Last fall we held a fiction contest and awarded first place to our international recipient Andiswa Onke Maqutu for her poignant story, “Black Beyond Africa” (which can be read for free by downloading the digital copy of Issue 2). For third issue, we held a nonfiction contest and asked for your truest of stories; awarding the first place prize to someone much closer to Feminine Inquiry’s home.
As usual, I was astounded and so thankful for all the talented submissions we read. We really do enjoy reading and curating the creative works we receive. We don’t get as many submissions as larger zines and journals get, but, in a way, I think that’s a good thing. Having fewer submissions allows us a more personal reading experience and gives us the opportunity to personally respond to the submissions we receive, reject, and especially, to those we accept.
On our final day of submissions, we received one last contest entry. Little did we know that this submission would ultimately be chosen as the winner. We are excited to announce Megan Lambert and her wonderful nonfiction piece, “A Few Memorable Events” as the winner of Feminine Inquiry’s 2016 Nonfiction Contest!
Read on to learn more about this great story, and equally great writer, and make sure to attend our launch party to hear Megan read from the story herself.
Jourden Sanders: In “A Few Memorable Events,” you say: “Leaving my small, insular southern town was a horrifying idea—second only to the idea of staying.” Why do you think the idea of leaving home is so vital to one’s journey in their life? When you left, and later when you started traveling, how do you think you felt yourself change? Did you miss home?
Megan Lambert: For me personally, and I would hate to speak for anyone else’s experience, but leaving “home” was necessary; it changed me and changed my life in unexpected ways. I had a complicated childhood and a highly dysfunctional relationship with my family. I was scared that if I didn’t leave, my family dynamic and the ties I had to “home” would dominate my life. I was scared I’d never develop a true sense of self or learn what I was capable of. I felt trapped. For me, traveling helped me learn to trust and depend on myself. It was empowering. But it also felt like freedom–a total escape from hindrances in my life and the pervasive voice always telling me I wasn’t good enough to succeed. I definitely missed Alabama, especially in the first couple of years, but I never truly felt Alabama was “home.” I was always at odds with myself, feeling like I never loved and accepted Alabama, and it never loved and accepted me, but I didn’t fully realize that until I left. I completely understand why someone, anyone, would want to stay in their home town. It can offer an irreplaceable sense of community and support. That just wasn’t the case for me.
JS: “You told me you couldn’t lose anyone else. On some level, I understood that, too.” Loss, and a fear of loss, is an underlying theme in your story that lingers after it’s over. Can you talk more about that and how it influenced your story?
ML: I think the most significant way loss plays out in the story is the way it tied me to the person the story is written to. We had many common experiences and traumas, so we were able to offer true empathy to each other. I think loss and trauma can make a person feel quite alienated, so we found something in each other that made us feel less alone.
JS: I was really struck by this passage: “I never understood your constant, insatiable determination to get somewhere. We had nowhere to go, and no given time to arrive. Trains carry you through the most beautiful, wild parts of the country—the parts that retain a reckless refusal to be domesticated.” Can you talk more about your comment on how trains show you the undomesticated parts of the country? Why was this appealing to you? Do you think, in your own, free travel on the trains, that it allowed you to refuse traditional domestication as well?
At the time I started traveling, I was obsessed with daydreaming about pre-civilizilized mankind, the type of community and support offered by nomadic peoples before the agricultural revolution. It was naive and idealistic, sure, but I felt like domestication was the downfall of humanity.
ML: Trains go through developed, urban areas, definitely, but there’s also an extensive amount of trackage that goes through relatively untouched areas. Well, untouched with exception of the railroad itself. At the time I started traveling, I was obsessed with daydreaming about pre-civilizilized mankind, the type of community and support offered by nomadic peoples before the agricultural revolution. It was naive and idealistic, sure, but I felt like domestication was the downfall of humanity. I felt like it invented the concept of ownership–of crops, property, women, children, everything– and subsequently replaced communal living with capitalistic endeavors and patriarchy. It isn’t something I totally believe anymore, but riding freight trains offered a nomadic type of communal living I was interested in at the time.
JS: If you could go back in time, would you take those journeys on the trains again?
MG: Absolutely. Without question.
JS: What are projects or creative endeavors are you working on next?
ML: Right now I’m in my final year at UT, so that is taking up a lot of my time. I’m still working as a bookseller at BookPeople and an editor at fields magazine. I recently finished writing a story about my mom and I’m currently working on another train story. I’m hoping to start a music project soon and write angry screaming girl music on the Autoharp.
Megan Lambert is a long-term bookseller who has worked at several bookstores over the past decade. She took a hiatus from bookselling for a couple of years to ride freight trains across the United States. Currently, she is a bookseller at BookPeople bookstore, a student at The University of Texas, and an associate editor at fields magazine. She also maintains a blog for BookPeople titled Weekend Reading. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, and playing music.