The brilliant literati Chris Cander invited me to hop on a blog tour all about writing process. Chris is an amazing novelist who just released a children’s book, The Word Burglar, a novel composed of intertwined stories, 11 Stories, and her historical novel that you’d be better off reading in its entirety than a description of it, Whisper Hollow.
What am I working on?
With a young toddler, a full-time job, an editing gig, and a house remodel, trying to write at all is my goal these days. But when I do, I’m hard at work on my memoir that’s been in progress since 2008, Say My Name. The arc of the memoir sharpens over time, if such a thing can be said, and the story shifts, as our stories never truly end. It started as a kind of rant about the nature of the identical twin relationship, and how for me, that has always been a tortured one. The real story is how my sister and I fell apart for reasons I’ll never fully know, and how this separation is unlike any other.
I also like to write shorter pieces–personal essays–so when an interesting call for submissions lands my way, I usually respond to it.
Why do I write?
I don’t really know. I’ve always loved to read, and so writing was a pretty natural vocation for me. I can’t even remember how long I’ve kept a journal, but long enough to know the difference between it and a diary. When I took an admin editing job at Rice University, I was afforded the wonderful opportunity to take personal essay classes from Marsha Recknagel, whom you’ll read more about in a second. It was life-changing and made me never want to stop writing. Or getting better at writing. And so, words have become my life. Every job I’ve ever had has involved an intense focus on writing in some way.
How does my writing differ from others in its genre?
I think I have a quiet kind of writing voice, and I have always been a quiet kind of girl. I’m also starkly honest–in writing and in speech–and my writing reflects that as well. Because I focus so much on words in my daily life, I think my writing seems highly edited. I think about word choice and sentence structure and tone and just the weight of language every second of the day, and I’m assuming that comes out in the way that I write.
How does my writing process work?
I just do it. When I had more spare time, I’d get up at 4 a.m., write for an hour, then take a long walk. The long walks would conjure more connections, so I’d come back and write whatever thoughts I’d had. And, actually, before that routine started, I used to work out at 5:30, then hit Starbucks with my journal, a book, and a writer’s notebook. I would write any interesting word or turn of phrase or treatment of words to tell a story in my notebook while I read. The rest of the time, I journaled. In the office, while waiting for something to load on my computer, I’d read a couple of pages of a craft book. That was before I’d started writing. Now, I have very little time to myself, so I take my manuscript and my computer to the coffee shop across the street, and I write there. I think about my memoir when I’m driving, or walking, or putting Oliver down. I try not to stop as long as words are popping in my head. If I find that I want to stop, I try to write one more page. Also, I always go back and reread what I last wrote. It pulls me back into the universe of my memories and helps keep me from falling into writer’s block.
I pass the baton to Marsha Recknagel and Ruth Foster:
Marsha Recknagel, my mentor, my muse, my friend, my teacher. For over twenty years, Marsha Recknagel taught literature and creative writing at Rice University, where in 2002 she became Writer-in-Residence. Her memoir, If Nights Could Talk, was published in 2001 and in 2004 was made into a movie, In From the Night. In 2008 she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, which not only changed where she lived but also her ways of expressing herself. In a new landscape, she turned for inspiration to the cycles and colors of the seasons, teaching herself to paint, collage, and create altars. Recently, after a fourteen-year hiatus, she has returned to writing. Now her words (a blog) and art occupy the same space on her website www.marsharecknagel.com. She now resides full time in New England, retiring from teaching in 2012.
Ruth Fowler I recently met through an amazing writing group and love her way with words. Ruth is a memoirist, screenwriter, and journalist living in Venice Beach. She oscillates between writing prose and scripts, depending on how much money is in her bank account. Originally from Wales, Ruth graduated from Cambridge University and then set off working her way around the world. Fifty countries later, she ended up in New York City, an experience she recounts in her first book, Girl Undressed, published by Penguin.