Interview with Jennifer Lewis, First Place Winner of 2019 Q3 Creative Nonfiction Contest

Sunday, August 04, 2019
Jennifer Dove Lewis lives in Tucson, AZ with her best friend and greatest supporter, Ryan, two of their children, Auburn and Colton, and their amazingly lazy dog, Sophy. Her oldest son, Jakob, is living the dream as a sophomore at West Virginia University. Go Mountaineers!

Jennifer has her Master’s degree in Professional Counseling from Liberty University, but has spent most of her adult life working in the military, and in the Intel and defense industries, as a security specialist. Her secret love and passion has always been writing, most of which she sneaks in during the wee hours of the morning, quick lunch breaks, and late at night when the world is finally quiet.

Armed with plenty of tea and cookies, Jennifer can bust out a hundred words with the best of them, before becoming distracted by some mundane life task. She is a pro at building Pinterest boards, baking highly caloric foods, attending book (wine) club, and reading everything she can get her hands on. She also has a fairly impressive brown thumb and enjoys growing and killing vegetables in the harsh Arizona desert. Her first novel, A Year in Exile, is in the works and is expected to be complete by Fall 2019!

You can follow Jennifer on her writing, baking, and plant-killing journey at her brand new Instagram @jenydoves.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Q3 2019 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Jennifer: Thank you! I was so excited to get the news! This essay was, of course, very personal to me and it was important for me to get it right. I have never entered a nonfiction essay contest before, so when I saw this one announced I was hesitant. I knew I had this story inside me, though, and thought I'd write it out and see how I felt about it. I never dreamed I would win, so it felt like an anonymous way to tell my story. Turns out I was wrong on that part! I received some amazing feedback on my initial entry and critique, submitted again, and now here we are. Such an incredible experience. I can't stress enough how encouraged I have felt throughout this process. The WOW! team has been nothing short of amazing.

WOW: Love to hear about your positive experience! What inspired you to write your story, “In the Trenches?”

Jennifer: Honestly, I'm not sure why I chose this particular memory. I have a teenage daughter, and I think the older she gets, the more I think about the plight of women and the many, many stories I've heard through the years. Stories not exactly like mine, but eerily similar in the details. What I want more than anything is for my daughter to not become a statistic. I want this for all of our daughters. This is a part of my life that's far behind me. I know the experience of that seven year relationship shaped me, but I'm in such a different place in my life now, it's often hard to believe it happened. But it did. And it's still happening today to women all over the world. I look back at that young girl and I feel immense pain and sympathy for her. I am so sorry she went through that. It was a very hellish and unnecessary life. But I no longer see that as me. I see it as all the young girls today, starting their lives, beginning their journey through relationships, and I want more than anything for this to just stop. Perhaps sharing my story is a way to express that. My hope would be for you to never receive another story like mine. My deepest hope is that my daughter's journey is far different from mine. The peace I felt in that ditch was real, because getting away is getting away, even if just for a moment. I never want my daughter to have to get away from her life.

WOW: Such a powerful essay, and I was rooting for your younger self. Thank you for sharing your experience.  You’re also working on a novel that you expect to complete this year. What has your novel writing journey been like?

Jennifer: Yes! I'm currently writing 'A Year in Exile'. This novel took me by surprise. I was working on another one, which is complete and in editing phase, when a passing comment by a coworker caught my attention and I couldn't get it out of my head. I went with it and my other novel has been left in the edit pile for now.

This writing journey has been a long one. I was first 'published' in a poetry book when I was in the fourth grade, so I guess my love of writing goes way back! As far as novel writing, I'm years into the process. Life has a way of throwing you in different directions, but I've found you keep coming back to your passions. I think the difficult part for most people is finding the time to write. For me, years passed and I kept telling myself I would make time to write. Resolution after resolution. Every year, I was determined to make it happen. This year, I finally did it. The time was there all along, I just didn't see it. Now my focus is on completing this novel, heading back to finish editing the other one, and continuing on with one of the many other story ideas I have plotted out in my mind and in my notebook. And of course, completing my next short story. Hoping to get that one in to WOW! for the contest ending this month!

WOW: Like many writers, you mention reading as a favorite activity. Any recent favorites you can recommend? What’s next on your reading list?

Jennifer: I am currently reading and loving The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren! She has such a wonderful writing style, witty dialogue, and it's the perfect summer story. I'm also re-reading Casting Off by Nicole R. Dickson. This is one of my all time favs because of the beautiful setting, which is a tiny island off the coast of Ireland, and the warm bond between its inhabitants. Another favorite is My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares. Truly captivating read! And finally, as always, I'm listening to Book 7 of the Harry Potter series in my car. I have a long commute, and Jim Dale is simply the best narrator! I listen to this series a little more than I care to admit here.

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

Jennifer: My best advice would be to just write. It's so easy to think we have no time, yet we spend so many mindless hours on our phones, watching shows on Netflix, cleaning the house. Honestly, wouldn't it be better to write? That dust just comes back; spend time on more permanent endeavors!

The easiest way for me to get words on paper is to ensure I'm always organized and have my next chapter planned. The chapters twist and bend and change completely by the time I type them out, but if I leave myself a good starting point for next time, I'm able to start writing immediately, and even fifteen minutes is enough to make some progress. My suggestion is to find at least 30 minutes a day to write. Early morning, on your lunch break, while the baby naps, late at night, while sitting in traffic. That last one might be a bit dangerous, so maybe skip that one. The time is there, though, so take advantage of it! If you can set a goal to write 1,000 words a day, that will be 7,000 by the end of the week, and 24,000 by end of month. In just a few months, you can have a first draft!

The world needs more books, let's do this!!


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 Jennifer's story.

Jennifer--Congratulations. It's easy to see why your piece snagged first place. Your story was powerful, and such an important one these days.

The fact that you resubmitted this gives me hope. I submitted to this same contest, was gifted a critique (thank you again, Angela) and the feedback was quite helpful. At some point, I'll revise it and submit it again.

I hope that all our daughters can avoid the hell you survived, but I know that's not going to happen. But I can dream, right?

Good luck with your upcoming novel, your current WIP, and congratulations again.

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