My interview today is with Mandy Len Catron, author of How to Fall in Love with Anyone, a memoir in essays, and a professor of English and creative writing at the University of British Columbia. You might be familiar with Mandy's name because she wrote one of the most popular Modern Love columns of all time: "To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This."
As her book's title might let on, Mandy studies love—what makes love work? What makes it last? Does it really work the way we see it working in the movies?—so not only is this interview appropriate for Galentine's Day, but also, as Mandy tells me, a lot of the decisions she made in her twenties were because of a relationship she was in.
"When I was in my twenties, and I was trying to figure out how to be a person in the world, I had this idea that if I attached myself to other interesting people, then suddenly I would become interesting, and I could count somehow," she says. "My primary way to do that was through my romantic relationship. If I could go back and do it differently, I would invest more seriously in my own interests. I wish I had just said, 'F*** it, I'm going to be a writer,' and writing is a legitimate way to spend my time."
Mandy and I discuss struggling with the belief that the only path to writing legitimacy is getting an MFA...and the downside to starting an MFA program when you're 22: You might not have as much life experience as your older cohorts. Actually, make that the downside of your twenties in full: no life experience, zero patience, and, as Mandy says, "I was constantly waiting for my life to start."
Mandy also talks about jobs she held while writing (competitive barista-ing to interning at National Geographic Kids), the best thing she did for her writing career (pushing through the fear of sharing unpolished work via a blog), and what Day 1 of Writing a Book looks like (a lot like Day 10).
I asked Mandy if, in the years she spent shaping her book manuscript, she ever felt like giving up—and she remembers a time when she, well, did. Mandy went to a retreat where Cheryl Strayed was speaking, and asked the famous memoirist if she had any advice for someone who was writing and just felt grossed out by her own voice. Mandy's fix was to take a year off, and in that time, she read a book by Queen Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby, that gave her an idea on how to structure her own. What she ended up publishing didn't follow that structure, but it moved the needle.