Interview with Robin Lee Lovelace, Runner up in WOW's Q1 2024 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

Sunday, March 17, 2024
I'm thrilled to chat with Robin Lee Lovelace about her powerful, award-winning essay, "To Be a Mixed Race (Black and White) Woman in America Means." In today's interview we chat about craft, what to look for when entering contests, Robin's latest projects, and a headless chicken that lived for eighteen months!

Robin's bio:

I am a mixed-race African-American writer from Indiana who usually writes fiction.

In 2017, I won the grand prize in a one-act play contest, presented by the 30XNinety theatre in Mandeville, a suburb of New Orleans.

In March 2019, I won the Etchings Press annual competition for novellas for my novella, Savonne, Not Vonny

I was named as an honoree in the Emerging Author category for the Indiana Author’s Awards in September 2020.

I was one of the three finalists for the Don Belton Fiction Prize for 2021 for my collection of stories titled A Wild Region and a Stowe Story Labs SAG Indie Top Ten Finalist for Savonne, Not Vonny in 2021.

Also, in 2021, I won the Marguerite McGlinn short fiction prize for my story "Uncle," awarded by Rosemont College and Philadelphia Stories.

One of my essays called "Different Times, Different Degrees, Same Shit" appeared in the 2023 Summer Edition of the Indiana Review.

I was a Wild Acres Retreat Diversity Fellowship winner in July 2023.

I live in Indiana with my husband and my dog and cat.

----- interview by Angela Mackintosh

WOW: Welcome, Robin! Thank you for joining us today, and congratulations on your award-winning essay, "To Be a Mixed Race (Black and White) Woman in America Means." I love how the title serves as an opening prompt for each paragraph, and your choice to write it in second person is brilliant. How did you come up with the idea for the format? 

Robin: I decided to write down every instance of racism or questionable situation regarding race that I encountered in my everyday life. 

Second person just came naturally. It seemed to be the most comfortable way to present the narrative.

WOW: It works so well. I am mixed race (half Asian, half White), and I can relate to hearing people talk about your ethnicity with racial slurs right in front of you! How did you choose which mini scenes to use in your essay, and how did the piece evolve as you wrote it?

Robin: It only took me about four months to gather the different mini-scenes. The one that struck me hardest was the two women in the mall assuming the tricked-out mustang blasting bass-heavy rap was driven by black people. The crude name-calling and stereotyping that these women displayed were infuriating.

WOW: You did a great job with that scene, because it also infuriated me as I read it. 

From plays to novellas to short stories—you've had great success at winning contests! What are some tips for choosing and entering contests?

Robin: If the judge of the competition has been announced, review what that judge writes and if your writing is in the same genre or is similar in tone or the judge has similar life experiences (possibly) then enter the contest. Go over your essay or story with a fine-tooth comb, not once but many times. If you can, have someone else read your essay or story and get their opinion.

WOW: Reading what the judge has written is such a great tip! When and where do you like to write?

Robin: I have a room in my house with all my books and my computer, that is the best place for me to write.

Usually, I write in the late evening - 9:00 pm to 1:00 am is the timeframe I usually write in. 

WOW: I'm a morning writer, so late night writers always impress me because I can never keep my eyes open past ten!

Your short story collection, A Wild Region: Tales and Stories from the Heartland, was recently published by Liminal Books. I love how you dedicated your collection to your grandmother. In your prologue, you mentioned that one of your characters, Virgie, who kept a headless chicken, was the essence of your grandmother. Did you draw on your real life experience for all the stories included in your collection? Would they be classified as magical realism? Are the stories connected by a theme?

Robin: I believe all writing draws on the author's life experiences to some degree. Of course, in fiction things are changed around a bit and characters are composites or at least have a little bit of the author's emotional truth. 

Yes, I would call my stories magical realism. Flying dogs, Voodoo conjurers, magic animals carved out of ivory. Not connected except by the area where the stories are situated and, of course my strange view of life.

However, a live headless chicken really did exist in the 1940s as a carnival sideshow attraction.

Mike the Headless Chicken (April 20, 1945 – March 17, 1947)[1] was a male Wyandotte chicken that lived for 18 months after his head had been cut off, surviving because most of his brain stem remained intact and it did not bleed to death due to a blood clot. After the loss of his head, Mike achieved national fame until his death in March 1947. In Fruita, Colorado, United States, an annual "Mike the Headless Chicken Day" is held in May.

Also, I am honored that you read my stories, Ms. Mackintosh!

WOW: I love your writing, Robin! That's wild about the headless chicken. What are you working on now?

Robin: A novel about an orphaned young woman making her way in Victorian London with an off-putting birthmark on her face. A Doctor Jekyll-type physician claims he can rid her of the birthmark, but she also has to contend with the Mr. Hyde side of him.

This Doctor is named Doctor Robert Harold, and his alter ego is simply called Jenks. I'm about 90 pages in.

WOW: Ooh, that sounds fascinating, and I love dual personality stories, and birthmarks are intriguing. Okay, last question: what is your favorite piece of writing advice?

Robin: Take long walks and think about your story and characters. Sometimes I talk to my characters or talk as my characters. I try not to let anyone hear me on my walks, or they might think I am peculiar.

WOW: Ha! That's wonderful advice, Robin, and you are a true artist. It's been a joy chatting with you today, and I wish you the best of luck on your project! I will be following your work.

Find out more about WOW's flash fiction and creative nonfiction contests here:


Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top