1. She started to write essays as a way of taking a break from a novel about Nicaragua that wasn’t working out.
2. She writes moving stories: “[About] deeply personal experiences (getting hit in the face, getting an abortion) but I also write about reality television and Bolivian silver mines and the history of artificial sweeteners. (…) I often think of the subject of an essay as something like a courtyard full of questions—questions about grief, or longing, or memory, or empathy. Writing means walking a furious labyrinthine path in order to peer at them from every possible direction”.
3. Start by reading the title essay of the collection, The Empathy Exams, in which she says “Empathy isn’t just something that happens to us – a meteor shower of synapses firing across the brain – it’s also a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves.”
4. She has the phrase “I am human: nothing human is alien to me” tattooed on her arm. It’s a quote from Roman playwright Terence, and she got it to break with the past. Not everyone saw it that way.
5. She talks very persuasively about the movie Frozen.
6. She has been studying narratives of addiction and recovery, and writing her dissertation about them.
7. She listened to many people’s personal confessions as she toured to promote her book – she wrote about what she learned, and why she still believes confessional writing is important in The Guardian.
8. She wrote an amazing story about one of the craziest races in the world, 160 km through the hills of Tennessee, an almost 60 hour run that only 16 people have finished in its 30-year history.
9. She tried to answer the question “Is it Harder to Write about Happiness Than Its Opposite?” Apparently, „happiness threatens the things that every writing workshop demands: suspense, conflict, desire.”
10. She joined the faculty of the Columbia University’s School of the Arts writing program as a full time assistant professor this summer.
11. She gave a wonderful interview about her work to the awesome crew at Longform.
12. Her book is currently being translated into Romanian as part of a collaboration between DoR, Editura Publica, and NN, one of our conference supporters. It’ll come out this September, and will be available in bookstores and at the conference.
Book your place for the 5th edition of The Power of Storytelling to meet Leslie and learn more about her work