Manuscript Consultation Program Alum: Eva-Lynn Jagoe

After participating in our  Manuscript Consultation Program Alum: Eva-Lynn Jagoe published her memoir Take Her, She’s Yours with Punctum Books. In this interview, we discuss writing for academia, how yoga informs Eva-Lynn’s writing practice, how to label hybrid projects, her path to publication, and more.


Black Lawrence Press: The description for your book Take Her, She’s Yours begins like this: “We say, you belong to me, or I belong to you. But is it possible to be possessed by others? And can we ever possess ourselves? In this raw and intimate account, Eva-Lynn Jagoe merges memoir with critical theory as she recounts the unraveling of everything she thought she knew about selfhood, relationships, and desire.” Can you point to a moment when you knew you wanted to write this book?

Eva-Lynn Jagoe: At first, I thought that I wanted to write an academic book about feminism and sexuality. I tried to do that, but found that I was uncomfortable trying to make any kinds of statements about what girls and women encounter or experience. The only experience that I could write about with certainty was, I realized, my own. So I somewhat reluctantly wrote a memoir! Even though there are parts of it that I wish weren’t publicly out there in the world, I am happy with the way that I was able to really show readers what it is like to be on the psychoanalytic couch.

BLP: In addition to your work as a writer and professor, you are also a yoga instructor. Do you think your yoga practice informs your writing practice?

ELJ: One of the most important things I have learned in teaching yoga is to not take things personally. What I mean is that I believe that students come to yoga for the power of the practice itself. As a teacher, I have to be able to explain and share my insights, but I also need to step out of the way in order to allow the students to build their own personal relationships with the practice and its benefits. I think this is like writing–hone the craft in order to express the ideas and emotions so that they can impact your readers in whatever way they will. In yoga and in writing, you never know how a particular word choice or instruction will land for each body/reader, but you just keep trying to share what you have learned because you know how much it has benefited you.

BLP: More and more authors are writing and publishing hybrid works. What do you make of this trend? And what terminology do you use to label Take Her, She’s Yours?

ELJ: I am a professor who has really turned towards what is sometimes termed “the public humanities.” I aim to write in a way that reaches a broader public so that all my training in critical theory can be accessible to people who have not dedicated years of their lives to this pursuit. I write in a way that my undergraduate students can read because if I can’t write for them, then I feel that there is something wrong with the kind of thinking I’m doing. I really appreciate that others are writing this kind of hybrid work. Ideas and concepts from critical theory should and can be part of other kinds of discourse, and it’s really revelatory and helpful to read about the very personal ways that theory affects a writer’s everyday life.

I call my book a critical memoir, or sometimes I just say creative nonfiction.

EJ Colen

BLP: How long did it take you to write Take Her, She’s Yours, and what was the revision process like? How did your work with EJ Colen contribute to this process?

ELJ: It took me probably about ten years from when I first started trying to figure out the genre and writing essays on feminism. I wrote most intensely on it for about two years. At the end of the first year, I realized that I really didn’t want it to be an academic book, and deleted 45,000 words.

EJ Colen was super helpful in sharing ideas for edits, rewordings, structure, and organization. She also told me how personally impactful she found the book to be. Her help came at a time when I really was able to incorporate her feedback in productive ways. I appreciated her thoughts, especially because I had hired another editor beforehand who had told me categorically that I could write a book about my therapy and no one would ever read it. Colen was the opposite of this–supportive, constructive, and really generative.

BLP: What can you tell me about your experience with Punctum Books, publisher of Take Her, She’s Yours?

ELJ: Punctum was excellent! Very quick to get edits done and to send me the proofs. They always instantly respond whenever I have a question, and they did try to help with the publicity, though I had to do that mostly on my own. I love how they formatted the book (it’s very beautiful as a hard copy) and I am very happy that it’s open access online, so that anyone who wants to read it can download it online for free.

BLP: What advice would you give to writers who are currently searching for publishers for their hybrid manuscripts?

ELJ: It took me a long time to find a publisher. Most agents told me that you have to write a novel first before you can publish a memoir. I think that is changing as more and more hybrid work becomes recognized as a genre of its own, but I still think it’s hard to get published. Small presses are definitely the way to go, and you can often get really constructive feedback from them even if they reject you. 

BLP: What are you working on now?

ELJ: I’m writing essays on farming and my family. I’m also writing a novel that takes place in Catalonia, Spain. It is about a family that feuds over a mansion in the countryside. It is based on my family, but it also has a character who is living the effects of climate change in the 2040s. 

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Excerpt from Take Her, She’s Yours


I came out of the subway into a torrential summer rainstorm. As I looked out from behind the door, the water was puddling and splashing down in sheets. I hated being late but knew that if I ran for it — across the little playground, through the big parking lot behind the shops, and up Dury Avenue, I would be drenched. I pulled out my phone at 9:02 and, to Dr. O’s hoarse greeting, gushed that I was coming as soon as I could risk the downpour. His “I see” was dry, giving me no sympathy or reprieve. 

Did he think I was making excuses? Stalling for time? Obviously, he was judging me for my disorganization since I hadn’t checked the weather forecast like all the other commuters walking past me with their umbrellas raised against the deluge. There I stood, losing minutes of my session, giving him more fodder for disapproval. I waited for a break in the clouds. There was none. So I decided to stuff my cardigan in my backpack and run in my tank top and skirt. Once there, I could strip off the soaking shirt and wear just the sweater. 

I didn’t, however, just do it. I called him first. “I’m going to brave the storm. I’ll probably be soaked, so you should have a towel ready.” 

He just said, “I’m here.” 

“I just thought I should tell you in case you thought I wasn’t coming for a while and you were about to start on some other task. I’m still going to use my time with you today.”

I was digging myself deeper into some demand on him that exceeded the situation, so I hung up and ran. 

When I was almost there, I slowed down, not wanting to pant too much as I lay on the couch. I knew that if I felt self-conscious about my breathing, I would be unable to catch my breath, which would make me more anxious. I took my soaking sandals off at the door and walked down the 5 steps. He was standing in the open door of the consulting room. 

“I’ll be there in a minute,” I said and ducked into the bathroom, using both hand towels to dry my calves and shoulders before I changed. He laid out, not a towel, but a scratchy wool rug, on top of the couch. My skin prickled away from it, damp and cold from the air conditioning. My toes felt numb. The rain continued outside the window as I muddled through the session, not admitting that the main thing I was thinking about was that he should offer me an umbrella to walk to the subway. 

That summer, I read the essay that would lead me to teach a full-year graduate seminar on Marcel Proust. It was Walter Benjamin’s “The Image of Proust,” in which he characterized Proust as an author who relentlessly tries to get a response out of his reader. Benjamin creates a scenario to depict this Proustian demand in the form of a letter that Proust could have written: 

My dear Madam, I just noticed that I forgot my cane at your house yesterday; please be good enough to give it to the bearer of this letter. P.S. Kindly pardon me for disturbing you; I just found my cane. 

Not surprisingly, I misremembered the cane as an umbrella. I told Dr. O about the story, more tickled than I expected by its perfect exemplarity. The letter-writer asks and yet does not ask; demands an answer and fears that one will be given. He reaches out to the dear Madam and ramps up an increasingly anxious discourse in the face of her silence. Like my initial asking for Dr. O’s phone number, the letter-writer demands not the object (which he already has, even if he doesn’t know that he does) but something more excessive. He asks her to be his witness as he performs his need for companionship and help. I read it as an 

audacious presumption on her time, and yet I was charmed by his attempt to create a bond with her that reminded her of his presence. 

My version of the letter would have been something like: 

Offer me your protection, Dr. O! I’m incapable of fending off the wetness. Stop it from soaking into me; stop it from oozing out of me; stop me from exposing myself to it. 

But—don’t you dare patronize me or pity me. I don’t need anything from you, and I would reject it if you offered. 

And — how do I know what would be okay to ask and what would be too much? After the embarrassment of asking for your phone number, I don’t dare ask you for anything. 

Dr. O did not offer me an umbrella. And I didn’t ask for one. I just put my wet shoes on and splashed my way back to the subway. 



Eva-Lynn Jagoe is a Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature and Vice Principal of Innis College at the University of Toronto, where she teaches courses in environmental humanities and creative writing. She is working on a novel about Catalonia, called Casanoble, and has written a memoir called Take Her, She’s Yours. Eva-Lynn writes both academic and non-academic essays about family, farming, and place. Her family stewards Solarity Acres, a permaculture food forest in British Columbia. She is also an Iyengar yoga teacher.