Kayleigh Norgord, author of our January fiction selection “The Bimbo Bandit,” talks about writing from a child’s perspective, approaching the work five years late and leaving room for the reader.
Can you talk a little bit about where your idea from this story originated? What sparked the idea? Or is it something that you had been thinking about for a while?
The voice of the narrator came first. I love writing from a child’s perspective because it keeps the writing sharp and observant. Mary Jo Mahoney is loosely based on the prison break of Lawrencia Bembenek, which happened during the summer of 1990. The details about the house and yard were inspired by happy memories at my grandparents’ house in Milwaukee.
Tell us a little bit about the process – how long did it take you to write the story? What was revision like?
I began writing this story when I was twenty three, working as a bank teller, and I would write between customers at the teller line. After stringing a few scenes together, I submitted the story to some contests, but it wasn’t ready for publication. Five years passed. When I found it again, I was in graduate school and wound up rewriting or cutting most of the original scenes. What’s cut is where I discovered and got to know the characters, setting, and family dynamics.
What is your favorite scene, moment, or line from your story? Why?
I like the moment when the narrator describes the dual meaning of her mother’s name. As a young girl, she takes in the beauty and suffering of her life without flinching, but also struggles to see one without the other. It’s that vulnerability that might save her, or it could backfire and lead to self-destruction. For now, she’s smart or lucky enough to be safe.
What do you do when you feel stuck in your writing? How do you work through blocks?
I like to keep multiple writing projects going at once so I can switch it up. I read poetry, cook a nice meal, go for a walk or run. I like to visit libraries, which always instill a sense of wonder that’s adjacent to writing.
How did you know you were done with your piece? And when did you feel ready to submit it?
After I paired the story down to its most essential scenes, my first instinct was to go back and fill in more information. I soon realized this was sucking the mystery and fun out of things. I needed to leave room for the reader to interpret and respond.
If you could give writers one piece of encouragement or advice, what would it be?
It’s okay to nurture a piece of writing where the end goal isn’t clear yet. Writing is a long-game, not a rat race. You have your whole life to do it.
Kayleigh Norgord is an MFA graduate of the University of California Davis, where she won the Graduate Writing Prize in poetry. Her work has appeared in The Potomac Review, Harpur Palate, Storm Cellar, New Delta Review, and others. She is the recipient of a Writing by Writers fellowship and lives in California