Melissa Febos and Helen Mort at Manchester University

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor
Melissa Febos. Photo by Beowulf Sheehan
Melissa Febos. Photo by Beowulf Sheehan.

In conversation with: Melissa Febos & Helen Mort at Manchester Academy, Manchester 3 May 2023 Tickets from £2.00 — Book now

Join American writer Melissa Febos – the bestselling author of four books, including award-winning essay collection Girlhood – as she lands in Manchester on a rare trip, talking about her latest tome, Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative, with Manchester Writing School’s Helen Mort.

Published last spring by Manchester University Press, Body Work is described as ‘candid and inspiring’ and a ‘bold and exhilarating mix of memoir and writing guide’, in which Melissa Febos tackles the emotional, psychological and physical work of writing about personal, and perhaps private, matters and examines afresh the life of a storyteller and the challenges it presents. Think ‘how to be a writer’ with a slant, as Febos draws on her own journey to becoming an acclaimed author and writing professor – via addiction and recovery, sex work and academia. An LA Times besteseller, Body Work is described by US poet, essayist and memoirist Mary Karr as: ‘The most necessary book about memoir I’ve read. Daring, honest, psychologically insightful, and absolutely whip smart. A must read.’

Says the book blurb: ‘Body Work will empower readers and writers alike, offering ideas – and occasional notes of caution – to anyone who has ever hoped to see their true self reflecting back from the open page’ […] ‘How do we write about the relationships that have formed us? How do we describe our bodies, their desires and traumas? What does it mean to have your writing, or living, dismissed as “navel-gazing”– or else hailed as “so brave, so raw”? And to whom, in the end, do our most intimate stories belong?’

Think ‘how to be a writer’ with a slant, as Febos draws on her own journey to becoming an acclaimed author and writing professor – via addiction and recovery, sex work and academia.

Body Work is Melissa Febos’s fourth book, following her debut Whip Smart and another memoir, Abandon Me, published in 2017. Her third publication, Girlhood, was a LAMBDA Literary Award finalist, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, and was named a notable book of 2021 by the likes of Time and The Washington Post. She is the recipient of a 2022 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a 2022 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, and the Jeanne Córdova Nonfiction Award from LAMBDA Literary, and she has been recognised by The British Library, the Bogliasco Foundation and others. Her fifth book, The Dry Season, is forthcoming from Canongate Books in the UK, and her work has appeared in publications including The Paris Review, Granta, McSweeney’s, The New York Times Magazine, The Believer, The Kenyon Review, Tin House, The Guardian, Elle and Vogue. Febos is a professor at the University of Iowa and lives in Iowa City with her wife, the poet Donika Kelly.

Helen Mort is an award-winning author based in Sheffield. She has published three poetry collections (Division Street, 2013, and No Map Could Show Them, 2016) and her latest, The Illustrated Woman (2022), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize. She is also the author of a novel (Black Car Burning, 2019) and a short story collection (Exire, 2019), and she also writes drama and creative non fiction. Her first non-fiction book, A Line Above The Sky, came out last year with Ebury, and it featured in the Guardian and Evening Standard’s ‘books to watch’ lists. She has been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and Costa Prize, and won the Fenton Aldeburgh Prize in 2015. She has taught creative writing for over 10 years and is a Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

The conversation between the two authors will be followed by an audience Q&A. Blackwell’s Manchester will be selling Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative on the night, and Melissa will be signing copies.

Body Work by Melissa Febos
Body Work by Melissa Febos

In conversation with: Melissa Febos & Helen Mort at Manchester Academy, Manchester 3 May 2023

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