A short interview wherein my guest, one of my favorite authors, answers three questions about the writing life.
Question: What’s your Go-To source when you need inspiration?
I look to nature to give me a reset. I can relax from the constant intellectual processing of my mind. Putting to rest the monkey mind that demands and jumps from one crisis or another. Nature demands nothing from me except for being present in my body, feeling the air, seeing the sky and creatures flying, and smelling the sweet, and pungent decomposing matter all around me. Once my mind is cleared, the pathway is open to ponder past curiosities and little fleeting thoughts that’s been buried underneath the stress of life. This natural exploration then leads me to inspiration. I resurface articles I’ve read, the conversations I’ve overheard from a hospital waiting room, or a homeless encampment at the exit of a highway.
Responsibilities and stress will always be there to steal the imagination but if you can find what you need to turn off the intellectual process, inspiration will be at hand.
Question: What was the greatest challenge you faced when writing the book? How did you get through it?
The greatest challenge was what felt like life’s disappointments and tragedies. I had just moved to another state after separating from my marriage of twenty-plus years. I was now a single mom with a teen on the spectrum and helping to take care of my grandson while my daughter finished graduate school. I’d shut down my small food business and now with no career and little income, I was challenged with meeting the demands that life had given me. And with all that, it seemed like the perfect time to start writing a book!
Trying to reserve limited resources, I would drive my grandson to his preschool and then sit in the car and write. I did that for a year at the start of my book. Then life’s twists began again and again, demanding me to set the book aside. I would set my work aside to give all my attention and focus where it was needed, with as much non-resentment that love could soothe. Then another move would be asked of me, this time back to my childhood home to care for my mother with Alzheimer. I cared for her for two and a half years when she finally left my world. Now I would begin again to finish my book, Travel North Black Girl, and believed it would be a straight road to the end. However, life had other plans, COVID. In February of 2020, one month after the official announcement of COVID in the United States, I became seriously ill and struggled with long hauler COVID for 11 months. After months of not being able to even walk out to the end of my driveway, I recovered enough to finish my book and work on the publishing process. And on May 22, 2022, my book was published from Woodneath Press.
There are as many ways to meet the challenges you will face with writing as there are in life. I meet my challenge one at a time but never gave up on what I believed was meant for me to do, to write this story.
Question: In what genres have you written, and which one of them gives you the most satisfaction?
I have written and published short stories, a memoir, and dabbled in poetry but have extensively dedicated most of my work to writing plays. As a young author, I was invited to attend a workshop for writers of various genres, at Perseverance Theatre in Juneau Alaska, for the purpose of developing plays and playwrights. It was a magical experience and felt that I’d found the place to share my voice, launching my career as a playwright. Writing plays allowed me to pull from all my creative disciplines. I had studied fine art and my brain sees and interprets things from a visual standpoint. The process of writing a play draws on that visual composition. I also get to explore the auditory elements, sounds of the human voice captured in dialects from regions and cultures. The structure allows for a kind of freedom that suits me perfectly and is very satisfying. That being said, my recent accomplishment of finishing my memoir stretched me to explore my voice in a different and exciting form. So much so that I am in the early stages of writing my second book and looking forward to seeing where it takes me in my writing journey.
Travel North Black Girl: A 3,000-Mile Journey in Search of
Love, Peace, and Home, is the story of a young black woman’s self-discovery when she leaves the only home she has known. Set in the early 1980s, the memoir recounts Olivia Hill’s experience as a young woman, coming from the inner city of Kansas City and traveling to the remote indigenous village of Tatitlek, Alaska, alongside her newly wedded Jewish husband.
Despite her fears about the journey, Hill decides to make the trip, leaving behind a past of abuse, racism, and poverty. Through humor, adventure, and painful reckoning, Travel North Black Girl follows the author’s expedition to self- discovery and empowerment. It also simultaneously addresses the complex—and still timely—topics of race, gender, and trauma, plus the powerful healing that the wilds of Alaska can provide.
About the Author
Olivia Hill is an award-winning playwright, born and raised in Kansas City. Hill speaks and provides workshops on her mental health journey, experience as a Black creative, and her knowledge and passion toward nature. Hill is a published author and playwright of over five plays produced in states across the country and the recipient of the Lorraine Hansberry Award from the Kennedy Center for her play “Mother Spense”.
As a visual artist, Hill specializes in printmaking & watercolor and has exhibited in many galleries. Hill is a serial entrepreneur, having owned a gourmet food business, Solomon’s Rose, for over ten years. In addition, she has owned a natural body product and nutritional health coaching company.
Olivia Hill holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theater and Visual Arts from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
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