Monday, April 14, 2014

The Writing Process

Thanks to Holly Schindler for tagging me in this blog hop! Here are my answers to the questions all the participants are answering.

What am I working on?
I’m frantically trying to get a draft of a new book in shape to send to my editor by May 1! The working title is FAIREST: THE STEPMOTHER’S TALE, and as you can probably tell, it’s a retelling of Snow White from the point of view of the stepmother. In my telling, she’s not a witch, and in fact is Snow White’s ally. It’s set in the early twelfth century and weaves in druids, the King Arthur legend, the Crusades, and all sorts of fun stuff.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
There are lots and lots of retellings of fairy tales. In fact, the working title of my next book (THE STEPSISTER’S TALE) was “Yet Another Cinderella Retelling.” What I like to do, though, is to explore the person normally portrayed as the villain and portray her (so far, both of them have been female) in a sympathetic light. There are always two sides to a story, you know!

Why do I write what I do?
Beats me. It just interests me!

How does my writing process work?
I usually circle around something for a while and then write in spurts. Once the well has run dry, I walk and think and ruminate and suddenly several scenes (or at least one scene) will pop into my head. Then I write and write. If I force it, nothing happens. Well, I do write something, but I wind up deleting it the next day, which sucks. So I don’t write unless I’m pretty sure what I’m writing will be at least partially usable.

Be sure to check out the three writers I tagged to answer the same questions!

Jane Warren has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and undergraduate degrees from University of Calgary (BEd) and McMaster University (BPE). She has published two-dozen short stories and poems in literary magazines in Canada and the UK and has served on the editorial collectives of literary magazines. Currently she lives in the Netherlands where she works as an editorial consultant. 

Vicky Alvear Shecter writes both fiction and nonfiction set in the ancient world. Her recent Cleopatras Moon tells the story of the daughter of Cleopatra. Her creative nonfiction book about Egyptian mythologyAnubis Speaks! A Guide to the Afterworld by the Egyptian God of the Deadreleases October 2013. She blogs at History with a Twist.

Renee Gian has been an ice cream server, a mannequin model (you know, those people who stand perfectly still in store front windows while you make faces at them), a French teacher, a Latin teacher. She is now currently a middle school art teacher in Cairo, Egypt where she lives with her son and a menagerie of cats. She also still spends a great deal of time imagining, but now she writes most of it down in the form of picture books and middle grade novels. She blogs at Word Disco.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Another Ending

One thing I swore to myself when I quit my day job was that I wouldn’t be one of those people who told her work friends, “Don’t worry—we’ll still see a lot of each other!” and then drop off the earth.

Years ago, I formed an organization of non-tenure-track faculty at Vanderbilt whose purpose was mutual support, which mostly involved getting together for a beer once a month and telling horror stories about the administration. We called ourselves “LWA” (Lecturers With Attitude) and our meetings were well attended, with anywhere from six to ten people at a time. Even after I quit teaching, I continued to call regular monthly meetings.

Numbers started falling off this academic year, and then I was unable to call a meeting for a few months due to writing deadlines and a move, but now that I’m settled in the new house I proposed a meeting last week. We’ve moved away from the university neighborhood and are on three wooded acres. Yes, it’s idyllic, but it feels awfully removed from people I used to spend a lot of time with, so I was happy when half a dozen said they’d come.

As it turns out, only one other person came, and she’s someone I see weekly anyway at a different social event. We had a great time and wound up staying for dinner, but on the drive home I came to the conclusion that LWA had run its course. Whether it’s because as founder my regular presence was necessary for it to flourish or because the turnover in lecturers meant that I didn’t know anyone new to invite as long-timers moved on, the group has clearly been on life support for a while.

So I pulled the plug. I was doing more listening and sympathizing than sharing of war-stories, and of course I can (and will) continue to see many of the attitudinous lecturers individually. Still, I’m a bit blue, I think more because the end of this group signals another end of that former life. The new life is great, don’t get me wrong—but change is always a bit unsettling.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Scheduling Reading Time

If you had told me at almost any time in my life until now that I'd actually have to schedule time to read, I would have questioned your sanity. But that's exactly what has happened.

I thought that one of the benefits of quitting my day job would be more time to do things like reading. What I didn't count on was that in the past, reading was often a reward for a hard day at work. I'd tell myself that for every lesson planned, every stack of quizzes corrected, every afternoon spent in a meeting I'd allow myself a chapter or two of the book I was in the middle of reading. And of course, usually that chapter or two stretched into three or four.

I still have hard days (I'm currently revising a novel and having to wrestle with more than the usual number of problems, a short week after moving and unpacking and trying to organize a new space), but now they're of my own choosing. I can postpone the revisions as long as I want, right? I don't have to agonize over the perfect word, instead settling for an okay one. So why should I reward myself for something self-imposed?

The upshot is that I'm starved for reading, but every time I crack open a book I've been looking forward to, something pulls me away. But writers have to read, just as painters have to go to galleries and musicians have to go to concerts.

No more. Starting today, I sit and read, with no electronics within reach, for a solid hour. AT LEAST.

It started off well, with a lovely middle-grade novel called The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky by Holly Schindler. I'm nearing the end, and I might just go over my allotted hour to see how the story of Auggie and her grandfather turns out.