Carrie Visintainer is the author of Wild Mama. When not traveling, she lives in Fort Collins with her husband and two kids.
Recently I was going through some boxes in my basement, and I discovered a notebook containing my diary from sophomore year in high school. The entry dated February 4th read, “I really love Macbeth. Mr. M. made us read it but I liked it anyway. So anyway, I think this weekend I’m going to stay home to write that play through a modern lens. Ooooh!”
Um, nerd alert, right?! Yep, that was me as an adolescent, skipping normal teenage activities like hanging out at the mall to rewrite masterpieces of literature. Anyway, that’s who I was. But I think what’s most interesting about that time in my life is not so much my nerdiness, but that after high school, I stopped writing.
I took a road to a bright future, chasing an education in biology and genetics, which I wasn’t necessarily passionate about, but it was interesting, and it did seem a lot more lucrative than creative writing.
Which worked out okay for a while, until it didn’t. Until the middle of graduate school when I couldn’t stop thinking about writing. How I wanted to be a writer. That I loved words on a page. And while it seemed like a less-than-promising career path, it was what I wanted to do.
So I decided to go for it. I finished school and got a job to pay the bills and wrote in my free time. And because I had no formal education in writing, I studied a lot of stories and novels, noticing how authors used different literary techniques. I signed up for a continuing education class at CU in fiction, where I met a professor who was encouraging about my work. And I auditioned for a critique group in Fort Collins, submitting the one and only short story I had ever completed. (Nope, it wasn’t the rewrite of Macbeth.)
Anyway, they let me join the group, and I will always feel infinite gratitude for this, because it’s what gave me all of the foundational tools, both in critique and camaraderie, that I needed to progress. It’s how I got better at writing. How I got up the guts to submit my stories and essays to journals and magazines. It is the sole reason I wrote Wild Mama.
Honestly, I’d never thought about writing a memoir. I only sort of liked reading memoirs. I did like writing and reading essays, though, and then one day in critique group, when the members were giving me feedback on yet another piece I’d written about early motherhood and adventure and travel, someone said, “Do you think you might be writing a book?”
I didn’t really think so, but I decided to give it a chance. I committed to spending a few hours putting all of my essays that had been published (or not) into one document, and what I found was that I did kind of have the framework for a book. There was sort of an arc? It was an illuminating moment.
But then, the hardest work of all began. The day I finished the final draft, it hit me that the next step was to query agents, which was my preferred route to publication. It made me want to puke, putting myself out there like that, and in nonfiction! But I did it, and eventually, several months later, I found a match in an agent who has turned out to be one of my favorite people in the world.
Somehow, she is still hanging in there with me. After Wild Mama came out a couple of years ago, I announced to her that I was sick of my voice and I wanted to switch to fiction, and also I wanted to delete all of my social media accounts, because it just wasn’t me. She said okay. And now I’m stumbling along, trying to finish a novel, hanging out in a private space that feels just right, right now.
The thing is, I love seeing the world through a writer’s eyes; that’s what makes me feel most alive. Several years ago, I had the chance to see Pam Houston speak, and she talked about the concept of “glimmers,” those moments or details or interactions that catch our eye. Her words resonated deeply, and I think about them often, pretty much every day, as I walk around noticing what I notice, experiencing my very own glimmers, letting it all simmer in my subconscious, where it is bound, at some point, to come out on the page.
When Carrie Visintainer became a mother at the age of thirty-two, she worried it was all over, that her adventurous life was done. World travel? Adios. Solo explorations in the mountains? Ciao. Creative outlets? She wondered, are diapers my new white canvas? Immersed in a whirlwind of sleeplessness and spit-up, she was madly in love with her new baby, yet also felt her adventurous spirit and core identity crumbling.
Where to Buy Wild Mama
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.