|Meghan McDonnell, Author|
Meghan McDonnell has chronicled her life in journals for more than 20 years beginning at age eight. She has published three of her journals: MINOR, NOVICE, LIMBO, and most recently ELSEWHERE where she reveals her “inner being” in a candid approach, but also recognizes that humor is “essential.”
She is currently working on volumes 5 through 28. When she’s not writing, she loves to read and work crossword puzzles. She plans to get married in September.
Q: What drove you to write and publish your memoirs? Why did you choose to use the format of a journal?
Meghan McDonnell: I have been inconsistent in many areas of my life. The one constant has been writing. I have written with dedication and passion for most of my life, since I was eight years old. As for the format, it chose me. I decided to publish the journals because it was starting to feel like torture to have all of this material that I kept stacked on shelves in our second bedroom. I realized that if I was compelled to write so much, there could be people out there who want to read it. The contents of the journals are very much like life itself: unexpected, comprehensive, beautiful, poignant, funny, and startling.
Q: Who do you believe will be most interested in reading your memoirs?
Meghan McDonnell: Gauging from reader response so far, mostly young women. I believe anyone who likes memoirs, narratives, and creative nonfiction will enjoy them. Readers of Cheryl Strayed, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Abigail Thomas, and Joan Didion. Didion said, “Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.” I agree with her. I think I have a fixation with loss but I also think I have a sensitivity to what is thrilling and fascinating about life and people; what we don’t want to lose because it’s so glorious and gives our lives meaning.
Q: Why will readers be interested in reading your memoirs?
Meghan McDonnell: The journals are bare, candid, and authentic. I reveal my inner being through them. They’re an opportunity to relate and identify. A few reviewers have written that they felt a distinct sense of time and place in MINOR (the first volume). As I got older, I wrote about more universal themes (love, family, friendship, loss, travel, school, the real world, etc.) that transcend setting regardless of the cultural references that date or place the work. I write about how I feel but I include countless relevant topics (politics, socioeconomic statuses, books, music, film, culture, etc.) and stories I’ve collected from loved ones and strangers.
Q: What do you hope readers will take away from your books? Did you write them to entertain or to encourage readers to think or for any other reason?
Meghan McDonnell: I hope readers come away with a sense of relief and that they will feel less alone in their internal selves. I hope they feel refreshed. The journals are an invitation for readers to reflect and go within but there’s also humor and entertainment value. They’re a mirror and a window. I go all over the map in them and I think anyone who can step into the rhythm of the way I write will get into it. It’s simply another world. The best books transport us temporarily and stay with us.
Q: Your books cover your experiences and thoughts over a period of years. Do you find that there’s a difference in your insights and/or writing in current years from in the past? Are you able to offer any lessons learned?
Meghan McDonnell: I didn’t identify as strongly with what I wrote between the ages of 8 and 19. But I just finished transcribing volume four and I was surprised to find so many themes and ways of using words that are strikingly similar to what I still grapple with and the ways in which I continue to express myself in my journal today. My writing has become more sophisticated and higher quality several years in because I kept at it. I write to understand things, other people, and myself. As much as I can look back and laugh at my naiveté and innocence, I’m also sometimes moved by the depth and insight I had when I was younger.
Lessons I’ve learned (but don’t always put into practice): we are creatures of habit and patterns; just as nature has its cycles, as humans, we each have our own unique emotional, physical, spiritual, and psychological cycles; we change and evolve but who we are at our core remains constant; unless we elect to alter our beliefs, decades-old ideas can run roughshod through our lives and cause all manner of trouble (in practical and emotional ways); keeping a written record of your life can be as painful and cringe-worthy as it is helpful and illuminating. Passion and curiosity take us to beautiful places but can also make us angry and emotional. I don’t shy from that.
Q: How important is humor in your work?
Meghan McDonnell: It’s essential. We have to laugh in this life. We have to laugh at ourselves. I need levity to lift me out of the heavy landscapes I wander into when I write. Keeping a consistent journal can be like calling your mother or your best friend. You don’t often discuss everything that is going right or well in your life. You exchange woes, irritations, worries, thwarted dreams, and what isn’t working. Then you laugh and try to comfort each other. As much as I try to chip away at the meaning of life and the human experience, I need humor to bring me back from the brink and to move me out of all the investigation.
Q: A reviewer said that your work is “Sincere, honest, and real.” Would you agree? How difficult was it to write so honestly?
Meghan McDonnell: I’d like to agree with this reviewer. However, it’s nearly impossible to judge my own work. I have moments of feeling like it’s not bad. I have moments when I think it’s slop. But it’s like wallpaper to me. While writing, I’m consumed. I’m transported to another place. By the time I revisit what I’ve written, whether it is days or years later, I have a sense of remove or neutrality. What is singular about these books is that they were written in the moment with no consideration that anyone would read them. I’m not recalling or remembering. It was present-time and I couldn’t have made it up if I had tried in hindsight. I was concerned that when I decided to publish, that it would affect my writing going forward, knowing it will one day be read. But it hasn’t. Over the last 28 years, I’ve formed a habit and mode of being when I’m writing. This habit allows me freedom and release from self-consciousness when I come to the blank page. It wasn’t difficult to be honest. It was never a conscious consideration because I had learned from a young age that with writing, unlike anything else, I could let myself go without any filters.
Q: Can you explain the significance of your titles for the first three volumes: MINOR, NOVICE, and LIMBO?
Meghan McDonnell: MINOR comes from being underage, a reference to minor chords in music, and meaning lesser in importance. Not to disrespect my younger self, but these were the fledgling years when I was unwittingly developing my voice as a writer and therefore this is the roughest of the volumes.
NOVICE because it means being new or inexperienced in a field and that describes me aptly in volume two, when I left home to go to college and I fell in love for the first time. I had no clue what I was doing, academically or romantically.
As for LIMBO, volume three covers a challenging, in-between time in my life. I had taken time off school to travel and I was nursing a broken heart. I was stuck. Though I was only 20, I didn’t like not knowing what to do with my life.
Q: What’s next? Do you plan to do any writing other than your memoirs? Have you thought about writing fiction?
Meghan McDonnell: I continue to keep a journal. I’m focusing on volumes 5 through 28 - typing, editing, and publishing them. I’m writing articles for my blog and other online platforms. I’m at work on a Kindle Single about my stint as a mail carrier for the USPS. As for writing fiction, I don’t want to say never but it doesn’t come naturally to me. My fiancé and my sister wish I wrote fiction. Maybe one day I’ll surprise them and go for it.
Q: Tell us about Meghan McDonnell. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Meghan McDonnell: When I’m not writing, I read. I work part-time in administrative work. I love to camp and hike. My fiancé and I are buying a house and we enjoy home projects and gardening. We’re planning for our wedding in September. I have fireside talks with him in our backyard. He’s an artist and we spend hours exchanging ideas, encouraging each other, and reading ghost stories and folklore. I look forward to Sundays with a fervor because I can’t get enough of the New York Times crossword puzzle, the word jumble, horoscopes, and the advice column. I dream of a day when my oldest friends aren’t so busy with children and careers that they will be able to talk and hang out again. A dormant feminist has recently awoken in me and I feel compelled to explore femaleness in America in new ways. We have a long way to go in our culture to nullify hatred, violence, and “other”-ism. As I continue writing, I look forward to getting married, starting a family, and buying a cabin to write in. I exult, knowing I have so much more work to do and many more stories to tell.
About Meghan McDonnell
Meghan McDonnell lives in Walla Walla with the man she loves. When she’s not writing or reading, she spends time outdoors, solves crossword puzzles, and pretends to garden.
About MINOR: Volume One
MINOR is the first installment of the personal journals in which, for over 20 years, writer Meghan McDonnell has chronicled her life beginning at age eight through present day. With searing candor and tenderness, her musings on daily life and observations of family, social and romantic relationships coalesce in a commentary on growing up, facing down passion and fear, and American life in the 21st century. Wide in scope and vivid in detail, her journals are her confessional love letter to the world. Join her on a fearless, vulnerable, sometimes painful and quixotic, but always honest journey, also known as the human experience. Readers who love Cheryl Strayed or Karl Ove Knausgaard will enjoy this author.
Volume one spans her eighth year through age 17; reflections on family, friendship, education, a stint at survival camp and coming of age.
About NOVICE: Volume Two
NOVICE is the second installment of the personal journals in which, for over 20 years, writer Meghan McDonnell has
Volume two of this addictive and vicarious series spans her freshman year of college, first love, a trip to Australia, and navigating young adulthood, living on her own among peers.
About LIMBO: Volume Three
LIMBO is the third installment of the personal journals in which, for over 20 years, writer Meghan McDonnell has chronicled her life beginning at age eight through present day. With searingReaders who love Cheryl Strayed or Karl Ove Knausgaard will enjoy this author.
Volume three of this addictive and vicarious series spans her search for identity, grappling with life choices and heart ache, and plans for travel to Europe.
MINOR - Amazon
NOVICE - Amazon