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Interview with Meghan Robins, 1st Place Winner of 2021 Q3 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest


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Meghan Robins was born and raised in Tahoe City, California, and currently resides in Bend, Oregon. Her short fiction and creative essays have appeared in VoiceCatcher, Powder, Kokanee Review, and the anthology Tahoe Blues. Her essay “Desolate & Wild” won the Tahoe Summer Annual 2012 Writing Competition for Moonshine Ink. Her verbal storytelling skills were highlighted at the Boldly Went: YOUR Adventure Stories, when her live rendition of “Record High Snow Levels in the High Sierra” was made into a podcast (episode 111). Meghan is currently writing an historical novel set in a Tahoe logging camp in 1860. When not writing or working as a Marketing & Communications Specialist, she’s most often found baking, drinking tea, and exploring the mountains (if she’s lucky, all at the same time). You can read more of her work on her blog at meghanrobins.com.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Q3 2021 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Meghan: I scrolled upon your Instagram post a few weeks after writing this piece. It’s rare that I have an essay or short story that fits the category so perfectly: low word count, unique format, geared toward women. I didn’t think twice before submitting. It just seemed like a perfect fit!

WOW: Your entry, “Being a Woman is Like Making French Onion Soup” is poignant and also fun, due to the recipe format. What inspired you to write this particular piece?

Meghan: I was making French onion soup when the title popped into my head and I couldn’t get it out. Then the first sentence came: “It starts with crying…” And because I was, in that moment, crying without cause or explanation, I realized I was writing something. The rest of the essay came out pretty quickly. While the onions were browning, I scribbled my thoughts, with the recipe book open beside me. By the time I got to bread and cheese, I realized the analogy carries all the way through. It was one of those beautifully rare moments when I wrote a solid first draft and thought, wow, this actually works. It also may be the most honest piece I’ve written so far.

WOW: You’re also currently working on an historical novel. Can you tell us anything about it, and what your novel writing journey has been like so far?

Meghan: Undercut is set in Lake Tahoe in the 1860s, when the Comstock Lode triggered massive deforestation in the Lake Tahoe region. Two parallel stories collide: Three Euro-American brothers strike gold, but when one of them is murdered the other two blame each other. Meanwhile, as snow melts and members of the Washiw tribe begin their summer journey into the mountains, they are confronted by an intrusion of loggers devouring forests to feed the silver mines. One woman decides to put a stop to it.

My writing journey with this novel has been arduous. Writing historical fiction comes with a lot more research than I intended. Because I grew up in Tahoe City, I thought I knew a lot about the land. But in the process of research, I have learned about deforestation, mining, Civil War politics and how that affected Nevada’s statehood… I am also learning that my English language is not equipped to speak about the land the way the Washiw language is. Currently, I am working with members of the Washiw tribe to write a fictionalized story that respects the full truth of Tahoe’s history It is intimidating to be fictionalizing Washiw characters, but their story is integral to this region and I cannot complete this book without them. I am forever grateful for the time they are spending with me.

WOW: Sounds interesting, and we wish you the best with the book! Switching gears, you mention baking and drinking tea as some of your interests, so maybe you could tell us your favorite thing to bake and/or your favorite kind of tea.

Meghan: Earl Grey. Hands down. And like everyone else during the pandemic, I took to baking sourdough bread and I can’t say I’m ever going back. It really is a cathartic and rewarding hobby that works great when working from home. Plus, with all the breweries in Bend sending hops into the air, my starter has really developed a lovely shade of sour.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today Meghan. Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Meghan: If your story doesn't quite fit into a submission’s theme or requirements, don’t force it. Your story will find a home, but don’t deflate yourself by trying to stretch the parameters of the submission requirements. It doesn't necessarily mean the writing is bad, it means you're off their theme. Once while learning to fly fish I got this advice: You can’t catch a fish if your hook’s not in the water. So, at the same time, as everyone always says: submit, submit, submit. It really is the best way to get published...

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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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