Interview with Natalie F.: Q3 2022 Creative Nonfiction Third Place Winner

Sunday, August 14, 2022
Natalie’s Bio: Natalie is from England but has lived in France for the last eight years. She discovered her passion for writing whilst living in Paris where she began exploring her experiences in the city of love through creative nonfiction. She spends much of her free time salsa dancing around her living room with her charming French husband and cuddling their “baby”—an adorable Maltese dog called Buddy. She is currently working on a series of children’s books but her ultimate goal is to write a memoir based on her Parisian adventures. This is the first time Natalie has shared her work with a wider audience. 

If you haven't already done so, check out Natalie's award-winning story "How Did We End Up Here?" and then return here for a chat with the author. 

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Q3 2022 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing your essay and how did it and your writing processes evolve as you wrote? 

Natalie: Before I started writing anything down, I spent a few days conjuring up ideas for how I wanted to tell the story and mapped it all out in my head. When I finally came to writing the essay, I just let the words and emotions that I'd been contemplating pour out onto the page in no particular order or structure. I knew I wanted to relate my personal experience to that of the bird but I wasn't exactly sure how that would work at first. Eventually, the essay just organically turned into a braided narrative where I was comparing both of our situations and it started feeling natural to use second person to address the bird. 

WOW: What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay? 

Natalie: I learnt just how challenging yet empowering it is to bare your soul through the written word. I find that my essays generally tend to be quite "safe" or they don't leave much of an impact. But this is the first time I've written something where I didn't hold anything back. Whilst editing this essay, I even questioned certain parts as perhaps being a little too honest or personal and very nearly removed them. But I now realise that having that feeling of discomfort is a pretty good indicator that you're writing something meaningful. 

WOW: Some discomfort equals something meaningful: that is a powerful lesson. Have you begun writing a memoir based on your Parisian adventures? What excites you most about writing about those experiences? 

Natalie: When I lived in Paris a few years ago, I was part of a writing group where we would share our nonfiction vignettes with each other each week. My vignettes were often about my adventures (or misadventures!) in the city. Our wonderfully encouraging teacher told me I could put all of my vignettes together and turn them into a book. So, in the sense that I have this collection of essays telling the story of my time in Paris, I have already begun writing my memoir. On the other hand, I feel like I'm always evolving as a writer so I'm sure I will feel inspired to look back at these stories with a fresh perspective and want to depict them in new ways. I'm also looking forward to revisiting this particular time in my life and creating more of a narrative from my vignettes. 

WOW: What a fun and engaging project! I hope you enjoy revisiting the vignettes and finding new and meaningful ways to put the pieces together. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you? 

Natalie: I'm inspired by adventurous and courageous writers like Cheryl Strayed and Elizabeth Gilbert. I've always been drawn to nonfiction works relating to journeys of self-discovery. I admire the bravery involved in stepping out of your comfort zone to explore unfamiliar places in the hopes of finding yourself and tackling obstacles in your personal life. 

WOW: Two excellent examples of authors on journeys of self-discovery. If you could tell your younger self anything about writing, what would it be? 

Natalie: I would tell her to be bold and brave. Writing nonfiction takes courage and sharing your work with others is even more daring. Don't be afraid to delve deep within yourself to find your truth and tell your stories in the most honest possible way. Keep searching till you find your voice, tell your stories authentically and write from your soul. 

WOW: Excellent advice! Anything else you’d like to add? 

Natalie: I would just like to say how grateful I am to have placed third in your creative nonfiction contest – I still can't quite believe it! It's such an honour to know that my essay is being shared amongst the work of so many other talented writers. Thank you for this wonderful recognition and the encouragement and confidence to keep writing and sharing my work. 

WOW: Thank you for trusting us with your writing and we're glad to have you as part of our community. Happy writing! 

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, founder and editor-in-chief of Sport Stories Press, which publishes sports books by, for, and about sportswomen and amateur athletes and offers developmental editing and ghostwriting services to partially fund the press. Engage on Twitter or Instagram @GreenMachine459.


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