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Sunday, February 24, 2019

 

Double Creative Nonfiction Creative Essay Winner in the Q1 Writing Contest: Ilene Haddad

I had the opportunity to interview Ilene Haddad, who won second place and was also named as a runner-up (top ten) in the Q1 2018 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest. Both essays are humorous looks at her relationship with her husband, and so you won't want to miss these! Her second place essay is titled "For Every Season There is a Casserole," and the runner-up essay is titled "Marriage and Other Risks of a One-Night Stand."

Here is a bit more about Ilene: she is a graphic designer and cartoonist who recently added writer to her titles. Ilene studied graphic design at the University of Texas at Austin and has run her own design studio for the past twenty years. She was a recipient of the Women in Communications’ Anne Durrum Robinson Creative Initiative Award for founding BlogathonATX (a central Texas blogging conference) and was an Austin American-Statesman Social Media Award finalist. Most recently, she was a finalist in the Writers’ League of Texas’ annual manuscript contest for her current project--a humorous, illustrated memoir about her mixed/mixed up marriage. Ilene lives in Austin with her eccentric husband and two useless lapdogs, all of whom feature prominently in her cartoons and book. Ilene spends way too much time on social media. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It is virtually impossible not to find her.

WOW: Hi Ilene! Congratulations on winning two spots in our top ten Q1 2018 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest! Let's start with your reaction when you got the news. What did that feel like?

Ilene: It was so exciting to see my name and essays on WOW's website. I can neither confirm nor deny that I jumped up and down.

WOW: Well, we won't push the issue then. (smiles) So, your essay, "For Every Season, There is a Casserole" is a hysterical look at your marriage through the holidays. What gave you the idea to organize your thoughts about your marriage this way?

Ilene: That came pretty organically. I started out wanting to write about the differences between my husband and me, and the theme that kept coming up was the way we celebrate the holidays. I probably should have realized the number of family obligations we had would double before accepting his proposal.

WOW: And with those double obligations, so comes double the casseroles. Does your husband read your writing? If so, does he think you are as funny as we do? (smiles again)

Ilene: No way—I'm not even certain he knows I write. He's actually the funny one in our family. I draw a comic strip he stars in called Casa Weenie (casaweenie.com).

WOW: I've checked several of your cartoons, and they are so funny! In your second essay, "Marriage and Other Risks of a One-Night Stand", you write about when you first met him and how you were worried you would either date him (instead of sleep with him on the first night) or he might kill you, which is so funny! But even funnier is how you go on to talk about the business you started together. Are you still running that business? And if so, do you have a better office now, sans washer and dryer?

Ilene: Yes, we are still running our business twenty years later, and NO, I do not have a better office now. A fresh coat of paint every decade only takes it so far.

WOW: What makes parts of your essays so funny are the comparisons you use, such as "but to call a Seder a meal is like calling Jell-O dessert" or "Yom Kippur (a fasting day of atonement), which last longer than most Netflix binges." Do those just come to you? or Do you have to work to find the humor?

Ilene: They usually just come to me. Mostly because they're true.

WOW: Lucky you! Speaking of that, how difficult is it for you to write humor? Everyone talks about how hard it is. You seem to do it so easily!

Ilene: I write the way I speak, so sometimes it's easy to translate that into prose—sometimes not so much. It's really just luck, I suppose. How's that for a non-answer?

WOW: For someone reading this interview, what's a tip you can give them for writing humor well?

Ilene: Pay attention to the people around you and how you interact with them. There is humor all over our daily lives. For example, if you're a parent, which I'm not, you are witness to funny stuff every day. All you have to do is look for it. Parents have way more material to work with than I do.

WOW: That is definitely true. Your bio says you recently were a finalist in the Writers’ League of Texas’ annual manuscript contest for a humorous, illustrated memoir about your mixed/mixed up marriage. When can we look forward to reading this?

Ilene: Good question! I'm still working on it, so I'm afraid it'll be a while.

WOW: Anything else you'd like to add about writing or contests?

Ilene: The best thing I ever did for my writing practice was to find a small writing group. We are four women who write together, critique each other's work, and support each other. I would've given up a long time ago had I not found my writing group.

WOW: I agree with you. I too cherish my writing group! Thank you for your time. Best of luck in your future writing projects.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--Thanks for doing this interview and providing the link to the stories.

Ilene--Yes, I feel like I know you a bit, after reading your stories. They're conversational--you said you write like you talk, and I can see that.

Good luck with your future writing projects.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Renee Roberson said...

Ilene,

Congratulations on your double win! I enjoyed reading and laughing out loud at your essays (and the comic strip!) I admit I could also a relate a bit--while my husband and I are of the same religion, my mom's family lives in the Killeen/Florence area of Texas and are Hispanic. My husband's family is about as southern as they come (North Carolina). It makes for some interesting family gatherings! I also tell people all the time I married one of those guys from "The Big Bang Theory." I won't say which one. Life is never dull! I wish you continued success with your writing!

6:04 AM  

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