Monthly Archives: August 2014

My writing process blog tour [or: how I failed at this “chain letter” thing]

Last week a friend (Mary Ellen Sanger) sent me an email inviting me to be part of writers’ blog “tour.” I followed the instructions, sent out requests to all the writers I thought might be interested & hey, guess what – had no takers. Most everyone responded with, “I’m out of town,” or “I’m on deadline,” and some with “I don’t have a blog” … I was happy to see that instead of just talking or writing about writing, most of my writer friends are actually writing (!!) Anyway, I’ll answer the questions since I said I would and then at least this part of the blog tour will be over. (Sorry Mary Ellen).  Onwards…

Acknowledge the person who invited you and that the post is part of the MY WRITING PROCESS BLOG TOUR.

Step Two: In your blog post answer the following four questions about your writing process:

1) What are you working on? 

I’m always working on lots of different projects. I just sent out a short story last night that I wrote in one sitting during a crazy thunderstorm this past June. I sat down and did some brutal edits this past weekend and yesterday, it went out into the world. I’m also continuing to do the poem-a-day project wherein I write one poem every day during my lunch hour at work. And I continue to edit a novel that’s going to be going the rounds (again) this fall.

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

It’s mine and therefore, different. But I don’t write in only one “genre” (and hate that word) – I write literary fiction, I write horror, I write poetry, I write prose-poems, I write flash fiction. Writing is like exercise in the way that I could never just do treadmill or abs or upper body – I need to exercise all the different ways I write or I get bored and bogged down. I also do a LOT of academic writing and sometimes book reviews.

3) Why do you write what you do?

First, the editor in me needs to say that this question needs some work. Why do I write? or why do I write in the above-stated genres? I write because I’ve always written. I write because it’s part of being alive. I write because it’s harder than anything else I do & I love a challenge. I write because if I didn’t write, I’d likely lose my mind.

4) How does your writing process work? 

It really depends (sadly) on the rest of my schedule. I work full-time (M-F) and part-time (Black Lawrence Press) and go to school (starting a Ph.D. this fall).  I’m currently committed to writing a poem-a-day and have done this for the past four (?) years. I write these poems during my lunch hour at my day job. It’s become so much a part of my daily routine that it just happens. And when I miss a day, I have to write two poems to make up for missing that day.  I also put aside that internal editor whenever I’m writing first drafts of anything – poetry or fiction or non-fiction. Otherwise, I’d never get anything done. I don’t understand writers who take days to write a single sentence. Yes, I understand the attention to craft and detail and the passion for perfection. With my fiction, I go back and edit the f**k out of everything I write. My training as an editor (non-fiction and fiction) serves me well as does the rigorous work I did in the MFA program (New School).  Usually, I can trust what I think of as my internal “ear” that lets me just write and somehow simultaneously keeps track of making the words “sound” right. If I’m writing a story, I always read it out loud after I’ve finished it. This helps catch any “wrong” sounding words or repetitive phrasing. And of course, when I’m selecting poems for the chapbooks I do with Mary Ellen, I read the “finalists” out loud to catch any weaknesses. I haven’t been sending out my poetry lately but that will probably change this fall.

Novels are a different animal. I currently have three full-draft novels (I do the National Novel Writing Month thing nearly every year).  These I wrote all the way through until they felt “done.”  That part of the writing is a little like being possessed.         Then I let them sit until it’s time to dive in and edit. Right now, I’ve chosen one novel to do heavy structural editing and language work (line edits, word edits).  I tend to use a similar outlining process that I use for academic papers to help straighten out plot issues but often, I have to do this AFTER I’ve written the first full draft otherwise I get bored and feel like it kills the story. I also read the whole thing out loud to catch any repetitive or clunky language.  Once all of that is done, it’s going back out into the awful world of agents and editors in hopes of finding a home. I won’t self-publish my novels simply because a) it’s not what I want to do, b) that will do me no good on my CV, c) there’s a part of me that feels like that’s a really lame thing to do with my fiction.  It just feels very different to me than the poetry chapbooks.

And finally, my academic writing process is entirely different since everything has to be fully cited and rigorously researched and of course, is for a very different audience.

Step Three: Announce the three authors to follow, including short bios and blog/website links.

Would love to but no one responded in the positive so instead, here are some authors I know and like who have blogs you might enjoy reading. I’m posting their info simply out of respect for their work (and friendship) and NOT because they’re going to continue this writer-blog-chain-letter thing.

Monica Drake. blog

Monica has an MFA from the University of Arizona and teaches at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. Her debut novel, Clown Girl, was published by Hawthorne Books and won an Eric Hoffer Award as well as an IPPY. It’s been translated into Italian, and recently optioned for film by the brilliant Kristen Wiig (SNL, Bridesmaids). Her most recent novel, The Stud Book, is now out (Hogarth Books, April 2013) and doing great.

How I know her: I met her at Tin House in a writing workshop lead by Anthony Swofford. She’s awesome and a great writer.

Casey Haymes. here’s his Twitter.
And something he wrote.   And his blog

Casey Haymes wrote of the funniest stories I’ve ever read. It’s about Jimmy (James) Stewart and a “glory hole.”

How I know him: I met Casey at Tin House in a writing workshop lead by Anthony Swofford. He’s awesome and a great writer.

Anya Martin. website.

ANYA MARTIN is a fiction writer based in Atlanta. Her Womanthlogy: Heroic (IDW) dark comics fable with up-and-coming Spanish artist Mado Peña has received praise in multiple reviews. A long-time journalist, Anya is the founder, publisher and blogger-in-chief of ATLRetro.com, a comprehensive guide to Atlanta’s vibrant grassroots independent musicians, artists, writers, burlesque performers and roller derby queens of the thriving Retro revival. She also writes about retirement, real estate, health care, travel and other business topics for the Wall Street Journal and MarketWatch.com.

How I know her: I met Anya in the Smith College Bookstore my first semester Freshman year. She was wearing a PiL button. At the time I was wildly homesick & didn’t know anyone else East of the Rocky Mountains who knew who John Lyndon was.


the oncoming onslaught of another semester or, summer’s end

While seemingly most of the city is out of town on vacation, there are those of us who work in Higher Ed who are slogging away at all the myriad tasks that are required for a new college semester to get rolling. Full-time faculty are returning, as are administrative colleagues who were away on research trips. People ask me about my summer. My summer has been spent (mostly) in the city working and aside from one quick jaunt to the Adirondacks planned for Labor Day, is now over.  Next week I head out to the wilds of NJ for my new Ph.D. program’s Orientation & my classes start the day after Labor Day. Meanwhile, my writing suffers. I still write a poem-a-day during the week (sometimes more) but all the stories I started this summer remain in first or second draft – some likely to remain there for months. Sitting with a long-time artist friend over tea this past weekend, I listened to her talk about a documentary film she’s starting and catching up on her various other output (hard cover book of her illustrations, an installation, etc.). On Friday, I met up with two musician friends – one of whom is playing shows as part of a music-inspired-by-books series before heading out on a UK tour. The other has started a small press and is launching her own line of soaps and perfumes while continuing to play live shows and put out a song a week. Both have full-time jobs. Then I think of all the many creative people in this town who talk more about doing creative work than actually doing the work and I find myself happy to have such accomplished friends and hope that their ongoing creative work will give me the kick in the butt I need to finish my wayward stories and send them out before the pressures of maintaining two jobs and a Ph.D. program swallows all my mental energy. There is a plethora of articles (and books) on how women write when they have kids – maybe it’s time someone wrote about how women create while working full-time, part-time and trying to survive one one income in NYC.


depths of summer

A friend just complained to me yesterday that this summer has been “too cold.” Living on the top floor of a walk-up in the E.V., I’m constantly dealing with temps 10-20 degrees higher than those who live closer to the street. The street itself reeks of NYC in August – that sort of baked garbage & bodily fluids stench that hangs around well into September. And my a.c. has decided to quit. And my landlord is sending exterminators through the entire building whether or not we have bed bugs(I don’t – this time) and wants our apartments “empty” except for furniture. And my apt is full to the ceiling with books – all of which I’ve been sorting through, trying to choose which to keep, sell, give to friends or donate. I’ve also discovered a box(es?) full of manuscripts I’ve abandoned over the past few years – some deserving of abandonment, some not so much. All of which has brought me once again to some basic goals – not keep so much “stuff” and to finish more writing I’ve started. I’ll probably post some excerpts here and send others out into the wide world. Oh & I have the “summer cold” that’s going around and am thinking a farm in Oregon might be a better place for me to be. Meanwhile, here’s a book of “verse” about Oregon from 1914 by Andrew Franzen: https://archive.org/stream/poemsoforegonoth00fran#page/n3/mode/2up