And Now For A Format Change...

And Now For A Format Change...

Well hey there! It's been a big week over here in Mindaland:

Coming to your bookshelf Summer 2023...

And I've decided to switch up the format of this newsletter to make it more newsletter-y. Initially, I wanted to divvy up the recommendations and the writing insights in the spirit of brevity and catering to my two distinct audiences. But if you signed up for my newsletter for an economy of words from me, you're prolly in the wrong place lol. A lot of newsletters have a meandering style that covers several different topics per issue, so that's where I'm headed. I hope you'll stick around and talk about me with your friends. (Nice things only. Thx.)

Okay, now that we've established everyone is here for the right reasons, let's talk about my flaky scalp. Last year – Year before? – I noticed my scalp gets flaky in the winter time. At first, I thought I wasn't getting all the conditioner out of my hair or using too much product or it was dandruff, but it was none of those things, just plain ol' dry skin.

Scalp treatments have been HUGE these past few years, so many products to choose from! And there's lots of at-home treatments you can do, especially with apple cider vinegar. But you know what? Pouring ACV on your head isn't all that pleasant.

What I found works for me is really simple: Coconut oil.

Yup. The 9,145th thing you can use coconut oil for is treating your dry scalp. I just smear some on before bed. I'm lazy, so I just swipe some down my part and then part my hair a few other ways and repeat. Then, I coat my fingertips in coconut oil and do a little scalp massage and while I'm at it, hit my ends if they're looking dry and scraggly. There's nothing about this that is precise.

In the morning, I wash it out (I should note here that I only wash my hair once a week, so you might have to make some adjustments based on your hair wash routine).

I would have shared this with you sooner, but it only just started to become a problem this winter because apparently my skin isn't aware that spring is about to be sprung.

I'm teaching a revisions course for the Porch TN right now over Zoom. It's going really well. We had our first session earlier this week. I talked to my students about how the places we get coy in our writing are usually the places we're trying to shield ourselves from our reader's judgment.

In her essay "For A Good Time, Call", Natalie Lima is so frank about her family, it almost feels blunt because we're used to people being precious about the people who raised them,

My mom works long hours managing housekeeping at a Holiday Inn Express, and my dad hardly works but is rarely home. He’s always at the neighbor’s, helping her fix things, even though he’s not that handy. Maria’s parents are poker dealers but have never lived together. Her mother suffers from bipolar disorder, and mine from depression. Both of our dads are drunks.

When revising your work, when you identify a place in your writing where you're getting wispy or all poetic about what's up, ask yourself, "Who am I writing this for?" The answer will likely be your Least Ideal Reader, a family member, an ex, a nasty Twitter critic. Cringe. When that's who we have in mind as our audience, either subconsciously or consciously, it totally switches up what we're writing and moves us further away from our Truth.

I recommended to my students to list on a sticky note who that Least Ideal Reader is and write at the top of it "I'm Not Writing For" and then create another sticky note for your "Ideal Reader." Put it someplace you can see while you're writing. And when honesty begins to falter because you want to hide a little, reference your sticky notes.

Now, remember tho, just because someone is your Ideal Reader, doesn't mean you owe them everything or you gotta put all your business in an essay. You can keep something for yourself – always – it should just be a choice you make based on your own comfort and not because you're writing to appease the wrong person.

If you know me IRL or follow me on the socials, you know I've been raving about Alden Jones' The Wanting Was a Wilderness. Alden and I were on a panel at AWP2020 (Yes, that AWP) and that's where I first learned about her book. I wish I'd purchased it sooner! It has not gotten enough buzz.

I'm really happy that there've been more craft books hitting the market by BIPOC and LGBTQ+ writers. They're bringing fresh insights to the discourse. I appreciate Alden's book because it's a craft book on memoir, it's a analysis of Cheryl Strayed's work, and it's its own memoir largely centered around Alden coming to terms with her sexuality and its meta. I have a real appreciation for meta narratives because I think it's one of the areas where nonfiction really comes into its own. You can show your work like long division in a way that just isn't as possible with fiction.

A major takeaway from Alden's book for me was resisting the temptation to be revisionist. You can't layer your current values over who you were in the past. If you were an asshole in some way be real about that. Otherwise, how can readers appreciate your growth or feel comfortable about being flawed themselves?

There's lots more to share from the book, but it's in the other room and I'm cozy and don't feel like going to grab it, so why don't you buy it and then you can tell me how great you think it is? ;)

A note: I saw a tweet the other day about how people refer to women writers, especially Black women writers, by their first name but male writers by their last name. The tweeter felt like this was disrespectful and I don't disagree, but I think who you are also matters.

So, I just wanted to let you all know, I use a writer's first name when I know them personally, especially if I'm writing about them or discussing them in a casual context like this newsletter and with an audience that I can trust doesn't take their talent lightly.

I also refer to a lot of Black women writers I don't know by their first name, especially the greats, because I feel like I'm writing in their lineage and I feel close to their words.

But writers I don't know or I don't feel a warm regard for, I will use their last names. I teach Philip Lopate's writing, but I don't know him like that, so I generally refer to him as Lopate to denote that remove.

Anywho, feel free to let me know if you think I'm off base on this one.

Enjoying these posts? Subscribe for more