Interview with Monica Sackman, Runner Up in Q4 2018 Creative Nonfiction Contest

Sunday, December 09, 2018
Monica Sackman is a high school remedial English and Math teacher assisting students in reaching their goal of graduating with their peers. She lives in a very rural part of central Washington state and loves her country lifestyle. Monica is a previous 2nd place winner in a WOW flash fiction contest and has had several of her short stories published in local magazines. She has also self-published a book, The Restless Hunter: How To Survive Life With The Avid Outdoorsman. She draws inspiration from the many unique individuals she meets in her work and travels through Montana and the Pacific Northwest. When she’s not writing or teaching, Monica enjoys reading, camping, fishing, gardening, and exploring historical places. Her current project is updating her blog. You can visit her there at:

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the top ten in our Q4 2018 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What inspired you to write your essay, “Embracing the Wait?”

Monica: I actually wrote this essay several years ago. It was much longer because it was such an emotional turning point in my life. Originally, I was writing on a different topic for this essay contest. But it was still too "fresh" and I wasn't ready to share it. So I looked back at some of the things I had previously written and decided to revise "Embracing the Wait." Partly because I once again made a major move, this time with my husband (the same man in the essay!). It was interesting to think back about the differences in the reasons and emotional feelings that were associated with each move. In the first move, I was a single woman in my early 40s. Many people thought it was a crazy, irresponsible risk to take. Women are not well supported in making such moves. Not at the time anyway. I think things are changing, slowly. Women should be encouraged to move out of their comfort zone, to challenge themselves, and reach for their dreams. And they should be allowed to fail and learn from experience if that should happen. The older you get, the more difficult it becomes. But it doesn't mean it can't be done. I was hoping this essay would help people realize that.

WOW: You’ve also placed in one of our flash fiction contests, and have written fiction and nonfiction in various forms and lengths. Do you find one more challenging than the others? Are you drawn to one form more than the others?

Monica: Fiction is fun. I can play around with it. I never feel like it is something I have to share. When I'm writing nonfiction, especially essays, it always ends up being some kind of emotional learning experience. It's like having an "ah-ha" moment. I feel the need to share it with someone, but I usually need some wait time between the writing and sharing because it is so personal. The downside can be that I will want to soften it in some way. I think I did this on "Embracing the Wait." Trying to whittle it down to fit into the word limit was a challenge and I ended up cutting out pieces that were less humorous and more personal.

I don't think I am drawn to one form more than the other. One actually inspires the other. Many of my stories come from personal experiences--my own or something someone has shared with me. I do tend to write more short stories and flash fiction because of my hectic schedule. I did write an e-book. It was a great learning experience. I really enjoyed the research and organizing of the material. I would love to do more of that type of nonfiction writing.

WOW: With your job as a high school teacher, how do you make time to write? What works best for you?

Monica: Such a great question! It is very difficult to find time to write once school starts, especially the first quarter of the school year. I work with students with learning disabilities, behavior problems, and attention issues. At the beginning of the year, it is an endless round of meetings, paperwork, schedule changes, and reports. I get very little creative writing done this time of year. I do a lot of revising of my previous work, writing in my personal journal, and jotting down of ideas for future stories. I usually have a heap of sticky notes collected by Thanksgiving. I also have a mini recorder I carry with me. I talk my ideas or story notes into my recorder as I'm driving back and forth to school. Then I just have to type them up when I get home. I'm a morning person and by the time I get home from a busy day at school, my brain is mush so having the ideas recorded is a blessing for me. I get a little writing done on the weekends, but I'm most productive when I have a few days or weeks off from school. I am hoping to make this my last year of full-time teaching so I can dedicate more time to writing.

WOW:  Those are great ideas for anyone trying to fit writing into a busy life! Are you working on any writing projects right now? What’s next for you?

Monica: I have a novel I have been working on for a couple of years. It hasn't been a priority, but it is something I hope to finish one day. I have several short stories I started over the summer. I would like to get them finished up and put together an e-book. I think about how busy my life is and how difficult it is to engage in reading just for the entertainment value. So I was thinking a collection of short stories for the busy person to escape into (when they have those rare free moments) would be a fun project and one I could manage with my busy schedule.

As I mentioned above, I plan on leaving the classroom at the end of this school year so I can devote more time to writing. After 30 years in the classroom, I am definitely feeling ready to move on. I've been working on my website/blog and learning how to get that going. I plan on doing some freelance writing, as well as creative writing. It's a continual learning experience. Sometimes it's frustrating, but it is always exciting when I see even the smallest bit of success.

WOW:  Best of luck to you with everything, and thanks so much for chatting with us today, Monica! Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?

Monica: A favorite tip or piece of advice? Hmmm...I hardly feel qualified to give either. But that may just be it. We often don't feel qualified or good enough to write something worth sharing. For years, I didn't share my writing with anyone. When I finally got enough guts to join a writing group, I discovered I wasn't the only one feeling this way. Once I started sharing my writing and opening myself up to constructive criticism, I realized how much more inspired I became. I am continually learning about writing and creating. I feel so much more supported which makes me more willing to share and take risks with my writing. I guess my advice would be to find a writing group (or start one!) and start sharing and learning together.


For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.


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