Of Memories and Memoirs : An Interview With Karie Fugett

It is quite easy to admire the intensity of Karie Fugett’s work because of the ingenious language and imagery that she incorporates in it. She is a Creative Writing and Sociology major at the University of South Alabama, and is currently the Nonfiction Editor of USA’s Oracle Fine Arts Review 2016. She was Editor-in-Chief of Oracle 2015, and was Poetry Editor of Oracle 2014. She is also an Associate Editor at Mobile’s Negative Capability Press where she is currently working on an international book of poetry.

Karie is currently working on a memoir which documents her life as a caregiver then widow of her war-wounded husband. Her short-stories and poetry are often also inspired by this experience. Other interests that are reflected in her writing are women’s issues, travel, and American southern culture.

 

1. Looking through your work, it seems as if you write in all kinds of styles—fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. How and when do you know what form a particular piece is going to take?

As for prose, my fiction and nonfiction often overlap. When I began writing – around ten years ago – I only wrote nonfiction. Probably because of those nonfiction roots, my instinct is still to begin most pieces of writing with a scene, quote, or idea from my life or the people in my life, and build from there, regardless of what it ends up being. I typically don’t know if a piece will end up nonfiction or fiction until a few paragraphs in. Of course, this isn’t always the case. I’ve written a number of pieces knowing exactly what they would be from the beginning. The book I’m working on, for example, was always meant to be memoir.

On the other hand, I almost always know immediately if an idea is meant to be a poem. My poetry usually begins with a feeling, a pit in my stomach, a need to put that feeling into words as quickly as possible. I don’t fancy myself a poet at all – I think I’m better at writing prose – but poems are quick. They get to the center of things, eliminating the excess. And sometimes that is just really damn satisfying.

 

2. According to your website, you are currently working on a memoir. What have you learned, about yourself, about writing, about your memories, from writing it?

It’s interesting looking at myself as a character, my life as scene and plot and metaphor. Writing the memoir has helped me to distance myself from the traumatic experiences of my past. It allows me to analyze my life as an outsider, break apart the various things that happened and piece them together to make something beautiful out of something awful. This process has helped me to be more forgiving of both myself and the people in my life. I could go on and on about what I’ve learned and still am learning about myself through this process – I’ve learned so much — but that would be boring. In the end, I’ve learned I’m really hard on myself and desperately need to practice kindness. I’ve gotten much better at that since writing. In fact, I often find myself recalling a memory from my early twenties and feeling amazed at what I was doing at such a young age. I was kid. And kind of a badass – even if some of my decisions were questionable. Memoir has helped me to love myself a little more.

What I’ve learned about writing memoir is that memory is not reliable. I have a lot of anxiety about telling this story wrong, which is why I’ve taken so long to write it (it’s been four years and I’m still well behind where I should be). A few years back, I expressed this concern to Jesmyn Ward in a nonfiction class I took, and she reminded me that memoir is based on the memory of the writer and that my version of this story is just as true and relevant as the next person’s. When I begin panicking, I repeat that to myself, remember to the best of my ability, and push through.

 

3. Do current events often fuel your writing? If so, how do you keep informed about what is happening in the world?

Not really. I mean, I’m sure current events influence what I write to some extent, but I tend to be more motivated by the day to day interactions I have with the people and things around me. If I’m being honest, the news gives me anxiety and I hardly ever watch T.V. If something crazy happens in the world, I’m often one of the last people to know.

 

4. Who was your first favorite writer? Does this person still influence you today?

C.S. Lewis. My dad used to read The Chronicles of Narnia to me before bed every night when I was a child. As I got older, I began reading them on my own. Because I tend to write nonfiction, I’m not sure he influences my writing style. However, he influenced me to read, then to write. Maybe I wouldn’t be writing at all if I hadn’t fallen in love with his books. So, in that sense, yes.

 

5. How do you make sure you never get stuck in a writing rut?

I’m constantly battling ruts. I’m not sure I’ll ever figure this one out. If someone does, you have my permission to give them my email. I want all their secrets.

 

6. How do you reach out to other writers? Do you belong to a writing community? How do they help your writing?

I’m in an undergrad creative writing program and have met a number of talented local writers through it. Though we don’t have an official group, we’re pretty close and always willing to read, edit, and workshop each other’s work. I’ve also attended a couple of writing workshops in other states – Writing by Writers in Tomalas Bay and the Tucson Festival of Books Writer’s Workshop. Through those, I’ve been able to connect with writers of different backgrounds. Networking with other writers has been indispensable. I get new points of view, encouragement, and honest feedback on my work.

 

7. If you could recommend a piece of writing published online to our readers, which piece would you choose and why?

I recently read a piece by Karrie Higgins on Manifest Station called “Strange Flowers” and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since. It has to be one of the best pieces of creative nonfiction I’ve ever read. It’s brutally honest and a great example of how various forms of media can be pulled together to create a story. There are too many reasons why someone should read it and no reasons why someone shouldn’t.

 

 

 

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