How long have you been writing essays?
I started writing when I quit my job as a software developer after my second child was born. I took a class on poetry, and that ignited my interest in writing, which had been dormant since college. Poetry led to essays for me around 2001.
When and where was your first essay published?
My first essay was called "Learning to Fly" and it was published in Mothering Magazine in 2001. It was in the issue that had the cover picture of the pregnant woman with "No AZT" written on her belly. My essay was about my daughter trying for a year, when she was four, to learn how to fly, and the transition away from that fantasy. It was actually the first essay I had ever submitted anywhere so I thought that selling essays must be very easy. I later found out that I was wrong!
How did it feel when you discovered your essay had been chosen for inclusion in this book?
I was honored, especially when I heard about some of the other writers whose pages my story would be sharing.
Tell us a bit about the essay published Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart. What is it about and why did you write it?
My essay is called "A Bad Dog." It's about my mother and about a dog. It's an unusual essay for me, because most of my essays are funny, and this one isn't. It's also the only essay I ever wrote that leaves me at a loss when I try to explain what it's about. I wrote it because it was a story I had to tell, but I make no attempt in the essay to define what the story means. I'd be interested in hearing other people's interpretations.
Had you tried the essay market before?
Much of my published work has been essays.
What does it mean to you to be published in this anthology?
It's gratifying to be a part of a cooperative work like this. Many of the writers in the book are ones who have helped me over the years to grow as a writer, so it means a lot to be in the same book with them.
Do you have any words of wisdom to share with someone who says "I don't have anything to write about."?
I think that the trickiest part of writing (any writing, not just essay-writing) is to figure out what the story is. So often I talk to someone who thinks that she doesn't have a story and when I hear her talk I can put my finger right on what their story is. But the thing is, not everything that happens is a story. A hundred events can happen, but maybe just event 4, 37, 58, and 75 are part of the same story. All the other events are just things that happened. Maybe they're part of other stories. Or maybe they're just not that interesting. So you have to pay attention and think about the connections. What does event 37 remind you of? Did it change how you felt about event 4? Did it foreshadow event 58? In "A Bad Dog" there's no reason that the two sets of events that I write about are part of one story, except that I made the connections.
Also, tell the truth. Tell the truth. I'm serious. Tell the truth Don't try to make yourself look good. Nobody will think more of you because you come off as the hero in an essay. Tell the truth about how you felt during the events, even if it reflects poorly on you. The only reason to write a personal essay is that it is telling the truth that hopefully someone else will relate to.