Behind the Words: Christy Scott

Posted by on Sep 13, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Christina Scott is a graduate of the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College, and now spends her time as an English professor at both Monroe College and The College of New Rochelle. She is currently working on several short stories and a book. You can read her short fiction for free here.

Christy’s non-fiction piece “Loss, Faith, Chaos” appeared in issue #1 of Spry.

 

Sam: Your piece “Loss, Faith, Chaos” is moving and emotionally vulnerable. You portray this feeling of intense loss and sadness powerfully and honestly. This is not the kind of piece you can just read and then go on with your day; it sticks with you, haunts you.  Was this something that was difficult for you to write, or did the words flow naturally as a way of releasing some of that trauma?

Christy: I wrote this about a month into my first dating experience after my divorce. It had been over a year since the divorce was finalized and I wasn’t even interested in dating, and then it just happened. Trying to let someone care about me after the trauma of divorce was one of the most terrifying experiences. It meant that there was no hope of ever going back to where I was before—a  place I didn’t want to go, yet I hadn’t fully processed was gone. I was kidding myself, waiting for life to “go back to normal” when it simply wasn’t going to happen. Starting a new relationship burst that bubble, and all the feelings I hadn’t dealt with came pouring out of me.

 

Your writing is beautiful, almost like poetry. I loved so many individual lines (such as, “When I was newly cleaved from my husband I was little more than a corpse alone”) and together they weave a powerful essay in three parts. Was the division into three parts a conscious choice, or something that happened organically as you wrote?

When I sat down to write the essay I knew I wanted three parts. Those were the three things I felt were wrestling in my head and heart—loss, faith, and chaos. Once I began describing each thing I realized that these were issues I could spend my life writing about. And I think I will, though perhaps in not such a literal fashion.  I’ve always struggled with structuring a piece. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about my work being abstract, and for a long time I was frustrated that I couldn’t write more concretely. How was I to write anything of meaning if I couldn’t write a beginning, middle, and end? Some of this goes back to confidence and embracing the kind of writer I am. With this piece, though, it was just as it was, the moment it came out. Very little changes were made. It is a rare instance in which the structure of the piece appeared to me before the contents did.

 

As a fiction writer, I am always curious about how non-fiction writers feel when their deeply personal work is out there in the world for all to see. It’s almost like sharing a diary. Especially with a piece like this, how did you feel about friends, family, and strangers reading it? What kind of reactions did they have?

When I wrote this I didn’t care what other people thought. It was the only reason I could write it. There are parts of the essay where I mention how I used to relate to the world—wanting my ex-husband to make all the phone calls, finding my religious understanding from others. In a sense I was hiding. I don’t think the cure for shyness is running in the streets naked, but I had to embrace who I was and am, and have enough confidence to be okay with showing my flaws.

As for family reactions, my brother’s wife said she loved the piece, but beyond that I didn’t ask for or receive feedback from family members. In general reactions have been positive and kind.

 

You say your parents “owned” your spirituality and that your faith is really their creation. Yet it seems from this piece that you own certain aspects of it yourself. Do you think that having faith or being religious in some way helps when dealing with life’s tragedies? Is faith a common theme in your writing?

Faith is one of the main themes of my writing. Sometimes it is hidden, but the thread is always there.

As far as my parents “owning” my spirituality, this is a notion I’ve grown out of, though when I was younger there was no separation between church and, well, anything. I’m related to six priests—five Episcopalian, one Lutheran. Two of them are my parents, two of them are uncles, and the others are my grandfather and great-grandfather. I chewed on clerical collars when I was teething as a baby. It wasn’t until recently that I saw my religion as something I could play with and decide for myself. Honestly at the moment I’m still deciding what I believe. I can say that faith kept me going when I was at my lowest points. Believing in something wiser and more knowing then me helped keep me grounded in reality and life.

 

I enjoy the philosophical aspects of this piece. I absolutely love the paragraph about trees, and how your faith has manifested itself in this fascination with them. Imagining that trees are “literally fed by light” is a wonderful image. I also like the way the “Chaos” section is structured, with each paragraph beginning with “Chaos is…” etc. Which authors, essays or books (if any) influence your style of writing?

So many. My favorite writer is Octavia Butler. She is one of the most inspiring writers I’ve read. Her work combines a lot of the elements I’m interested in—how people relate to each other, faith, and science fiction. Also I have to mention Seamus Heaney who recently passed away. My thesis advisor, Jo Ann Beard, has also been an influence. I read “The Fourth State of Matter” as an undergrad and was blown away. Also Jane Jacobs is great. “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” made me think of the world in a different way.

 

I feel like the last line has a bleak overtone; anyone expecting a happy ending will be disappointed. Yet I also felt like you present a seed of hope. Can you talk a little bit about your intentions with this piece, specifically the ending?

My intention was to show the world as it is, not as I want it to be or as it was or how it could be. There are going to be things that I wish didn’t happen, or that I wish I could change. The ending shows this struggle. I heard somewhere that all behavior that is repeated has a “pay off” of some kind. So what was the “pay off” from feeling sad all the time? There is a line between grieving and wallowing, and the harsh reality is that this line is sometimes hard to capture. It can seem tragic that life goes on, that there is hope. I think the ending is also about me realizing that just because something hurts doesn’t mean that I should be allotted special treatment because I’m in pain. I can care for myself, and be understanding, but I also have to adjust and learn to function despite the pain. Not just learn to live with it but accept it and move on. Accepting reality isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it. Stress and “chaos” can come from good things, helpful realizations, and things that bring us joy. I’m glad you picked up on the hope—I knew it was there, but I wasn’t sure it was perceptible.

 

What are you working on now?

Lately I’ve been writing a lot of short pieces. You can find them for free on Wattpad under the name NoelDayer. I’m also working on a blog entry for Spry about literacy. And as always I’m working on my novel, which I’ve been trying to tame for three years. I’m polishing it, and in the words of my thesis advisor Jo Ann, making it as “sleek and cogent” as possible.

Samantha Eliot Stier’s short stories have appeared online at The Faircloth Review, Infective Ink Magazine, Extract(s), and Gemini Magazine. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and lives in sunny Venice Beach, California. Check out her website here.

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