Chelsea Bieker Recommends...

“For me, often the origin of a new story or project begins with found documents. I have always been entranced by letters, journals, hastily jotted down reminders. It may have started when I inherited a huge storage unit full of my mother’s belongings and took on the enormous task of going through it. I got rid of almost everything except photographs, letters, art, and journals. I was amazed by the sheer magnitude of writing my mother did—though she never considered herself a writer. I grew up not knowing my mother’s inner thoughts (we only lived together until I was nine), and seeing them on the page, the lively language and the innate sense of story she unknowingly had, has inspired me deeply. I was stunned to see my own style in her writing, my own similar contemplations of love and grief and addiction. My favorite thing she wrote was an essay on miners for her community college English class. I ended up writing a short story born from it using a few of her lines as an homage. Her writing has offered me a way to commune with her through art, but also a reminder that stories exist around us everywhere. I read fiction constantly and find much inspiration through that, but nothing is so inspiring than a mysterious and urgent Post-it note saying: Never call me again! Love, M. That to me is a whole story right there. As writers we’d do well to remember that art exists outside of ‘art’—and is often very accessible in these left behind forms. Incorporating found texts as a writing exercise or prompt can create interesting structures and arrive us in unexpected territory.”
—Chelsea Bieker, author of Godshot (Catapult, 2020)