Newest Brief Essays

"Women's Hour, YMCA" featured in Kenyon Review Online

"I Second That Emotion" (craft essay) featured in New Ohio Review


Other Brief Essays

"Advanced Directive to My Future Roommate…"

"Things Gone the Way of Time," recently reprinted in Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction (Norton)


Study with Rebecca this summer

Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, June 18-25


Kenyon Review PODCAST with Rebecca

(on memoir, genre-crossing, writing practice, and more)


Word Painting Revised Edition: The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively

New edition includes over 100 writing exercises for all genres.

Word Painting

The Tribal Knot

Rebecca'a newest nonfiction book, The Tribal Knot: A Memoir of Family, Community, and a Century of Change is now available from Indiana University Press and Amazon.

Tribal Knot

The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings

The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings
In this ensemble of interrelated essays, writer and poet Rebecca McClanahan explores the familiar rituals, the shared dreams, and the guarded secrets that tie family together as she unravels the mysteries behind familial relationships. She also considers the meaning of losses--the loss of a child, a family home, and a family pet, and a lost chance at motherhood. Partly fashioned around the lines of the folk tune "The Riddle Song," The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings" captures the palpable bonds that exist between mothers, daughters, fathers, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and grandparents.

Published by The University of Georgia Press
978-0-8203-4593-2 (paperback $19.95) • 0-8203-2353-5 (hardback)

Selections from The Riddle Song

  • Aunt ...Maybe some of us were meant from the beginning to be aunts. ...Maybe the powers-that-be give children to those who can survive the love, who know when to let go....
  • "Dependent ...Despite what my military I.D. card proclaimed, my laminated face and name stamped with the word "dependent," I was determined never to become one of those quietly nervous women I saw in the laundromat of the apartment complex….This thing I was living was my life…
  • Q&A on the writing and shaping of The Riddle Song

Reviewers' Comments

“Stunningly vivid in its detail, heartbreaking in its emotional vision, this book rings long and true.”-- Kim Barnes

“A dazzling first book of personal essays... Writing rarely gets this emotionally real.”-- Robert Atwan, editor of The Best American Essays

“... opens the door to an important use of memoir as a genre... McClanahan has found a way to make the personal a language for a greater concern." -- Calyx

“Very few memoirs achieve the raw beauty, the searing honesty, and the transcendent shimmer of McClanahan’s rememberings.”--The Charlotte Observer

"The story is not the story of the family, but the story of memory itself."--Water-Stone

"McClanahan weaves a quilt that beckons us with its warmth ... without striking a false, much less sentimental, note." --The Georgia Review