It’s been four months since we got to know some women writers in our Interviews With Women Writers series! I don’t know about you, but I could sure use some inspiration right about now, which is why I’m so excited to introduce you to Jackie Sizemore. Not only is she an MFA grad and freelance writer, but this year, she also added consultant to her impressive resume when she started Point of View Consulting, a writing consulting business!!! Read on for more on Sizemore’s background, the most rewarding part of her job and her thoughts on the issues women face as writers… xoxo
Name: Jackie Sizemore
Where are you from: The Rust Belt and Tokyo
3 words to describe me: Introvert, witty, nerd
Author website: Jackie Sizemore
Writing coaching/educational consulting business: Point of View Consulting
Tell me a bit about yourself…what do you do, what are your hobbies, etc.?
I grew up in a General Motors family, which means that I moved a lot. My list to date is: Dallas, East Lansing, Detroit, Tokyo, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Boise and Laramie. Combine this with strong family ties to Kentucky and Tennessee. Being a constant “new kid” and being pegged as an outsider forced me to become a bit of an anthropologist in order to figure out how to culturally blend in or make friends. This turned out to be great practice for writing fiction. When I disclose my nomadic history with people, I’m often met with sadness or sympathy. But I really couldn’t imagine living any other way. I am happiest when I’m packing my things into a car and heading out to a new place and a new adventure. I received my MFA in Fiction from Boise State last year, and now I’m living in Laramie, Wyoming, while my partner attends his Creative Non-Fiction MFA program.
I write short stories for literary and sci-fi/fantasy markets, poetry, and creative non-fiction. Since graduating, I’ve started doing some freelance essays and articles as well. Right now, I am working on a bunch of writing projects, including a chapbook of poems about Paris, and my first novel, which is a near-future, dual-narrative feminist story.
I’ve also been preparing to launch my business called Point of View Consulting. I used to be an Assistant Director of Admissions for Carnegie Mellon University, and helping people with their college and graduate school process is one of my passions. Coaching people on the introspective process of writing their statements of purpose is so fulfilling, and I love working with narrative in this super practical way. All during graduate school, I had this dream of running my own college consulting and writing coaching business, and I finally found the time and energy to go for it! Working from home on various contract and on-call jobs while building up my business has also been wonderful because I get to spend more time with my dog Meeko. She can be a bit of a diva, but she makes sure I don’t stay at my desk too long so we can go for walks and kick at the tumbleweeds.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? Was it always something you wanted to do?
In early elementary school, I thought I’d like to be a writer. I wrote exclusively about frogs going on adventures and solving mysteries, and would scotch tape the front pages to make covers. This dream was somewhat discouraged by adults in my life, and I didn’t really come back to thinking I wanted to be a professional writer until I was an undergrad. I wrote poetry all throughout middle and high school, but I felt like I was writing it in a vacuum. I just had no idea about the larger poetry world, that there were contests I could have been entering, or that poetry readings even existed. Luckily, my English teacher for 10th-12th grade, Mrs. Derrico, was very encouraging of my writing, and she was always handing me extra books to read, or offering to read what I was writing. At my undergrad school, Carnegie Mellon University, I learned that Creative Writing was a major. Surely if I could major in it, that meant I could also do it in a way that existed outside of my little notebooks? It sounds so silly now, but I really had no idea that one could study creative writing or actively pursue it in a professional way.
What is most rewarding for you as a writer?
For me, so much of writing is a puzzle. Whether it is poetry or fiction, when I feel like I’ve cracked a way of describing a weird motion or found a phrase that holds all three connotations the story needs, that is the highlight. This reward is even better if someone else reads the piece and notices that same spot that had been such a tough puzzle to put together. Making someone cry from laughing too hard is also good.
What issues do you think women face as writers?
I think many of the issues boil down to the inability to view women’s experiences as an equal default as men’s experiences. In many of the classes I’ve been in, whether graduate, undergraduate, or community, the feedback towards insights coming from female-identifying writers, or from female characters, seems to be, “I don’t know if I believe this because it’s not my experience, therefore I feel entitled to question it.” Of course, I’m not saying this happens 100% of the time, and this is certainly not limited to male readers. I feel that women writers are not given the same level of credibility when it comes to their interpretations of the world, their insights and their female characters. I can completely understand if someone, whatever identity, had only come across stories where female characters served to prop up a male character, that they could end up believing subconsciously that this is a perfectly acceptable way for characters or stories to interpret the female experience.
What would you tell aspiring writers today?
Writing can exist in a life in so many ways, and no one way is the best way. Explore all the paths, and write whatever projects or pieces call to you the strongest. Know that rejection is a constant, even for the writers you admire the most. There will always be a next step you can’t wait to get to, but don’t forget to enjoy and celebrate the steps you’ve accomplished so far. Understand that writing about backgrounds and cultures different from your own is a tall order, and that doing your homework and understanding the specific power struggles and existing appropriations will only make your work, and your writing ethics, stronger.
Is there anything else you think I should know?
I have zero unread emails in my inbox.
What wonderful inspiration, don’t you think, friends?? Be sure to follow Jackie on Twitter to keep up with her writing journey! I’d love to keep this series going, so feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas or if you’d like to be interviewed! We women have to stick together, right?!?!? xoxo