1:1 - Natasha Akery

Posted on: August 14, 2014

interviewed by Ben Cook
Over the next few weeks, 1:1000 will take you behind the scenes with our core writing and editorial team. We'll show you more about what makes these writers tick (or maybe twitch).

This week we learn a little more about the ultimate multi-tasker Natasha Akery. She is a wife, mother, blogger, entrepreneur, and musician. Somehow she still finds time to weave some beautifully intricate tales like “The Extractor,” “Taboo,” and “The Wisest of All” for us here at 1:1000.

1:1000: When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

NATASHA AKERY: I've been making up and writing stories from the age of eight, but I think I knew when I was a freshman in high school. I'd been working on an exhausting piece of science fiction that exceeded three hundred pages, but never went anywhere. What was important about working on that story was that I needed to work on it every single day after school. The compulsion, the drive - it was intoxicating. I love to write. More so, I love to write about things that scare people and about the worlds that sometimes appear in my head.

1:1000: What projects, writing or otherwise, are you working on right now?

NA: Sometimes, I think I'm working on too much and it really overwhelms me. Currently, I have a faith-based blog where I share some of my unconventional ideas about Christianity. I started it mostly because I really needed to unload all of these fears and thoughts that I'd been bottling up because of growing up in the bible belt. As I've been writing, I've discovered this whole group of progressive, liberal Christians that I never knew existed, which was surprising and encouraging. I've also started a small business called Lumenkind, which serves women struggling with stress-related symptoms, illnesses, and disorders through the practice of yoga and writing. My first workshop is in September and I can't even believe it! My husband and I also have a musical project called Lockout/Tagout, and recently we've realized that we need a renaissance of sorts. I think we're going to spend the next few months writing and experimenting with a different sound.

1:1000: That sounds like an incredibly full plate. Any secrets you can share on how to find balance when living such a hectic life?

NA: Balance is so important for me as a Libra, but I honestly feel off kilter these days. The refrain in my journal entries as of late: "Who am I? What do I want?" I would say what's helped me most is observing a true sabbath: not the go-to-church-on-Sunday kind, but a day when I steer clear of my usual activities and connect with my husband and daughter. I had my first sabbath this past weekend. I turned off my phone and put it away. I didn't open up the computer once. I didn't make a move for the television. I think what pleased me most was my husband's response at the end of the day, that he really enjoyed how connected I was, and it encouraged him to ignore social media as well. So, I'm trying to integrate little sabbaths into my day. I've turned off the notifications on my phone and I try to have a purpose for opening up my laptop. Setting these limitations has helped me foster a deeper connection with my daughter, and I think it's helping my husband feel precious.

1:1000: When do you do most of your writing? Do you have a routine?

NA: As of now, the majority of my writing happens when my daughter Eleanor takes naps. My husband has been sweet enough to make sure I get an uninterrupted 3-hour block of writing on the weekends, which has made a huge difference. Do I have a routine? No, not really. I take what I can get. But I've never been one for routines really, at least, not ones that require I get up before the sun does.

1:1000: Has becoming a mother changed the focus of your writing?

NA: Eleanor has made me an honest writer, and by that I mean she has pushed me to tell the stories I want to tell. For a long time, I was so afraid of sharing what was inside of my head and heart, particularly because I've been immersed in an evangelical Christian context where people are hyper-involved in your "walk with the Lord." I think some of my narcissism comes from that because I've been taught to be paranoid. I've hidden a lot of myself, my creativity, and my convictions because I really didn't want to end up being someone's subject matter for their prayer time. Eleanor is truly my muse. She demands truth with every diaper, tear, and squeal.

1:1000: Besides your family, who or what inspires you?

NA: I'm currently reading a lot about minimalism, which is kind of a bare-bones approach to life. The less clutter and possessions I have, the more room I feel to create. People like Courtney Carver and Leo Babauta inspire me because they have businesses based on minimalism and a passion for helping people. I'm inspired by the transgender community and their battle for equality and social justice. I have a few friends who are transgender, and watching their transition has really opened my eyes to what prejudice looks like and how subtle it can be. I'm inspired by women who tell their stories, particularly of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. I think a lot of people hear them and think, "Ugh, just get over it." But they keep talking, they keep telling their stories, and it's changing society. As for texts, I could read the Gospel of Mark, the Epistle of James, and the Bhagavad Gita every single day. The Gospel of Mark reveals a very human and mortal Jesus, which I think gets glossed over in Christianity because everybody treats him like a unicorn. The Epistle of James is all about how important it is to be in control of what you say because the tongue is like a wild fire. And the Bhagavad Gita? Just...all the feels. It's about God manifesting as a man and speaking to a prince about life lessons, and it's seriously just the most beautiful thing I've ever read.

1:1000: When working on a story for 1:1000, which comes first, the idea for the story or the photograph?

NA: My most recent story "The Wisest of All" is the first time I looked for a photograph to fit what I wanted to write. Usually, I pick a photograph and insert myself into the image, waiting for something to happen. It's peculiar because I really feel like I'm waiting for someone to show up so I can observe. And I just type as I follow them around the image.

1:1000: Readers have been captivated by your ‘Anna the Extractor’ series. Where did the idea for Anna come from?

NA: Call me clinical, but ‘Anna the Extractor’ is based on personal experiences. I grew up hearing voices, seeing spirits, and sensing presences. Each and every story pulls from an aspect of my life, or a memory. The development of the stories are inspired by research I've done on Jewish exorcism and the gospel accounts of Jesus casting out demons. The most recent installment, "Calling," is actually my mother's memory. She grew up on an island with her grandmother and developed a "spirit sickness," indicating that she was meant to become a shaman. But my mother didn't want to. Later, when I developed certain symptoms and were having supernatural experiences, she shared that memory with me. It's really fascinating. I'm hoping that Anna will eventually be novel-worthy, but we'll see. I don't want to pressure her too much.

1:1000: What are some recent things that blew your mind?

NA: Umm, this is embarrassing, but...I'm a narcissist. I didn't realize it until recently, but it's not the kind of narcissism that you'd expect. I'm not running around wanting people to look at me all the time, but my anxieties and the things I stress about are a clear indicator that I have a self-centered perspective of life. I'm always worried about what people think of me and my decisions. If people don't respond quickly to my text messages or emails, I assume that they're mad at me or don't like me. I quickly abandon projects when they aren't "successful," which is determined usually by someone else's level of success. I'm appalled when a blog post that I thought was brilliant doesn't have many views. Just yesterday, I was discouraged that only 11 women are signed up for my workshop in September and figured I should just forget about continuing with my small business. People have only known about the workshop for two weeks! That's a great number! But I'm constantly battling this child inside of me who is starving for attention and affirmation. So, yeah, narcissism blew my mind.

1:1000: What sage advice do you have for any would-be writers out there?

NA: Don't be afraid. Don't judge what you write. Don't edit while you're writing. What you write isn't stupid, and you're writing only improves if you stop criticizing yourself. Imagine that your inner writer is a child, is you as a child. Parent that child in the way you find most ideal. Encourage her. Motivate her. Ask her engaging questions. Listen to what she has to say. If you keep interrupting her, calling her names, and erasing what she says, she'll shut down. She'll die. The world is so much better if you keep her alive and flourishing.

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