out and calms everything down, draws the shades and tucks me in. Cozy. Miserable. Numb.

Feast, by Hannah Howard, is available now.