To kick off the new year, Stymie is interviewing our 2011 Pushcart Nominees. We start off with Cynthia Hawkins. Her essay, "Smaller in Person" was published in our Spring & Summer 2010 issue, which you can read here.

Here's Cynthia...

Stymie: Your essay, "Smaller in Person" examines the fame and mythology we wrap around sports (and stars) as much as it about your personal experience. Did one theme grow from the other, or were they intertwined from the start?

Cynthia: This is one of those rare times when I’ve written something especially for one journal’s call for submissions. At the time, Stymie was asking for works about baseball, and I was already working on a series of essays about film (which explains why my mind was in movie-reference mode). So, I made a list of baseball experiences I’d had, including with film, and began writing about each one. I’d work on one thread until I hit a wall, and then I’d take a break from it to work on the other. The transitions are where my mind insisted on switching gears. I'd say one segment naturally informed the next, and then I made sure it was thematically cohesive in revisions. 

Stymie: You invoke a number of movies in the essay, at times for their plot and at others to set a scene or reference a famous actor. You also admit that you were drawn more to fictional (film) baseball than to the real sport. What do you think fiction can add to the narrative of sports and games that we might otherwise miss in real life?
Cynthia: One of my favorite creative works about sports is Joyce Carol Oates’ On Boxing, and in it she writes that “each boxing match is a story.” The way films have to distill a sporting event, be it boxing or baseball, etc., in the interest of time tightens the focus on that inherent story, unpacks that story. The same goes for fiction. I’m not sure I would say that intimate story is lost on a sports fan watching a live game. I would say film or literature is just a different way to explore it, or maybe even that it explores it more methodically.

Stymie: Your website mentions that you have two daughters. Do either of them play baseball, or other sports? What advice do (or would) give them, based on your experience? 

Cynthia: My oldest daughter is exactly like me in regards to sports. It’s painful to witness. She desperately wants to play sports but she’s also over-cautious and self-conscious. Not long ago, she wanted to play volleyball, and I told her about how I’d tried that as well but after I kept getting pelted in the head they made me the scorekeeper. I’ll just say it didn’t go well for her either. My other daughter is only two, but she’s completely fearless and full of endless energy. I predict she’ll be a sports phenom.
As far as advice in regards to sports, I tell Hannah to try different sports to see what fits. Golf, for example. She’s pretty good at golf, and golf is non-contact. People warn you when the ball’s angling for your head. Perfect fit. I’m very sympathetic when it comes to her feeling embarrassed or disappointed or afraid, so I think I’m not as good with the advice as the consoling. Then my husband will walk in and tell her, “Suck it up and keep trying! No one’s perfect at first.”

Stymie: In what ways would your advice change or remain the same if they wanted to be writers?

Cynthia: Suck it up and keep trying! No one’s perfect at first. I’d stick with that.

Stymie: Tell us a little about what you're writing, now!

Cynthia: I’ve just finished final revisions on my nonfiction collection Girl on Film, which includes “Smaller in Person,” and I’ve been writing about film for The Nervous Breakdown since March. Ben Loory’s story in the Spring/Summer 2010 issue made me want to spend more time writing fiction again, so I have a strange little story forthcoming in the strange little Used Furniture Review. Stymie’s always a great place to go for inspiration.

A graduate of SUNY Binghamton, Cynthia Hawkins' work has appeared in publications such as Monkeybicycle, ESPN the Magazine, Passages North, and Our Stories. She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas where she works as a freelance writer, contributes regularly at The Nervous Breakdown, and blogs at