Melissa Febos on Facing the Daunting Essay
From the Thresholds Podcast, Hosted by Jordan Kisner
This is Thresholds, a series of conversations with writers about experiences that completely turned them upside down, disoriented them in their lives, changed them, and changed how and why they wanted to write. Hosted by Jordan Kisner, author of the new essay collection, Thin Places, and brought to you by Lit Hub Radio.
On today’s episode, Jordan talks to Melissa Febos, author of Girlhood, about writing projects that start out low stakes but actually require personal excavation, soul-searching, and real reckoning; and essays that make you remap your own mind while you write them. Also, a cuddle party and dogs she has loved.
From the interview:
Melissa Febos: So I think I’m going to write a comedic essay, a very short comedic essay, about putting my dog on anti-depressants, and it’s going to be really fun and lighthearted, like whimsical. And this was improbable for so many different reasons. I don’t write short things. I don’t write whimsical things. And putting my dog on antidepressants was not lighthearted. I was also on antidepressants at the same time; it was a really, really dark chapter in my life. But it’s like I have to sort of create an appealing or sort of easier-seeming threshold or doorway to walk towards so that I can face things that are daunting, but that are going to be incredibly rewarding to look at.
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Melissa Febos is the author of the memoir Whip Smart and two essay collections: Abandon Me and Girlhood. The inaugural winner of the Jeanne Córdova Nonfiction Award from LAMBDA Literary and the recipient of fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, The BAU Institute, Vermont Studio Center, The Barbara Deming Foundation, and others; her essays have appeared in The Paris Review, The Believer, McSweeney’s Quarterly, Granta, Sewanee Review, Tin House, The Sun, and The New York Times. She is an associate professor at the University of Iowa, where she teaches in the Nonfiction Writing Program.