Interview with Carol Ovenburg: Q1 2023 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Sunday, March 19, 2023
Carol’s Bio:
Carol Ovenburg—A visual artist. A writer. Her writing life began with timed-writing exercises a la Natalie Goldberg at a Café in Seattle with notable writers who opened her eyes to the craft of writing. It was there that she began the early stages of her memoir, Pearls. One of two essays—excerpts from her manuscript—were published in WOW-Women on Writing, 2021 and 2022. Today, Carol, and her life partner of twelve years, are living in and enjoying their new Talent, Oregon home, rebuilt after a devastating fire. She’s taken this last year in new surroundings to complete her memoir and write essays. She and her partner travel once-a-month to U.S cities for four-day Argentine tango social dancing. They read good books on flights and layovers. When home, they watch foreign films or a foreign detective series on TV. You can learn more about Carol on her website: and Carol Ovenburg on Facebook. 

If you haven't done so already, check out Carol's award-winning essay "Inside the Lines" and then return here for a chat with the author. 

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Q1 2023 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing your essay and how did it and your writing processes evolve as you wrote? 

Carol: I think I began writing this essay in a self-guided Creative Non-Fiction online workshop on the braided and collage essay. Or it may have been in one of Chelsey Clammer’s classes on CNF. I remember wanting to write about crayons and Cinderella and used Chalk typeface for headings and numbers. I did have Chelsey’s eye on this one—I have her check over most of my writing—and, as usual, she gave me good editing advice which helped me evolve this essay. I have a tendency in my writing to add irrelevant information or not add enough. I’m getting better, though. 

WOW: It’s definitely a learning process, and that’s wonderful you’ve found a great editor that you trust. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay? 

Carol: I learned a new way of presenting information, or a story—this story—bringing me closer to the relationship I had with my mother—my need for her approval. 

WOW: You mention in your bio that you’re enjoying your new home in Oregon. How have your new surroundings contributed to your progress on your memoir?

Carol: I spent seventeen months in temporary housing working on rebuilding a new home after the devastating fire that took 2,600 homes in September of 2020. It kept me busy. And it kept me displaced and also isolated because of the pandemic. But during that time an old author and poet friend of mine, Jack Remick, offered to mentor me on my writing. I worked with him every Thursday for a couple of hours, and it changed the way I write. We moved into our new home the end of January 2022, and here I no longer felt displaced—I was home again, in a pleasing environment, the freedom to work on my memoir with the goal of finishing it by the end of the year. 

WOW: Wow, what a journey, both personally and with your writing. I’m so glad to hear you’re feeling at home again. We know from a previous interview with you that you worked with editor Chelsey Clammer on your memoir. What other resources, tips, tricks, groups, and/or processes have you used to write and revise? 

Carol: Working with Chelsey in her classes, and one-on-one, I love learning how she thinks about writing, and I’m gleaning a lot from her comments and critiques. With Jack Remick—how to make my work sing with proper word choice, efficient writing, eliminating the fluff—getting rid of words that aren’t needed. Leaving more white space on the page. I have my small writing group meeting Wednesdays on Zoom and timed-write a la Natalie Goldberg—set a timer and write without lifting our pens, without thinking, just write. I read books on writing. I keep a copy handy of On Writing Well by William Zinsser. I also read memoirs—books and essays—and listen to interviews and speakers on writing. I’ve read all of Chelsey’s books and many of Jack’s. 

WOW: I love this. You are emersed in a writing culture that has truly helped your writing shine. What’s the most recent good book(s) you read on a flight or layover during one of your travels? 

Carol: I’m in a book club and sometimes read one of those books—the latest is The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. Loved this book. I recently read and read repeatedly Owl Poems by Zach Hively. And Minding the Muse, A Handbook for Painters, Composers, Writers, and Other Creators by Priscilla Long, a wonderful little book packed with great writing tools. 

WOW: That’s a wonderful list. Anything else you’d like to add? 

Carol: I’m now working on an abecedarian book of poetry and lyrical prose—a memoir on my 12-year experience as an Argentine Tango dancer. AND, with Chelsey’s help, I’m beginning the submission process for publishing Pearls, a Memoir. Thanks to you, Chelsey, and to everyone at WOW! Women on Writing for your excellent critiques and for publishing my work. 

WOW: Two exciting projects! We can’t wait to hear more about them. Thank you for sharing your writing with us and for your thoughtful responses. 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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