Thank you to my friend Cathy Warner who invited me to participate in this "blog tour." What that means, in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, is that a blogger answers some questions (determined, I suppose, by whomever first launched the current blog tour) and then tags two additional bloggers who then answer the same questions and tag two additional bloggers each and so on, allowing for the tour to expand exponentially until everyone in the blog-o-sphere has been tagged or enough new invitees eventually call it quits. I met Cathy through the Seattle Pacific MFA program. She is a poet, an essayist, and an editor of the "Good Letters" blog in addition to being the writer of her own blog, “This or Something Better.” Her first book of poetry, Burnt Offerings, was recently published. You can find Cathy's responses to the blog tour questions here.
The questions in this blog tour are:
- What am I working on?
- How does my work differ from others in its genre?
- Why do I write what I do?
- How does my writing process work?
What am I working on?
The most exciting thing on my writing plate right now is bringing my next book, Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure, to completion. I’m thrilled that Kalos Press is publishing it, with a release date sometime in 2015. Although the manuscript is written, there is editing and revising to do and lots of other getting-ready sorts of things. I’m also starting to think about the next book project and have been making some notes and doing some reading. It’s too soon to say what that is yet, however; I’m still figuring it out myself. Another thing I’m working on is this blog. After calling it quits in April 2013 I recently started it up again and so am allocating a good portion of my writing time to posting at least a couple times a week.
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I write in a genre that goes by many names – creative nonfiction, literary nonfiction, lyric nonfiction, personal essay, lyric essay. People who write in this loose genre have a personal slant to what they write, so their work, in terms of approach, content, tone, and structure, is largely a function of who they are. At a basic level, therefore, my work is unique because I bring my own experiences, interests, processing style, and voice to a project. One of my interests is faith and I often bring those kinds of inquiries to the page, which isn’t the case with much of mainstream creative nonfiction; similarly, mainstream spiritual writing does not commonly take the form of creative nonfiction. Regarding approach, my work tends to be idea-driven. While I draw on personal experience, I am more interested in following an idea or a question than in following my own narrative. In A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit wrote that "In essays, ideas are the protagonists, and they often develop much like characters down to the surprise denouement.” Yes to that.
Why do I write what I do?
Usually I write because I’m trying to figure out something, trying to answer one or more questions. When I wrote Just Think, the questions were how do you serve and love God with your mind and how do you keep your mind strong and steady when life seems increasingly unsteady and complicated. When writing Finding Livelihood, the triggering question was along the lines of how do you make peace with work (or lack thereof) when it's not all passion and bliss, although that question evolved and expanded throughout the writing.
How does my writing process work?
My process is very slow! Let me say I’m in awe of writers who can put out a book a year or write long weekly essays for blogs or other websites. I’m on the seven-year plan. It takes me a long time to write anything. Books for sure but even an essay is likely to have sections in it that I first wrote down or started playing with years before the essay was written. Partly that’s because I work full time and write creatively in the after hours and there’s only so much time to go around, but it’s also to no small degree because I find it takes a long time for questions to be answered or for thoughts to mature to the point of sending them out into the world. I write by hand much of the time and then archive lots of random writing in one long Word document that spans months and even years. I go through it and pull things out when it seems to be the right time to work on them. I print things out and cut them up and arrange them on my floor or tape them onto index cards to shuffle around. I am trying to find ways to better use electronic archival, retrieval, and writing systems but can’t seem to fully let go of the hands-on physical approach.
Thanks for reading. Now let me introduce you to the two writers I’ve tagged to pick up the baton for this blog tour.
Adele Konyndyk Gallogly is another writer I know through the Seattle Pacific MFA program. She writes fiction, essays, and book reviews, with a focus on justice issues. She also writes a robust blog, "The Greater More, The Smaller Less.” You can read Adele's blog tour post here.
Margie Haack writes a print newsletter called “Notes from Toad Hall" and a blog called "Toads Drink Coffee." Her memoir The Exact Place was published by Kalos Press in 2012. She and her husband founded Ransom Fellowship, which publishes Critique, a thought-provoking print magazine that my husband and I have been reading for years. Read her blog tour post here.
Adele and Margie will be posting their answers to these questions on their blogs. I’ll let you know when their posts are up, but in the meantime I hope you take some time to peruse their other posts and publications.
[Photo taken a number of years ago in Chicago on Michigan Avenue in front of Fourth Presbyterian Church and the John Hancock tower. It was the Sunday after Easter. Blue ribbons had been tied all over this tree that was still dormant from the winter. I used to have this as the banner of my blog.]