Tracy Rothschild Lynch writes CNF and poetry and currently divides her time between Virginia and London. Tracy’s work has been published in Janus Literary Journal, HerStry, and Brain,Child, among others. Her piece, ‘Maternal Ebb, Flow’, 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 fell in love with Creative Nonfiction back in graduate school. I enrolled at the age of 33 (with two toddler daughters at home), and intended to get my degree in Composition and Rhetoric. Although I’d been writing poetry for pleasure and working in literary fields since I was 22 or so, “official” creative writing was the furthest thing from my mind. However, when I took my first CNF workshop, I fell in love with the works we read and the work we shared. I promptly took a second class, and then switched my focus to CNF, and the rest is history. A few years ago I earned my MFA in Creative Writing and discovered that the process of learning was even more energizing than the products.
There’s something about the beauty of a true story, about playing with the form and function and purpose of words, that mesmerizes me—and also challenges me. You know, on earth we’re all connected by the stories we tell and the experiences we share; finding the most innovative, rich, relatable ways to create these true stories on paper (or screen) is what drives me. My side gig of personal poetry writing has always been an outlet for me, almost a way to explore what’s percolating before it officially brews in my CNF pieces. So yes, I try to incorporate poetic form and style in my CNF however I can. Sometimes it kinda sorta actually all comes together.
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?
Talk about serendipity! I had been shaping a piece born out of personal experiences with mothering children with chronic illnesses as someone with chronic illnesses myself—about the un-nameable heaviness weighing me down as I cared for them and, now, prepare them for adulthood. I wanted to figure out what that heaviness was. As the piece explores (spoiler alert!), I believe the answer is actually fruitless guilt. When I started playing with the concept of amniotic fluid, genes, bloodlines, my mother’s mental health issues, etc., I found Epoch’s call for submissions. “Roots” fit my concept perfectly, but more importantly, it gave me direction in which to continue, a way to contain my structure and keep it from becoming almost too “big.”
From there, I edited, shaped, wrote, and re-shaped to try to make my writing mirror the flow of fluids between mother and child, from generation to generation. Knowing I’d planted these genetic seeds in my daughters, and now watching from the shore as they float away into adulthood . . . well, it all just fell in place, writing-process wise. The hard part was digging deep into my understanding of my own roots (the first part of the essay), of finding ways to describe intensity of a difficult childhood, without making that the centerpiece of the essay. That’s where the theme of “Roots” helped rein me in.
What is the biggest challenge when writing CNF?
Hmmm. I think I thrive on a three-part challenge: 1) finding a truly unique (and beautiful) way of capturing something that is 2) my experience and interpretation of that experience, all while 3) evoking a universal reaction or understanding in others. And I think I go in that order when I edit. Find the “perfect” words; figure out if I captured something in the way I hoped to; and then edit for imaginary readers. I do know that in writing I don’t shy away from challenges, whereas in real-life I tend to be more worried about doing very hard things. Challenges are what keep us evolving as writers.
I won’t even get into The Business Challenge of being a writer here, which these days feels more difficult than ever—the submitting, the time management, the outreach, the social media platforms, and so on, because those challenges are best contained to another part of my brain. If I think about them too much, I won’t write at all. Or at least I won’t write as well.
What’s your favourite piece of art in your home?
A long time ago, I decided I only wanted pieces in our home that held meaning—that were either created by someone we knew, or that held sentimental meaning for another reason (somewhere we visited, a special message, etc.). It makes our home feel more plentiful, in a way. My current favorite artwork is one we purchased in Edinburgh last month. It’s a print of a painting of rolling hills, a white hut with thatched roof, a red call box, and a wee sheep. In spite of those objects, the primary focus of the piece is the sky. It is the richest, deepest dark blue—indigo-grayish, as though a storm is brewing. The white and reds against it are stunning. But the main reason we purchased it is because our delightful four years of living as ex-pats in the U.K. are very sadly coming to a close. We’ll be returning to America in a few weeks, and by taking this piece home with us, we’ll always have a perfectly captured scene to remind us of long drives in the countryside of Scotland, Ireland, England, and Wales, all at once. Plus, it’s gorgeous. I’m simply obsessed with it.