Jackie Pick Wins Again: 2nd Place in Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

Sunday, May 26, 2019
Jackie Pick is becoming a household name if you follow this blog and WOW!'s flash ficiton and nonfiction essay contests. She is delightful, and we love to pick her brain each time she wins. If you haven't met Jackie or read her writing yet, you are in for a treat. You have to check out her 2nd place essay, in the 2019 Second Quarter Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest, titled "The Moon, The Womb, and Dim Sum."

Bio: Jackie is a former teacher and current writer living in the Chicago area. She is a contributing author to several anthologies, including Multiples Illuminated, Nevertheless We Persisted, So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood, Here in the Middle, as well as the literary magazines The Sun and Selfish. In 2018, her work won commendation from the Mark Twain House and Museum Royal Nonesuch Humor Writing Competition. Jackie is a contributor at Humor Outcasts, and her work has been featured on various online sites including Mamalode, The HerStories Project, and Scary Mommy. A graduate of the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, Jackie co-created and co-wrote the award-winning short film Fixed Up, and was a member of the 2017 Chicago cast of Listen To Your Mother. She can be found lurking on Twitter or on her website.

WOW: Jackie, congratulations on your creative nonfiction essay contest win--again! You are becoming a household name amongst the WOW! family for your humorous essays about your family and your relationships with them. This essay: "The Moon, The Womb, and Dim Sum" is a little different and explores many themes: astrology/horoscopes, belief in mystical/spiritual elements, romantic relationships, sisters, and mothers-daughters to name a few. But let's start with how it pays such a tribute to your grandma. What made you write an essay about her and her astrology book?

Jackie: Thank you for your kind words. For the first 18 years of my life, I knew my grandmother more through stories than through interaction. She lived 1000 miles away, so we didn’t see her very often. Combining that with the fact that she was a devout Catholic, while my parents were Jewish and raised their children Jewish, Grandma Alice seemed to inhabit a different world entirely. The loving stories I heard about her made our occasional visits feel like something out of a storybook, where I was trying to discover and understand her, as well as my own history. Of course, children are fascinated and sometimes confused by contradictions while teenagers can often exploit them. As my own children started to ask questions about my childhood, I realized my own understanding of my grandmother and my childhood was filtered through some unusual lenses, and those contradictions were simultaneously sharpened and softened, as I began to work through this story.

WOW: The format of the essay is so interesting. We just published an e-zine issue that has a lot of information about lyric essays, and I would argue (and hopefully you agree) that your essay could definitely fit under this definition. Why did you choose to write it with the "Fact" label and weave together--your grandma's astrology book; your grandma's personality--your mom's and your sister's, too; dating the Pisces, and then eventually winding up with your husband and kids and the social media exchange with the ex?

Jackie: Oh, I love that you also consider this a lyric essay. I think when dealing with faith, religion, and relationships – especially familial relationships – facts get soft and wily. I think the lyric essay form let all that complexity and meaning and subtext ebb and flow best. That was sort of the crux of this whole piece (and I went through dozens of iterations of this over about two years). What’s real? What’s true? Are those the same thing? Does it matter? Facts and truth play hide-and-seek when it comes to matters of the heart. I had to wait to be a good enough writer to even attempt this style. I’ve always liked playing with chronology and form, and I have a long way to go; but I’m happy to be at a place where I’m trying things and often they resonate!

WOW: Thank you for letting us know how long you worked on this. I think knowing that is helpful to many of us.  Of course, your essay also describes some Chinese food and mentions it a few times, which makes me want to order Chinese for dinner--if only my 8-year-old daughter would share the love. And that seems to be the last key point and theme in your essay we haven't touched on very much yet. Food and sitting around the table are often themes in personal essays--why do you think that is? Why did you work that into your message here?

Jackie: Food, family, big life moments – at least two of the three almost always go together. All of those are nourishment. Conflict (and great stories!) comes when we try to substitute one nourishment for another, or one type competes rather than complements, or when “nourishment” becomes something more or less than what it needs to be, becomes analgesic or even provocative. As I edited this piece, there was a whole section on what Chinese food meant to my family and what types of foods were important to my grandmother (who we tended to visit on big eating occasions like Thanksgiving), and how when I “grew up” and expanded my palette, it became a ridiculous point of establishing my independence. I was nourishing my separation and identity through food. Maybe that will become another piece in the future.

WOW: Love all the symbolism, and all the nourishment you just gave to our brains with that answer. (smiles) Let's switch gears just a little here. We know you write a lot of essays--but do you write anything else? Why or why not? Are you busy building a brand--a body or work that is all in the same genre or appeals to the same type of reader? Or are you writing what inspires you--no matter how it comes out?

Jackie: I write what inspires me, or at least what nags at me, and try to find the best way to express it. Film, novel, essay, fiction, non-fiction, humor, serious. I write scripts for short films and plays, and I am currently working on two (!) books with notes etched out for a third. Which either makes me sound very busy or makes me sound unfocused. Probably both, but I don’t care. It works for me. I am nourished when my writing diet is varied.

I don’t really work on building a brand, per se, but I hope to reach people who might enjoy my weirdness no matter how it’s expressed. That’s going to be a little trickier if I dabble across genres, but it’s honest. I used to worry a lot about platform building, but I realized I was spending a lot of time on the business of writing and not a lot of time actually writing. I know that I cannot rely on the work to speak solely for itself, but it should have a much larger voice than my stomping around social media.

WOW: We also notice you on Instagram quite a bit! And your bio mentions Twitter. How are you using social media as a writer to either build an audience or network with industry professionals or both?

Jackie: I enjoy social media. It’s a strange, hilarious, sometimes awful place. I’m using it both as a megaphone (probably pointed into the wind), but also a place to learn about writers and interact with fascinating people whom I would not otherwise get to chat with. Instagram is where I plop my random musings and/or photos of stuff I’ve cooked that doesn’t look like it should be used in a ritual purging. And my kids, when they give me permission. It’s also where I recommend books I’m enjoying. Be warned, I occasionally post photo evidence of my bad hair days.

Twitter is where I get political and try out some dumb jokes, and promote any essays that I have been published. My public Facebook page is largely where I direct people to my blog. My blog deals right now largely with the process of writing my book, but it’s also a place for me to experiment with different writing pieces that don’t really fit anywhere else.

WOW: I think a lot of people don't think about using different social media platforms for different things, but that's a great idea. Anything else you would like to add?

Jackie: Thank you so much for this – it’s been fun!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--Thanks for doing this interview and for including a link to Jackie's story.

Jackie--I enjoyed your essay. I too found the format--all the facts--a clever choice. In your interview I loved the phrase "contradictions were simultaneously sharpened and softened." It perfectly explains what happens when we write about our lives.

Good luck with your future writing endeavors, although it doesn't sound like you need well wishes. (I smiled over your last name. WOW "picked" your essay. I wonder if I changed my name to "Choose," if I'd finally snag an editor. ;)

Renee Roberson said...


Great essay, and Margo, fantastic interview questions! I've become more interested in creative nonfiction writing myself lately so this is a great piece to study for all of us. Now I'm inspired to write my own version sitting around my Hispanic grandmother's kitchen table watching her make homemade tortillas! I'm very much like you, also, in that I need a varied diet of writing to remain nourished.

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