Fast Five with Theresa Wisner


"I have a dogged determination to keep going; to not be a quitter." 

— Theresa Wisner

Welcome to Fast Five, in which we ask a writer five questions to open the door to know more.

Theresa Wisner lives on the central Oregon Coast and works aboard Oceanus, an Oregon State University research vessel. Hailing from a family of commercial fishermen, as a young woman she went to sea to both continue the family tradition and prove her own fortitude. In her memoir and literary debut, Daughter of Neptune, Theresa blends seafaring adventure with family dynamics in a story of personal and professional self-discovery.

Daughter of Neptune is a powerful story of family, addiction, and perseverance in an industry dominated by men. What prompted you to tell your story?

I sometimes think that the goal was to write a story, and the events came along to give me a story to write about. I don’t know that I ever thought, I’m going to write a book about this one day, but from my earliest memories I’ve wanted to write. 

In your memoir of working at sea, you reveal the fears and insecurities that led to your alcoholism. Why was this important for you to share, and in the face of struggle, what keeps you going?   

Quitting drinking was, by far, the biggest challenge of my life. There were people who showed me it could be done. I wanted to be brutally honest in my struggle, and in so doing, let someone who might be struggling know there is hope, even in the darkest time. I wish I could say that there was something inspirational in me that kept and keeps me going. I think it’s solely a dogged determination to keep going; to not be a quitter. 

What’s the best writing advice you’ve received?

Write. Really. Just write. Sit my tail in a chair and write. It seems so easy, but it’s difficult to practice. There is always something that can, and often does, call me away. Even if I have nothing to write, the act of sitting in front of the computer or paper brings the story to me, it doesn’t come from living my life. It comes from having the intent to write. More dogged determination!

What books or authors have shaped your life? 

Although I don’t read him much any more, Stephen King shaped much of my desire to be concise about description, and evoking emotion from it. The Stand, in particular. Theodore Dreiser and Tolstoy were big in my early years. More recent work is Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy. I love the simplicity of these works. Isabel Allende is simply brilliant. There are so many more, but these come to the top of my head. 

I’m a word collector and keep a running list of favorite words. What are your favorite words?

As a Pacific Northwest gal, I love a couple of words:

Pluviophile: one who loves the rain.

Petrichor: the smell of the first rain. 

Bonus Question: What question did I not ask that you wish I had? 
I’m currently working on a book of fiction that puts a young woman on Ernest Shackleton's failed Antarctic Expedition. I don’t know if I’ll keep Shackleton’s name, but the story has intrigued me since I worked in Antarctica. 

• Buy Daughter of Neptune at Amazon

• Learn About Theresa:
Coming to terms with being the Daughter of Neptune - Oregon State University magazine