Jessica Zarins is a Swedish-Latvian author based in the UK. Her work explores themes of heritage, identity and nature, and has appeared in Litro Online and Under the Radar magazines. Her piece, “Root to Branch”, can be found in EPOCH Issue 03: Roots, available to purchase here.
Why do you write CNF, and do you explore other genres in your work?
I like to write the way I like to live; finding beauty and meaning in the every day. Using life and reality and creating something new and true is a challenge both difficult and fun, and very rewarding. I do write fiction as well (I’m writing a novel at the moment), but feel like I’ve really found my home in creative non-fiction, especially on my blog (jessbranches.wordpress.com).
Did you have a piece already written when you learned about Epoch’s theme, or did you write a new piece? If so, how did you approach the theme of Roots in the creation of your work?
Funnily enough, I wrote the first outline of ‘Root to Branch’ on a single page of A4 as an idea for a submission somewhere else. But they were looking more for fiction, and their guidelines didn’t really fit the idea I’d just had, based around an experience from earlier that week. It was one of those lucky moments where a story came to me pretty much fully formed. So when, even luckier, a friend of mine (William van Boesschoten, also contributing to the same issue) recommended Epoch’s Roots theme, I finally had the opportunity to expand on and finish the story I really wanted to write. Thank goodness I didn’t throw that piece of A4 away!
What is the biggest challenge when writing CNF?
Making the people you write about understand that you write about them from a place of love, even when you describe things that might seem unflattering. My dad has resigned himself to always being the bad guy in my writing, even though he’s the one I’m trying to impress the most. But I think he knows that now, and recognises the complexities in the versions of him that I write. My housemates depicted in this piece still self-depricatingly joke about which sides of them I chose to represent, rather than acknowledge that the story is actually a love letter to them. I hope they are still able to see that.
What’s your favourite piece of art in your home?
That would have to be some of the many sea shells I collect from beaches everywhere. Nature’s own art. Other than that I’d say the Latvian artworks of inlayed wood that my grandmother’s twin brother sent her during the Cold War, when she was in Sweden and he remained in Latvia. They mean a lot to me and my whole family, and are absolutely beautiful.