Spring Memoir Writing Class

Hi folks. This is just to let you know that I’m teaching a memoir writing class this spring, from Wednesday February 8 to Wednesday March 28 (eight weeks).

It meets from 7 to 9 PM in Brooklyn, and the fee is $300.

This workshop focuses on craft, particularly on using emotion, sensory details, and imagination to construct a profound and relatable piece of personal writing. Students will get frequent feedback in a supportive atmosphere.

The number of students is limited to eight.

If you’re interested or you have a friend who might be, please let me know at minkowitz AT earthlink.net.

Many thanks!

More info: Donna Minkowitz has taught memoir writing and creative nonfiction since 1998, at the 92nd Street Y, the In Our Own Write program of the New York City Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center, the World Fellowship Center, and The Kitchen, as well as independently. She won a Lambda Literary Award for her memoir Ferocious Romance, which was also shortlisted for the Quality Paperback Book Club’s New Visions Award “for the most promising and distinctive work by a new author.”

A Week in the Life

When the Lambda Literary Review asked me to write an essay documenting a week in my life, I was flattered but afraid of sharing the indignities, anxieties and pleasures of a whole week. It was more fun to share than I’d thought.

Here’s some:

Monday. Make coffee and cereal with blueberries, dates and almonds. A gift to myself. Stimulates the writing. Karen gets up and we jockey for control of the “airwaves”: the right to fill the house with sound. I can only write using voice dictation software because of a disability with my arms, so if I write or use the computer for diddlysquat, Karen can hear everything I’m writing or doing. (“Move down three paragraphs. Start email. Blubbering in the soft humid air. Think about Divine Pussy.”)

For more:


Bear Days (prose poem)

In a meeting about the beloved community, my old enemy. She’d always told me I wasn’t good enough, never did the work of community-building right, never ever higher than a disgusting subhuman. For years, a little gremlin inside me deeply believed her. Now, in this volcano of a meeting, tiny room, I have such bigger muscles than I used to, and when she jumps down my throat I start chewing. She withdraws with a snarl and I tower up over her like a bear on its hind legs she towers back a bear too showing sharp row of teeth we push our faces up against each other nose to nose, I hiss and claw the air for show.

She withdraws. Or was that just a stalemate? It’s at least a day till I remember she’s a person. I try to imagine her as an infant left in the snow beside my howling bear, in my third eye she is wailing and I raise my rough paws over her, claws in, scoop her up and take her to my cave, milk by the fire, my silk blanket upon her.

(c) Donna Minkowitz 2012

Lebanese Tomato Sauce

By Giff Constable

I had the most extraordinary sauce at Tripoli Restaurant on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. It was an okra dish with lamb “chunks,” as the menu put it — I love it when chefs use that word — in tomato sauce. The tomato had gotten infused with the mysterious flavor and a little bit of the texture of the okra, and also much more subtly with the lamb chunks, until it had a delicate vegetal umami I wanted to keep tasting all day.

Served with white rice.

Russell, Aaron and Me

Photo: Federico Novaro

All the facts in this piece are as reported by major newspapers, or by me for a Nation article in 1999. This piece was published in Salon in October of that year.

Sometimes the news takes you farther than you really want to go. After I read the first blood-spattered story in the Times, I found myself identifying with Matthew Shepard’s killers, the boys who tortured him for being gay.  I still identify in a way that makes me flinch. I am gay. I hate violence. And I never tortured anybody. Why would I feel any sense of kinship for the creeps who hit Shepard with a pistol butt?

I’ve been channeling them ever since the murder. I can see them in the bar, as he pays for their drinks, as he gets affectionate. They’re 21 years old, and they are starting to get stirred up in a way that’s unusual for them, heavenly and enraging all at once. There is nothing wrong with what Matthew Shepard is doing; he is a beautiful boy who is lonely and romantic and who thinks he may finally have a date. In Laramie, it’s hard to meet people if you’re gay. It’s even hard to meet people if you’re straight.

Maybe, he thinks, he has a lead on a date, even if not the actual date. Gay people in Laramie like to meet other gay people just to socialize, just to meet people who might have friends who’d be dates. I have felt that way, too; it is a universal feeling shared by everyone who has ever really wanted a date, and I can channel Matthew, wanting somebody tender, somebody who might really know the way to treat a boy, someone with lips wine-dark and soft.

Russell and Aaron look like they could be gay, they even look cute. Their hands are dirty, but that only adds to their appeal. They are, after all, roofers. Walt Whitman noticed how sexy roofers are, and they are — those bare chests perched precariously on houses, sunburned awkwardly. But these are also boys who think they’re nobodies, they’re wimps. Continue reading “Russell, Aaron and Me”

Tortilleria Nixtamal

Saturday we had what surprisingly turned out to be the best tacos in New York at Tortilleria Nixtamal in Corona, Queens. All the other tacos in the city use tortillas made from factory-made masa harina, but Nixtamal takes corn and cooks it with limestone to make the tortillas, making these the only tortillas in the city that are made from scratch. I didn’t expect all the food to taste so different.

But everything was fresher and better — even than the tacos in our Mexican neighborhood in Brooklyn, Sunset Park. The shrimp taco with crema tasted as though someone had turned up the volume on a taco and made all the colors brighter. I never call food a revelation, but the nachos were a revelation: different, it seemed, from all the other nachos in the United States. The cheese was actually Mexican cheese, and stringy (and sparse). The beans and tomatoes and peppers were fresh vegetables I would actually want to eat. There were lavish chunks of avocado on top, and the whole nacho plate tasted — er, like a good lunch — or dinner! –, not junk.

Foodies and Class

I love good food. Fried oysters in a sandwich with lemon aioli. Lamb ragu with red chiles, over pasta. Hot peach pie, not too sweet, with cream whipped twenty minutes ago, dark-roast coffee on the side. What part of this big appetite of mine, this hunger, this hot zesty longing, has to do with class and money and status and domination and power?

A lot, I think. What do you think? Let me know. More later.

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