Today I’m taking a quick break from adventures in downsizing. I’ve been tagged in a blog-hop post, with the assignment of answering at least four of nine questions about my writing.
This blog-tag assignment came to me from my friend Joan, whose Book Log keeps me reading and whose encouragement keeps me writing. She’s an avid reader, writer, past writing instructor, and was the original Regional Advisor for our area of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
I’ve been so intent on working on that aforementioned downsizing that I’m a little late in responding to the tag — late, but sincere. Here goes:
1. What are you working on right now?
I’m polishing a book proposal for my memoir about coping with grief after my partner’s death.
2. How does it differ from other works in its genre?
It ‘s a memoir about grief, but also about love, eccentricity, hoarding, and sometimes humor, centering not just on survivor’s guilt but on the impact of inheriting a hoarder’s collections, the messages I’ve found among them, and what I’ve learned by sorting through his things.
When I was worrying about whether it was time for me to retire, I happened upon a pair of Bob’s old slippers. Tucked inside one was this sticky note. I took it as a message and I followed his advice.
This is the background photo on this blog, a record of an early donation of canned goods (the first of many). Working through Bob’s things, I began with food he’d stockpiled. It had an expiration date so it had to go soon, and I thought it was less personal, therefore easier. I was wrong about that — nothing was easy.
3. What experiences have influenced you?
I was Bob’s health care proxy. Still, I never dreamed the time would come when I’d be asked to sign the papers to take him off life support. I followed his directive, but I still viewed it as a choice. I felt the weight of that decision for years.
Here’s Bob on a balcony, from a long ago trip to Crete. I’ve forgotten now which town we were in when I took this photo. He looks content, doesn’t he?
4. Why do you write what you do?
Fast forward twenty years or so…
After Bob’s death I put away ongoing projects in children’s fiction to work on memoir. Going through Bob’s things put me on an emotional roller coaster. Even though I have in most ways “moved on”, it’s a task I’ve yet to finish, and writing about it is cathartic.
5. How does your writing process work?
I carve out writing time from the hours I have to spend on other necessary activities. It really ought to be the other way around — write first then do the other things — but I must do it this way if I ever want to get out of this house. It’s always hard to get ahead.
6. What is the hardest part about writing?
Like painting, putting that first stroke on a blank page can be both inspiring and intimidating. It’s difficult to live up to the early promise.
7. What would you like to try as a writer that you haven’t yet?
My education is in art. I want to write about artists, and I’m keeping notes for ideas on non-fiction for middle-grade readers. I have a bad habit of starting too many things at once. That’s how I manage to get nothing finished.
8. Who are the authors you most admire?
Playwright: Tom Stoppard, hands down. Arcadia hits all the right notes for me. I’ve seen it three times and would go again in a heartbeat.
In memoir: among my recent reads, Gail Caldwell for Let’s Take the Long Way Home and Ann Patchett for Truth and Beauty: A Friendship.
In children’s literature there are too many. I’ll have to be content with naming a few: there’s long time favorite Philip Pullman for His Dark Materials, Rebecca Stead for When You Reach Me, Ruta Sepetys for Between Shades of Gray, anybody who writes a good time-travel anomaly, and all my critique group friends, published and pre-published (you know who you are).
In Sci-fi: Larry Niven, for Ringworld, Protector, and The Mote in God’s Eye… that is, until he didn’t show up for his session at Dragon Con this year (this disgruntled fan is still wondering about that).
9. What scares you?
Losing what I value most in life.
Bob was a Mensa member, a math whiz, and a computer guru. He even had some of that ditsy lack of practical day-to-day knowledge that reminds me of the story about Einstein carrying his home address on a note in his pocket so he wouldn’t forget it. I thought Bob was the smartest man I’d ever met. At the end of his life, complications from a medical procedure left him without oxygen too long for recovery. He lost that most valued attribute: his mind.
Now that it’s my turn to tag, I’m passing the blog-baton to the following three writers:
Moody Views (Rants, Raves, and Kidlit Bits)– I was introduced to Stephanie’s blog recently when she did interviews with YA author Matt de la Pena and picture book author Sarah Frances Hardy, both of whom will be speaking at an upcoming SCBWI conference. I heard Stephanie in person when she gave a memorable introduction to the keynote speaker at the SCBWI fall conference in Birmingham Alabama. With her background in journalism and public relations, she’s equally adept at speaking, writing, and interviewing.
Solarblessed – She amazes me because, with her pioneer spirit, it seems there’s nothing she can’t do. Writing, painting, gardening, building, planning, she’s a can-do woman. (All that and she raises chickens too!) See her blog for tips on living off the grid, and for links to her books Unplugged and Unplug From the Grid, as well as her YA fiction.
The Forget-Me-Not Cultivation Blog – When I worked for the airlines it didn’t take many vacation days to lure me to travel to the UK. I went as often as I could, and in some fantasy future life, I’d love to live there. Reading about Sophie’s garden adventures and seeing her photos gives me a glimpse of what seems to me to be an ideal life. She mentioned “na-no-wri-mo” lately, so if I tag her, maybe she’ll tell us what she’s writing about when she’s not blogging.