Interview with Evelyn Krieger, Q1 2018 Creative Nonfiction Runner Up

Sunday, March 24, 2019
Evelyn Krieger is a writer and educational consultant in the Boston area. Her fiction and essays have appeared in Hippocampus, Lilith, Gemini, Family Circle, Sunlight Press, Grown & Flown, Writer’s Digest, Teachers & Writers, Learning, and other publications. Her essay, “Losing My Words”, won 2nd place in the 2018 Memoir Magazine Recovery Essay Contest. Evelyn’s debut middle-grade novel, One Is Not A Lonely Number, was named a 2011 Sydney Taylor Honor Book from the Association of Jewish Libraries, and is a PJ OurWay Library selection. Evelyn has received professional grants from Wells Fargo Bank, Business Week, and Newton Public Schools. Her writing has been supported by a residency at the Vermont Studio Center for the Arts and TENT Children’s Literature Retreat. When she’s not wordsmithing, Evelyn loves dancing, listening to music, and spending time with her growing family. Visit her at

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our 2018 Q1 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Evelyn: Thank you. I’m honored to have made the Top Ten. I’ve been entering writing competitions since I was in my teens. Entering contests is a way to stay motivated. Having imposed deadlines keeps me sharp and forces me to revise and polish my work. I’m fortunate to have had several wins amongst the slew of rejections. I’ve been a fan of the WOW! website and blog for quite a while. I won an Honorable Mention in the WOW! 2016 Fiction contest. I like the transparency of the judging process and the support given to entrants. I had just completed writing "The Geometry of Grief" when I saw the call for the WOW! 2018 Q1 contest.

WOW: Your entry, “The Geometry of Grief” is creatively done and builds up to an elegant and powerful conclusion. What inspired you to write this essay?

Evelyn: I had been thinking a lot about the nature of grief after my sister-in-law passed away four years ago leaving behind her husband of 25 years and three children of similar ages to my own. A year after this terrible loss, my father was badly burned in a fire. For me, the shock, painful ending, lack of goodbye, and many other factors too complicated to go into, brought on a debilitating grief. Through therapy, the support of friends and family, time, and eventually writing, I began to recover and heal. I have published three other essays and a few blog posts related to loss and trauma. Writing can help contain the explosive emotions and fragmented images of grief. I like this quote from Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D., “While trauma keeps us dumbfounded, the path out of it is paved with words, carefully assembled, piece by piece, until the whole story can be revealed.”

I’ve noticed how the experience of grief is both universal and individual. The nature of the grief—it’s intensity and duration—is tied to the relationship with your loved one, the circumstances of death, and your own psychology. When trying to describe what grief feels like, one is often left to metaphor. For me, grief is an ever-shifting shape with sharp edges. Now, three years later, the edges have smoothed, no longer tearing at my inside. I’ve been able to move away from the fixation the horrific ending to all the love that came before. While grief's shadow remains, I try hard to keep facing the light. That was the inspiration for the “Geometry of Grief”. I want others to know that there is a way out.

WOW: As an educational consultant and busy mom, how do you find time to write? What works best for you?

Evelyn: During the busy days of parenthood, I wrote my first YA novel on Sunday mornings at Starbucks, during my daughter’s dance lessons, during summer vacations, and whenever I found a stretch of time. You have to tweak your writing schedule year to year. The key to making this work, no matter what stage of child-rearing you are in, is having a consistent schedule. In order to write my first teacher’s nonfiction book, I had to I’d hire a babysitter. With my youngest child now off to college, I am no longer as busy as I was when all three were at home. My part-time consulting work involves academic tutoring, test prep, college coaching, and homeschool consulting. This consumes a great deal of energy. I love my work, but some days working in a bookstore looks a lot more appealing. I try to keep mornings free for writing. After putting my writing career second (or third) for so long, I’ve now switched gears. This has brought more satisfaction, productivity, and success. Here are two quotes that keep me motivated: “If not now, when?” and “A year from now, you’ll regret not having started."

WOW: Are you working on any writing projects right now? What’s next for you?

Evelyn: I’ve always juggled several writing projects at once. I write short stories, essays, articles, memoir, novels, and a monthly blog on the creative life. I’m currently working on a middle-grade novel, Summer of the Blue Streak, set in 1968. I’m trying to stay focused on finishing the first draft, but I do have a few essays brewing which I turn to when I’m feeling stuck on the novel. I also have a “back burner” project—an adult novel--that I’m excited about. Writing that story will be my reward for finishing the children’s novel.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Evelyn! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Evelyn: Yes! I was just thinking about writing a blog post on this topic. Here goes:

1. Don’t send any work that feels “iffy." Revise and polish your story/essay/poem until it shines. Then find a trusty reader to give you feedback before submitting, if possible. Still, even after entering, you may later see how to make your submission better. This happens to me a lot. In fact, I’ve already added a paragraph to my WOW winning essay.

2. Thoroughly research the contest sponsor to understand the type of writing it seeks. Look carefully at the judging criteria. Read past winning entries, if available. How does your work stack up?

3. Consider your competition. Maybe start with smaller, less well-known contests or local ones.

4. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t win or place (although I know this is hard). Be proud of your efforts. You’re growing a body of work. Keep revising your manuscripts and submitting them elsewhere. I’ve resubmitted a non-winning story (with revisions) to the same contest in a different year and won a prize.


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 for providing a link to Evelyn's essay.

Evelyn--Congratulations. Even though I hate (and fail at) math, I enjoyed your essay.

Like you, I am working on a novel (for middle grades). You probably are not floundering but in case you do stumble when organizing/plotting, may I make a suggestion for a resource?

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel. It is helping me as I scrap my partial first draft as I begin a (much stronger) second draft.

Again, congratulations, and good luck with your writing of shorter pieces as well as with your two novels.

Evelyn Krieger said...

Thank, Sioux. Wonderful to hear from another children's book writer. I'm pleased to hear you have such confidence in me, but, yes, I do flounder now and then. This has more to do with my inner critic. I'm sorry to hear you hate math. Whenever someone tells me that, I blame it on poor teaching. In my tutoring, I pride myself on rehabilitating students from this travesty. Check out my March blog post for Pi Day.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Evelyn ~ I just LOVE what you said about grief. It's so true, that it's an ever-shifting shape. You captured this so poetically in your essay. It's one I can read over and over. I'm so sorry about your sister-in-law, and your father. I'd love to read your other work related to loss an trauma. Aha! I just saw the links on your website. I'll check them out. You have some GREAT clips btw! :)

I just started sending out CNF this year after a long dry spell. I often feel like my work is "iffy" and it bothers me to see it in print when I think it can be better; but I also tell myself it's better to get it out there a tiny bit imperfect than to never submit at all (which has been my problem in the past). Definitely shop the new version of "Geometry of Grief" around! It's fantastic. I can't imagine what you added to it.

Good luck on your novels, Evelyn! I love your MG title and the time period. :)

Cheers to you!

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