Sunday, March 29, 2020
Interview with Kim Burnett: Q1 2020 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest Runner Up
Kim Burnett is a policy wonk by training who made an early career move from Capitol Hill to the nonprofit space, most recently in support of the children and schools in Haiti. A Midwesterner by birth and inclination, she now lives in Rehoboth Beach, DE. She has three happily launched children, a sweet husband and equally sweet dog.
She started a deep dive into memoir and essay through classes at the Writers Center in Bethesda, MD and worked with a nurturing circle of six other writers she met there for more than 12 years. In her new home at the beach she discovered a talented group of writers in the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild. They encouraged her to walk into the world of submissions. Her first published essay recently appeared Persimmon Tree Magazine, which she declares a good beginning.
She is interested in good books, good friends, and any activity that gets her on the trails or the beach.
If you haven't done so already, check out Kim's award-winning story "Does My AOL Email Address Make Me Look Fat?" and then return here for a chat with the author.
WOW: Congratulations on placing in the WOW! Q1 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing this piece and how did it and your writing evolve as you wrote?
Kim: This piece came together organically. The airport morning visit to Starbucks happened last January, and it was one of those moments I felt like I was above the scene, observing. No one noticed as I scribbled notes because they were all eyes-on-phone. I didn't think of it again until months later when I was working on my "serious writer" technology presence (which, by the way, I have yet to finish) of domain name, website address and email address and I felt resistance to making a choice. As I journaled about it, I realized I felt resentment that I would not be taken as seriously as a writer if I continued to use my comfortable AOL address. I wrote the essay that hour.
WOW: Thank you for sharing your writing process with us. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay?
Kim: I realized that turning 60 brought up unexpected insecurities and questions. Will I still be taken seriously by younger editors and writers? How hard am I willing to work to keep up with technology? What do I need to do – and what do I NOT need to do - to be both challenged and comfortable in my work? And - boy this was a surprise - I am more like my father than I imagined.
WOW: I love how writing can bring up so many unexpected questions and realizations. Enjoy the process of reflecting on those questions, if you choose to do so! Please tell us more about your experiences with writing groups.
Kim: Thirteen years ago, I took a memoir class at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, and two of the women from the class asked five of us to join them in a writer's group. They were all published and polished, and I was new to memoir and creative nonfiction writing. Month in and month out we've given each other support, honest feedback and the gift of encouragement, and I cannot imagine my writing journey without them. When I moved to Rehoboth Beach two years ago, I joined the thriving Rehoboth Beach Writer's Guild, and the teachers and fellow students have helped me become a better writer. They encouraged me to submit my work, and I've been accepted in several online publications.
WOW: That’s so wonderful that you’ve had multiple positive and encouraging experiences with your writing groups. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have most influenced you, and in what ways?
Kim: Anne Lamott, Nora Ephron, and Sloan Crosley taught me to tell stories that are honest and open. I've loved the NYT Modern Love column for years because most of the writers craft something complete and powerful with a challenging word count. Joan Didion taught me how to live with grief, and Wendell Berry challenged my assumptions about our natural world and community.
WOW: If you could tell your younger-writing-self anything, what would it be?
Kim: I would tell my younger self to protect her mornings and write more. I would tell her to stop saying yes to things of little importance. I would convince her to submit, submit, submit.
WOW: That is excellent advice! Anything else you’d like to add?
Kim: It is never too late to learn to be brave.
WOW: Thank you for sharing your writing with us and for your thoughtful responses!
Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive sportswomen.