Winner of the 2021 Nick Adams Short Story Contest
Read the story: Underwater, I Am Weightless
“This story stayed with me long after I put it down. The protagonist calls herself ‘a passenger in my body,’ and I too felt I was riding weightlessly on subtle currents, noting everything little and large, especially the unnameable. For its power of perception and its ability to capture that shimmering age between childhood and adulthood, I congratulate this writer. I admired how delicately the writer approached the scene of abuse; so much was exquisitely said by not saying. A beautiful and brave voice.”
– Final Judge Sandra Cisneros
More about Natalie Marsh:
- Senior at Carleton College
- Major: Religion
- Minor: French
- Hometown: Glencoe, IL
ACM: Do you have plans after graduation?
Marsh: After graduation, I’ll be headed to Yale Divinity School to pursue a Master of Arts in Religion. My concentration will be in the Philosophy of Religion, and I also want to deepen my understanding of liberation theology. My hope is that the degree will help me develop skills for community organizing in faith-based contexts, but a large part of my motivation for pursuing graduate study is to take more classes in the discipline I love and to learn from the perspectives and experiences of a new group of people.
ACM: What sparked your interest in writing, and how did you get started writing fiction?
Marsh: I’ve always loved reading, and from a young age I was drawn to the way fiction can tell us about ourselves in unexpected ways. Writing has long felt like a comfortable place to process the world around me, but it wasn’t until I began taking creative writing workshops at Carleton that I felt moved to begin pursuing fiction writing in a more devoted way. I think an essential part of this process has been drawing inspiration from the works of authors I admire, which always amaze me with their ability to so perfectly capture something I’ve felt before.
ACM: Are there people (teachers, friends, authors) who have particularly influenced your writing?
Marsh: Some of my favorite writers are Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, Sylvia Plath, and Mary Oliver. More recently, the works of poets-turned-novelists Quan Barry and Ocean Vuong have shifted the way I think about prose. I try to emulate all of these authors’ styles in my own writing, and I always keep their work close at hand.
ACM: In addition to fiction, are you interested in any other types of writing?
Marsh: Throughout my undergraduate study in religion, I’ve been drawn to the interdisciplinary writing style of the field, which I think allows for much more creativity in scholarly writing than is typical in similar disciplines. In particular, much of my work in Carleton’s Religion Department has focused on analysis and interpretation of philosophical sources, an interest which emerged out of my fascination with language. I see this love for the mysteries and intricacies of language as a thread which connects my work in the philosophy of religion to my creative writing endeavors.
ACM: Is there anyone you would like to thank?
Marsh: I’m grateful to my parents for always encouraging me to read and create, as well as to Carleton professors Greg Smith and Greg Hewett for their nurturing feedback on my writing. I’m also thankful to my peers for their inspiration and feedback in creative writing workshops at Carleton.
ACM: How have you developed your writing while you’ve been at Carleton?
Marsh: The creative writing workshops I’ve taken while at Carleton have been incredibly important to my development as a writer. I’ve found that the combination of (some) structure and deadlines helps me to be more thoughtful and intentional about my fiction writing, and I am eager to seek out similar spaces after graduation.