What a thrill it is to participate in the Writers Writing blog hop. I was invited and introduced last week by the lovely Ana Hays and am honored to add my voice to the conversation.
As most of my readers know, I’ve always been a writer. Tucked away in the back corner of our apartment’s basement laundromat, I’d pen stories and bad poems to the hum of the spin cycle and the smell of Downy dryer sheets. At eight, I wrote my autobiography — a memento that provides my teenage children with an endless source of entertainment. I wrote a YA novel in high school (and you must trust me when I say it will never see the light of day). My senior honors thesis was a memoir (also tucked away in a well-worn storage box), and I’ve published a collection of parenting stories, titled Table for Six.
What Am I Working On/Writing?
At this moment, I’m finishing the final draft of my most recent novel, Parting Gifts, a story of love and loss and the Mathers sisters, Catherine, Anne, and Jessica. Begun in 2010, this book has meandered its way through numerous iterations. It was most recently workshopped at the fabulous Connie Mae Fowler’s St. Augustine Writers Conference by the kind, gentle, and enormously talented Richard McCann. (He would advise me, however, to remove all the adjectives before his name.) I am also indebted to my incredible workshop participants — the ones who guided, inspired, and drank red wine with me. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the thoroughly impressive edits provided me by one of my favorite fiction authors, T. Greenwood. Her input has made this novel better than I could have ever imagined. Someday soon, I hope to be brave enough to release it into the wild world of readers.
How Does My Writing Differ From Others In Its Genre?
An early reader and editor told me that Parting Gifts (when it was still known as See How They Run) reminded her of Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres. So, in this particular case, it’s much more thrilling to discuss how my writing resembles someone else’s than to discuss how my writing is unique. If pressed, however, I’d say that my writing is honest, reflective, real, and often, brutal. Life is messy and painful in the midst of great beauty and joy, and those complex stories are the ones I prefer to tell.
Why Do I Write What I Do?
Reading was an integral part of my childhood. Books were my companions, my friends, my solace. When I read as a child, I recognized myself in so many of those words. The same is true today. There is such comfort in reading something, nodding my head, and saying, “Me too.” My goal as a writer is to inspire my readers to also nod and say, “Me too.”
How Does My Writing Process Work?
First and foremost, I never leave home without a notepad (or a book). I have story starters everywhere — in my car, on my phone, beside my bed, in boxes in the attic. I’m an unapologetic eavesdropper in public. Listening to other people’s conversations provides such insight into the complicated terrain of human relationships.
For shorter form writing (e.g., blog posts, essays), I sit down, write all my thoughts as quickly as possible before they seep out of my leaky 44-year-old brain, and then edit throughout the day. I find it’s best to sit on my words for awhile because the tone of each piece changes a bit with my mood. (Sometimes Angry Katrina makes an appearance before coffee, and it’s always best to caffeinate her before hitting “publish.”)
When I work on a novel or on memoir, I use a very loose outline to guide my work. The older I get, the more unreliable my memory becomes, so I take a lot of detailed notes to keep myself on track. My husband grows weary of me asking questions such as, “If she was born in August of 1963, how old would she be in December of 2013?”
I’ve been known to physically cut and paste pages of work during a revision, and in the heart of big edit, I’m typically surrounded by reams of used paper and empty glasses of wine.
I always — always — read my work out loud. In my opinion, it’s the best editing tool we writers possess.
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Next weeks blog hop will feature these three writers — all of whom I met via the world of words. Logan, Dawn, and I attended the San Francisco Writers Conference together, and Sherry and I were both named Midwest Writers Fellows. They are all fabulous, unique women and gifted writers. I hope you enjoy the diversity of their stories!
Logan Fisher is mother to two sons and a daughter. She often writes about what she learned from the many mistakes she made while parenting her sons as a twenty-something and how those mistakes guide her parenting today. She has a blog, Muddled Mother, that discusses the difficulties that often come with parenting, and she is a bi-weekly columnist for the award winning website, Hilltown Families. She was part of the 2014 cast of NYC’s Listen To Your Mother. You can also find her writing on Mamalode.com, Parenting.com as well as many children magazines including “Appleseed”, “Faces” and “Cricket.” She has co-written a children’s picture book with her good friend, Amy Fisher Quinn, entitled, “Cinderella Wore Glasses” and is currently working on a manuscript that chronicles the mishaps, mistakes and misjudgements she has made as a mother so that other mamas know they are not alone in their imperfections. Please visit Logan at www.muddledmother.org and https://hilltownfamilies.wordpress.com/category/logan-fisher/.
Most folks are surprised to learn that Dawn Pier grew up in a tiny landlocked town in Ontario Canada. That’s because shortly after the turn of the millennium, she packed the remains of the life she no longer wanted into her little silver pickup truck and drove southwest several thousand miles to an even smaller village on the Sea of Cortez in Baja, Mexico to follow her dream to learn to surf. On the path to surferdom, she founded a conservation organization to protect a unique coral reef and fell in and out of love more times than she’d care to admit. When she’s not immersed in water, Dawn writes for the travelogue Baja.com, sporadically overshares at her personal blog Dawn Revealed, and occasionally works as a developmental editor. She’s also a reader for the online literary magazine The Rumpus. In April, she was honored to be a guest on the KDVS radio show Dr. Andy’s Poetry and Technology Hour. Her current projects include a collection of poems and a memoir, in which she reveals the challenges and thrills she experienced as a 30-something single woman living, working, and learning to surf in Mexico. Dawn still lives on a Baja beach and plans her life around the tides and swells, proving some love affairs never die.
Sherry Stanfa-Stanley is a fiction, humor, and human-interest writer whose stories have appeared in The Rumpus and in the anthology Fifty Shades of Funny. This year, she has challenged herself with 52 new weekly life experiences far outside her comfort zone. They’ve ranged from visiting a nude beach (naturally, she had her seventy-five-year-old mother in tow), to babysitting quadruplets, to crashing a wedding reception where she accidentally caught the bouquet.
Through The 52/52 Project, she has pushed her boundaries, gained courage, and learned to laugh at herself in the most awkward of situations. The 52/52 Project is proof it’s never too late to reinvent yourself.
Sherry has shared many of her experiences online at https://www.facebook.com/The52at52Project and sherrystanfa-stanley.blogspot.com and is chronicling the project in a book.