Strong Yet Feminine Profiles are a series of interviews, showcasing ambitious women who are striving to follow their passion. Many are working full-time and pursuing their dream on the side; some have already taken the leap and share their experiences (the good and the bad!).
Any career decision is difficult, but making a leap into a different field, to pursue a true passion, has to be one of the most inspiring stories. I know, for me, hearing stories like these were crucial to bolstering my confidence when considering my own change in direction.
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Emma Glass, Author of 'Peach' & Paediatric Nurse
I was introduced to Emma and her highly acclaimed book ‘Peach’ through the wonderful Marguerite network, (see the SYF profile on the founder here), and immediately fell under Emma’s spell. I’m a real sucker for a humble, slightly shy, clearly brilliant-underneath-it-all character, especially when they also happen to be naturally hilarious. So, when they also turn out to be an ultimate Strong Yet Feminine heroine: 1) I want them to be my new BFF and 2) I must share the inspirational love…
Please share a little about where your passion for writing started and how you chose your (1st) career in nursing.
Since I was a little girl I’ve always loved telling and writing stories. I was a quiet and introverted child; writing was the way I felt safe to express my ideas and feelings. But it has always been a personal expression of creativity, not something I saw as a talent or something anyone else would be interested in reading. Growing up, I was taught the value of hard work, of being useful and self-sufficient. As a paediatric nurse, I feel like I am contributing to society, developing and challenging myself. Now when I write, it’s a real pleasure and a chance to escape the reality of working and living an ordinary life, I let myself be creatively free.
Did you ever have a eureka moment when you knew you were going to write a novel, or did it happen organically?
I started writing Peach at university for my final project creative writing project. The brief for the project was broad: write the first four chapters of a novel, any genre. I find it difficult to think in terms of plot or characters, I found it impossible to think up a story for my novel. So I wrote what came most naturally; a poetic narrative voice and I let the language take me where it wanted to go.
Hearing that you wrote much of your book as a student after an evening drink, very much resonated with me. I often have my best thoughts after a few, finding that I am suddenly blessed with the ability to draw together all the ideas, otherwise flying round in my mind, into coherent thought pieces. As if the connections are only visible when I wear my wine spectacles. Do you think this is simply a matter of confidence, our brain relaxing in a certain way, or what?
For me it’s all about confidence. I’m quite self-critical and I’m very particular about the language I use in story telling, I want my words to have the maximum impact. But sometimes if I read over what I’ve written, self-doubt will creep in and I’ll delete everything, or not progress the work. I guess it’s less about the beer and more about the balance of feeling charged, yet relaxed. But undoubtedly beer helps!
I was shocked to hear that there is such an emphasis on word count when a writer is seeking publication and indeed a restriction with regards to awards (which of course provide much needed awareness to a new author). Huge respect to you for refusing to be dictated to and for writing a book that could tell a powerful story so succinctly. I’m sure looking back, we can all recognise a book whose story suffered because of this, and I hope it is the start of change. Tell us a bit more about this and how you succeeded anyway.
I’ve been so lucky with my publisher, who took a chance on my short, strange novel without wishing to change it. For me, this was the biggest boost of confidence and what has encouraged me to want to continue writing. It’s incredibly exciting that there are readers seeking novels for a different reading experience. I think short fiction appeals because you can read and finish a story and feel you’ve accomplished or experienced something, without it taking months, weeks or days. I wanted my novel to have an impact, to be read quickly for the images to resonate; it was essential for the book to be short for readers to stay with the challenging subject matter and language.
I know you are ecstatic to have George Saunders review your book so highly; tell us about your influences and how you honed your style of writing.
At university I read James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Andre Gide and I was amazed by their style, their focus on language sounds and imagery. I love to read stories with unusual narrative styles because I feel they make an impression on me, I’m looking for more than just a story, words that I feel and think about for days later. I love the short story collections of John Cheever, Carmen Maria Machado, Lydia Davies.
The subject of Peach is not an easy read, yet you manage to lead us through with poetic prose, allowing us to disassociate slightly. How much of this was influenced by your experience as a nurse?
I’ve always had a fascination with bodies; their resilience, they’re natural ability to heal or to stop working. I think I’m probably quite desensitised to blood and sickness because of how exposed I am to it, but when I first started writing Peach I was a literature student, with no real experience of life (or death). Something I’ve learned through my job as a nurse is the language of trauma and healing.
How do you balance your full-time job as a paediatric nurse with writing a novel? Is the hope to, one day, make the writing your full-time job?
I always want to do both. My nursing inspires my writing and my writing inspires my nursing. I work with children and feel that I tell stories all day long. I am inspired by the strength and courage of my patients. But I would like more of a balance, more protected time to switch off from work and move my brain from function to imagination a little more seamlessly.
What advice would you give to others who struggle to fit in their passions with their salaried jobs?
A well-fed writer is a productive writer! For me, it’s important to have a steady income and something that gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s difficult to make a living from writing novels, most writers I know work in some other capacity. Even work is sometimes stressful or feels like it’s getting in the way of creativity, there are ways to incorporate writing in your everyday work. I like to write sticky notes with ideas on them and save them up for the journey home from work to look at them and start planning where they might work in a story.
How does ‘Strong Yet Feminine resonate with you?
‘Strong Yet Feminine’ for me is about how women feel inside. It’s the confidence to never compromise on your art, but the ability to be generous to others, to influence in a positive way, to feel powerful and beautiful in a way that adds value to you.
Has there been a ‘Strong Yet Feminine’ woman who has inspired you along your journey?
There are so many! My sister is the strongest person I know; she is hard-working, she’s the cleverest person whichever table she sits at, she is eloquent and generous. She taught me to be confident, to always reach for opportunities and to have courage.
If you haven't already, I highly recommend reading Emma's beautiful book 'Peach', available here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/peach-9781408886694/
You can follow Emma on Instagram @Emmas_Window