Interview with Kaci Schneidawind
This past spring, we sat down with Kaci Schneidawind to talk about her work featured in the spring 2020 issue of Inkwell.
1. Both of your published pieces in Inkwell are creative nonfiction essays. What draws you to writing in this genre?
I had never heard of this genre before taking an Advanced Writing course two years ago, and that was basically all we read. I was drawn, and continue to be drawn, to this genre because I like that it calls for writing an honest narrative with the addition of creative choices that enhance the narrative. By nature, CNF encourages experimentation, which makes it really fun to write in, and to read. It allows you to insert your voice into the text more than other genres. That’s exciting to me because it gives me an excuse to write about my experiences and also insert the dry, understated sense of humor from which I often operate in my writing, and in my life.
2. Staying motivated as a writer can be challenging, whether it’s developing ideas or making revisions to your work. How do you approach the writing process? Do you have any methods for staying motivated?
That’s so true, and I would say that I don’t have a concrete process that I follow all the time. Many times a thought will just pop into my head unannounced and suddenly I’ll have the words I want to say. I like to try to write them as they come, usually in my phone’s Notes app, to get the words down before I forget or twist them. This has often happened late in the night or in the middle of the night. If it’s an idea that’s worth waking up and staying awake for, it usually ends up going somewhere. I then like to go back to look at what I’ve written later with fresh eyes and make changes if that’s needed (this is almost always the case; I’m definitely a drafter). As for staying motivated, it’s tricky — even more so during these hard times that we’re all living through. I guess, in general, you have to know what you want the finished product to be, visualize it, and do the work you have to do to get it out into the world.
3. Your piece, “Consider the Potato,” shares a similar title to David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster,” essay. Did that piece inspire your work? If so, what about it stood out to you?
Yes! We read the David Foster Wallace essay for the aforementioned Advanced Writing class, and I modeled my “Consider the Potato” after it as a sort of imitation piece. If I remember correctly, the assignment was to write an essay that modeled the voice of a writer that we’d read in the class, and that’s the route I decided to go down.
What stood out to me about Wallace’s essay was how it was about this seemingly mundane thing that we don’t tend to think about all that much — the lobster. He shared so many facts and insight about that creature that made it more interesting and added a human quality to it. These aspects are what I wanted to emulate in my piece about the potato; to shine a light on another food that I feel can be underappreciated, and get the reader to see it in a different way. What I always hope to do with what I write is to impact others by changing their worldview a bit.
I also tried to insert some subliminal messaging about the collective human experience/condition that you sort of have to read between the lines to find, like Wallace did in his piece. So, just as his essay was about lobsters, but really not, my essay was about potatoes — but really not.
4. What role do you think reading in your selected genre plays in writing within that genre?
When you read someone else’s work, you tend to subconsciously pick up their craftsmanship and style and, in turn, apply it to your own writing, or at least let it inspire what you write. That’s certainly what happened with me while reading in the CNF genre; by studying how other authors approached the genre, I was able to use similar approaches that went on to shape my writing.
5. Are there any writing projects you’re working on now? Would you like to share a bit about them?
The only writing projects I’ve been working on these days are job applications and cover letters. Ironically, applying for jobs has felt like a full-time job.
6. Similar to staying motivated, it’s also important to be open to inspiration. Is there anything inspiring you at the moment?
I’m going to be honest and tell you that no, there isn’t. It’s pretty difficult to be inspired when it feels like your life is on pause, as it has felt during this pandemic. I believe that one of the best ways to gather inspiration is to just go out and live your life and write about certain experiences and how you felt about them, what you took from them, what they made you think about and put that on the page. Since the pandemic has prevented that from happening, I haven’t been very inspired in the past year, and I’d bet that this is the consensus that other artists and creatives have come to as well.
When you’ve been in isolation for nearly a year, it takes an emotional and mental toll on you, and that’s what I’ve been going through. When each day seems to repeat the one that came before, you get stuck in a rut, and that’s where I feel I am — creatively and personally. People have said to me that, as a writer, now would be the perfect time to hone my craft, maybe by writing a novel. While that sounds easy enough — especially with nothing else to do — it really isn’t! If I could reach inside my mind and pull out a fully formed idea or two, I would. I’m just not in that place right now, I’m sorry to say. I certainly hope that the clouds clear and that the world becomes brighter again for all of us soon.