Interview with Erica Crowell

Erica Crowell chats with CNF about her essay, "Drowning"

An Interview
with author Erica Crowell

Q…What pleases you about the way your essay turned out? Are there ways in which it fell short of your original goals?

Crowell…I felt pretty satisfied with the extent to which I was able to narrate this essay from slightly outside myself. I think that essays can fall into narcissistic expression if some degree of objectivity about one’s self is not achieved. I am not sure that I made the “math” part of the essay particularly accessible.

Q…How did your essay develop, both in your initial thinking about it and in the revision process? What happened in the writing that you didn’t expect would happen?

Crowell…This particular essay developed directly out of my having had an experience that I thought would have wider interest or appeal. I tend to go about my daily life always looking for events/people that are interesting or unusual in hopes that some writing project might result. Frequently, when I start writing, I am surprised by what gets processed into the essay or short story. The unexpected insights into my own life or failings are an unsolicited benefit of writing, for me.

Q…How does your experience writing creative nonfiction depend upon or depart from your work in other genres (poetry, fiction, playwriting, literary criticism, etc.)?

Crowell…I haven’t written many nonfiction essays, but I would say that there is a similarity in theme and expressed emotion (preoccupations) in all my work. The dividing factor, I suppose, would be the “truth” of nonfiction; while parallel themes emerge across genres, essays tend to start with an actual event that occurred, whereas fiction allows for the creating of events around the emotional contents.

Q…Speculate about creative nonfiction as an emerging genre in American literature. Where do you see it going?

Crowell…I hope that the line between fiction and nonfiction will become increasingly blurred, paving the way for more interesting and moving accounts of events. That the subjectivity of “truth” will continue to be explored and the belief in the absolute truth, erode.

Q…What advice do you offer new writers?

Crowell…As a new writer myself, I would offer two pieces of advice. First, write everyday, like they say, even if it is only 20 minutes a day (I myself am not disciplined enough to do this). Second, take the time to learn the fundamentals whatever genre you write in. Also, read widely.