The Literary Maven: Emma J. Phelps

Emma photo

Emma J. Phelps is a young writer and poet from Salt Lake City, UT pursuing her Bachelor’s in English Literature and Creative Writing. Don’t let her age of 24 fool you, though; she is heavily influenced by great writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and the “lost generation” writers and this is apparent as you peruse her musings on Tightrope to the Sun (a literary reference to The Book Thief).

She has an alluring darkness about her, one that pulls you in just to get a glimpse of pure light that juxtaposes the emotions flowing across the page. The depth of Emma Jane is felt with every word that dances in front of your eyes, in a way that only Emma could choreograph.

“My mouth tasted like screaming. Everything was silent but I could still feel the hum of the scream on my teeth and in my fillings. The darkness I woke up to was hollow and foreign although I could smell my bedding surrounding me.”  Excerpt taken from Tightrope to the Sun: Hush

Her  snippets leave me feeling like she’s entrusted me with a secret, and it keeps me wanting more.


Emma J. Phelps

How did you get into your craft/hobby?

I was always interested in writing, but it really took hold in the 4th grade. In one of my classes, we had to make a book, a 50-page novel. I loved the process and I got really good feedback from my teacher. It sparked my love of writing.

What influences you?

I love the lost generation writers; F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, etc. They use velvety language and find the beauty in destruction. I just love the dichotomy of the writing.

Music really inspires me and Lana Del Rey is another influence. Her music is like an orgasm in an underwater cathedral, her lyrics are dark and she’s a poet. Also, The Killers heavily inspire me. I listened to them all throughout high school and the novel that I’ve just finished, which is basically, verbatim, my high school experience,  is named after one of their songs.

I’m also really inspired by myself and life my experience. A teacher of mine once told me, “you are the authority of your story” and that stuck with me because before that I always thought, “how can I compete with these great writers? The Fitzgeralds, the Hemingways, etc…” but only I can tell my story, and that’s what I’ve tried to focus on ever since. I want to be an inspiration to the youth who have lost hope. Looking for Alaska  by John Green was inspirational to me because it’s meant for youth and normally that type of literature centers around hope and resilience as opposed to adult literature which is generally more jaded. I read The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides right after I read Looking for Alaska and I could really see the difference in messages.

How does your creative process work? Do you have a ritual or routine you subscribe to?

I always make playlists before writing or starting a project. I immerse myself in the music and that’s where I draw motivation and some inspiration from.

I also always write in bed. It’s my safe place, with some fairy lights strung above, while I snuggle up in my blankets, creating a kind of sanctuary.

After I’m snuggled up, my hands hover over the keyboard for a bit and I always think the words will never come. Then, the rush hits and it just flows out.

What do you get out of it on a deeper level?

It helps me connect to the world around me. I’m a deeply empathetic person and writing helps me deal with that. I remember one time I was visiting my aunt and at she was going through a divorce. We were talking about what she was going through and I started sobbing. She told me she was OK and I blurted out, “No, you’re not OK. I can feel it!” I can feel the emotions of others and it can be heavy at times.

I generally start writing after deeply sad experiences, using it as a coping mechanism to channel those feelings and to gain clarity. I made a blog, Tightrope to the Sun, after discovering poets, and it helps to process my feelings. I try not to edit my posts on the blog because I like to keep it visceral, raw and organic.

I also feel like it’s my calling in the social justice sense; using words to give hope to those who are struggling, especially the youth of today who have these heavy untapped emotions and don’t understand how to process them yet. My dream is to be a successful Young Adult author so I can be a motivational speaker and travel around to different high schools, giving hope to those who need it.

What are some of your most treasured moments regarding your creations?

One of the best comments I got on my blog was from this girl who told me, “it’s like I’m reading a diary but I can’t not read.”

Finishing my novel, also. I worked so hard, putting thousands of words down. It feels good. Now I’m just working on getting it published.

How do you handle failure? What keeps you motivated?

Writing is a duty to myself and that keeps me motivated. Even if I annoy lots of people in the process but I help one person, I will feel like I’ve made a difference and that is important to me.

Here’s Emma’s playlist:


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