Interview with Claire Forrest for Where You See Yourself

In association with Hear Our Voices, I was given the opportunity to interview Claire regarding her wonderful debut.

Claire Forrest is a novelist and essayist who holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. Where You See Yourself is based on her lived experience as a wheelchair user who has cerebral palsy. As an undergraduate at Grinnell College, she was a consultant for the Disability Services and Admissions offices, working directly to address the concerns of incoming college students with disabilities and their families. 

She lives in Minneapolis, where when she’s not writing, she spends her time swimming

and planning where to travel next.

The Interview

For every author and every project, the writing process is different. What was your process like for Where You See Yourself?
The first full draft and first revision of Where You See Yourself were written while I was a student in the Hamline MFAC program. As such, my writing process involved writing in 40-page submissions of work that I would share with my advisors for feedback. It was a unique way to
write a first draft for sure. I also was lucky to get early feedback from my peers in the program as well as beta readers who are members of my writing critique group.

Where You See Yourself chronicles a very personal and real experience many share, myself included. What inspired you to tell Effie’s story?
I started by asking myself, “If I were to write the exact book I wish I’d had as a teen, what would it be like?” I grew up without authentic disability representation, and as a result of that, I believe so strongly that everyone deserves to see themselves in the pages of a book. I started thinking about the journey that is applying to college, and that got me into thinking about all the big
coming of age feelings I love in young adult novels. I took it from there!

On an average writing day, what would you say your schedule looks like?
I work a day job, so I depend on nights and weekends to do most of my writing. I have never been a person who can write every single day, but I try to remember the advice of one of my grad school advisors, Nina LaCour: “Some words on most days.” When I am in the thick of drafting, I try to think about the story or my characters in some way every day, so even if I don’t write that day, it is still top of mind.

As the protagonist I’m sure Effie holds a special place in your heart. Throughout her journey she meets many new friends and does her best to make time for the old as well. Is there another character that holds a special place in your heart alongside Effie? This
could be a character you’d like to explore more or one that simply lives in your mind extra rent-free.

The character who lives extra rent-free in my head (and obviously, Effie’s head as well!) is Wilder. When I was drafting, I would find myself eagerly anticipating his appearance in upcoming chapters. He brought such wit and charm to the story, and I want the absolute best for him!

Through her trials and tribulations Effie reminds herself she is worth it and deserves her happiness. Where You See Yourself reminds readers the importance of self-advocacy and self-love. Is there another theme or message that you particularly hope readers take
away from your book?

Quite simply, I hope that readers understand that disabled people go through the same thoughts, feelings, and life experiences as anyone else. Effie’s coming of age is unique because she uses a wheelchair, yes, but in so many ways, she has the same wants, desires, and hopes as any other teenager.

There are many scenes in Where You See Yourself that are full of emotion. Is there a particular scene (to avoid spoilers, you can just say a chapter number) where you found yourself getting emotional?
There is a scene towards the end of the book where Effie’s parents are walking away from her towards their car. She realizes they will be there to help her in the future, but that she can handle what’s ahead of her on her own for now. It made me remember those first moments in my life where I realized I really was becoming an adult, and those emotions of pride and fear and excitement came rushing right back.

As junior year is coming to and end for many and college applications are right around the corner is there any words of wisdom you this Effie would have for soon-to-be seniors?
Try not to stress so much about your future plans that you forget to enjoy the present moment. I know it sounds super cheesy, but the senior year of high school is one of the last moments you’ll have to be around some of your peers in exactly this way. Have fun!


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