Interview with Anne Walsh Donnelly, Q2 2024 WOW! Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Sunday, July 07, 2024
Anne Walsh Donnelly lives in the west of Ireland, writes prose, poetry and plays and loves to experiment with form in her writing. She is the author of the poetry collection, Odd as F*ck. Her fragmentary novel, He Used To Be Me, was published by New Island Books in February, 2024. Anne is currently working towards her first personal essay collection.

Facebook: AnneWalshDonnelly
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interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing as a runner up in our Q2 2024 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Anne: Thanks. I’ve entered the contest several times and have been placed in the top ten five times, coming 2nd last year. It’s lovely when judges ‘get your work’ and obviously the WOW judges get mine! So that encourages me to keep submitting. I also love the critiques they give, they are always very constructive and have helped me improve my essays in the past.

WOW:  Love to hear that! Your entry, “The day you decided not to kill yourself” is quite moving and while it’s very personal, a lot of it will be relatable to others. What inspired you to write this essay?

Anne: It took me seven years to write this essay, it’s about a particular day when I had suicidal feelings and I’ve been trying to write about that day for the last seven years but it wouldn’t come. Finally in January of this year it landed on the page which was a release. It's one of my favourite essays and I'm so proud to have gone through what I've gone through and am now able to write about it.

It’s an important story to tell and I wrote it to give other people hope, even in your darkest moments you can turn your life around. It’s difficult but it’s doable with support from others. All you have to do is ask. The turning point for me was my love for my children and not wanting to leave them without a mother. There’s sometimes a lot of bad press about antidepressants but they saved my life and continuing in therapy while I was on them helped me recover from my depression.

WOW:  You’re also currently working a personal essay collection. Can you tell us anything about it, and how it’s going?

Anne: It’s going well. I’m on a bit of a roll at the moment and am writing a good few essays, thankfully. There’s a lot of ideas and themes floating around my head so I still need to decide on an overarching theme for the collection as a whole but that will evolve during the writing process.

For me craft and form are as important as content when writing a personal essay, so I’m having fun experimenting and trying out new ways and new forms to tell my story.

WOW: What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Anne: I tend to have a few books (poetry, fiction and non-fiction) on the go at the same time. One of the books I’m reading at the moment is Seaborne by Irish author Nuala O’Connor. It’s a novel loosely based on the life of 18th-century Irishwoman, Anne Bonny who was an Irish woman tried for piracy in Jamaica in the 1720s. Nuala is a fabulous writer, one of Ireland’s best (in my opinion), and her prose is a delight to read. I’d highly recommend the book to any reader.

I’ve just discovered Melissa Febos’ writing. I’ve been reading some of her essays online and have ordered her book ‘Body Work, The Radical Power of Personal Narrative.’ So I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it when it arrives. Her work is inspiring me to write about different themes in my own creative non-fiction writing.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Anne. Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?

Anne: Write for yourself first then edit and polish with your reader in your mind.



Angela Mackintosh said...

Anne, I love your essay. It's beautifully written and so important! Love your choice of second person, and the ending totally made me tear up. Your daughter's words were heart wrenching! I'm so glad that even with all the darkness you were able to think of your children. Antidepressants also saved my life during a time when I really needed them. I was on them for ten years until finally I didn't need them anymore. Love your piece of advice to write for yourself and polish with your reader in mind. Gorgeous writing! :)

Anne Walsh Donnelly said...

Aww, thanks Angela for your kind words

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