Asbury Alumni Authors: Nicole Mazzarella
This summer, Asbury University has been shining a spotlight on some of its alumni who have published in a variety of fields. Nicole Mazzarella ‘97’s debut novel, “This Heavy Silence,” won Christianity Today’s Fiction Book of 2006 Award. She is currently an associate professor of English at Wheaton College. Previous authors in the series include Emma Sleeth ’10, Marilyn Sue Shank ’74, Matthew Schlimm ’99 and Bart Bruehler ’95.
Q: Describe your writing “space” — location, essential tools, mindset, etc.
A: After I wrote “This Heavy Silence,” I was blessed with the births of my three children, so the past few years my writing space has considerably changed. My writing space includes working out parts of stories while I vacuum or fold laundry, so that when I write, I have material I imagined the day before. Each night, I jot down questions I'll explore the next day when I write as another way to make the most of my writing time. As part of my "writing space," I intentionally unplug — whether that's writing in a notebook or writing somewhere without WiFi. I often write at coffee shops or at home in the early morning before my little ones wake.
Q: What are some of your favorite things to write about?
A: Fiction allows me to work out questions through particular lives. I enjoy exploring a place through its people, and people through a place. “This Heavy Silence” is set on the farm where my grandmother grew up, so in part I was exploring my own background by learning more about the setting. The novel I'm currently writing spans from the late 1890s to the 1950s in a very different location, so I suppose some of my favorite things to write about would be different eras. I enjoy the research and conversations necessary for these stories.
Q: How have your experiences as a writer influenced how you teach about writing?
A: I spend quite a bit of my writing classes discussing the habits of the writing life. Once I graduated with my MFA, I had to learn anew how to write when it wasn't required. I structure my Wheaton classes and assignments with the purpose of creating habits that don't rely on academic structure. They get hefty course packs in my classes of many of the writings that influenced me most.