Sarah Zobel is today's Q&A author, so grab your beverage of choice and read about how Sarah feels about essays and being published in the FLX anthology, Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart.
How long have you been writing essays?
It feels like I’ve been writing them forever, though I suppose I’ve only really been doing so for maybe the last decade.
When and where was your first essay published?
My first essay was published on Common Ties in May 2007. They were looking for essays related to motherhood and it meant a lot to me that mine—about buying my son a cup for playing baseball—was chosen. I ran into his teacher a few days later—he was in third grade at the time—and she said he’d told her I’d published an essay about him and could she read it to the class? I had to laugh. She changed her mind when I told her what it was about.
How did it feel when you discovered your essay had been chosen for inclusion in this book?
Well, first I had to make sure that it wasn’t a misprint or that I’d misread, that they hadn’t actually chosen someone else whose name is close to mine. And then I was thrilled, of course. Since I’m home alone most of the day—like the majority of freelance writers—I get to do stuff like jump around and say, “Oh my god!” and no one has to know.
Tell us a bit about the essay published Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart. What is it about and why did you write it?
This essay is actually about my reaction to my father-in-law’s death from lung cancer. He was in Maryland and we are in Vermont, so there wasn’t much my husband and kids and I could do. But I decided to knit Jack a blanket—for practical reasons, but also just as a gesture of love. I had barely finished it when he died. I guess writing about dealing with his death was another way of dealing with it.
Had you tried the essay market before?
I have, with limited success, and only sporadic effort. I did sell another essay a while ago to Hallmark, but just as it was being slated for a specific issue, the whole magazine folded. They still paid me, which was nice, but I was disappointed. Essays are tough to sell, and given their personal nature, I don’t send them out all that often—the rejection hits a little harder than with a feature article.
What does it mean to you to be published in this anthology?
A lot. The selection committee members said they sought variety in the subject matter of the essays they chose, not wanting only death and love stories. So I’m extra flattered, since obviously there’s mention of death in my essay. And of course the other writers whose essays are included just universally wow me.
Do you have any words of wisdom to share with someone who says "I don't have anything to write about."?
Don’t overthink it—start writing! Every day that you open your eyes and get out of bed, you’ve got something to write about—and somewhere out there, someone will want to read about it. And if you stay in bed, hey, write an essay about that!