Hi again, Wordamour readers. I’ve been wanting to get this blog re-started and Anna Leahy’s writing process blog hop seemed a great way to do that. Anna tagged me here and I encourage you to check out her blog, Lofty Ambitions.
It’s hard to keep two blogs going and I’m trying to commit to posting at least once a month on Huffington Post, which is a super-time costuming venue. But this will still be where I cross post those links and tell you about other things going on in the writing life that don’t fit on Huffpo. Anyway, here we go. Answers to questions about my writing life and the writing process with the next bloggers tagged at the end.
What am I working on?
I’ve got a couple of projects going. I’m working on a book length version of my Huffington Post blog, The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life, which is almost finished. I’m also deep into the research/backstory writing for my next novel, very tentatively titled The Gift, a multigenerational tale about a family in Queens, NY arising in the aftermath of the General Slocum Steamboat fire in 1904 (a disaster that claimed over a thousand lives) and moving through the twentieth century to the 9/11 tragedy. I’m also working on a few edited scholarly collections on creative writing and am hoping to draft a memoir in the fall called Dear Madeleine: Letters to the Daughter I Never Had, about gender in the 20th/21st century and the reasons why I am glad I have sons (hint: so I don’t have to watch a daughter go through some of the struggles I went through and that still burden women).
As of this Thursday, I will be on sabbatical through Fall 2014. Can you tell?
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I write in two genres, fiction and creative nonfiction and what’s actually a more interesting question to me is how my voice differs dramatically in each. My fiction voice is spare, precise, serene and empathetic. On the other hand, my creative nonfiction voice is edgy and funny, occasionally dramatic. Each seems to be written by a different Stephanie I carry inside me.
Why do I write what I do?
I write fiction to try and explore what puzzles me in life, namely how people survive overwhelming loss, and because I think these puzzles make for interesting stories. This was the theme of my last novel, The Lost Son, and, of course, it’s the theme of The Gift. In my creative nonfiction, I’m hoping to reach out to others, to help them find their way as writers (The Geek’s Guide), to stir up the often stodgy world of creative writing (Rethinking Creative Writing), or to call attention, again, to the situation for women in our culture (Dear Madeleine). I don’t know if anything will come of that last book, but I have been wanting to write it for a long time and after attending an inspiring session on women’s creative nonfiction at the last Associated Writer’s Programs (AWP) conference, feel ready to get it out.
How does my writing process work?
During the school year, when I have a full teaching load and direct the Arkansas Writers MFA Workshop, I work on whatever is on the top of the priority list, drawing inspiration from whichever writing project has the closest deadline. I write about ten to fifteen hours a week, sometimes during the week, sometimes on the weekends. If I write during the week, which I often need to do to keep my sanity, that means I do a lot of other work on the weekend. In the summer or when I’m on sabbatical, I write about twenty to thirty hours a week and spend the rest of my time doing writing-related tasks, researching, reading, posting about writing on social media, mentoring other writers.
I have a small but lovely studio/office at the back of our century-old house where I can write and where my books and bulletin boards inspire me—I’ve spent years perfecting this space, my “room of one’s own,” so to speak, and I feel very lucky to have it. Our dog, Mario, has become my muse and devoted writing companion however, and in that cliched, middle-aged way, I find myself preferring his company to that of a lot of people. So until I can find a way for him to lay beside me in my studio (I’m working on it) I do most of my writing on the sofa in our living room, with a large mug of coffee on my right and Mario curled up on my left. In fact, he’s right here while I work on this post.
I lean heavily on forces like National Novel Writing Month and similar structures to get those first drafts down. Drafting is incredibly hard for me and the part of the process I’m most likely to procrastinate about, so I know that I’ve just got to get something on paper or into my computer as quickly as possible so that I’ll have something to work with. Once I have something to work with, it’s fairly smooth sailing. I love to revise. My sabbatical will be spent getting a lot of words out and down because for me, that’s the biggest challenge and what demands the most time, angst and coffee. When it’s over (sniff sniff) and I go back to teaching in Spring 2015 (I love teaching but it’s a whole other full-time job) I hope to have several drafts to work on and bring to completion in the months to come.
Who’s next in my writing process blog hop?
John Gallaher: Read Poet John Gallaher’s blog hop on http://jjgallaher.blogspot.com next week! John Gallaher is the author of the books of poetry, Gentlemen in Turbans, Ladies in Cauls, The Little Book of Guesses, and Map of the Folded World, as well as the free online chapbook, Guidebook from Blue Hour Press, and, with with the poet G.C. Waldrep Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, BOA, 2011. His next book will be the book-length essay-poem In a Landscape, coming out in 2015 from BOA. Other than that, he’s co-editor of The Laurel Review and GreenTower Press.
John Vanderslice: No, not the indie songwriter. My husband, John Vanderslice, who writes at http://payperazzi.blogspot.com. John has published over sixty short stories in journals and magazines all over the world. His first short story collection, Island Fog, is due in September from Lavender Ink/Dialagos Press.
Dorothy Johnson: A lifelong dweller of the writing and publishing world, you can find out more about Dorothy here on her about page: http://www.reflectionsfromdorothy.blogspot.com/p/about.html The link to the page where she will be posting her answers to the blog hop questions is here: http://www.reflectionsfromdorothy.blogspot.com.