I am posting today about my writing process thanks to writer-poet Jan Morrill tagging me to answer certain questions about this as part of a blog hop. Jan is author of The Red Kimono, a novel about a Japanese-American girl interned with her family in the Rohwer, Arkansas, camp during WWII. Maybe you’d like to try to win a copy of her latest book, Life: Haiku by Haiku, by submitting a haiku on her blog during April, which is Poetry Month.
Question 1) What are you working on?
My focus is more on encouraging others to write down some of their life stories or those of their elders. I’m particularly passionate about gathering stories of our WWII generation who grew up in a near history most of us can’t imagine. Personal stories tell what really happened, what history books don’t tell or can only gloss over. Currently I’m working with a military veteran putting together his memoir of life as a medic in the Korean War. I am learning a lot from him. A horrifying lot.
Question 2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I pretty much stick to writing (and reading) about history and culture. I like to learn, and life is too short for all the learning I want to do. I like to work with everyday stories of everyday people. Ordinary people are special, too, and their stories are worth telling, at the least for their families. Some have been downright astonishing. I don’t write slick, commercial-interest stories. I am more of a ghostwriter and editor, so I keep the voices of the people telling their stories. They are not MFA grads, so I write their stories or clean up their work to make it read nicely and to make sure the stories have structure. I work hard not to insert my writing style into their stories. The biggest compliment I can get is that the family hears their loved one speaking in the writing and that they learned something about that person they never knew before.
Question 3) Why do you write what you do?
I like to capture personal history before it’s lost. Maybe you’ve heard how every person is a library, and when they leave this earth their library is gone. I want to save these libraries full of history, adventure, and perspective. I also think it’s important for families to keep their own history alive, to know where they came from, their traditions, and what their ancestors lived through. If one generation doesn’t care, the next might.
Question 4) How does your writing process work?
I keep myself very busy, pulled in all directions, so it’s hard to find blocks of time to write. I have a part-time job, too. I don’t have a specific time set aside each day, but my usual time for writing is at night, after supper and any chores, and often I stay up pretty late, sometimes to 3:00am. Since I work with true stories, mostly I’m just editing them and doing research to make sure they are historically and culturally correct. Typically, I work with a series of short stories. I have to edit individual stories and then figure out how to put them together in a way that makes sense. Each story needs a good beginning and a wrap-up end, and there has to be an overall beginning and ending to the series. Of course, the real author has to agree with everything I write. I go back through and edit for consistency and flow. Lots of editing!
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Next Monday hop on over to the blogs of the writers I’ve tagged to hear their answers to these questions. (I’ll be hosting Mary Gottschalk on my blog next week since she’s in the midst of blogging a series of posts exploring issues found in her new novel.) Memoir and life writing are considered narrative nonfiction, so we can learn from writers of both nonfiction and fiction.
Jeffrey Penn May, of AskWriteFish.com, has received several short fiction awards, a Pushcart Prize nomination, and an excellent book review in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and he has recently published his humorous narrative Eight Billion Steps: My Impossible Quest For Cancer Comedy.
Kristin Nador, who is currently working on a contemporary suspense novel, encourages creatives to find their own unique voice at her blog, Kristin Nador Writes Anywhere, where you might find her discussing writing craft, creativity tips, or Pinkerton the Cat’s latest adventure.
Mary Gottschalk, who came to creative writing late in life, is the author of a memoir, Sailing Down the Moonbeam, and a soon-to-be-released novel, A Fitting Place, about rebound relationships and stepping outside one’s comfort zone.