I’m over the moon that my essay “Upon Impact” won the Twelfth Annual Robert and Adele Schiff Award for nonfiction from the Cincinnati Review. The full essay will appear in their Spring Issue, but here’s what I told them about my writing process.
When I decided to write about my friend Catherine, I made a rule for myself: I would only write what felt honest. For creative nonfiction, honesty might be a given, but discovering my own emotional truth and then replicating it in language was hard work. In the wake of Catherine’s death, a suicide, my emotions ricocheted. I was furious one minute, bereaved the next, and profoundly grateful in the moments when I was able to consider the entirety of our decades-long friendship. When she died, I was six months pregnant with my first child. That juxtaposition—creating a child while losing a childhood friend—created an intense emotional whiplash. I wanted the form of my essay to recreate those collisions. A year earlier I’d drafted a much shorter essay about a car crash Catherine and I survived as teenagers, and revisiting it, I realized that Catherine died nineteen years, to the day, after that crash. The symbolism was uncanny. Rather than structuring my thoughts along a neat narrative arc, I decided to use jumpy transitions and zigzag through time in a way that would, hopefully, disorient and even jostle the reader. Though I’ve found some resolution in the years since, I hope my essay reflects the upheaval of that period.
In other good news, A Studio in the Woods awarded me an Inaugural Writers Residency in their beautiful new Writers Cabin. I’ll be going there for a week in February. I’m honored because the award was given in thanks for my “contributions and dedication to the New Orleans literary community.”