Linda Wastila is a writer whose work 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?
–The old saying is true—write what you know. I write from my experiences, and I draw on my emotional reactions to those experiences. I write very little straight-up non-fiction; indeed, it is CNF that creeps into my fictional work. While I tend to consider myself a novelist, most of my CNF truths emerge in the form of poetry and micro-fictions. That said, my recently completed novel PURE involves entirely made-up characters causing and reacting to events that I or close friends experienced. Many of the topics I write about—mental health, substance use, religion and spirituality, politically untenable ideas that rub against the popular narrative—are intensely personal so I cloak them in stories and poems as partial truths. Grief and trauma are common themes in my work, but to put down the details of their origins, to name perpetrators and victims, hovers too close to the bone. I take the elicited emotions and reincarnate them in my poetry and stories.
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?
–When I stumbled upon Epoch’s call for work related to ‘roots’, I had a few lines of my poem At MILEPOST 33 drafted. The second-year anniversary of my mother’s death spawned memories of both my parents’ deaths. Ten years earlier we’d spread some of my father’s ashes on the shore of the Outer Banks in North Carolina—it is this memory which serves as the core of my poem—and had planned to reunite my Mother’s ashes with his last year. But then the pandemic happened. We couldn’t sprinkle their ashes due to travel bans and lockdowns, so both urns, partially full, remained on my closet shelf. At MILEPOST 33 became my virtual version of the ritual we could not perform.
What is the biggest challenge when writing CNF?
–Memory. Time blends and blurs remembrances so when you recall and write a memory, it becomes warped and saturated, twisted by emotion, baggage, perception. The edges of truth and fiction become ragged where they overlap. I’m interested in those edges, the beauty, and ugliness they can contain.
What’s your favourite piece of art in your home?
–My favorite art, if I can call it that, is a 14” by 26” rya rug wall-hanging I designed and knotted and completed a few weeks ago. I call the piece Moon over Sea, and it echoes my memory of the Outer Banks when I was a child, the way moon and starlight reflected in the dark waves. If you look closely at the ocean and sky at night, you will see tremendous variation in blues and grays and ivories. You might also notice the thin line that separates the sea’s horizon where it meets sky. I guess you could call the rug a companion piece to my poem.