Rappahannock Review Nonfiction Editors: We love the vivid natural descriptions and interesting settings in “Summer Time,” like the blackcurrant bushes and the lake. What inspired these places in the work? 

Amy Searle: The piece was written on an especially hot day two summers ago in Oxford. I had been walking around and had gone to this lake to have a swim, and I had been people-watching a lot, and I suddenly found all these people around me to be incredibly interesting. It felt as though the way in which they interacted with their environment—the boat, the blackcurrant bushes, the lake—was somehow significant. So I would say the imagery was inspired by Oxford in the summertime, which is really a wonderful place.

RR: What struck us upon first encountering your piece was the unorthodox structure and momentum. How did you land on this stream of consciousness style?

AS:  I suppose I have experimented with a few different styles. When I was younger, for example, after reading a book I would sometimes try to write a piece that mimicked that author’s style. I found myself writing, or at least trying to, like David Foster Wallace for a long time. That being said, I don’t have formal training in writing in any academic sense and so, probably exactly because of this, I find I am drawn to the unstructured styles of poets such as Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, and—of course—Virginia Woolf. In fact it is not an overstatement to say that I was in awe the first time I read Virginia Woolf. So I find this style of writing most natural, and for me at least it feels like the most honest way of writing. 

RR: Given the prevalence of nature and public spaces throughout the piece, do you ever write outdoors? Or do you have a favorite place that serves as your writing space?

AS: I don’t write outdoors, I find that there are too many interesting things which are ultimately distractions! Mostly I write at home, but occasionally I find public spaces like cafes stimulating. 

RR: We understand from your bio that you’re a physics student. How does your creative writing intersect with your scientific studies?

AS: So far they are quite separate, although I suppose scientific writing is really just a style of writing. I would say when I write scientifically I feel as though I am putting a lot of constraints on the imagery I use, because it is not usual to use extremely evocative imagery. With scientific writing you are trying to be factual and preferably not confusing in any way. When I write prose or poetry, on the other hand, I don’t really mind if what I am writing is confusing, as long as it is enjoyable to read…. I think sometimes it is enjoyable to read something that doesn’t make any sense. 

I have thought about finding some middle road between the two, such as in science communication, but so far I haven’t given that a proper go.

RR: Is summer your favorite season?

AS: By far! I grew up in South Africa, so maybe that has something to do with it.


Read “Summer Time” by Amy Searle in Issue 11.1.