Since Sallie moved to Seattle, I interviewed her by email. I sent her a few questions and she returned with answers. I first met Sallie when she participated in a Mayborn Prep class that Bill Marvel and I taught. Sallie is lovely and bright and deep and insightful. Qualities I treasure in a writer.
- How did you hear about the Garret?
In the summer of 2012, I hoped to become involved with a robust literary community in Dallas. I wanted to meet other writers. Since I had written a personal essay a few years prior, I desired an outlet to help me polish it and to nurture my passion for writing. At the same time, I had decided to step away from middle school English classroom teaching for a while to work with students one-on-one. The flexibility allowed me more time to focus on writing. My husband knew of The Writer’s Garret and encouraged me to connect with it.
- What project or interest caused you to take classes?
My personal essay and emerging poetry collection inspired me to want to take classes. I needed some explicit teaching on the craft and some mentorship. Additionally, I craved meeting other people who were learning and writing as well. My first class was “The Elements of Creative Writing” with Joe Milazzo. Joe went on to become my writing mentor for six years. Next, in 2013 I took Juli McCullagh and Bill Marvel’s class on preparing a personal essay for The Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. That summer, at The Mayborn, my essay was accepted to be workshopped. When I met with literary agents about my manuscript, two urged me to expand my essay into a longer piece. That experience presented me with a new challenge: I decided to write a memoir. In 2014 and 2017, I returned to The Mayborn, and my book manuscript was accepted to be workshopped. Not only had The Writer’s Garret guided me with extraordinary writing teachers, but it also had helped me find my voice and validate the story I wanted to tell. I began to see myself as a serious writer.
- What are some other experiences that have influenced your writing?
Because of my experiences with The Writer’s Garret, my writing life began to expand. As I continued to work on my memoir and poetry collection, I decided to take some risks as a writer. I had published a few times before my involvement with The Writer’s Garret, but I wanted to move further into getting my work out there. Eventually, I published a piece for The Menninger Clinic’s Annual Fund publication and another piece for an on-line site, Resources to Recover. In 2018, I was awarded a residency to work on my manuscript at The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. They later published one of my poems and a chapter from my memoir in their on-line magazine, eMerge. Also, in 2018, I was chosen to perform with Dallas’ Oral Fixation (An Obsession with True Life Tales) and had the opportunity to tell part of my story to an audience of over 300 people. My yearly attendance at various writing conferences deepens my learning, fuels my motivation, and energizes me through meeting speakers and other writers.
- What is the importance of a writing group and a writing community?
My writing group is vital. All writers know how solitary the writing life is and how it can even lead to feeling isolated. I met my first friend in my writing group through Joe Milazzo’s class. Through her, I met another friend from The Writer’s Garret. He and I are still in a writing group together, and in 2016, I connected with another friend at The Writers’ League of Texas conference. She has been in our writing group since then. Even though I moved to Seattle this past summer, we continue to meet monthly via Skype to critique each other’s work. In addition to our monthly meetings, we touch base at the beginning of each week to discuss our writing goals, any challenges we may be having, and simply to cheer each other on. These two friends are family to me. We have shared each other’s victories and consoled one another during difficult times. Without them, I would not be writing as well or as frequently.
Because The Writer’s Garret had provided a lively and critical literary community for me in Dallas, I immediately sought out a similar place in Seattle. I knew such a place would continue to teach, inspire, and empower me.