Lizbeth Meredith recently interviewed me for her blog, LAMeredith, and here is the result – some insights about writing, publication, promotion, and how to detach enough to write a memoir that keeps readers turning the pages. As Lizbeth kindly says, “I so admire your perseverance as a mom and as a writer. Your work is making a difference.”
I love games and words equally, so – voila! – blog tag with two wonderful writers. Thanks to my fellow Dream of Things author David Berner, whose new memoir recently won the Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year award, for “tagging” me.
Our publisher, Mike O’Mary, only purveys high quality writing, so I am honored to play blog tag with David. Here’s how it works: I answer some questions about my work, and then tag another writer. But first, the scoop on David.
His new book, Any Road will Take You There, is the story of a father who sets out on a cross-country road trip, one he never had the guts to take as a young man. He hopes it will spark a new chapter in his life. But the once-delayed journey now takes on new meaning when he’s forced to confront his family’s unsettled past.
David finds himself confronting an unexpected examination of his place in the world and the most important role of his life – fatherhood.
Now, back to our game of tag.
The Writers Blog Tag questions…
What are you working on?
I’m currently working on a treatment for a screenplay of Swimming with Maya, released by Dream of Things in 2013. I’d love to see the book adapted and made into a movie. Writing for film is very different from writing narrative nonfiction, so I’ve taken several classes and am now working with a screenwriting consultant to polish the draft. I recently completed a new book about my time living in a co-housing community – a hilarious and poignant disaster – that I’m currently fictionalizing. Fictionalizing it will give me more freedom to amp up the drama. So I’m in a learning curve with that project, too. I like learning new things and challenging myself to expand my skills. I’ve been writing professionally for four decades and I feel like there is so much more to learn.
How does your work differ from others in its genre?
Memoir requires a level of self-examination, vulnerability, and honesty that is tough for the writer but sought after by readers, who recognize the real deal. Swimming with Maya is about a difficult subject – the death of a child – and yet my aim was to make it uplifting and inspiring. I worked on the book for ten years. Perhaps my stubborn determination to go at it again and again until the story was the best it could be sets it apart. But there is so much good writing out there in the memoir genre, I don’t want to claim any special powers. I can say that I wrote my book with a lot of love, and I hope that comes through on every page.
Why do you write what you do?
I write about families – how they shape us, what it means to be a parent, how our children open us up to life. The co-housing book I’m working on is about a search for chosen family – an extended family I thought might provide the kind of support I was always seeking as a single parent. In Swimming with Maya, of course, I write about loss and grief recovery. But at a deeper level I’m writing about love, and how it changed me. I write about the gaps in my life – about the spaces that provoke me to grow – and I think that’s a universal theme readers can relate to.
How does your writing process work?
I write something every day – usually in the format of “morning pages,” a practice pioneered in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I find talking to the page in this way in a Moleskin journal (David also mentioned her writes on Moleskin) fundamental to keeping my own voice and sensibility alive. I also do my “studio time,” where I’m either writing something new or revising something I’m already working on. Recently I’ve been working intensively on my treatment for an adaptation of Swimming with Maya that I mentioned earlier – it’s in its fifth draft now – and about to undergo another round of revision. “Writing is rewriting,” as the saying goes, and that is certainly true for me.
Game of Tag
I’m thrilled to tag writer Lindsey Grant, whose brand new memoir, Sleeps with Dogs: Tales of a Pet Nanny at the End of Her Leash, has just been released by Seal Press.
Lindsey was my downstairs neighbor in the Grand Lake area of Oakland for a few years, and is the former program director for National Novel Writing Month. We are both graduates of the Mills College MFA in Creative Writing program, and for the years we were neighbors used to write together at a local café. Lindsey and her husband now live in Zurich, Switzerland. Her hilarious and poignant tales of being an overnight pet sitter will make you laugh and wince in recognition. If you love animals – and quirky people – run to the nearest bookstore or visit your favorite online bookseller and get Lindsey’s delightful book.
Tag, Lindsey. You’re it!