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Meet Trailblazer Brittany Ackerman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brittany Ackerman.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I took my first, real creative writing class in high school. I wrote terrible stories about myself in the third person and called them fiction, but at least I was writing and getting to express myself somehow. I had a tough time in high school with feeling isolated and being bullied so that creative writing class at the end of the day was a wonderful space for me to free myself and speak what was in my heart. Because it was such a expressive experience, I continued to enroll in creative writing classes whether it was doing a summer program at UCLA or later on in college or eventually my community workshops when I was living in South Florida. I always kept writing at the forefront of my creative expression and made it a priority to grow my craft. I stayed humble and continued to strive to learn from some of the greatest masters of the written word. I try to read as much as possible and study under my superiors and artists I aspire to be like, whether it be by reading them or taking their workshops or attending conferences where they are present. In a writing workshop in Chamonix, France, Alan Heathcock encouraged me to turn one of my short stories into a novel. In writing a letter of admiration and respect to Davy Rothbart, he not only responded but was willing to help me with some of my essays, some of which eventually became part of The Perpetual Motion Machine, my first book. I won a contest through Red Hen Press of Pasadena, CA to have my first collection of essays published, and winning that contest was truly just the beginning of what’s to come for my writing journey.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The biggest struggle for me has been the endless spiral that is comparing myself to other writers. I know, logically, that it does not matter. I am not them, and they are not me. But I cannot help but be upset and discouraged by idealizing the success of other writers. One of my graduate school teachers, Rebecca McKay, told me that we have to celebrate the success of our peers because we will want their praise and love when we too are congratulated and recognized for our work someday. Jo Ann Beard once told me, “I’ve been in your position before, and someday you will be in mine.” Not only in the writing world but for life, in general, it’s better to compare myself to who I was yesterday, last week, a month ago, a year ago, rather than to compare myself to who someone else is today. My own growth is what matters, not theirs. I am my own person, my own artist.

We’d love to hear more about The Perpetual Motion Machine.
As a writer, I started off mostly writing essays and memoir, but I have recently gotten into writing fiction stories and have even completed a novel last year. I enjoy writing in all genres, across genres, blending them and weaving them together in a way that makes sense to me and my art. My book, The Perpetual Motion Machine, was released in November of 2018 is a collection of memoir, prose essays that launched with Red Hen Press out of Pasadena. My brother is a recovering addict who also suffers from mental illness and behavioral issues, and my collection navigates the more difficult times in my family’s life where we had to make decisions on how to move forward and make meaning out of the tragedy. When my brother was in high school, he attempted to build a perpetual motion machine, a machine that can do work indefinitely, to save the world. That machine was my brother’s experiment; this book is mine. It is in the text where I dissect our relationship and try to understand myself. Writing down my experiences metamorphosizes them in an attempt to keep them close, to always be surrounded by the memories that I often feel so distant from. My research has been investigating photo albums, interviewing my brother and parents, finding out what I was like as a child. I knew there was a purpose, something bigger happening than I could fathom; an unstoppable urge, a movement, a force set in motion forever by writing down the words. What I have found is that there is always hope available and present in times of chaos, even perpetual chaos.

What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a young woman just starting her career?
The most important piece of advice I could offer to anyone just starting out in their career would be to be your own biggest fan. You have to believe in yourself because even if you have a wonderful support system and your life is filled with lots and lots of love, it doesn’t matter. What matters most is your view and acceptance of yourself and that you are self-motivated to continue on and push forward with your work. If the odds are against you and you don’t have any support or encouragement from others, that’ just the force of resistance, as Steven Pressfield, says in “The War of Art,” and you can’t let that stop you. You must inch back towards that higher meaning in your life, for the sake of the world, for the sake of that art.

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Image Credit:
Bio photo by Carl Bird McLaughlin

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