Navigation menu

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Interview with Jennifer Tribe, Runner Up in the WOW! Q4 2022 Essay Contest


Jennifer Tribe lives and writes in Southern California. She is an educator and has taught elementary school, English as a Second Language to adults and most recently, online kindergarten in urban Los Angeles County. She and her husband have two adult sons with special needs. She is an avid reader and credits Raymond Carver with her love for the short story. She started writing years ago for herself. Through her creative non-fiction and flash fiction, Jennifer explores how love, pain and recovery are seamlessly interlinked. Through personal experience she hopes to shed light on the storied lives of families touched by the lifelong struggle of mental illness. She decided to share her journey of loss, sorrow and the desire to find meaning with a wider audience. 

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

WOW: Welcome, Jennifer, and congratulations! Writing about mental illness, especially when it involves a loved one, is such a difficult and personal topic. What do you hope readers can take away from “Set Apart?” 

Jennifer: I hope that “Set Apart” sheds light on the anguish and loss that a parent and/or family member experiences as they watch their loved one change and suffer due to a mental illness. The idea that a young adult child can been transformed, or even disappear due to a mental illness, and that loved ones must now work to accept and embrace this new version of the person, fuels my writing. The grief involved is complicated and ongoing. Unfortunately, the shame and stigma surrounding mental illness causes families to struggle alone. As a parent, I am grieving the losses of the past and the future. On a different level, mental illness and self - medicating (addiction) are often interlaced. Awareness of this is crucial, as research has shown that both of these conditions are brain disorders and need treatment. With the right supports in place, however, there is hope and discovery in the midst of this journey. 

WOW: Thank you for doing your part in helping voice what it's like to love and help care for  someone living with mental illness. It's a difficult topic, but an important one! You also express yourself creatively through flash fiction. What types of subjects do you like to write in that form?

Jennifer: I am inspired to write about significant, life-changing moments that I experience or observe. I am drawn to writing about people as they are marginalized, over-looked or misunderstood due to a variety of reasons – disabilities, poverty, circumstance… Their stories, and the obstacles they overcome, are filled with hope and resolve. I strive to find the meaning and beauty in the small interactions of life. 

WOW: As we all know, reading is an important part of studying the craft of writing. Do you prefer reading fiction or nonfiction? Who are some of your favorite authors? 

Jennifer: I love short stories. The short story turned me into a true reader. In a span of minutes, a good story can transport you to another world causing a myriad of emotions. I am drawn to literary fiction and historical fiction as it provides not only entertainment, but a glimpse into another’s deepest thoughts as well as our complicated and ever-changing humanity. Some of my favorite authors include Raymond Carver, Ann Patchett, Jhumpa Lahiri and Amor Towles. 

WOW: You are also an educator. What do you love most about teaching? How has the profession helped you with developing a writing schedule? 

Jennifer: I love teaching as it is where I connect with another person. Through my students, children and adults, I have seen a resilience and a love of life in spite of facing serious challenges such as learning disabilities and/or various forms of oppression. They are my heroes. As a teacher, it is important to be prepared and have an open mind. If a particular strategy is not working, I need to try something new. It is the same with my writing. If I am struggling to write daily, or reach a certain personal writing goal, I need to keep an open mind and be willing to try something different. 

WOW: Great advice on recognizing when it's best to try something new. Do you have any tips for writers hoping to enter either WOW’s CNF contest? 

Jennifer: I encourage writers who are considering entering WOW’s Creative Non-Fictions (CNF) or Flash Fiction contests to just do it. Make it a goal for yourself. I believe one only gains from putting work out there. The act itself is a personal achievement. I have repeatedly entered WOW’s CNF and Flash Fiction Contests. I feel vulnerable each time, but am surprised at how much I learn from the experience. I recommend purchasing a critique as the information gleaned is enlightening and valuable. It is a fantastic opportunity to have another writer read and share their insights about your writing.

WOW: Thank you for being so open and candid with us today. Good luck in all your future writing endeavors and we look forward to reading more of your work!

No comments:

Post a Comment

We love to hear from readers! Please leave a comment. :)