Interview with Anna van Straubenzee - Runner Up in the Quarter 4 2022 WOW! Essay Contest

Sunday, December 11, 2022

 Congratulations to all the contestants and winners in the Quarter 4 2022 WOW! Essay  Contest! If you haven't already checked out the impressive list of authors, please head to the WOW! Blog and do so! And now, without further ado - I'd love to tell you more about Anna van Straubenzee! 

Anna van Straubenzee is a writer, dreamer, dancer and tree hugger. If she is not eavesdropping on the subway, she is likely staring at the water or counting waves. Anna lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with her two cats who order things online for themselves when she’s away from her desk. She’s been writing inside her head for as long as she can remember and calls Florence, Italy her spiritual home. After a career in human resources and sales in the banking, tech and retail sectors, it’s time for a reimagining. This will be her very first published piece which was inspired by a prompt at one of her beloved writing group’s zoom calls. She is working to complete her creative writing certificate at the University of Toronto and plans to share more of her stories with the world soon. Although Anna is often painting furniture with Frida Kahlo colors or diving into tarot card pulls, she does come up for air to check her emails. Annamvanstraubenzee[at]gmail[dot]com

If you haven't done so already, check out Anna's essay "I just want to say..."  and then return here for a chat with this talented author. 

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Q4 2022 Creative Nonfiction Contest!   Thank you for writing this essay - what is the take-away you'd like readers to gain from I Just Want to Say...

Anna:  I wrote the bare bones of this piece a year ago to a prompt in a “Write Your Way In” workshop with AWA certified Deepam Wadds who is also published in this space. “I Just wanted to say…” was written in pencil in my notebook, and I later shaped it into something that made me punch the sky. It went through many forms and countless edits. It’s truly one of my favorites. After it was published, a few women sent me direct messages saying that they could relate to certain moments, and it touched them. That gave me life.

WOW: You've been busy and motivated - that's inspiring. Let's also talk a bit about your writing space - where do you write? What does your space look like?

Anna:  My writing space is wherever I can drop down without interruption for at least an hour. In my home, it’s at my desk with cups of unfinished tea beside me. There is something a little nervy about Matcha tea, and maybe that helps me push into the strangeness of life. A vision board above my desk is filled with surfing imagery, trees, brave animals and quotes including a haiku from Basho. Some of my best writing is done at retreats and I seem to do well with the most monastic room possible where I wear my comfy pants and I don’t wash my hair for days. A little lavender salve and dark chocolate with almonds provide comfort when the tears flow. 

WOW: Previously you mentioned a workshop - but on a more personal level, who is your support (other than your cats)- what have you found to be most supportive in your writing life as well as in life in general?  

Anna: I wouldn’t write at all if it weren’t for my writing groups. My core group, we call ourselves “The Lovelies” meet bi-weekly on Zoom. We read each other’s work aloud to give the writer a chance to hear it read and provide helpful feedback and encouragement. I also have a few other writing friends from classes and programs I’ve taken over the years. For me it’s vital to have the support and nourishment of other writers. 

WOW: There's support from others, but self talk is such a big thing for me. I must ask: do you have advice for your younger self when it comes to making decisions, believing in yourself, and/or writing? What would your current self say to the younger you?

Anna: Oh, if I could go back! Years ago, I rented some audio recording equipment and recorded kooky poems to music in my apartment. I sent one cassette tape out to a well-known Canadian male author and heard back from him a year later with a gentle but devastating no. My advice is to be brave and share your work with the right people. It is your gift, and it really isn’t going to bring any joy to the boxes of light bulbs, TV cables and orphaned socks under your bed. Share your weird self. If you are not so great at editing, find a friend who is. That stuff should not hold you back. What matters is that your writing might just save one person. 

WOW: It's interesting how that "stuff" gets in our way. I can tell nothing is stopping you - so what's the future look like? What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for what's left of 2022 and beyond?

Anna: I have been writing for years but most of my work has not been shared outside of workshops and groups. This Spring, I took a break from working and decided to edit and send out some writing. The piece recently published in Wow! seemed to be a good fit so I sent it in never expecting it to be chosen. This was my first published piece. It has given me the biggest lift and I’m heading to Troy, New York (along with another friend whose work was chosen) to read a piece about bras for a YWCA Brava event at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in November. And currently, I am thinking about a short story collection that will include poems and stories about Italy (my heart), chronic pain, life in retail and love gone wrong with a few motherly things sprinkled in. We’ll see.

Thank you for this opportunity, Crystal, Fino a reincontrarci (Until we meet again).

“Or just close your eyes and remember everything you already know. Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far guide you onward into whatever crazy beauty awaits.”

― Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

WOW: Thank you so much for your submission, your time, sharing your talents, and for all your insight and wisdom - it truly has been my pleasure. 


 Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!

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