There is no shortage of talented women who make up our alum network at Cambridge Common Writers. In our continued Spotlight series, we highlight several of them in honor of Women’s History Month.
ELLA NATHANAEL ALKIEWICZ — NONFICTION, JUNE ’18
Labrador Inuk Ella Nathanael Alkiewicz graduated from the Lesley University MFA program in creative writing nonfiction in June 2018. She is a beneficiary of Nunatsiavut Government, a dual citizen, and happily married. Ella’s pleased to be interviewed by Cambridge Common Writers during Women’s History Month.
Photo Credit: Chris Alkiewicz
What drew you to the Lesley MFA program and what take-aways did you have from it?
I applied because I wanted the Low-Residency MFA program. I needed to study from home while raising our teenager. I saw the advertisement in Poets & Writers. Lesley has a great community. My favorite part was our nonfiction cohort. I learned that reading is as important as writing.
What is your writing process like? Do you have a particular routine or ritual to help you get into the writing zone?
I play classical music and settle into my comfy chair. I write pen-to-page, best, late at night. I’ll type it up the next day and once it’s done, I let it sleep for at least a day before submitting it.
What are some of your favorite books you’ve read in the past year?
I read nonfiction and poetry. Ijeoma Oluo’s book So you want to talk about race, Eddy Weetaltuk’s From the Tundra to the Trenches and the anthology Joy Harjo co-edited called When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through are some of my faves.
Why do you write and what do you like to write about the most?
I write because the words must escape from my fingers onto the page. It’s great after all the years I denied being a writer. I write what is needed. For example, I write advocacy letters- like the recent letter to the City of Easthampton to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day (It passed). Plus, I write articles and poetry.
What is something that tends to get in the way of your writing and how do you overcome it?
Life gets busy. I realized I need to keep a schedule when I have deadlines. When I get writer’s block, I’ll take a walk or ride my stationary bike or read. David Elliott recommended in one of our seminars to read from The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. I’ll read a chapter from that book and browse through AJ Verdelle’s recommendation of Rodale’s The Synonym Finder. Both help when my work is flat.
If you could get coffee with any writer (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
It would be a dream to spend time with the late Dr. Maya Angelou! She has been a hero of mine since the early 90s. Once I read, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and heard her read at President Clinton’s inauguration, I’ve been a fan. She was a phenomenal woman.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that doesn’t have to do with writing.
I am a lifelong Red Sox fan. It started by watching games with my Pop and siblings in the basement in the late 70s.
What are you working on now? Is there anything we can promote?
I am finishing my fourth article for Inuktitut of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami of Ottawa, Ontario. It’s fun to interview Inuit across Inuit Nunangat.
I am currently attending a three-week Write Over Here online residency at Banff Centre for Creativity and Arts of Banff, Alberta. I am one of a dozen Indigenous writers of Canada with great faculty and guest speakers. I will be reading on March 26th.
I am teaching an online Indigenous writers’ group at the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB). Our class will run until the end of May. I love it. Our group is growing by the week. They are motivated and interested to attend which makes teaching better.
I have another fellowship in June and after that, I don’t know what I will do. I stay active and am enjoying my life as a POC writer. Thank you/Nakummek and welcome Spring!