Rasha Alkhateeb (M.F.A. ’21) interviews Welter Online contributor Will Richardson.
This fall, Welter Online received well over 1200 submissions across all genres and from contributors all around the world. Those that we published were invited to our first virtual reading, including Will Richardson, author of the creative nonfiction piece, “You’re Such a Man.”
When Will was joined on screen with our poetry editor, Josh Cole, his partner, we were happily surprised! As Will began reading and revealed that the “Josh” character in his piece is really Welter Online’s very own Josh, the Zoom chat lit up with equally surprised reactions! Our team had no idea. We figured we had to interview Will to learn more.
The Welter Online team enjoyed your reading so much! This is your first creative nonfiction piece to be published anywhere, correct? Why this piece?
Thank you! I am so flattered and pleased. This is my first creative nonfiction piece to be published anywhere, and the first piece I have submitted anywhere as well. I have been interested in writing creative nonfiction for many years and have long said I need to write a memoir or three.
I grew up Mormon and left that church, I lived in East Africa for over a decade, and I came out as transgender and queer at age 39, so I’ve got stories! Mostly I have journaled and blogged as a way to process my experiences and feelings both with leaving the Mormon church 15 years ago, and with my more recent gender transition.
I suppose I submitted this piece because the timing was right. I wrote it in September, and with my new relationship with Josh, I felt a confidence and courage like I’ve never known before. It was time to put myself out there.
You mentioned that you’ve had some scientific manuscripts published. Do you find that your creative and professional interests overlap in any way?
Writing for peer-reviewed, scientific manuscripts is a very different beast. That’s all about data, methods, and speaking to the wider scientific field, and is supposed to be devoid of emotion. That said, I need to convey a certain narrative in those manuscripts to argue my point about why readers should care about this particular health issue and population, given so many competing interests and limited funding. There is certainly an art to it, and I have certain skills that apply to both, such as editing down word count to succinctly communicate the core message.
Work can also provide some content for great stories, such as the time I drove 30,000 condoms across Tanzania and had to brake for a giraffe crossing the road—chocolate, strawberry, and banana flavored condoms flew everywhere.
We were all so surprised to learn that the Josh in “You’re Such a Man” is our poetry editor, Josh Cole! We also couldn’t help but notice his smile as you read. Did you share this piece with him before submitting to us?
Yes, I did share it with Josh. The day we met, we connected over our mutual love of storytelling. He impressed me that he was in an MFA creative writing program, and I impressed him by sharing a story I told at an open mic night at The Stoop.
Often, I write in order to communicate some deep, difficult emotions to myself and to my partner. It was in that context that I read “You’re Such A Man” out loud to Josh one evening. I only ever intended to share this piece with him, contextualizing our relationship in my journey before we even met, to let him know how important he is to me. With his encouragement and confidence in me, I decided to submit to Welter. He didn’t reveal our relationship to the editorial staff, not wanting any hint of bias or favoritism. We decided it would be a fun surprise to wait until the reading to reveal the true identity of the man in my piece.