Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Meg Mitchell Moore

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.


Please give a warm writerhead welcome to Meg Mitchell Moore, author of The Arrivals. Very excited to have Meg here today for many reasons…including the fact that she spends a good bit of time writing in my favorite library.

(Ooh, also…giving away 2 copies today! Just leave a comment to enter! Complete guidelines below.)

The Scoop About The Arrivals

It’s early summer when Ginny and William’s peaceful life in Vermont comes to an abrupt halt.

First, their daughter Lillian arrives, with her two children in tow, to escape her crumbling marriage. Next, their son Stephen and his pregnant wife Jane show up for a weekend visit, which extends indefinitely when Jane ends up on bed rest. When their youngest daughter Rachel appears, fleeing her difficult life in New York, Ginny and William find themselves consumed again by the chaos of parenthood—only this time around, their children are facing adult problems.

By summer’s end, the family gains new ideas of loyalty and responsibility, exposing the challenges of surviving the modern family—and the old adage, once a parent, always a parent, has never rung so true.

 The Buzzzzzzzzzzz

“An empty nest fills back up with alarming speed in Moore’s promising debut….Moore finds a crisp narrative in the morass of an overpacked household, and she keeps the proceedings moving with an assurance and outlook reminiscent of Laurie Colwin, evoking emotional universals with the simplest of observations, as in ‘the peace you feel when you are awake in a house where children are sleeping.’” ~ Publishers Weekly

“A tender portrait of a tangled, complicated, all-too real family, The Arrivals left me teary and fulfilled. A sparkling, page-turning debut.” ~ New York Times bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch

“The novel is told from multiple points of view, always a tricky maneuver. But Moore handles the shifts in perspective with ease, nimbly evoking the reader’s sympathy for each family member.” ~ Entertainment Weekly

First Sentence

“It was eight thirty in the morning, June, a Saturday, and the sunlight was coming in the kitchen window at such an angle that William’s granddaughter, Olivia, had to shield her eyes with one hand while she bent her head to sip from the straw in her glass of orange juice.”

_________

And now, Meg’s writerhead

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

There are certain places where writerhead is more likely to occur for me. My house, once the kids are off for the morning and the beds are made, is one. (I will admit, lamely, that I could never experience writerhead when the beds aren’t made.) A study room in my public library is another. You sign up for these rooms for two-hour increments, and you can close the door and therefore play music softly, but one rule is that the room must remain occupied by at least one person for the duration of the two hours, or you lose your slot. I am a rule follower, and a little bit scared of librarians, so I don’t leave the room. This is a great way to force myself into writerhead. Certain songs can bring it on too. I happen to be a huge Josh Ritter fan. When I wrote my second novel, out next May, I started every single writing session listening to a song of his called Lantern because it seems to me to be a song that speaks to the themes of the book. For my work in progress, it’s another song of his, Orbital, that is working for me. I can’t get started, and I can’t get into writerhead, without playing that song.

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 a kid is crying but it’s not my kid, no problem. Ringing phones I try not to answer. But mostly I set myself up for very few interruptions if I really want to write. I don’t do a lot of (any) real writing when my kids are around. I can’t multitask that way; it’s really hard for me to get into the right state when someone can’t find her blue headband or someone else decides it’s time to practice the treble jig in hard shoes for Irish dance class. I can block out a lot when I’m concentrating, but Irish hard shoes are really loud. If I’m hit with a real interruption, I take it as a sign that it’s time for a break, and that the good, messy stuff has come out and needs to simmer for a while before being reworked.

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

I am a fairly competitive runner. For me, writerhead is a little like experiencing a “runner’s high”: the feeling that everything is lining up for a few magical moments and that I am doing exactly what my body (running) or mind (writing) is meant to be doing. I don’t achieve this high every time I run, and I don’t achieve it every time I write, but experiencing it every now and then is enough incentive to keep going with both endeavors.

_________

Meg Mitchell Moore worked for several years as a journalist. Her work has been published in Yankee, Continental, Women’s Health, Advertising Age and many other business and consumer magazines. She received a B.A. from Providence College and a master’s degree in English Literature from New York University. The Arrivals is her first novel. Her second novel will be published by Reagan Arthur Books in 2012. Meg lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts, with her husband, their three children, and a beloved border collie.

If you’d like to learn more about Meg and The Arrivals, pop on over to her web site. You can also greet her on Twitter (@mmitchmoore) or Facebook.

_________

Q4U Readers / Writers / Moms / Dads / Jugglers Extraordinaire: Anyone else find the time/space to slip into writerhead in the library?

_________

GIVEAWAY!!!

Today—Wednesday, September 28, 2011—I’m giving away 2 copies of Meg Mitchell Moore’s The Arrivals.

RULES: To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment for Meg right here on WRITERHEAD. Show her some love!

*Comments must be posted before the clock strikes midnight on September 29, 2011. (That’s Eastern Standard Time U.S.)

**This contest is open internationally.

***Winners will be drawn on Thursday, September 29. Be sure to check back to see who wins.

****Though I welcome all charming comments, only one comment per person will be counted in the contest. (I know, I know…but this isn’t “American Idol.”)

*****The winner will be drawn randomly by the highly scientific method of my 3yo pulling a name out of a hat (or some other convenient container…blocks box, [unused] cereal bowl, sand bucket, etc.)

 

Mojo Monday: Cows & All That Jazz

It’s Mojo Monday, and as always, I’ve got a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.


Nothing like a good serenade…

Expat Sat: Writing Prompt #7: Fear

Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writerhead. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing, publishing, and thriving to expat writers around the globe.


This is #7 of 10 in a series of writing prompts for expat writers. So listen up, my nomadic pals. Then grab your keyboards and start writing.

__________

Fill in the blanks in the following statement:

Before I moved to ________ [host country], I was afraid of ________.

Come on, come on…don’t be afraid to admit your fears, however unfounded. Fear is a natural reaction to the unknown. And as you well know, packing up your life and moving to a new country is rife with unknowns.

To help you out, I’ll start…

Before moving to China, I was afraid that I would never learn to speak Chinese, never be able to communicate, and as a result, get stranded in some remote part of Shanghai during a wayward taxi ride.

Ha!

Little did I know that even AFTER learning to speak Mandarin and AFTER being able to communicate fairly well in China, I’d still get lost in remote parts of Shanghai during wayward taxi rides.

There were a couple doozies, too, including the taxi ride during which we drove backward on the highway because we’d missed our exit.

So what about you? What scared you?

  • The boogie man?
  • Getting sick?
  • A new job in a new country?
  • Tossing your kids into an international school?
  • Learning how to use a squatty potty?
  • Living in a Muslim community?
  • Curry?
  • Language barriers?
  • Learning a new subway system?
  • Camels on your street?
  • Fat, juicy spiders sneaking into your bed at night?

Writing Assignment: Pick one of the fears you had about moving to a new country. Own it. Explain how that fear felt…how it manifested itself in your daily life. Then tell how you’ve worked through (or not worked through) the fear now that you’ve actually lived in your host country.

Tip: Back to one of my writing mantras…thou shalt not pussyfoot around. Tell it like it is.

 

_____

Image: federico stevanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Alma Katsu

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’s writerhead? Alma Katsu, whose novel The Taker has set the reading world a’buzz. Tiptoe as we make our way into her writerhead…it’s a little scarier than most (see answer to question #2).

The Scoop About The Taker

“On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting another quiet evening of frostbite and the occasional domestic dispute. But the minute Lanore McIlvrae—Lanny—walks into his ER, she changes his life forever. A mysterious woman with a past and plenty of dark secrets, Lanny is unlike anyone Luke has ever met. He is inexplicably drawn to her…despite the fact that she is a murder suspect with a police escort. And as she begins to tell her story, a story of enduring love and consummate betrayal that transcends time and mortality, Luke finds himself utterly captivated.

“Her impassioned account begins at the turn of the nineteenth century in the same small town of St. Andrew, Maine, back when it was a Puritan settlement. Consumed as a child by her love for the son of the town’s founder, Lanny will do anything to be with him forever. But the price she pays is steep—an immortal bond that chains her to a terrible fate for all eternity. And now, two centuries later, the key to her healing and her salvation lies with Dr. Luke Findley.

“Part historical novel, part supernatural page-turner, The Taker is an unforgettable tale about the power of unrequited love not only to elevate and sustain, but also to blind and ultimately destroy, and how each of us is responsible for finding our own path to redemption.” [from amazon.com]

The Buzzzzzzzzzzz

“Readers won’t be able to tear their eyes away from Katsu’s mesmerizing tale.” ~ Booklist starred review

A Cosmopolitan UK Book of the Week: “Dark and super sexy…This will impress all Twi-hards who like their heroes to have graduated high school…”

“Seductive, daring, soaring, and ultimately gut-wrenching, The Taker is a lush, historical rendering of transcendent love…” ~ Jamie Ford, bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

First Sentence

“Goddamned freezing cold.”

_________

And now, Alma’s writerhead

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

My state of writerhead has changed over time. When I first started writing, they were periods of complete bliss. Just me, a pen and notebook, and usually a bed (I like to lie down while writing) and a sense of being deep in another world. The best times were while traveling, left alone in a hotel room with those uninterrupted hours before me. Now with the release of The Taker and the press of promotion, plus going through edits on the second book, those deep REM states of writerhead are rare. Despite the pull to do twenty things at once, when I really need to create something new I’ll feel a primal need to turn down the lights, get a notebook, curl up on the couch and write.

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’m lucky to live a quiet life. My husband is a musician and away most evenings. My dogs are old enough now to be content lying at my feet while I’m at the laptop. I ignore the phone to the point where no one calls anymore. When someone does yank me out of a deep writing session I will be polite enough but inside I’m plotting the best way to kill them, or at least hurt them very badly. Like door-to-door solicitors for some completely worthy cause. There are probably a couple buried in my backyard.

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

For me, writerhead is the life I’m supposed to be living, instead of this one where you have to go grocery shopping and do laundry.

_________

Alma Katsu is a writer living in the Washington, DC area with her husband, musician Bruce Katsu. She graduated from Brandeis University, where she studied writing with novelist John Irving and children’s book author Margaret Rey, and received her MA in Fiction from the Johns Hopkins University. The Taker is her first novel and is published by Gallery Books/Simon and Schuster.

If you’d like to connect with Alma, hop on over to her web site (www.almakatsu.com). You can also greet her on Twitter (@almakatsu) or say hidy-ho on Facebook.

_________

Q4U: Writers / Looky-Loos / Readers of Books That Scare You: Alma (along with a number of past writerheads) talks about how her writerhead has changed over the years. Has yours? How so?

_________

GIVEAWAY!!!

Today—Wednesday, September 21, 2011—I’m giving away 1 copy of Alma Katsu’s The Taker.

RULES: To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment for Alma right here on WRITERHEAD. Show her some love! Tell her how gripped you were by the first paragraphs of The Taker. Ask if she’s going to be giving a reading in your town or how she came up with the idea for the book.

*Comments must be posted before the clock strikes midnight on September 22, 2011. (That’s Eastern Standard Time U.S.)

**This contest is open internationally.

***Winners will be drawn on Thursday, September 22. Be sure to check back to see who wins.

****Though I welcome all charming comments, only one comment per person will be counted in the contest. (I know, I know…but this isn’t American Idol.)

*****The winner will be drawn randomly by the highly scientific method of my 3yo pulling a name out of a hat (or some other convenient container…blocks box, [unused] cereal bowl, sand bucket, etc.)

 

Mojo Monday: A Little Cat Stevens

It’s Mojo Monday, and as always, I’ve got a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.


A very gentle nudge into writerhead this morning. (Thanks to Amy B.U. for pointing me to this on her FB page a few weeks back!)

Expat Sat: Writing Prompt #6: Giving Directions

Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writerhead. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing, publishing, and thriving to expat writers around the globe.


This is #6 of 10 in a series of writing prompts for expat writers. So listen up, my nomadic pals. Then grab your keyboards and start writing.

__________

In retrospect, the first time I was able to give directions to someone in Shanghai was no big deal. I was crossing Wulumuqi Road at Anfu Road and a bewildered Scottish bloke needed to get to the Ambassy Club on Huaihai Road…just a few blocks away. (Granted, I gave him directions in English. The first time I successfully gave directions in Chinese is another story, another Expat Sat.)

Anyway, I realized as I gave the guy directions that I knew my neighborhood really well. I told him he’d pass the frog-tying guy and possibly (checking my watch) the ice-block delivery woman in front of the fruit/veggie shop. I also explained that once he passed the Iranian Embassy, he’d be fairly close to the intersection of Wulumuqi and Huaihai roads, where he would need to turn right.

When you get down to it, giving directions isn’t really about knowing where to turn left or right. It’s about knowing landmarks and points of interest. It’s about knowing what catches someone’s eye and knowing your own digs. And so, your writing assignment for the week…

Writing Assignment: Open a guidebook or a newspaper for your host city/town. Pick a popular destination. Then write out the directions you’d give to a bewildered Scottish bloke who needs to get from your house to this destination. (Remember, the Scottish bloke is a newbie to your town. He’s clueless.)

Tip: Write in 2nd person point of view…you  know, the “you” point of view. (for example, if you’re in Ireland, “When you get to the third castle, you know it’s time for a pit stop in the pub.”)

____

Image: anankkml / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Diana Abu-Jaber

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.


Ssshhh…today we’re giddily mucking about in the creative noggin of Diana Abu-Jaber, the brilliantly talented author of the novel Birds of Paradise (about which Ron Charles–book reviewer for the Washington Post–recently said, “This is a full-course meal, a rich, complex and memorable story that will leave you lingering gratefully at her table.”)

I’m grateful Diana opened the door to her writerhead because as you’ll see, it’s a rich, laugh-out-loud kind of place.

Enjoy! (And yep, my voracious readers, I’ve got one copy of Birds of Paradise to give away today so leave a comment to enter. Guidelines below.)

The Scoop About Birds of Paradise

“In the tropical paradise that is Miami, Avis and Brian Muir are still haunted by the disappearance of their ineffably beautiful daughter, Felice, who ran away when she was thirteen. Now, after five years of modeling tattoos, skateboarding, clubbing, and sleeping in a squat house or on the beach, Felice is about to turn eighteen. Her family—Avis, an exquisitely talented pastry chef; Brian, a corporate real estate attorney; and her brother, Stanley, the proprietor of Freshly Grown, a trendy food market—will each be forced to confront their anguish, loss, and sense of betrayal. Meanwhile, Felice must reckon with the guilty secret that drove her away, and must face her fear of losing her family and her sense of self forever.

“This multilayered novel about a family that comes apart at the seams—and finds its way together again—is totally involving and deeply satisfying, a glorious feast of a book.” [from amazon.com]

The Buzzzzzzzzzzzz

“Diana Abu-Jaber’s delicious new novel weighs less than two pounds, but you may gain more than that by reading it. If you know her cream-filled work—especially Crescent and The Language of Baklava—you’re already salivating. This Jordanian American author writes about food so enticingly that her books should be published on sheets of phyllo dough. Birds of Paradise contains her most mouthwatering writing ever, but it’s no light after-dinner treat. This is a full-course meal, a rich, complex and memorable story that will leave you lingering gratefully at her table.” ~ Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“Abu-Jaber writes with wit and insight about her range of characters, and her sharp observation of setting makes Miami another character in the novel, from the sleek downtown high rises to the glimmering thump of the SoBe clubs, from the lush quiet of the Gables to the multilingual street life of less opulent neighborhoods. And, this being South Florida, there’s a hurricane….Her prose is often lyrical, rising into striking images like the spun sugar on Avis’ creations. But Birds of Paradise has satisfying substance, too, for anyone hungry to read about the many ways that modern families lose and love.” ~ Colette Bancroft, St. Petersburg Times

First Sentence

“A cookie, Avis told her children, is a soul.”

_________

And now, Diana’s writerhead

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

It used to be a much more disconnected state than my usual operating mode. I had specific writing hours and times when I was at-work, and the rest of the time I was at-life, and the two states didn’t necessarily mingle all that much. As I’ve gotten, ahem, older, I’ve found that they seem to migrate into each other and I’ve become more adept at sort of flipping the switch, picking up on a writing project where I’ve left off, when and where I need to. That might be at my desk during “work hours” or it might be in the middle of cooking or at a traffic light or waiting at the dentist’s office. If I could just work out how to write WHILE getting cavities filled, I think I’d really have it all figured out.

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.)

This is another before and after answer for me, as in: BEFORE I had a child, I might have been just a smidge diva-ish if my husband had stumbled into the office with an ad for a new boat; I might possibly have channeled my inner J-Lo and said something like, “Um, yeah? At work here? You know, work?” Nowadays, after 8 months of baby colic and a year of wee hour wakings and 2 years of animal cracker power struggles, I’m more like, “Honey, look! I made a word! A word!”

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

Okay, I think for me being in the writerhead is like going outside to see if it’s started to rain yet, and it hasn’t quite started, and you can just barely sense those first scant drops, so light you almost wonder if you’re imagining it, but you know if you just wait for it a bit longer, it’s absolutely going to come down, any second now.

_________

Diana Abu-Jaber’s newest novel, Birds Of Paradise, is an Indiepicks selection.

Her novel, Origin was named one of the best books of the year by the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post. Her second novel, Crescent, won the PEN Center Award for Literary fiction and the American Book Award. Her first novel, Arabian Jazz won the Oregon Book Award.

The Language of Baklava, her memoir, won the Northwest Booksellers’ Award.

She teaches at Portland State University and divides her time between Portland and Miami.

Want to connect with Diana? Check out her web site (www.dianaabujaber.com). You can also greet her on Twitter (@dabujaber) or say hidy-ho on Facebook.

_________

Q4U: Readers / Writers / Looky-Loos / Foodies / Miami-ites: When is the last time you channeled your inner J-Lo when interrupted while in writerhead? Come on…come clean.

_________

GIVEAWAY!!!

Today—Wednesday, September 14, 2011—I’m giving away 1 copy of Diana Abu-Jaber’s Birds of Paradise.

RULES: To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment for Diana right here on WRITERHEAD. Tell her how much you loved her previous books and how much you’re looking forward to reading this one. Give her a virtual high-five. Share your own “inner J-Lo” moment. Ask a question about how she wrote Birds of Paradise or if she’s going to be giving a reading in your town. Tell her how smitten you are with her description of writerhead. (I am!) Etc.

*Comments must be posted before the clock strikes midnight on September 15, 2011. (That’s Eastern Standard Time U.S.)

**This contest is open internationally.

***Winners will be drawn on Thursday, September 15. Be sure to check back to see who wins.

****Though I welcome all charming comments, only one comment per person will be counted in the contest. (I know, I know…but this isn’t American Idol.)

*****The winner will be drawn randomly by the highly scientific method of my 3yo pulling a name out of a hat (or some other convenient container…blocks box, [unused] cereal bowl, sand bucket, etc.)

Mojo Monday: Happy Moon Festival!

It’s the day of the moon festival in China. Look up! Look up!

Happy Moon Festival, friends!

Zhōngqiū Jié kuàilè!

中秋节快乐!

To celebrate, here’s a little moon inspiration to steer you towards writerhead

(Thanks to my friend Marisa for pointing me to this video on FB.)

 

Expat Sat: Writing Prompt #5: The Fine Art of Description

Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writerhead. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing, publishing, and thriving to expat writers around the globe.


This is #5 of 10 in a series of writing prompts for expat writers. So listen up, my nomadic pals. Then grab your keyboards and start writing.

__________

I’ve been talking to students in my college writing classes about description. Actually, I’ve been making them describe just about everything around them (favorite food, person they love, a person eating, a place that feels like home, their own knee, a sound on the street, etc.). Yesterday, I passed around a couple of Ziploc bags full of cinnamon. I told students to sniff, then write. After the obligatory jokes about the teacher passing around an illegal substance to snort, some beautiful, funny, unexpected writing occurred.

The morning after the cinnamon exercise, I caught a Tweet by @unbravegirl (on Twitter) about moon cakes in China. She said, “I think I would like moon cakes more if they tasted like cake. They’re more like moon newtons.”

What a spot-on description of moon cakes.

All this talk about description, of course, got me thinking about all of you. No matter what you’re working on–fiction or nonfiction–you need to be able to write a spot-on description. And so, here’s your writing assignment for the week.

Writing Assignment: Pick one spice or dish that is particular to the country in which you are now living. Eat it. Sniff it. Touch it. Turn it over. Rub it between your fingers. Roll it around on your tongue. Toss it against the wall…see it if bounces. Eat it with chopsticks. Eat it with a knife and fork. Eat it with your fingers. Tap it with a carrot stick. Compare it to some other dish you ate in some other country in some other period of your life. Then when you’ve exhausted all food play, write about it.

Tip: Try writing sense by sense: see it, listen to it, smell it, touch it, taste it. (Note: If, like me, you have ESP, read its mind and move it without touching it.)

_____

Image: Dino De Luca / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Janice Y.K. Lee

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.


Ssshhh. This week we’re tiptoeing through the writerhead of Janice Y.K. Lee, author of the marvelous novel The Piano Teacher. It’s a little dark in here so turn on your headlamps. Here we go…

The Scoop About The Piano Teacher

In 1942, Will Truesdale, an Englishman newly arrived in Hong Kong, falls headlong into a passionate relationship with Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite. But their love affair is soon threatened by the invasion of the Japanese, with terrible consequences for both of them, and for members of their fragile community who will betray each other in the darkest days of the war.

Ten years later, Claire Pendleton comes to Hong Kong and is hired by the wealthy Chen family as their daughter’s piano teacher. A provincial English newlywed, Claire is seduced by the colony’s heady social life. She soon begins an affair, only to discover that her lover’s enigmatic demeanor hides a devastating past.

As the threads of this spellbinding novel intertwine and converge, a landscape of impossible choices emerges—between love and safety, courage and survival, the present and, above all, the past. [from www.janiceyklee.com]

The Buzz

“Laced with intrigue… Readers will be enthralled by Lee’s depiction of Will’s relationships with his two lovers…and the unsparing way Lee unravels them.” ~ New York Times, January 16, 2009

“Pride and Privilege: War, love, betrayal—an exquisite fugue of a first novel.” ~ O, January 2009

“Evocative, poignant and skillfully crafted, The Piano Teacher is more than an epic tale of war and a tangled, tortured love story. It is the kind of novel one consumes in great, greedy gulps, pausing (grudgingly) only when absolutely necessary.” ~ Chicago Tribune, January 3, 2009

First Sentence

“It started as an accident.”

_________

And now, Janice’s writerhead

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

Writerhead for me is when I actually start working. At some point, after all the sending off of children, fixing of coffee, answering of email, checking out of Facebook, there comes a time when I click onto the document and words start to come out. Like a dog circles its bed some seven times before settling down, I need to hover around the work before I can get down to the actual doing of it. The mental preparation is very important as, like many writers, I find it all too easy to avoid writing. Then, I will sit at my desk and work. Even while I’m in writerhead, I get up a lot, lie down on the couch in my office, get more water, all the while ruminating in my head what comes next. But then, I sit down, and all the characters are talking to each other, they’re moving around, they’re moving forward, and I get it all down. It’s magic when it happens.

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’m an inveterate pleaser, which is unusual among writers I think, so if someone calls me while I’m in writerhead, I will usually answer the phone, listen politely, nodding, scanning what I have on the screen, saying uh huh occasionally, and then tell them after five minutes too long that I’m actually working. I shouldn’t answer the phone but I have this Pavlovian response to the ring and, honestly, I’m usually all too willing to be distracted from what is normally not a lot of writing going on. It is so unusual for me to be flowing that I should lock the doors, unplug the phones, put on headphones, do anything to stay in it, but it creeps up on me so quickly that I am jerked from it quite easily. Happily, when writerhead is going on, it’s pretty easy for me to get back into it. It is a state that is attainable again. It lasts for a day or two, and then it goes. The rest of the time, my fallow time, I like to think that I am working in my head, that invisible passages are in their nascent state, developing, just waiting to be born in my next episode of writerhead.

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

Writerhead is like holding your hands to the fire. The words are coming out, it’s exciting, but I have to stop a lot, to cool off. I write furiously, stop, go splash water on my face, write more, get up and walk around the room, write again. It’s as if I cannot be in writerhead for longer than 30 minutes at a stretch. It can last for hours, but needs intervals of non-writing.

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Janice Y. K. Lee’s first novel, The Piano Teacher, was published in 2009 to critical acclaim from the New York Times, People, and O magazine, among others. The Piano Teacher is a New York Times bestseller, a Richard and Judy Summer Read pick (UK), and is being published in 25 languages worldwide. Janice’s writing has appeared in ELLE, Mirabella, Glamour, and Travel and Leisure, among others. She graduated from Harvard University with a degree in English and American Literature and Language and worked as an editor at ELLE and Mirabella magazines in New York. She lives in Hong Kong with her husband and four children.

To learn more, visit Janice’s web site (www.janiceyklee.com) or say hello on Twitter (@janiceylee).

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Q4U: Readers / Writers / Looky-Loos / Expats / Hong Kong-ites: Janice moves around a lot while in writerhead. She’s up. She’s down. She’s getting a drink of water. She’s at the desk again. She’s at the window. She’s…. How about you? Move during writerhead or stay put?