Sunday, September 09, 2018
Interview with Linn Wilder, Runner Up in Q3 2018 Creative Nonfiction Contest
Fall 2014 WOW Flash Fiction Contest, her first placement in a writing contest, and is thrilled to once again be in the top 10 of a WOW contest! While her career in public health, her family (one husband, three teenagers, too many pets) and her love of outdoor adventure often preclude time for writing, the written word keeps demanding to be part of her life. She sometimes writes things in her head while commuting to work on her bike because it’s the only time she can find.
Lin is also a certified Spellbinder oral storyteller and often tells children stories from her life. She has published several adventure travel essays, and is working on writing a collection of stories about growing up poor in rural Maine with a remarkable mother whose mental illness was both a daunting force and an inspiration. Lin lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Visit her webpage and links to other published writing at http://wilderwomn.wixsite.com/wilderweb. Lin’s photography pages can be found at http://wilderwomn.wixsite.com/photography or look for @wilderwomn on Instagram.
interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Q3 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?
Lin: I had entered and won 3rd place in a WOW contest before (Flash Fiction) but was excited to see that you have an essay contest open because I write more essays than fiction. I love reading WOW entries so it was another opportunity to be part of that.
WOW: Your entry, “Nostalgia” is something many will relate to. What inspired you to write this essay?
Lin: I was in Maine for my older sister’s memorial and the whole trip was, understandably, full of emotion. It was like every emotional nerve ending in my body and soul was vibrating at a very high level – I was so very present in the moment and just feeling everything at an exaggerated level – grief, nostalgia, joy…everything. I had to do something with that energy and those emotions. Writing, for me, is often the best therapy. So I sat down at the kitchen table of my friend’s house while she went to work and it just all poured out of me. All of that emotion went onto the page, and I was left so full of peace and gratitude and connectedness when I was done – truly therapeutic. It was only afterwards when I re-read the essay that I realized that my relationship with Maine and my relationship with my sister had many parallels over the years – both were complicated and both found me being more closed off for a long time because of fear and hurt. So this coming to a place of joy and gratitude and acceptance was something very new and this essay was what cemented that into something palpable and real.
WOW: You’ve also placed in one of our flash fiction contests, so you’ve done well with both fiction and nonfiction. Do you find one type of writing more challenging than the other? Are you drawn to one form more than the others?
Lin: I tend to find fiction more challenging to write. Real life is so fascinating and so full that I want to bring that alive for others. I love the ability that essays have to elucidate real life and connect with others on universal themes like love, loss, and overcoming challenges to name a few.
WOW: Your bio indicates that you are a certified Spellbinder oral storyteller. Can you tell us about that?
Lin: Yes, I am trained as an oral storyteller, which is a wonderful complement to writing stories. I think that one of the things that make us human is our propensity to tell stories, and to love to hear or read or watch stories.
When you tell a story rather than read it aloud, you must really focus on making it come alive for the audience. You have to paint the picture and invite them to walk into it. We do this in writing too, with descriptive words about the setting and characters but you do it differently in oral storytelling. You are more of an actor, and you use your facial expressions and your body to tell much of the story. And you must use your interaction with your audience to reel people in.
The thing I love the most about telling stories to children is that they all want to tell their stories too. So I tell them, “Every single person in this room is a storyteller.” They look at me quizzically, and I tell them that everyone has a story to tell, and they should tell those stories to each other. They might not be earth shattering, or intense (they don’t have to be like what you see on TV). But they can share a moment of sadness, or a moment of glee with another person. It could be the funny story about what your cat did this morning, or the story about how you thought a rope was a snake and screamed so loud you woke the neighbor.
Along the lines of whether I prefer writing fiction or non-fiction essays, one thing I have noticed is that audiences almost always react more intensely to the real-life personal stories I tell than to the myths and legends and tall tales. They love them both, but it’s the personal stories that stick with them and that they are most likely to remember when they see me in the grocery store and recognize me as the storyteller.
WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Lin! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?
Lin: My advice to people about entering writing contests is “do it!” Its wonderful to get feedback on your writing even if you don’t place or win. It motivates you to work on your writing to polish it or to respond to a prompt that you might not have written about before. And while winning or placing is very exciting, the anticipation of the wait to learn how you did is a lot of fun in and of itself!
For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.