Seeing how I’ve pushed myself to write not one but two independently-conceived blogposts over a one-month period (hold your applause, please), I feel like it’s high time I took a break. And so for this, my third-ever post, I’m just going to go ahead and hijack someone else’s idea.
Another way to say this is: I’ve been invited to join a blog tour! And a pretty great one, at that. The idea behind the Writing Process Blog Tour is pretty simple: a writer answers a few questions about how and why and what they write, and then they ask a pal or three to do the same, and as the weeks go by, more and more of us share our precious secrets about the creative process, until eventually, probably in like mid-September, we all simultaneously self-actualize.
Well, something like that. I didn’t read the fine print.
I was invited to join by Kim Barnes (http://kimbarnesauthor.tumblr.com/), who I haven’t yet met, but with whom I’m quite familiar because (a) she said some fantastic stuff in the movie Bad Writing, and also because (b) she mentored my dear friend Anna Vodicka (http://annavodicka.wordpress.com/), who has said all sorts of nice things about her. Both Anna and Kim are gifted, generous writers, and I’m not sure what they’re doing palling around with a hack like me.
Anyway, I could continue with my tangents and self-deprecation for hours, but out of respect to the three of you who are still reading (okay so maybe I’m not done with the self-deprecation), I think I maybe ought to answer these here questions:
1) What are you working on?
Short, flippant answer: Way too many things.
Short, sincere-but-vague answer: Several projects, each of which I love, none of which I have time to dig into on a daily basis.
Longwinded run-on sentence answer: Well, if you’re asking about the capital-p Project I’m currently working on, I guess I’d have to point to my in-progress novel, Superiorland, a futurist story in which the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has been leased to a corporation and converted into a cultural and wilderness theme park, but, um, even though I’m really, really excited about that book, I can’t quite say it’s the one and only thing I’m working on right now, because I’m also spending an awful lot of time preparing for the release of my first book, Going Somewhere, and when I’m not doing that, I’m conjuring up all sorts of short fiction about waterways and waterpeople for the inaugural broadcast of the Steam Radio Syndicate, and when I’m not doing that, I’m writing really super embarrassing stuff in my journal.
Short, probably-most-accurate answer: A novel set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
For everyone’s sanity, I’m only going to talk about the novel here.
What I’m writing about is unique in several ways. First off, I don’t feel like many people know—not to mention write—much about the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. And as far as I can tell, there’s little to no fiction taking on some of the larger themes and events that shape my book’s story, including: rural gentrification, the rise of emergency management in Michigan, and the movement to create the 51st state of Superior.
The form of my story, also, is pretty unique. It’s written from the perspective of a guy who grew up in this state-turned-theme-park, and who is telling you the history of the place—how it transformed from the U.P. to Superiorland—while sitting in his cabin, in the middle of the night, speaking into a voice recorder. I’m trying to capture his voice while also rendering his oral history in vivid detail, a balance which, on my best days, feels like an exciting challenge, and on other days, ends with me in bed, eating a full pint of ice cream, watching 30 Rock reruns.
3) Why do you write what you do?
If I knew the answer to that question, I’m not sure I’d write at all. I know that’s a vague, gooey thing to say, but I think I mean it. I never quite know why I get fixated on any given story. I just know that it worms its way inside, and it nags at me, and even if I feel like it’s a kind of silly idea, I have to plant myself in the chair and dig into it, because if I don’t, by mid-afternoon I’ll get this pang of guilt for failing to answer a question I don’t even remember asking.
Less nebulously, I write to make sense of things I can’t work out anyway or anywhere else. I write for the feeling I get when it’s going well. And, actually, now that I think about it, I guess the single most important reason I write is to try and get home. Everything I’ve ever written is, in its way, about finding a way back home, wherever or whatever that might be.
4) How does your writing process work?
I usually wake up around six o’clock, and then I spend the next fifteen or so minutes lying in bed, having a mild anxiety attack. Once I’ve finished, I get up and make coffee, and then I get to work. I love writing in the morning, as early as possible, especially in the winter months. Sitting there in the dark, chipping away at a story no one has ever heard, feels like the best kind of secret. And at that hour, I don’t succumb to distractions, especially since I’m now writing my drafts by hand, on paper, away from the temptations of the browser. It’s just me, some music, a pen and a pad. Generally, I write for about three hours, and when I start getting all loopy and cranky, I get up and eat some breakfast and take a walk. Then I head out into the world, do my thing at Write Around Portland and/or the Attic Institute, and later on, if I’ve got the time/energy/dedication, I pop into my neighborhood bar to type and revise what I wrote that morning.
Coffee, dawn and silence for drafting.
Beer, dusk and noise for revision.
5) This isn’t really a question, but it seemed weird to cut the numbered list since I’m still using bold font, so please just bear with me.
I now pass the baton to one Kristen Forbes, who has written approximately nine million personal essays, all of which are worth approximately nine million re-reads. Kristen writes, with bracing honesty and clarity and wit, about the things the rest of us swallow or shove in the corner or talk about after four bourbons and deny the next morning. She is a brilliant writer and treasured friend, and whatever she decides to write (on Thursday, June 5th) will surely be more insightful than the drivel above.
Don’t believe me? Check out her bio (and head back to her site next Thursday!):
6) Kristen Forbes (http://krissymick.blogspot.com/) is a freelance writer whose articles, essays, short stories and one-act plays have been published in Bleed, Groundswell Magazine, Role/ Reboot, Bluestem Magazine, The Boulevard, Constellations: A Journal of Poetry and Fiction, The Rumpus, Front Porch Review, Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, Modern Love Rejects, Bartleby Snopes, Down in the Dirt Magazine, Wavelength Magazine, Aspens Magazine, Stork Magazine, Portland Tribune, Beaverton Valley Times, Tigard-Tualatin-Sherwood Times, Lake Oswego Review, West Linn Tidings, Regal Courier, Sherwood Gazette, Southwest Community Connection, Boom!, Clackamas Review, Estacada News, Forest Grove News-Times, Gresham Outlook, Oregon City News, Sandy Post, The Bee, South County Spotlight, Pause: Journal of Dramatic Writing, and the Stand Up To Cancer web site. Her short story “Hair Club for Men and the Peacock Lady” was voted the July 2012 Story of the Month at Bartleby Snopes. She holds a BFA in writing, literature and publishing from Emerson College and an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University.