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.
Welcome, welcome, welcome to Midge Raymond, author of the award-winning short story collection Forgetting English. Originally published in 2009 by Eastern Washington University Press, Forgetting English won the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction (whoop! whoop!) and was recently published as a new, expanded edition by Press 53. Check it out!
The Scoop About Forgetting English
“In this new, expanded edition of her prize-winning collection, Midge Raymond explores the indelible imprint of home upon the self and the ways in which new frontiers both defy and confirm who we are. Forgetting English takes us around the world, from the stark, icy moonscape of Antarctica to the lonely islands of the South Pacific, introducing us to characters who have abandoned their native landscapes only to find that, once separated from the ordinary, they must confront new interpretations of who they are, and who they’re meant to be.” (from www.midgeraymond.com)
“Raymond’s prose often lights up the poetry-circuits of the brain, less because of lyrical language and more due to things that work as both literal and symbolic nouns: stolen rings, voice-mail messages gone astray; heavy-footed humans in the middle of fragile habitats.” ~ The Seattle Times
“Raymond has quiet, unrelenting control over the writing; each story is compelling and thrives because each detail and line of dialogue reveals just a little more about the characters and the evocative settings.” ~ The Rumpus
“In her impressive debut collection, Forgetting English, Midge Raymond sets her stories in a variety of locations outside the continental United States…Alongside personal, human histories, Raymond incorporates larger traditions. Marriage rites. Fertility symbols. The meaning of jade. The natural history of the penguin.” ~ Fiction Writers Review
“He lives in his mother’s house, with no electricity or hot water, yet somehow he always has a ready supply of condoms.” (from “Sunday,” the first story in Forgetting English)
And now, Midge’s writerhead…
1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).
I experience writerhead in stages, maybe a little like the stages of sleep. So, for example, the first, light stage of writerhead happens when I have an idea that I jot down, and maybe even take a couple of minutes to write a few notes. Just as the first stage of sleep is when you’re drifting off and not really sleeping, this is not really writing—but it’s the first step in getting there. And then, the more time I have, the deeper I fall into writerhead, and the more vividly I think and dream. If I have plenty of time to write, I’ll fall into the REM-sleep version of writing, when my brain activity is going crazy but nothing can get me up from the chair. This is the stage of sleep when all the dreaming happens, and it’s the writing version of when all the good work happens. It takes me a while to get to this stage; I usually have to set aside a few good hours so that I can delve into a project. I turn off the phone, get offline—often I even take myself out of the house to avoid distractions. And once there, I become completely engrossed in the scenes on the page. Everything else around me disappears. I’ve been kicked out of cafés past closing, late for events and meals—when I’m absorbed in the story, I have no idea what time it is.
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.)
For someone to interrupt writerhead, they really have to work at it—it’s like waking me from a deep sleep. I’m usually pretty unaware and unconcerned with what’s going on around me. On the other hand, when I’m in an early, light stage of writerhead, any little interruption will annoy me—it’s like trying to fall asleep with a lot of noise in the room. When I make time to write, though, I’m pretty good about ignoring most outside interruptions: the phone, the door, email, my husband—oddly enough, my most persistent interruptions come from my beastly rescue cat, who will not be ignored. He’ll jump on the desk, sit right on the keyboard. If I lock him out of my office, he hurls himself at the door until I give in. This is why I work in cafés quite a lot.
3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.
While writerhead is a lot like being in a deep, dreaming sleep, I also imagine it’s much like being an actor, when you literally take on the role of someone else. As a writer, I have to be many people at once, and it can feel a little crazy to be in that space with all those voices—especially when they literally begin having conversations in your head. But it’s one of my favorite places in the world to be.
Midge Raymond is the author of the award-winning story collection Forgetting English. Her stories have appeared in TriQuarterly, North American Review, Bellevue Literary Review, the Los Angeles Times magazine, and many other publications. Her work has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and has received numerous awards, including the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction and an Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Fellowship in Literary Arts. She lives, writes, and battles the cat for writing territory in the Pacific Northwest.
Q4U Readers / Writers / Short Story Aficionados / Curious Looky-Loos: How good are you ignoring interruptions? How much time do you spend writing in cafés?