Interview with Drew Boone, Runner Up in the WOW! Fall 2022 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, May 02, 2023


Drew grew up as a military BRAT on bases and places around the world. Accordingly, she has developed a chronic case of wanderlust and surrenders to it whenever possible. Drew has a varied work history including advancing civil rights protections, teaching middle school sex ed, and serving as everyone’s favorite barista. In her free time she reads old books, writes sad poems, and travels when pandemics allow. 

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

WOW: Hi Drew, thanks for joining us today and congratulations! “Swerve” is one of those stories you savor, and then read again so that you can pick up on all the nuances sprinkled throughout. How did you first get the idea for this story and what was the revision process like? 

Drew: Thanks for that--I am so glad you enjoyed the story. It was definitely an edited down version from a longer one--even more tragic in its original format--and editing is not usually a big part of my process. I have such a hard time letting go of even one sentence, but this was a really good exercise for me to try to tailor it to the word count. 

The idea for the story came from my daily commute to and from work. I would drive these old farm roads and see the families of farmers working so hard to create these landscapes both for sustenance and for beauty--huge trees and hedgerows. And there was this one particular cross on the side of the road in memory of someone who had died there and it was always ornately adorned and regularly updated with new flowers and ribbons. I had an hour each way on this daily commute so I had plenty of time to imagine all kinds of stories of who and how and why. I honestly just came home one night after work and wrote out this story. It came out so easily after the space and time of passing through the landscape and the memorial so frequently. I was always reflecting on how our good intentions--planting a tree, for example--can have tragic unexpected impacts down the line. I am all for planting trees, though! It's more of a metaphor for the beauty and safety we try to create around ourselves and how it can backfire in ways we don't even notice. 

The mother/daughter story came from experiences I have seen or bits and pieces of my own life. The constant struggle to both allow someone to grow into something new and to mourn what you wish they had been for you sooner. I also just tend to linger in the places of grief and pain which ultimately are side effects of extreme love. This story ending in this way forces the reader to imagine what the daughter did next: did she curse her mother for not showing up for dinner, knowing it was too good to be true that her mother had actually changed? Did she ever find out what had happened or did she assume it was all part of the same pattern? And what assumptions are we making every day with those who don't "show up"? Staying curious has been my main motivator in writing. I am so grateful for the endless possibilities in a story and want to bring that same outlook to my relationships and daily interactions. 

WOW: I love hearing how this story grew and evolved. I think we produce some of our best work when we allow ourselves time to sit with the subject matter and get to know the characters on a deeper level. You mention having wanderlust. Where are three places you believe everyone should travel to in the United States and why? 

Drew: Yes! I love to travel and to experience new landscapes and cultures--I highly recommend the beautiful challenge of stepping outside your comfort zone. However, when I travel in the US, I tend to linger on and return back to places that have personal meaning to me, which also happen to be ridiculously beautiful. 

I spent five years living in Anchorage, Alaska and even though I was not the most outdoorsy type of girl, I remember the joy of (safe) adventure I felt when I would drive south from Anchorage down the Seward Highway all the way to the end of the road where it magically fades into water. This road takes you to a tiny fishing village called Homer, Alaska and in the summer you can camp on the Homer Spit and stay up all night with the midnight sun. Bonfires on the beach and instant community amongst the other campers are my main memories from those roadtrips down south. Homer is a magical space and I recommend it to anyone who wants to get away from it all while also being surrounded by a whole different kind of "all"--mountains and sea and sky! 

If you keep heading south from Alaska, through British Columbia and over the border into Washington, you can land in the adorable little hamlet of Fairhaven. This neck of the woods is full of deep rich forests, beautiful snow-capped mountains and the majesty of the Bellingham Bay. Fairhaven, Washington is a section of Bellingham which is known for its old-timey cuteness and amazing views. I attended undergrad in Fairhaven (at Fairhaven College) and fell in love with the red brick buildings which house fantastic book stores, pubs, and cafes. While I lived there, they built a boardwalk which takes you through trails over the Bay, around the woods, and through the town to the Downtown Saturday Market on Saturday mornings. There are so many great bike trails and hikes alongside microbreweries and artsy movie theaters. Bellingham is a dynamic town and Fairhaven is my personal favorite piece of it--it's so darn cute and cozy. 

One last beach town...I am noticing a theme here for sure. San Clemente, California! Oh how I love this little surf town in southern California. This is the town where my parents met 40 years ago and they used to always take us kids back to the spot on the pier where they first saw each other and would re-enact their meeting. We would pretend to be so grossed out as they kissed in front of the restaurant where my mom used to work, but we all secretly loved it and definitely enjoyed having this warm, sunny spot be the origin of our family story. There is a swingset on the beach right by the pier and as a child I have so many fond memories of swinging there and imagining I was going up and down with the waves and staring up at the seagulls between my feet as I leaned as far back as I could. Plus, leaping from those swings gives you a nice sandy landing spot. In the "winter" they have a free trolley that drives around the main sections of town and drops you off right at the pier. There are fantastic vintage shops and amazing Spanish architecture all over the main streets. But the best part of San Clemente is watching the sunset from the beach by the pier. I know it's supposedly the same ocean and the same sun as in other parts of Orange County but for some reason it looks the most magical when the sun is going down over that particular pier. 

I am admittedly not as well-traveled in the US as I am outside of it. But these three spots, hugging the Pacific Ocean from different angles, are each places I return to when I want to be reminded that this whole life-thing is being well taken care of by whatever is also making these waves crash and these sunsets gallop on the sea. There are mountains in the water (Homer), cobblestones that lead to the rocky shores (Fairhaven) and, finally, the sunny warm nostalgia of youth (San Clemente) available to us with just a drive (or flight) away. This was a difficult question to limit to three spots so please forgive my west coast bias on this one--I have so much more to time! 

WOW: Ah, I love these descriptions of your favorite beach towns (have to say I'm partial to the water, too). Who are some of your favorite authors and how have they inspired your own work? 

Drew: Oh goodness...I love older books that I come back to every few years or at different stages in my life. I feel most connected when I read authors who dwell in magical realism. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, although problematic in some ways, gave me a style I didn't know existed outside of my own head. Magical realism is definitely my favorite genre both in books and life. And I receive daily guidance from Mary Oliver's wise words and approach to living (and writing). Spending time with one of her poems in the morning has been a grounding and inspiring way to start my days. I have come back to Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird" every time I get it in my head to write a memoir or a novel. That book is accessible and relatable in a way that other books on writing haven't been for me. Rilke's essays and poems are also deeply connecting for me--I feel so much less alone when I read his words. As you can tell, I haven't spent as much time with more current authors which is something I want to remedy this year. 

When I was in college, I took a class on American Literature and we spent most of our time with Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau and Emily Dickinson. Maybe it was because of the time of life I was in, but to this day, I feel at home when I crack open "Leaves of Grass," Walden, or any of Emily's poetry anthologies. I don't think I write in the style of the authors I love, but I think I tend to feel more human and alive when I read them which leads me to a more robust feeling when I do sit down to write. I have been taking it all in and am able to send it back out again in a way that feels healing and connected for me. 

Arundhati Roy brings such rich and beautiful descriptions of the world around us and inspires me to bring more curiosity and critique to what I am witnessing and experiencing. And Antoine de Saint Exupery reminds me to stay playful even in the darkest of nights. But, ultimately, some of my favorite and most inspiring poets and artists are my dear friends reading aloud around the dinner table--I am blessed with a community of creators who keep me going. Sharing music and words in person with those you love is such a gift for which I am grateful. I recommend a piano in every living room, a typewriter in every den, and an easel on every back porch. 

WOW: Do you think your upbringing in a military family (and all the required moves) influenced the topics you write about? 

Drew: I think moving around often helped me develop an intense imagination and internal storytelling practice. Whenever I arrive in a new place I bring such a curiosity as well as a strong fictional narrative playing through my head while I work to acquaint myself with the landmarks and people. I am grateful for the skills I developed by living in new cultures and experiencing myself being "new" to so many people and places. My siblings did not necessarily enjoy it as much as I did, but I thrived on the newness and potential in each new move. There was heartbreak when having to leave behind friends and loved ones, but, to this day, some of my best friends are ones who I lived with on different bases. I never saw it as an ending but as an extending. I am a total extrovert and need friends in person as well as those long term relationships with people who have known you forever. I think that is a big part of why and how I made myself new communities wherever we ended up. And also was able to keep the friends who were afar. 

In terms of influencing what I write about, well, I think I mostly write about sorrow and loss; of the fleeting nature of existing in human form, and the simultaneous generosity of the universe, etc. I think writing about it helps my mind relax about these truths while going about engaging in daily activities. I suppose this could partly come from the witnessing of "soldiers marching off to war, " metaphorically (and literally) speaking. Here one day, gone tomorrow. I remember when 9/11 happened and U.S. troops started heading out to Iraq and Afghanistan and we were all in the cafeteria on a base in the Caribbean watching an interview of the mother of the first U.S. casualty on TV. She was holding up a picture of her young son who had enlisted in the military. She was weeping and was being told that she was a hero, she had made the "ultimate sacrifice." And I remember thinking that wouldn't the ultimate sacrifice actually be for these countries to lay down their weapons and egos and mourn together and forgive each other and let there be peace. To give up the fight. To stop fighting. Enlisting in the military should not be the only way for many of our kids to be able to afford college and healthcare. And doing so should not require you to give your life in return. I guess being a military child introduced a dichotomy to me early on in life. U.S. military bases were the most socialist society I ever lived in which was simultaneously fighting to defend capitalism. I am not a fan of the U.S. military but am thankful for it showing that the U.S. can indeed provide free healthcare, can indeed make college tuition free, can indeed provide low cost housing, etc. It just doesn't choose to because it would rather spend that money on one fighter jet. Or one fancy tank. I often think of W.E.B Du Bois' quote: The cause of war is preparation for war. And in true capitalist fashion the U.S. has made both the preparation for, and the actual war, profitable for many. 

I have certainly felt the true freedom of living in a socialist society in Western Europe and I remember when we returned to the states when I was 17 how shocked I was by the palpable violence and fear I felt in so many people I met. I am saying all this to share that I believe this experience of technically living off of the U.S. military industrial complex on all these bases and places, I was also shown the violence of propaganda and one liners. It's been so confusing to exist in this realm; the military has a term for it: Third-Culture-Kid. TCK. And we don't fit anywhere and also know how to fit everywhere. So I suppose this is me processing and expressing some of that dissonance. And I definitely do that through my writing--the ying/yang of life and society. Thank you for asking this question! I don't think I often intentionally reflect on how being a military kid and a TCK has impacted my art. 

WOW: Thank you for that very honest response! It provides much food for thought. We’d love to hear more about your work advancing civil rights protections. What has that entailed? 

Drew: As you can maybe tell from my prior response, I am interested in maximizing the opportunity for humans to be human. And am not a fan of the bullshit that invades our opportunities to do so. During my undergraduate experience I knew I needed to continue my education and opportunity to be of assistance in the world by heading to law school. As much as an artist as I am, I am also aware that art alone doesn't necessarily put food in the mouths of the hungry. So I have blended my passions by pursuing education and employment in the civil rights realm. I graduated from law school in 2012 and have been working in civil rights ever since. But even during undergrad I was focused on prison reform, abolishing the death penalty, immigration reform, and AWOL assistance. 

I created a felon re-entry internship program in my undergrad to assist with folks who were being released from prison and returning to the community, often with $5 in their pocket and no place to call home. This internship included connecting them with resources, social workers, housing, job training, etc. It was a very meaningful position and raised awareness and accountability for our neighbors returning home from incarceration. 

I was also volunteering with an immigration non profit that supported women who had become newly single-parents due to the deportation of their spouses. They formed a cooperative which included a food truck and other food sales. I arranged for free childcare for their children while they worked. These children, many of whom had witnessed the violent arrest of their fathers simply because they were on the other side of an imaginary line, were severely traumatized from the experience. 

Likewise, I worked with men and women who had enlisted in the military and were no longer able to carry out the missions as assigned when their values began to conflict with what the U.S. military was engaging in. This made them criminals and we worked to protect them from incarceration and other consequences. I became very active in protests, demonstrations, and non violent direct action. 

Eventually, I moved on to law school and focused on international human rights as well as U.S. civil rights. I studied the Israeli Occupation of Palestine and devoted my work to raising awareness of human rights abuses here, there and abroad. I also focused on LGBTQ rights, Reproductive rights, and Environmental rights. Since graduating from law school, I have spent most of my time working to improve policy and protections for victims of sexual violence, racial discrimination and harassment. I am currently working to improve conflict resolution in the workplace when identity based conflict arises. And on the other end of things, I work in sex education to help prevent much of this sideways violence later in life. I believe that sexuality education is critical to being a more balanced human and have only seen a release of these U.S. themes of violence and fear when more is learned about our interface with ourselves and others. I am a devout supporter of trans rights and hope to see a day where the body parts we are born with do not define, limit or harm us. I encourage everyone to speak up and show up for the issues in society which energize us, break our hearts, anger us, and demand change.

WOW: Drew, thank you so much for these heartfelt responses today and thank you so much for all the work you're doing for humanity and for the world of writers and artists. We wish you the best of luck in all your endeavors!


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