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Erin Chandler takes a celebratory look at life with new collection of essays

When Erin Chandler finished her memoir June Bug Versus Hurricane, she celebrated with a glass of wine and a cigarette. When she finishes her next novel, she says she’s celebrating with a trip to the south of France.

Between moving back home from Los Angeles after 22 years, returning to school for her Masters and MFA, starting a publishing company, writing two books, and working on another, she deserves it.

In June, Chandler released Cinderella Sweeping Up, a collection of essays combining her hard-earned life lessons with quotes from history’s most influential artists and thinkers.

While June Bug Versus Hurricane took its title from a Lucinda Williams lyric, Cinderella Sweeping Up takes its title from a line in Bob Dylan’s song Desolation Row, “and the only sound that’s left after the ambulances go is Cinderella sweeping up on Desolation Row.”

“I felt like I was exposing a lot of truths, sweeping up,” says Chandler.

Cinderella Sweeping Up is a celebration of Chandler’s life and her attitude. With personal anecdotes interlaced between famous quotes from forward thinkers, each short essay in the book embarks on a different theme while offering a universal appeal.

As for what readers can expect, she says “The theme is that we are all one. We all have our own hardships, but you either learn from them or you let them define you. It’s a personality thing, but everyone has the opportunity to open up.”

Claiming to be an open book to the detriment of her family, Chandler doesn’t feel the need to hide what she’s been through. “There is a way to look at the bright side and to realize we’re learning through it all. Whether that be cancer, abuse, an accident, or a move. You can come out of it and still look at this life and find the beauty in it.”

Born in Versailles, Chandler left Kentucky when she was eight years old. She grew up between Las Vegas, Maine and Texas before returning home to attend college at UK. Having lived out west most of her life, she moved to Los Angeles after college and loved every minute of it.

After 22 years in LA, she returned home, admitting “I thought I never wanted to come back here, but I had to be ready in my own time. I’m happy to be home.”

When asked what brought her home, she answers with a laugh, “A divorce and no money.” But continues, “I couldn’t take it anymore. I called my aunt and I moved into her farmhouse off Pisgah Pike. I rebuilt my life here.”

Chandler had already been acting professionally for years, but with a newfound hunger for education, she went back to school for her Masters in Theatre at UK and an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. 

Photo credit Katerina Stoykova

She says one of the smartest decisions she made was obtaining her MFA from Spalding University where some of the most respected writers graduated. “If I’m going to be a writer in Kentucky, I should go where all the great Kentucky writers went.”

Chandler still considers herself an actress, but she isn’t married to one label. With two published books, another in the works, and her own publishing house, she feels like her literary career has just begun.

“There’s a million ways to live your life. A lot of the essays in Cinderella Sweeping Up discuss how we try to box ourselves to one identity. If you have your blinders on then you’re cheating yourself from all these life experiences.”

Her inspiration for writing each novel is different. “Whenever you have any passionate feelings whether positive or negative, you should write about it. Whatever drives you honestly and raw is the best place to write from. Whether that is an obsession with turtles or a deep depression.”

The driving force for her memoir June Bug Versus Hurricane was the need to share the stories of her father and brother. Cinderella Sweeping Up was written to educate, and her forthcoming novel Nervous Blood shares her own crazy experiences she finds interesting.

Erin Chandler reading her play, ‘Nervous Blood’ with Lucy Baker Cox.
Photo: Kopana Terry

A project that’s been in the works for years, Nervous Blood is a collection of seemingly unrelated real life stories that happened to her, but written into fiction.

Mimicking where her life is now, the story begins where June Bug Versus Hurricane ends, with a girl returning home from LA after a divorce to take care of her aunt. The story flashes back to a life in LA, a drive across the country with a comical stranger, and the adventures between it all. Featuring all the same characters from her life, some morphed together, but based in Kentucky instead of LA.

As for what readers can expect with Nervous Blood, she says “It’s a fictionalized story of the decision to live a life with glamorous strangers, or to live a life close to home with the people you love who love you back…and for that to be enough.”

To which she’s discovered, the latter is enough. As for her life now, she feels surrounded by characters and chaos. But more importantly, she feels that it’s a time of work and the beginning of her literary life. She is on the roster for the 2019-2020 Kentucky Humanities Speakers Bureau, teaches playwriting and screenwriting at the Carnegie Center, and has a weekly column in the Woodford Sun.

Chandler is heavily invested in her publishing company. Created as a passion project, Rabbit House Press shares American-based stories different than the mainstream. What fascinates Chandler is the people who have a harder time in life, but are poetic and learning through it all.

Under Rabbit House Press, she has self-published June Bug Versus Hurricane, along with publishing two other Her goal is to publish two books a year with Rabbit House Press. Nervous Blood has been in the works for years and Chandler hopes for a 2020 release.

Chandler will be doing a reading and book signing of Cinderella Sweeping Up at the Carnegie Center on Thursday, August 22 at 6:30.

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