Category Archives: Memorious News

Duped: Rob Arnold on JT LeRoy


Memorious reached out to Rob Arnold, one of the magazine’s cofounders who left the magazine in 2008,  to weigh in on the controversy surrounding JT LeRoy, an author who purported to be—among many other things—a queer H.I.V. positive former child sex worker from West Virginia, but was later revealed to be Laura Albert, a 30-something woman from Brooklyn. This story has generated much attention, as LeRoy amassed a great deal of fame and a collection of celebrity admirers in the early 2000’s. The first issue of Memorious contains what we now believe is the last short story Albert published as LeRoy; Albert had also published stories as Leroy in The Oxford American, Zoetrope: All-Story, and McSweeney’s. In the wake of renewed interest following the release of the documentary film Author: The JT LeRoy Story, and the earlier documentary The Cult of JT LeroyRob Arnold shares his experience working with JT LeRoy. (The editors of Memorious would like to note that while the original story remains online, due to our policy of archiving all of our issues as they were published, we would not have published this story had we known of the deception behind it.)

Duped. That was the word on my mind the morning of November 9th, when I and millions of people like me around the world woke up to a new America. Which turned out to be the same, sad, disappointing America it had always been—the same dangerous America, self-destructive America, the same damaged and demonized America—with a horrible twist. The twist is you were living in half a country all along. The twist is you wake in the night convinced it was all a horrible dream. And then the stomach sinks, the realization dawns. Bubbles burst.

I know something about duplicity. Thirteen years ago, I answered a Craigslist ad for a writer who needed help with his website. He sounded young on the phone, frail and effeminate. Was his Appalachian accent real or feigned? I thought feigned, but over time I came not to care, taken in by the cult of celebrity that swirled around him. The feverish, almost maniacal loyalty of his fans. The writer was JT LeRoy, and his devotees included Courtney Love, Winona Ryder, Billy Corgan, Gus Van Sant and many others. At a SoHo launch party for LeRoy’s third book, I stood next to David Byrne and Jerry Harrison. I turned around and saw Shirley Manson lost in conversation with Lou Reed.

Eventually, LeRoy himself appeared, a quivering slip of a man, barely five feet tall, it seemed. When he read from his novella, he was either too shy or too wounded to project, his voice barely a whisper. The audience loved him anyway.

LeRoy was a genius at gathering people to his cause, and I was no different. People admired the prose, but they swooned for his back story. At varying points, LeRoy had claimed to be a homeless abuse survivor, a truck stop prostitute, an HIV-infected drug addicted transsexual. The adjectives piled up. He was a teenaged prodigy who escaped life on the streets, who turned to writing as a form of therapy, an unbelievable demonstration of resilience over trauma.


I met LeRoy later that night, at an afterparty in a hotel bar. It was the only time we would meet in person. I had been his web master for a year, had redesigned the site from the ground up and registered his domain name, linking the database record to my own name and contact info. As payment for my services, LeRoy told me to take credit for some photographs that COLORS Magazine was planning to use in an issue featuring LeRoy. Whatever COLORS paid for the photos, I could accept as payment. Hesitantly I agreed, worried the real photographer would somehow find me out.

COLORS never called, and I never did get paid for my time. LeRoy and I parted ways shortly after the launch party, and I moved on to other projects. But not before convincing him to contribute a story to the first issue of an online magazine I was starting with my then-girlfriend. Long after the story appeared, we would occasionally still receive unsolicited submissions from LeRoy’s fans. As an ambitious young editor, I brushed off these submissions as the price I had to pay for scoring what would become the last story LeRoy would ever publish.


Sometime in the summer of 2006, I got a strange phone call from a man who’d found my number from a WhoIs search on JT LeRoy’s domain name. He asked if I’d met LeRoy, if I knew him in person, if I was in fact JT LeRoy himself. I don’t remember now whether he gave his name or not. I answered as truthfully as I could and hung up, perplexed but convinced it was one of LeRoy’s fans, playing a prank or just trying to get close to LeRoy. Later that year, New York Magazine published an exposé on JT LeRoy, claiming LeRoy was a literary hoax invented by a middle-aged woman in San Francisco named Laura Albert. Was it Stephen Beachy who had contacted me, the reporter who finally broke through JT LeRoy’s deception? It seems likely, though what if anything he might have gleaned from me remains unclear.

The details of LeRoy’s unraveling are well known by now, infamous in literary circles. The story of how Laura Albert duped the entire celebrity establishment into believing in a figment named Jeremiah “Terminator” LeRoy—how she faked her voice, how she hired her partner’s sister to play the physical manifestation of LeRoy—is now the subject two separate documentaries. It will soon be a major motion picture starring Kristen Stewart, Helena Bonham Carter, and James Franco, based on the memoir of the young woman who played LeRoy in public appearances. The second documentary was released earlier this year, on the tenth anniversary of Albert’s outing. Of the two, it is the more affectionate portrait, simultaneously blaming Albert’s deceit on her own history of abuse yet somehow lauding her brilliant charade. Like clockwork, new editions of LeRoy’s books have been reissued. Laura Albert seems positioned for some kind of unbelievable comeback. Nowhere in the documentary do we hear from the kinds of fans who had looked to JT LeRoy for strength and inspiration, who had written and submitted their own stories of trauma to editors like myself, hoping they too could escape their destinies and rub elbows with rock stars, have flings with movie directors. Like many voices, theirs have been lost to time.

And where does that leave me? Is it strange to wake up in November of 2016 and feel nostalgia for past times marked by Albert’s duplicity? Real harm was done. And under the banner of this new presidency, I fear more harm is yet to come. Tangible harm. Harm that will mark and implicate us all. How do we judge somebody like Laura Albert now, knowing what else is at stake?

Maybe we don’t need to. Many years have passed, and some people loosen over time, becoming different expressions of themselves under different circumstances. In the age of Donald Trump, soon to be known as the Age of Misinformation, who are we to know one truth from another truth? Who is Laura Albert now? Who am I now? Who are we all?


Rob Arnold cofounded Memorious and was coeditor from 2004-2008. His poems, essays, and interviews have appeared in PloughsharesHyphenNatural Bridge, and elsewhere. He lives in Boston where he works at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency and coedits Grid Books.

For original poetry, fiction, art song, art, and more interviews, please visit our magazine at


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Memorious New Assistant Editors

Memorious searched high and low to find the best people to join our team. Thanks to everyone who applied. Competition was fierce and our decisions were difficult. We lost sleep. Our stomachs had issues. But it was worth the trouble: We are now overjoyed to introduce our new assistant editors…


natalie-profile-pictureNatalie Mesnard comes to us from Ninth Letter, where she was the Web Edition editor for the Summer 2015 and Summer 2016 issues of Ninth Letter Online. She earned her MFA from the University of Illinois and is now based in Ossining, New York. Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and book reviews have appeared online and in print with journals such as Copper Nickel, The Gettysburg Review, Green Mountains Review, The Journal, Kenyon Review Online, and Tampa Review. She can be found online at


wendy-oleson-photoWendy Oleson comes to us from Prairie Schooner, where she was a Senior Fiction Reader. She is also a former Memorious contributor (check out her stunning story “The Glass Girl” in Memorious 24). She is a fiction writer, poet, and essayist whose work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Copper Nickel, Baltimore Review, PANK, The Normal School, and The Journal. Oleson was a Van Sickle Fellow at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she earned her PhD. She is a recipient of a Washington Square Review Fiction Award, the Elizabeth Bruss Prize, and the storySouth Million Writers Award.


Derricaustink Austin is the author of Trouble the Water (BOA Editions 2016), selected by Mary Szybist for the 2015 A. Poulin Jr Prize. A Cave Canem fellow, Pushcart Prize and four-time Best New Poets nominee, he earned his MFA at the University of Michigan where he also earned Hopwood Awards in poetry. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best American Poetry 2015, New England Review, Image: A Journal of Arts and Religion, Memorious, Callaloo, Nimrod, Crab Orchard Review, and other journals and anthologies. He is the 2016-2017 Ron Wallace Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing.


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Memorious @ AWP 2016


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2015 Memorious Art Song Contest

We are pleased to announce the 2015-2016 Memorious Art Song Contest, featuring guest composer Elizabeth A. Kelly. Kelly will select a poem or set of poems from one poet to set in an original work that will be recorded and published in an issue of Memorious. Finalists for the contest will have their work considered for publication. For guidelines for this no-fee contest, please visit the Memorious Submittable page. To learn more about art song, see this introduction by our former contest producer, Eric Malmquist.

ElizabethAKelly_headshotElizabeth A. Kelly is an American/British composer currently based in the United Kingdom. Her works have been performed at major venues throughout the United States and Europe including Carnegie Hall in New York, the Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in the UK and the Gaudeamus Festival in the Netherlands. Her compositions have been commissioned and performed by diverse ensembles including Alarm Will Sound (US), the ASKO Schoenberg Ensemble (Netherlands), the Curious Chamber Players (Sweden), the Liverpool Philharmonic’s Ensemble 10/10 (UK), the Albany Symphony Dogs of Desire (US), and the New York and Netherlands Youth Symphonies. Her work has been recognized with two Morton Gould Awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and numerous other prizes. Kelly earned a Ph.D. in music composition from the Eastman School of Music. She also holds degrees from Yale, the University of Michigan, and The Hague Royal Conservatory in the Netherlands. Her compositions have been published by Donemus, released by Huddersfield Contemporary Records and Centaur Records, and supported by a MacDowell Colony Fellowship. She is an Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Nottingham. For more information, please visit UPDATE: Kelly’s setting of winner Trenton Pollard’s poetry will have its world premiere on November 11th in Nottingham, UK.  Find information and tickets here.

A little history of our Art Song Contest:

The Memorious Art Song Contest was born in 2009 through a collaboration between editor Rebecca Morgan Frank and producer Eric Malmquist, director of Singers on New Ground (SONG), after Frank met our first guest composer, Randall West, at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. West selected three poems by Jill McDonough to set, and these works were performed as part of SONG’s Ars Poetica Concert in Curtiss Hall at the Fine Arts Building in Chicago in April 2010 and appeared in Issue 14 of Memorious. In 2011 our second guest composer Luke Gullickson, selected Katie Peterson’s “The Accounts” as the contest winner, and this work was performed as part of SONG’s Ars Poetica Concert in Curtiss Hall at the Fine Arts Building in Chicago October 2011 and appeared in Issue 17. In May 2013, guest composer Brian Baxter’s setting of Richie Hofmann’s “Old World Elegy,” the winner of our third Art Song Contest, was performed at the Poetry Foundation and published in our tenth anniversary issue, issue 20. This year we continue the tradition of bringing poets and composers together. Please join us!

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Memorious at AWP: A Guide to Contributor Book Signings


Many of our readers and contributors are headed to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference in Minneapolis this upcoming week. In the past, we have hosted a bookfair table and a variety of both official and offsite events where we have gotten to meet you. Readers and contributors, we have loved seeing you every year!

But this year we want to spend more time getting out and discovering writers at readings and panels, and we want to turn our attention to what is the heart of our magazine: the work of our contributors. I’ve gone through the AWP Bookfair author signings list and created a list of our contributors who will be there signing their books. We hope you’ll find this guide useful. Print it out, take it with you, and if you buy one of our contributors’ books, I hope  you’ll tell them Memorious sent you!

See you in Minneapolis,

Rebecca Morgan Frank

Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief,

Author Signings by Memorious Contributors

AWP Bookfair, Minneapolis

Dan Albergotti

Thursday 11- 12 Table 336

Mary Biddinger

Thursday 2-3, Black Lawrence Press, table 2030

Kelly Cherry

Thursday 2-3, University of Wisconsin Press, table 507

Michael White

Friday 10-11:30, Persea Books, table 1424 and 1422

Lisa Williams

Thursday 11-12, New Issues Poetry & Prose

G.C. Waldrep

Thursday 2-3, BOA Editions, table 832 and 830

Adam Day

Thursday 4-5, Sarabande Books, table 909

Michael Bazzett

Friday 11:30-12:30, Milkweed Editions, table 702-4

Karin Gottshall

Friday 10-11, Fordham University Press, table 425

Friday 2-3, The Journal, table 1218

B.J. Hollars

Friday 10-10:30, University of New Mexico Press, table 608

Traci Brimhall

Friday 10:30-11:30, Crab Orchard Review, table 827

Andrea Cohen

Friday 11-12, Four Way Books, table 1425-1423

Anne Valente

Friday 11:30-12:30, The Cincinnati Review, table 1730

Angela Ball

Friday 1-2, Mississippi Review/Center for Writer, table 924

Nickole Brown

Friday 1-2, BOA Editions, table 832-830

Oliver de la Paz

Friday 1-2, University of Akron Press, table 933

Jason Koo

Friday 1-2, Brooklyn Poets, table 625

Caki Wilkinson

Friday 1-2, Persea Books, table 1424 and 1422

Tyler Mills

Friday 1:30-2:30, Crab Orchard Review, table 827

Tarfia Faizullah

Friday 2-3, Crab Orchard Review, table 827

Jehanne Dubrow

Friday 2-3, University of New Mexico Press, table 608

Timothy Liu

Friday 2-3, Saturnalia Books, table 1519

Kimberly Johnson

Friday 3-4:30, Persea Books, table 1424, 1422

Sarah Rose Nordgren

Friday 4:30 PM – 5:00 PM, University of Pittsburgh Press, Table 1504, 1502

Eric Pankey

Saturday 9:30-10:30, Milkweed Editions, table 702 and 704

Cathy Linh Che

Saturday 1-2, Alice James Books, table 1009

Sara Eliza Johnson

Saturday, 3:15-4:15, Milkweed Editions, table 702 and 704


(If you are a contributor who has a bookfair signing that wasn’t listed in the AWP directory, post it in the comments and I’ll add it to the list. Contributors only, please.)

For original poetry, fiction, art song and art, please visit our magazine at

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Art Song Contest Winners

We are please to announce the results of our 2012 Art Song Contest.

Composer Brian Baxter has selected poet Richie Hofmann as the winner. Baxter’s setting of Hofmann’s poem “Old World Elegy” will be performed in Chicago as part of Singers On New Ground’s annual Ars Poetica concert scheduled for Spring 2013. A studio recording of the piece will be published alongside the poem in the Spring/Summer issue of Memorious.

Richie Hofmann is the recipient of a 2012 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship.  His poems appear or are forthcoming in a number of magazines, including Poetry, the Yale Review, and the New Yorker, and have been honored with the Academy of American Poets Prize, the 2011 AWP Intro Journal Award for Poetry, and the Tennessee Williams Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.  He is currently pursuing an MFA in the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars.

The four finalists for the contest were Sam Cha, Keith Leonard, Tyler Mills, and Phoebe Reeves. This year’s contest drew an impressive pool of entries: thank you to all of the poets who sent us their work.

For original poetry, fiction, interviews, art, and art song, please visit our magazine at

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Issue 18 is live!

Issue 18 of Memorious is now live and ready to take you on some summer adventures!

Wander into the octopus lab or the alligator park in our fiction section with stories by Anne Valente and Michael Cooper.

Travel to the James River of Virginia with cover artist photographer Michael Kolster via his stunning glass photographs. Kolster explains the process of the ambrotype, and his project with rivers, in our Views section. You can can see this luminous work live at upcoming shows opening on July 12th at the Schroeder Romero and Shredder Gallery in New York and July 14th at Bowdoin College in Maine.

Encounter the poems of Oliver de la Paz, Hafizah Geter, Tyler Mills, Alexis Orgera, Sean Singer, Greg Wrenn, Lisa Williams, and many more poets we’re proud to bring to you.

Join former contributor Joanna Luloff as she interviews the fabulous Margot Livesey about her most recent book, The Flight of Gemma Harding.

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