Exploring the art of prose


Tag: Drafting Process

Author’s Note

Trula found me.

She revealed herself as a snippet—less a life than a death—mentioned in the last moments of a vague, open-ended conversation by another person struggling to recapture her, to scrape any biological degradation from her headstone and sigh her plight into the present. I later experienced Trula as if a cellular memory and allowed myself to more than walk in her shoes: I wrapped myself in her soul, felt the soil of her landscape under my feet and gentled myself into the bodies of her people. I kept a notebook beside my bed and jotted the piece’s magical vernacular in the hours between darkness and dawn—my only endeavor, to use my pen. If what some scientists say is true and we are all distantly related, but for the initial conversational snippet, Trula and her people could have found you too.

My archetypal angst is mostly present tense, terrain I share occasionally in certain poems and prose pieces. However, over time I have learned to honor my own processing pauses, whether they last a day or five years. I keep two journals: one of me, and another of what/who inspires me within a historical context on the micro or macro level. Each journal is scribbled with freewriting. So are the notepads, napkins, and sticky notes that litter my desk. For months, Trula’s crisis framed my keyboard.

When my “I” proves too much emotionally or defies editing, I lend time to another unfinished piece. Oftentimes, the other piece is akin to “Southern Womb,” set in a place I’ve never been, with people I never knew—but can meet—during a time-slip or stream of consciousness that unfailingly results in empathy and insight. Nothing is new, behaviors are ancient, and I find my soul served by mindful remembrance, whether by my family tree or one far removed and foreign to my possibly subjective and certainly modern sensibilities.

Over the years I’ve learned that imperfection acceptance is key to my drafting process. As writers, we can cull later what shines. Like the potatoes being prepared for Trula’s repast, there’s “no sense in peeling…too deep.” Any piece, painstakingly completed during a writer’s personal journey, transmutes into the gravy. No matter if or how it’s judged, it’s our taste buds that approve the seasoning and ring the dinner bell.

Rats speak in “Southern Womb.” Cottonwood trees mourn. Metaphors abound. Because, why not? The editing process of “Southern Womb” included deletion of certain visuals that lit my brain (to retain a coherent story line for the reader), but I kept what felt necessary to honor the story’s mystical wordplay, form, lyrical qualities, and narrative viewpoint. I read it aloud numerous times, listening for the slightest rhythmic stumble. I allowed my imagination free rein and used the creative writer’s sublime prerogative of filling inaccessible gaps—for Trula, those who mourned her, and for you—your toes invited to swim the complex waters that were her life, and her death.


HEIDI RICHARDSON is a writer originally from San Francisco, but now residing in Southern California. She has work published in Ghost Town Literary Magazine, Glassworks, The Pacific Review, and Red Wheelbarrow. Her poetry collection, In Praise of the Black Narcissus, received an honorable mention in the Cave Canem Book Prize for African-American Writers in 2017. Heidi received a Pushcart Prize nomination for her civil rights era poem, “The Waiting Room,” and she is a two-time winner of the Edgar Valdez Literary Prize, for both poetry and prose. She is a graduate of California State University, San Bernardino, with a BA in creative writing. Find her on Instagram @hl_richardson.