The Story Behind “Miss Eleanor” by Amy Trainor

AmyTrainor_Headshot300Today’s post is written by Amy Trainor. We published her creative nonfiction piece “Miss Eleanor” in our Fall 2014 issue. 

I was inspired to write “Miss Eleanor” during an unseasonably snowy February here in Charlotte, NC. Miss Eleanor—an anonymous wrong number caller—had called me several days earlier and it caused me to start thinking about how far I’d come since the first time she called me about five years before. Furthermore I thought about how far she’d come. Her voice had changed since the first time we spoke and I wondered if that would be our last chat.

The previous year had been one of transition for me—a 10-year relationship ended, a move, a new relationship blossoming, a new career, a new educational path, an entirely new group of friends, and health issues as a result of all the change and stress . . . but this one sweet woman, a woman who I’d never met, a woman who didn’t even know my name, remained a constant in my life. I found it an intriguing concept—when our lives change so completely, what do we have to hold on to? What do we have to keep us moving? And what does it mean to “be there” for someone?

As I sat down to write this piece, I knew I wanted to do something a bit different with the form. It wasn’t a story that could be told adequately if I just wrote it out chronologically—a series of conversations with a stranger on the phone could easily be too dry—so I took some creative license with Miss Eleanor’s character and did some imagining. Some might say that this degree of “untruth” is a creative nonfiction “no-no.” To that I’d say, “Sure—but define truth.” To me, this story is 100% true down to Miss Eleanor’s imagined character traits. True, I have never met her, but to me she is Eleanor. The name “Eleanor” was inspired by the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” a beautiful and tragic take on “the lonely people.”

I find that the best pieces happen organically without too much overthinking. I wrote this piece—or its first draft—in just over an hour. Writing directly to Miss Eleanor as a confidant allowed me to open up about moments that I had previously struggled to write about. When I finished this piece I shut my laptop and didn’t look at it for almost a week, thinking, “Whelp. That’s out of my system!” When I finally did read it, I was surprised to find a piece that was honest and clear—there were the words I’d been searching for over the course of a year.

Miss Eleanor last called me on Easter Sunday. Wherever she is, whoever she is, I dedicate this piece to her.

About the Author

Amy Trainor lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she works as copywriter and freelance editor. She earned her Certificate in Publishing from the Columbia School of Journalism and is currently working toward her MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Queens University of Charlotte. Her writing has appeared in the Charlotte Observer and Today’s Charlotte Woman magazine.

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