Linda Petrucelli, 2nd Place Creative Nonfiction Winner, Started with a Writing Prompt

Saturday, August 22, 2020
For most of her adult life, Linda Petrucelli has lived on islands—Taiwan, Manhattan, and Hawaii. Being surrounded by water suits her. Her story, “Figure Eight on the Waves,” won first place in the WOW! Women on Writing Fall 2018 Flash Fiction Contest. Her fiction and personal essays have appeared in KYSO Flash, Flash Fiction Magazine, Memoirist Magazine, and MacQueen’s Quinterly among others. Linda writes from her tin-roofed rancher on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island. She posts her flash fiction at jackrabbitfiction.com.

Linda's winning essay is "Ballsy," which you can read here.

WOW: Hi Linda! Congratulations on your win, and thank you for letting us pick your brain today. What led you to write this essay?

Linda: I keep rambling lists of my life superlatives. The lists come in handy when I need to dredge my memory for subjects to write about. Spinal fusion appears as number one on “The Weirdest Things I’ve Had Done to my Body.”

WOW: Maybe your list could lead to a lot more interesting essays! You start in an interesting way with the stat on tennis balls, and throughout the essay, you include some information about these little yellow spheres. What made you write about your topic in this way?

Linda: "Ballsy" came in response to an exercise from an online writing class I was taking with Chelsey Clammer. She posted a quirkily brilliant writing prompt: Use five facts to describe an everyday object that carries great emotional meaning exclusively to you.

I knew almost immediately that my object would be a tennis ball because I had been hoping to write about my back surgery, but didn’t exactly know how. Those fuzzy yellow orbs became a metaphor of my infirmity, Arranging the story around tennis ball facts suggested parts of the narrative, especially my relationship with my husband, that I had never considered. Those facts opened narrative doors I would never have thought to enter.

WOW: That is so awesome that this essay started from a writing prompt in Chelsey's class! You also chose to write in second person, "you," instead of first person "I." Is this how the essay started? What led you to this strong choice?

Linda: I had been reading Mayra Hornbacher’s essay, "Strip." At one point in the essay, she moves from first POV into the second, and I remember feeling how close I felt drawn in to her and her story. “You” became “Me.” I think that (intense) reading experience and desire to create intimacy with the reader were elements of my decision.

WOW: Reading is one of the best things you can do for your craft. You've also won first place in our flash fiction contest, and so we can tell that you are a dedicated, well-rounded, and talented writer. Do you have a preference between fiction or nonfiction writing? Do you think one helps you perfect the other?

Linda: When I started exploring creative writing a few years ago, I began with fiction. I never even considered memoir or the personal essay because, as I look back now, I was horribly self-conscious writing about myself. Yet, my early fiction always contained an autobiographical seed grounded in my life—a recurring dream, a memory a troubled relationship.

Last year, I began to see that writing about my life, sharing my opinions and preserving memories, was oddly therapeutic. I fell in love with the literary power of “a true story." And, what’s neat is that for those life experiences I have trouble publicly owning, or that might damage a relationship, fiction allows me to tell that story and still preserve a certain privacy.

WOW: That's a great point. What's next for you and your writing career?

Linda: To realize my writing dream…Pens on fire! Ruthless truth and prismatic prose. Forgiving myself over and over again when my initial clumsy attempts disgrace the glorious ideas in my head.

WOW: Thank you, Linda, for this delightful interview. Here's to your dream! 


7 comments:

Sioux Roslawski said...

Linda--Congratulaltions. I loved the way you structured your piece. The back and forth of it, the contrasting tennis balls with what you were going through.

(And your last line: priceless ;)

Good luck with your future writing, and congrats again on this win. I know the competition is stiff with WOW's contests, so you should feel proud of your accompishment. (I paid to get feedback for the only WOW competition I entered before, and Chelsey was the judge. She gave me fabulous feedback. What a writer--and a teacher--she is.)

Linda Petrucelli said...

Thank you for your comments Sioux!

I am a better writer for the classes I've taken. I'm sending a virtual hug to all the teachers who've taught me a thing or two about writing. And here's a shout out to Chelsey--her prompts seem to take me places I wouldn't naturally go.

Chelsey Clammer said...

I love you people! And congrats again Linda! It's such a great essay!

Unknown said...

Congratulations Linda! Your writing is inspiring and I've enjoyed every essay.

Thank you for sharing your creative gifts with the world. Looking forward to your next essay.

Eila said...

I found myself very drawn into this piece. It may have been the tennis balls because I love tennis, or the extreme contrast between what the tennis ball represents which for me is running and swinging and physical activity versus the way they were used on a walker.
Thank you for sharing this unique story

Jeanine DeHoney said...

Such an awe inspiring interview Margo and essay Linda. Congratulations Linda, you're on your way to realizing all of your writing dreams.

Angela said...

Linda! You know how much I love your piece, and reading your inspiration behind it was a treat! I also have a list of weird things I've had done to my body. :) Chelsey encouraged me to bring the body into my work and it's helped me so much. "Ballsy" is a brilliant braided essay. Congratulations again, Linda! I'm a huge fan of your writing. xo Ang

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