Contributor Spotlight: Melissa Matthewson


Melissa Matthewson’s creative nonfiction piece, “As Snow Designs” is featured in Issue 71 of the Bellingham Review.

What would you like to share with our readers about the work you contributed to the Bellingham Review?

“As Snow Designs” actually began in a lecture on juxtaposition in poetry and prose given by Danielle Cadena Deulen at a Vermont College of Fine Arts residency.  We did some writing in which we juxtaposed three different events and then we were to connect those threads in a fourth segment. What I started during that lecture created the spark for this essay. With “As Snow Designs,” I wanted to write about this particular afternoon many years ago in which my husband went missing in the snow for a few hours in Missoula, Montana. As I began writing, I couldn’t find my beginning, so I kept trying new beginnings, which led me to segmenting the essay into various “beginnings” as a way to tell the story. As I worked on the essay and tried the many beginnings, different aspects of the story emerged including ideas of loss, fear, departures.

Tell us about your writing life.

My love for books, language, and story keeps me writing on a daily basis. I have an overly busy life with two small children, job, farm, etc., so I fit writing in where I can. I find that I steal small moments to write. A couple of times a week I try to sit down for large chunks of writing time, but much of the time I write while managing other responsibilities, i.e. I write notes and thoughts on my phone while at the store, etc. As I have just finished my MFA, it’s amazing  to look at my evolution as a writer over the last two years. At VCFA, I was able to develop a style of my own and experiment with various forms. My mentors at VCFA  played a tremendous part in my growth as a writer—from providing support and encouragement to challenging me critically. My obsessions continue to evolve, but I seem to come back to writing about desire and identity. I don’t think I’ve gotten all that out of me yet.

What writing advice has stayed with you?

Recently, I saw Kwame Dawes give a reading. He advised emerging writers to stay true to their passion for writing. That is something I try to remember, even when I’m tired of words. An adviser of mine at VCFA, Robert Vivian, always reminded me to play and experiment while writing. I try to remember that too. He also encouraged me to read my sentences aloud, to hear the beat and rhythms of the language. Also, Annie Dillard’s writing advice of staying disciplined. Brenda Ueland’s advice that no matter what, I do have an important story to tell.

What is your favorite book (or essay, poem, short story)? Favorite writer(s)?

I love so many writers, but some of my influences and/or the ones I return to again and again include Virginia Woolf, Annie Dillard, Lia Purpura, Anne Carson, Walt Whitman, HD Thoreau, Joan Didion, Sharon Olds.

What are you reading right now?

The Small Backs of Children, Lidia Yuknavitch; Essays in Love, Alain de Botton

What project(s) are you working on now, or next?

I’m working on a collection of lyric essays that explores desire, sexuality, and marriage all centered around farming and landscape.

Anything else our readers might want to know about you?

I teach Zumba. I love beer. I run an organic vegetable farm with my husband.

Where can our readers connect with you online?

Twitter: @melmatthewson
and Facebook under my name!

MELISSA MATTHEWSON lives in the Applegate Valley of southwestern Oregon. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her essays have appeared, or are forthcoming in Mid-American Review, Sweet, River Teeth, Defunct, Numéro Cinq, and among others. Her essay “A Gathering of Then & Now” won the 2015 AWP Intro Journals award. She is also an assistant essays editor at The Rumpus.