Episode 42: From the page to the stage with writer Alyssa Sorresso
I’m reminded of the strange timing of things as I edited this week’s episode featuring writer and performer Alyssa Grace Sorresso. (Listen for the part about learning she’d been nominated in an essay anthology.)
I met Sorresso at the Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference in 2015 (not 2014 as I think I said in the podcast). Alyssa’s essay had just been published in Creative Nonfiction, and she approached me after the magazine’s founder and the “Godfather of Creative Nonfiction” Lee Gutkind announced that I was looking for people to interview.
Though one of her websites uses the word “tactless” (ironically paired with her middle name, Grace), that’s not the word that came to mind when she introduced herself (poised and confident) or when I read her essay later (deliberate and intense).
I asked Alyssa to be a guest on Behind the Prose, and she agreed. Finally, in October 2016, I scheduled the interview. Alyssa was almost a month into a self-funded sabbatical and she skyped with me from a London flat.
In this episode you’ll hear us discuss:
- what’s it like to work with Hattie Fletcher, managing editor of Creative Nonfiction;
- when personal is too personal for a personal essay; and
- why performing “live lit” may help your writing practice.
Alyssa has also sent a special message to you, Prosers!
Hey all! Thanks for listening to me talk about writing. It was the first time I did that, so I hope you found something interesting about it. I’ve been continuing to travel with Dan and so far we’ve covered England, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands, The Canary Islands (Spain), France, Italy, Greece, and Israel. Whew! That’s a lot for four months.
As I write this, we’re in our first week of Thailand, which begins the SE Asia leg of our trip. Something I’ve better understood is that traveling is like learning a language: you think you know a decent amount about structure and vocabulary, but once you start having conversations you realize how vast and unknown the language is to you. That’s what it feels like to be in a new country. There is so much to see that you could never see it all, and trying to do so really burns you out. I’ve had to learn how to accept that, and be comfortable with a slower pace that allows me to sink into one place.
My writing is the same way. Traveling is the main activity that I do, so the daily writing I envisioned hasn’t happened. Sometimes it’s just not practical. Instead I purposefully make time in other ways. For example, we were in a hostel in Bangkok for 5 days and while I got to do a little writing, the experience was more about meeting people. Now we’re in Phuket in a private room where the pace will slow down and I’ll be able to focus at length on writing. Here, I will make it a priority and stick to it. I struggle to not feel guilty about my input/output, but then, I’m using the time to find out what kind of writer I really want to be; and that necessitates a liminal state.
I’ll stop there! But if you’re interested in chatting about my work, travels and sharing yours, please connect with me. I’d be happy to hear from you. – Alyssa Sorresso
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ABOUT ALYSSA GRACE SORRESSO
Alyssa Sorresso is a creative nonfiction writer who loves telling stories out loud. She has performed her stories internationally and around Chicago including for 2nd Story, StoryClub, and You’re Being Ridiculous at venues such as City Winery and Steppenwolf Theatre. She was a co-producer for The Side Project Theater company’s Festival of Storytelling 2015 and 2016. She was nominated for the 3Arts Award in Teaching Arts in 2016. Alyssa’s writing has been published in Creative Nonfiction (Magazine), Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Ohio Edit, The Fem and others. Her essay “Don’t Borrow Trouble” was listed as “Notable” in “The Best American Essays 2015.”
Alyssa and her partner are traveling for a year instead of buying a house. She is totally ok with this. Some things Alyssa loves are cats, writing (duh), intersectional feminism (double duh), windows that frame trees, cats again, cooking for large groups, her dead mother, tattoos, and women. You can follow her on Twitter and Insta @alyssa.sorresso if you like some of those things too.