Rising Phoenix Nonfiction Winner: Interview with Andrea Reisenauer

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Andrea: I had majors in English and Spanish at UW Green Bay, with a minor in Linguistics/Teaching English as a Second language. I’ll soon be pursuing my Master’s degree in Translation at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain. My ultimate dream job would be any combination of professor, literary translator, writer, and/or editor. I guess I’m flexible; as long as there are words, languages, and access to travels, I’m happy.
While it’s always tough to choose a favorite piece, I think my favorites from this issue are Cole Heyn’s “Rail-Splitters” (truly a wonderfully well-written poem with such great imagery) and David Pring-Mill’s clever and sarcastic “Profound Thoughts on Life and Death,” because, after all, Sylvia Plath probably should have left some cookies.

Q: When did you start writing? Did someone or something influence you to try?

Image Credit: Andrea Reisenauer

Andrea: I started writing when I was about ten years old with all of that pre-pubescent expressive energy and an undying love for Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Looking back, I didn’t know anyone else at the time who was writing, but some of those first few love poems infused with magic and inspired by elementary school crushes are real keepers.

Q: Who or what piqued your interest into submitting to Sheepshead Review?

Andrea: I heard about the Sheepshead Review in one of my English classes my freshmen year and I’ve tried to submit ever since then. One of my goals is to get my writing out more and try to have more things published, and Sheepshead is a great, beautiful journal to do so.

Q: You have been published in Sheepshead a couple of times, however before you were published, did you receive any rejections from Sheepshead? If yes, how did you deal with those rejections, and what gave you the courage to submit again?

Andrea: I have to say, I’ve been rejected a number of times from Sheepshead (and other journals, for that matter)! What always helps me deal with rejections is the knowledge that journal staff is always changing and always looking for different things, and the fact that there’s a lot of competition out there, so all those rejections make getting a piece published even more rewarding. After my first few rejections, I’ve learned to distance myself from the rejection letters and simply edit, rewrite, or try elsewhere. It can be a frustrating process (and a job in itself), but it’s definitely worth it.

Q: Out of all of your written and published pieces, what has been your favorite so far?

Andrea: Now this is another tough question… I have favorites in different categories, and some of those favorites haven’t found a home in a journal yet. As far as travel writing/nonfiction goes, “Solo Journey” is a piece that I don’t mind reading and rereading, which is a good sign that it’s one of my favorites. I also have a poem I wrote about Italy in terza rima, the same rhyme scheme as Dante’s Inferno, that’s one of the favorite poems I’ve written.

Q: Have you submitted to any other journals? Do you think you will in the future?

Andrea: Yes, I have submitted to other journals and been published in other journals both online and in print, and it’s definitely something I want to keep doing. I’d love to get my writing out there more and more.

Q: When I first read, The Solo Journey, I found the message of the piece to be quite sad but very true. When did you come to this realization, “we all travel alone,” during your journey? How did you know that this idea would create such a fitting and relatable piece? 

Andrea: The Solo Journey was a piece I started writing a few years ago when I studied abroad for a spring semester in Florence, Italy and stayed in Europe to travel for the remaining summer. That January, I found myself boarding a plane to Italy alone and arriving to a completely foreign city all by myself. I’ll always remember rolling my luggage down those small, winding cobblestone streets and realizing how completely alone I was, but also that I enjoyed the feeling. It was both liberating and frightening, but the kind of frightening that comes with a life-changing, exciting adventure. I soon learned to love exploring the city and country alone: roaming the museums, getting on trains or planes and taking everything in along the way. It’s not that I didn’t meet any friends, but just that I learned to enjoy my own company and experience the world around me free from distractions.

I then, however, also got to experience traveling with others. I enjoyed the chatter and social aspect of seeing new cities, of debating where we’d eat, what was a shared priority to see, whether or not the ticket price was worth it. But traveling with other people can be tiring, and often distance us from our surroundings a bit. It was that moment in Pisa—that looming ship of a cathedral on the green lawn I describe in “Solo Journey”–when I realized that, even though I was with two of my best friends, the city that I was taking in was different than the one they were experiencing. Yes, we were sharing in its beauty, eating similar pizzas and taking some of the same pictures, but every one of us remembers a different Pisa. That was when I began to realize that no matter how many people we’re surrounded by, life is only truly experienced alone.

And while it is a rather sad message, I also find it a liberating one. There’s a beauty in knowing that every one of us is experiencing something completely unique and that, whether on a train across Tuscany or driving to class in Green Bay, we are all our own best travel companions.

Q: Do you normally write nonfiction: what is your go-to style? After writing the The Solo Journey, do you think that you will consider writing another nonfiction piece?

Andrea: While I like to write nonfiction, fiction, poetry and pretty much anything else with words, I actually think poetry is my go-to style. I like focusing in on images and what they mean. I think this focus transfers over to my nonfiction a bit, a genre that I continue writing and hope to pursue even more, as well. I particularly enjoy nonfiction travel writing, though, because, after all, what is any trip or journey but a metaphor for life?

Q: What is your writing technique? Do you start with an idea and go from there or do you map out the story first and then write it?

Andrea: My writing technique varies by the idea, topic, and how much inspiration I’m feeling at the time. Sometimes (like for the first half of “Solo Journey”), I’m feeling inspired (or bored) enough to plow through without needing to map out ideas. That’s a great feeling. But typically, a single thought, image, or line inspires me to write something, and then I have to map out the rest accordingly. There are hundreds of these thoughts, images and ideas saved on my computer that still need that mapping…

Q: Any lingering thoughts?

Andrea: It’s an honor to be published in the Sheepshead Review and to be a Rising Phoenix winner for nonfiction. It’s given me that little push I sometimes need to finish up some existing pieces, keep writing, keep submitting, and, best of all, to keep reading.

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