Kelley Allen, 2nd Place Essay Contest Winner, Shares Difficult Times With Us

Sunday, February 16, 2020
We welcome Kelly Allen today! She won second place in the Q1 2020 WOW! Creative Nonfiction Essay contest with her essay, "The Hole," which you should drop everything and read right now here. Then come back to read more about Kelley and how and why she wrote this essay. (Plus, consider entering your own essay into the next contest here!)

Kelley is a nature enthusiast who volunteers at a South Florida preserve and enjoys writing interpretive guides and educational materials. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Resource Conservation from Cornell University and spends as much time outdoors as possible.

She has been writing since she was thirteen. Her mother tells the story of Kelley, before she could talk, sitting in her crib, pointing at family members in a photo book and babbling about them as if telling stories. She has been a member of The Backroom Writers for 20 years, but has only recently begun sharing her essays with the public. Her work has been published in ReVisions (a college anthology) and The Sun Magazine.

She lives with her husband and son in South Florida.

WOW: Congratulations on winning second place in the creative nonfiction essay contest with your essay, "The Hole." "The Hole" is a very personal essay about a difficult time when you were young. Was it hard for you to write this essay and make the choice to send it into our contest?

Kelley: Thank you! I am thrilled that my essay won second place. This essay was especially hard to write because of the strong emotions involved. The subject is controversial, and there is a lot of shame associated with the decision I made so long ago. In the end, I decided to submit it to WOW’s contest as a litmus test (if you will) to see if my approach to writing is headed in the right direction.

WOW: I hope that you see how much your writing touched the judges, and I'm sure everyone who reads it will agree. You chose to tell this story of your life in an interesting way by focusing on a hole in the wall in your parents' basement and work in the desperation and loneliness you felt at this time of your life. Why did you make the choice to start with the hole and title your essay "The Hole"?

Kelley: The hole in the wall was the only concrete detail at the time. It grounded me and held my focus when it felt like everything had fallen apart. The story begins there, with me sitting on the bed, staring at the hole. Then, through the course of remembering the experience, my focus shifts to the hole inside me and what that means. Titling the essay “The Hole” just seemed to follow.

WOW: The title is perfect, working in the physical hole as well as the emotional hole. What advice do you have for WOW! writers who are struggling to write about difficult periods of their lives using the format of creative nonfiction?

Kelley: Let the words come. Put any possible future readers out of your mind and focus on the feelings and the immediacy of the story. Write about your truth and worry about what people may think later. There is always time to edit after the words are on the page.

WOW: Great advice! Let's talk about some of the information from your bio. What are the Backroom Writers, and how do they support you on your writing journey?

Kelley: The Backroom Writers are a critique group in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. They are the first readers of my work, and they always find something I missed. They push me to be a better writer, and I am profoundly grateful for them.

WOW: Your bio also mentions that you just recently started sharing your writing with the world--even though you've been writing since you were a young teenager! What caused you to make this choice? We are glad you did--obviously--because your beautiful essay made its way to our site!

Kelley: I recently moved, which effectively cleared my schedule and gave me an office. Then I took some writing courses, which inspired some short essays. I’m refining those now. The book-length manuscripts I’ve pecked at for years are tucked away in a drawer.

WOW: We hope that you will share more of your writing with the world. You have a gift! Thank you, Kelley, for your time today. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Kelley: Keep writing! One sure way not to be published is to not write.

WOW: That's so true! 


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--Thanks for doing this interview. Also, thanks for giving us the link to Kelley's story.

Kelley--You need to start submitting more writing. Hopefully, this is just the beginning. ;)

Congratulations on your 2nd place win. The competition is stiff, so you should be proud. You should also be confident, and be willing to send off your writing, beginning now.

How about starting by submitting pieces for WOW? They're always looking for pieces for Friday.

Good luck with your future writing and submitting. (And I loved your line about the hole was a "concrete detail" since it was a hole in a concrete block. What a great pun.) Many women could write a story about this same sort of experience--myself included. Stand tall. Be proud. Keep telling your stories.

(And another sure way to not be published is to not submit. Consider yourself nudged. ;)

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