House of SpeakEasy Blog

Writers and Storytelling: Melissa Faliveno

Melissa Faliveno is a writer, editor, musician, teacher, and Wisconsinite in New York City. Her debut essay collection, TOMBOYLAND, about gender, class, and the American Midwest, is forthcoming from Jill Soloway’s Topple Books on August 4, 2020. Her work has appeared in Poets & Writers, Prairie Schooner, DIAGRAM, Essay Daily, Green Mountains Review, Lumina, and Midwestern Gothic, among others, and received a notable selection in Best American Essays 2016. She has profiled USWNT star Megan Rapinoe and musicians Valerie June and Jason Isbell; and an essay about her life as a former roller derby skater (moniker: Harlot Brontë) was published in the anthology Derby Life. Born and raised in small-town Wisconsin and a first-generation college graduate, Melissa received a BA in English and creative writing from the University of Wisconsin and an MFA in nonfiction writing from Sarah Lawrence College, where she currently teaches in the graduate writing program. She will be joining Lilliam Rivera, Helen Macdonald, and Roger Rosenblatt on October 20 to tell stories tied to the theme “Nerves of Steel.” Register here for the show!

What are you reading right now for solace or escape?

Whew—not enough. I just finished Raven Leilani’s Luster, and while it offered neither solace nor escape, I loved it. I did recently read a Stephen King story from his latest collection; I sometimes turn to him when I need escape (or if I haven’t had a nightmare in a while and want to shake things up).

If you could live inside a fictional world, which one would you choose?

I love horror movies, and while I’d never actually want to live in a horror movie world, I do wonder sometimes how I’d fare against some supernatural force of evil—a monster or an ill-willed ghost or something. I think I might have a fighting chance.

Are there any quotes you use to inspire you now or anytime?

There’s this Rebecca Solnit quote, from A Field Guide to Getting Lost (which is one of my magnetic north books) that guides my own writing: “Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.”

Writers and Storytelling: Roger Rosenblatt

Roger Rosenblatt is the author of five New York Times Notable Books of the Year, and three New York Times bestsellers. He has written seven off-Broadway plays and his essays for Time and the PBS Newshour have won two George Polk Awards, the Peabody, and the Emmy, among others. In 2015, he won the Kenyon Review Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement. He held the Briggs-Copeland appointment in the teaching of writing at Harvard. He is Distinguished Professor of English and Writing at SUNY Stony...

Writers and Storytelling: Ian Olasov

Ian Olasov is an adjunct professor and doctoral candidate at the City University of New York Graduate Center. His writing has appeared in Slate, Vox, Public Seminar, and elsewhere. He won the American Philosophical Association’s Public Philosophy Op-Ed Prize in 2016 and 2018. He runs the Ask a Philosopher booth in locations around New York City. His book Ask a Philosopher: Answers to Your Most Important (and Most Unexpected) Questions is out this month. He will be joining Michael Ian Black,...

Writers and Storytelling: Nick Flynn

Nick Flynn is the author of This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire and three previous memoirs, including the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award–winning Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, and four volumes of poetry. A professor on the creative writing faculty at the University of Houston, he lives in Brooklyn, New York. He will be joining Michael Ian Black, Ian Olasov, and Liara Tamani on September 22 to tell stories tied to the theme "All Good Things." Register here for the show! What are you...

Writers and Storytelling: Liara Tamani

Liara Tamani lives in Houston, Texas. She holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College. She is the author of the acclaimed Calling My Name, which was a 2018 PEN America Literary Award Finalist and a 2018 SCBWI Golden Kite Finalist, and All the Things We Never Knew. She will join Michael Ian Black, Nick Flynn, and Ian Olasov on September 22 to muse on the theme "All Good Things." Register here to watch the show live! What are you reading right now for solace or escape? Zadie...

Writers and Storytelling: Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer’s New York Times-bestselling Southern Reach trilogy has been translated into over 35 languages. The first novel, Annihilation, won the Nebula Award and Shirley Jackson Award, and was made into a movie by Paramount. Other work includes Dead Astronauts, Borne (a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award), The Strange Bird. These novels, set in the Borne universe, are being developed for TV by AMC and continue to explore themes related to the environment, animals, and our future....

Writers and Storytelling: Charles Yu

Charles Yu is the author of three books, including the novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (a New York Times Notable Book and a Time magazine best book of the year), and, most recently, Interior Chinatown. He received the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award and was nominated for two Writers Guild of America Awards for his work on the HBO series, Westworld. He has also written for shows on FX, AMC, and HBO. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New...

Writers and Storytelling: Kevin Mattson

Kevin Mattson grew up in the suburban sprawl known as the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area. It was here that he first experienced the “punk rock world” that fueled his formative years. He played in bands, wrote for zines, and became politically active, helping to cofound the organization Positive Force. He now teaches American history at Ohio University and is the author of numerous books that explore the intersection between culture and politics, including Upton Sinclair and the Other...

Writers and Storytelling: Sameer Pandya

Sameer Pandya is the author of the story collection The Blind Writer, which was longlisted for the PEN/Open Book Award. He is also the recipient of the PEN/Civitella Fellowship. His fiction, commentary, and cultural criticism has appeared in a range of publications, including the Atlantic, Salon, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and Narrative Magazine. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Members Only is his first...

Writers and Storytelling: Marina Budhos

Marina Budhos is an author of award-winning fiction and nonfiction. Marina is the author of the young adult novels Tell Us We’re Home, which was a 2017 Essex County YA Pick, and Ask Me No Questions, recipient of the first James Cook Teen Book Award, an ALA Best Book and Chicago Library’s Best of the Best, among other awards. Her most recent novel is Watched, a follow-up to Ask Me No Questions, which takes on surveillance in a post 9/11 era. Watched received an Asian/Pacific American Award for...