Write to Make a Good Thing, Not to Publish. If Publishing Comes, Good. But the First Connection Must Be with Your Self.
Even though anyone can publish anything at any time nowadays, the headline on this blog remains some of the best advice I've ever heard about writing. It comes from my old friend and teacher, John L'Heureux, Director of Stanford University's Creative Writing Program and an accomplished novelist who was also an editor at The Atlantic Monthly. But I don't quote it here because of his authority. I repeat it because I know from experience that it is true. To paraphrase Kurt Vonnequt, Jr., writing is "soul-growing work." The more you make that connection with the inner you, the more you become who you really are. In a world that constantly asks us to fit in, become part of the herd, deny inner truth, this is achievement of high importance. This is the truth I have in mind as I answer the following four questions in this week's Author Blog Tour, with gracious thanks to Anthropologist and Author, Trish Nicholson of New Zealand.
What I'm Working On
It's a serialized novel called CROWED, which I'm publishing one story at a time. Four novellas and one introductory short story are available now on the Amazon Kindle Platform. I expect to have Part 6 of the series, another novella, ready for publication in about two weeks. The others are available here amzn.to/1knNkzY
How My Work Differs from Others in It's Genre
I got the idea for my novel series from Playwright, August Wilson, whose goal was to write a play set in each decade of the last century. I recognized my own material in his plays while writing theater reviews for the Seattle Weekly. His stories were not my stories, but the gradual progression of African-American life from decade to decade was certainly something I knew about. When I saw The Piano Lesson, for example, I recognized characters who visited my home and lived in my neighborhood when I was growing up during the cusp years of the American Civil Rights Movement. The review I wrote was full of memories triggered by Wilson's play. In his way, though I never met him personally, his work influenced the stories I would tell later, the ones I'm working on now. But here's the thing: when you write fiction that is rooted in the connection you make with your inner self, the stories will be uniquely yours. So while my stories draw on material you will find in The Butler or The Color Purple, those stories are as different from mine as is Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls from Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried or Eric Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. Big differences. Bottom line: My stories are about the struggle to become yourself when the rest of the world cares more about race and other irrelevances. I don't know of any other writer who is tackling this material in quite the same way.
Why I Write What I Do
Short Answer: I don't really know. The stories I write are part of what's in me. I sit down and do what writers have been doing throughout human history. "Sing, Muse," I say. "And through me tell the story..."
My Writing Process - How It Works
Usually I will "hear" a first line that contains all the elements I need for the rest of the story. I get this, I suppose, from John Cheever, who was a favorite of mine when I was still in literary knee pants and who remains a favorite today. But I think my process comes mainly from reading. I usually write first thing in the morning, while I'm still relatively close to the unconscious world of dreams. I give it two to three hours at most. Then I put it away and try not to think of it again. It took me a long time to learn this. You must it leave it alone. Never, ever write yourself out (do not empty yourself). The next morning, the glass that was nearly empty is now filled to the brim again. You have new energy, new insight, and sometimes even a new take on what you wrote before. Mark Twain, Faulkner, Walter Moseley, all recommend this approach, and now that I'm taking their advice, I can report it really works for me.
Other Writers on This Author Blog Tour
Fiction writer, produced playwright and poet Claire Ortalda has been published in numerous literary journals. She is winner of Georgia State University and national Hackney Fiction Prizes, among other awards. She is an editor for Narrative Magazine and an officer of the multicultural writing group PEN Oakland. Her children’s novel The Stair in the Wall, a multicultural fantasy, was recently published on Kindle. She is currently completing a novel of “obsession and history,” Edenvale. Her blog is here. @clairelorrraine
Helen Cassidy Page is a San Francisco Bay Area writer, author of two heart-healthy cookbooks with John Schroeder, M.D., of Stanford University. Her work has appeared in Gourmet Magazine, Bon Appétit, Self Magazine and Men's Fitness, among other publications. She has published a collection of children's books, and under the pen name, Cassie Page, has published four cozy mysteries. Her novel, The Equal of God, set in 19th century Ireland will appear in Spring, 2014. Her blog is here. @bulkarn
Luciana Cavallaro grew up in a small country town in Western Australia and is the first in her family to attain a university degree. She began writing as a cathartic exercise after a traumatic car accident. Since then she has attended writers’ workshops and is a member of various associations. Luciana has always been interested in Mythology and Ancient History but her passion wasn’t realised until seeing the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. She has written a collection of short stories Accursed Women and is revising her epic novel. Four of the short stories featured in Accursed Women are published as eBooks and available from Amazon, Kobo and Smashwords. You can find her here. @ClucianaLuciana
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