Write like a girl

I’m writing in fog and through keeks of cloud. I’m writing with the lights on in mid day, as if on board a ship. This second book becomes a risk, an adventure over grey churning waters, when the first is settled elsewhere, waiting for another chance. The risk is not the writing, for this one. It’s in who I’m writing.


I’m writing the life of a mid-twenties girl who has come adrift on alien seas. Who has forgotten what home shores are, so that, were she to find them, she would be alien upon them. I’m writing of stress and longing. Of self-destructive and creative urges both being muffled. The shape of desire and the spines of it. That’s what the book has become, over this last harsh year. Remembered coastal landscapes and elkridden mountain country. I’m writing a girl with an interior, becoming. And I want her to be read.


I said on Twitter, “I want to write a book about a woman’s life, a book that tastes of gunpowder and failure and Indian ink”.  I hope that there is room for my books, my voices, in this world. I know there are girls becoming. Women. Boys, men. I want my book to sing to them. Siren song or not. But something that presses a finger to their pulse, letting them know it is there.


I will read the books that foster longing and provide me with the permission to write, and the awareness of my deficits. I will write like a girl, though I am not any more. I started writing properly when I was 23? 24? and I gave my girlhood to writing, and I shall not stop giving it.


Outside the sky has turned ominous, dark grey, as if in writing this I have sworn something, or forsworn it. Maybe my words make me sound like Lady MacBeth?


For motivation for other women/girl writers out there: The Amanda Davis Highwire Fiction Award



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15 responses to “Write like a girl

  1. I don’t make McSweeney’s under 32 cut, still I write like and of and bout the girl. And like you read the books that foster longing. What others are there?

    • The others are books we don’t need to stick with, that we have permission to put down until they’re right for us (if ever), at least to my mind.

  2. nzumel

    It looks as you describe here, too, in San Francisco, right now. It often does…

    Perhaps it’s the right weather for writing the girl you want to write? I hope so.

    • I’d love to visit San Francisco, to explore it in such weather. Gloom and mist give a city a depth, perfect for the imaginative space.

      • nzumel

        If you want to see it in its foggy glory, I’d recommend August 🙂 Usually by the fall it becomes beautiful and sunny, with the occasional misty gray day to remind us where we are.

  3. Oh, there is room for your books, Helen. I am chomping at the bit…

  4. oh, I can relate to this so much!
    have you read NEAR TO THE WILD HEART by Clarice Lispector? all the strangeness and richness and horror of becoming, wrapped up in most peculiar headspace-y prose.
    keep going!

  5. I write like a girl too, sometimes. And sometimes like a man. But never could I write as well as you do, my friend.

  6. This is so evocative and beautiful. I can hear your book forming in your words here. Yes – write like a girl!

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