Sunday, December 08, 2019
Interview with Mary Ann Rojas: Q4 2019 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up
By day she is a nurse at a middle school and at night she makes pictures with words. She is busy querying her book The Key and is currently working on USS Bios, a tale of a retrofitted Navy ship laden with world changing research after it’s commandeered during the night. Several of her short stories are in the hands of editors who she hopes, desire just what she’s created. Ultimate solace for Mary Ann is tent camping with her husband and three dogs in Kings Canyon National Park, a mere ninety-minutes from her Central Valley California city of Visalia.
Her essay, “Arsonist Pleads Guilty-Exhibits Zero Remorse” revealed a facet of medicine in which she had no experience. Mary Ann placed 3rd in American Gem Literary Festival’s 2017/18 Short Story Contest with “Have a Heart.”
interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Q4 2019 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?
Mary Ann: I'd entered WOW contests before and this one piqued my interest because I had a story to tell and needed another woman/women to feel what I felt during a most horrible time. Fiction is easy for me to write. Non-fiction not so much, except for this time.
WOW: Your entry, "Arsonist Pleads Guilty--Exhibits Zero Remorse" is a moving, though harrowing read. I imagine it was difficult to write, though perhaps necessary for you to put to words?
Mary Ann: My "Arsonist Pleads Guilty-Exhibits Zero Remorse" was actually what I would say to the arsonist face to face if given the opportunity. I wanted to tell her like the prosecutors do on TV court shows. I wanted to pace in front of the jury and stop at the defendant and look her in the eyes and without wavering, tell her all she had done I wouldn't cry either. I would be strong. I wanted my words to ooze with anger and bitterness though those things eat away at us and must not linger, to our peril. I was grieving for the loss of my son, not in death but a loss of his independence and the young man he used to be and the journey toward healing he would painfully endure. A mother's heart breaks in a zillion pieces when her children are in pain. It matters not the age of our children either. It was very difficult to write yet supremely cathartic. I could see him in those words and the tears flowed without restraint.
WOW: It's a powerful essay, and I'm sorry for what your son and you have gone through. With your job as a middle school nurse, how do you make time to write? What works best for you?
Mary Ann: I always bring a pad of paper to work with me and jot down ideas that come to me, otherwise they slip away into oblivion. I write primarily in the evening. It is my priority and I love every moment of it.
WOW: Are you working on any writing projects right now? What’s next for you?
Mary Ann: I am working on several projects right now. I have written a book that is currently out to a few literary agents (queries and chapters), The Key. I wait, as writers do after submitting. I've got another book in the works as well, USS Bios. I also love flash fiction and find the challenge exhilarating to write a story in as few words as possible! I have several short stories completed and am working on submitting them as well. I write thrillers and come up with crazy macabre ideas!
WOW: Best of luck with those projects! Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Mary Ann. Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?
Mary Ann: My advice? We all have stories. If we want to invite others into the worlds we create, we must be diligent, consistent, tenacious and excited in the creation of those worlds. Someone will love your words but you have to put them down first.
For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.