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Q&A with

 Amelia Skinner Saint

Interviewed by Peggy Pollard

Amelia Skinner Saint (She/Her) is a writer and professor living in the Midwest. Her writing has won the Lorian Hemingway award, H. E. Francis award, and has been published in Cutthroat, Barnstormer, Storyscape, and elsewhere. You can find her on Instagram @SkinnerOrSaint mostly sharing pictures of cats, dogs, and children.

Peggy Pollard, Chief Podcast Editor, interviews Amelia Skinner Saint, winner of the 2024 Gabriele Rico Challenge. Saint’s nonfiction story titled “Breaking Kayfabe” will appear in Reed Magazine, Issue 157. The following questions and answers have been edited for concision and clarity. The full-length interview is available on YouTube @InTheReedsPodcast, the official podcast of San José State University’s Reed Magazine.    

Q: It seems that the theme of “Breaking Kayfabe” is not so much about people undergoing trauma directly as it is people witnessing trauma being inflicted on others and in turn, becoming traumatized themselves. Why did you decide to write on that theme? Was there something particular that provoked you to write on that? 


A: I'm an external processor. I process trauma events/emotions by usually talking through them. Or if I don't have anyone that I can talk to about something, I have to write about it. That's probably one of the reasons that I became a writer; just because it's something that I am compelled to do in certain instances like after witnessing this pedestrian car accident with my daughter. It was a traumatic thing to witness and in that witnessing, it kind of brought up other traumatic witnessing that I connected on a subconscious level, initially, and then only through the writing could I connect them in a more conscious way and understand what it was that was kind of sticking with me about this. It was the the witnessing of the trauma, someone's world literally ending in a moment while the rest of the world goes on and the incredible feeling of disbelief that the world is going on around such a tragedy and trying to understand how that is possible whenever you are adjacent to or part of a tragic event, how you can get your world to begin moving again. 


Q: There are so many things in this event and the other two big events that you talk about in the story where you're not even sure what happened. You said that you covered your daughter's eyes but you didn't realize you were doing that till later and there are some things about the trauma that are so vivid but then there are other things you don't even know or don't even realize what you were doing at the moment. Was that hard for you to write about? 


A: It felt very important to write about because the memory in the moment was so vivid and the experience of the moment, it felt very much like the way I wrote it, like it was outsized. The moment was huge and even though it was just a few seconds, everything slowed down and suddenly, in my immediate memory, I was aware of everything around us and I didn't want to lose that. I wanted to write it down and I wanted to capture it before it just became covered in layers of other memories and in narrativizing the trauma, I wanted to try and capture how I actually experienced it and how my daughter experienced it.



Q: This story is tangential to your work with horror fiction as an art curator for Broken Antler magazine. How did that affect your process when writing this story?


A: I appreciate the horror aesthetic. I kind of am a big horror lover. I love the campy 80s Gore. I love monster movies. I love all of the horror that you would not classify as art but I think that horror can inform a lot of amazing literature and art. It gives us a space to play with unreality and it creates a world in which anything can be a monster and to frame something that is commonplace/everyday as monstrous can, I think, really help us to understand it in a new way. 

I think there’s definitely a trope that's present in a lot of horror material and culture that a misunderstood monster who, like Frankenstein's monster, is assumed to be evil and harmful. But in actuality, they are just in a monstrous body or they are perceived in a way that is monstrous. So, it really helps us to interrogate our assumptions about the way that we present and represent ourselves and others in the world. You have to really wonder what makes a monster and oftentimes, it is just the context or the world that they're trying to get along in. Things that seem scary, that we're afraid of, we need to face them and deal with them. 


Q: Having to process the accident witnessed by you and your daughter, it seems that the best way for you to reconcile it was to write about it to face the monster. It sounds like it helped you to work through it, to not have it have such power over you. What did the process of healing look like for your daughter who also witnessed the accident? 


A: My daughter is young and she's lived a relatively sheltered life and knowing that I was very aware that witnessing an accident like this could and would be quite traumatic for her. So, it was really important for me to bring her into the writing process: to read parts to her and confirm that they were right and not remembered differently. This allowed her to not just “narrativize”

the trauma, which is a way of making/rendering a trauma safe by turning it into a story, but also to look at it as a more logical process rather than an emotional experience. Given the way my daughter's brain works, that was exactly what she needed. I use the word “narrativizing,” I don't know if that's even a real word, but it's just the idea that if you have this big scary event, if you can turn it into a story, turn it into words on a page or even just spoken words, that makes it something manageable and something that is easier to fathom. Once you can fully fathom something then you can put it away, put it in its place and not allow it to overcome you or overwhelm you. 


Q: How does the trauma experienced by the narrator and her daughter connect to Owen Hart’s story, which is a significant and crucial braid of your story?


A: I think I was so drawn into this narrative, to the idea of Owen Hart and the accident that caused him to lose his life at a live televised wrestling event because that event was incredibly traumatic for a lot of people but largely so, it was probably far more traumatic than it could have been because people truly did not understand what was happening because of the context of pro wrestling. When you expect everything to be play acting, you expect everything to be fake

and dramatic. Then someone falls in the ring and they die in front of you and everyone keeps going just like how that moment that my daughter and I witnessed was made so unreal by the fact that everyone else was going on with their lives unaware that they were inside a tragedy. So, when the Owen Hart accident happened, all of the people witnessing it didn't know that they had seen a man die. They didn't know that it was real. They thought it was just part of the show and the fact that the show went on doubled down on the unreality of the whole situation. Pro wrestlers have strict scripts and rules that they have to follow to put certain wrestlers in a position to win or lose and if they were to break that script then it would throw everything out. 


Q: Another pro wrestling event you mention involves Stone Cold Steve Austin winning against Owen Hart though he is clearly injured and still wins the match. How did you come across these wrestling stories? 


A: I'm a child of the 80s and I think we all grew up on pro wrestling. The TV was the center of

everyone's home and every night you’d sit in front of the TV and watch what's

on. So, we watched pro wrestling and as I got older, I came to see it as a very silly thing. Why are we watching this soap opera of shirtless men roughing each other up? Then as I got even older, I came back around and realized what an amazing art it is. It is a story. It is

storytelling. It is performance. It's athleticism and it is also so very camp, which is one of the most appealing things about it. It's really got everything: it's got outfits, hair, attitude, outsized characters. 

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