Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Whys & Hows of Writing

Since the last few posts have been writing-related, thanks to the inspiration of the BNO crew, I thought a little more information about my writing life (past, present, and future) might be helpful. So here's my interview from the BNO blog. Hope you enjoy!

1.When and why did you begin writing?
The why is easy: I've been a voracious reader as long as I can remember. And when you read enough stories, you start to dream of writing some of your own. The first story I remember writing (I think I was eight or nine) was about a seagull who made friends with a beach frisbee. Their names may or may not have been Sparkle & Whisby.

My writing life really caught fire in January 2006, when I started keeping a devoted "scribble-book" or notebook for stories and ideas. Since then, I've tried to write every day.

2.What sort of genre do you write?
Creative nonfiction of various sorts. Most of it falls under the category of memoir or personal essay. I like to write about big questions--religion, ethics, love-- and bring a personal voice and an image-rich vocabulary to it. I also do a bit of literary journalism-- same kind of deal, but writing about other people, not just myself.

3.Have you been published? If so, what titles? Where can we find your book?
I've had two poems and one essay published in various issues of my college's literary journal, Saxifrage. I also have an article that I'm shopping around to magazines right now.

4.How do you define being a successful writer? What do you do to get there?
A writer is someone who writes. Let's start there. As long as I have a notebook that is filling up with words, I am a writer. Every day that I write new words, I am a success.

Long term, I want to share my stories with people-- maybe even let them change the world a little, as the stories I've read have changed me. And for that to happen, my stories have to be out in the world, not just in my notebook or saved on my hard drive. That means re-writing, re-writing, re-writing... and finally screwing up my courage to submit a story for publication. Scary stuff. But worth it if I want to be a published writer. :)

6.You come to a fork in the road. Which way do you go? Why?
Either way, I'll get lost within five minutes. No internal compass here.

8.What book are you currently reading?
Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, for the second time. Garcia Marquez has possibly the most beautiful writing voice EVER. In my personal opinion.

9.What are your current projects?
I'm working on a couple of essays right now-- one that takes a different angle on the life of Jesus, and an autobiographical essay about growing up female.

12.Do you have any advice that you would like to share?
Natalie Goldberg said it best: Keep your hand moving. When you sit down to write a first draft, Do Not Stop Writing. If you're frustrated or stuck, write a sentence about being frustrated or stuck, and then move on. Some of my best scenes/images have come when I thought I was out of inspiration and kept writing anyway.

Also, one of the things that has helped me the most in my writing life is the support of a writers' group. Writing's a lonely pursuit, and sometimes it helps to break out of that isolation once in a while. A group can keep you accountable to your writing goals and remind you why writing is fun. Not to mention that critiques from fellow writers are worth their weight in gold!

13.You're trapped on an island, what five things do you have with you?
Hmm... probably no wi-fi on the island, eh? OK then. A notebook, a deck of cards, a good long novel to read, a box of peach black tea, and a solar flare to call for help!

14.Quick, it's a Zombie Apocalypse! What do you do?
Grab my notebook & voice recorder and go to interview the zombies!

15.Your computer just died, does this ruin your writing day, or can you cope?
Nope-- that's what my trusty notebook is for. I actually find I'm more creative when I write first drafts by hand and then type them up. It's harder to make a "perfect sentence" without a backspace key, and if I'm not worrying about making perfect sentences, I get more done.