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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

 

Interview with Emily Messina, Summer 2018 Flash Fiction Runner Up

Today we are chatting with Emily Messina, one of the runner's up in the Summer 2018 Flash Fiction contest. If you haven't had the chance to, make sure you read Emily's story 448 and then come back and read our interview with this incredible writer.

Emily Messina moved from Orange County, California to Boulder, Colorado in order to attend Naropa University Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poets. While writing has always been her passion, she has just begun to take it seriously. In addition to writing fiction, Emily dabbles in poetry and is working on a short book of poems. This year she has been focusing on finishing her first novel. Emily’s full time job is the Director of Development for a non-profit that focuses on ending homelessness through employment and housing. She enjoys a good glass of wine and reading her favorite poets Charles Bukowski and Anne Sexton. When she is not writing she spends her time exploring Boulder with her two children.

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

Your story "448" was absolutely incredible. What was the inspiration behind your story?

One of my favorite aspects of my job is that I have the privilege of interviewing graduates of our Ready to Work program – an employment and housing program for adults experiencing homelessness. While I was interviewing a woman, who recently graduated from the program, the idea just came to me. My story 448 has nothing to do with this woman’s actual life experiences, but I was overwhelmed by her strength and determination to change her life. I wanted to write a story of a little girl who struggled and had an incredibly difficult life, but it would never break her spirit – she would survive no matter what.

That message truly was excellently portrayed in your story. I was reading your bio and it mentioned how you've just begun to take your writing seriously. What inspired you to start focusing on your writing and taking it seriously?

For the last nine years, I have been focusing on my career and giving absolutely no time to my creative writing. I feel incredibly lucky to have a job that does make such a positive impact in my community, but as I advanced in my career, I felt like something was missing. Deep inside of me, I knew I was neglecting a very important part of myself. I am a writer and in order to live a fulfilling life I have to give myself time to write.

I also believe that writing can be incredibly healing and so on my own time, I have started a writing group for trainees that are in the Ready to Work program. This has motivated me more than I ever thought it would. To be in a room with others, who may, or may not have experience writing, and are willing to take the risk and express themselves is incredibly exciting to witness. The creativity of the writing group helps to keep me focused on my writing goals and has given me an internal push to take my writing seriously.

That group sounds like it would be incredibly inspiring! So, this story gave me such an eye-opening experience. How did you get inside the head of a child growing up around Hell's Angels bikers?

While writing this story I focused less on my main character’s life circumstance and more on how she reacted and coped with what was going on around her. I did do a bit of research on the Hell’s Angels in order to make sure any references I used in my story were accurate.

Wow, that must have been very interesting research. So, I loved reading you went to Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poets. How did that experience help you as a writer?

My experience at Naropa really molded me as a writer. My professors pushed me out of my writing comfort zone and encouraged me to stretch beyond my limits. I also learned how much discipline it takes to be a writer. To write, you actually have to show up and do it, and over time the more you write the better you get.

I completely agree with your last sentence! I loved reading that you work for a non-profit that focuses to end homelessness through employment and housing. That is a cause close to my heart. How do your experiences at your job shape your writing?

I meet so many amazing individuals with unbelievable stories and I am constantly moved by their resolve to change their life situations. When I listen to someone tell me their story, I am inspired not by their life circumstance, but by how they were able emotionally overcome their personal struggles. I take the essence of the amazing inner strength that I encounter every day and weave it into my characters.

How inspirational that is! Thank you so much for sharing your story with us and best of luck to you on your writing.

For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Sioux Roslawski said...

Nicole--Don't you just love the name "Disembodied Poets"? Thanks for doing this interview.

Emily--I believe in the healing power of writing, too. Sometimes we craft stories with the kind of endings we need... and then those endings come true.

Your story made me think of all the kids who are forced into lives like that--stealing, dealing and prostitution. We're a horrible species. We do horrible things to each other, especially our young.

I'm glad you're now taking writing seriously. Good luck, Emily, on your writerly journey.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Renee Roberson said...

Emily,
Congratulations on placing with this powerful story! Once I realized what the little girl was doing in the warehouse my heart sank. You did such a great job having her imagine what she really wanted to be doing on a hot summer day. Your job sounds so important to your community but I can imagine the emotional toll it can take after time. Kudos to you for finding a creative outlet that works for you.

6:01 AM  

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