Tuesday, June 10, 2014
My Writing Process (as a work in progress)
My fellow VONA alum and all around writer extraordinaire Joshunda Sanders asked me to participate in this blog tour (see her process at http://joshunda.com/2014/06/02/my-writing-process-forget-what-you-hear-about-writing/) and I agreed. Here goes:
1) What are you working on? I have been working on my memoir about growing up in the 1970's and 1980's in the Southern California area known as the Inland Empire (which back in the day was the antithesis of an empire). The memoir is tentatively titled "My Inland Empire: Hometown Stories". The book is told from the first person perspective of Jennie, a dreamer and the oldest of three sisters who live with their manic mother and alcoholic father in Ontario, California. The book spans Jennie's formative elementary school and teenage years and ends with her dropping out of high school and thinking all is lost. The themes of the memoir are loss, forgiveness, and the reconciliation of memory. Each chapter begins with a narrative (novel, movie, TV show) that Jennie imagines herself into and ultimately, Jennie must learn that she has to be the heroine of her own story. My memoir has been a seven year labor of love and for now, I have put it aside to give it some perspective. My goal is to do a final polish and edit and submit it to agents by the tail end of this year. My other recent project has been essays focusing on fertility after forty which I have all too much familiarity with (see http://www.xojane.com/healthy/cookies-dont-lie-or-i-waited-until-42-to-have-a-baby-and-i-am-hoping-that-it-is-not-too-late). I have been conducting research and would love to write a book on the fertility process and the heartbreaking nature of IVF which rips out hearts (and wallets) and too often leaves one broken and disappointed. The book would be about redefining expectations.
2) How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre? For me, memoir has to be the bloody and raw truth. Too often, people censor their writing and leave out the ugly details. I have been accused of being too open, but the writers I love the most just lay it all out there for everyone to see. I don't know if my work is different, but I do know that my story is all my own.
3) Why do you write what you do? For me, writing is a compulsion. My best stories come out like water from a tap. I know dedication is important but I think sometimes when I try too hard, I overwork a piece. Inspiration is important and my punk rock music always inspires me in my writing. I also write to quiet the demons in my head and heart and to find some peace through reconciliation. My childhood and young adult years were very difficult at times, but they also contained lovely and adventurous moments that I would not trade for the world. My goal is to always capture the characters in my life in a truthful and compelling way. That is not to say that finding that truthful portrait has been easy. That has been the hardest part and also the most cathartic. Through the writing process, I have had to try and see the holistic picture of my family as opposed to making anyone a stereotype. The truth is never one color.
4) How does your writing process work? I write in spurts while balancing my job as an attorney/public defender. Early mornings are always the ideal time for me. I try to blog at least once a week and always have something in the pipeline. My writing process is a work in process and my goal is to write every day this summer. Writing workshops have proven to be my biggest inspiration. At VONA (http://www.voicesatvona.org/), I met so many beautiful teachers and writers and it kick started my entire memoir writing process. I took this year off but plan on attending at least one workshop next summer. For me, having a writing community is the key and honing one's craft is an imperative. Finally, I think writing goes hand in hand with reading. I have always been a voracious reader and gravitate toward the memoir and young adult genres. Reading a good book always inspires me to be a better writer.
On June 19th, two of my favorite writers and friends will post on their blogs about their writing process. I know they will be fabulous.
Samuel Autman (http://www.samuelautman.com/) is an assistant professor of creative writing at DePauw University and has been widely published and is hard at work on Sanctified: A Memoir.
Gina Devore is a singer songwriter (http://www.reverbnation.com/coat), poet and writer of creative nonfiction.