Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Vanessa Diffenbaugh

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.


Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers has been called many things: “Lucid and lovely” by The Wall Street Journal; “A fascinating debut…” by O Magazine; and “A moving and beautifully written portrayal of the frailty—and the hardness—of the human spirit” by The Daily Telegraph (UK).

Oh, so right!

Please give a hearty welcome to Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

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

I wrote The Language of Flowers in my office in Sacramento, California. Everyday at noon, my babies asleep in their cribs, I would tiptoe into my office, close the glass door, sit in my burgundy velvet chair, and flip open my laptop. Even now I miss the feeling of double-clicking the word document on my desktop, the rush of peace I felt as the title page opened before my eyes. I’d scroll down to the sentence where I left off—I tried to always stop in the middle of a sentence so that I wouldn’t have trouble remembering where I was—and start writing. When I am at my best, the feeling I get when I am writing most closely resembles reading. The story exists, and I am just moving forward into the story learning more and more with each passing moment.

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.)

As a parent to a newborn, a one-year-old, and two teenagers, my entire life was interruptions. I became good at pausing my thoughts and taking them back up in another, quieter moment. I will say though, that occasionally my daughter would wake too early or in the middle of some big idea, and I would pull her into my lap and say: “Want to hear a story about Victoria?” I would read aloud to her the words I typed furiously out onto the page, trying desperately to finish a thought before she lost attention and demanded more of me.

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

For me, writerhead is like high mountain air, making you feel slightly dizzy and almost painfully alive.

BIO: To write The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh found inspiration in her own experiences as a foster mother. After studying creative writing and education at Stanford University, Vanessa taught art and writing to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband, PK, have three children and live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is her first novel.

To tell Vanessa how much you love her book or to ask her a question about her writerhead, follow her Twitter (@VDiffenbaugh), visit her on Facebook, and, of course, check out her website.

3 Responses to Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Vanessa Diffenbaugh

  1. I so loved this novel! I’m really glad you tiptoed into your office every day at noon to write it. Hope you keep doing that so we can enjoy more of your writing!

  2. Seeing as THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS is magic, I love getting some insight into the magician and her process. Thank you both for sharing this!