Sabrina Fielding discusses her portrayal of adolescence in ‘The Red Swimsuit’

In an interview with The Journal, Queen’s student delves into winning short story

Sabrina Fielding’s story The Red Swimsuit was selected as the winner of the 2020 Short Story Contest.
Supplied by Sabrina Fielding

On Oct. 8, Queen’s undergraduate student Sabrina Fielding was selected as the winner of The Journal’s 2020 Short Story Contest. Fielding spoke with The Journal’s Assistant Arts Editor, Alysha Mohamed, about her winning story The Red Swimsuit.

What’s your year and program? Where are you from?

“My name is Sabrina Fielding, I’m in fourth-year ConEd and majoring in French. I grew up in a small town north of Toronto called Alliston, Ontario.”

When did you start writing?

“As long as I can remember I’ve been interested in writing. I used to write short stories and start long stories but never finish them when I was a little kid; I really became serious about writing when I was a teenager. You know it’s a very tumultuous time emotionally, so it was always a good outlet to have.”

Have you ever entered or won a short story contest before? Have you ever been published in a newspaper or magazine before?

“I have a couple times—there’s one in the region where I live that I’ve entered and won a couple times. I also had a short story published in Montreal last year, so it’s always been an interest of mine. I was very excited to win this one.”

When I read this story, what really resonated with me was Angelica growing into her femininity and having a romantic experience before she was ready. How do you think the themes of womanhood/age play into this story?

“That was definitely a big source of inspiration for me when I was writing this. I really wanted to encapsulate the feeling that a lot of young girls go through, when you’re in this body that’s new and people start to actually see you, but inside you still sort of feel young.

I think it’s about navigating all these overwhelming feelings of attraction coupled with the beginning of teenagerhood or adulthood, and wanting to be perceived as attractive and grown up to the people around you.”

What does your writing process look like? Do you take inspiration from your own life? Was “The Red Swimsuit” inspired by events in your past?

“It was kind of a mix of a lot of things. I originally wrote the first draft of this story after going camping a few summers ago—I saw these two boys who looked about fourteen and this girl who was about the same age.

She seemed to be trying to act a little more grown up, putting on a new exterior, and acting like the boys were so much more immature than she was even though they seemed to be family friends that had grown up together. I remember being that age and wanting to come across a certain way, wanting to be accepted by an older group of people.”

What intrigues you about this period in our development?

“There’s so much that’s going on around you. It’s usually the start of high school, and like I said before you’re in a new body with changes emotionally, mentally, and physically. There’s this need to bridge the gap between feeling like a kid but wanting to be perceived as an adult.”

The title of your story and its central image, is this revealing red swimsuit. What does the red swimsuit represent?

“I think for me the swimsuit was the bridge between childhood and adulthood. I remember buying a swimsuit at that age which was a little more risqué, and I was so adamant that it was a teenage bathing suit – the one I needed because I was now a teenager.”

I would describe this story as a “candid portrayal of the desire, excitement, and fear surrounding sexualization at a young age, that many girls — including myself — have grappled with.” Does this support the intention of your story?

“Yeah, definitely. I think she feels like maybe she is ready for a romantic interaction, but there is an older boy who may be taking advantage of a girl who is quite young. I think a lot of girls feel the pressure to act more grown up for older boys or boys who are more mature. I don’t think it should be their responsibility to act more grown up, especially in those scenarios.”

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