If you haven't done so already, check out Jennifer's award-winning story "The Care of Orchids" and then return here for a chat with the author.
WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Q3 2021 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing your essay and how did it and your writing processes evolve as you wrote?
Jennifer: I struggled for a while with the daunting prospect of what shall I write. It came to me that a great many women have had hysterectomies, but though it is a shared experience, it is rarely spoken about. The orchids were a more unusual element that I also had personal experience with. Somehow the two seemed to fit together. Also, I wanted to address the feeling of loneliness. There are more humans on the planet than ever before, and yet we are more isolated than ever. It's another thing we rarely talk about. As to process, I couldn't really say. I submitted "The Care of Orchids" to WOW a few cycles ago. It made the first cut but not the top 20. I received very useful feedback on the critique that really rang true and helped me craft it into a better essay. The critique also reinforced the gut feelings I had about certain passages – good and bad. It has helped me to hone and to trust my writerly instincts.
WOW: I’m so glad you found your critique helpful, and that you used it to revise and resubmit! That’s a great success story. You mention in your bio that it took you awhile to get back to writing seriously. What prevented you from writing and/or how did you find your way back to it?
Jennifer: I felt as though I did not have permission to write. It seemed frivolous – an expenditure of time and energy on a pursuit that was a bit mad. It seemed I should be doing something productive. What most prevented me from writing was – me. But then, this writing, it's a bit like hunger, isn't it? A craving. A need.
WOW: Yes, writing can feel frivolous until you recognize that craving within you, or when you consider the power storytelling has to open minds and change perspectives – for both the writers and the readers. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you?
Jennifer: Growing up, I enjoyed the writings of outdoor humorist Patrick F. McManus. Even serious situations can have a little humor in them. In school, one of the few essays I liked among the dismal assignments (why do they make kids read such depressing stuff?) was an excerpt from Travels with Charlie, which was both funny and true. More recently, I have found much writing to admire among the entries of the WOW contests. Mary Jumbelic's "Watching Her" was especially moving. It artfully tied together past, present, and future with a tragic true story. On the fiction side, I really appreciated Tara Campbell's "The Kracken in Love."
WOW: If you could tell your younger self anything about writing, what would it be?
Jennifer: Do it! Write! You ARE good, but not as good as you can be. As you will be. Storytelling is a human need as old as the cave paintings. The world needs your stories, and you need to write them. Study, learn, WRITE!
WOW: Excellent advice for any of us. Thank you for your thoughtful responses. Happy writing!