Writing Menopause: A Book Giveaway!


Hot off the press from Inanna Publications, an anthology of Fiction, Poetry, and Creative Nonfiction. Yes! Here’s what the editors, Jane Cawthorne and Elaine Morin write in the introduction:

Menopause. Say the word in public. See what happens.

You may catch some knowing glances, a few rolled eyes, a few exasperated sighs. As Jane Silcott writes, you may see some squinching. It’s a good word — something between squirm and flinch. The word illustrates the uneasy silence that is often attached to this chapter of our lives.

Menopause lacks enough good stories. There are roughly tens of thousands of books about menopause. Much of the existing literature is clinical, offering women definitions, lists of symptoms, and possible treatments. This book is different. It is not about what menopause is, but about how it feels. As Donna Caruso writes, “Spare me the lecture on the righteousness of the cycle of life.” There will be none of that in these pages.

Instead, we searched for stories that we wanted to read, that were beautifully told, and reflected our experiences and the experiences of people we knew. Our contributors offered us cultural references like Chrissie Hynde, Tori Amos, Billy Idol, and Lemony Snicket. They countered the cliché that menopausal women are all used up and instead gave us vitality, creativity, sexual craving, and lust. And they offered us points of views and perspectives that went beyond women. Menopause is experienced by non-binary people and trans men too.

Our call for submissions brought us a huge variety of literary forms as well. The anthology includes stories, poems, creative non-fiction, a dramatic monologue, two interviews, a poem with a provocative prose introduction, a poem in two languages, and a list of facts and fictions about menopause. All of these add depth to the collection and an understanding that there are different ways of seeing and reading experience.

Within these pages are brains and bodies both lamenting their losses and eager to see what is next. The menopause experience is not simply something to survive. Unburdened by childbearing expectations and, possibly, by other gendered ways of understanding themselves, those in menopause climb mountains, take on lovers, create art, daydream, undertake scientific explorations, and transform themselves with an urgency that springs from the bittersweet realization that their time is short.

We divided the anthology into three parts, with titles meant to invoke contradiction and capture the multiplicity of the menopausal experience. There is no one way to think about or experience menopause, and, certainly, there is no right way. The first section, “un/done,” includes works that describe a desire to be done with social and cultural constraint, and to challenge the cliché that menopause means life is over.

The second part, “in/fertile,” sometimes celebrates and sometimes mourns the end of reproductive fertility, while acknowledging a new kind of fertility that might, or might not, emerge.

Finally, the third part, “un/known,” contains works that capture the sense of being out in a new world, not knowing oneself, or, conversely, knowing oneself at last. These pieces find their characters revising what they thought they knew. Many of the pieces could have found a home in any of the three parts, a confounding problem for the editors, but one that speaks to the depth and complexity of experience that these works describe.

In these works, we as editors have found joy, commiseration, and kinship. We hope readers will find this and more.

Now, let the squinching begin.


When I offered to feature the book on Friend for the Ride, I asked Elaine to explain the impetus behind the anthology. Here’s what she wrote:

In answer to your question about our impetus for doing the book, I would say that maybe the truest reason we decided to do this book is that we were both approaching menopause.

But the real impetus was a Facebook post a few years back. Someone in our writers’ group asked if and how menopause was entering their writing. This morphed into a discussion about representations of menopause and how there seemed to be a need for more “good stories” about it.

Most of the stories we were reading didn’t speak to us, and didn’t reflect us or the women we knew. These were not stories we felt were even true. We had new points of reference, different cultural touchstones than the ones being depicted. We wanted to hear about these. So, in this collection we have references to Chrissie Hynde, Tori Amos and Billy Idol.

We wanted to counter the idea that menopausal women are all used up. This was old and clichéd to us. And untrue. A pleasant surprise was discovering how many contributors were talking about sex. Wanting sex. Having sex. Lots of it. We also wanted to counter the idea that only women were going through menopause. Because trans men and other gendered people were going through it too.

Giveaway: The publisher is offering a copy of Writing Menopause to one Friend for the Ride reader. For a chance to win, please enter a comment by July 15. Thanks!

To find the book on Amazon, click here.


Elaine Morin was awarded the Brenda Strathern “Late Bloomers” Writing Prize in 2007. She writes, edits and finds outdoor adventure in Calgary, Alberta, just a stone’s throw from the Canadian Rockies.

Jane Cawthorne’s work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, and literary and academic journals. Her play, The Abortion Monologues, has been produced widely in the United States and Canada.



Just Over Yonder: A Poem for Menopause and Other Times Too

Just Over Yonder

As I went through The Great Pause, I kept asking older women about it.

“Menopause? That was ages ago! I’ve forgotten,” they’d reply cheerfully.

Their responses were happy but not helpful.


Their forgetfulness inspired me to start this blog, so I could encourage others.

Yes, menopause, among other maladies, can bring on gloom and self-doubt.

But raise a glass to the tincture of time!

Sometimes, it takes patience. Ya just gotta wait.

A new you is sprouting!


I wrote this poem for my friend June Cotner. June, who’s the editor  of thirty anthologies and counting, sends out a call for submissions and that gets the words spinning. “Just Over Yonder” will appear in BACK TO JOY: Little Reminders to Help Us Through Tough Times  (October, 2014 by Andrews McMeel Publishing). Pre-orders of Back to Joy are available now.



Nearing Menopause, I Run into Elvis at Shoprite


A poem by poet Barbara Crooker:

near the peanut butter.  He calls me ma’am, like the sweet

southern mother’s boy he was.  This is the young Elvis,

slim-hipped, dressed in leather, black hair swirled

like a duck’s backside.  I’m in the middle of my life,

the start of the body’s cruel betrayals, the skin beginning

to break in lines and creases, the thickening midline.

I feel my temperature rising, as a hot flash washes over,

the thermostat broken down.  The first time I heard Elvis

on the radio, I was poised between girlhood and what comes next.

My parents were appalled, in the Eisenhower fifties, by rock

and roll and all it stood for, let me only buy one record,

“Love Me Tender,” and I did.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I have on a tight orlon sweater, circle skirt,

eight layers of rolled-up net petticoats, all bound

together by a woven straw cinch belt.  Now I’ve come

full circle, hate the music my daughter loves, Nine

Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Crash Test Dummies.

Elvis looks embarrassed for me.  His soft full lips

are like moon pies, his eyelids half-mast, pulled

down bedroom shades.  He mumbles, “Treat me nice.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Now, poised between menopause and what comes next, the last

dance, I find myself in tears by the toilet paper rolls,

hearing “Unchained Melody” on the sound system.  “That’s all

right now, Mama,” Elvis says, “Anyway you do is fine.”  The bass

line thumps and grinds, the honky tonk piano moves like an ivory

river, full of swampy delta blues.  And Elvis’s voice wails above

it all, the purr and growl, the snarl and twang, above the chains

of flesh and time.



Barbara Crooker’s poems  have appeared in magazines such as The Green Mountains Review, Poet Lore, The Hollins Critic, The Christian Science Monitor, Nimrod and anthologies such as The Bedford Introduction to Literature.  Her awards include the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, fifteen residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, a residency at the Moulin à Nef, Auvillar, France; and a residency at The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Ireland.

Her books are Radiance, which won the 2005 Word Press First Book competition and was a finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance (Word Press 2008), which won the 2009 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence; More (C&R Press 2010), and Gold (Cascade Books, 2013). Her poetry has been read on the BBC, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company), and by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac, and she’s read in the Poetry at Noon series at the Library of Congress.


Barbara’s latest book is  Gold, a collection of poems about losing her mother.  Look for one of the poems and a giveaway on Friend for the Ride next month!


To learn more about Barbara and her work, visit her website at


Hot Flash Sonnets (and a Giveaway!)

Hot Flash Sonnets

A guest post by poet Moira Egan:

First and foremost, I would like to thank Barbara Younger for the invitation to be a guest on her terrific and award-winning blog. Passager Books (Baltimore, MD) has just published my poetry collection, Hot Flash Sonnets, and so I guess it’s official: I’m a woman of a certain age, and I’m here to talk about it.

Just yesterday, I had an email exchange with one of my dear friends from College.She’s been enjoying the Hot Flash Sonnets I’ve been posting on Facebook, and she had a couple of questions for me. She too is experiencing many of the classic symptoms of The Change, and though she lives in a city that’s known as a world capital, she is dismayed that her doctors are pushing her toward HRT and presenting no other options. She’s probably not a good candidate for HRT, for many reasons, and she asked me what I’ve been doing to ease my symptoms and get on with something resembling a normal life.

So I told her about certain websites that have been helpful (such as this one!), and a couple of books on hormone-specific yoga practices, and about my own, ongoing (!) experiments with various herbs and concoctions.Further, I told her that I was very happy that we were having this conversation. It strikes me as sad and strange that, in the year 2013, there is still a certain stigma or embarrassment attached to talking about MENOPAUSE, something that every woman will experience if she is fortunate enough to live long enough to pass from being a reproductive being to a post-reproductive being. Where’s the shame in that?

What the Flesh Is Heir To

This is the first poem in my collection, Hot Flash Sonnets. I didn’t think Shakespeare would mind too much that I borrowed some phrases from his famous existential-crisis character, Hamlet, since we menopausal women are asking ourselves existential questions every day. I also hoped that Mr. Shakespeare wouldn’t mind my borrowing from him because, without his example, I probably never would have gone off onto my own poetic path as a dedicated sonneteer.

Something I didn’t tell my friend, though, is that one of the best therapies for me has been recording my experiences and turning them into sonnets. A few years ago, when I first started writing this sequence, I realized that, beyond its being the form in whose constraints I feel most at home (and in which I have the most fun), the sonnet is an ideal form for expressing change – like mood swings! And thermostat malfunctions!

You remember from your English classes that sonnets have 14 lines, a rhyme scheme, and a neat little thing somewhere towards the end called the volta, the turn, where the poem changes direction and surprises you with its ending. As Robert Frost famously said, “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” Well, ask any menopausal woman about the surprises she’s encountered on the journey, and you might be surprised yourself.

So it really did help me to externalize the things that were happening to me, to hold them at arm’s length, so to speak, and make sense out of them by shaping them into sonnets. I wanted the poems to range in tone every bit as much as I range in my moods: from “LOL” funny to philosophical, from poignant to painful, from sarcastic to dead serious. Some of these things aren’t fun or funny to experience, but when given the choice between laughing and crying, though I don’t always succeed in this, I do try to laugh.

Sisters in Sweat

Just as these two “sisters in sweat” share the heat wave, I hope to share whatever insights I might have come to along this path of Strange Change. I also hope that in laughing or even at times crying together, we “sisters in the sweat,” ladies of a certain age, can take comfort in the shared nature of our experiences, and truly understand that we’re not alone.

Giveaway:  Friend for the Ride is giving away a copy of Hot Flash Sonnets. Simply enter a comment by October 10 saying you’d like to be the winner.

Passager Books is a press for writers over fifty!  Our menopausal hats goes off to this insightful and artistic press!

Moira Egan

Moira Egan is the author, most recently, of Hot Flash Sonnets (Passager Books, Baltimore, 2013). Her previous poetry collections are Cleave (WWPH, 2004); La Seta della Cravatta/The Silk of the Tie (Edizioni l’Obliquo, 2008); Bar Napkin Sonnets (The Ledge, 2009); and Spin (Entasis Press, 2010, for whom she also co-edited Hot Sonnets, 2010).

Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the U.S. and abroad. Her sonnets in particular have won many accolades, including the 2005 Baltimore City Paper Poetry Contest; The Ledge Chapbook Competition (Bar Napkin Sonnets, 2009); the Baltimore Review’s 2012 Literary Contest (HEAT being the all-too appropriate theme); and the 2012 Sonnet Competition of the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition of the National League of American Pen Women.

She has been a Mid Atlantic Arts Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts; Writer in Residence at St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, Malta; a Writing Fellow at the Civitella Ranieri Center; and a Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center.