Today, Denise Schipani, writer, editor, and owner of the blog Confessions of a Mean Mommy, tells us about her essay writing experiences and her essay in Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart.
How long have you been writing essays?
I've been writing in the first person as long as I could write. ;) That said, I've been writing essays for many years now, though like most essayists I have many more pieces on my hard drive than I do in my clips file!
When and where was your first essay published?
I'm not sure I remember -- though I have to say that the one I am most proud of (apologies to my Fits, Starts piece -- was published in 2005 in the Washington Post Styles section. It's a piece about losing two friends in one day -- one to cancer, one due to the fact that, aside from calling to tell this person about our friend who'd passed away, we had no reason to talk anymore. It was painful to write in the way the best essays are. Not so much to write, but to work and re-work, because it ended up bringing me to a different (and emotionally raw) conclusion than I believed I'd reach when I first started writing. The best essays end up being therapy sessions!
How did it feel when you discovered your essay had been chosen for inclusion in this book?
Pretty great! I was not part of the selection committee, but I had signed on to head up the editing committee, which meant that no matter whether my piece was accepted, I had to work on the rest of them. Plus just being a part of something this amazing group of people put together -- something that, if memory serves, started out as a thread on FLX bemoaning the lack of good essay outlets -- is a great feeling.
Tell us a bit about the essay published Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart. What is it about and why did you write it? Had you tried the essay market before?
It's a piece about an old, failed relationship -- an exploration of how, and why, I held together a relationship that was built, from the start, on rocky ground. Funny you should ask if I've tried to sell it before: In another form, years and years ago, I got thisclose to having this piece published in the Lives column in the New York Times magazine. I worked on it with an editor there, who loved it, but it didn't get past a committee. Ah, well. Actually, there's not a lot left of the original piece -- reworking being the name of the essay game. In the end what I submitted was the progression of an idea that originated with that long-ago essay and had been merged with other pieces and scraps of pieces I'd worked on over the years since. Again, because it was highly personal and something that happened to me, my feelings about it -- and thus the way I approached it as a writer -- necessarily changed over the intervening years.
What does it mean to you to be published in this anthology?
It's nice! This is my second anthology -- I had a piece in P.S.: What I Didn't Say: Unsent Letters to Our Female Friends, edited by Megan McMorris, which was also a thrill and a delight. Right up there with the professional bump of getting my essay chosen is the gratifying sense that you're part of a group -- it's like a pat on the back by association.
Do you have any words of wisdom to share with someone who says "I don't have anything to write about."?
Everyone who can say "I don't" is alive, yes? If you're a living human, you have something to write about.