Favorite Creative Nonfiction 1st quarter 2022

Photo by @urbanmuralhunter

I am a sucker for lush language and vivid visuals (and alliteration, lol!) in storytelling. But too much of a good thing can be a distraction. The creative nonfiction stories I bring you today have these two elements in common but all are written with a deft hand. These writers know when to pull back on the descriptive to allow the visuals to flow naturally within the story. These are all writers I seek out to read. These are stories that have a dreamy quality but are grounded in real life. What a combination!

Today I also have a wee interview with Michaella Thornton about her story “Cuffing Season in Your 40’s” which knocked my socks off when I first read it. I’ve read it several times and, like fine wine, it ages well. As does she. 🙂 Enjoy!

“When Flash Nonfiction Strikes You” by Michael Todd Cohen in Catapult is a craft essay that is a really good read for flash CNF writers. Don’t miss it!

Take away the strictures of traditional storytelling and a new, electric world opens up. Why not write this way all the time, then? Where are the memoirs-in-flash? The bildungsroman-in-flash? The nature-writing-in-flash? In fact, they are emerging.

“Excerpt from The Governor by Meg Pillow in The Bureau Dispatch

We mark out the corners of the relationship, like etching a flower onto glass, because he is glass: brittle, fragile, like so many men. I am used to handling them delicately.

And from “Once I Was an Animal” also by Meg Pillow in JMWW

Last night, I dreamed that someone took a fingertip and wrote the word love across my chest and cracked it open, but everything inside had gone to seed.

“When We Saw Sparks” by Jamie Etheridge in Red Fez

It rained too, as all good summer days in the South, and we had to hurry, the pallbearers working up a sweat as they rolled his coffin out of the hearse and onto their shoulders and then up, over the clumps of grass and wildflowers growing at the edge of the cemetery.

“Embers” by D.L. Logan in Still: The Journal

At some point, I figured out which one of the hospital visitors was my mother. It was the one who smelled like cigarette ash and Jontue perfume. I longed for her when she was gone, but when she was there, I longed for the strong disinfectant smell.

“Fly Away” by William Woolfitt in Complete Sentence Magazine

….he sneaked a look at the mean red sun, too bright and hot for mid-morning, his face sweaty, his overalls damp, his body damp, his hands sore, could he have another life…

“Cuffing Season in Your 40’s” by Michaella Thornton in Complete Sentence Magazine

….there is a softness in you yet, and he is coming over and kissing you in the kitchen like he’s back from war, like you wrote to him every single day for a year….

A Wee Interview with Michaella Thornton

What was the seed that grew “Cuffing Season in Your 40s”?

Last year, I met someone whose company was refreshing, and I started thinking about when I was 23 I may have had all the trappings of youth and sex appeal, but I was not, did not feel, confident, comfortable in my own body, or able to clearly ask for what I wanted. I think this kind of disconnect is a bit of a paradox to some and fuels the adage, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Flash forward 20 years later, and I am fatter, sassier, and way more direct about what I want and need. I wrote this piece to celebrate what it means to rediscover one’s desire in middle age. I mean, how sexy is it when someone realizes their worth, imperfections and all? I also like playing with writing that goes beyond the tired tropes of fetishizing middle-aged women (MILFs, cougars, easy has-beens) or doesn’t confront the common stereotype that we’re invisible, out to pasture.

I love how you combined the eroticism of sex and food and then tied them both to an accepting body image. Was this deliberate or a happy confluence?

CW: Eating disorder

Definitely deliberate. I’ve struggled with my weight and diet culture my whole life. I had an undisclosed eating disorder in high school and while I was very thin then, I was miserable and sad. It’s taken decades of reflection, therapy, and some good, old-fashioned trial-and-error sex, to figure out that the hottest, best choice I could make would be to love myself, as I am, right now. Cooking was and is one of the ways I healed my mind and body. I love the sensuality of being in the kitchen. Preparing a good meal is a lot like good sex: it appeals to the senses, stokes anticipation, and attempts to feed cravings that are universally human: hunger, longing, love. I also want and need for my persona to eat, to be sated, to know she is deserving of happiness, joy, sustenance, and a giving partner.

On a personal note (if I may), have you surprised your 20 something self at the realization that sex can be better in middle age?

CW: infertility, pregnancy loss, traumatic birth 

Yes, absolutely. I wrote this piece with the hope that it would resonate with those who are my age and older and in the know, but I was also writing to my younger self, the self that wondered why so many waited to have sex if this was it. Someday I’ll write a wry, Midwestern coming-of-age story about awkward, underwhelming, first-time sex in the ’90s, but today is not that day. 

Maybe this piece is also an indirect testament to the fact that sex in my teens, 20s, and 30s was scattershot and, more often than not, disappointing or even painful. I tried for four long years in my mid-30s to conceive a child “naturally,” and after living through infertility, pregnancy loss, and a traumatic birth, I often wondered if I would ever find my way back to loving my body. Luckily, rediscovering self-love and intimacy in its many forms has been amazing in my 40s. I hope others come into this pleasure well before their 40s, but for those of us who do so later in life, I love that this steamy little piece exists.

For more info about Michaella’s writing, visit her website michaellathornton.com and follow her on Twitter @kellathornton.

Thank you, Kella!

One thought on “Favorite Creative Nonfiction 1st quarter 2022

  1. thanks for curating! Looking forward to reading all. Loved the interview – fascinating! Altho I will say that cougars are real as I am one and was one before the term was coined (heading toward 40 years with my 13 years younger guy)

    Tammy Vitale


    Liked by 1 person

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