Jessica Lind Peterson, author of Sound Like Trapped Thunder
Memoir & Creative Nonfiction Category, sponsored by Bradshaw Celebration of Life Centers
Each week leading up to the 34th annual Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony, we are featuring exclusive interviews with our 36 finalists. You can also watch the authors in conversation with their fellow category finalists here.
Would you tell us one or two things about your finalist book that you are particularly proud of, and why?
I am proud of the range of form between essays. Even though they are all wildly different, they are all working together to tell a collective story.
What do you hope that your audience learns or takes away from your book?
I hate to be bossy and tell my readers what to look for or feel. But I do hope that this book allows for more welcoming of mystery when it comes to nature and things that are unexplainable. As humans, our inkling is to get to the bottom of things, but there is so much beauty in the not knowing. There are moments when embracing the “what if” is better.
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer with an interest in your category?
When I was writing and then publishing this collection, there was a lot of trepidation on my part to tell the truth about certain things. Everyone has their skeletons, and the thought of hurting anyone with my honesty was scary. And I did. I hurt some people that I love very much. In writing nonfiction, you absolutely need to weigh that pain before you put your writing out there. Truth telling is a dicey business, but as writers, what else can we do?
Tell us something about yourself that is not widely known.
I really, really have a very large crush on Sting. Also, I am kind of afraid of the ocean.
Minnesota enjoys a reputation as a place that values literature and reading. If this sentiment rings true for you, what about our home state makes it such a welcoming and conducive place for writers?
Minnesota is a glorious place for the arts in general. It is truly an embarrassment of riches when it comes to grants, resources and opportunities for all kinds of artists and arts organizations. The writers here are kind and generous with their time. Book shops are so supportive of local writers. We have the Loft. We have multiple MFA programs. I don’t know if it’s a Minnesota Nice thing, or if there’s something in the water here, but I think we live in the very best state to be a writer.
Since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, virtually everything about our lives has changed in some way. Has COVID-19 (and its fallout) impacted your writing habits and preferences? Has the unique zeitgeist of the past two years influenced your writing output in any other ways that you can pinpoint?
Before Covid I ran a theater that I co-founded with my husband, Yellow Tree Theatre, in Osseo. We started it in 2008 and it was everything we dreamed. We never thought we would leave. But Covid forced us to make some very tough decisions. We sold our house and moved our family North to a tiny cabin in the woods. It was very dramatic and scary and sad and also wonderful, like a sabbatical in a lot of ways. Now we are settled in Duluth and life looks very different. Throughout the transition, I was in survival mode. My creative brain just wasn’t working and so I gave myself grace to not write. So yes, I would say Covid completely changed my life and writing habits. But the beautiful thing about being a writer is that you are always gathering stories, even when the page is blank.
Jessica Lind Peterson is an essayist, playwright, and theatre artist. Her essays have appeared in many journals. She is the co-founder of Yellow Tree Theatre and holds an MFA from Hamline University.