FOUR QUESTIONS: BLOG TOUR

Thank you to Natasha Moni for tagging me on the Blog Tour!

1) What am I working on?

NONFICTION: I’m six chapters into a memoir about how music shapes us, how our relationships are shaped by music, and how songs influence who we are, how we love, and how we heal. I explore these questions through my story. While I was pregnant my then-husband wrote and recorded an album about leaving me. He assured me the songs were nothing more than “sad generic pop songs.” His actual leaving and the record release happened simultaneously. Our son was four months old, and I was left not only in the disarray of new motherhood and a dissolving relationship, but also with a public record of that demise broadcast over the radio and Internet. (That all sounds very serious, and it is, but there’s a lot of humor in it.)

Always, always have side work and other projects! I write profiles, book reviews, conversations with authors, and essays. I’m also laying the foundation for a book-length series of profiles that examines radical feminism, pop culture, and parenting.

POETRY: Earliest of early stages of a chapbook, working title And With It The Stars.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I don’t see myself as much of a genre bender. Sometimes this gets me down (because I don’t know why), but I’ve come to accept that there’s more of an accessibility to my style. That said, I do write toward the plunge, the moments of revelation where there is a bigger truth, a connection beyond my story. I like to play with POV and time in the narrative. In longer form, I like to use short-shorts or micro-essays to break things up, move the story through time, and shift into reflection.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write for discovery and connection. A loss early in my life rendered me somewhat empty, a hole that I have tried and tried to fill with little to no success, and at times bringing disaster and more heartache. I’ve learned that it can’t be filled, and that it’s okay to hold that emptiness as a part of me. There was a time, embarrassingly not too long ago, where I said, “I only write in short sentences or fragments! I’m raw, this is how I feel.” A wise mentor simply said, “You might want to rethink that.” I’m forever grateful that he did.

Writing is both urge and habit, how I puzzle through things and connect the joys to the sorrows to the joys, and so on. More and more, I also write for the spoken sound of the words, the way words transform between mind-page-throat-lips.

4) How does my writing process work?

In good spells, I’m a 3-page “morning pages” person. All kinds of juicy threads can come from letting loose, without an internal editor. Working on memoir, they’ve been an invaluable resource, even though 97% of what I’ve written makes me wince and cringe. Right now, I’m in a dry spell. Between work-work, MFA class work in my “free time,” and parenting a kindergartener…. Sleeping in that extra hour as won.

Each piece gets one yellow legal pad with the title only written on the first page. I start everything by hand. I free write, let my mind wonder and turn in whatever directions and hit dead ends. When my pen stops moving I write, “What I mean to say is…” which almost always leads me deeper or to something new. I write and write and write the shittiest first drafts with the shittiest spelling you can imagine. Then I reorder the paragraphs by numbering them, and then I type a shitty second draft, doing a semi-revision as I as I go. New ideas often get written and hashed on in the notepad, and I take notes, record ideas and feedback in there as well. Pieces really come together in revision, usually in the 3rd or 4th round, when a small piece of the structure presents itself or falls into place or I stumble into an unexpected revelation that speaks to the universal. I’m also a fan of cutting up typed manuscripts, and rearranging the pieces.

I almost always cry when I type (what I assume will be) the final line. Because I’ve learned something about myself and the world that I didn’t know before.

*****

I’m tagging these three fine writers to continue the PNW Blog Tour. Check out their blogs next week (9/8) to see their answers.

Lara Adrienne Dunning is an MFA Creative Writing student at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. She enjoys writing young adult fiction and nonfiction and is currently working on two different projects. In the young adult novel her orphaned protagonist travels to Alaska to reconnect with her lost selkie clan. In her personal essay collection she finds that her encounters with the creatures in the natural world often reflect the complexity of human relationships. Lara works for Fine Edge Recreational and Nautical PublishingBurrows Bay Associates and as a freelance writer. She is a member of Whidbey Island WritersSCBWI and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. She blogs at Toothless Cats and Pina Coladas. http://laradunning.wordpress.com/

Sarah Alisabeth Fox is a freelance writer and editor. Her articles and reviews have appeared in Montana, the Magazine of Western History and Western Historical Quarterly. Her first book, Downwind: A People’s History of the Nuclear West is forthcoming in November 2014 on University of Nebraska Press. She blogs at Overeducated Waitresshttp://sarahalisabethfox.wordpress.com/

Ana Maria Spagna lives and writes in Stehekin, Washington, a remote community in the North Cascades accessible only by boat, foot, or float plane.  Her books include Potluck: Community on the Edge of Wilderness, Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus: A Daughter’s Civil Rights Journey, winner of the 2009 River Teeth literary nonfiction prize, and Now Go Home: Wilderness, Belonging, and the Crosscut Saw, named a Seattle Times Best Book of 2004.  Her work has appeared in many journals including Orion, Brevity, North American Review, Oregon Quarterly and High Country News, and in anthologies such as Wild Moments, A Mile in Her Boots, and Best Essays NWwww.anamariaspagna.com

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