Read Annie's essay here and then return for an interview with the author.
----------Interview by Renee Roberson
WOW: Welcome, Annie, and congratulations! When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Annie: I don't know! I was the kid that was always writing -- even before I knew how. I still have notebooks filled from front cover to back with scribbles that were my attempts at writing before I knew the alphabet. I also remember my mom saying to me from a young age that she imagined me growing up and being a writer who lived by the sea, and I think I just always like that image of myself as well (although I don't live near the ocean). I remember her saying it all the time, but in reality, she might have only said it once as a passing thing, and I liked it so much that I played it over and over again in my head. Memory is funny that way...
WOW: What are some of your favorite formats to use when writing creative nonfiction? Could you give us some examples of ways you’ve used them?
Annie: I really enjoy poetic prose, like "Bluets" by Maggie Nelson, or even Eula Biss' books, which are all nonfiction, narrative essays, but so beautifully written, which is what I attempted to do in "Picking Blueberries." I enjoy repetition -- anything that will call you back to an earlier passage and give it new or dual meaning, such as repeating "I am not an early riser," or how I imagine each group arriving at the blueberry patch having the same initial thought that they believe makes them clever (myself included). What's great about creative nonfiction is that you're not spending time coming up with back stories, making sure there are no loopholes, or other things you have to think about when writing fiction. You generally already know the backstory because you or someone you know lived it, or you can research it. So the fun comes with playing with the language and creating something that is not only (hopefully) a compelling story, but that can read as if it were fiction or poetry.
WOW: Thanks for those book recommendations! So many of our readers are enjoying the craft of creative nonfiction. I love the addition of the memory of your grandmother in the second half of the piece. Did you always know you wanted to include her in this essay or did she make an entrance in the revision process?
Annie: I think about my grandmother a lot. She was a mysterious woman in so many ways to me, and though she lived into her 90s, I was too young to really know how to have a meaningful relationship with her and it's a big regret of mine that I didn't ask her more questions about her life. What was it like being a teenager in the 1930s? What was living through WWII like? What was it really like to be a woman in the workforce in the 50s & 60s? Being a single mom? A child of immigrants? There's just so much I don't know. So she appears in my writing a lot because I have to imagine so much about her. One thing I DO know about her though: she loved to pick strawberries. And every year, I think I will go pick strawberries and maybe I will feel close to her. But I always miss it -- it happens too early in summer and I'm never thinking about berry picking yet. That day when I went blueberry picking that inspired my piece, I was already thinking about her. So, she was there from the start. From before the start.
WOW: What are some topics you enjoy writing about in your fiction?
Annie: I love to write about love, about sleep and dreams and memories, about quiet moments of contemplation, and about relationships. I find relationships and the expectations we put on them endlessly interesting. Can you ever really know a person? Can you ever truly be known? I also find the cyclical nature of life interesting, which I think (hope) comes out a bit in "Picking Blueberries," as I imagine my grandmother's afternoon being quite similar to my own. Maybe we actually do know each other better than we think.
WOW: When do you find are the best times of day for productive writing?
Annie: I write at night. But I don't know if I write at night because it is the best time, or if it's because it's the only time I have when it's guaranteed that no one will be calling, texting, emailing, interrupting. No one is asking anything of you late at night, and that's the best time. If I were an early riser, as I say in my piece, I might find the wee hours of the morning a good time to write as well, but I prefer to sleep in.
WOW: Annie, congratulations again and keep up all the great writing!