Sunday, September 23, 2018
Interview with Barbara Altamirano: Q3 2018 Creative Nonfiction Runner Up
After leaving the insurance industry to become a stay-at-home mom, Barbara Altamirano discovered her love of using the written word to create art. Several years back she entered her first fiction contest on WOW and was amazed to receive an honorable mention. She was also thrilled when WOW published her essay about finding writing inspiration. A graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature, she has also been published in Guideposts, Indiana Voice Journal, Pittsburgh Parent, and others, and has been a finalist in Writer’s Digest annual contest. She is hoping to publish her first book, The Mommy Clique, a work of women’s fiction, and she is currently working on several young adult novels. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and three children where she finds writing inspiration in all sorts of places, even household chores like sorting socks.
If you haven't already done so, check out Barbara's award-winning story "Imperfectly Matched Socks" and then return here for a chat with the author.
WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Creative Nonfiction Q3 Contest! How did you begin writing this piece and how did it and your writing evolve as you wrote?
Barbara: As I was matching my husband’s socks, my mind started to wander—no doubt because it’s such a boring activity. I started thinking about the connection between pairing off socks and finding romantic partners for humans. After finishing with the socks, I typed up the ideas. (In fact, I might have taken a break from the sorting to jot down some notes.) After editing it, I sent it to a couple places without finding a home for it. Then I decided to try WOW and last quarter the essay received an honorable mention. I had also purchased the critique, and Chelsey Clammer gave me great feedback which was very supportive in terms of saying what she liked about it, but also clearly explained how I could make it better. Basically, the ending needed some work to better show what insight I had gained from the sock sorting. (Insight from socks. Who knew?)
WOW: I love that you turned an everyday “boring” activity into a story, into art. You never know when inspiration might strike! What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay?
Barbara: A reaction of one of the first readers of this essay was, “Socks? Why are you writing about socks?” This was also my husband’s reaction. But even though I knew the topic was kind of quirky, I thought it had potential. So, I learned to trust my gut feelings and keep trying. Writing is subjective so just because one person (or two) doesn’t get your work, it doesn’t mean no one will. The essay also reaffirmed the idea that romantic pairings can work even if not perfect, as in the case of my husband and me.
WOW: I’m glad trusting your gut feelings and your persistence was rewarded with success! Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you?
Barbara: Some of my favorite nonfiction authors are Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Gilbert, Jeanette Walls and Cheryl Strayed. What inspires me most about these writers is their honesty, and the beautiful way they tell their often difficult or challenging true life stories. Although not really known for nonfiction, I am also inspired by Sue Monk Kidd especially because she didn’t begin her writing career until later in her life.
WOW: Can you tell us more about the books you’re writing—The Mommy Clique and the young adult novels?
Barbara: I would describe The Mommy Clique as Big Little Lies meets Mean Girls. After reading Queen Bees and Wannabes, the nonfiction book that Mean Girls is based on, I decided to explore what would happen if there were a group of mothers acting out the roles that were found to exist in real life teenage girls. The story is told through multiple viewpoints from the queen bee, sidekick, banker, wannabe, and the target, with the women jockeying for position and power within the clique.
The first young adult novel I wrote was a project for a writing class. That book is about a shy, insecure girl who daydreams to escape her so-so reality and her daydreams become increasingly hard to control. I wrote a sequel to this while shopping the first novel but when I didn’t find an agent, I focused on other projects. One of these is a YA novel about a girl who has taken a purity vow. I also have a futuristic YA novel involving two opposing groups—the egotists and the evolutionists, with the main difference being that the evolutionists have a more advanced spiritual consciousness. But, although the setting is futuristic, the novel deals with many of the same issues as my other novels like fitting in, popularity, and, of course, romance.
WOW: What great descriptions and story premises. Thank you for sharing those with us! If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be?
Barbara: I would tell her to keep trying, and to not take rejection so personally but try to learn and grow from it. Sometimes obstacles exist just to test our perseverance, so we need to have faith and not lose hope.
WOW: Thank you for your wonderful writing and thoughtful responses. Happy writing!
Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive sportswomen.