Eastern Washington is home to many talented and creative writers. The romantic landscapes, rich history, and cozy communities of our region are the perfect nest for creative talent. Amy McGarry is one of these gems of a person who gives back to her community through her word artistry with contributions to the Huckleberry Press and with her books. I recently had the pleasure of a good chat with Amy, and I’m so glad I did. There was no agenda when I dialed her up. As the meandering paths around our area go, so did our conversation.
Amy grew up in Eastern Washington and built relationships which still provide her with strong roots of community. As we talked about her work with the Huckleberry Press and her experience in self-publishing her first book in 2019, our topics criss-crossed over the past few years.
When asked about her journey as a writer, Amy confided she hadn’t always felt comfortable with writing but had held the desire to write and publish a book for as long as she could remember. When she met up with her previous high school Mythology teacher, 30 years after being his student, the book spark was lit. He had remembered her writing from years ago and invited her to join a writing group he led. A paper she had written on goddess archetypes had made a lasting impression.
In the writing group Amy felt a strong pull to revisit her experiences in the Peace Corp in Thailand. As she began to formulate the book she knew needed to be written she realized pulling from experiences in 2003-2005 more than 10 years later might not be the most efficient use of her skills. So she started digging. During her time spent in Thailand she had written detailed and intimate depictions of her experiences in the Peace Corp to her sister and kept a journal. Each time she sat down to write the actual book it simply felt like it needed more. It wasn’t until she was picking through journals and her sister had printed all of her emails that she realized her dream of writing a book was much closer than she had thought.
With the support of an incredible writing group and a new found confidence in her story Amy completed and published her first book in just under two years. The title, I am Farang: Adventures of a Peace Corp Volunteer in Thailand, published in 2019, was met with much acclaim and her readership quickly grew. Readers began to ask her what happened after that, what did she do after her time in Thailand, and wait, what about that Moroccan man she had mentioned meeting? Amy’s writing style had landed her a following and those readers wanted more.
As often happens with first books, Amy began to realize the ‘next book’ was going to be a deeper dive into her life. She’d have to pull out all the stops and reveal things that were closer to her heart and real to her current life. Amy began piecing the story together and continued working with the writing group until the pandemic shut down their meetings. On November 1, 2021, her second book, Culture Clash: My Marriage to a Moroccan Muslim was published and ready for her readers.
When I complimented Amy on pulling a second book together so quickly after her first title published, she revealed that Culture Clash had been complete for about a year before she finally let it free in the world. Writing about something so close to home held a lot more vulnerable meaning for her and this title felt like it had more at stake.
Now that Amy is the author of two books and the contributor of a large portfolio of published pieces in the Huckleberry Press you’d think she’d be basking in her accomplishments. When I asked about what it felt like to have achieved the success of publishing she was humble in her response.
“The process of completing the books was the satisfying part. I had wanted to write a book for so long. The journey to completing them was where I felt the most satisfied.” Amy said with a light laugh. She went on to add, “I thought I’d feel differently about the books, but I downplay it.The satisfaction I get from writing for the Huckleberry Press is something I enjoy over and over. The books are written. I did it. The Huckleberry Press and the work in the community are alive and active.”
When it all shakes down, Amy said she’s glad she followed her passion and published and that she tells everyone who asks about the process that they can do it too. Learning to lean into the joy of the process has helped her not focus so much on book sales or timelines and that frees up the space she needs to be an active member of the community. Leaning in with the title of writer allows her to contribute to a publication bringing communities together and helps her nourish her Eastern Washington roots. Our area holds many incredible writers and creatives and I’m so glad I took some time out of a Saturday to connect with Amy McGarry.