In this episode, it’s my pleasure to welcome Christina Brobby, a wonderful lyric writer and instructor, to the podcast. We start by getting into what exactly lyric writing is, if you’re wondering, so that will be cleared up right away. Christina also delves into how the “filter is the form” as she wonderfully sums it up.

Listen for more of our exploration of empathy for writers. And Christina also kindly and insightfully brings in the necessity of practising empathy with yourself as a writer. And listen for ways she’s used the form to explore the impact our surroundings have on us, to see working in fragments as a feature and not a bug in our memories as creative nonfiction essay writers and to generally get excited about the variety of brilliant voices using lyric essay forms to tell their stories.


Resources from the Episode

  • Christina Brobby’s website:
  • The Spark Your Story Intensive offered by Nicole Breit
  • Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End by Elizabeth Levine
  • Tell It Slant by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola
  • Brevity magazine
  • The Fourth State Of Matter” by Jo Ann Beard
  • The Chronology of Water by Lydia Yuknovich
  • Bluets by Maggie Nelson
  • In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
  • Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End by Elizabeth Levine
  • Persephone’s Children by Rowan McCandless
  • Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related. by Jenny Heijun Wills
  • Zong by M. NourbeSe Philip
  • Sign up for my Writerly Love Letters—they are filled with support for your writing practice and sent every other week.
Transcript for Write, Publish, and Shine Episode 67


Christina Brobby, Rachel Thompson

Rachel Thompson 00:00

Hello luminous writers, it’s Rachel here doing the unusual thing of popping in before the episode to let you know it’s something time sensitive, because today will be our final workshop in our series that we’ve had all month, loosely based around the theme of empathy for writers.


And today’s workshop is called Lyric Prose: Experimenting with Form. And that workshop is hosted by Christina Brobby, who is the guest for this episode as well.


So, if you’re listening to this in real-time, like right when it’s released, then there is still time to sign up for the workshop. It’s happening at 12:30pm Eastern Time to give you a frame of reference for what time it’s happening at. All the writers come in from all over the world to join these workshops. We’ve had some brilliant times writing together this month. And I’m just really grateful for everyone who showed up as well.


If you’re listening to this later in our space time continuum, and you didn’t catch the workshop that’s happening today, February 28, then you can still access the workshops if you become a member of my Writerly Love community, all of our workshops that we hold live-on in our member library. So, I’ll just mention that as well.


But if you’re here live now, right in sync with me, then you can find out more at


If you’re a little later, and you want to become a member and access the workshops we had this month and all the workshops we’ve had before which are many, many, you could find out more at


Welcome luminous writers to the Write, Publish and Shine podcast. I’m your host, author and literary magazine editor, Rachel Thompson. This podcast explores how to write and share your brilliant writing with the world. In each episode, we delve into specifics on how to polish and prepare your writing for publication, and the journey from emerging writer to publish author.


In this episode, it’s my pleasure to welcome Christina Brobby to the podcast, a wonderful lyric writer and instructor.


In this episode it’s my pleasure to welcome Christina Brobby to the podcast, a wonderful lyric writer and instructor. We start by getting into what exactly is lyric writing, if you’re wondering so that will be cleared up right way. Christina also delves into the ways the “filter is the form” as she wonderfully sums it up.


Listen for more of our exploration of empathy for writers, and Christina also kindly and insightfully brings in the necessity of practicing empathy with yourself as a writer. And listen for ways she’s used the form to explore the impact our surroundings have on us, to see working in fragments as a feature and not a bug in our memories as creative nonfiction essay writers and to generally get excited about the variety of brilliant voices using lyric essay forms to tell their stories.


So, here is Christina Brobby. Hi, Tina, and welcome to the podcast. There’s sometimes confusion about the umbrella term “lyric essay”—what does that term mean to you and what does it (and does it not) encompass?

Tina 03:23

For me, I think lyric essay is where poetry meets prose, which melding of the two. And I think of things like language and imagery. And there’s a lack of linearity often in lyric prose. It’s almost like a meandering and lots of white space, both figuratively and imaginatively, and fragmentation. Trusting the reader.


I think that’s a big one because you’ve got those white spaces or blanks, the blanks in what you’re not saying and leaving that to the reader to work out. And I’d say often there’s the meditative tone to a piece, a lyric prose piece, in terms of what it doesn’t encompass, I think, reported stories, opinion pieces, perhaps, where making a point really clear is the most important thing. That’s what comes to mind.

Rachel Thompson 04:25

What led you to lyric writing, and how have you honed your writing toolbox with the options and flexibility it provides?

Tina 04:32

There was a course that I took called Spark Your Story back in, I think it was 2018, with Nicole Breit, who’s this really gifted instructor, teacher, mentor, and, you know, really cheers your work. And I’d previously heard of the lyric essay in another course, but I hadn’t explored it until I took Nicole’s course. And that really just, I think, exploded things in terms of my writing, in terms of my writing style and how I approached writing, and in terms of honing. I mean, I do take lots of courses. I always seem to be looking for another course to take, but a lot of it really is just honing those skills by practicing and experimenting and always keeping the lyric prose aspects in mind, regardless of what you’re starting to write.

Rachel Thompson 05:23

Yes, a lot of writers who I work with have also taken that course with Nicole Breit and we’ll link to it in the show notes for anyone interested. Thank you for mentioning that and the importance of taking writing courses to improve your writing craft. I love hearing how you’re honing those skills. As you are born, how do you know what shape a story or poem wants to take, and what practices help you find a form?

Tina 05:49

Yes, sometimes I have no idea, and I think probably most of us don’t weather what the shape wants to be. So, I think I tend to have two different approaches. One is to just try and get that story down on paper first, all of its ugly facts and just linearity and all of that, because that was what I was doing for years in terms of my professional life. And so that’s one way, just trying to make sure I capture what I think is important at the time, and then I’ll play with it once I feel comfortable. That the essence of the story is there.


And then the other way, which I noticed is becoming increasingly common for me is just too literally write the story in fragments. And I think this is particularly useful if it’s a difficult story. But my mind tends to be fairly fragmented, and I think a lot of us do that. So I just write what comes to me on any particular day, and then I gather all of those pieces over time and then start playing with them and filling in transitions and those kinds of things if needs be.


In terms of knowing what shape or story what shape or story or poem wants to take, I think it really depends.


Once I’ve got it down, then that’s when I’ll start playing, looking for what’s missing. Whether it’s research, another aspect of bringing in something else or playing with point of view.


If there’s gaps in memory, how I can deal with those gaps, like what form might help sort of deal with gaps in a story and whether the story feels flat if it does, then how can I make that zing? How can I bring it really to life with one of the forms?

Rachel Thompson 07:33

Yes, hearing it depends is both really liberating in terms of anything goes, but also daunting because…anything goes and where do you start? Where should someone start if they want to start experimenting with less linear, more lyric forms?

Tina 07:49

Well, there’s one book that I’ve used for years that I would really recommend and it’s Tell It Slant by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola. And it’s great for not only explaining the forms but also giving examples.


So that’s one of my go-to books. And then I think reading a lot online. Like, there’s an online journal called Brevity, and that has, obviously, lots of short stories, often lyric prose pieces, not always, but that’s a good one. And then I think just taking something that isn’t working for you, that, you know, isn’t working maybe it’s been sitting five or somewhere for a couple of years, just taking that out and playing with it. Say, trying it.


In two or three different forms, like a collage or a hermit crap or braided or flash fiction and seeing what you can do with that. And I think that applies both in even if you’ve got a poem, you can do that because sometimes something just doesn’t want to be a poem. It wants to be large or it wants to be maybe more specific. So I think just playing it and it brings the fun back into your writing. Right.


And I think that’s always important.

Rachel Thompson 09:07

What ways can lyric forms help us share difficult stories? (I think of the hermit crab that is meant to be a protective shell for the writer, when I ask this.) And what are the limitations of this?

Tina 09:19

I do love the hermit crab. For accessing more difficult topics, whether it’s difficult for me to write or whether I think it might be difficult for a reader, I think in a sense it’s like adding a filter between you and the subject matter. And the filter is the form. And in a sense, in an odd sense, that does make it more accessible. You think about filters, and you think, oh, you’re putting some distance.


But it’s not necessarily about that. And I think that’s also true for the collage essay where maybe there’s not one particular focus on one aspect of the story, and it seems to wander off to branching off in different directions. But when you read it carefully, things come together and you’re able to as you’re writing it, you’re able to touch lightly on perhaps difficult aspects of the story. In terms of limitations, I think one that comes to mind is if you are dealing with an emotionally difficult story or something that’s been difficult to you’ve been reluctant to write for a while. I think, regardless of its form, it’s really important to practice self-care, taking breaks if needed, and they may be breaks of weeks, but always checking in with yourself as well.

Rachel Thompson 10:34

Tina, can you tell us some of your favorite examples of writing that use lyric forms?

Tina 10:40

Interestingly, I was thinking about this in terms of longer forms, like memoirs in particular, because I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs lately. So one of my favorite short pieces, though, is, I think, Joanne Beard’s braided essay, “The Fourth State Of Matter.” That’s still one that I just come back to, and I’m surprised, even though I know the ending, I’m always surprised by surprised by it. And what I find again in that piece for the books, I think Lidia Yachnavich’s, The Chronology of Water, Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, which is basically collage, all about the color blue. Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House, and then a couple of Canadian authors that sort of on my shelves and my go-to books.


Liz Levine’s Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End, which is about the death by suicide of her sister. And Rowan McCandless’ Persephoneous Children, which deals with difficult subject matter like domestic violence. And then Jenny Heijun Wills, Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related. But those are the ones that come to mind for me.

Rachel Thompson 11:55

As I mentioned to you, before we started recording, we’re exploring empathy as a theme this month in our writing community—with a critical approach to the term. What do you think can be both the benefits and downsides to empathy for both writers and readers?

Tina 12:14

I think this applies to fiction as much as nonfiction, but I think of characters, and I think there’s a tendency often in nonfiction to think that we’ve got this character and we just have to write them, but it’s as important as in fiction to make those characters really well rounded and complicated. And I think looking at that character with an empathetic lens really is going to do that for you. So, it’s going to bring that character alive and make them more well-rounded and distinct and more relatable.


So that comes to mind for me in terms of empathy, I think just approaching your characters, approaching your whole piece with empathy, but also yourself, practicing empathy with yourself. We have those days when we sit there and just stare forever at the screen and nothing comes out, or what we do, we think is absolutely terrible and we’re not going to use it anyway. So why are we doing all of this?


I think just recognizing that there’s many of us in the same boat and yet somehow, we produce work. And then I think, for the reader, I think it’s harder there because we don’t have control. But I always hope that the reader is going to look at this with an empathetic lens. I think one of the things that comes to mind for me is when you think about poetry, maybe you don’t think about empathy or memoir or whatever, but I think if we do apply that empathetic sort of lens to it, regardless of what comes out on the page. In the end, I think the reader is going to have that sense that it was written, that and it might not be a conscious thing, but there’s just some emotional more of an emotional connection to it.


I couldn’t think of any downsides, to be honest, in terms of approaching your work or hoping that empathy somehow filters into your work.

Rachel Thompson 14:16

I’m interrupting my conversation with Christina Brobby to invite you to hone your craft, build your writing platform, and connect with other luminous creative writers in the Writerly Love community. This is my warm, inclusive and supportive membership community for creative writers to get together and learn about everything from writing craft and getting published to building a platform and sustaining yourself as a writer. It is a place to grow aluminous writing career with a community of brilliant peers.


And the workshop that we mentioned with Christina Brobby is part of our permanent collection in the member library, as are all of the workshops that have been discussed in the last few episodes, along with countless of this. If you’re ready to learn and grow, I’d love to have you join the Writerly Love membership community. Registration is open year-round now. And I offer a sliding scale pricing model to make it accessible to as many writers as possible.


You can learn more and sign up at #Rachel


All right, I want to turn to your writing now. And I know that you write stories that explore place, identity, race and other themes. Can you talk a bit about what drew you to those topics?

Tina 15:32

Well, as a child, my mother loved moving, and so we did it often and got used to new places. And then after I left home, I moved to Canada, first to Toronto, live there for a number of years, and then to my current home here in the Yukon. And I spent a lot of time thinking of the impact our surroundings have on us, whether it’s being on holiday and that feeling of discombobulating that comes with that, especially in the first few days when everything’s unfamiliar, or whether it’s moving to a place and feeling immediately at home. So, yeah, I think place has always really drawn me. And then I’m obsessed about writing about identity and race, and I think that part of that stems from, or a lot of it stems from being a woman of color who grew up with wide adoptive parents, and so I didn’t look like anyone else when I was growing up.


And then when I had my son, his features were strikingly similar to one of his uncles who was just a little bit older than him, and I was always fascinated with that. And then when I did find my first father, so my birth father, there was that striking similarity between the two of us. And now I have a grandson who looks like me. And so, this idea of likeness and being alike, is something that I’ll never take for granted. And I’m just absolutely fascinated with that whole sort of idea.

Rachel Thompson 17:03

And what are you writing right now, Tina?

Tina 17:05

I just finished up a three-month course with Lidia Yachnavich. Actually, who I mentioned that her memoir that she wrote called Chronology of Water, and it was a course that was designed for writers working on a full-length book project and something that was maybe sort of where we were either struggling with form or something else, but where the form was perhaps going to play a fairly strong feature.


I think she chose pieces that were somewhat unusual. Anyway, I was working on my memoir about finding my first family, and it’s something that’s been in progress for so long and I haven’t been able to find the form on that. And I don’t know why I didn’t give up on it a long time ago. But now, after finishing this course and coming up with some ideas. I’m really excited and I’m motivated to finish it.


So right now, that’s what I’m working on. I’m trying to stay focused, riding on that for a change.

Rachel Thompson 18:04

What forms have you been having fun with or that give you a feeling of experimentation?

Tina 18:10

One of the things that I didn’t find it, but I’ve been playing with in the memoir is found poetry and euatia poetry and the idea of making poetry from found forms and documents. And I think of M. NourbeSe Philip and her book Zong that was created from a legal decision about the massacre of African slaves by a ship’s captain. And so experimenting with the idea of what’s not on the page as much as what we choose to put on the page. That’s really got me excited.


And that will be, I think, part of my memoir now. And then the other thing, because I always have another thing that’s on the go. Even though I’m working on the memoir, technically, I’ve had a collage piece that I’ve been working on. I said earlier that I work in little fragments, and this one’s been in a notebook and on my computer for probably a couple of years now. And I love where it’s leading me in the research.


Now there’s a 80s British movie that forms just a small part of this essay. And when I was down in Vancouver at Christmas, I was walking past a record star window and there was a DVD of my movie that I’ve been trying to sort of half-heartily look for and thinking, I really must get that sometime. And there it was in the window, because now I’ve got it and have to actually watch it and then write about those couple of paragraphs that will finally show up.

Rachel Thompson 19:37

Can you tell us about the workshop you’ll be offering our community on the lyric essay? And what do you hope writers will take away from the experience?

Tina 19:46

It’s intended as an introduction or perhaps a refresher to the lyric essay forms. And I’m hoping that participants have an AHA moment, like a flash of, hey, I think this form might work for that piece. Or I can really bring this to life by slowing down one moment in time or drilling into details, or bringing a moment alive on the page.


I spoke earlier about how excited I am when something does come, and it’s just an incredible experience to have that. And that’s what I hope participants will come away feeling that excitement about a particular piece and wanting to dive back into it.

Rachel Thompson 20:30

Thank you so much, Tina. We’re really looking forward to this!

Tina 20:34

Yeah, I’m looking forward to it too.

Rachel Thompson 20:37

The Writerly Love community is my warm and supportive membership community for creative writers to get together, learn about everything from writing craft and getting published to building a platform and sustaining yourself as a writer.


If you’re ready to learn and grow, I’d love to have you join us.


Learn more and sign up at


So, that was the luminous Christina Brobby, who is teaching a workshop with us today as of this recording release on February 28. If you’re listening after the 28th you missed your chance to learn live from her this time. But all of our workshops live on in our permanent collection in the member library of the Writerly Love community.


You can get all of the details about the Writerly Love membership at


I loved Christina Brobby’s take on the importance of what’s not on the page—the blanks in what you’re not saying and leaving that to the reader to work out as it is something truly delightful for me about reading lyric essays.


She shared so many great examples of must-read lyric writing and all of the titles and author information are up on the podcast page at (this is episode 67).


I love, love, love an essay that has found its perfect form, whether it’s the shell of the hermit crab or another shape, and there’s so much good reading she recommended that I’d encourage you to check out.


The Write, Publish, and Shine podcast is brought to you by me, Rachel Thompson and my co-producer for this episode is the talented Meli Walker. Sound editing is done by Adam Linder of Bespoken Podcasting.


You can learn more about the work I do to help writers, write, publish, and shine at When you’re there, sign up for my Writerly Love Letters, sent every other week, sometimes more often, and filled with support for your writing practice.⁠


If this episode encouraged you to find the filter a.k.a. form for your writing I would love to hear all about it. You can reach me at A little virtue signaling, but I’m not on social media. I popped my head back up and liked a few things on Instagram the other day, but have since then logged out and not returned.


And tell other luminous writers about this episode. You can do this by sending them to the podcast at or searching for Write, Publish, and Shine wherever they get their podcasts.


And this is the way that writers find out about the podcast. As I mentioned, I’m not on social media. I’m not really marketing it in other ways. So [Sysco 23:23] word of mouth is definitely how other writers find us and I really appreciate those referrals. Thank you.


Thank you for listening I encourage you to consider what you can deliberately leave out in as your write your luminous work!


Christina Brobby shared her land acknowledgement.

Tina 23:38

Hi, I’m Christina Brobby, and I’m recording this on the traditional territories of the Kwanandan First Nation and atone Kochan Council up here in the Yukon Territory

Rachel Thompson 23:51

And Meli Walker shared her land acknowledgement for her co-production on this episode.

Meli Walker 23:57

This is Meli Walker recording from unceded W̱SÁNEĆ (wah-SAY—netch) territories.

Rachel Thompson 24:02

I am a guest in the South Sinai, Egypt, on lands historically and presently occupied by the el Muzzina Bedouin.

Pin It on Pinterest