My Writing Process—Blog Tour

I was invited to participate in this Writing Process Blog Tour by Kelcey Ervin Parker, whose first book For Sale by Owner (Kore Press) won the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Award in Short Fiction. I highly recommend these stories. They’re smart, funny and insightful. Her latest book is the highly praised Liliane’s Balcony (Rose Metal Press), a novella set at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Read her post from last week.

Here are my answers to the four blog tour questions.

What are you working on?

I’m completing a draft of a novel called The Education of Angie Rubio. Each of the chapters deals with a lesson or set of lessons about life, race, and identity that Angie learns in and out of school and against the backdrop of the social and political events of the ‘60s and ‘70s. These are lessons of winning and losing, belonging and not belonging, and overcoming the divisions caused by race and gender. These chapters started out as stories, but taken together there seemed to be a natural shape to them, which made me want to see if I could create a compelling arc of character and action.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I suppose Angie Rubio could be considered a coming-of-age novel, which comes in many flavors. Jane Eyre, Catcher in the Rye, Goodbye, Columbus, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit—all different. A book that comes to mind when I think of an inspiration for my project is The Diary of Adrian Mole by the late Sue Townsend. It’s a hilarious, sharp, intelligent book, so I have much to strive for. Unlike Townsend’s, my novel is not in diary form and my story is not satirical; my protagonist does not suffer from pretensions, which is where much of the hilarity of the book is rooted. But Townsend’s work is a model for me in the way she so precisely captures not only the adolescent angst of Adrian, but also how that angst plays against the social and political issues of the time—something I’m hoping to achieve with Angie.

My character Angie is earnest, a bit too self-reflective, and anxious to find her place in the world. While Angie doesn’t look like the subject of this painting by Lupita Shahbazi, she does match the mood of the piece in many ways. Lupita Shahbazi is a California artist. We graduated from the same high school in National City, though she was several years behind me and we didn’t know each other back then. I’m a fan of her art. Take a look at Lupita Estudio Azul Solamente. Give her Facebook page a like.

Why do you write what you do?

I’m interested in answering the question, “What would happen if _?” In a given a set of circumstances, what decisions and actions would a person make and what consequences would ensue? In my novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced, I was interested in what it was like for someone to leave a country to make a life in a new one. In my as yet unpublished collection of stories, some of which can be found online, I follow three generations of a family as each faces particular barriers and complications in search of a sense of place and belonging. I think this search is reflective of my own experience. Maybe that’s true for all of us.

How does your writing process work?

I think about a character and a situation for a while until I come upon an entry point to the story, a scene that gets me started in the life of this person, which is not necessarily the first scene of the story, but a place to figure out where to go from there in developing the narrative. Sometimes, I’ll just summarize in a short series of statements the trajectory of the character. Sometimes, I’ll just jump in and write scenes that may or may not be sequential. Often, I start with exposition and get carried away with that. I’m the queen of exposition. Thank goodness for my writing group which always reminds me to use scene. So, yeah, the writing group—an important aspect of my process.

Here are the three writers I have tagged for next week. Look for their posts on August 13!

Deborah H. Anderson is a mom, a writer, and a teacher who sings, reads and swims for fun. And she is ordained. She considers herself a social contemplative—a person who has spent a lot of time reflecting on a very busy life with diverse experiences that have yielded a lot of wisdom she wishes to pass on to others. She blogs at Meals and Moments: Real Encouragement in a Virtual World and Under the Rock: Encouraging Faith Based Leadership.

Esther Altshul Helfgott is a nonfiction writer and poet with a Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington. She is the author of Listening to Mozart: Poems of Alzheimer’s (Cave Moon Press, 2014) and Dear Alzheimer’s: A Caregiver’s Diary & Poems (Cave Moon Press, 2013; Two Sylvia’s Press, e-book, 2013). Her writing appears in Dementia Arts: Celebrating Creativity in Elder Care by Gary Glazner (Health Professionals Press, 2014) and is forthcoming in Eric Pfeiffer, M.D.’s Mastering Caregiving in Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementias (Yale University Press, 2015). Esther is a longtime literary activist, a 2010 Jack Straw poet, and founder of Seattle’s “It’s About Time Writer’s Reading Series,” now in its 24th year. Her blogs are Witnessing Alzheimer’s: A Caregiver’s View and Esther’s Writing Works: for Memory, Healing & Art’s Sake.

Tamara Sellman is a published writer who has worn many literary hats in the last 30 years: food blogger, poet, writing coach, developmental editor, magical realist storyteller. She is currently wearing the science writer and essayist hats, depending on her mood and deadlines. Her blog is Rhymes With Camera.