Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Jessica Keener

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks 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.


Ssshhhh!

Today we’re stepping into the writerhead of luminous author Jessica Keener, whose novel Night Swim has stirred readers/writers/critics everywhere into a delightful tizzy.

Now it is a little dark in here so turn on your flashlights. And remember, do not take any unmarked paths or make any sudden movements. The results could be disastrous.

All right…let’s go.

 

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

Early morning is my best time for entering writerhead. First thing after coffee at my desk, and sometimes from my couch writing longhand, it’s easy to slip into that particular weightlessness that is writerhead. My body releases gravity and rises or drifts to a place that is no place. It’s also soundproof from external noises around me. Or, if I hear those outside noises, they soon grow distant and meaningless. In writerhead, I float down pathways of time and no time, visiting memories, thoughts, and feelings. I float and dip, hover and circle through colors, lights, smells, shapes, voices, images, conversations. There is no direction and all direction. In writerhead, my internal satellite opens wide to the universe—my psychic ear listening far and close for story waves, phrases of narratives, wafts of dialogue all of which funnel through my body, down my arm and fingers onto the computer screen or page.

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 someone interrupts me, at first I might try to talk to them while staying in writerhead. This kind of talking is almost hypnotic. When it becomes apparent to the other person that I’m not truly listening to them or answering sensibly, the resulting internal/external dissonance yanks me out of my trance. It’s like pulling myself out of taffy. At that point, unfortunately, I tend to snap and bark at the interrupting person—what do you want? What? I’m writing! My head feels shaken. I feel disoriented and displaced. I am not kind. I behave badly.

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

In writerhead, I become an invisible capsule gliding across plains of time and space; pausing at will to witness and experience the most intimate emotions and thoughts between lovers, friends, families, and strangers.

BIO: Jessica Keener’s fiction has been listed in The Pushcart Prize under “Outstanding Writers.” Her stories and novel excerpts have appeared in numerous literary magazines and online, most recently: Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Night Train, The Nervous Breakdown, Wilderness House Literary Review, The Huffington Post. Writing awards include: a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist’s Grant Program and second prize in Redbook magazine’s fiction contest. For more than a dozen years she has been a features writer for The Boston Globe, Design New England, O, the Oprah magazine and other national magazines. She reads fiction for the award-winning Agni magazine.

If you’re intrigued by Jessica and Night Swim—and how could you not be?—shimmy on over to her web site. Say hello. Buy a copy her novel. Send messages of faith and devotion. Or give her a thumbs-up at these writerly watering holes: Twitter (@JessicaKeener4) and Facebook.

Mojo Monday: Against Censorship

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.


Free speech matters to me (watch to the end)…

 

Expat Sat: Submission Opportunity at Painted Bride Quarterly: Displacement

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.


I love sharing a great writing opportunity for expat writers around the globe, and this one is perfect for you!

The theme of upcoming Issue #85 of the fabulous literary magazine Painted Bride Quarterly is (drum roll, please)…

DISPLACEMENT

Hello?

Could this theme be more perfect for you, the intrepid expat?

It could not.

So get busy. Get writing. Get thee to writerhead.

When you’re ready, submit.

(And yep, they accept fiction, essays, and poetry.)

_____

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Magnetic North and the Shanghai International Literary Festival

Usually on Wednesdays, this: Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks 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…


Every year at this time in Shanghai, the world’s best literary festival takes place: The Shanghai International Literary Festival (SILF). Even though I’ve been living back in the United States for over a year now, SILF is my literary magnetic north. Not only do many of my favorite authors flock there (this year, Edward P. Jones!!!), but throughout the glorious three-week festival, you’re pretty much guaranteed at least a handful of compelling conversations about China, India, our world, East/West, etc. (And to top it off…it’s a helluva good party.)

Since I can’t be there this year (watch out, 2013!), I’m going to appease myself by attending as many local author readings as I can (tonight, Margot Livesey), slipping into writerhead as often as possible, and trying like hell to ignore the compass needle that keeps flinging around wildly.

So…where’s your literary magnetic north?

_____

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mojo Monday: Mark Grist’s “Girls Who Read”

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.


Have you watched spoken word poet Mark Grist perform?

Whhhaaaattt? No?

Oy! Here’s your chance. This is Grist on why he likes girls who read. I love this! (And once you’ve watched, hunker down with a topic about which you’re passionate. Riff on it. Writerhead! Writerhead! Writerhead!)

Expat Sat: China Is The Big, Bad Monster

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.


Yesterday I was reading the “Amazon Will Kill You” blog post by Joe Konrath at the same time I was reading the “Amazon, Innovation, and the Rewards of the Free Market” post by The Authors Guild. (If you haven’t read these two pieces, I encourage you to do so. But in essence, JK says that publishing has already changed, that we—readers & writers—are responsible for that change, that Amazon is not the devil it’s made out to be, and that those who don’t embrace the change will be left behind. The Authors Guild says pretty much the opposite.)

This conversation reminds of the “China debate” folks often rope me into. Because I lived there for a good while, they expect/want me to be leading the “China is the big, bad monster” parade…the monster that stole our jobs. But while I am often hollering about China’s flaws and challenges (especially when it comes to freedom of speech and human rights), I love China. And here’s what I believe:

  • The U.S. gave China our manufacturing jobs, and now it sucks because we’re feeling the repercussions of that act. We didn’t think ahead. We just saw $$$$$$.
  • Because we gave our manufacturing jobs to China (and for a whole lot of other reasons), the world economy has changed. In big ways. Forever. Some are embracing it; some are resisting.
  • Those who embrace will soar; those who resist will stay stuck in the mud.
  • We can’t go backward.
  • Get out of the mud. Innovate.

_____

Image: chrisroll / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Writerhead Wednesday: Pause for Station Identification

Usually on Wednesdays, this: Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks 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.

But today, a bit of self-promotion instead.

A short story of mine (“Cherries Jubilee”) has just been published in the über-cool BIG LOVE BITES edition of HYPERTEXTMAG.com.

So whatcha doing lollygagging around here?

Scooch on over to HYPERTEXT. (Loads of great writing there…you could be reading all day.)

Read!

 

_____

Image: kibsri / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mojo Monday: Failure…Bah!

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.


“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

~ Thomas Edison

(Thomas Edison & his early phonograph, circa 1877)

Expat Sat: 4 Questions Expat Writers Need to Ask Themselves

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.


You’re an expat. You’re a writer. You’re ready to start a new project. You’re not quite sure how or where or what to begin. Here are four questions to help you get started.

1.  Am I writing about myself in this place?

2.  Am I writing about this place without “me” in it? (Meaning, you’re an observer, a gatherer of information, not a participant.)

3.  Am I writing fiction or nonfiction?

4.  What is it about this place that inspires me?

_____

Image: think4photop / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring the Fantabulous Elizabeth Stuckey-French

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks 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.


Titles led me to Elizabeth Stuckey-French. She’s got some of the best: The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady, Mermaids on the Moon, and The First Paper Girl in Red Oak, Iowa. Her prose and storytelling style got me addicted. I’m so excited to be able to share her writerhead today.

Now, listen up! And no fidgeting. As Elizabeth says, she lives in writerhead. We do not want to interrupt her.

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

I live in writerhead. It never goes away. I’m always experiencing my life and simultaneously evaluating things that happen to me and around me as possible material. Sometimes it’s annoying—like when I’m having fun with my family and I just want to be in the moment already. As James Thurber put it, “Sometimes my wife comes up to me at a party and says, ‘Dammit, Thurber, stop writing.’” But other times it can be useful when one bad thing happens after another. Then, no matter how bad things get, and how sad I might be, part of me is standing back thinking, pay attention to how this feels so you can use it later! Now you know what it feels like to have someone you love die. Grist for the mill!

Writerhead gets most intense for me when I’m revising something. My fictional world can start to feel more urgent than the rest of my life. This happened to me the first time when I started graduate school at Purdue and had enrolled in my initial graduate fiction-writing workshop. This was also the first time I’d ever been required to revise a piece of fiction—previously I just banged out a first draft, an only draft, and stuck it in a drawer. My husband was teaching high school at the time and, since we didn’t own a computer, I tagged along with him to Benton Central High School one blizzardy day to use one of the Apple IIs in their library. I started to revise my story, and before I knew it, hours had passed. I had to tear myself away when it was time to go home that afternoon. I’d never been transported like that before, and that’s when I knew that I had found my calling.

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.)

Because I’m constantly in writerhead, I’m constantly being interrupted. Tending to my kids has taught me that the creative process is not fragile. Well, interruptions bother me some, but in a perverse way, being bothered about being interrupted makes me happy, because if I’m bothered I must be writing something I care about, which makes me happier than anything. And I’ve learned that what I’m working on will be there waiting, like a loyal friend, till I can get back to it. I do go on a writing retreat for two weeks every summer when I can wallow in writerhead to my heart’s content. I dream of those two weeks during the rest of the year. My husband always tells the story of how, when I was finishing my first novel on Sept. 11, 2001, while he was glued to the television watching the towers fall over and over again, I tuned out the news and sat at the kitchen table banging away at my revision. It was the best antidote I could find for the helplessness I was feeling.

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

Writerhead feels like playing on a Ouija board with my characters. We’ve got our fingers on the pointer, which takes us to another world, the world of the story.

BIO: Elizabeth Stuckey-French is the author of two novels, The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady and Mermaids on the Moon, as well as a collection of short stories, The First Paper Girl in Red Oak, Iowa. She is a co-author, along with Janet Burroway and Ned Stuckey-French, of Writing Fiction: A Guide to the Narrative Craft. Her short stories have appeared in The Normal School, Narrative Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Gettysburg Review, Southern Review, Five Points, and The O’Henry Prize Stories 2005. She was awarded a James Michener Fellowship and has won grants from the Howard Foundation, the Indiana Arts Foundation, and the Florida Arts Foundation. She teaches fiction writing at Florida State University.

If you’d like to know more about Elizabeth, pop on over to her web site or say hello on Facebook.