Blog Hop: Writer’s on Writing May 12, 2014
Writing is generally a solitary pursuit. For most it requires quiet and for many (hello easily distracted mommy) it requires isolation (hello library cubicle facing the wall). As such, it has been a great comfort to also have found a community of writer’s who work actively to support each other’s progress both on and off line.
I met Laura Munson, New York Times Bestselling author of ‘This is Not the Story You Think it Is’ when I attended one of her Haven Retreats for writers in Montana. I attended the retreat to put some final spit and polish onto a part of the manuscript of The Angel in My Pocket that I was giving me a wee bit of trouble. I had heard she coaxed great work out of her attendees and met them each at their level (me, at that moment, feeling rather stuck in the basement). At her retreat I found more than just a thorough and thoughtful editor. Laura is fiercely devoted to anyone who comes to Haven to take a powerful stand for their creative self-expression and she works her magic both on the page and off during her retreats. It is no surprise to me that Haven was just named one of the top five retreats in the US by Open Road Media!
Last week Laura invited me to participate in a Blog Hop about Writer’s Writing and I could not resist. Here are my answers to the four questions posed to participating writers. Next week the three other writers whose bios are below will answer the same four questions on their blogs. I’m honored to share the page with these talented folks, each of whom happens to have a rather unique sense of humor and outlook on life. I look forward to sharing their responses with you next week and my responses are below. Please feel free to leave comments. I really enjoy hearing from you.
What am I working on/writing?
I’ve just completed a memoir, ‘The Angel in My Pocket’ (Viking, July ‘14). It is the story of finding my way through the depths of grief and back to a fully expressed life after losing my middle child at the age of six to a sudden high fever. In the book, I explore loss and resilience woven through a backdrop of the legacy of my family’s deep cultural roots in New England.
How does my work/writing differ from others in its genre?
Fairly quickly it became clear to me that I was grieving in a different way than others. I struggled initially with a numbness that was only slightly less crippling to experience than the full brunt of sorrow. I was filled with questions about what happens when we die, where we go, how the soul does or does not continue to exist. I tried to understand grief before I allowed myself to feel it. When I finally descended into the grief I felt alienated and as though I was doing it all wrong.
I wanted to know the possibility existed to survive and even thrive after the crippling blow of losing a beloved child. I became determined to learn and grow as a woman from the grief rather than stay mired in it. Although I would never be the same I could re-build strength in the broken places while also acknowledging the full weight of my sorrow. I found no books that gave me hope that that could be my outcome. I told myself that if I emerged on the other side as I desired that I would share my story in hopes that it would give assurances to others walking through personal crisis that they too could have a similar outcome. My experience seemed relevant to me not just for the experience of grief but for any game changing life event that knocked one flat. I took notes and wrote my way through the sorrow with an eye towards sharing it later if my story ended the way I trusted it would. It did and I have.
Why do I write what I do?
My way of coming to terms with the vicissitudes of life has always been through writing. I have found that on the blank page, with pen in hand, I can rage and rail, write circles around myself and yet one thing has always been true for me: If I keep writing, eventually the truth of the matter for me will emerge. The gift I receive through writing has always been peace. With each small gain of insight and release of troubling thought it travelled back up my pen, spiraled around my fingers, hands and arms and settled deep into my core. I hope some of my writing resonates with you.
How does my writing process work?
At the age of 12 a family friend gave me a black leather-bound artists sketchbook to use as a journal that I have to this day. It was the first of many that I have kept and in those books I explored the world of emotion and the landscape of my world through writing by hand. Although inefficient in this day and age, there is a palpable connection for me between the formation of words with my own pen on the page and the ability to access the full spectrum of emotion. The pen and paper remain my best tool. When I need clarity I have found time and again that the best way for me to understand is to write. The most honest pieces of my work are born out of writing sessions when I am hunched over a table, lightly clasping a pen and allowing the small muscles of my hand to form the shapes of the letters on paper rather than clickety-clack-ing them out on a keyboard.
Prior to The Angel in My Pocket most of my writing was in essay format, personal and probative in nature. As is likely no surprise to anyone, I was utterly lost when my middle child died unexpectedly and suddenly at the age of six. My perfect world was turned on its head and nothing made sense any more. Plunged into the depths of grief and an existential crisis, I was filled with nothing but soul-searing pain and questions. Writing was one of my lifelines and the journal entries and prose that I created in those early days of grieving were the early seeds of my book. I have written the past few years to pull the sorrow from my bones and and release it.
Next week’s Blog Hop Bios:
Ana Hays’ writing is published in the anthologies Nothing But The Truth So Help Me God—51 Women Reveal the Power of Positive Female Connection and Chicken Soup for the Adopted Soul. A former columnist and editor for Maui Vision Magazine, her writing has also appeared in Walnut Creek Magazine, Sybase Magazine, Touching Lives and other publications.
When she’s blogging, Ana writes about life’s curve balls, travel, and Avy Tails, stories told from the point of view her Australian Shepherd. Her Authorly Advise blog shares writing tid-bits from author interviews.
Ana is the founder of Write On Writers creative writing workshops inspired by the Amherst Writers and Artists method, and she leads workshops in Menlo Park, California where she lives with her husband, Ed and Avy, their prolific dog. To read more about Ana and her blogs, visit: www.anahays.com
Yve Sturman. Full time cop, part time writer and comedian. She is devoted to the idea that a person’s past does not define their future and she seeks to write works that inspire the human spirit. Currently actively blogging at “How not to be bored” and working hard at her first memoir, she also enjoys music, good food and good wine. But beyond anything else she is committed to her journey and where that road might lead her.
Jonathan Soroff, according to his twitter feed, is “a columnist, narcissist, braggart and one man mardi gras”. For 20 years he has been the lead columnist at Improper Bostonian Magazine and has written for everyone from The Boston Herald to People to London’s Royal Academy Magazine. He is the creator of It’sMyLifeGetYourOwn.com. Jonathan Soroff’s first book ‘Crimes of Fashion’ (June 2013) is a brainy and catty romp through a fashion empire.