Interview with Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo: Q4 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Sunday, December 20, 2020
Jennifer’s Bio: 

Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo is the Chief Executive Officer at Wonder Woman Writer, LLC, and a Freelance Writer. In addition to being a Forbes Women Contributor, she has had pieces included in Time magazine, Parents Magazine, Huffington Post, and ScaryMommy. Ms. Palumbo has covered topics such as infertility, women’s health, patient advocacy, pregnancy, relationships, parenting, being the mother of an autistic child, and more. As an infertility subject matter expert, she has been interviewed on news outlets such as CNN, NPR, FOX, NBC, and BBC America, and was featured in the documentary, Vegas Baby. She also contributed a chapter in the book, Women Under Scrutiny by Randy Susan Meyers and performed in the Cover Girl’s “Stand Up for Beauty” with Aisha Tyler. She has been highlighted as an influencer in Medium, Welum, and iMensch. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram

If you haven't done so already, check out Jennifer's award-winning story "Birthing School Dropout" and then return here for a chat with the author. 

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Q4 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing this piece and how did it and your writing evolve as you wrote? 

Jennifer: Do you know how in movies, like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the protagonist looks into the camera and says to the viewer something along the lines of, “Can you believe this?” That’s how I felt during our whole birthing class journey. My husband and I just didn’t have anyone to turn to (other than each other) to ask, “Is it wrong that our birthing plan is simply to get the child out?” The class, the other attendees, and the flute playing during every birthing video we watched; I just didn’t fit in. The longer it went on, the funnier it got to me. To write about it was my way of expressing this and, hopefully, connecting to other women who, like me, were OK with medical intervention to give birth and not interested in creating paintings with my placenta. 

WOW: You paint such a vivid picture of your experience – I can easily imagine those looks on your faces during that class! What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay? 

Jennifer: As odd as this may sound, I’ve written so much about trying to get pregnant as we had infertility issues that this essay taught me that I could write about other things (even if they are all still related to my uterus in some shape or form). 

WOW: You have a wealth of successful writing experiences. What was your biggest challenge as a new writer, and how did you overcome it? 

Jennifer: One of my biggest challenges when writing is, I’m not too fond of outlines or overthinking things. This means that I write a bit too quickly, sometimes, and I need to be more patient. These days, I will write something and then walk away from it for a day or two (or longer) and go back through it. Taking more time to review it again, edit it and even think about it after writing about it has been incredibly helpful. 

WOW: Thank you for sharing that. I think it is beneficial to hear about other writers’ processes. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you? 

Jennifer: David Sedaris and Fran Lebowitz are two of my favorites. I also performed as a stand-up comic for many years, so many comics have inspired me. Getting on stage, being an instant protagonist, connecting with the audience, and working to elicit a physical response is an incredible skill. Performing as a comic and nonfiction essays are similar in that you have to be “real” and find the humor, and I love that. 

WOW: What a great connection between creative nonfiction and performing as a comic! If you could tell your younger-writing-self anything, what would it be? 

Jennifer: When I first started performing stand-up comedy, I was often told that I was a good writer. At first, I didn’t understand it as I never wrote down my routine. I wanted to write/learn it the way I would perform it – from memory. Finally, at some point, I had an “epiphany”: Writing is like telling a story… but in written form. It’s funny to think back to it now, but I’d say to myself, “If you’re a good storyteller, you may be a good writer too!” 

WOW: Anything else you’d like to add? 

Jennifer: For anyone thinking of writing or wanting to write – just do it. Once you get something on that paper, you can always go back, edit it, change it, add things or cut things out. Fill up that blank sheet! 

WOW: Thanks so much for your thoughtful responses. And thank you for sharing your writing with us!  

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive sportswomen.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Anne--Thanks for doing this interview, and for giving us a link to Jennifer's essay.

Jennifer--Your essay made me laugh. With my first-born, I drank a whole bottle of cod liver oil (or castor oil--I don't remember which) because reportedly, if the baby was ready, this oil would agitate the uterus and cause labor to begin. It did... and I couldn't stand to eat anything with any kind of oil for the next year.

I too went to a birthing class where the instructor said she had a placenta in her freezer... Would we want her to frizzle it up in a frying pan as a treat? Um, no!

I chose a home delivery with a doctor who specialized in them. My goal was to get the baby out without having forceps used or an enema administered (enemas were normal "requirements" for moms-to-be at a hospital I worked at, along with shaving you-know-where). I wanted some control, and got it, along with a gorgeous daughter.

Congratulations. If you have not already, I would suggest you start working on a memoir. Infertility is such a heartbreaking issue with so many families. Perhaps they could learn/heal/laugh/cry while reading your story...

Good luck with your future writing. Getting people to chuckle and smile when the larger picture is serious takes great talent. You obviously have it.

Jeanine DeHoney said...

Great interview Anne. Congratulations Jennifer, I enjoyed reading your essay. Continued success with all of your writing endeavors.

Renee Roberson said...

Great essay, Jennifer! I loved everything about this-the pacing, the little details like the birth-inspired artwork, the decision to ditch class and eat a pizza instead. I too laughed out loud and it brought back some of my own memories of labor and delivery with my daughter (who is now 17!) In one of our birthing classes, the instructor recommended buying one of those heated, electric hand-held massagers so my husband could massage my back when I started having contractions. As luck would have it, I ended up with the very painful back labor, and the first time my husband tried to come near me with the massager, I very nearly took it out of his hand and beat him over the head with it.

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