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Dyke Aching: EE interviews Chloe Caldwell abt *everything*! photo

Chloe Caldwell is my best friend.* She is also the author of SF/LD’s bestselling book, Women, which was reissued June 4th by Harper Perennial. I first published Women in 2014, and Chloe and I went on a book tour with Mira Gonzalez and Chelsea Martin in the fall of that year to promote it. Somewhere along the tour we saw that Lena Dunham had put a photo of Women on her Instagram. After that, word of mouth took on a crazy momentum and we ended up doing two more printings of Women over the next year or two. Like Gatsby, Women is a short, beautiful novel with not one unnecessary word. Also, like Gatsby, you can read it annually and each time come away with something you somehow overlooked on previous readings. I don’t think Chloe gets the praise or recognition she deserves as a writer. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald, she has written a classic. She is, as we say, in the cannon. I am thrilled Harper Perennial is reissuing Women, and I know it will go on to countless more printings over the coming decades. It was an honor and a privilege to have worked so closely with Chloe on edits for the book all those years ago and to have in that process developed a close (bordering on codependent lol) friendship I know will last a lifetime. Congratulations to my dear friend, Chloe Caldwell!! I love you always. SMW.


*lol whenever I say this I think of the show Girls. “she’s my best friend.” – as spoken by, I think, Jessa, mockingly, in a bathroom? To, maybe, Marnie? Re Hannah?


[read our initial email thread here from 2011 - Chloe cold emails me re her manuscript Don't Fall in Love.]


We met in the summer of…2012? When Kevin Sampsell forced you on my SOCO tour (with Mary Miller, Donora Hillard and Brandi Wells). I think I initially told Kevin NO, that I did not need more friends/another woman on the tour. (but he was right: I did need you – both as a friend and as a writer/fellow artist) what were your thoughts at the time, of being sort of pushed onto this tour w me? apprehensions? Positive thoughts?

I’m glad he pushed for it — I didn’t know until later you didn’t want me there, but now you don’t shut up about it so yeah, you didn’t want me there, HEARD. I think I was excited. First book and everything, you know? I do remember feeling sort of nervous flying into the Austin airport to meet you and a bunch of women I didn’t know. But once I was there, I loved it. That tour has some of my best memories of the lit life. Hula hooping, the Tshirts you had made, the whiskey, the way you would sleep on the floor and not the bed, like the neurotic freak you are. I’d never done anything like that tour in my life. I was 25, I think.

We bonded in Oxford, Mississippi, where we shared a room at the ---- hotel and listened to Scott McClanahan’s Other People interview/podcast. Other memories of our bonding in that hotel room? I remember the bed being damp. Lol. and us staying up very late watching some exercise informercial, a bottle of whiskey we shared. Anything else?

You’re forgetting the reading in Houston where I took a Klonopin and drank too much whiskey and you had to get me a burger and a coffee. From the hotel room I just remember you tweeting that I was taking a long time to blow dry my hair. You'd constantly neg me on our SoCo tour twitter. It was Twitter’s hey day.

For the record, did you do any driving on the SOCO tour? I can’t remember anyone but me driving.

No, I am WAY too much of a pillow princess* for driving on tour. I didn’t touch that steering wheel.

*"pillow princess" sounds so gay, chloe


Do you remember how you came to send me the manuscript for Women which was originally titled Dyke Aching?

It was originally titled Rollercoaster. So stupid! Then Dyke Aching for a little while. You and me and Chelsea Martin and other writers were going to Jamaica (your idea and treat) and we all brought our work-in-progress to workshop. You really “got” what I was doing and encouraged me to keep writing and gave me astute notes. I don’t really remember formally submitting you the manuscript. It was more like, you were already helping me with the book, and I shot my shot by being like, “SF/LD should publish it!” and you said no, originally. You said it could be a book for bigger publishers. I was like, nooo! I didn’t agree and I didn’t have an agent. Eventually I convinced you! I feel like you don’t remember this at all.


Which one of us thought Women was a better title? Was it me? ☺

We were joking about calling it Women, like Bukowski’s novel. I just remember getting a text from you that said, “Dude, calling it Women would be sooooo funny,” so it was really just a joke that stuck. 


What books did I suggest you read in preparation for working on Dyke Aching/Women? Were there any you didn’t like? Ones you still reread? Lydia Davis’s The End of the Story, for sure…

The Lover by Marguerite Duras, and then you bought me The End of The Affair by Graham Greene.


You and I share a lack of education. Lol. Neither of us has even a bachelor/undergrad degree. Yet you have really hustled your way into a career, with the online and in person classes and workshops you teach. What advice do you have for younger writers who may not go the MFA route as far as being able to make money in the writing world, doing what you love and are passionate about?

The way I make $ in the writing world is by hosting retreats, working 1:1 with writers via mentorships, and teaching my year-long 12 Months To a Full Manuscript class. It took me about a decade to have a somewhat stable income which is still unstable. It also took me a decade to sell a book to a major publisher, which is Women. But I was really scrappy and used my resources and literally asked for opportunities or asked if I could teach places. I wasn’t getting invites. I did A LOT of cold emailing. Including to you! I emailed you my first book Legs Get Led Astray and you rejected it, but you were so nice about it and we kept emailing. Cold emails have got me really far in life so I’d advise everyone to do more of those. I also wasn’t snobby about wanting to only publish with a “Big Five” and loved indie presses which resulted in me getting books out. I submitted EVERYWHERE incessantly. And I wrote for zero pay for a long time and worked other jobs. I worked retail until this past January and will likely start up again at some point. I like having jobs outside of the writing world.

Did you ever have or what would you say was your low point in striving to be a published writer? And how did you come out of it?

There were definitely years I struggled financially. In my twenties into early thirties I worked full time retail and babysat. I didn’t make money off of my writing, aside from some fleeting checks or small book advances here and there. Around 2018 or so I was having a hard-ish time. I felt unsupported and had had two agent experiences that weren’t the best for me, one that REALLY fucked with my writing self-esteem.


How much of our enduring friendship do you attribute to us both being Aries? Or of your mother and I sharing a birthday?

I attribute a 30% of our relationship to being Aries, 30% to being writers, and 40% to being mentally ill.*

*good math, chloe!


Young or new writers often speak of their fears in publishing, fears of hurting people they have written about, even if fictionalized. Did you ever experience fear in writing or publishing your books or essays? Women? What advice do you have for writers who worry about stuff like this and that fear holding them back in their work?

I’m so tired of talking about this! I don’t know what other people should do, just what I should do. It’s such a form of self-sabotage to be so scared to write anything. I don’t believe in it, it’s not my religion. If you want to write bad enough, you figure it out.

I want to thank you publicly for being the most loyal friend. You have stuck by me through two “cancellations,” numerous men/breakups, and every other kind of personal and professional setback. Even when certain “friends” remarked, “maybe [this will be why] Chloe finally distances herself from Elizabeth Ellen.” You have never distanced yourself and I am eternally grateful. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you. And I am so happy for you and the rerelease of Women with a big publisher. You deserve every penny and every success, personal and professional. I love you with all of my heart, and without you (and Garielle), I don’t think I could have continued in this (literary) world. Or in any world, to be honest. Thank you, Chloe Caldwell.

You don’t have to thank me. You have no idea idea how much you’ve changed my life — I cannot imagine what my life would look like without you in it. You’re such a nonjudgmental, loyal, loving, emotionally available friend. You always answer when I call. You flew to the door where I was staying in New Orleans when I got divorced, a day after I got there. Like, door to door service. ~core memories ~ are with you. We’ve traveled to at least ten states together and two countries. You helped me take my writing seriously back when I cold emailed you in 2011. You're my family.


In all honesty, though, tell the world, please, Chloe: did you steal Chelsea’s tampons?

It would be such a better story if I did! It seems like me!!! I wish I did, it would have saved me a few bucks. But I didn’t. The mystery lives on. Chelsea’s probably still not over it.