Interview with Marion Karian: 2022 Q2 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Saturday, May 21, 2022
Congratulations to Marion Karian and Cabinets of Curiosity and all the winners of our 2022 Quarter 2 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!
Marion Karian is a registered nurse who retired in 2015 from an organization she founded in 1976 to serve infants and children with special needs and their families. She spent 40 years writing grants to support this work. In retirement she writes creative non-fiction. Her current project is telling stories of her family from the more than 2,000 letters her parents exchanged during World War II. She lives with her husband of 54 years on the banks of the San Joaquin River in Fresno, California. She has been published in The Mindful Word, Saveur, and The Fresno Bee. 

If you haven't done so already, check out Marion's talent in writing with the touching story Cabinets of Curiosity and then return here for a chat with this amazing author. 

WOW!: Congratulations again on placing in the Q2 Creative Nonfiction Contest! I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cabinets of Curiosity and I'm sure everyone else will as well! What was your hope as a take-away from Cabinets of Curiosity

Marion:  The main take-away from Cabinets of Curiosity is the impact one’s curiosity about the past can have on understanding the present. I find this particularly true when I remain curious about those who have been important figures in shaping who I am and how I respond to the world. In exploring what has gone before me, I discover things about myself. Through wondering and pondering, and even raw research, my connections between past and present are deepened. My grandfather had a huge impact on my life—even though he died when I was six years old—I seek to know more about why that is. I have few direct memories of him, but through studying his scholarly writings, some old letters, and even the small leather case he carried in which he kept sermon notes, thoughts, and poetry that held special meaning for him, I am getting to know him. Studying the things he treasured and left behind quietly reveal to me the reasons I hold him in such esteem. 

WOW!: It sounds like you have certainly received the great gift of supportive people in your younger years - who is your current support? 

Marion: Without a doubt my husband of 54 years is my biggest source of support. He supported my journey through my work with children and families and the creation of what became a large organization. He cheered me on, filled in at home, and tolerated the times when I was preoccupied with the challenges of my work. When I retired and struggled to transition into a new way of living, he supported me in creating a writing life. We also sought experiences that we could participate in together. During the first five years of our retirement we went on five medical (humanitarian) missions to Armenia (each two weeks in length). We worked with the people there, sharing our respective skills with them in ways that we believed helped them and also held great meaning for each of us. Unfortunately, these missions ended with the pandemic. 

WOW!: It's so heartwarming to hear of the love and support of your amazing husband (photo of the two of you below) and congratulations on your recent 'honeymoon'! Does journaling play a role in your in your life and your writing and how about contests, is this your first contest submission? Tell us more about the area of both journaling and contests for you?

I do not journal regularly. When I retired, I began taking writing classes at our local university (Cal State Fresno) through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The positive feedback I received through these classes gave me the courage to enroll in the intensive two-week CSU Summer Arts program at Fresno State. This is where the world of writing opened to me. The guest artists who I met there inspired me, and their feedback encouraged me to keep writing. Learning with other writers with much more experience helped me gradually begin to see myself as a “writer”. From Summer Arts I learned about WOW! Women on Writing and began taking courses online. When the pandemic hit and we were locked down, I took course after course through WOW! These courses helped me fill the endless hours available to me during our long quarantine. This is where Cabinets of Curiosity had its origin. On a whim I decided to enter the contest. I had never considered entering a writing contest, but I figured that at the very least I would get feedback on my essay and that would be helpful. Sending my essay off felt a bit like sending off the many grant proposals I wrote in my pre-retirement life: filled with hope. I started a writing group with a few writers from the very first OSHER class I took at Fresno State. This group has met monthly for five years and has kept me connected with five other women who love sharing the stories of our lives through a different prompt each month. This group has been an important part of my writing life as they keep me writing. I do best when I have deadlines (a la grants!) and, with my group, every month I have one! 

WOW!: You certainly keep yourself busy Marion - so that begs me to ask what's next for you?

Marion: I have inherited nearly 2,000 letters that my parents exchanged during World War II when my father was in the Marines. They were separated from each other for most of the 40 month he served. I was born during that time, and the letters tell their story, but they also tell mine. I recently finished reading them all and placing them in chronological order in binders that stretch out nearly 8 feet in length. I am beginning to extract the stories they contain. As with Cabinets of Curiosity, delving into the past through these important relationships, I am learning about my parents and the world they lived in, and in doing that I am also discovering things about myself. 11. Advice for others? Keep writing! Keep reading! Take classes with teachers who provide direct feedback on your writing. Surround yourself with other writers of all levels. There are so many opportunities for learning. 

Strangely, the pandemic has opened many doors through Zoom and the abundance of other media that connect teachers, writers, and people who share common interest and are willing to provide feedback. 

WOW!: Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me today - you are such an inspiration! I look forward to hearing from you again in the future! 

Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!

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Andrea said...

I love the OLLI at Iowa State University! Many times the classes are the stimulus I need to get going out of a slump. And I agree, the pandemic brought so much more of the world to me through Zoom and other online opportunities. I, too, have WWII letters from my great aunt and am slowly putting them together in my mind to create the story I need to tell. Congratulations!

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