Q&A: Emily Monroe
(1) Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a writer and an artist, and I must admit, a bit of a vagabond, too. I am 25 years old and right now, I am working as a 4th grade teacher in a small town in the Honduras and I am madly in love with the culture, people, and scenery here. I spend my free time painting, writing, trying to learn Spanish, and running my website, End the Silence Campaign, a place for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories, poetry, and art. Last year, I worked as the Director of Programs for Reading Is FUNdamental Pittsburgh, and prior to that , I taught English in Guyana, South America. I am a Pittsburgh girl, born and raised, and my heart still belongs to that secretly awesome city.
(2) What caused you to get involved with End the Silence Campaign (www.endthesilencecampaign.org) and what is it about the organization that keeps you coming back?
I started End the Silence Campaign in 2009 to create a supportive, creative space for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories, poetry, and art. The project began as a website, then evolved to include a series of writing workshops and electronic literary and art publications. As a survivor of sexual violence, I believe that writing and art are powerfully therapeutic and that all survivors deserve the space to share their stories in their own words.
End the Silence Campaign strives to promote awareness about sexual violence, encourage open and honest communication between victims and their loved ones, and support survivors in their quest to rediscover their voices through the healing power of storytelling, poetry, and art. Every day I receive new submissions from men and women all over the country, and it is the power and strength within their words and art that keeps me dedicated to End the Silence Campaign.
(3) Describe how a mentor or someone you look up to has helped you mold your life.
The most influential person in my life is my younger sister, Mallory. Since the day she came smiling into my life, I have been impressed by her energy, her strength, and her incredible resiliency. Mallory has challenged me at each moment of my life to just “live” without constantly measuring myself against expectations. She gives me the courage to pursue every new adventure that life offers and appreciate each moment along the journey.
(4) What makes you happy?
New adventures and traveling, a good book, a delicious meal with friends, painting, great music, being surrounded by art and nature… I am constantly searching for more to add to this list, but we’ll leave it at this for now.
(5) If you had $1 million, what would you do with it?
First, I would take all of my friends on a vacation somewhere warm and green. Once I got my senses back, I would pay off my student loans. Then, I would start working towards my ultimate goal of turning End the Silence Campaign into a non-profit organization. The organization would continue to publish art, stories, and poetry on the website and produce full-color print publications of survivor work. It would also offer long-term writing workshops and art classes and short-term creative writing and communication workshops around the country. It’s hard to imagine having that much money, but I envision End the Silence growing and adapting naturally into an exciting organization.
(6) What type of music do you listen to, and what song will make you get up and dance?
Types of music come in and out of my life depending on my mood and circumstances, but I remain devoted to classic folk music like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. I’m addicted to discovering new music, and right now, I’m a bit of a sucker for indie rock, soul, reggae, and hip-hop. Even if I’m in a terrible mood, I will always get up and dance if anything by Queen comes on! That is a guarantee.
(7) What are 3 things we would find in your refrigerator?
These days, you can always find tortillas, chocolate frosting, and a bottle of beer in my fridge. And yes, there are days when that exact combination turns into dinner.
(8) What has made you as successful as you are?
I wouldn’t quite call myself successful, but I think that patience, guts, a little riskiness, and some very good friends have all contributed to where I am right now. I consider it a success when I can look back at a moment in my life and see a force of positive change, whether for myself or for others. Right now I am trying to focus my actions towards creating more positive momentum, and I consider each forward step a success.
(9) How do you define success?
Success is a journey, one that adapts for each person and for each situation. For me, success means facing a challenge head-on without letting fear or self-doubt get in the way. This is no easy task, which is why it is an accomplishment each time. I also believe that success can be found by sharing a moment, an experience, a story with someone else. It is these connections that make life unique and worth living.
(10) Any decisions that you’ve made that you’ve regretted?
I don’t believe in regret. Sure, there are moments I wish I could rewind, but I try to appreciate every moment for its ability to generate an awesome story. When we spend so much time looking backwards trying to fix our mistakes, we lose sight of the opportunities right in front of us. I started living my life based on this philosophy a few years ago, and I don’t think I’ll ever look back.
(11) What do you like to do on the weekend?
Right now I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by mountains, rivers, and tropical forests. Usually my weekends consist of doing laundry, drinking unlimited coffee, talking with my friends, listening to music, and trying to motivate myself to do some art or writing. But no matter what I’m doing, I can look around at the breathtaking scenery and feel absolutely relaxed.
(12) What is your ideal vacation?
I love spontaneous vacations without a lot on the itinerary. When I travel, I like to just be somewhere without worrying about seeing every attraction or hotspot. I love long bus rides or train rides and entire afternoons wasted at the beach or in a coffee shop.
(13) What were some of your favorite childhood memories?
My favorite childhood memories mostly come from family vacations. Every summer, we piled all 6 members of my family into our Volkswagen bus for a trek to the beach. Sometimes we drove non-stop to Florida, and sometimes we took all the camping gear to New Jersey. I think all my patience and creativity comes from spending all day and all night in the back of a van with my brother and sisters, stuck in traffic with no air-conditioning and nothing to do. The best part was that my family loved music so we always blasted our favorite tapes, an odd combination of Madonna, Cream, Paula Abdul, and Disney soundtracks. The worst part (for everyone else) was that I loved to sing along.
(14) Do you have any superstitions?
My birthday is May 13th, so every now and then my birthday falls on a Friday the 13th. So I like to think that I have a special alliance with other supposedly “unlucky” things. But once I broke a mirror to use in an art project, and I will admit I was a little worried for a few months.
(15) How would your best friend describe you?
I am a big believer in tough love, so I know there are days when she would define me as exhausting. But ultimately, I think she would describe me as loyal, warm, strong, sarcastic, creative, and obnoxiously stubborn. I take my friendships very seriously, and so she would definitely describe me as more of a sister than a friend.