Adrianne Aron’s new book, Human Rights and Wrongs, winner of a Sunshot Nonfiction Prize, will be published by Sunshot Books in September, 2018. That book grew out of her day job as a liberation psychologist serving immigrants and refugees who have experienced traumatic abuse—work that also generated Writings for a Liberation Psychology (Harvard University Press, 1994); her English translation of Mario Benedetti’s powerful play about torture, Pedro and the Captain (Cadmus Editions, 2009); and a few professional articles about the unique challenges of doing psychology with oppressed populations.
Adrianne began writing fiction to get some respite from that heavy work. When she finished a novel but wasn’t able to get an agent to represent it, she was lured by the music of the literary contest to sing in short pieces of prose. Here she had fun, got her R&R, was able to use a little psychology, and enjoyed some enormously gratifying successes in both fiction and nonfiction. She has been awarded the Able Muse Write Prize; New Millennium Writings’ Flash Fiction Prize; The Ridge to Rivers Prize for Outdoor Adventure Writing; Finalist placement for the Gover and Gabriele Ricco literary competitions, First Prize for Fiction by the Jack London and San Francisco Writers’ Conferences; the Golden Quill Award of the California Writers Association, and now, proudly, recognition by Women on Writing. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she always carries a ballpoint pen. She used to call herself Dr. Aron, a psychologist who writes. She now calls herself Adrianne, a writer who knows a little psychology. More info at: www.adriannearon.com.
If you haven't already done so, check out Adrianne's award-winning story "Won't Ask, Won't Tell" and then return here for a chat with the author.
WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Creative Nonfiction Q3 Contest! Tell us more about your writing space?
Adrianne: I write on park benches and tree stumps, on buses and in waiting rooms, in coffee shops and airports, using a laptop, the backsides of earlier drafts, the edges of a used envelope, the margin of a magazine—whatever is handy when an idea comes. When I’m in the middle of a re-write, my lovely book-lined office looks like a hurricane, without the charm.
WOW: A hurricane without the charm - oh the imagery!
Was this particular essay difficult for you to share? What made you choose to share this? Is there a possibility of a memoir including this snippet? Tell us more!
Adrianne: It was very hard to share. The pain of the betrayal was not a happy thing to re-visit, and the shame of what’s confessed here is no party either: I was naïve, in denial, unrealistic. If the story had stopped there, as the tale of a victim, it would have been terribly unsatisfying. The writer’s pen had to move on, to work for justice. A “Dear Bastard” letter might have done it. But the way that pen actually worked was too wonderful for words. Sharing that with the reader made everything come out right. By never telling, and knowing he could not ask, I enjoyed a sweet vengeance that went on for years. And the reader, in on the secret, gets to share the spoils of victory. I’m not planning a memoir, but I might someday publish a collection of flash pieces, and this little story could have a place in that.
WOW: Thank you for not stopping - you certainly are anything BUT a victim.
What advice would you give to other writers toying with the idea of submitting their work to a writing contest?
Adrianne: Do it! It’s incredibly affirming when the work is recognized, and if there is a cash reward, your winnings can finance your ventures into other fee-charging contests. But, I would advise against “writing to the contest.” Rather, I’d recommend writing when you have something to say: when there’s an idea trying to grow, a character ready to act, an argument needing to be made, a sentence or phrase wanting to be written. Then, watch the contests. When one comes along that fits a piece in your collection, take the piece out and knead it as you’d knead a mass of dough. Get it into shape for the contest: right length, right focus, right genre. Save the “original,” which might, with the right yeast, rise again.
WOW: Great advice and we are happy to recognize your talents. What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for 2018 and beyond?
Adrianne: I’ve got a non-fiction collection of stories coming out with Sunshot Press in September, Human Rights and Wrongs, about people and situations I’ve encountered in my work as a liberation psychologist. Most of the people I write about are fleeing from oppression, seeking asylum in the United States. The current U.S. president calls such people animals, and takes their children away and puts them in cages. The Roman poet Terence famously said, “Nothing human is alien to me.” The president has twisted that around. No aliens are human, he thinks. He would like for us to agree. Readers of Human Rights and Wrongs will be able to judge for themselves how to think about these immigrants and refugees yearning to breathe free. Because this is such an urgent matter I plan to spend the fall and winter promoting the book and working on refugee issues rather than writing. It might be a good time for going through some old writings, looking for some aspect of the immigrant experience that has been overlooked or that needs another stanza.
WOW: You are so busy - thank you for all you do!
Inquiring minds must know: Are you still querying for your novel? What advice do you give others with a finished novel who may also be looking for an agent?
Adrianne: From time to time I hear of an agent who might be willing to take a look at my manuscript, and I send out a query, like putting a message in a bottle and pitching it onto the high seas. Advice? If you’re writing literary fiction and you’re not close friends with an enormously successful and famous author, Google the name of that saint who’s in charge of impossible outcomes, and email him. See if he’ll put in a good word for you.
WOW: I love your sense of humor. Just one last question if you don't mind.
What is one book you recommend everyone read in their lifetime and why?
Adrianne: This is a really tough question. I can’t imagine a “one size fits all” book. Still, there are books so luminous and deep that anyone—regardless of gender, age, or nationality—can open them at random, and within 20 pages find a passage to savor for a lifetime. Eduardo Galeano’s The Book of Embraces is such a book. Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles is another. Whether one is looking to be amused, educated, heartbroken, outraged, or just dazzled by exquisite prose, a few hours with these writers will be time to treasure.
WOW: Thank you for your wonderful writing and thoughtful yet humorous responses. Happy writing and congratulations again as one of the runners up in the WOW! Women on Writing Q3 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest!
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