Behind the Words: Amy Sibley

Posted by on Jun 6, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Amy SibleyAmy Sibley’s “The Period Calendar,” a creative nonfiction essay from our first issue, is a memorable glimpse at a young girl’s thoughts on getting her menstrual cycle. Amy is both a writer and an editor, and we welcome her to the Behind the Words feature.





The last time we spoke, you were a student at the University of Glasgow. Are you still there?

I have completed the MFA now and am headed back to the states.

What made you pursue your education abroad?

I applied and was accepted to both universities in the states and abroad. There were different reasons for applying to international universities in addition to local ones, but the bottom line really is because I could. I figured why not? I believe in saying ‘yes’ to things that you want and are able to do. You never know what possibilities may emerge and what doors may open from that ‘yes’. If the opportunity to have an adventure presents itself to you, and there’s not a good reason to decline it, then I say go for it.
“The Period Calendar,” is a humorous creative nonfiction submission about a young girl’s thoughts on getting her menstrual period. How did the idea for this essay originate. Was it an image (the period cake) or the stage in life that inspired the essay?
It came more from that time of life and was really the first seeds to the book I am now working on.
Do you write exclusively in creative nonfiction? Any suggestions to our readers who are interested in writing creative nonfiction?
I do write almost exclusively in creative nonfiction. I dabble in a little prose poetry and fiction, but focus most of my efforts on CNF. My advice is that just telling the facts, just telling the true story, is not enough for writing CNF. You need to approach it the way any fictional story is told. You need to think about what to tell in your story, but almost more importantly, what not to tell. Silence works to create a great affect on the reader if done well. You need to also think about the language, the order, the images you present, and everything else that you would do when writing fiction. Engaging the reader and creating a compelling story is just as much at the heart of creative nonfiction as it is in fiction.

Both you and Kate Alexander-Kirk, another contributor to Issue #1, founded Zest Literary Journal. How has that process changed your writing?

That’s hard to say. I worked in book publishing for years – as an Editorial Assistant, Associate Editor and eventually an Acquisitions Editor. So, I feel that I brought those skills heavily influenced the creation of Zest. That being said I think it has made me more aware of how important it is to edit my work carefully before submitting. You don’t want to make more work for an editor when you have a fab piece they may want to publish, but there’s grammar or other issues that require their attention before it can be published.
I have to give all the credit to Kate though for continuing to keep Zest alive and thriving. I stepped away from it about half way through the second issue due to other commitments. She continued to carry the torch and has done a more than amazing job doing so. I can’t say enough about how awesome of an editor she is!
Since you’ve been both a writer and an editor, do you have any advice to the writers currently submitting their work to Zest or Spry or any other journal for that matter?
There’s so much advice one could impart on submitting. But I’ll boil it down to two pieces of advice I think you can never go wrong with:
– Always read the submission guidelines carefully and follow them to the letter. Editors are being inundated with so many pieces and by not following the guidelines you are asking to be automatically rejected. Also it shows lack of attention to detail and potentially gives the impression that you don’t have much respect for the journal you’re submitting to and/or your own writing.
– Never give up and keep submitting. I know this advice is given all the time, but that’s because it’s true. Know that there are so many reasons for being rejected that are not because the writing is bad. Just keep writing, revising, and editing your work and continue submitting. Each rejection is not something to lament but rather something to be proud of. It means you’re actively working to get your writing published and this is never an easy task.

What three writers have influenced you the most?

If I had to choose just three I would say Jo Ann Beard, David Shields, and Nick Flynn. But I’d also like to sneak in David Sedaris and Joan Didion. It’s just too hard to limit it to three! In all honesty that list is much longer, and continually grows as I continue to seek out books and authors I’ve not heard of before or haven’t read yet. Each time I find more authors that become influential to my writing. Most recently it’s been Abigail Thomas as I just finished reading her book, Safekeeping, which I loved.

Are you currently working on anything new in your writing?

I’m working on a memoir. I don’t quite have my elevator pitch down yet. But to sum it up, it is a non-traditional memoir written as a collection of short vignettes, rather than in a more familiar chapter structure or essay collection. I’ve chosen this method as a way to explore the themes of memory, nostalgia, place, and identity and how these are linked to one another. In much the same way the mind works when remembering past experiences the book is being constructed so that the vignettes jump from memory to memory in a non-chronological order. Thereby providing an organic and natural feel for the reader.
This is a break from how I originally approached the work. Initially I was trying more for a collection of essays that spoke to one another around these themes, but found this particular form restrictive and frustrating. By doing it in vignettes, or fragments, it has really opened everything up.

What are you currently reading?

– The Faraway Nearby, by Rebecca Solnit
– I Hate to Leave this Beautiful Place, by Howard Norman


Erin A. Corriveau is an emotional archeologist who graduated from Fairfield University’s MFA program with a concentration in creative nonfiction. Her writing has been published in (em): A Review of Text and Image, Revolution House, Lunch Ticket, Paper Tape, Shoreline Literary Arts Magazine, The Fall River Spirit, and RedFez. She is the co-founder and editor of Spry Literary Journal. Her blog, Reinventing Erin, is her outlet for ruminating on the minutiae of everyday life.

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