Interview with Lisa Lucca, Q1 2018 Creative Nonfiction First Place Winner

Sunday, February 17, 2019
Lisa Lucca has been writing most of her life about love, family and living true to who you are. As an essayist, she was chosen as a contributor to the anthology Water Cooler Diaries, and was a #BlogHer17 Voice of the Year Honoree for her piece Two Roofs, One Home. Lisa is a blogger for the Gay Dad Project, and her work has been published on a variety of online sites including Good Men Project and Midlife Boulevard.

Lisa co-authored You Are email memoir, an epistolary story of her lifelong connection to her partner, Mark. She is currently at work on her own memoir, Black Sheep, which centers on the complicated journey to family acceptance.

A former music production roadie, Lisa has made her living for the past 15 years as a life coach. Recently, she and Mark moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to southern New Mexico to be writers in the desert. To follow her on social media, visit

You can read Lisa's winning essay, "The Ashes of Purple Heart" here.

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Q1 2018 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Lisa: Thank you. It truly is an honor to have my essay selected. As with any of the places I have submitted my work for consideration, this contest provided an opportunity to share my stories with readers. It's also exciting to have your work acknowledged in this way after so much effort. As a fan of WOW, I enjoy reading the writing of others, and I wanted to see my own work on your site.

Entering a contest like this also helps me hone my craft. I originally submitted this piece to the Q4 contest and just missed being a finalist. I took to heart the critique I received (which I highly recommend!) and with a few revisions I resubmitted and won first place.

It feels very important to me that our stories reach others as a vehicle for connection and understanding. WOW does a beautiful job facilitating that exchange with their ongoing contests and publication of contestants' work.

WOW: You’re also working on a memoir. What has that process been like for you?

Lisa: This essay is particularly poignant for me as it relates to my father's death, and my memories of our tumultuous relationship once he came out in my adolescence. Most of this piece also serves as the prologue to my memoir, Black Sheep, which I have been writing for several years. I have known at some level for decades that I would write about my dad and I, and how we navigated a relationship rife with misunderstanding but also deep love. At the heart of my book is how hard it is sometimes to see our parents as people separate from their relationship to us.

As I get further into this next draft, the ways in which we all need to find acceptance within, or about, our families has begun to reveal itself. As I write, each person in my story becomes more multifaceted, even to me, creating a better understanding of who they truly are, and not just the roles they play in my life. Perspective can be a compassionate teacher. My hope is to shed light on the need for all of us to really see one another without judgment, especially within our families, and to be brave enough to show our true colors.

WOW: Is there a particular memoir you think everyone needs to read?

Lisa: It would be too hard to pick one. Two of my favorites are quite popular - Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Eat, Pray, Love by Liz Gilbert - both of which are beautifully written and insightful stories. But there are two other memoirs I loved as much - Perfection by Julie Metz and Uncovered by Leah Lax.

All four of these stories center on a woman's search for her own identity after harrowing or emotionally devastating circumstances, something I can relate to with my own story. Yet, in each case the author's journey is so unique. Where Cheryl and Liz take us on exotic adventures to find themselves, Julie brings us along on an internal trek that navigates the foundation of truth itself. Leah shows us a world so foreign and riddled with rules, right in our own backyard, that we gasp at her courage to question her entire life, and the action she takes to change it. To me, memoir is such a powerful genre because these stories are not just exquisite, but also true.

WOW: You mentioned relocating to New Mexico from the San Francisco Bay Area. How has that adjustment been for you?

Lisa: Fantastic! Having relocated to San Francisco from the Midwest as a young woman in the early 80's, and then back to the Bay Area from Chicago again at 50, I thought I was destined to live by the sea for the rest of my life. It felt like home to me. But it is also extremely expensive.

My partner, Mark, and I began talking about moving to the Southwest when my apartment building was sold and the rent was skyrocketing. This meant sharing a home after 8 years of being together and living separately. We wanted plenty of space to live and write (and not kill each other!) near spectacular nature. As we were looking at Sedona and Santa Fe as options, a friend suggested Las Cruces, NM. We found a beautiful home to rent on Zillow, and moved in a month later pretty much sight unseen. Taking that chance has been extraordinary. We have a sunset view and the Organ Mountains a few miles away; trading the water for the incredible sky. I've never written more than since making this move!

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Lisa! Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?

Lisa: Thank you. My best advice is to just write. Sitting in the chair is the first step. You can edit bad words, but you have to get them on the page first. I also suggest not tweaking too much as you go. I am a big fan of "puking it out" then going back later to clean it up. Getting some distance from a piece of writing can really help see a new perspective. When I wrote the essay Two Roofs, One Home it was to submit to the Modern Love column of the NY Times. They rejected it. After a few months I took it out and revised it to submit to a BlogHer contest. It was chosen as a Voice of the Year winner. Sometimes all you need is more editing, and the courage to put it back out there.

Also, I can procrastinate with the best of them, so having writing buddies and/or a coach helps push me. I've got both, which helps with my final tip: get critique. The investment in having my work reviewed with feedback is what led me to win this contest.


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


Sioux Roslawski said...

Marcia--Thanks for doing this interview and including the link.

Lisa--I read your essay. Wow. I think almost all of us have struggled with our relationship with our parents, at some time or another. I imagine your essay--and your memoir when it's finished--will help others navigate their way to a healing place. A forgiving place (forgiving themselves as well as their family).

Good luck with your memoir. Today, with the political climate we're mired in, we need books that can help people cross the chasms between us, instead of more divisive books.

Renee Roberson said...


I love how you refer to the writing process of "puking it out" and going back later to clean it up. That is so true sometimes! I'm so glad you chose the critique option and continued revising "The Ashes of Purple Heart." It is a finely-crafted piece of writing and I savored every word. Congratulations again.

Angela Mackintosh said...

I just love this interview!

Lisa ~ My father-in-law's family is from Silver City and Las Cruces, and I went there for the first time last year. I agree, it's beautiful, and so clean compared to Los Angeles! Lol. I can imagine your surroundings lead to much inspiration and productivity.

I haven't read Perfection or Uncovered, and I'm adding them to my list since memoir is my favorite genre. I'm so glad you're working on yours, and if it's anything like your essay, I'd be the first in line to read it. :)

I just love your stories of persistence--revising a rejection and turning it into a win. Voice of the Year is a great title! Congratulations on all your successes! I can't wait to see what's next from you. :)

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