Interview with LaToya Thompson, Runner Up in the WOW! Q1 2023 Creative Nonfiction Contest

Sunday, March 26, 2023


LaToya Thompson is desert born, Rust Belt bred, and southern fed. As a writer and editor, she helps aspiring authors annihilate procrastination, fear, and excuses by motivating them to tell their story with authenticity and agency. For LaToya storytelling is joy, truth, and community. Whether it is through the stage or the page, her love of stories spans into every area of her life. When LaToya is not reading books, editing books, or talking about books, she is sampling local coffee shops and hanging out with the coolest kid ever. Connect with LaToya on Instagram and Twitter. You can also read her blog Off the Shelf.

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

WOW: Congratulations, LaToya, and welcome to the blog! Your essay is thought provoking and powerful. The first thing that caught my eye about your essay was the title and the way it instantly hooks the reader. How did you decide on this as a way to introduce what must have been a tough piece to write.

LaToya: I decided on the title after I finished the first draft. The two constant things about that 24-hour period were the pink lemonade and the concrete. The pink lemonade is characterized by a mix of sweet and sour. It reflected the situation I was in. The concrete became the foreshadowing of how I was going to approach my then-husband and the felony charge I was facing. I felt I had to embody the traits of concrete if I was going to survive.

WOW: What is your favorite line from “Pink Lemonade with Concrete Backwash” and why? 

LaToya: It is a tie: "By morning, the concrete slab I paced would know more about me than anyone" and "My words did not stretch above a whisper. But unlike in my home, they dared to exist." Both of these statements embody the isolation, loneliness, and shrinking that I carried. No one knew what I was living with and trying to survive in. It was suffering in silence. Yet, I knew I still had a voice, but the abuse and the shame were gagging me. At the time, I didn't know what was happening to me was abuse because it was psychological. I knew abuse to be physical, bruises and black eyes and broken bones. My story didn't fit the narrative I was told and that was harmful. 

WOW: Thank you for pointing out that words can cause harm just as much as physical attacks. Your work as a writing coach who helps writers find their authentic voices. What do you love most about coaching others? 

LaToya: I love to hear their stories! At my core, I am still a journalist. I enjoy asking questions and pulling the pieces of their story together. The delight for me is watching my clients realize that all those words in their heads actually are telling a story that they and others need to hear. 

WOW: So often writers don't realize how many stories they really hold inside! What advice would you give a writer who is struggling to share their personal stories on the page? 

LaToya: When I have worked with clients that are struggling to share their personal stories it could be for a couple of reasons. The writer could be masking or self-protecting. This can be intentional or unintentional and it may mean the writer is feeling anxiety about how others could think and perceive them. Another reason a writer may struggle to share is that it is not time to share that story. And there could be several reasons as to why now is not the time. For either of these reasons, I would suggest to the writer to consider themselves. What feelings are coming up when they try to share the story? What do they need or want to give them support or comfort? There should be no pressure to push a story out. 

WOW: I love this style of coaching. We'd love to hear about the other writers whose words have inspired you. What books would you recommend by them? 

LaToya: Some of my favorite authors are Octavia Butler, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Lucille Clifton. Honestly, I would recommend every book by them! I do encourage others to read Fledgling by Octavia Butler.

WOW: All great suggestions, and I've been wanting to check out Octavia Butler myself. Thank you again for joining us today!


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