That meme about what are you working on next is going around, and my friend Kate Sweeney tagged me. Have you read Kate’s book American Afterlife? You oughta, and not just because I blurbed it. Kate doesn’t know this yet, but it’s going on my narrative nonfiction syllabus fall semester. (Oh, now she knows it.) It’s that good.
So, here are my answers to the meme.
1. What am I working on? A novel. Yes, fiction. Fiction is harder than creative nonfiction, I think. I have to make stuff up. But this novel is based on a real person’s story which I think begs to be fictionalized, since much of what she did to support her family was a kind of fiction. It’s based in the late 19th century, and involves a teenage girl with more responsibility than she bargained for. Do I detect a theme in my work?
2. How does my work differ from others in its genre? Other than it’s written in my voice, and my sensibility, I can’t answer that yet. John Lennon is alleged to have said “there are only 88 keys on a piano, it’s all in how you play them.”
3. Why do I write what I do? In an essay I wrote for Tin House magazine last year, I tried to figure that out. I’m drawn to stories about young women who make the wrong choices for the right reasons.
4. How does my writing process work? Poorly. I try to plant a flag in three to four hours in the morning to write, but life interferes, as in teaching – which I love – or an appointment that can’t be rescheduled, or this or that. I love writers’ retreats for that reason. I’m forced to be face to face with my work for days on end, and as hard as that is, I love it.