Bridgett Jensen is a Creative Non-Fiction writer from Olney, IL. You can read more of her work on her blog, The 49th Year.
1. You received a fellowship for a 1-week residency at RWC after participating in AROHO’s 2019 donation campaign. How involved have you been with AROHO? What was it about AROHO that inspired you to give to their campaign?
I’ve been a huge fan of AROHO for a long time, through different permutations as it’s grown. In 2013, I won their Orlando Prize in Creative Non-Fiction, and was published on their site and in Los Angeles Review. Any time I’m at AWP, I go listen to them. Donating to their mission to help women writers is important. This (fellowship at RWC) is just incredible. I was so surprised!
2. What are you reading right now?
The Education of an Idealist, by Samantha Powers – A memoir.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, by Lori Gottlieb, Brittany Pressley, et al. – It’s about her own therapy practice but also she’s in therapy at the same time.
The School of Life: An Emotional Education, by Alain de Botton – It’s based on some of the principles he espoused in some of his books.
RWC – It looks like you read more than one book at once!
Yes, I typically have a couple different ones going at the same time.
3. When did you start writing? Was there a specific moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
I always wrote. I remember one specific time being at my grandma’s house in a very rural part of Illinois. She had a desk and it was filled with notebooks. I remember taking mine out and going and hiding in a big bramble of forsythia, climbing in the middle of it and writing. I was thinking, I’m a poet! I had no idea what that meant. I was probably 6 at the time. I think I always wanted to be a writer.
4. Tell us about your writing? In what genre do you primarily write? What project are you working on now? Do you have a big goal for 2020?
I started out writing poetry. When I was an undergrad, that was basically what I focused on. Later I started writing essay. I got my MFA in essay writing and fiction. That was at Spalding University. I have a blog that I keep although right now I’m not keeping it very well. I’m working on essays about failure and the need to fail. At Rockvale, I’m trying to go back into them and rework some. I would love to put these together in book form.
5. Many writers have to balance their creative life with other life responsibilities. Do you have a day job? What are other responsibilities that share space in your day to day life?
For the past two years I’ve been a content writer for a logistic marketing company. It’s a family owned business which I have actually never participated in until now. We just launched the marketing side. It’s totally new for me. It’s why this week is so important. I’m not balancing (my job and creative writing) at this point. I write all day for a living and it has been a lot more difficult for me to keep up my personal writing. I’m going to have to find ways to carve out space for that. When I was younger, I taught part time at a community college and I taught poetry activities at a couple of the elementary schools. And I had 4 kids. I had a little bit better balance back then than I do now.
RWC – So writing residencies may be in your long term goals?
I think so! To get away! Now I sometimes work from home, and it’s totally changed the way I get my own creative writing done.
6. What are three words that describe you as a writer?
Funny, searching, and lazy, a little bit. Not lazy but maybe befuddled right now as to how to get everything done.
7. Tell us about your writing community. Do you have a writing group with which you share on a regular basis?
I have a group from grad school, my Spalding friends, and there are seven of us. We get together at least once a year to share our work. We also share work over email and send comments to each other. I also have a friend from high school that I continue to share work with. I’m blessed with a large community.
RWC – So you get feedback and close reading with these groups. That’s invaluable.
Yes, and my friend Julie (writer Julie Stewart) and I have been walking and writing for 8 years.
RWC – Tell me how that works
It began that we were writing partners. Life got harried one time around Christmas and we decided that instead of writing for that month, we’d take walks together to bring a little more spaciousness. We would write emails after those walks, describing what we saw. That turned into a daily practice for years. We also respond to those pieces of writing which we consider essays. We’ve had a long term engagement with each other which has been really beneficial because it helps me see things that I do well and things I need to be better. It’s been an incredible thing.
Note: Julie Stewart is a friend of RWC’s Director, Sandy Coomer, as well. They met at West of the Moon Creative Retreat. It’s a fun coincidence that Bridgett and Julie talked about RWC even before Bridgett won the AROHO Fellowship. Julie came for residency the same week so they could walk and write together at RWC!
8. Have you ever been to a writers’ colony before or been a writer-in-residence? What attracted you to this experience?
I have not. Julie told me about this place because she knew you from West of the Moon. When I saw it was one of the AROHO donation choices I said, I’ll do that one. Of course, I never expected to win. I love it, it’s amazing. I can see this being something that I make the time to do from here on out.
9. Have you established a routine here at RWC? Can you share what your days look like?
So far, I have slept a little later than I normally do. Then I get up and meditate, then write for about 2 or 3 hours, then take a walk, eat lunch, then go back and work on something different. Julie and I have been taking a later walk, then coloring and listening to a podcast in the evening. I write a little bit more before I go to bed. So three separate writing times during the day.
10. What advice do you have for other writers?
I hate to say this because I hate to be overbearing, but I’m beginning to learn this. I’m 53 and my kids are almost all gone. We don’t have as much time as we think we do. I am working really hard to take whatever time I can and use that time to write and experience the world. We don’t have all the time in the world.
11. Our tagline at RWC is “We believe in the Power of Words.” In your own writing, do you feel your words have power and purpose? How does that power manifest itself for you? Why do you write? What is your inspiration?
I’ve thought about this a lot. I think I write first of all to figure out how I feel about things. I’ve been thinking lately about how we tell stories. I think, for me, I tell these stories in order to make sense between my past and where I am today. We revise our past all the time to create something that looks at little more linear than it is sometimes so I try really hard not to do that, but it is part of the impulse behind story telling. I write to make sense of today and how we got here. That’s why I like non-fiction so much. I’m really drawn to the stories people tell.
12. Fun Facts (Bridgett’s picks are in bold.)
Computer/Pen and Notebook
Glass half empty/Glass half full
Desk/Comfy Chair or Bed
Actual book/Kindle, Audio
Something old/Something new