Amy Meissner is right-handed, but she often writes with her left.
It's a way of awakening her right brain, of clearing out mental blocks.
"Somehow it makes the writing less precious," she said. "It's not
really even legible. It's a way to sort of clear out all the garbage
that collects in my brain."
It's a habit that Meissner picked up pursuing her first love, art, and
just one of the experiences she's brought from her career as an
illustrator and fashion designer to her new vocation, fiction writing.
Meissner, 30, and her husband, Brian, arrived in Anchorage a
year-and-a-half ago, when she began work at the University of Alaska
Anchorage on her Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. Before
that she spent 12 years as a clothing designer.
Meissner got dual degrees at University of Nevada, Reno in textiles and
in art, with a minor in business. She moved to Vancouver, B.C., in
1995. Desperate for work, she took a job in a clothing factory, working
in a basement, sewing metal buttons on garments.
She was, however, quickly promoted.
"By the time I left that company two years later, I was the head designer and pattern maker," she said.
She gradually became dissatisfied with the industry. When her husband
was offered a job in Anchorage, Meissner jumped at the chance to change
She recalled beginning her graduate work at UAA, walking into a room of experienced writers.
"It was really intimidating," she said. "I was sort of showing up,
saying: 'Hi, I was in the fashion industry!' It sounds like a really
flaky thing to be doing for 12 years."
The master's degree program was also a challenge because she had
always been interested in writing and illustrating children's books.
She wondered whether she had the "voice" to write for adults.
Still, she worked at it, indulging a love for rich language that sat neglected for years while she pursued her career.
The kernel of the story "Forgiving Eva" comes from her own family.
Meissner's mother grew up on a farm in Sweden. Her mother's great-aunt
Betsy came to the United States as an au pair, and sent home to Sweden
a "crazy quilt," like the one in the story.
When the quilt arrived, the women of the household, prim Swedes all,
didn't understand the riotous patchwork so popular in America.
"They all stood around saying Betsy had gone crazy, because no sane
woman would sit and knit these scraps of fabric that didn't even
match," said Meissner.
"My mother just had a really lonely childhood. There were times when
I was writing this piece that I would think about her so much that I
would just start crying, because I think of all the things she missed
As for her own choices, Meissner said she has few regrets.
"I have a closet full of couture, custom-made suits that just hang
there. I kind of show up everywhere in jeans now. I'm just really happy
with my life right now."
Besides, her fashion expertise may still come in handy some day.
"If something ever happened to me, I could fall back on it," she said. "I make a pretty great bustier."