Meg Fee, Writer
Meg Fee is a writer we love for her intensely personal prose, and the integrity and compassion she brings to all that she does. Her words, so carefully chosen, don’t shy away from the hard edges - it’s here that she finds beauty and solace. Her responses today are especially insightful and important, grappling with the fear and anger of the current political climate and her role as an artist.
What do you do?
I am a writer. For the last three years I subsidized that job with a proper day job. When I was twenty-seven I took a low-level position at a finance firm. I was craving stability and a normal schedule. So for three years I worked in that world. And while I really loved it when I started, over time I found that I was counting down the days to get through the week. I'd wake Monday morning and think, four more mornings. I was counting my breaths, my steps, my minutes, just to get through the day. Walking to work every morning felt like life retreating at low tide. So this past November I quit my job. With no plan and no real safety net, I quit. The recent world events have made it clear that nothing is guaranteed and so I didn't want to waste my life waiting for the future, which was--in so many ways--exactly what I was doing. I sought out stability for fear of failure, which meant I'd already failed. So I quit my job, and finished the book I was working on, and there isn't one bit of me that regrets that decision or fears for the future.
Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?
Many, actually, and they are constantly changing. But I think what I constantly go back to is this: Do my actions line up with my value system? If yes, then in some ways the result is immaterial, what's important is the action, not the result. And also, if something scares you, it's probably good for you. So do at least one scary thing a day.
If you could choose to hear from any female contemporary at a Make Nice event, who would it be and why?
Roxanne Gay because she is a brilliant, devastatingly good writer, who stands up for what she believes in.
What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?
A guy dumped me nearly two years ago--in March. I wasn't that keen on him, and honestly, I was dating him because it was so comfortable--easy in all the wrong ways. Well, I owe him a big thank you for ending it. The experience of that dislodged a serious block and lit a fire under my bum, and I took a collection of half-edited essays, worked in earnest, and published a small ebook on my blog. That led to a discussion with a publisher, which led to signing with my agent, which led to me quitting my job last November to go out on a limb and finish the book.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
Well, my agent is literally sending out my manuscript next week--a collection of essays about surviving one's twenties--the blessing and mess of that. So I've got all my fingers crossed that it resonates and someone wants to publish it.
What is your dream project?
You know, I don't know. I think, down the line, I'd really like to figure out how to marry my background in acting (I got my BFA in theatre from Juilliard) with writing. I'd love to write for the screen, but currently the structure of film feels beyond my reach. I think I write prose with cinematic imagery, but I have yet to figure out how to transfer that skill set.
What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?
I started meditating last October and few things have been so valuable. The act of it--just a few minutes before bed--has made me more courageous.
What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?
Oh man, I don't know. I don't know how to answer this question. I am so honest--to a fault, much of the time--that if I want to talk about something, I will, whether someone asks me about it, or not. So I guess I'm just going to use this opportunity to say something I've been thinking about a lot lately--especially in light of the election. When I talk about the experience of being a woman, often the response from men is to say: Well, but I don't do that. I don't behave that way. And I'm always like: Cool, not helpful to say--because I didn't think you did, and also, this is not about you! I just need that man to listen, to believe me--to believe women. And secretly I'm hoping he'll go back to his friends and have conversations with them, hold them accountable. When people of other races and religions tells us about their experience the best thing we can do is to listen. And to do better. I will never know what it is to be a black woman in this country, to be Muslim, or transgender, but I sure as hell can listen. I am keenly aware that 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump. I am ashamed of that. And me saying--well, I didn't, not my problem, is not good enough. It IS my problem, and I need to go back and have uncomfortable conversations with friends and family. We ask so much of those in marginalized positions--that they fight against systemic injustices and change the system--but the system demands that those in position of privilege work from within to dismantle inequality.
What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?
Do five things every day before noon that you don't want to do. Cross them off the list. Productivity begets productivity. And always makes the bed.
Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?
I do, and no! So about two years ago, at the age of twenty-eight, Laura Jane Williams sent me an email and that email led to a near daily exchange. She tells me she sent me an email before then, but I have no memory of it. But at twenty-eight, I was in the middle of a very, very crummy year. I was heartbroken, had just moved from one finance company to another--which was a terrible mistake, and I was in an incredibly bad living situation. So our daily exchange--the act of writing and reading--of telling her what I couldn't tell anyone else, was a salve when I needed it most. And a friendship was born of that. We finally met in Paris last May, nearly two years into our correspondence. And holy heck can I credit her with a lot. She is, in so many ways, more ballsy then I am, and she cut a path for me to follow. She published her first novel last summer and her second book is due out in April. I published a small ebook online a little over a year ago that did quite well. And because of that, a publisher in the UK reached out expressing some interest. This exchange led Laura to put me in touch with her agent, Ella Kahn of DKW Literary Agency, who is just one of the coolest women. She began a boutique literary agency a few years ago and has been kicking ass, and taking names ever since--selling books and winning awards. So I signed with her at the start of last year and together we decided I'd expand the ebook (from about 12,000 words to 50,000) as opposed to first coming up with a proposal/outline. I told her I could do it in three months. Well, that was wrong. So, so wrong. It turns out the flip side of any amount of success is the fear that you are a fraud. I was crippled by this feeling for about 8 months, but wrote slowly, nonetheless. I finished in early December, but it then took another month to get all the edits in order. This is what I learned from writing a book: everything takes so much longer than you think--the closer you get, the further the line moves. But I owe Laura and Ella so much. In so many ways I feel like Laura cut a path for me, and Ella is the one with the light, walking in front of me, leading me up the rocky terrain. I got very, very lucky to meet them--this is not lost on me.
Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?
When I was eighteen I went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and saw a play called Amajuba about five South Africans under the Apartheid Regime. It's the only time I've ever understood what a standing ovation is. When the show ended, everyone sat there for a hair's breadth before leaping to their feet--we all independently rose, we didn't stand because those in front of us, or around us, did. We, each of us, leapt, before sense could catch up to reason. It was incredible. And I think we did because it seemed the only appropriate/proportional response to the gift that those five actors on stage had just given us. And I write in the book about seeing Van Gogh's Starry Night Over the Rhone last spring--I cried standing in front of it, moved by the work of a man who constantly questioned his own worth--and look what he did.
What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?
Books: Leaping by Brian Doyle, Music: The Avett Brothers, TV: anything British, actually--the Brits have different relationships to language, humor, beauty, and violence which informs what they produce, and the quality of their work. Silk, Sherlock, Fleabag, and River--in fact, River has to be one of the most beautiful portraits of grief I've ever come across, I cannot recommend it enough. The whole series is only six episodes and is a little slow to start, but it is a force.
What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?
Women, women, women! Female leadership, yes, pay equality, yes! You know, in light of this last election it has become increasingly clear to me how systemic misogyny is. It's insidious and subtle and is coded into our language--and to quell it will take the actions--and recognition--of both women and men. But I think what I really want is for more women to do things that aren't so "likable." I believe, and of course, there are those who will disagree with me on this, but as a sex we fear having large and vocal opinions--we fear taking up space and claiming our voice and what is that?! Why are we, as a sex, so worried about what others think about us? I mean, I have some idea, but most of them are about our own fears, and how other people exploit them. The future is female, I do believe that, it has to be. And we have to stand up and fight for that. Even if we risk being told we are too emotional, too overzealous, too much of too many things, and still--somehow--not enough. It's time to hook into a new grit and make a little noise. To hell with followers and likes and instagram deals--popularity online does not equal value. If voicing my opinion means I lose followers, so be it, I'm not in it for outside validation--I can't be, there are far more important things at stake. It's time to take the longview.
Who would you most like to answer these questions next?
Well, I'm biased, but I'd love to see Ella answer these questions because she's coming at the writing process from a different perspective, and I'm so curious about the intricacies of her job.
How can we find our more about your work?