Beth Ann Fennelly Talks About Sand, Sun and Her Micro-memoirs

EC: How are the micro-memoirs in Heating & Cooling organized?

BAF: I wanted them to stand alone. I didn’t conceive of them or write them chronologically, so it was tricky to organize them — it was like organizing a book of poems. Ultimately I organized them for maximum variety. For instance, I didn’t want to group all the short ones together, or all the adolescent ones together, or all the sad ones together. I wanted the experience of reading the book to be the experience of working through very diverse emotions, with crisp edges, very rapidly.

EC: By crisp edges, do you mean the borders of the tiny form?

BAF: If you’re writing a novel, you can work through many emotions in one piece. (In the micro-memoirs,) I wanted there to be tonal variation, for one to be difficult, one to be silly, one to be sexy, etc. … Because they were small, I felt I could go as far into an emotion as I wanted, but the next piece wouldn’t have to go into that emotion or address it. I liked that they could be discrete.

EC: Many writers struggle to gain time for their writing. How do you do it?

BAF: I understand that the world is never going to say, “Beth Ann, did you write a poem or an essay today? Were you thoughtful?” The world is just going to say, rush, rush, rush and buy, buy, buy. One has to create a new narrative about privileging the imagination and respecting the necessary time commitment to write. Not just talking about writing, or not being someone who has written but someone actually writing. That puts the demand on me to find a dedicated time. I’ve become a morning writer[5] ever since I had kids. I try to make sure I get my writing done before I do other things.


  1. ^ Longleaf Writers Conference (
  2. ^ Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs (
  3. ^ University of Mississippi (
  4. ^ The Tilted World (
  5. ^ morning writer (

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