Interview with Runner Up Miel Sloan for "Letter to My Suicidal Son, Take Three" as part of our Q4 '23 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest!

Saturday, November 25, 2023


Congratulations to Miel Sloan and Letter to My Suicidal Son, Take Three, and to all of the other contestants and winners of the WOW! Women on Writing Quarter 4 2023 Essay Contest!


I hope everyone has already had an opportunity to read Miel’s Contest Entry Letter to My Suicidal Son, Take Three – if you haven’t done so already, give it a read and then return here for this touching author interview! 

 Miel’s Bio: 

Miel Sloan is the pen name for a poet and writer who is publishing under a pseudonym to protect her son. She is currently writing a book of lyric essays about raising a son with mental illness; the title essay, “Mother Matter” is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review. Her essay “Letter to the Insurance Company Psychiatrist” recently appeared in Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine (Letter to the Insurance Company Psychiatrist – Pulse). You can follow her on Twitter: @MielSloan. The photo is her favorite library, Biblioteca Vasconcelos, in Mexico City. Whenever she’s in Mexico City that is where she writes. Originally from New York, she now lives mostly in the Midwest and Mexico and Central America whenever possible. 

 *****interview by Crystal J Casavant-Otto***** 

 WOW: Congratulations Miel! I’m so glad you could take time to be with me today for this interview. I want to first and foremost thank you for writing such a personal essay – now I need to ask - what is the take-away you'd like readers to gain from Letter to My Suicidal Son, Take Three? 

Miel: This essay stems from a thought that has haunted me since my son has struggled with suicidality: What if this is his last day? What if this is our last moment? The last time we speak or touch? What would I want to say, do, experience or re-live? What would he want me to do? 

 Of course, no deep relationship can be reduced to one treasured moment; the piece mirrors the conflict between wanting to re-live an accumulation of treasured moments and the impossibility of doing so, especially in twenty-four hours; it’s a reminder that no culminating experience will suffice. 

 I hope a reader recognizes that in the accumulation of the handful of treasured and defining moments depicted in the piece, there is also something that cannot be articulated, and what cannot be articulated will resonate in the loss, in the absence of the beloved and of the part of oneself that vanishes with that loss, in this case my identity as mother of this young man. 

 WOW: As a mom, I can’t even imagine those things you describe as “cannot be articulated” – it resonates deeply. Thank you for sharing your submission and for answering my questions to honestly. Now for a bit of a lighter question: Where do you write? What does your space look like? You have an impressive bio - it begs the ask - tell us more about Biblioteca Vasconcelos? When did you first visit?

 Miel: I write almost everywhere. I do not have an office. I own a small A frame with two bedrooms: one for my son and one for me. Sometimes I sit on the sofa with my laptop, sometimes the dining room table, often my sun porch (assuming it’s warm enough). I write on planes and trains, I write in airports and temporary apartments, I write in coffee shops and libraries. The only important quality is relative quiet. Silence is preferred, but as long as it’s not loud with jackhammers or blaring music/TV, etc., I can write. 

 I spend as much time as I can steal away in Latin countries--the climate, culture and language are great lures, and the more tranquil pace is conducive to writing a book. In March, 2020, a year before I started this book and a week before Covid stopped the world, I was in Mexico City and discovered Biblioteca Vasconcelos, the largest public library in Latin America. Built in 2006 and designed by Alberto Kalach, it exemplifies modern architecture: the bookshelves hang suspended with opaque glass floors and ceilings. Catwalks and open stairs link the bookshelves. The suspended shelves remind me of my life since my son’s descent into mental illness; like the bookshelves, our lives seem tenuous, ethereal. When I walk between them with nothing but a few inches of flooring between me and seven stories of air, I feel unsteady. These shelves, however, are quite stable held in place by tension. Similarly, I keep discovering that my son and I are more stable than we might seem and somehow the tension between us provides a structure that keeps us from falling to our deaths. 

 WOW: You describe Biblioteca so vividly – thank you for practically bringing us there with you! Who is your support - what have you found to be most supportive in your writing life as well as in life in general? You are clearly an advocate for those with mental illness - but who do you turn to for support as a woman, a writer, etc... 

 Miel: My greatest support comes from my friends and partners; each provides me with something unique, and in this way, my needs are met. Some of them are the best listeners, some are my best readers/editors, some are excellent problem solvers, some are my cheerleaders. 

 I attend many online meditation groups. Participating in two twenty-minute meditations daily for the past three + years has been life changing. When I first transitioned from one to two meditations a day, I hoped that I’d find better tools to help my son. What it provided was space to grieve. Each night, during my second meditation, tears streamed down my face. I didn’t know that I needed a space wholly for me, but I did. It has slowed down the ticker tape of worries and enabled me to see and feel them at a reasonable pace. The people I have met, people from all over the globe, have provided amazing examples of coping with one’s struggles through the power of silence. 

 WOW: It sounds like you are in such a great headspace right now – and definitely moving in a forward direction. That begs my final question as our time draws to a close: What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for Fall/Winter 2023/2024 and beyond? 

Miel: This essay is part of a book I’m writing entitled Mother Matter. I started working on it--not realizing it was a book--in 2021. More than half of it is drafted and maybe 20% of it is polished. The goal in 2024 is to have more than 50% polished and all of it drafted. I’ve secured a grant for 2024, which has bought me 3 months off work to be a full-time writer. This is the third time in my life that I’ve had such great fortune; it’s exhilarating to write full-time. With that opportunity, I intend to begin soliciting agents by the end of 2024. I invite readers to follow me on X: @MielSloan. There I post updates re: publications and awards like this contest. 

 WOW: Thank you again for your submission, your honesty, and your time. Congratulations on being one of our runner ups and we certainly look forward to reading more from you in the future! 

 Interviewed by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto who just keeps on keeping on and can be found blogging and sharing on social media hashtag #raisingkidsandcattle and #shelovesgodandsheridesgoodhorses 

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Daal said...

Iso glad I stumbled here :-) I love anything to do with books & would be thrilled if you’d write a guest blog post for my site, which is for anyone who enjoys writing, or books, and all the arts. If you think it might be fun or helpful to have my followers (who total about 10k across my various social media) meet you, here’s the link for general guidelines: - best, da-AL

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