Interview with Tiffany Doerr Guerzon, Runner Up in the WOW! Q1 2022 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

Sunday, February 27, 2022
Tiffany Doerr Guerzon is a freelance writer, essayist, and mixed media artist. Her work has been featured in This Land Press, CNN, The Christian Science Monitor,, Submittable, ParentMap, and Chicken Soup for the Soul. She lives near Seattle, Washington with her husband and three children, where she teaches creative nonfiction at a local college. She loves to hike and make art. 

----------Interview by Renee Roberson

WOW: Hi Tiffany, welcome! I loved your essay and am excited to talk to you about the process of developing it. In “Red Dirt” you explore your Oklahoma heritage with the storied past of the land that once belonged to Native Americans. How did you first get the idea for this piece? 

Tiffany: It came out of a prompt from one of Kandace Chappelle’s nature writing classes that I took through WOW. My family has always talked about both our Land Run and Native American heritage and I enjoyed exploring the concept of home and place through the metaphor of the ground itself. Red Dirt is so iconic for Oklahoma, the tourist shops sell “Red Dirt Shirts” which are T-shirts dyed with red dirt and Rose rocks which are rose-shaped crystals that are pink because of the red dirt. I have a fellow Okie friend living near me who keeps a jar of red dirt in her house because it means “home” to her. Due to the word count limit, not the entire essay made it into the entry. As I researched the properties of red soil, I found more and more parallels between the facts and the people, such as the fact that red dirt sticks or clumps together when tread upon, which reminded me of the way the community came together after the Oklahoma City bombing. 

WOW: I love hearing our WOW! classes are helping to inspire published and award-winning works of writing! You have articles that have been featured in both regional and national publications such as Parents and The Christian Science Monitor. What was the first piece you had accepted and what was the writing/revision process for it like? 

Tiffany: The first piece I had accepted by a local regional parenting magazine was an essay I’d sent in two years before. The editor emailed me one day saying “I’ll bet you thought we forgot about this!” I don’t think that piece was edited at all. The editor was very kind in answering all my novice questions and walked me through the publication process. The national magazines were a different story. Not as far as the kindness of the editors I worked with, all of them have been wonderful, just in the case of editing. In my piece for CNN, “Why I Didn’t Become a Gymnastics Mom,” first the editor responded by asking me to include some research to back up my opinion. Even though it wasn’t a guarantee that she would accept the revised piece, I took her advice, both because I was so excited that she responded and because I agreed that research could only improve the essay. It took me a couple of weeks to do that and when I resubmitted it, it landed in her inbox on the day the news broke that Simone Biles was stepping away from Olympic competition for mental health reasons. Suddenly, my little story of how I tried not to pressure my gymnast daughter in the hope of preserving her mental health was of interest. CNN wanted a quick turnaround and it was edited by two different editors seven times in the space of a few days. And that was after many revisions by my critique partners before submitting the piece in the first place. 

WOW: Tell us about your fiction writing. You’ve written three picture books and an award-winning middle-grade novel called “Adeline’s Mirror,” which is a ghost story set in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood. How do you get your ideas for your books? Do you have any new fiction works on the horizon? 

Tiffany: Most of my picture book ideas came from things one of my three children did or said. For example, “Loud Lani” is about a little girl who has no volume control and my middle child was never quiet. My middle grade novel, “Adeline’s Mirror,” began as a NaNoWriMo project over ten years ago. I’ve always loved ghost stories and history, so combining the two created a book that I would’ve wanted to read as a preteen. As for the setting, the Queen Anne neighborhood in Seattle is full of beautiful older mansions, many of which are built in the Queen Anne Victorian style. Plus, houses were built there as early as 1851, making it old enough for a ghost story! I’m currently working with a mentor through SCBWI’s mentorship program to revise the “Adeline’s Mirror” manuscript and will be looking for an agent soon. 

WOW: You belong to The Pacific Northwest Writers Association. What do you find beneficial about belonging to a writing organization? 

Tiffany: I think belonging to a writing organization is essential. Writing is a strange job and a very solitary pursuit. Being with other writers offers the companionship, shop talk, and advice that others might get in office settings. I also belong to the SCBWI which has been wonderful in providing resources and informational conferences. 

WOW: Your website says that you enjoy visual art and teach workshops focusing on creating mixed media art. How did you first discover this art form and what draws you to it? 

Tiffany: Before I became a professional writer, writing was my creative outlet. It still is to a degree, but more of my writing is now “work.” I discovered mixed media when I joined a free creative challenge called Index Card a Day offered by Daisy Yellow. In the challenge, you create tiny art pieces on index cards daily for 61 days. I learned about new art mediums and techniques from the Daisy Yellow Facebook group and enjoyed it so much that I started taking classes in mixed media. What I love about mixed media is that the process is very intuitive. Mixed media is created by adding multiple layers. The form is very forgiving; if you make a mark you don’t like, just cover it with another layer! It’s also very relaxing. I feel like my art practice compliments my writing practice and vice versa.

WOW: Tiffany, thank you again for stopping by today, and we can't wait to read more of your writing!


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