Short Story UNC Editor Maia Sichitiu reached out to Short Story UNC resident Grace Stroup to discuss her writing.
MS: How did you first discover Short Story UNC’s Residency program and what made you apply?
GS: Short Story UNC’s Residency Program came to me in my inbox. I am a pretty ruthless email checker so when I got the email pubbing this opportunity, I was immediately interested. Quarantine destroyed my drive to be creative, at least in my writing, and I suffered through classes in the fall, disappointed with both my writing and my lack of desire to make it any better. Getting that email was a step in trying to get back into writing. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. I also hoped it would force me to sit down and actually write during the summer that I spent in Chapel Hill. It worked! There was a deadline for my writing that wasn’t academic, and I tried out new forms in my writing.
MS: What was the process like of developing your collection? Have you ever done a collection this long/such a dedicated period of time? If yes, how does this compare to your other long term projects? If no, what was it like dedicating such a long period of time to one writing project?
GS: My writing process is bizarre, as I am sure is the case for most writers, but there is no set way I go about it. A lot of the time, the first sentences of stories come to me at the worst times—in the shower, right before I am about to fall asleep, while I am in the middle of a really important conversation, or when I just don’t feel like writing. Once I am able to get that first sentence down and see how I want to shape the mood and build the world around me, I just start writing. Working on this collection was the most rewarding experience. I was often writing after working this summer, and it was a challenge to get myself to sit down and do it, but I am so glad that I forced myself into that space, because this body of work is the one I am the most proud of. I am currently in the Honor’s Thesis for Creative Writing, and am finding that working this summer on such a long project is helping me. It is a lot of writing, and had I never done this writing this summer, I know I would be struggling right now.
MS: Short Story UNC’s Residency project allows writers a large amount of independence and freedom while developing their project. What was it like to work independently on your writing?
GS: Working independently was a gift and a challenge. I don’t do well with prompts or really any sort of direction in writing, so I would have really struggled if I had to adhere to a set of rules. It was such a gift to have this space to create freely, and I found that I took leaps of faith in my writing I haven’t ever. It was nice that I was the person pushing myself to do that. I will admit, there were more than a couple days I really didn’t feel like working on it. At all. I tried to honor that and get a couple sentences down. I know myself and know that there are days when it won’t really be a benefit to my writing or mental health to make myself sit down for extended periods of time.
MS: What is your process for writing in general? What do you find inspires your writing?
GS: I don’t really have a process. I just try to have fun with it and I like to see where my mind takes me. I am so inspired by nature, by cityscapes and the dynamics between family and romantic partners navigating sticky situations. I am fairly introspective in my writing and having a setting that allows that mood to flourish is really important. My process is just that—a process. Always changing as I continue to write about the world around all of us.
MS: What does the future look like for you and your writing? Any future projects you want to share about?
GS: The future is just that, the future. I don’t have many plans. Quarantine really skewed my ability to see my life as it stretches out in front of all of us, so I try not to do a lot of that anymore. My future includes writing, and I know that much. Maybe it includes getting my MFA. Maybe not. I am excited to see where I go with it. I try not to stress myself out about time that I haven’t experienced yet. I know it’ll happen, so I just try to roll with it.
Grace Stroup is a senior majoring in English and Religious Studies with a Concentration in Creative Writing. She is one of three featured residents within Short Story UNC. Her work has been featured in Cornell University’s literary magazine, Rainy Day and on Typlishly — an online literary magazine for established and emerging writers. You can find her in Greenlaw listening to her peers and professors or in Perennial making coffee most mornings.
Along with Katie Leonard and Youna Fradin, Grace Stroup is a resident writer for Short Story UNC during September and October 2021. Check out more work by Grace at the dispenser inside Epilogue Cafe in Chapel Hill, NC! Or by visiting our website!