Congratulations to runner up Harriet Parke and everyone who participated in our WOW! Women on Writing Q4 2018 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest!
Harriet Parke is a registered nurse who specialized in emergency nursing and Emergency Department management. She authored two novels (Agenda 21 and Agenda 21 Into the Shadows) which were published in cooperation with Glenn Beck and Simon and Schuster. In addition, she has been published in My Dad Is My Hero anthology, several Voices from the Attic anthologies (published by Carlow University, Pittsburgh, Pa.), the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and Pittsburgh Magazine. She has received a Certificate of Merit from an Atlantic Monthly student short fiction writing contest, first place in a Pennwriter’s creative non-fiction contest, and second place in a Pennwriter’s short fiction contest. She is a member of The Madwomen, a Carlow University writing group, and has been a member of Pennwriters.
She lives in southwestern Pennsylvania and loves the tree covered gentle hills of the area. In the past, a wild peacock roosted on her deck anytime he chose. He has gone missing, and she misses him greatly.
If you haven't done so already, check out Harriet's moving story Angels Catching Frogs and then return here for a chat with the author.
WOW: Congratulations again Harriet and thank you for taking time to chat with us today! Let's dig right in: Is there a place in your writing and healing journey for journaling?
Harriet: I don't journal and my biggest regret is that I haven't journal-ed. Perhaps I specialize in procrastination. Everybody should specialize in something.
WOW: I never would have guessed you specialize in procrastination and maybe this candid conversation will spur you into a bit of journaling. Where does your writing take place? Tell us about your creative space.
Harriet: I write in a spare bedroom on a very old laptop on a desk my father made some 50 years ago. Behind me is an old brass bed (a family antique) covered with an Amish quilt (I met Amish women while doing an outreach mammogram program and the quilt is a memory from that experience). Against the wall is a cupboard rescued from a kitchen in a house that was being torn down; I wonder about the woman who kept her cups and saucers in that cupboard. Was she still alive when the house was destroyed? Was she sad, lonely, sick? I will never know but I love that old cupboard with is peeling green paint. There are piles of paper, stacks of books, and scraps of paper with passwords scribbled on them. I can never find a password when I need it! My dog sits by my feet when I write.
WOW: The password struggle is real...and I think many of us can relate to your sentimental thoughts about the cupboard. Thank you for sharing.
How has your writing been therapeutic? What advice would you give to others?
Harriet: Therapeutic? Yes, absolutely. I was in a writer's block state of mind for several months for no apparent reason. But the night my son died I turned to my laptop and word fell off my fingertips onto my keyboard. I was grieving with memories and writing them down gave me peace.
Advice: Writing is a solitary process but, paradoxically, writing improves when you belong to an active and supportive writing group. I belong to Madwomen in the Attic at Carlow University in Pittsburgh. I write alone in the cluttered space I have described but then take my pieces to the group. They encourage, support, and gently critique. For that, I am grateful.
WOW: Support is so important; I'm grateful you have this tribe as well!
Who is your favorite author and why?
Harriet: I have so many favorite authors!! Annie Lamont, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Camus, Shirley Jackson, Janet Frame, Erma Bombeck . . . It is safe to say, I love to read. When all else fails, I read the cereal box.
WOW: I find cereal boxes aren't as exciting as they used to be, but that's a topic for another day.
What advice would you give to others who might be considering participation in a writing contest?
Harriet: Purchase the critique! This piece, Angels Catching Frogs, was submitted twice. The first time it was submitted, it did not place but I studied the excellent critique from Women on Writing and followed that advice. The critique was spot on and the result was the honorable mention for the second submission.
WOW: Sounds like great advice and I'm glad you found us!
One last question: Do you think the peacock mentioned in your bio was representative of someone or something? Tell us more?
Harriet: The peacock came into my life as a surprise but then, life is always full of surprises, isn't it? Surprises and coincidences that are God's way of remaining anonymous. I mentioned the peacock in another bio for another publication and was contacted by a wonderful neighbor who lived about a mile away. I had never met him but he read my bio and realized his missing peacock was living on my deck! We are now friends. Sadly, the peacock passed away but the friendship didn't.
WOW Thank you again Harriet - such a lovely chat and very moving story. We hope to hear more from you in the future!
Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!
Check out the latest Contests: