Brittany Chaffee is an author based in Minneapolis, MN. Her first book of poetry Wild Morning was published by Wise Ink. She is a regular contributor for Wit & Delight, covering topics ranging from lifestyle to health and wellness. Her newest book series Borderline, which will be released later this year, is a collection of essays about "memory, time, change, and wonder." Here, Brittany shares a glimpse into her world and discusses her fascination with capturing her surroundings through words.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your forthcoming book series Borderline!
Brittany: Borderline came to me on a walk. I live right next to the Mississippi River, and I spend a lot of time in the summer biking through the woods along its riverbank. When I was a child, I spent a lot of time in some woods near my home, imagining stories, creatures, and adventures. I'm fascinated by the vortex of time and memory, such as objects that remind me of resurfaced emotions and the past. And the forest by the Mississippi in my adult life took me directly into the memories of my childhood. The word "borderline" struck me as the symbolic "line in the sand" moment you can pass when seasons change, when certain sensory moments carry you back through moments in time. We are always straddling the past and the present, and it's so raw and beautiful to me that we can go back and forth between the two so painfully and joyously. That is what Borderline is about, how we pass through time and its seasons, whatever we carry with us along the way.
What is your creative process like?
My creative process is inspired by nature and small details. In 1927 Virginia Woolf wrote about a practice she called “street haunting.” Essentially, she defined this process as an act of observing her surroundings while walking and creating “a central oyster of perceptiveness, an enormous eye.” She described a creative process I love best, which is wandering through the world and watching it. If I take a moment to be quiet and listen and observe, I'm at my best. I read somewhere once that writing helps us to be curious and precise about our own lives. So, I also like to think of my creative process as to best understand myself.
"Newborns have more bones.
What do you hope others will take away from your work?
I'm a very emotional person, so I always feel accomplished when others connect to the sensual parts of my work. I love details and sensory descriptions, the things that bring out vulnerable emotions through writing and moments people can relate to. When I read books, I often underline words on the pages. I always read with a pen to mark spots I love within, sentences I feel like I'm discovering for the first time, even though someone else already wrote them. I hope others keep a pen nearby with my work and read it slowly, waiting for a moment they can relate to and carry home.
Who or what inspires you creatively?
My mother. Tiny objects. Home movies. Old movies, their dialogue, their color palettes. Movie scores. The color descriptions on antique ash trays and vases. Trees. Stories from my grandmother. Flaws.
"Babies howl and scream for what they want or need, but they do not cry.
Who are some authors you look up to?
Currently, Brit Bennett, Durga Chew-Bose, Cheryl Strayed, Stephanie Danler, J. Ryan Stradal. My go-to favorites are Joan Didion, Marguerite Duras, Ann Patchett, Maggie Nelson, and Annie Dillard. I hope I'm not forgetting any! Authors are sacred to me.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Read. Read like hell. Write. Write like hell. Write an entire essay with no adjectives or adverbs. Write while looking in the mirror and don't use the word "I." Try somatic poetry. Write about what hurts. Tell the truth.