It is with great pleasure that we announce the addition of our newest editor, Hannah Howard, who will be heading up the creative nonfiction genre for the magazine.
According to her bio, Hannah lives in New York City. She’s the author of Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen, which Kirkus called “an inspirational memoir of food and finding oneself.” Her work has appeared in New York Magazine, Self, and Catapult. She holds degrees from Columbia University and the Bennington Writing Seminars. She loves all kinds of markets and stinky cheese.
To give our readers a chance to get to know Hannah better, we have included a fun introductory interview below. As you’ll quickly learn from Hannah’s thoughtful and colorful responses, we are tremendously lucky to have Hannah on board at The Tishman Review.
Q&A with CNF Editor Hannah Howard
Q: What should our readers know about you that they might not learn from your bio?
A: I’m a huge eavesdropper and people watcher—I’m endlessly curious about people’s lives. One of the perks of living in NYC is that I hear snippets of personal conversations on street corners and subways all the time, which is such juicy inspiration.
Some other fun facts about me: I love all things bubbly, from seltzer water to champagne. It doesn’t take much for me to cry my eyes out during sad books or movies. I have a super smart English fiancé who I’m very excited to marry in September. Our wedding will be at my parents’ place in Frenchtown, NJ on the Delaware River. We’re going to have both a huppah and a pig roast.
Q: What writers/artists/works have influenced your own writing? And what is your favorite book, essay, or author? Why?
A: Oh my gosh, there are so very many. As far as memoirs go, I love all three of Mary Karr’s memoirs, Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Joan Wickersham’s The Suicide Index, and Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face. In terms of food memoirs, it was reading Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain and Heat by Bill Buford that made me decide I wanted to work in the restaurant biz. Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter is my favorite restaurant memoir of all time, and Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone is a beautiful book that tugs at my heart. And I have writing heroes who I keep way up on a pedestal where they belong: James Baldwin, Virginia Woolf, Alice Munro, Joan Didion, and Junot Diaz.
Q: What is your favorite part of speech and why?
A: I’m famous for my abundant adjectives. I need to work on this—I know a well-chosen adjective is better than a long string of them, and even better are precise nouns and verbs that do the descriptive work themselves. Still, I have an adjective soft spot.
Q: What piece of writing advice has most impacted the way that you write?
A: My Bennington professor Dinah Lenney said something really spot-on about memoir that has stuck with me: “It’s not enough to just stand there naked. You have to stand there naked and turn around very slowly.”
I think that captures the crazy vulnerability that makes for genuine personal writing that resonates. When I’m cringing because something is terrifying to put onto paper, it usually means I’m onto something good.
Q: What is one writing rule that you would encourage writers to break?
A: “Write what you know.” I’d say: write what you know but also what you’re curious about, afraid of, or obsessed by. And write what you don’t know! One of the perks of being a writer is that it gives us a pass to investigate worlds that are foreign to us—physically, culturally, and emotionally. Through our writing, we can come to know entirely new things. What you know already is just the beginning.
Q: If you could resurrect any writer (or person who has inspired your writing), who would it be and what would you talk about?
A: James Baldwin. His words blow my mind. I recently saw the movie I Am Not your Negro, which left me thinking that maybe nobody is more incisively brilliant than Baldwin. His gorgeous prose is bonus. I’d love to hear what he thought about the Trump era and if he had any hope for us. I’d ask him about the place of literature in a heartbreaking world. And I’d ask for writing advice, of course.
Q: If you had to describe writing your memoir in terms of preparing a specific culinary dish, what dish would it be and why?
A: Writing my memoir was much like making risotto, which is one of my favorite things to prepare and makes an appearance in Feast. I learned how to cook the dish during a really miserable summer. Like writing, making risotto requires precision, attention, and care. I hope that with Feast, I transformed some painful experiences into something hopeful. So even though that summer sucked, when I make risotto now, it is in celebration of something small or big. I add whatever is in season or looking good at the market—maybe peas and mint in springtime, butternut squash and sage in autumn, and mushrooms any time (I have a bit of a mushroom fetish). The flavors change but the heart of the dish remains the same. And nine times out of ten, it’s delicious.
Q: It seems like creative nonfiction—memoirs, in particular—has become more popular and mainstream in recent years. As a memoirist, what do you think it is about the genre that makes it so appealing to contemporary readers?
A: I love reading across genres—memoir, narrative nonfiction, novels, stories, and poems. But there is something uniquely rich and generous about memoir. Someone has taken their own experience, their own life, turned it into a story, and shared it with the world. I love reading people’s stories. There’s something very immediate and viscerally appealing about memoir.
Q: In Feast, you write about your eating disorder journey. What was it like writing about such a personal topic? What was that process like?
A: When I started writing Feast, I had been in recovery for about three years. I had come a long way since the darkest misery of my eating disorder, so I was surprised at how challenging and painful writing about my food struggles turned out to be. It was as if I had to parachute back onto the front lines of the worst moments to write about them. I started seeing a therapist again, which helped a lot.
Now that the book is out in the world, it’s been a total joy and privilege to share my story. It’s also been a relief—nobody has disowned me. (Or not yet, anyway!) A lot of people have said, “Your story is my story too.” There is no greater compliment.
Q: What do you like or appreciate about The Tishman Review? What spurred you to apply for the CNF editor position?
A: I’m graduating from the Bennington Writing Seminars in June, and I love that The Tishman Review has Bennington roots. Bennington has been a magical place for me, where writers support each other, learn from each other, and come together to create an inspiring, vibrant community.
The Tishman Review believes that “literature serves an existential function and its value to humanity is beyond measure,” and I could not agree more. I find myself enriched, delighted, and moved by reading the work contained in its pages. I am excited and honored to be a part of the magazine.
Q: As TTR’s creative nonfiction editor, what will you be looking for when reviewing submissions for publication? What, in your opinion, makes a creative nonfiction piece worthy of publication?
A: I’m looking for intriguing stories told in exquisite prose. For stories that challenge me and introduce me to new perspectives and worlds. For stories that make me think and feel deeply.
Thanks so much to Hannah for her thoughtful answers. We’re so pleased to have this talented memoirist on the team!