As part of a web-wide blog tour of writers, my dear friend and writing buddy asked me to participate by sharing thoughts on my writing process. Ross McMeekin is one of my favorite people. And his work, well, read for yourself, as he has many publications available on-line. His blog is Candle Fight. He posts breath-taking images of his surrounds, places that influence the interior and exterior landscapes of his characters.
I believe if you work your way back through the linked posts, you’ll find your way to the beginning of the tag thread. There are several threads out there from what I can tell from Facebook updates. What fun! I’m slowly making the rounds.
Next, I am tagging some writers friend of mine.
Mary Stein, new to the web-o-sphere, is certainly no rooky to producing some fine fictions. You can support Mary’s endeavor by checking out her little missives. She’s looking for blogs like yours to look into as well.
As well, I’m tagging my neighbor Kelly Salasin who shares personal essays and musings on a variety of topics from parenting to grieving to sex to living on a dirt road in Vermont, which in my mind are topics that have a ton in common. Click here to see what Kelly is up to.
On Monday, April 7th, their Writing Process blog posts will go live.
And now for some words on my process…
1. What are you working on now?
I’m working on a few projects at the same time. Over the past few years I have been writing and shopping short stories. I’m ready to pull together a linked story collection set in the fictional town of Stark Run, Vermont. Stories share place, themes, and characters that slip in and out each other’s narratives. At the moment, I have three possible ways of organizing the work. I’ve dedicated an index card, one for each story. I spread them out on a table and move them around, like in the game solitaire. I spend hours doing this. It’s a problem. I’m seeking help.
I’m also pleasantly engaged in the heart-of-my-heart project, my novel-in-progress, which takes place in Wellfleet, Cape Cod. I’ve just returned from what I call “a gathering retreat.” I didn’t have a plan or schedule any research appointments. I walked the coast and smelled the air. I slept and ate pastries from the French bakery. I collected artifacts from the beach, and took long drives to re-acquaint myself with the presence that got this thing started two years ago this May. That was also when I also discovered the French bakery. I wonder…
Third, I am writing a ghost story in shorts, told by a variety of narrators, in a sort of Our Town style, which may actually end up as a play. It’s my artsy project. And while I am quite fond of it, I keep that one fairly under wraps, although a piece or two from that one has shown up in print.
Finally, I submit, submit, submit. To the muse. To humility. To literary journals.
2. How does your work differ from others in the genre?
Hmmm. Since the projects aren’t completely finished, it’s difficult to say. I find that I tend to look more for similarities in others in the genre. I read something and think, Oh, I want to write something like that. And I write. I hope to emulate. Then I’ll mention to my reader friends, I’m going for something like this writer or that story and the friends will respond, But, it’s so different . So there’s a little reality check that I’ve failed, but maybe a little pride, too, knowing I’ve located something unique in me. I just don’t quite yet know what that something is.
One thing: I want my narrator to spark an interest in readers initially because of voice. That’s what grabs me as a reader. Also, since all writers are telling the basic stories over and over in different ways, I trust that the place, the characters, and the events that I’m drawn to write about will excite readers with similar sensibilities.
I’ll take a risk and say that the difference is in the details.
I wrote poetry for ten years. It’s what I made time for. I could write a few lines a day, or one piece during a quiet weekend. I’d feel satisfied. Nothing was held in limbo, or if it was, so much the better. After I retired from my full-time teaching job, I took an art class. While engaged in printmaking and collage, something in my brain was stimulated in a new way. When I sat down to write, fictional characters––the proverbial “voices”––started to speak.
Back then, I wrote on yellow paper tablets up in my tiny place. I wrote and wrote, scene upon scene. The narrative was all over the map––no cohesion, no arc, sloppy plots. Up to that point, I’d been reading a lot of fiction, but I never studied how it was made. My friend, Robin, told me about the MFA program at Vermont College and I applied to study poetry and fiction. In the end I chose one major, fiction. Fiction is where the energy was for me at the time and it stuck.
I still write poetry. I save poetry writing for just me. Some day soon, I may come out with it.
4. What is your writing process?
My writing process is all over the map, but I write in much the same way that I go on writing retreats. I gather. I generate. I walk, sleep, and eat. I edit. I look around. A lot. There are a hundred other things I do that involve grown kids and a granddaughter (love!), a fiancé, pets and friends, gardens and art, and the amazing Brattleboro Literary Festival. I try to work off the pastries at the gym or walking along this mushy road. I read. I wish I could say I had a writing process that could be helpful to someone reading this blog post. Somehow stuff gets done. Eventually.
Lately, I’m in a hurry to write everything all at once. Maybe it’s the snowmelt, the rushing brook outside my house, the wind, the mud. So I jump out of bed early, grab some black tea with a drop of raw honey in a mug I bought at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. It is written all over with famous first lines. I try to get in there, into that fictional place, before reality can beat me to it.
When I hear barred owls in the hemlocks, watch a flock of turkeys in the field, or come upon a couple of frogs hooking up in the ditch, they seem to say, keep going, keep going, we’re listening. It’s the ineffable that I rely on in those particular moments. Without that, I think there would be no process.
Thanks for listening.