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Pete Davidson, Mania & Writing While on Fire: EE Interviews Barrie Miskin photo

August 3rd, 2021, I replied to Barrie’s submission with an eager acceptance including these words, “I was riveted reading your experience, jaw-dropped in places. sharing your experience will be so helpful to so many other women.”

The first time I read Barrie Miskin’s writing – as a Hobart submission for the Rejected Modern Love column I edit (in conjunction with the Fucked Up Modern Love column) – I was immediately engrossed and enthralled. How could I not be with an essay that begins, “I spent the fifth and sixth weeks of my daughter’s life in a psych ward.” And somewhere in the middle discloses,I spent the summer drunk and online.” !!! Continuing, “After Patrick and Nora left for work and daycare, I would walk around the corner and buy two bottles of cheap rose. Then, returning home, I’d park myself at the dining room table, pour myself a big, pink glass and open up my laptop. After I drained the bottles of wine, I would lie down on the couch and pass out, setting an alarm to wake myself up and wash my face before Patrick and Nora returned home from their day.”

My eyes burned with reading and I had to know more. I think we emailed back and forth after that close to a hundred emails, me asking Barrie all kinds of questions about her life (before and after what happens in her essay). I knew immediately it would become a stunning memoir. I knew I would recommend it to everyone I know. One of my favorite books is Girl, Interrupted and Barrie’s story and writing reminded me of that. I was obsessed. I still am. Since that time Barrie has written three more pieces for Hobart. Most recently (and maybe a secret favorite), a love letter to Pete Davidson.

On June 4th, Barrie’s memoir Hell Gate Bridge, a memoir of her struggle with maternal mental illness , was finally published by Woodhall Press.



How did you come initially to submit to Hobart (me) for the rejected modern love column? Had you actually submitted your essay to NYT Modern Love?

In the summer of 2021, right after I had finished Hell Gate Bridge, I discovered Chloe Caldwell and Elle Nash and fell passionately in love with their writing. I had no idea that you had published them both and I also did not know about Hobart (I didn’t even start writing until 2021 so don’t be mad, I was a total noob.)

I know my writing is very different from Chloe and Elle’s, but I felt like there was some kind of thread that connected our work. Like Elle’s ability to go really hard and Chloe’s ability to make you feel like you’ve known her forever. I felt like I kind of had those qualities in my writing too. I looked up to see where they had been published and discover Hobart and you.

I had written an essay for Modern Love (the one you published) and submitted it to the NYT, but then when I found your call for Rejected Modern Love stories, I pulled my NYT submission and sent it to you instead. I’ll never know if the NYT would have accepted it but fate has a funny way of turning the tides.


How did you come to write that essay? Meaning, were you in a writing class? Do you have an MFA? Had you been submitting your work long? Give us some background of your writing/publishing history up to the summer of 2021.

I had zero writing and publishing experience up to the summer of 2021. I started writing right before my 43rd birthday and that ended up being Hell Gate Bridge. The Rejected Modern Love essay was kind of an amalgamation of sections from the book. It was my very first published piece.

I did however, win an honorable mention for a story about an ice skater with one leg that I wrote in first grade. 


You write fearlessly (seemingly!) about your early days of motherhood – hiding drinking, being in a psych ward (is this still an ok term?) - in a time in which many writers I know are afraid to say publicly, in an essay, that they smoke cigarettes! Writers in their late 30s, I’m talking about, for fear their parents will read and know!! You must have come to the conclusion early on you would not self-censor when writing about your experience. Was this an easy conclusion to come to for you? have you ever regretted any details you put in your writing from your experience? Are there some you omitted? Any regrets either way?

When I wrote Hell Gate Bridge, it was almost in a fever dream. I started in February 2021 and finished in May 2021. I wrote like my hair was on fire. During that time, I thought of nothing and no one, I just had to get this story out of my brain and onto the page. I didn’t think about censoring or leaving anything out. I had to get it all down.

All my close family and friends have read the book, in all its iterations and have been very supportive. My boss, who is a “character” in the book, read an early version as well and has been supportive the whole time.

My biggest fear though, is having my daughter read it. And I didn’t think that through, how she would feel when she learned that her mom had tried to leave the world when she was just five weeks old, or how her mom abused alcohol when she was a tiny toddler. I’ve been working with my psychiatrist for the past few months on how we can approach this with her, but we have decided that now is not the time. She’s still only 7 and not ready to process all this heavy information. We think maybe in a few years, she will be ready to have a better comprehension of what happened and why.

Oh, yeah. As a mother myself I can definitely say the only person I ever worry about re my writing is my daughter. I think she actively/consciously does not read it lol which is fine w me! That said, if it is of any comfort, my mother was always very honest with me, maybe too honest! About her life, flaws – some huge flaws – and all, and I think *that*, her honesty, liberated me in a huge way in my life, freed me from my own potential shame and self-censorship. When we try to come off as too perfect for/with our children, that can create the idea in them they also need to strive for perfection and cause depression and shame in them when they fail, as we all do, to be perfect. So, your admissions will someday – when age appropriate – be a gift for your daughter. And yes, probably some/many years down the road? But I always think the greatest gift my mother gave me was her honesty, never lying to me or hiding from me, her weaknesses or mistakes or vulnerabilities. As then I never felt ashamed to tell her anything or have her see the real me.

You first emailed me your essay submission on July 30th, 2021. And in that initial email thread we traded 69 emails!! (for context, when I accept a piece for Hobart, there are typically 4 or 5 emails tops regarding formatting and such.) is this your normal experience in submitting your work to a literary editor? Is it possible we were both manic?!

Yes, we are both manic and no, this never happened to me before and hasn’t happened since. I think it was just the beginning of a forever friendship. Like how it is when you’re falling in love.


I realize now, looking back, this summer, 2021, the summer we met, was the summer of my own mental illness, of sorts. I had suffered a major romantic betrayal the end of May, triangulation and gaslighting mixed with heightened romance in August and September, leading to an October elopement. Less than a year later, in May(ish) of 2022, another betrayal/blow … I remember texting you from my husband’s house after he left me to move in (temporarily) with his ex…you talking me off the edge – “You don’t want to end up in a psych ward like me,” I think you texted at one point… do you believe in fate, Barrie? Or destiny? That we were destined to meet and fall in friend love?

See above! Yes. Meeting you and becoming friends with you has changed my life as a writer, a mother and a friend. So much of what I have now is because of your generosity and love (and your wholesome coziness!)

*Coziness*! LOL 


Two weeks later, before your first accepted essay had even gone up on Hobart, you sent me a second, which I also adored and eventually published, after some series of edits. And within another few weeks I was sending you my manuscript to read. Lol. (other Hobart submitters be forewarned! Do not indulge me.) what were you thinking? were you like, this bitch is crazy? Why do I have to read her stupid book now?

I remember being SO thrilled that you asked me to read your work. I was starstruck.

'Til you read it...:)


What are some of the memoirs you loved/read more than once before you began writing and then while you were actively working on your memoir?

Catherine Cho’s Inferno and Susannah Cahalan’s Brain on Fire were my North Stars. I’ve probably read them each over 30 times. There are so many beautiful memoirs about suffering from mental illness, but I couldn’t read the ones where the writer had a clear diagnosis. I was irrationally jealous of people whose illness had a name. I needed books that were more medical mysteries or really plumbed the depths of unimaginable grief.


Did you do the current method of getting the approval of family members written about in your memoir? Do you think this is a morally or ethically right thing to do? or are you, like me, in the fuck it camp re your writing?

I wanted to get the approval of everyone, especially Patrick. It’s my inherent Jewish guilt. Also, my publisher made me before we started the editing process so we wouldn’t get sued. I guess that happens sometimes.

In your Pete Davidson love letter for Hobart you claim to have loved him the longest (before, even, the BDE revelation by Ariana!). What first brought that spark to your eye, that twitch to your…when did you *know* Pete was *the one*? And do you foresee your love for Pete ever dying? Have you ever seen him do stand up? How can we make all your dreams come true, Barrie?

The Pete Davidson Love Letter is actually my favorite thing I’ve ever written, too. I fell in love with him in the fall of 2017 when I saw him speaking about mental health on Weekend Update. It made me feel so much less alone. He was so cute with his buck teeth. He didn’t have veneers yet and I don’t think he had tattoos.

I have seen him do standup! This was right after he and Ariana had broken up in the winter of 2018. It was in Brooklyn and it was amazing. My husband bought us tickets and they were only $25. Chris Redd also performed and Sam Jayne. I wish I could have seen his recent tour but you took Emma instead, traitor.

I would love to meet him and thank him and bizarrely, I have a fantasy of introducing him to my daughter. Dave Sirus, Pete’s writing partner has and read the Love Letter and was really nice and said he would pass it along to Pete, but I don’t know if he ever did. I hope so.


You, Chloe Caldwell, & I are all Aries. Do you think there is a fearlessness, or a resistance to regret and shame, natural to the Aries character that lends itself to more reckless, captivating writing? Or at least to the experiences had that then lead to page-turning writing?

Both? There are SO many Aries writers, it’s insane. I think we are impulsive on the page and in life. As we know, my daughter is an Aries as well and it looks pretty certain that she will be following in our footsteps.


I forgot to tell you this but after our KGB reading in May, both Chloe and I thought your agent was a random lesbian hitting on us. lol. Does she get that a lot?  how did you find your agent? Was it a long treacherous process as so many writers talk about? Does she want to be my agent? Or maybe just date? I’m open these days.

I love my agent. She’s been such a steadfast champion of my work since day one. She never gave up on me. We don’t really talk about personal stuff, but I will pass along the compliment! You should query her! She’d probably love your work.


How did you feel yesterday, release day for Hell Gate Bridge? Did all your dreams for your book come true?

In recovery they have this saying (they have a lot of sayings) that addicts have a fear of success and a fear of failure. My fear of success was in high gear yesterday. Patrick has the flu and I cried because I thought he wasn’t paying enough attention to me even though he is deathly ill. I checked my social media so many times that my phone alerted me that I had been on it for seven hours. I looked at my Amazon sales numbers even though I have no idea what they mean. I’m a mess.

But at the end of the day, I took Nora to her swim class and came home and made salmon and vegetables for dinner and we celebrated as a family with a chocolate cake from my favorite bakery and gave Nora a tub and put my phone in the other room and fell asleep with her at 8 pm. That was really lovely.

Ugh, I miss those days (before my daughter became an adult and abandoned me! lol j/k, A.) so much. Cherish them!!


Do you ever wish you’d taken my suggestion and titled it Motherhood, Interrupted? :)

I do love Hell Gate Bridge, but I wish I’d listened to you and fought for just A Memoir of Motherhood and Madness instead of A Memoir of Motherhood, Madness and Hope for the subtitle but I was tired by that point and just like, call it whatever, I just want to hold the book in my hands.


It’s beautiful. You are beautiful. Thank you so much for submitting to Hobart and for your eternal friendship. I love you!!  And I can’t wait to read what you write next! Now, when do we start following Pete Davidson around like he's The Grateful Dead, Barrie??