Journal of Writing & Environment

An Interview With Non-Fiction Editor Adam Wright

by Claire Kortyna

Adam Wright, Flyway’s Non-Fiction Editor, arrived for his interview in a flat-brimmed Tar Heels baseball hat, the symbol of his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he studied drama and journalism. As we spoke, he rested one ankle atop his knee, seeming perfectly at ease while discussing magical realism, the role of place and environment in non-fiction, and the enduring influence of children’s book author Roald Dahl.

CK: Adam, where do you call home? And what makes it “home,” for you?

AW: Asheville, North Carolina. My family has been there many, many generations — well before the Civil War actually — and the majority of my family is still there.

CK: What is your home place’s defining characteristic?

AW: To me the mountains are a very sacred space which makes me feel both very small and very important. And that’s a connection I’ll have my whole life.

CK: What kind of writing excites you — what can’t you put down?

AW: There are two types of writing that I’m drawn to. First is magical realism, because often the words are so overwhelmingly beautiful. It reflects reality in a way that can’t be done in non-fiction.

I am intrigued particularly by works of satire.  I think Kurt Vonnegut would be a great example for that, and Tom Perrotta is a more modern example. Another type of writing I really enjoy is reading children’s books and young adult lit.

What I’m most excited about are works that combine the idea of magic with advocacy and a keen awareness of what the world is like in the 21st century. I recently announced a co-major in sustainable agriculture here at Iowa State University. I’m working on a young adult novel about biotechnology and food crises, which I’m very excited about because I feel like it’s a blend of my two biggest interests: writing and food.

CK: Why isn’t there environmental children’s lit?

AW: I don’t know. I’d be happy to fill that niche.

CK: Who are the children’s literature authors that have influenced you the most?

AW: Two authors that influence me the most in terms of children’s lit are C.S. Lewis and Roald Dahl. Lewis operates on a deeper philosophical level. He talks a lot about religion and society. I loved those books as a kid. Dahl, well, just because it’s so weird. Magical, silly, yet totally and completely subversive. Reading those books as an adult — it’s such a large commentary on modern society. I think he’s really trying to teach kids a valuable lesson about what it’s like to live in a modern world. That’s the type of writing I’d like to do, that’s silly and magical and yet still says something important about our world. I would say, I probably wouldn’t be a writer without either of those two.

CK: For readers and those submitting to Flyway, what advice can you give?

AW: Don’t bore me. Laughing. I feel like a lot of writers submitting to us think that having a message is all you need. You also have to be exciting. There should be an experience. It should resonate with a wide audience.

CK: What do you look for in the pieces you publish in Flyway?

AW: I’m looking for things that can present science or research or commentary in a way that is original or creative  — and often that comes from the language.

CK: How does the idea of place or environment factor in to that?

AW: Well, environment and place are a key component, but it’s not just about saving the woods, or hiking or conservation. We recently published this phenomenal piece called “What Broke In the Move” by Megan Schikora which addresses issues of segregation, childhood friendships, and moving. Place and the environment are essential to the narrative, but the environment is in the social world as well as the natural one.