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Interview with Robyn Fisher, Runner Up in Q2 2021 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest


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In 2016, Robyn quit her demanding teaching job to become her husband’s full-time caregiver. After he died 2017, she walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain, sold her Pacific Northwest home of 25 years and finished writing her forthcoming memoir, You Remind Me Who I Am: A Memoir of True Love and Lewy Body Dementia. She writes, blogs and podcasts about healing from loss, hiking and walking, and mid-life reinvention. She currently divides her time between the Pacific Northwest and Maui, documenting her walks and thoughts on Instagram @robynpassowfisher. “The Glass Sliver” is an excerpt from her memoir. Find her blog and more at www.robynpassowfisher.com.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Q2 2021 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Robyn: Gosh, why not? “The Glass Sliver” is a short excerpt that I felt was a stand-alone and was excited to find a place to submit it. So thank you!

WOW: Your entry, “The Glass Sliver,” is an excerpt from your upcoming book. What inspired you to write a memoir?

Robyn: My memoir chose me, actually.

In 2016, Lewy Body Dementia was ravaging my husband’s body and brain, and I quit my full-time teaching job to be his 24-7 caregiver. He was a musician, a poet and a writer, and he loved that I wrote regular updates to keep our friends and family in the loop about his illness, especially because he couldn’t write anymore. I always read them before I emailed them. “Your writing brings me such joy,” he told me. This is a disease characterized by hallucinations and personality changes, and when I would write about what was going on, and read it to him, I believe it helped ground him. “You remind me who I am,” he told me.

My writing helped ground me, too, back then. Still does, actually, when grief comes to call. The positive responses, from both my husband and our circle of friends, made me want to keep writing. My updates became essays, and then after he died, I hired a writing coach who helped me turn those essays into chapters.

My book is non-linear in structure, with the main timeline the last two years of my husband’s life, the medical mystery, love and family, and the acceptance of knowing that our partnership was ending. The secondary timeline takes place during the two decades leading up, from the somewhat scandalous beginnings of our love story, our commitment to honesty in all things, family, and the love that helped us deal with the end.

WOW: How wonderful that your writing brought your husband joy, and that it helped you as well. What has your memoir writing journey been like? Anything you can share about the process?

Robyn: When I went on my pilgrimage along the Camino, I had only about half of it done. Not too long after I returned, I decided to sell my house and simplify my life. The book was pushing on me. Literally. I felt a gentle push on my shoulders and head, almost like the someone was guiding me into a chair from behind. When the push happened, and I couldn’t sit down, I had anxiety. Grief is weird. I wanted to distract myself from it, but I also want to learn what it is trying to teach me.

Well anyway, I got my house on the market, then spent six weeks with some friends who encouraged me, read my chapters and helped me keep writing. The book is done now and I’m shopping for a publisher, looking to build an author platform. It has given me something to focus on instead of grief. It has been guiding me at this stage of my life.

The process now is the query process which is daunting, in all honesty. But I am also writing a blog about my Life Reinvention after loss, writing and submitting personal essays and other writing.

Gosh, I hope I answered your question!

WOW: Yes, and best of luck on your publishing journey! You mentioned walking the Camino Santiago in Spain. My sister also completed that solo journey following a difficult life event. What was it like for you?

Robyn: Lifechanging. It was the perfect thing for me to do at the point in time, just seven months after my Bill died. I had been a hiker and backpacker in my youth, but I felt this physical exhaustion like none I’ve ever felt before. I had gained weight, my body felt broken, exhausted, sick. I have described those early days of grief as an illness. I knew walking a long distance would help me feel healthy again, get my body moving again, release the exhaustion of grief. Help me figure out my own pace of life.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Robyn! Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?

Robyn: I’m not a very disciplined writer and it helps me to have a deadline, so that’s what I do. I find or create deadlines for myself by participating in writing groups or taking classes. It also really helps me to do a Julia Cameron style brain dump to get started. I keep post-it notes and lists in my journal of scenes that I think I want to write, and almost always when I sit down to work on one, I end up writing something else. I’ve learned to trust that something else. If I trust the writing and take it where it wants to go, that works best. I’ve also learned to reach out for help when I need it!

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For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.

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