the inside scoop on Tour de Blog—via Bill Wolfe and Caroline Leavitt and over to Kelly Simmons

Friday, September 19, 2014

Well, here we go. Mr. Bill Wolfe, that cool dude who reads only women's fiction and lives to tell the tale on Read Her Like an Open Book, tagged me (oh, the secrets, the secrets) on the My Writing Process Tour Blog. Bill, who keeps us guest bloggers honest, reviews incredibly interesting books, teaches for a living, and opines, but always kindly, is a tough act to follow. Equally tough is his tagger, Caroline Leavitt, whose inspirational story and stories (and blog) have been integral to the lay of my land for years.

(I've previously written about Bill here and Caroline here and many elsewheres.)

And now, here I stand, with questions to answer, pondering my capability.

I begin:

1. What are you working on? 
I am currently doing a final round of edits to a young adult novel that will launch from Chronicle Books in 2016. When that is done later this weekend, I'll return to two new projects—an adult novel and a book of nonfiction. Both are in the early 4,000-word stage, so inchoate, strange, and internal that I suspect I won't be able to describe them even after (if) they are done. They are projects designed to keep my mind whole, more than anything else, or as whole as this cracked vessel will ever get. In between, when feigning greater sanity, I'm writing white papers and news stories for clients and reviews and essays for the Chicago Tribune and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Oh, and a lot of student recommendation letters.

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I always think this is a question best left to the critics—though I hate to presume that any critic anywhere will have time for such a Beth Kephart conundrum. I guess the answer, for me, has something to do with that old cliche of staying true to myself (hey, if Tim Gunn can say it on national TV, I can say it in Beth land). I'm not interested in bending my work to meet the expectations of our time (whatever they are) or to fall in line with trends. I write what is urgent, what intrigues me. I write to find out what might happen next, a small and increasingly daring enterprise.

3. Why do you write what you do?
Because I can't help it. Because I get obsessed with some historical event (the Berlin wall, the Spanish Civil War, Florence after the flood), some force of nature, some sound in my head, something someone said, some trouble. Because the only excuse I have to think about it longer is to begin to write a book. Otherwise, in my dim and insufficiently capacious brain, all is fleeting. And because I think that what we write has to matter in a broader way. We live in perilous times. I want to understand them. I want my stories and my work to lead others down inquiring paths. I also want my readers to think about language in new ways, and so I write what I hear in my twisted head.

4. How does your writing process work?
It rarely does work. Most of the time I'm doing my day job. But when I find patches of time I hunch my shoulders, draw out a pen (literally), sit on the couch where the depressed cushion suggests I should each less chocolate, and get going. When I'm writing I am living inside a fortress of books and newspapers (on some days the research is my favorite part). When I'm writing there's a happy buzz inside my head, except when the writing isn't working, which is an astonishingly large chunk of the time. Boy, I can write some really bad stuff. Boy, I can go off on tangents. But, hey. Nobody sees that, at least in the beginning. Nobody but me and my chocolate bars.

For the next stop on the blog tour, I nominate Kelly Simmons,who is not just a terrific, funny, compassionate, hardworking writer, but a starred writer, too, and a dear friend. (Kelly also knows where the best V-necked turquoise T-shirts live in the local shop, and she will join you in the consumption of six-ounce shrimp at the drop of a dime; she also forgives (I think) your poorly typed text messages; finally, I wish to add that, when you are walking together down Sugartown Road, the boys in the cars all stop for her, the Kelly Phenom.) Kelly's third novel (for adults, people!), One More Day, was PW announced days ago. It will be published by Sourcebooks next fall. I've read a few pages here and there. Ladies and gents, get ready for Wow.


Serena said...

I love these little Q&A sessions! :) Me and the chocolate bars on my couch applaud you.

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