Discover more from Unleash Lit
An interview with Ashley Holloway
A superstar literary reviewer
Ashley Holloway gets bored easily, so she lives her life according to an ‘&.’ She teaches healthcare leadership at Bow Valley College in Calgary, AB, and is a nurse with a Master of Public Health, a graduate diploma in Global Leadership, with further studies in intercultural communication, and international development. She writes in a variety of genres, including short fiction, book reviews, poetry, essays, and creative non-fiction. Her work has appeared across Canada and the US, and she has co-authored three books. Ashley reads manuscripts and is an editor for Unleash Press. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She also really loves punctuation.
Jen Knox (JK): Ashley, tell me a little about what brought you to writing.
Ashley Holloway (AH): I suppose in a way, I have always been a bit of a writer. I remember writing stories as a kid, furiously tapping them out on my typewriter (I can still hear the clackity-clack sound it made and yes I am aging myself…). But I really didn’t take it seriously until recently after being diagnosed with chronic pain, a not-so-lovely result of many (!!) hip surgeries and, basically, my shitty connective tissue (can I say shitty here?).
JK: Yes, yes you can!
AH: Essentially, a few years ago, I was sent to the Chronic Pain Centre to help me readjust to this new life I hadn’t asked for and underwent many months of cognitive behavioural and group therapy sessions. At the time, I hated every minute of those sessions. I would spend hours trying to come up with realistic excuses not to go. But I went, despite how I couldn’t and didn’t want to identify with people who were considered ‘disabled’.
It was during those sessions and subsequent discussions with the chronic pain physician that I was encouraged to find an avenue with which to channel my energy to help me try to renegotiate who this new version of “me” would be. Living an active life running, mountaineering, climbing, backcountry skiing had been a part of my identity, but being unable to engage in any of these activities anymore, I was physically, emotionally, and mentally lost.
So, with this advice in hand, I skeptically signed up for an art class. One art class led to another, which led to another, which in turn rekindled my love for writing. I guess the doctor really was right… And now, I am much more OK with my limitations. Writing basically brought me back to life.
JK: You write fiction, nonfiction, reviews, and poetry, along with tales for a variety of ages. Is there a genre and/or age group you most like to write above all else?
AH: Would it be weird to say I really love writing book reviews? I think it’s the nurse in me (I’ve been a nurse for almost 20 years); I like to dissect, unpack, get down to the nitty gritty of the anatomy of a story. I like to try to understand what the writer really wanted the reader to get out of the writing. I also really like the fact that book reviews help writers sell books. This business can be desperately demoralizing at times, so being able to highlight a writers’ great writing is pretty awesome.
JK: You are a very fast reader. How long does it take you to finish a book, and did you study speedreading techniques?
AH: I haven’t actually ever thought about the speed at which I read. Honestly, I just really love to read. I don’t watch a huge amount of TV; I am much more content to escape into a book in the evenings. And I read every day, always. Even if it is just a few pages because life and adulting has inevitably gotten in the way, it’s part of my daily routine. Sometimes I will read for hours. I remember reading entire Nancy Drew books in an evening when I was a kid.
JK: What is your favorite thing to do that is not writing?
AH: Hanging out with my teenaged daughter. I have always maintained that she is my sidekick, but I would like to think of myself as her sidekick now. She seems to still like hanging out with me, so I will take it. I suppose I should also mention my partner; he’s pretty awesome to hang out with too. We spend a lot of time outdoors. While I am not a religious person, Mother Nature is my church.
JK: How did you end up at Unleash (finding Unleash) and what keeps you working with us?
AH: Ahhhhhhh! I am so happy I found Unleash! Such a weird, serendipitous coincidence that I found you, but it is in general a rather mundane story: I answered an ad you posted all the way up here in Calgary on an arts website looking for a manuscript reader. And we clicked. I felt like the world’s biggest imposter at first (well, I still do, if I am being honest), but Jen, you mentor-goddess, you clearly saw
something in me and we kind of just grew wings from there. And now it is now, and I wouldn’t change it for a thing. You have given me the confidence and courage to grow.
JK: What’s the best advice on writing or life you ever got, and who from?
AH: Just write. It doesn’t matter if it’s “good” or not – who decides this anyways?! If you want to write, write. Because writing begets more writing, which begets more still, and this helps you refine your craft.
And read. Read, read, read! You cannot be a good writer if you do not read. I suppose I gave this advice to myself, which is part of the beauty of being a middle-aged woman: there is a great deal of freedom in eschewing society’s expectations of you, and it is much easier to do that when you are in your mid-forties.
Thank you, Ashley!