My incredibly rad and talented friend and former colleague, Kelcey Parker, invited me to join the My Writing Process Blog Tour and I’m finally taking her up on the invite. Not only are her responses to these questions smart and thoughtful, but her blog, ph.d. in creative writing, features interviews with tons of writers discussing how and why they write, and is worth spending some time with. I’m passing the nominations on to three really wonderful writers: Chris Bower, Éireann Lorsung (who’s already done this but I’m nominating her anyway) and to Suzanne Scanlon. Bios and links to their blogs follow my answers:
1) What are you working on?
Moving. Setting up new utilities accounts. Recovering from mold. I’m working on waking up earlier and going for a run every day. I’m trying to read more. I’m trying to correspond more. I want to write an essay about softness, and I’m making notes on that. I’m finishing a short story collection, and I’m working on a new novella about cross-dressing nineteenth century sailors. And a YA novel about ghosts. And another novel that is about murderous sisters in a CS Lewis style fantasy world. And some more stories.
2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I don’t think it does, that much. Or maybe it does, a lot? I’m not consistent. I use a lot of alliteration. I love repetition in ways other people find annoying.
There are a number of writers I feel a strong kinship to, in style and/or subject (Lucy Corin, Jenny Offill, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum) - I hope my work is in some ways like theirs; I’m interested in fragmented narratives, fairy tales and liminal spaces.
3) Why do you write what you do?
My first thought in response to this sort of ridiculous question is to say “because” and leave it like that. And then, because other people I like and respect have come up with answers, I wonder why I am initially so dismissive, mean feeling, even, about answering this. It’s too prying, maybe, too intimate. Or perhaps I feel like, whatever answer I give will be somewhat false and certainly incomplete. But here goes.
Everything I write is in some way a response: to another piece of literature, to an experience I’ve had, to a news story or a dinner party conversation. The first short story I ever published was written when I heard a radio story about a man about my age in Chicago being killed a week after his wedding. I couldn’t help but want to write about his widow; that story became a tiny sci-fi piece called “The Wormhole, A Romance.”
Recently, I’ve finally become invested in literary theory - I wasn’t an English Major, and went to an art school for my MFA, so I missed out on a lot of that, but it has led me to write quite a bit in response to historical narrative and to published literary works. I write to examine and explore what I see as gaps in pre-existing narratives; places of confusion for me. At the same time, I’m not interested in “filling in blanks,” per se, but finding different openings, new empty spaces.
4) How does your writing process work?
I am a very inspiration based writer - I need an external spark to begin a story - often it is something I read, sometimes is an actual writing prompt (at least half my short stories come from Ray’s Tap Reading Series themes.) Then I need a deadline. Then, I lie in bed or sit in a very cosy chair and write tiny fragments of whatever I’m trying to do, gradually amassing them into larger and larger pieces. Sometimes, when I’m stuck, I go for a run. Sometimes, I watch internet TV or invent chores for myself. I spend a lot of time sort of soft-focused staring into space, which you might call meditating, if you were being kind.
I also do a lot of research. For my novella, Bell and Bargain, I spent a lot of time in historical archives, including the Chicago History Museum and the Historical Society of Butte, Montana. The research I do sometimes doesn’t seem finished work, but it all becomes part of the word-building I do in my mind as part of writing.
I play around a lot with form. Work can start out as tiny pieces and stay that way, of they can glom together into large blocks of text. I play around with voice, with POV, with tense. I constantly change and destabilize my work, shaking things up until they fall into place.
Here are my nominees! They will post their responses in the near future (though Eireann was kind enough to have done hers in the past):
Suzanne Scanlon is the author of Promising Young Women (2012, Dorothy). Her new book, Her 37th Year, an Index, is forthcoming from Noemi Press in 2015. She lives and teaches in Chicago, where she also writes non-fiction about writing and teaching, and theater reviews for Time Out Chicago. suzannescanlon.tumblr.com
Chris Bower's novella The Family Dog is forthcoming this November in the Rose Metal Press anthology My Very End of the Universe, and his illustrated short story collection Little Boy Needs Ride will be released by Curbside Splendor in 2015. He’s also the curator of the Ray’s Tap Reading Series, in Chicago. holdmyhorses.tumblr.com
Éireann Lorsung has published two books of poetry, Her Book (2013) and Music to Land Places By (2007), both from Milkweed Editions, and the chapbook Sweetbriar from Dancing Girl Press, and is working on a novel about the 2011 earthquake in Japan. She lives outside of Ghent, Belgium, where she runs the micropress, MIEL. She’s already answered these questions, here. ohbara.com