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Mom University: Ericka Lutz, Fiction and Non-Fiction Writer

Monday, March 28, 2005
I've had the pleasure of getting to know Ericka Lutz via an online writers' group started by Katie Allison Granju a few years ago. I've been impressed by the variety of genres Ericka works in, her willingness to constantly challenge herself as a writer, and her personal warmth and generous spirit.

As with all previous Mom University interviews (see Mom University archive in sidebar), I asked Ericka to pick something that she had written so that we could use that article as the basis of our interview. She picked Why My Garden? Here's our interview.
Ann: When -- and why -- did you write this piece?

Ericka: Three years ago, I wrote "Why My Garden" about my Spring 2000 journey to Auschwitz.

My excuse for writing it? I was asked to submit to a friend's anthology about women's spirituality.

My real REASON for writing it? From the moment I planned the trip to Auschwitz, I intended to write about it. From the time I returned, the piece festered in me. It often takes me a while to process important experiences enough to write about them. This time it took a couple of years.

So in January, 2002, I went on a four day writer's retreat in mid-winter (Northern California) and looked at the gray trees and listened to the rain and wrote the first draft of the piece from notes and books and memories. My writing partner had suggested the structure -- a journey. And the process of writing it was almost as much of a journey as the actual physical trip.

Part way through writing the piece, I realized it had grown past the guidelines for my friend's anthology. It was too long, it was too wide reaching. By then, it had such personal importance to me that I had to write it for myself, even if nobody would ever read it. I came home from my retreat completely wasted -- cold sores on my lip, dark circles under my eyes. I had really faced down demons. But I had the first of eight drafts.

I never submitted it for my friend's anthology. I did send it a number of other places, and it kept being "a finalist" but I think people are reluctant to "go to
Auschwitz," even through somebody else's reflection of it. It's painful to tear off that scab we all share.

Only recently, on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, has it found an audience, first on my website, and then on Literary Mama.

Ann: Right from when I first approached you about doing a Mom University interview, you knew this would be "the piece." Why is this piece some important to you, both personally and professionally?

Ericka: I'm very proud of this piece, though it is very strange, even for a writer who shares her emotions and experiences, to have something this personal widely available. But I've had such extraordinary responses, and so many of them, from readers who have been moved first to tears and then to share with me their own feelings, experiences, fears, questions.

This story of my trip to Auschwitz is about my struggle with my cultural and spiritual identity. And in it, I try to answer the age old question: how can we live and thrive, when such evil exists, when it takes humans so long to evolve? This question is all the more pertinent for me because I am a mother. How do we teach our children to live in this world? How do we find -- and manifest -- hope while living on a dying planet? Through writing this piece, through pondering the big questions the journey to Auschwitz raised in me, I have found some resolution and peace.

You can find out more about Ericka by visiting ErickaLutz.com. This quote from Ericka's website tells you a lot about Ericka's approach to her writing:

Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for
the opinion of others, for those voices.
Do the hardest thing on earth for you.
Act for yourself. Face the truth.
-- Katherine Mansfield

| posted by Ann D @ 9:52 PM