Saturday, February 25, 2023
I’m thrilled to chat with Natalie F. about her touching essay, “Libre” named as a runner up in the Q1 2023 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest. Natalie shares the inspiration behind her piece, and writerly advice for others during today’s interview. Before we get to that though, please check out Natalie’s impressive bio (below) and read through “Libre” before returning here for our fabulous interview!

Natalie’s Bio: Since moving to France eight years ago, Natalie has discovered her passion for creative writing, fallen in love with the French culture (i.e., the food and wine), married a handsome Frenchman and never looked back. 

She has several projects she’s currently focusing on but her ultimate goal is to write a memoir based on the years she spent living and working in Paris. 

One of her essays has appeared in a previous WOW! Women on Writing competition

As she steps into 2023, Natalie’s greatest ambition is to continue sharing more of her stories with the world. 

She’d love it if you followed her on Instagram: @natalie_fynn. 

Interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto 

WOW: Welcome, Natalie, and congratulations on being named as a runner up in WOW's Q1 Essay Contest! Writing something so personal has to be difficult. How did you begin writing your essay and how did your writing process develop as you wrote? 

Natalie: When I first started writing Libre, I planned to use second person when referring to the ex. In practice, this quickly made me feel very uneasy; it was too close, too intimate. Using third person felt like a much safer option because it allowed some distance between us. Although these particular events took place years ago now, it was astonishing to realize that I clearly had some unresolved issues stemming from this time that were still weighing on me. 

 By the end of the essay, however, I write about finally moving to Paris and finding a sense of independence. As I recalled experiencing this new-found distance (metaphorical and literal), I found myself naturally addressing him in second person. I still wasn’t sure at the time if I was going to keep it that way during the editing process but I knew in that moment of writing the ending that it felt like I had overcome something and I could breathe a bit better. So, I decided to keep it that way and hoped that it would resonate with the reader. 

The process of writing this essay was clearly a very cathartic experience for me! 

WOW: It’s inspiring to hear that writing Libre was cathartic for you – hopefully that will inspire others to move past what seems daunting at first. Even if the work is not published, it still has a purpose! In so many ways, that makes me think about my own journaling life and how it can be very healing. What role has journaling played in your life Natalie? 

Natalie: It was through journaling that I discovered my passion for creative writing. When I first moved to Paris, I decided to keep a journal thinking it would be fun to stumble upon and read one day in the future and reminisce about all the experiences I had in the city. But, as the first few months went by, I began to realize how much I enjoyed and appreciated recounting the events of each day in my own words. I remember there’d be times when I’d find myself in comical situations or maybe feeling like I’d been mistreated by somebody that would ignite such an intense urge within me to rush home and write about what had happened in my journal. 

Although I’ve always loved reading, creative writing was never really a particular strength of mine in school so it’s funny how it was through journaling that revealed the hidden writer within me all those years later! 

WOW: We can all relate to your love of reading – and I also share your love of Paris and I hope you’ll tell us more about that love and how it plays into your writing? 

Natalie: Although I now live outside the city, Paris will always hold a special place in my heart. To me, Paris feels like the center of the universe and when I’m there, I feel revitalized. It’s a place where the seemingly impossible, sometimes wonderful and surreal come together and meet in one big celebration. This is the reason why I love to write about my experiences in the city, but also why so many of my fictional stories take place with Paris as a backdrop. 

WOW: Sounds absolutely dreamy – I feel like Paris must have less stress than other places, but I’m sure that’s just my little girl dreams and speaking of stress, what advice do you have for others when it comes to managing through stressful times? (other than moving to Paris… that is) 

Natalie: I’ll never forget when someone I used to work for told me she wanted to give me a piece of advice. She said, “Just remember, if you’re ever going through a stressful time in your life, do what I do. Just push it all down and keep your mind as busy as possible, focus on as many other things that you can.” 

Whilst that may work for her, I made a mental note that it would probably be best to avoid doing that. I don’t think much good can come from trying to run away and block out whatever stress you have going on in your life. Writing or journaling about whatever is troubling you, however, may be a good start to try and sort through all the thoughts rushing through your head. I learnt that through writing this essay! 

WOW: Sounds like the same sort of advice I received while growing up – glad one of us found a better way! What a treat it is that you submitted for our contest - What is your history with writing contests? - tell us what prompted you to submit to this particular contest? What would you like to tell other authors concerning contests and submitting their work? 

Natalie: I have a real affinity with the WOW community. Sharing non-fiction essays with the world is quite daunting but WOW feels like a genuinely safe and supportive environment in which to house my work. 

My advice to authors before submitting to WOW or any other contest would be to read previous submissions from other writers who had winning essays. This will give you a feel for what the judges might be looking for. Before entering WOW contests, I read a lot of previous essays from other brave, talented writers and the thought of seeing my work alongside theirs one day was what really inspired me to try submitting something myself. 

I’m so grateful to WOW for choosing my essay as a runner-up, it really is a huge validation and boost to my confidence as a writer. Thank you! 

WOW: You’re ever so welcome my dear! I also must say that it has been such a pleasure interviewing you and I hope you’ll be back soon! Congratulations again, Natalie, and wishing you much writing success in 2023! 

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