1. Tell us about yourself and how you got into writing.
I was lucky enough to have grown up surrounded by books and being read to. My parents read me bedtime stories—the Berenstain Bears mostly, or poems by Shel Silverstein— and I learned how to read really early, and was hooked. In addition, I spent a lot of time with my papaw who was a storyteller, and he bestowed in me the love of telling my own stories. They were pretty cliché kid stuff at first, fairies and princesses and stuff, but the love of storytelling stuck. I didn’t have a whole lot of friends, so my stories became my friends.
Then, I wound up in an abusive relationship at nineteen, and after getting free, writing became my catharsis. It grew from there, and when I went back to college, writing was the only thing I could imagine spending my life doing.
2. What would you want other Offbeaters to know about you?
I think it’s important for all of us, no matter who or where we are, to use our voices. I think we are getting ready to face a lot of injustice, and it is up to all of us to speak out. I want to use my life and my writing to speak out, to be a voice against discrimination and bigotry. I’ve started leading therapeutic writing groups at a psychiatric hospital to teach others to use their voices, and it is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
3. Tell us a bit about how you wrote “15 Rounds”.
“15 Rounds” is a chapter from a memoir-in-essays I wrote about the complications and intersections between working with victims of trauma while healing from my own experiences as a domestic violence/sexual assault survivor. While I had the bare bones, I realized I was missing a lot about the day-to-day minutiae of my job, and at the same time was reading poetry by Gwendolyn Brooks. I was really excited by “We Real Cool” and how it is written as a round—once you end the poem, the last line leads back to the beginning. I connected the concept of a round to the 15 minute rounds I do at work, and it led from there.
4. How did you decide what to write for the smaller, connecting segments (such as the one about 15-letter long words) between the larger, more narrative blocks of text?
I knew I wanted to explore different segments in the piece—the fifteen-minute rounds at work, myself at fifteen, and the different meanings of fifteen—and started researching fifteen (etymology, numerology, etcetera) and just went with the ones that seemed to fit.
5. You mentioned in your piece that you struggle sometimes to sit down and write; what motivated you to sit down and write this piece?
A deadline! I wrote it for one of my packets while I was in Spalding’s Brief-Residency MFA in Writing program (the program is phenomenal, by the way—I would not be a decent writer at all if I hadn’t had the mentors and workshop leaders there to guide and inspire me). I was right up against a deadline and needed more pages, and was at work and needed to write between rounds. And thus, this piece was born.
6. Do you have any advice for future submitters/writers wanting to get published?
Just keep submitting. Some essays find a home quickly, some—like “15 Rounds”—take several times to be accepted, and some take even longer.
7. What are your future writing plans?
I need to rediscover my motivation, I’m afraid, but I do have a few things in the works. I am hoping to start sending out my memoir soon, and I am working on the beginnings of a novel about addiction and an essay collection about growing up in Kentucky.
8. We asked every author if they had to be trapped in a fictional land which one they would choose. Tell us more about yours.
Definitely, without question, J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world. I am enraptured by magic, and the fantastic creatures and beasts, but also the strong storytelling and elements of social justice (racism, slavery, the importance of education, feminism, etcetera) found within its pages. I want to study at and then teach at Hogwarts and experience the magic for myself.