Finalist Interview: Stachia Natalee Diehl

Stachia Diehl is a student at Young Harris College and a finalist in Fiction. We caught up with her this week to ask her a few questions about her life and her craft. Her fiction piece, “Francis Jones Public Library,” will be published in the 46th annual ASC Writers’ Festival magazine.

The Writer

Diehl Photograph
Photo Courtesy of Stachia Diehl

What are you reading right now?

I started In Persuasion Nation, by George Saunders, this week. But I also found a couple of random short fiction anthologies that I have been digging through, so I’m jumping around authors. Also, one of my professors just lent me “To Begin Where I Am,” by Czeslaw Milosz. I’ve only read three or four essays so far, but they’re written so beautifully and I’m looking forward to reading the rest. Prioritizing free reading becomes more difficult as the semester picks up steam—but it’s never impossible.

In what spaces do you like to write?

I wish I had a lovelier answer, but I usually have to be completely alone in my room. I don’t know what it is, but that’s where my best energy is circulated—like an enclosure. I’ve tried writing outside or in coffee shops, but I always end up too distracted and self-conscious. And that applies to the physical act of sitting down to write, not necessarily what gets mentally written.

Because I’m a new creative writer, which is still fun to say, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of writing daily. Even if it sounds dumb or embarrassing. I haven’t met one person who regrets writing every day, whether it’s a journal or just some collection of thought. Not only does this make it easier for words to process, but it’s also relieving to dump everything in a therapeutic way.

Where do you want to go from here? What are your next steps?

I ask myself that question daily, and I still haven’t discovered the correct answer. All I hope is that in my next step contains lots of reading and writing, and people to talk about reading and writing with.

What’s a source of inspiration for you?

Every single person has such an intricate story or piece of their life, and this is very inspirational to me. I don’t like writing about anything too big, because I can barely focus on what’s right in front of me. Being able to study the complexity behind simplicity stretches out infinite possibilities for stories. You can do so much with just one snippet of someone else’s life. Also, I have professors encouraging me to read and write with every second of my free time. Without them I wouldn’t have the confidence to write in the first place, so knowing that there are wonderful people thinking I have something to say is definitely an inspiration.


The Work

Why this genre?

I fell in love with fiction only about five months ago. I never even tried writing it until then, I assumed I hated it and that I would have a horrible time adjusting. I also hated the idea of becoming vulnerable, or having people look straight inside your brain. But I took a workshop and fell absolutely in love. Now it’s one of those things that I find myself doing constantly, just asking questions and trying to see a resemblance of an answer. I get excited thinking about challenging myself further and seeing where I’ll be in a year with my writing. Essentially, I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter, fiction kind of just slapped me in the face. Lovingly.

What do you want readers to take away from your piece?

I hope readers take away the simplicity of the situation I write about. It’s so much fun to try and squeeze all the life out of boring circumstances and play with people and places. I don’t intend any profoundness or life altering circumstances, but I did intend for a rather dull situation to be described as life changing to the characters. So maybe an outward examination on how people interact and perceive each other.

What was the most challenging part of writing your piece?

Getting it written in the first place. Not that there’s anything terribly difficult to handle in the story, but it’s hard to write anything knowing people are going to pick it apart in some way. I’m still very uncomfortable with the idea of someone reading what I write, because it’s so intimate and bare. But there’s so much energy after improvements are suggested, because you get to realize someone actually cares about something I wrote, and then they helped make it even better! It’s still uncomfortable, but I’m not sure anyone ever adjusts completely.

What are you most proud of in your piece?

I’m proud that it exists. And that it came from my own voice and not what I thought other people wanted to read, which is difficult.

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