Jessica Hendry Nelson was recently interviewed by the Burlington Free Press about her recently released memoir, If Only You People Could Follow Directions. Here’s a taste:
Free Press: Your book seems to be divided into a series of essays on growing up. Can you describe how it evolved?
Nelson: Yes. It is, in fact, a series of essays about growing up, but also about home and loss and love and the beautiful disaster. It’s about leaving and then leaving again and how, for this narrator, at least, learning to leave is akin to learning to love better.
I didn’t know much about how to go about this project in the beginning, but I did realize early on that the only way to tell this story was to approach it like a mosaic, fitting the pieces in where they felt most organic to the story line, which wasn’t, it turns out, chronological. It seems to me that we construct the stories of our lives piecemeal, borrowing fragments hither and fro in order to create the innate narrative arc that real life doesn’t follow. There are an infinite number of ways to go about life writing, but the one that feels most exciting and natural to me requires a rather reckless departure from the timeline. I wrote these essays completely out of order, then fit the puzzle together later, in the revision stage, in the shape that felt most true.
Read the entire interview here.