Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Eugenia Kim

Welcome to the first-ever Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author answers three questions about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.

Please put your hands together for the marvelous Eugenia Kim, author of The Calligrapher’s Daughter…a gorgeously rich novel, inspired by Eugenia’s mother, “about a young woman who dares to fight for a brighter future in occupied Korea.”

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

The Muse is as elusive as the mouse who evades the trap beneath the kitchen sink. After months of frustrating silence, she may visit when all others are sleeping and the quiet is dark and solid. I never know she’s there until afterwards, often days later, when I look at the pages she’s graced and see a sentence I can’t remember having put there. I take the credit and think, “Damn, I’m good.” But usually I sleep right through her visit, my cheeks impressed on the keys, saliva cooling on the space bar. I coax her visitations as carefully as the daily fresh smear of peanut butter and cracker wedge balanced on the delicate trap lever. And when the obvious clatters in my sentences, the Muse scampers into her tiny passageways, and I mourn. A dog walk, something wonderful to read, then it’s back to my garret to use all my skills to tempt her return.

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

If you were to ask her, Ms. Writerhead would say that her occupation is to be interrupted. In fact she believes she was hired for that exact purpose. (For the record, she most certainly was not; I have the contract to prove it.) Though she doesn’t get paid very well and receives no benefits, she is exceedingly good at her job. She excels at being interrupted no matter where she is, and is most effective at her desk (which is why she believes it’s her role). Sometimes she must wait for an interruption, but typically her day is easily filled by mundane distractions and humdrum duties. Her employer (that would be me) agrees that she’s too good at her job, and (keep this secret, please) is getting ready to fire her, again.

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.



Eugenia Kim is an MFA graduate of Bennington College. She teaches fiction at Fairfield University’s low-residency MFA Creative Writing Program. Her debut novel, The Calligrapher’s Daughter, won the Borders Original Voices Award and is a Best Book of 2009 by The Washington Post.

Eugenia is on Twitter, too. You can find her here.


Readers/Writers/Looky-Loos: Cool, huh? Whatcha think? Similar to your writerhead? Different? Anything surprise you? Make you smile?


Misc Monday: Toni Morrison Talks About Writerhead

In my mind, author Toni Morrison is a god. A deity. The supremest of supreme beings in the literary world. A supernatural super-power who I am absolutely sure soars to the moon powered by her own wings…soars to Jupiter…and back…at least twice a week…as often as I run to Market Basket for milk…just for fun. Just for the opportunity to view the world from a different perspective. A glowing divine spirit in whose presence we all should bow and bang foreheads against the floor…bang, bang, bang…thanking her for transforming each molecule of literary air into something magical.

So how excited was I to discover that like me, Toni Morrison thinks about writerhead. No, no, she doesn’t call it writerhead…though she might if I ever get the chance to bend her ear…but she gets it just the same.

Look what she says in an interview that ran in the Paris Review:

Recently I was talking to a writer who described something she did whenever she moved to her writing table. I don’t remember exactly what the gesture was—there is something on her desk that she touches before she hits the computer keyboard—but we began to talk about little rituals that one goes through before beginning to write. I, at first, thought I didn’t have a ritual, but then I remembered that I always get up and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark—it must be dark—and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come. And she said, Well, that’s a ritual. And I realized that for me this ritual comprises my preparation to enter a space that I can only call nonsecular . . . Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transition. It’s not being in the light, it’s being there before it arrives. It enables me, in some sense.

You see? Listen again:

And I realized that for me this ritual comprises my preparation to enter a space that I can only call nonsecular . . . Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process.



Q4U: Which authors would you be most interested in knowing a little something about her/his writerhead?


Expat Sat: Connect

Good morning, writers, readers, expats, repats, travelers, and intrepid explorers.

Welcome to the first-ever Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writing.

As I announced in WRITERHEAD’s inaugural blog post, Saturdays are hereby reserved for expat writers and aspiring expat writers. Every Saturday from now until the end of time, I’ll provide you with expat-specific writing advice, inspiration, writing prompts, suggested reading lists, links to relevant contests and conferences, interviews with expat authors, publishing know-how, and other goodies.

My hope is that Expat Sat will become a worldwide conversation. That you talk to me (and to one another) as much as I talk to you. That this tiny province on our vast virtual planet will become a regular stopping place for you and that you will cheer on one another’s writerly successes and weigh in on one another’s challenges.

Because honestly, no matter where you live, being a writer can be a lonely gig. And if you’re an expat writer in a foreign country far from home, you can sometimes feel as if you’re going to burst.

No bursting allowed on my watch!

The way I see it, there are two kinds of expat writers:

  1. the expat who was a writer before making the move to a new country
  2. the expat who started writing (or is about to start writing) after moving to a new country

Raise your hand if you are a member of Group #1.

(smiles at raised hands)

Okay, good.

Now, raise your hand if you belong to Group #2. And yes, that includes those who haven’t yet written a word, but plan to soon.

(shakes head)

Come on, come on. Be brave. Own your passion and aspirations. Hands up!


And a big welcome to all of you.

Before you click away, please take a moment to say hello and to answer the following two questions in the comment section:

  1. From which country do you hail? In which country are you living?
  2. How is being an expat fueling your desire to write?


(Also, be sure to check out the online writing workshop I’m launching specifically for expat writers. The first session begins May 1.)



Image: Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Welcome to WRITERHEAD!

Whoop! Whoop!

If we’ve crossed paths either virtually or in real life, you may know that a number of years ago I coined the term writerhead to describe the state of mind/being writers are in at the purest moments of creation.

You know…those beautiful (sometimes excruciating) sh, sh, sh, ssssssshhhhhh, I’ve got to get this down moments when words are bubbling, popping, zinging, and swinging. The ones when the “real” world disappears behind a gauzy cloud (insert sucking sound here…sssppphhhhtttt) and the imaginative world takes on firmer lines and brighter hues.

Some writers call it the flow or the zone or the groove. Others refer to it as writerland. And if you eavesdrop on a gaggle of writers talking about it after a few margaritas, you might even hear it referred to as either nirvana or hell (maybe both).

I call it writerhead.

The marvelous, amazing, captivating thing about writerhead (besides its own inherent magic) is that each writer’s writerhead is unique. While one author might compare it to floating on clouds, another might compare it to being boiled alive in a vat of molten lava. While one might be apt to drift into writerhead only after midnight, another swears that writerhead only happens between the hours of 4:00 and 6:00 in the afternoon.

For me, writerhead is most likely to occur at my desk very early in the morning (5:00ish) when it’s just me and the rising sun, but I’ve also slipped into writerhead in an airplane heading to Chicago; the Leopold Café in Mumbai, India; a temple in Chengdu, China; a mountaintop in New Mexico; and believe it or not, one particular swimming pool in Shanghai. (I’ll have more to say about my own writerhead—and more questions about yours—in future posts.)

I’m happy to say that while this blog is going to explore all things writerly, it will have a slight bias toward the celebration and exploration of writerhead. Join me on this journey, and together we shall plumb the depths.

Here’s what you can look forward to:

  • Every Wednesday (Writerhead Wednesday) I’ll be featuring a very cool, brilliantly talented author/thinker who will answer three questions about her personal writerhead that allow us to crawl into her noggin & (ever so gently) muck about. So far, I’ve got an awesome lineup that includes Eugenia Kim (The Calligrapher’s Daughter), Alain de Botton (A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary), Emily Perkins (Novel About My Wife), and Alan Paul (Big in China). Many more to come…

  • Each Saturday (Expat Sat) is reserved for all you brave, beautiful, curious, writerly expats scattered around the globe. This feature is for Canadians in Germany, Peruvians in India, Americans in China, Columbians in Switzerland, and all other combinations of ________s in ________. All of you cultural spelunkers who’ve dropped anchor in a foreign land and are looking around saying, “Wow!” or “Whoa!” or “Cool!” or “Oh my god!” (or on certain days at certain intersections, “Holy *#@&^!”). Those of you with a story to tell and the urge to write it down.

  • Mondays are hereby dubbed Misc Mondays…on which I will post about anything that takes my fancy, including but not limited to: interesting stuff happening in the publishing world, cool apps for writers, links to writing conferences and contests, etc. I might even keep you updated on the situation with the insane birdseed-stealing squirrel in my backyard who told me to “Fill the *^%#&* feeder or else!” (then yelled “Winning!”) You never know what you’re going to get on Mondays.

  • And finally, I reserve the right to post good stuff on any other day of the week if the spirit moves me.

Thanks for stopping in to WRITERHEAD’s inaugural party! Please take a few minutes to browse the site and leave a comment.

If so moved, you can subscribe to the blog via email or RSS feed. (And expats, please check out the new online writing workshop I’m launching just for you. It’s going to be fun…and productive. The first session begins May 1.)



Image: Lavoview / FreeDigitalPhotos.net