The Mark Blog

Bookmark This: Amanda Fletcher On Not Giving Up

Amanda Fletcher, 2012 Emerging Voices Fellow, describes how she turned what began as a pipe dream into a reality by letting go of her fears and doing the hard work.
“Pipe dream (noun): A hope, wish, or dream that is impossible to achieve or not practical
Canadian labor union men raised me. Crane operators and guys who worked the line at the GM plant on Ontario Street, solid men who made their livings with dirty hands. When my dad said, ‘writing is a hobby, not a career,’ I was fourteen. I didn’t trust myself enough to know better. I bought into the belief that being a writer was both an impractical and impossible aspiration, because my dad said so, and I was afraid to try. I stopped writing. I thought I would be a physical therapist, manipulating bodies with my hands. That difference between what I wanted and what I was doing kept me floundering in college for an extra semester.
And then, in the fall of that last term, my mother took her own life.
Suddenly everything was possible, and also pointless. I fought an internal battle—‘why bother’ at war with ‘why not?’ My journey to Los Angeles was born out of the garage where they found my mother’s body. I had stories to tell.
Now the question became how to take this ethereal thing, this dream of being a writer, and give it a physical body, limbs, a torso. I signed up for a class at UCLA, and then another. I found myself writing again. I took my workshop pages, marked with edits, and placed them ceremonially in a drawer. It was like I had conjured those first drafts into being, and the idea of editing them was like making magic ordinary. The revision process paralyzed me. I found every word too precious to change. I convinced myself that I couldn’t do it, that I had not gone to the ‘right’ schools or read the ‘right’ books, but the only way my skin fit was in the context of a paragraph, or the way a sentence looked on the page, how it felt in my mouth. Giving up was not an option. So I applied for the Emerging Voices Fellowship.
The Emerging Voices Fellowship gave me the bones, the skeleton that carries a writer’s life. My mentor, Jillian Lauren, forced my ass in the chair. She taught me how to work with the pages, change them, discard them if necessary, to go back again and again in order to arrive at a finished piece while still retaining the magic of what it was that I was so desperate to say. At the programs end, I had a body of work that I could take out into the world, and I had a firm grasp on the writing process, from inception to submission. I learned how to be a writer. I learned that I have to get up, every day,just like all of those union guys who raised me, and I have to go to work—and yes, it is more difficult and different than my dad could have known it would be, but it no longer seems impossible.”

The 2015 Emerging Voices Fellowship application is now available. For more information, click here.