© 2019 Sandy Ernest Allen

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Essays, Profiles & Features

Lucy Sherston for them.

Between the Binary: A Farewell to Boobs – them. – Oct. 2019

Navigating uncertainty and doubt about getting top surgery 

The Kirkbride Plan – 99% Invisible – Oct. 2019

Produced a feature for the popular podcast about a forgotten chapter in the history of American mental health care — with present day implications

Out of the Maze – Guernica – Oct. 2019

Searching for meaning in madness at London's Bethlem Museum of the Mind

Between the Binary: My Gmail Won't Stop Deadnaming Me – them. – Oct. 2019

The first installment of my column about being nonbinary and at odds with society. In this piece, I complain about Gmail, Airdrop, Spotify etc. making it nearly impossible to change your name

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Illustration by Ohni Lisle for them.

'That's So Crazy' – Gay Magazine – July 2019  

Why the way we talk about mental health matters

Media Errors in Covering 'Mental Health' – Mad in America – Apr. 2019

Advice to Fellow Writers and Editors

How Marie Kondo Helped Me Sort Out My Gender – them. – Mar. 2019

Her book, ostensibly about cleaning, ended up sparking a much deeper kind of joy

Tallulah Fontaine for them.

The Challenge of Book-Tour Travel as a Non-Binary Author – Lit Hub – Feb. 2019

An essay about coming out as my first book has come out 

My Friendsgiving Isn't a Trend. It's a Lifeline. – Bon Appétit'Healthyish – Nov. 2018 

An essay about the power of sharing food and community  

I Run to Silence My Demons – Bon Appétit'Healthyish – July 2018

A personal essay about how a simple exercise, repeated, nudges me from the abyss

How Pie Keeps Me Steady - BuzzFeed Books - Feb. 2018

A personal essay that reflects on my lifelong love of pie baking, but also about what writing a book about schizophrenia has taught me about how to live in my own head. 

Kati Szilágyi for BuzzFeed News

The Madness Shelf - Powell's Blog - Jan. 2018

A brief essay reflecting upon all the books I still haven't read "about schizophrenia." 

Hearing Voices - Pop-Up Magazine - May/June 2017

A live reported piece about one man's life before and after finding a Hearing Voices Network support group. Performed eight times in five cities during Pop-Up Magazine's Spring 2017 tour.

How Simple Is That?: At Home with Ina Garten - BuzzFeed News - Nov. 2016

An unprecedentedly intimate profile of"The Barefoot Contessa" star and cookbook mogul. 

Christopher Testani for BuzzFeed News

"I Haven't Read Most Books" - BuzzFeed Books - Aug. 2015

A brief essay about all the books I haven't read generally.

"I Was the Best Fake Attorney in America" - BuzzFeed News - Aug. 2015

In 2005, I won the High School Mock Trial National Championships, a victory that was both huge and, to most people, meaningless. Ten years later, I returned to nationals to try to make sense of what that victory meant — and what this competitive celebration of our legal system even is. ​

"The Trials of Teresa Sheehan" - BuzzFeed News - July 2015

(see also follow-up to this piece: "Media Errors in Covering 'Mental Health'" on Mad in America

In 2008, San Francisco police were called to transport a woman diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder to a hospital. Instead, they shot her seven times. This is the story of how police became our nation's mental health care workers, and how Teresa Sheehan's family fought for her before the shooting — and since.

"Apocalypse Noir: How Climate Change Will End Wine as We Know It" - BuzzFeed News - Nov. 2014 

Hotter and less predictable temperatures mean that much of the world’s premium wine regions are now under threat and new ones are emerging. How the wine industry is — and isn't — reacting says a lot about the future of agriculture.

Notable Selection Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015  

Named by ProPublica as one of the year's best stories about climate change 

Anthologized in Emerging Contemporary Readings for Writers 3rd ed., published by MacMillan

John Gara for BuzzFeed

"Why I Still Love RENT" - BuzzFeed News - Dec. 2014

The 1996 musical about AIDS-afflicted artists scandalized and inspired my romantic teenage self. Figuring out what Rent got totally wrong about adult life — and right.

"The Treehouse Song"Wag's Revue - Dec. 2014

An essay about unrequited love and nearly losing an eyeball. 

Republished in Italian and Spanish on Revista Inutile

I read and discussed this piece on Andrea Silenzi's podcast Why Oh Why?

"I Went on a One-Week First Date to Costa Rica" - BuzzFeed News - Oct. 2014

When I was 21, I flew to Central America to be with a man I'd only met once before. I wanted to live a very romantic story.

I read and discussed this piece on the podcast Why Oh Why?  ​

"Running into My 12-Year-Old Self Online" - BuzzFeed News - July 2014

We forget how nobody is looking at most of the internet. 

"My Giantess: The Sad, Strange, True Story of Sandy Allen, the Tallest Woman in the World" - BuzzFeed News - July 2014

After realizing I share a name with the former tallest woman alive, I sought to tell her story.

Notable Selection Best American Essays 2015 

(Viewed on BuzzFeed over a million times)

 

"Why Would a Gay Teenager Commit Hate Crimes Against Herself?" - BuzzFeed News - May 2014

Ten years ago, the liberal San Francisco suburb where I went to high school school was traumatized by a rash of hate crimes against a 17-year-old lesbian. But when it was revealed that the victim herself had staged the attacks, the entire community turned on her and she never spoke about the incidents publicly. Until she agreed to tell me her story in this reported feature.

"I Was Drugged by a Stranger" - BuzzFeed News - Nov. 2013

One night at a music festival, someone put something in my drink. What happened next was humiliating and taught me how common these incidents are, and how easy, and wrong, it is to blame the victim.

"Tig Notaro And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Yet Somehow Completely Amazing Year" - BuzzFeed News -  Aug. 2013

A profile of the comedian one year after her career-changing "I have cancer" set at the Largo. 

"Is Yelp a Bully or Just Misunderstood?" - BuzzFeed News - June 2013

The online reviewing behemoth is regularly accused of Mafia-style extortion by disgruntled business owners and the media. In this feature, I tried to figure out whether that was true. 

"In Patagonia In Patagonia"Paris Review Daily - May 2013

An essay about reading Bruce Chatwin while traveling through the real place he mythologized

"Cunning Old Fox" - The Magazine - May 2013

Reporting from a professional wine competition in Ames, Iowa, I tell the story of the birth and death and rebirth of wine in not-Californian America. 

"The Weeds"Wag's Revue - Mar. 2009 

Published under a pen name in Wag's first issue, an essay about working in the service industry

Interviews

For Wag's Revue, I interviewed:

Saeed JonesDaniel Mallory OrtbergNeil HamburgerDeb Olin UnferthWayne KoestenbaumAlison BechdelPaul HardingLauren SlaterDavid RakoffMark Greif, and Dave Eggers

"How to Write Your First Book" - BuzzFeed Books

I interviewed 21 authors — including George Saunders, Alexander Chee, Kiese Laymon, T.C. Boyle,  Rachel Kushner, Roxane Gay, Chuck Klosterman, Chang Rae-Lee, and Heidi Julavits — about how they wrote their first books. I then spliced it into a big mega-interview. I did this 5ish years into my own 8ish year first book process, for reasons! 

etc.

"This toxic lie about gun violence hurts society's most vulnerable"CNN Opinion - Feb. 2018

In the wake of the Parkland shooting, I wrote an Op-Ed about the GOP and NRA's long and reprehensible effort to scapegoat gun violence on those who've been psychiatrically diagnosed.

"9 Hopeful Books about Schizophrenia" - Electric Lit - Jan. 2018

I put together a list of the books I recommend to those interested in learning more about schizophrenia, mental illness generally, and the history and present of psychiatric treatments and those given psychiatric labels. 

Book Notes for A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise - Largehearted Boy - Jan. 2018

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book. Spotify link: A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise playlist

"Sunday Content" was my newsletter, which I published pretty regularly for a while there. (Now I'm writing a blog on this site.) Each edition included a brief essay and then some recommended content — usually stuff I thought was smart or that made me LOL. The last one was about what was like initially getting Bob's story "out there." Some of my favorites were: "How I Learned that I Am Evil," "On Straight White Men," "On Art that Ages Poorly," "Talking about White Supremacy," "On Believing Women," "On Misogynists who Aren't Men," and "On Using Words like 'Insane' or 'Crazy'" I've written about being an essayist, being a teacherbeing a waiterwhy I love cookingwhy I love featureswhy I love essays, and what Bowie taught us. You can read the full archive here.