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: 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...

Writers and Storytelling: Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Gabrielle Calvocoressi is the author of The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart, Apocalyptic Swing (a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize), and Rocket Fantastic, winner of the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry. Calvocoressi is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including a Stegner Fellowship and Jones Lectureship from Stanford University; a Rona Jaffe Woman Writer’s Award; a Lannan Foundation residency in Marfa, TX; the Bernard F. Conners Prize from The Paris Review; and a...

WRITERS AND STORYTELLING: Torrey Maldonado

New York City's current and former Chancellors have praised Torrey Maldonado as a top teacher and author. He has taught for over twenty years in his Brooklyn childhood hometown. His middle-grade titles include Tight, which won a Christopher Award and was named a Washington Post and NPR best book of the year, Secret Saturdays, and, most recently, What Lane?. Growing up, Torrey hated books because “they were boring or seemed to hate or dismiss people where I’m from.” Culturally responsive books...

Writers and Storytelling: Adam Begley

Adam Begley is the author of Houdini: The Elusive American (2020); The Great Nadar, The Man Behind the Camera (2017); and Updike (2014). For many years the books editor of The New York Observer, he has been a Guggenheim fellow and a fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, London Review of Books, TLS, and Spectator. He lives with his wife in Cambridgeshire, England. How has the current state of things...

WRITERS AND STORYTELLING: DAVID KILCULLEN

Dr. David Kilcullen is the author of five prize-winning books on terrorism, insurgency, urbanization and future warfare, including The Dragons and the Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West, as well as numerous scholarly papers on urbanization, conflict and the evolution of warfare. He won the Walkley Award (Australia's equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize) for long-form journalism in 2015, for his reporting on the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He is contributing editor for...

Writers and Storytelling: Anne Nelson

Anne Nelson is the author of Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right a ground-breaking exploration of the coalition of fundamentalists and oil who helped bring Trump to power. Nelson began her professional career on the editorial staff of The New Yorker. In 1995 she became the director of the International Program of the Columbia School of Journalism. She has taught and conducted research on digital media and development at Columbia's School of International and...

Writers and Storytelling: Mahogany L. Browne

Mahogany L. Browne is a writer, organizer & educator. Interim Executive Director of Urban Word NYC & Poetry Coordinator at St. Francis College. Browne has received fellowships from Agnes Gund, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poets House, Mellon Research & Rauschenberg. She is the author of Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice, Woke Baby & Black Girl Magic, Kissing Caskets, & Dear Twitter. She is also the founder of Woke Baby Book Fair (a nationwide diversity literature campaign)...

Seriously Questioning…Maggie Paxson

Maggie Paxson is a writer, anthropologist, and performer. Fluent in Russian and French, she has worked in rural communities in northern Russia, the Caucasus, and upland France. She is the author of Solovyovo: The Story of Memory in a Russian Village, and her essays have appeared in the Washington Post Magazine, Wilson Quarterly, and Aeon. Her newest book is The Plateau. On November 12th, she will be speaking at House of SpeakEasy’s Seriously Entertaining show, For Good Measure alongside Nina...

Seriously Questioning…Nina Burleigh

Nina Burleigh is an award-winning journalist, and the author of six books, including the New York Times bestseller The Fatal Gift of Beauty and, most recently, Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump’s Women. On November 12th, she will be speaking at House of SpeakEasy’s Seriously Entertaining show, For Good Measure alongside James Geary, Maggie Paxson, and Monique Truong.   What is your earliest memory involving reading or writing? My mom or dad reading poetry to me from the My...