Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Kate Burak

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.

Back in August, I featured Erika Robuck on Writerhead Wednesday, whose new novel HEMINGWAY’S GIRL was inspired by, well, Hemingway, of course (you know, THE Hemingway…Ernest Hemingway). Today, I’m excited to feature another author whose new novel was inspired by one of our literary greats: Kate Burak, whose new YA novel EMILY’S DRESS AND OTHER MISSING THINGS was inspired by Emily Dickinson.

Welcome, Kate! (and Emily!)

Now, readers, you know the rules for mucking about in writerhead. No talking. Hands to yourself. No entry into trap doors.

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

For me, it has a scent:

I lived in the fog that summer. It filled the front part of my head. I was writing my first book, spending 6-8 hours a day in that state. After a couple of weeks of this, I noticed my detachment from the real world. Even though I have an electric kettle, I put in the stove and turned on the heat. I only realized my mistake when the smoke detector went off. I did the same thing, a couple of weeks later at my sister’s house: put her electric kettle on the open flame of her gas stove. This is why I have come to associate serious writerhead with the scent of melting plastic and burning wires.

For those around me, who observe it, it has a look:

I’ll tell you how my son described the look of writerhead—because that’s a point of view issue:

The conversation we were having was about writing, how good it feels.

“When you write it doesn’t look like it feels good,” he said. “It looks like it hurts.”

“No,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “You should see your face. It’s full of pain.”

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.)

Interrupting my writerhead is probably more frustrating for the person who interrupts me than it is for me. Take my son, for example, who tells me how he knows I’m in the writerhead zone by the look on my face. He says I answer questions, but it’s like a zombie talking. Information comes out but nothing else.

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

No matter what my son sees, it doesn’t feel like pain. It feels like being underwater, knowing I have to come up for breath eventually, but also knowing it’s okay to be where I am even though it’s below the surface and kind of dangerous. I have the power to emerge if I want to, but the world under the surface is so interesting to explore. I can almost be convinced I don’t need air.

BIO: Kate Burak is the author of EMILY’S DRESS AND OTHER MISSING THINGS, a young-adult novel. She teaches writing at Boston University.

CONTACT: Visit Kate’s website at kathrynburak.com. Give her high-five on Twitter (@DressWriter).


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