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Sunday, June 09, 2019

Meet Angela Dawson, Q2 2019 Creative Nonfiction Runner-Up

Angela Dawson lives in Bristol with her husband and their three unschooled children. A teen. A tween. And a six-year-old with an extra chromosome. She’s a self-taught writer with a gentle, honest, sensitive voice. She writes true things about small moments that move, awaken or inspire. Her personal essays have appeared in Mamalode, Mothers Always Write, The Green Parent, Breastfeeding Today and The Manifest-Station. She has a short piece in the forthcoming Sensorially Challenged Volume 2.

Readers can find her online at Angela’s Flashes or on Instagram @angelasflashes.

Check out Angela's introspective piece here and then return for an interview with the writer.

----------Interview by Renee Roberson

WOW: Congratulations, Angela, and welcome! I enjoyed reading your essay "A Recipe for Change" and it gave me a lot to think about. Your specialty seems to be in writing creative nonfiction. What is it about this form of writing that appeals to you?

Angela: I discovered I was writing creative nonfiction after the fact. I'd started a blog when my youngest was two months and a day old. My intent was to be open, honest, clear and hopeful in my posts, as if I'd bumped into a friend in the park and we were catching up. What I liked, from the outset, was painting a picture with words. Bringing small moments to life in a vivid and visceral way. I liked the challenge of shaping a story. Of choosing the elements which best expressed the essence or feeling I was trying to convey. I'm an untrained writer, so it was only after reading Lee Gutkind's book You Can't Make This Stuff Up. I realised there was a name for what I was doing. Creative nonfiction allows you to elevate the ordinary. There's immense freedom and flexibility in how you structure and voice the story. But it matters that you tell a true thing.

WOW: That is the most succinct description of creative nonfiction I've ever heard! I may have to check out that book--thank you for sharing that resource with us. “A Recipe for Change” is a beautifully-woven piece about the changes women’s bodies go through as they age. How did you get the idea to intersperse the recipe for bone broth within the narrative?

Angela: I really don't know what inspired me to marry stock making with menopausal symptoms. I was panic writing essays for a mentor I had at the time. Way behind on my words, I free wrote about what I'd noticed in my body in recent years. When the words stopped flowing, I went to the kitchen to make stock. Alchemy came to mind and got me thinking about the process of change. Once the food scraps and water were in the pan, I wrote down everything I'd just done and somehow it melded together.

WOW: Can you tell us about the upcoming piece that will be published in Sensorially Challenged Vol. 2?

Angela: It's 175 words of sensory dense writing. During a difficult family time last summer I spent a day in the scorching sun, weeding an overgrown patch at the back of the garden. The tall nettles and creeping bindweed seemed to represent my tangled mind. The mindless task of bending, snipping and pulling gave me something physical to do with my excess mental energy. Clearing the space. Uprooting what was no longer wanted. Tending, as a metaphor for my inner state.

WOW: You’ve been published in numerous literary journals and e-zines. What advice would you give writers hoping to submit essays in similar places?

Angela: It goes without saying that your essay should be the best it can be before you begin to find a home for it. How does it sound to you? Are there words you stumble over when you read it aloud? Or parts that feel flat? Fix them. Familiarise yourself with the flavour of each site you wish to submit to. Dig in. Read a bunch of pieces that catch your eye. Is your essay a good fit in terms of style, tone and subject matter? Read the submissions guidelines. Follow them! Format your essay in their preferred way. Add a brief cover note—speak from the heart and leave it at that. Double check everything and you're good to go.

WOW: Great advice, Angela. As a busy mom to three, how do you set time aside for writing?

Angela: I'm a feast and famine kind of writer who always has a pen and a Leuchtturm1917 notebook to hand. I don't have set times carved out, but when something needs expression or exploration I write whenever and wherever I can. I've written at 1.30am with my wide-awake youngest rolling ping pong balls across the floor. I've written at 6am whilst everybody but the birds slept. I've written whilst the kettle boiled. Stopped in the street to note an idea down. Written on buses and trains. Writing may happen in the margins of my life, but it still happens. I've booked a one to one with Mari L. McCarthy as part of my Runner Up prize (thank you WOW!) and later this year I'm going on a Monday to Saturday Arvon life writing retreat. I can't wait!

WOW: Mari is amazing--you will learn a lot from her. And we hope you had a blast on your writing retreat! Keep up the great work.

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