Why is writing important to you and why do you think it's an important medium for the world?
I believe wholeheartedly in the power of stories—stories to help us connect across difference, to stir up feelings we didn't know we had inside, to inspire action. I think writing is such an important medium for the world particularly right now because it's so easy to become disheartened. That's certainly true for immigration, which is the focus of my book No Option but North. The many migrant stories throughout the book stories highlight the tragedy of structural violence, but at their center is the emphasis on migrants’ essential dignity as humans. Stories are snippets of humanity, and ultimately by facilitating empathy and understanding, they provide hope in uncertain times.
What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer's block?
Reading is always my cure for writer's block. When I'm stuck on a thought or too deep in my own words, I need to detour towards inspiration from others. Because I write nonfiction, when I have writer's block, it helps me to step back into my analytical lens to examine the macro issues at play. Sometimes this brings me down rabbit holes of research, but at least it leads me somewhere!
What is your favorite time to write?
Although I am certainly not a morning person, there is something about the early hours that inspire. When I really want to get something done, I drag myself out of bed and rely on the quiet of morning to connect into my thoughts. If I'm in the writing zone, where the hours just slip by, the 10pm to 2am window is also my favorite. It's another time when it's just me and the future words on the page.
What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received and would like to impart to other writers?
Many people told me not to be deterred by rejection, which helped me navigate the publishing process. As a previously unpublished, 24-year-old writer pitching my book, I knew my path was somewhat atypical. But I maintained the conviction that my stories would find a home, and they did. I think the business of writing takes a lot of tenacity, so I would encourage all of us to be patient and confident that our work will end up where it needs to be.
What excites you most about being a writer in today's age?
As a writer today, I am most excited about connecting the personal with the political. When I sat with migrants for No Option but North and listened to them describe the brutal violence they endured in their journey north, I felt the weight of that anguish deeply. I think their stories spur empathy for readers. Yet the purpose of my writing is not just to inspire compassion, but to help readers understand the structural injustices and inadequacies that render their stories possible in the first place. My style of narrative nonfiction aims to help readers empathize while providing the context necessary to understand the bigger picture, so I am excited to bring this approach to other complex and seemingly overwhelming issues.
Kelsey Freeman's No Option But North: The Migrant World and the Perilous Path Across the Border is out now with Ig Publishing.