Kerry Cohen is the author of 11 books: Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity; Lush: A Memoir; Seeing Ezra; Girl Trouble: An Illustrated Memoir; The Truth of Memoir: How to Write About Yourself and Others with Honesty, Emotion, and Integrity; Dirty Little Secrets; It’s Not You, It’s Me; The Good Girl; Easy; Constellation of Boys; and, most recently, Crazy for You: Breaking the Spell of Sex and Love Addiction. She is also the editor of Spent, essays about women and shopping. She has been published in numerous journals and media, including The New York Times Modern Love column, Salon, and Brevity. Kerry has been an Oregon Book Award finalist five times (always a bridesmaid…!) and her young adult novels have won the Oregon Spirit Award and been a YALSA Popular Paperback and ALA Quick Pick. Kerry is also a psychologist and therapist with a private practice in Portland, Oregon.
- PsyD in Clinical Psychology, Southern California University
- MFA in Creative Writing, University of Oregon
- BA in English & Cultural Geography, Clark University
Areas of Expertise
- General Nonfiction
- Personal Essay
- Young Adult Fiction
I am most interested in helping emerging writers make sense of being alive. That involves so much of course – being a human being, at this time, in this cultural environment, with these challenges and privileges and existential struggles. In my mind, a studio graduate program in writing must teach craft not as something formulaic, but as crafting inside the larger narratives of society.
Learning to write means also learning to be a writer. You must read like a writer. You must feel compelled, often, to annotate and learn from everything you read, because everything you read teaches you how to write. My teaching always includes some combination of studying a text, having vibrant discussion, and writing prompts based on what was learned. During the semester, when working remotely with students, I like to have an ongoing dialogue with students about their work, about writing in general, and the writing life, with the intention of building a genuine mentoring connection. I remember those teachers who mentored me in this way, some whom I still know, and how valuable they were to me as an emerging writer.
I value immensely the intellectual and creative energy that comes alive when writers gather. That is so much of the joy of teaching creative writing and being a writer. We so often think of writing as a solitary act, and of course there are lots of times when it is, but writing also needs engagement, discussion, and connection. It is hard to be writer! It is both a great privilege and a tremendous challenge. Who said, ‘Being a writer is like having homework for the rest of your life’? It’s so true. We are continually engaged in the process – thinking, researching, taking notes, writing, rewriting, rewriting some more. We spend years (usually) working toward finishing a project, and then as soon as it’s done, the euphoria lasts for about three days. The dissatisfaction creeps in, and we need something new to work on and obsess about. This is not a life we can do by ourselves. Writers need each other.
- Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity, Hachette Books, original 2008, reissued 2021
- Lush: A Memoir, Sourcebooks, 2018
- Girl Trouble: An Illustrated Memoir, Hawthorne Books, 2016
- The Truth of Memoir: How to Write About Yourself and Others with Honesty, Emotion, and Integrity, F&W Media, 2014
- Spent: Exposing Our Complicated Relationship with Shopping, anthology editor, Seal Press, 2014
- Seeing Ezra: A Mother’s Story of Autism, Unconditional Love, and The Meaning of Normal, Seal Press, 2011
- It’s Not You, It’s Me, Delacorte, 2009
- The Good Girl, Delacorte, 2008
- Easy, Simon & Schuster, 2006