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Betwixt-and-Between: Essays on the Writing Life

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  170 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Jenny Boully’s essays are ripe with romance and sensual pleasures, drawing connections between the digression, reflection, imagination, and experience that characterizes falling in love as well as the life of a writer. Literary theory, philosophy, and linguistics rub up against memory, dreamscapes, and fancy, making the practice of writing a metaphor for the illusory natur ...more
Paperback, 140 pages
Published April 3rd 2018 by Coffee House Press
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Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it

I wanted a book about writing and what it is like, but I got so so much more! This is a book that is about writing, but not about writing. More importantly, it is about life and emotion and love. I adore Jenny Boully's writing, it is both beautiful and relatable. Betwixt-and-Between felt so raw to me. Jenny put so much of herself and her life onto the page that I felt like I got to know her, got to connect to her on a level that not many books like this give. It felt like fiction and read l
Rachel León
This book isn't what I expected as I thought it'd be essays on writing, but that's not exactly what it is. I enjoyed it nonetheless. Jenny Boully is a beautiful writer. ...more
Juliana Ravelli
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jenny Boully is a magical creature. I loved "Betwixt-and-between: Essays on the Writing Life" so much! The book spoke with my child self, my teenage self, and my adult self. I always felt myself betwixt-and-between, but I have never known how to express it. Jenny, on the other hand, does this job brilliantly in her book, and I am moved, grateful, and happy for that. Let's keep ourselves unfit for the boxes that other people insist on putting us into. Let's allow ourselves to be many different th ...more
Kristin Boldon
May 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: new, memoir, own, 2018, writing
I didn't feel this cohered as a collection. I loved the essays and parts on writing. The other essays on the ends of love affairs didn't work as well for me. ...more
J Earl
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Betwixt-and-Between: Essays on the Writing Life from Jenny Boully is that wonderful collection of essays that fulfills the promise of the word 'collection.' So often collections of essays are collections only in the sense that the essays have, indeed, been collected into one volume. Many times this is quite sufficient. Yet here collection is to be taken as a single entity with various parts, not simply a collection of parts. This volume is a whole, comprised of essays, collected into a volume.

Delia Rainey
May 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Upon and after reading, all these essays had conversations with each other. Boully's words on writing advice read more like a loony dream and poetic spill into some long-lost garden. And then another essay would talk about her discomfort with genre definition ~ an identity of mixtures that become one whole. The hidden desires for why we write ~ in order to get someone to love us. Boully likens writing to witchcraft, and through her precise lyrical fragments, reading this book felt like a spell. ...more
Tara Betts
A quick but enjoyable read that covers a lot of territory on the path to becoming a writer. I particularly enjoyed the following essays: "On Writing and Withcraft"; "Moveable Types"; "On the EEO Genre Sheet"; "The Poet's Education"; and "On Beginnings and Endings." This book had so much to say about not coming from privilege and becoming a writer anyway, including when you get interviewed for positions and people ask you questions that are pointedly asked to filter you out of the interview proce ...more
Sam Lofgran
Dec 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this essay collection. Jenny Boully not only shares amazing insights about writing but also demonstrates the craft perfectly through her own lyrical and metic writing. Boully helps us realize the the best writing is about life and the daily struggles it entails and that really writing is all about capturing the poetry of everyday moments.
Through her various essays about genre, word choice, verb tenses, memory, love, and race, Boully teaches writers at any stage the importance
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: not-for-me
Have had Jenny Boully books on my “to read” list for ages because she comes up with a lot of other great essayists, but haven’t gotten to it because my library doesn’t carry her books. Ordered this one due to the consistently positive reviews but it just wasn’t for me. It was meandering in a way that is different from the path I meander on and couldn’t hold my attention. Apologies to Jenny and to fans out there but this was just not for me.
Andrew Bertaina
Jun 10, 2018 rated it liked it
"I remembered everything so exceptionally well that spring because my heart was breaking, and I carried that heartbreak with me a few more years until I didn't know what to do with it. It was then that I realized what I wanted more than someone to love were those lilacs, those dogwoods, those curls of wisteria, the fat bumblebees, the air and the scenery of Southwest Virginia" ...more
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book ended up to be more about how I misread its title when picking it up at a bookstore, essays about writing of life, instead of the writing life. Jenny Boully is such a beautiful writer, that even though some of the essays threw me off, at the end I managed to get something out of them.
Can’t wait to read more of her work.
Jul 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Read the full review here:

This collection was one of the more ~artistic~ that I've read this year. It was heavy on the lush writing, the philosophical themes, and the moments where I was totally and completely lost. Again, this might say more about me than it does about the book.

May 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
a dream! a journey! a dreamlike journey! a journeying through dreams - naturally, betwixt-and-between.

in two words: this rocked. In several more: I believe that the places reading this took me have endless ripe & ready fruit trees. with a click of the heels, a sweeping into the storm, and most literally with the reopening of the covers - I will be back again & again & again & again, etc.
Gorgeously written. I didn't connect with it on any particular level, but that wasn't the book's fault. It was the fact that I read it on a plane after a long delay, and also that I think I was in the specific mood for something either deeper or more surface-y and less...betwixt-and-between. ...more
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book by Boully I've read but it won't be the last. Her short essays seem to go places others do not and sometimes leave the reader hanging in the air, but it's an energizing reading experience that makes the reader think. Thanks to the author. ...more
Dennis Sweeney
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In the creative writing class I taught this term, we read two essays a week from this book. For me this was the perfect way to read it: these essays need time to soak in, and by the end of the term it felt like we had completed a journey.
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written book contemplating the curiosities and peculiarities of life, memory, dreams, and writing. Boully weaves together several beautiful essays about the relatoonships between the world and the art of writing.
Anna Quinn
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating collection of essays on writing, but not a writing handbook, which makes it even more interesting. A reflection on the transitional spaces between writing and memory, desire, time and dreams. A persuasion to write what you want to write rather than what you think you should write.
Apr 27, 2018 rated it liked it
"Because things will break, and their breaking will make you a poet." ...more
Frank Karioris
May 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Poetic essays; more poetry than essay. Not what I had been looking for in that regard. Written beautifully; but with basically zero context, explanation, or provisions.
Lorna Penland
Hard to get into

I struggled to understand the first half or more. I don't easily give up reading a book. Finally, halfway through I started to understand.
Aug 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Individually some of these essays sang, but they were often a bit too twee for me.
Alonzo Vereen
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Disjointed and faux-deep
Lily Blackburn
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautiful beautiful inspiring "genre bending" inspiration I will carry this book with me ...more
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A must read for any writer or human!
Nov 24, 2020 added it
You have to read it with your poetry brain, by that I mean make your head a sky, and damn, so worth it. SO MANY WORTHY SENTENCES.
Donald Quist
Dec 16, 2020 rated it liked it
A lot I plan to share with my Creative Writing students.
Dec 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a lovely and bold book in many ways, and some parts of it even felt life-changing. Other sections didn’t hold my attention, but I think that’s why I need to re-read it.
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Writing about writing that reads like dreaming someone else’s dreams. I love this collection of essays, which are as much about being a writer, the act of writing, and the power of the written word as they are about time and memory and the messy complexities of being passionately alive.
Adela Mirolevska
Feb 04, 2019 rated it liked it
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Jenny Boully is the author of four books, most recently not merely because of the unknown that was stalking toward them (Tarpaulin Sky Press). Her other books include The Books of Beginnings and Endings (Sarabande Books), [one love affair]* (Tarpaulin Sky Press), and The Body: An Essay (Essay Press, first published by Slope Editions). Her chapbook of prose,Moveable Types, was released by Noemi Pre ...more

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