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Sunday, November 12, 2023

Interview with Amber Reed: Q4 2023 Creative Nonfiction Third Place Winner

Amber’s Bio:
Amber is currently living a dream come true and pursuing her MFA. She writes from her dry cabin at the end of the road and keeps company with a dog, cat, ravens, and one surviving chicken. She has been exploring themes of grief, the body, and witness. Her essays have appeared in several journals this year and she has discovered a passion for flash and lyric essays. 

If you haven't done so already, check out Amber's award-winning story "no, softly" and then return here for a chat with the author. 

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Q4 2023 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing your essay and how did it and your writing processes evolve as you wrote? 

Amber: I began this essay as I do many of my essays late at night as an iPhone note! When I have an idea, I tend to just start it as a note. It feels familiar and allows me to skip the dreaded feeling of staring at a blank page. There is also something about the slower thumb tapping versus typing that lends itself to more succinct sentences. I then transfer it to a Word document and work with it there, which feels easier since there is already a great start. Then I like to look at it over multiple days as each day feels different and I will note additional things to revise. 

 WOW: Great idea! I’m also a fan of typing phone notes to start the writing process. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay? 

Amber: This essay in particular was about a very fresh experience and I was literally writing to explore it for myself. I could not decide if I was over-reacting to the experience and in writing the essay, I was able to untangle it and decide what I actually thought and felt. I was also able to give myself permission to accept and honor my visceral reaction. It was a very validating process for me. 

WOW: I love how writing provides opportunities for self-exploration. Bonus if you can turn it into art, too. How did your passion for flash and lyric essays develop? 

Amber: I always thought, before starting an MFA with a Nonfiction focus, that I wrote a lot of poetry. However, I had never learned the language or craft of poetry and began to feel timid. I would continue to write my "poems" – still on iPhone notes, but then take all the lines and turn them into paragraphs of prose. I think this lends a more lyrical quality to the prose and at the same time is perfect for flash because my "poems" tend to be shorter. During my first year of MFA work, I realized that I was accidentally writing flash pieces over 50% of the time. I started to lean into that, follow journals that publish and showcase flash, and learn as much as I could about the genre. It was just naturally a good fit for how I like to write, as well as being much less intimidating to me than a long essay. It has taught me that there are infinite moments, observations, or experiences that are already a story. 

WOW: Thank you for sharing more about your process. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you? 

Amber: I am very inspired by essays and books from Cheryl Strayed, Glennon Doyle, and Elizabeth Gilbert for their unflinching rawness and authenticity. Reading these authors has filled me with hope, inspired changes in my personal life, and taught me about love. Each of these authors in their own way give readers permission to be exactly who they are, love unabashedly who and what they love, and cover themselves with grace, forgiveness, and radical hope. 

WOW: That is a power trilogy of women creative nonfiction writers! If you could tell your younger self anything about writing, what would it be? 

Amber: Go for it! You already have a story that only you can tell. You are good enough, and you deserve to be in this world. There is no moment where you will "arrive" at the point where you have gained enough wisdom to have a voice. Your voice is exactly who you are, in each chapter, and will resonate with someone going through a similar chapter in their lives. 

WOW: Excellent advice. Anything else you’d like to add? 

Amber: I am so grateful for the opportunity to share this essay with readers. I want to share a message that our feelings, however we feel them, however they manifest in our bodies, our unequivocally valid. That we can trust our own hearts and minds and that we have a right to bring healing to our hurts, no matter what. 

WOW: 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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