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My Unlived Life

Maggie Smith

Season 4, Ep. 4

The poet Maggie Smith and Miriam discuss what might have happened if she’d left her native Ohio to go to graduate school in Tucson, and thus also left the man who ultimately became her husband. Along the way they discuss the impossible questions one gets asked in the aftermath of divorce; how writing your trauma can help you through, though not necessarily in the way you might think, and ways to find yourself when you’re far from home. Maggie also teaches Miriam a very important lesson about band t-shirts.


Maggie Smith is the award-winning author of Good Bones, The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison, Lamp of the Body, and the national bestsellers Goldenrod and Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change. A 2011 recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Smith has also received several Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council, two Academy of American Poets Prizes, a Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has been widely published, appearing in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Nation, The Best American Poetry, and more. Her memoir, You Could Make This Place Beautiful, is out now and available in your local bookshop.


Make sure to subscribe to hear the rest of Season 4 – in each episode, Miriam Robinson interviews a guest about another path their life might have taken. Together, step by step, they write the stories of their unlived lives.

 


Produced by Neil Mason

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  • 3. Leslie Jamison

    01:07:27
    Leslie and Miriam discuss what Leslie's life might have looked like if on a trip to Las Vegas she hadn’t married the man who became her husband and, ultimately father of her daughter, and instead had returned home to New York un-hitched. Along the way they talk about having a complicated relationship with uncertainty, how underlining in books is a love language, and writing at truck-stops at 2am.Leslie Jamison is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Recovering and The Empathy Exams; the collection of essays Make It Scream, Make It Burn, and the novel The Gin Closet, a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. She writes for numerous publications including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, and the Virginia Quarterly Review. She teaches at Columbia University and lives in in Brooklyn and Splinters, her extraordinary memoir of the end of a marriage and the beginning of motherhood - is out now and available in your local bookshop.Make sure to subscribe to hear the rest of Season 5 – in each episode, Miriam Robinson interviews a guest about another path their life might have taken. Together, step by step, they write the stories of their unlived lives.Produced by Neil Mason
  • 2. Karen Raney

    01:05:13
    Karen and Miriam discusss what Karen's life might have been like if she’d returned to her native US after what was supposed to be a short trip to London, instead of staying put and building her life there. Along the way they talk about the weight of cultural norms & expectation, what it means to live far from family, and how painting and writing can help locate us, wherever we are.Karen Raney is an academic, painter, former editor and a writer of fiction. Her novel All the Water in the World was the recipient of the 2017 Pat Kavanaugh Prize, shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award in 2020, and for two Society of Authors prizes in 2021. She is currently at work on her next novel.Make sure to subscribe to hear the rest of Season 5 – in each episode, Miriam Robinson interviews a guest about another path their life might have taken. Together, step by step, they write the stories of their unlived lives.Produced by Neil Mason
  • 1. Vanessa Walters

    01:09:16
    Vanessa speaks to Miriam about what her life might have looked like if she hadn’t gotten married at the age of 30 and moved with her husband to Lagos - the setting of her incredible novel - and had instead moved to LA to pursue a dream of screenwriting. Along the way they discuss the way place can change you; ways to change your life, step by tiny step; and how the women of Selling Sunset manage to sell houses in those ridiculous stilettos.Vanessa Walters has a background in international journalism and playwriting and is a Tin House and Millay Arts resident. She is the author of two previous YA books and film rights for her novel The Lagos Wife have been optioned by HBO. Born and raised in London, she currently lives in Brooklyn. The Lagos Wife is out now and can be found in your local bookshop.Make sure to subscribe to hear the rest of Season 5 – in each episode, Miriam Robinson interviews a guest about another path their life might have taken. Together, step by step, they write the stories of their unlived lives.Produced by Neil Mason
  • 11. Karrie Fransman LIVE at the Margate Bookie

    52:03
    In this episode, recorded live at the Margate Bookie Literary Festival, Karrie and Miriam go right back to the beginning and discuss what might have happened if she’d been born a boy instead of a girl. Along the way they try to examine our own gender biases, talk about whether it’s easier for men to take up space in the world, and also whether it’s easier for women to express themselves creatively. They also closely examined Karrie’s wardrobe choices…Karrie Fransman is a comic creator and artist who tells visual stories in books, newspapers, animations, sculptures, on Ipads and in virtual reality. Her comics strips and graphic stories have been published everywhere from The Guardian to the Times and the Telegraph, and her art has appeared in the Southbank Centre, National Portrait Gallery and the Manchester Art Gallery. She is the creator of several graphic novels and her most recent incredible books, Gender-Swapped Fairytales and Gender-Swapped Greek Myths are out now and available in your local bookshop and at Bookshop.orgMake sure to subscribe to hear the rest of Season 4 – in each episode, Miriam Robinson interviews a guest about another path their life might have taken. Together, step by step, they write the stories of their unlived lives.Produced by Neil Mason
  • 10. Joanna Biggs

    01:13:00
    Joanna and Miriam discuss what her life might have looked like if she’d studied and then pursued a career in dance, as opposed to following what she considered to be a more traditional, intellectual route for her education. Along the way they talk about the intelligence of the body, gendered attitudes to both success and competition, and the romantic dalliances of Sylvia Plath and Simone de Beauvoir.Joanna Biggs is an editor at Harper's Magazine, and previously was associate editor at the London Review of Books. She has also written for the New Yorker, the FT and the Guardian, as well as appearing on BBC Radio 4. Her first book, All Day Long: A Portrait of Britain at Work, was published in 2015, and was one of the Observer's books of the year. Her new book, A Life of One’s Own, is a piercing blend of memoir, criticism and biography, interspersing her own life story with an examination of how women writers across the centuries carved out intellectual freedom for themselves. It’s out now and available in your local bookshop and on Bookshop.org.Make sure to subscribe to hear the rest of Season 4 – in each episode, Miriam Robinson interviews a guest about another path their life might have taken. Together, step by step, they write the stories of their unlived lives. Produced by Neil Mason
  • 9. Andy West

    01:12:24
    Andy and Miriam discuss what might have happened if his father - who was incarcerated when Andy was 12 - had in fact not gone to prison, and stayed in his life throughout his teenage years. Along the way they talk about what it means to break intergenerational cycles, the fine line between our lives and those of others, male friendship and a little something called positive catastrophising. Andy West has taught philosophy in prisons since 2015. He holds a BA in philosophy from the University of London and has written for 3AM, The Guardian, The Times Education Supplement, The Millions and more. His first book THE LIFE INSIDE: A memoir of prison, family and learning to be free is out now and available in all good bookshops.Make sure to subscribe to hear the rest of Season 4 – in each episode, Miriam Robinson interviews a guest about another path their life might have taken. Together, step by step, they write the stories of their unlived lives. Produced by Neil Mason
  • 8. Dr Jandel Allen-Davis

    01:00:00
    Dr Jandel Allen-Davis and Miriam discuss what might have happened if, only a few years ago, she’d walked away from her highly successful career to pursue her art full time. Along the way they talk about what it means to risk it all for your passions, the difference between seeing and looking, and whether it’s always necessary to pick a lane. Jandel is also a wildly prolific artist, and so they talk about pretty much every material under the sun.Dr Jandel Allen-Davis is the President and CEO of Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado, a world-renowned rehabilitation hospital that specializes in patients with spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injuries. Before this, she was Vice President of Government, External Relations and Research for Kaiser Permanente Colorado. Jandel is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and was in active practice for 25 years. She is also one of Miriam's mother’s closest friends, who she's known since she was a teenager, which made this episode a particularly special one.
  • 7. Jackie Morris

    01:04:37
    Jackie and Miriam discuss what might have happened if Jackie had learned to play the violin as a teenager, and used her skills to busk as a traveling storyteller across Spain, Africa, Mongolia and beyond. Along the way they discuss what it takes to become an artist, the joys and perils of traveling alone and how learning languages is a lot like inhabiting other lives. Jackie also encounters a lot of fabulous wildlife, and learns to ride a motorcycle.Jackie Morris is an author and illustrator. She studied illustration at Hereford College of Art and Bath Academy and has illustrated many books, and written some. The Lost Words, co-authored with Robert Macfarlane, won the Kate Greenaway Medal 2019, and she was nominated again for The Unwinding in 2021. Her accordion books - Fox and Otter - are out now with Unbound.Make sure to subscribe to hear the rest of Season 4 – in each episode, Miriam Robinson interviews a guest about another path their life might have taken. Together, step by step, they write the stories of their unlived lives. Produced by Neil Mason
  • 6. Alice Jolly

    01:03:28
    Alice and Miriam discuss what might have happened if she hadn’t accepted a job offer in Poland in her twenties, and had stayed living and working in London instead. Along the way they talk about the perspective you get from travel, how to step back and examine the system you're living in and the pros and cons of mainstream publishing. Alice also has a very scandalous home counties affair.Alice Jolly is a novelist and playwright Alice Jolly. She won the 2014 V. S. Pritchett Memorial Prize with one of her short stories, ‘Ray the Rottweiler’, and her memoir Dead Babies and Seaside Towns won the 2016 PEN Ackerley Prize. Her novel Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile was longlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize and shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize. In 2021, Jolly was awarded an O. Henry Prize for her short story ‘From Far Around They Saw Us Burn’ and the story collection of the same name is out now and available in your local bookshop.Make sure to subscribe to hear the rest of Season 4 – in each episode, Miriam Robinson interviews a guest about another path their life might have taken. Together, step by step, they write the stories of their unlived lives. Produced by Neil Mason