Welcome to 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.
Today I’d like to welcome Carleen Brice to Writerhead Wednesday. Most importantly she’s the author of two acclaimed novels–Children of the Waters and Orange Mint and Honey–but she’s also the creator and curator of one of my favorite new blogs “White Readers Meet Black Authors.” In the masthead, Carleen describes her blog as “Carleen Brice’s sometimes lighthearted, sometimes serious plea for everyone to give black authors a try.” I love this…and Carleen…for putting some humor to such an important topic. If you’ve got a few extra minutes this week, get your butt over to her blog and watch her very funny, very poignant video “Welcome White Folks.”
The Scoop About Children of the Waters
“Still reeling from divorce and feeling estranged from her teenage son, Trish Taylor is in the midst of salvaging the remnants of her life when she uncovers a shocking secret: her sister is alive. For years Trish believed that her mother and infant sister had died in a car accident. But the truth is that her mother fatally overdosed and that Trish’s grandparents put the baby girl up for adoption because her father was black.
“After years of drawing on the strength of her black ancestors, Billie Cousins is shocked to discover that she was adopted. Just as surprising, after finally overcoming a series of health struggles, she is pregnant–a dream come true for Billie but a nightmare for her sweetie, Nick, and for her mother, both determined to protect Billie from anything that may disrupt her well-being.”
“I was exhausted and singing the blues the hour I began Carleen Brice’s new novel, Children of the Waters. Five hours later, I’d finished this fresh, free-rein novel about mothers’ secrets and children’s sorrows and was shouting ‘Hurray!’” ~ Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean
“In Children of the Waters, Carleen Brice manages to explore the difficult, messy and unpleasant details of life with both humor and wisdom. The parallel journeys of sisters, Trish and Billie, will resonate with everyone and anyone who has questioned their identity and place in this world. Once again, Carleen Brice has crafted a thoroughly enjoyable novel that gets at the heart of the human experience.” ~ Lori Tharps, author of Kinky Gazpacho
First Paragraph (Prologue)
“Time was short. Maxine Kuepper was starting to say things she didn’t mean. Yesterday, she told her granddaughter to Move my dish, when she wanted to ask her to bend her leg. Trish stared, stumped and afraid, yet all Maxine could do was yell the word ‘dish’ over and over knowing that she wasn’t making any sense.”
And now for Carleen’s writerhead…
1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).
Writerhead feels like the writing is already done, the scene has already unspooled in my head like a movie and all I have to do is follow behind it and get it down on paper. I know how it starts. I know what the characters say and how they say it. I know where they are, what they’re wearing, how they’re feeling and the why of all those things. Writerhead makes writing feel easy. I don’t have to think or wonder or dream. I just know. I don’t know how I know, but I do.
It often feels like writerhead sneaks up on me. Sometimes I can conjure it up with coffee (and cookies—hey, the brain runs on glucose, what can I say). Usually it feels like a gift. But I have begun to notice that this gift comes when I give attention to my fiction every day. The where or when matters less now. I used to find that first thing in the morning before I sullied my brain with the news of the day was best. Now I can check emails, read blogs or whatever and still get into the writing mode. However, my fiction is still best when I write before I do any other kind of writing—blogging or freelance articles. If I spend the morning doing those kinds of activities, my afternoon fiction writing will go better if I work on editing or rewriting. Or if I go to a coffee shop (and get a cookie).
I have always thought of myself as someone who could be of two minds about something. Someone who not only could juggle multiple things, but felt more comfortable doing that. I am a Gemini, after all. But either I’ve changed (which is possible) or I’ve been wrong about myself (not the first time). Because what I know about myself now is that I’m really, really obsessive. For me, writerhead is born out of obsession.
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.)
I guess there might be a “where” involved with writerhead after all. At home I am very sensitive to distraction. I have an office, but our house is small, so I can hear my husband going about his day. All it takes is him opening a kitchen cabinet and I start to wonder, What is he doing? What is he looking for? Pulls me right out of writerhead. Whereas if I’m in a coffee shop and music is playing and people are talking, I can completely tune them out.
My husband just, you know, living his life, is an inadvertent interruption that I have no right to be upset about. So while I might feel frustrated at the interruption I don’t say anything. I am ashamed to say that I have literally growled at a more direct interruption, like “What time do you want to have supper?” (Writerhead brings out the bitch in me.) But my husband is a musician and I don’t come strolling into his studio to chat. When he’s working I let him work. And the few rare times I have been stupid enough to ask my own dumb question, like “Would you like me to turn on the A/C?” and interrupted his work, he’s just as irritated. So I’m double-lucky. He cooks and, mostly, understands writerhead.
3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.
Writerhead is like being newly in love when endorphins are flowing and everything is wonderful and filled with infinite (and only good) possibilities. No matter how many times I’ve slipped out of writerhead and plummeted back to hard earth, when I slip into writerhead it still feels so easy and full that it’s almost impossible to really believe that it will end.
Carleen Brice is author of ORANGE MINT AND HONEY and CHILDREN OF THE WATERS. In February 2010, ORANGE MINT AND HONEY premiered on the Lifetime Movie Network as SINS OF THE MOTHER, starring Jill Scott. It was the second-highest rated original movie in LMN’s history and received two 2011 NAACP Image Awards. Brice is the recipient of the 2009 First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and the 2008 Break Out Author Award at the African American Literary Awards Show. She is also founder of the blog White Readers Meet Black Authors.
Q4U Readers / Writers: “Writerhead is like being newly in love”–I love this and can so relate. You?