Confession: I am officially THAT writer…

Confession: I am officially THAT writer…a strung-out mom who is working a fulfilling but demanding full-time job who has a book coming out and who is trying like hell to get the next one written.

But you know what? I love it. I’m loving my new daytime gig (director of publications & editor of the alumni magazine at Phillips Academy); I love (LOVE!) that Penguin Random House|Berkley Books is publishing my new novel (THE ART OF FLOATING) in April 2014; and despite the fact that writing another new novel is like venturing into the jungle without shoes, water, a match, a map, or moisturizer, I’m loving that, too.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, my hair looks like hell most days because, honestly, spending an hour taming my crazy locks is the thing that gives. And, no, I don’t sleep a whole lot (thus, the sizable bags I’m dragging around under my eyes). But you know, I wouldn’t trade a piece of it.

Raise your hand if you can relate!

(besides, I take a wee bit of comfort in the fact that on most days, despite horrid neglect, my hair looks slightly better than that of this poor woman)

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I Eat Fear

As I incorporate big changes into my writing/speaking/creating/teaching/cultural-spelunking/global-niche life and prepare to take some delightfully serious risks, I’ve been doing a good bit of thinking about change and fear and going for dreams and building and deconstructing and all that good stuff. I knew that by eliminating Writerhead Wednesday from my weekly blog lineup, I’d lose some followers here, but yeesh, I wasn’t ready for the flurry of unsubscribes that would result. Yesterday, as the unsubscribe notices littered my mailbox, I got scared. Super-duper cowering-in-a-corner-behind-a-curtain scared. Scared that I was making a mistake by ending (at least here on the blog) Writerhead Wednesday. Scared that I couldn’t/wouldn’t achieve my vision. Scared of failure. Scared of, well, all kinds of ridiculous crap.

Scared Dog_MorgueFileFree

I got so scared, in fact, that I almost…almost…did a knee-jerk turnaround by reinstating the structured blog post lineup. I almost…almost…got on all the social media channels and yelled, “Wait, wait, don’t go! I’ll bring Writerhead Wednesday back!”

But then, I was reminded of the great wisdom imparted by Neil Gaiman:

…I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.

And for this year, my wish for each of us is small and very simple.

And it’s this.

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

~Neil Gaiman

So I got centered, remembered why I’m doing this, mustered my mojo, and came up with yet another new anthem for 2013:

I EAT FEAR!

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Happy Thursday, folks! See you tomorrow.

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Changes Comin’ Round

For the last year and a half or so, I’ve started most Wednesdays with 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.”

file000255302390As we move into 2013, that’s going to change. While I’ll still feature cool authors’ writerheads from time to time AND I’ll still (always & forever) be writing and speaking about writerhead, Writerhead Wednesday is no longer going to be a weekly feature.

I know, I know. I’m going to miss it every week, too. But I’m feeling the need for less structure on this blog and more freestyle. After a year and a half of Mojo Monday, Writerhead Wednesday, and #38Write Fridays, I’m moving away from such a regimented schedule. I’ve got lots to share about writerhead, #38Write, global writing communities, books, inspirational stuff, and more. I’m creating the space and place for me to talk with you about whatever is bubbling. And there’s so much a’bubbling.

[Please note that I am looking for a new home for a Writerhead column. If you are an editor (or if you know an editor) of an online literary journal, I’d love to talk with you about offering Writerhead as a dynamic feature. Please get in touch.]

See you soon!

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Elena Passarello

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.


Usually on Writerhead Wednesday, I put the author’s photo up here at the top of the blog post (like this). And although—like all authors who have graced the pages of Writerhead—Elena Passarello is a beaut, I just had to put the cover of her new collection of essays here instead. How could I not? I mean, LOOK AT THIS COVER!

Elena is an actor and author of the new collection of essays about the human voice, LET ME CLEAR MY THROAT. As you can imagine, she’s got some juicy stuff to say about her writerhead.

Enjoy!

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

Writerhead for me is not an easy thing to come by, because my most generative days are the days in which I do not allow myself to get still in some kind of still, tunnel-vision-ed writer zone. Every moment of my writerhead is so specific to the unique “writertask” du jour that I have to court it royally. So it’s never just “sit in front of the computer, feel inspired, and clackety clack”; it’s “clackety at the computer for an hour, then go hand-write in the garden for a while, then take a long walk, talking out loud and taking notes, then hit a noisy coffee shop and clackety some more, then wake up in the middle of the night and type when it’s so quiet you feel like the last survivor in a zombie apocalypse and clackety until sun-up.”

I love it when I get the chance to do it, but an eighteen-hour, multi-locational writerhead bender is a rare opportunity. This means that, more often than not, I am working while out of writerhead—and that’s an important lesson I always try to keep in mind. Writerhead is a treat, but writing is a constant.

One thing is dead necessary, however, no matter what: in order to even begin to achieve any kind of writerly success, I must be wearing stretchy-waist pants.

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.)

Well, the reaction depends upon the distraction:

Phone Call: Not a problem, because I never know where my phone is.

Spouse: My partner is also a writer, and so he is amazing at steering clear of my work time, writerhead or not. But if he ever does interrupt me, I relent, because he is handsome/ winsome/ awesome and I am a total sucker for him.

Lover: My lover is the Internet, and she has much worse manners than my spouse’s. What a vile temptress she is. I have built up some resistance, but I am not always immune to her distractions, especially if said distractions include cat videos.

Coffee Shop: My most violent reactions. I shoot dirty looks, loudly stack papers, rant to the barista about these total jerks sitting next to me who won’t stop yelling about their stupid Ugg Boots and who will soon get a latte dumped on said stupid Ugg Boots. One time, I even tried to fart in the general direction of a gaggle of high-decibel stroller moms. It did not work. Also, I might need therapy.

Computer Crash: When the computer crashes (or the cat pukes on the keyboard and zorches two hours of work, which happened last Spring) I quit. I just quit. I go eat an entire Big Grab of kettle cooked potato chips and take a nap. Because sometimes, life just isn’t fair.

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

For me, writerhead is like one of those dates you have to work really hard to impress. It can’t just be dinner and a movie; it has to be dinner and a movie and a gondola ride and ice skating in an empty hockey arena and “let’s do it” spelled out in rose petals on the sidewalk AND a very special serenade from D’Angelo AND a three-dimensional scrapbook of our relationship—with holograms—mailed with a bushel-sized bouquet the next morning. But when it finally puts out? Good googly moogly.

BIO: Elena Passarello is an actor and essayist whose first book, Let Me Clear My Throat, is a shout-out to some of the most memorable human voices in history: Howard Dean, Judy Garland, Marlon Brando, Caruso, etc. Her work has appeared in publications including Slate, Creative Nonfiction, and Iowa Review, and in the music writing anthology Pop When the World Falls Apart. Last year, she became the first woman winner of the “Stella!” Screaming contest in New Orleans.

CONNECT: Oodles of ways to connect with Elena Passarello:

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Peter Selgin

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, I welcome Peter Selgin to Writerhead Wednesday. Peter and his memoir, Confessions of a Left-Handed Man: An Artist’s Memoir, caught my eye on Facebook because he is both artist and writer, and I’m insatiably curious about the intersection and overlap of those creative paths.

Let’s go…

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

Well, let’s be honest, inspiration doesn’t strike all the time. It’s not like knitting or doing a crossword puzzle, either, where there’s a consistent rhythm or where the problems have all been worked out in advance. Every sentence, every word of a good piece of writing is charting some sort of new territory, is both raising and answering its own questions. If words come to us too easily, we really should suspect them. Most writing that’s done with great facility and ease is suspect. If and when we get into the “zone” we do so, must of us, usually, through great effort. As for where and when it happens—for me, anyway, it’s not predictable, although I love those wide-open days when everything else has been put aside and I can do nothing but write for hours. In that case I write in my studio, which lately occupies the loft of an A-frame on Lake Sinclair in Georgia, and faces out through one of two very large triangular windows facing the lake, with the dock from which I periodically swim centered in the view under a tree. It’s one of those views you can get lost in, that inspires daydreams. At times I have to remind myself that it’s not one of those rear-projector fakes like the ones Hitchcock used to use all the time in his movies, that I really can go jump in the lake any time I want. The view is distracting but it’s also comforting. In some ways I think it mirrors an ideal internal state, the state of tranquility in which emotions are recaptured.

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.)

Since I live alone here out by the lake there are very few interruptions. My neighbors are mostly weekend and summer residents; often their homes are empty, and if I wanted to I could walk out naked to my dock for a skinny dip and get away with it (I don’t). I keep the music (usually opera or classical) very quiet and even then sometimes I have to turn it off completely. There are several dogs in the neighborhood, but they don’t seem to bark, thank goodness, although there is also a red fox who makes a hideous sound, a sort of half-howl, half-bark, but he does it deep into the night when I’m usually asleep. Since I do 99% of my corresponding my email the phone seldom rings. On summer weekends the powerboats and jet-skis all come out on the lake. The jet-skis in particular bother me, not just because of the noise, but because they’re such disgusting, infernal nuisances. I really detest them and have these terribly uncharitable fantasies about their drivers colliding (they also scare me since I’m a swimmer and like to swim across the inlet and back, and so the greater likelihood is that one day one of those morons will collide with ME). As for other kinds of interruptions, usually they’re self-engineered. I stand up, I stretch, I look out the window, I make a pot of espresso, I do some push-ups, I jump in the lake. It’s good to move the body now and then. Sometimes, if things aren’t going well, I find other things to do. Writing is the most avoidable of all endeavors.

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

I’m afraid I may be the least romantic of all your respondents to this question. No, for me inspiration isn’t at all like eating a bowl of warm pudding or rolling down a fur-lined embankment or anything like that. It’s more like snuggling up to someone in bed—the someone (if I’m writing narrative) being a story, its setting, its characters. Mostly, though, it’s snuggling up to words, caressing and exploring them, finding new ways to put them together. In that sense it is sort of like a jigsaw puzzle, except that first you cut out and shape the pieces, then you discover how to put them together. But there’s always effort involved. At the very least there’s the effort to surpass and challenge oneself. If someone tells me that writing is easy, that it’s pure joy for them, my first thought is always, “Well, maybe it should be a little harder.”

BIO: Peter Selgin is the author of Drowning Lessons, winner of the 2007 Flannery O’Connor Award for Fiction, Life Goes to the Movies, a novel, two books on the craft of fiction, and two children’s books. His memoir, Confessions of a Left-Handed Man: An Artist’s Memoir, was short-listed for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. His latest novel, The Water Master, won the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society Prize, and his essay, The Kuhreihen Melody, won both the Missouri Review Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize and the Dana Award for the Essay. Selgin’s full-length drama, A God in the House, was a National Playwright’s Conference winner. He teaches at Georgia College and State University.

CONTACT: Visit Peter’s website at peterselgin.com.

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Yuvi Zalkow

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.


I know y’all have been wanting to sneak into Yuvi Zalkow’s writerhead ever since you caught word of the publication of his new novel A BRILLIANT NOVEL IN THE WORKS. [And, yes, I know I’ve been using the term y’all a lot lately; see Dinty Moore’s intro last week. Sometimes I’m southern.]

Me, too.

Though I do think that in Chapter 1 when Yuvi (the character in the book, not the author) says to his wife, “Hush, I’m trying to work,” he really should have said, “Hush, I’m in writerhead.” Maybe Yuvi (the author) will update this in a later printing.

Regardless, I’m delighted Yuvi agreed to yak about his writerhead when I asked. A BRILLIANT NOVEL IN THE WORKS—like Lydia Netzer’s Shine Shine Shine—is going to be one of my favorite novels of the year.

Now, as you know, there’s to be no stomping around in Yuvi’s writerhead. Any stomping, hollering, hooting, or other disruptive behavior and you’re out!

Got it?

Good. Let’s go.

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

It’s funny because much of my writing is not really in writerhead, or at least not in my version of writerhead.

Oops. Now I’ve made it so I have to describe two things: writing in writerhead and writing in non-writerhead.

OK. First writerhead: Writerhead is when I lose track of time or day. I skip meals. I forget to do the shopping that I promised my wife I would do. Sometimes this happens on my laptop in a cafe. Or sometimes on my iPhone in the bathroom stall of my day job. It can happen with a notebook and pencil with me pulled over on the side of the road. Or a park bench in the shade. It is where I get so immersed in my story that I barely register external sights and sounds. Or else it might be while I’m blasting that instrumental Beastie Boys album (seriously!). It could be when digging through a critical scene in my novel or when I find the perfect voice for my storyteller. Or when I finally realize how the story must end. Writerhead is more than just in my head. It feels likes every part of my body and everything around me. I worship writerhead.

But most of the time, I write in non-writerhead. Writing in non-writerhead is when I’m thinking about that email I have to respond to. Or when I decide to check my twitter timeline. I’m thinking about my flaws as a parent or husband or as a human being. I worry about friends who are sick. I think about my taxes or the bad book review I just received. I awkwardly chip away at a scene and I see that the writing is bad. Or worse than bad: it is empty. I try again. My two hour window has suddenly become twenty minutes because I wasted time telling a poop joke on twitter. But it’s even worse than that: it was a poop joke that no one liked enough to retweet! While I’m working on my novel, I start thinking about an unrelated essay I want to write. I read a blog post that makes me depressed. I should call my parents and check in. My throat hurts. I’m sleepy. That picture on the wall is crooked. Maybe I should straighten it. Time to pick up the kid from daycare. I have squandered so much time!

I think both these spaces are essential to the writer. This is what I wasn’t warned about. Those crappy moments at the table are essential too. I produce meaningful stuff in non-writerhead, even if it is far less efficient. Sometimes I can channel that difficult emotion of being in non-writerhead and use it effectively in my scene in a way that writerhead might not have offered me. Or perhaps non-writerhead is where I organize and tame the few bursts of brilliance I produced during writerhead.

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 get resentful as a first response. And then I begin to feel like a failure… What is wrong with me? If this happened to [other-writer-I’m-jealous-of], they would be able to keep writing beautiful things. But for me, it spells disaster.

But I can also sometimes use that frustration from being interrupted as fuel for my writing. For instance, I’m writing about a character right now who has these grand aspirations but is always falling on his face, never achieving what he dreams to achieve. So my own interruption from writerhead can produce a disappointment in me that is useful when writing from the point of view of my character.

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

Forgive this total cop out, but writerhead is a place I’m not sure exists except during those moments when I’m in it and then I’m so immersed in it that it feels like there is no metaphor that could properly pay tribute to it. But then it’s gone and all the second-rate metaphors come back: the river, the sun, the light, the seed, the marathon, the plane, the clouds, the thunder, the explosion, the sex. But to hell with all those f***ing metaphors! I just want to get back into writerhead!

BIO: Yuvi Zalkow’s debut novel (A BRILLIANT NOVEL IN THE WORKS) is now available online and in stores. He received his MFA from Antioch University and his stories have been published in Glimmer Train, Narrative Magazine, The Los Angeles Review, Carve Magazine, and others. He is the creator of the “I’m a Failed Writer” online video series and has been rejected more than 600 times by reputable and disreputable journals. Visit his website at http://yuvizalkow.com.

HIGH-FIVE: If you’d like to give Yuvi a high-five (or encourage him to rewrite that line that I mentioned above so that it includes the term writerhead), here’s where you can find him: website, Twitter (@yuvizalkow), and Facebook.

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Lynda Rutledge

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.


Because I’ve known Lynda Rutledge since I was in graduate school at Columbia College in Chicago back in the 1990s, I’m especially delighted to share her debut novel here on Writerhead Wednesday. If you haven’t read Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale yet, get your cutie-patootie to the bookstore or library.

Now, without further ado, please raise your glasses and give a cheer for Lynda’s writerhead.

Whoop! Whoop!

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

To answer, I’ll tell you of the first moment my journalistic mind tripped the light fantastic into the sometimes dangerous land of writerly lies we call fiction writing. It happened in Chicago years ago when I was just beginning to play around with creating fiction. I was a full-time freelance journalist with literary pretensions, and I had to carefully keep my two worlds—facts and fabrication—apart. And for a long time, I did just fine.

Then… My spouse and I had friends in a picturesque small town outside Chicago and we’d drive out there every few weeks. One day, we passed a homemade sign on the roadside we hadn’t seen before. I don’t recall what the sign said; I just recall my saying something like: “I wonder what’s that’s about? Maybe it’s…[insert a scenario].”

My long-suffering spouse never commented on my speculations since it was a form of entertainment for me, this weaving of riding-along “what-ifs,” and he’d heard it all before.

A few weeks later, we drove by the same sign again.

This time I said, “Hey, I wonder how that [insert scenario] is going?”

The spouse looked at me all-but-crosseyed.

“What?” I said, wondering what his problem was.

“Lynda, you made that up. You know that, right?”

I gawked for a long moment. Then I guffawed: Omigod, I had. The secret to making fiction “real” is that the writer has to believe it, and obviously that’s what I’d done to a fault; I had created the scenario so vividly in my head that I had forgotten it wasn’t real. My two worlds had collided. Now what was I going to do? I decided I’d accept it, let it happen as it would, and see where it took me. My journalist days were obviously numbered, and it was time. Now it’s the place I wander into every day, if it’s a good day. And sometimes even more so when it’s not: No longer am I cranky in stalled traffic or in long lines (at least if they’re not too long). Instead, I eavesdrop, watch, and catalog. Stand in front of me at the DMV and prepare to become grist for my little writer’s mill. Make me think creatively, delight me with your weirdness, force me to see things differently enough to weave a “what if” scenario or two, and I relax. Everything is fodder. Except for those first draft pangs, where nothing seems to want to behave and the earth seems to insist on spinning backwards, I notice that I’m happiest there.

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.)

It’s pretty ugly. You’d think my friends (the ones I have left) and my family (the ones who still speak to me after their heads have been bitten off) would learn to leave the crazy woman alone when she has that “look,” but since that would mean I’d stay in my writer cave so much I’d not sleep, eat, or even notice the earth spinning, that’s pretty much impossible. So, of course, I stay cranky on every entry and exit. It’s always a bumpy ride.

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

For me, it’s an altered state, like the time I took peyote with the Navajo shaman outside of Taos…oh, wait. I made that up. Or did I?

BIO: Hopping across literary and geographic boundaries in her writing career, Lynda’s been a freelance journalist, travel writer, ghostwriter, restaurant and film reviewer, copywriter, college professor, book collaborator, and nonfiction author while living/writing/studying in Chicago, San Diego, New Orleans, Madrid, and many elsewheres, her wanderlust as strong as her writerhead. But her creative writing has always been the stuff of her biggest literary dreams. She’s won awards and residencies from the Illinois Arts Council, Writers League of Texas, Ragdale Foundation, Atlantic Center for the Arts, among others. Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale is her debut novel.

CONNECT: To learn more about Lynda and her spectacular debut novel, visit her website, check out her blog, give her a wave on Twitter (@LyndaRutledge), or become a fan on Facebook.

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Hank Phillippi Ryan

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.


Confession: I have a huge writerly/life-erly crush on today’s featured author. She is none other than Hank Phillippi Ryan, author of the just-released-yesterday-to-huge-acclaim The Other Woman (a thriller, which is the first in a new series). Not only is Hank a gripping, hold-you-to-your-seat writer AND a rather famous investigative reporter in Boston who helps a lot of people, but she’s also a warm, genuine, funny, so-much-like-you-and-me, no bullshit person who gets it done. Hell, she’s even sexy.

I was lucky enough to meet Hank earlier this year when we were both speaking at the 2012 Pennwriters Conference in Lancaster, PA. She was the brilliant keynote speaker who touched everybody’s heart, and I was sharing the gospel of writerhead.

As I suspected, Hank’s got one hell of a writerhead, so please put your hands together and raise your voices. Let’s hear it for Hank!

“Hank! Hank! Hank! Hank!”

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

I have a full-time job as a television reporter—9 til 6, every day. Being a journalist has writerhead of its own—a deadline-crazed instant-gratification banging out the best you can, as fast as you can, of what’s absolutely factual—knowing it’ll evaporate into the airwaves the moment it’s broadcast.

When I flip the switch to writing my book each night—not reporting, but making stuff up!—I don’t have the luxury of much time to get into the groove. I write—or I don’t. And I have to write, because the publisher is expecting a book! A good book! So I have to get to writerhead—but I know that state of being is not attainable simply by “wanting” to.

So—I let go. Each day as I sit at the desk in my study, in front of my computer, I tell myself it’s all fine, it doesn’t matter. I’m not writing a book, I’m writing a page. A paragraph. One line. I give myself permission to “not-do” it.

What do I hope will happen in this part of the book? I ask myself. What’s my goal with the scene? I try to envision it, how people would look, and what they want, and how they would feel and react to each other. And I try…a few words.

Even telling you about it now, the background noises in my house are fading, and the light seems to be focused on me and nowhere else, and I can feel the tunnel of the story pulling me into it.

And soon—I know, I rely on it!—my fingers will be flying across the keyboard so fast I have no idea what I’m even writing. (Thank goodness for spellcheck—although sometimes even spellcheck is baffled.) Oh, I think—I didn’t know that was going to happen next! She said—what?

Sometimes tears come to my eyes. And then I know.

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.)

Smiling. Even through the mists of writerhead, I can hear the footsteps in the hall. My husband, since we live alone and he’s the only possibility. I’ll ignore it, I say. Maybe he’ll go away. Maybe he doesn’t really need me this very second.

Sometimes he’ll come in, and stand behind my chair. Look over my shoulder at the screen. “How’re you doing?” he’ll ask. And I know he’s lonely, or wants to connect, and truly does want to know how I am. And I feel—guilty that my reaction (which I tamp down) is to say: Go a-WAY.

But I finish the line I’m writing, sometimes make a little reminder note (“gun” or “phone call” or “Jane doesn’t know about baby”) and try to totally focus on him. It the least I can do, right? And then I can get back to work.

Quickly—over the fourth of July, my wonderful 9-year-old grandson was in town. I was at a particularly difficult part of my (now-finished) new book and could NOT decide what to do. Writerhead was a memory.

Eli came in and said—“I’m so interested in what you’re doing Grammy. What are you working on?”

How could I resist that?

But I had a dilemma. How do you tell a nine year-old you’re trying to decide if a character should live or die?

“I’m deciding whether a character should live or die,” I said.

Eli thought about that. “Is it a good person?”

“Yes,” I said, “she is.”

“Then she should live,” he said. “Maybe have a narrow escape.”

I smiled. “Yes, that’s what I was thinking, too. But sometimes a narrow escape is a cheap shot.”

Eli thought about that. “True,” he said. “So she should have to give something up to escape.”

And of course that was exactly right, and I told him so. Thank goodness for the interruption!

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

Oh, it’s time. Pure, timeless, endless time. I feel like a star, glittering in space, constant and confident and eternal and even alone.

 
BIO: Hank Phillippi Ryan is the on-the-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. Her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in restitution. Along with her 28 EMMYs, Hank’s won dozens of other journalism honors. She’s been a radio reporter, a political campaign staffer, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine working with Hunter S. Thompson.

She’s won the Anthony. Agatha and Macavity for her crime fiction, and is president-electo of national Sisters in Crime.

Her newest thriller, The Other Woman (an Indie Next GreatRead) is now out in hardcover from Forge. A starred review in Library Journal says “Readers who crave mystery and political intrigue will be mesmerized…,” and a starred review from Booklist calls it “The perfect thriller for an election season..”

CONNECT: To get more Hank, visit her website or check out her blog at Jungle Red Writers. Give her a thumbs-up on Facebook. Or say give her a high-five on Twitter (@hank_phillippi).


Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Erika Robuck

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.


Welcome back from a fantabulous summer, wonderful readers! I hope yours was sunny, warm, and full of good books and lime Popsicles.

It is my great pleasure to launch the fall season of Writerhead Wednesday with none other than the spectacular Erika Robuck, author of the soon-to-be-released historical fiction novel Hemingway’s Girl (Sept. 4).

I first met Erika on Twitter some years ago, and we’ve maintained a conversation ever since. She’s smart, funny, and passionate about writing, history, and her kiddos.

Let’s proceed…with caution. This is, after all, writerhead.

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

For me, writerhead is a state of near euphoria, removed from time and space, almost as I’d imagine my soul hovering outside of my physical self. When the characters seem to inhabit my body, my fingers can’t keep up with the words, and I have no awareness of basic needs, I am in writerhead. It’s wonderfully exhausting.

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 work from home and I’m a mother to three boys under the age of ten, so interruption is a constant part of my process. I try to wait until my boys are asleep to write, when I’m less likely to be interrupted, because when they do interrupt writerhead, I’m terribly irritable.

Writing, for me, is achieved by near hypnosis, or at least a Pavlovian response to classical music and coffee. It’s easy for me to step into the writerhead zone because I crave it and I’ve trained myself to tap into it. When I’m pulled out of it by external factors, I have a very hard separating myself from the work. It’s almost violent for me. It’s like trying to stuff the floating soul back into the body, and as a writer of historical fiction, trying to travel back to the present from some place in the past.

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

The creative trance of writerhead is like the high experienced by a drug addict or a runner, though I’ve never done drugs and certainly don’t run enough to experience anything but misery while doing it. Like an addict, I’m always chasing the writerhead high, and when I get it, it makes me hungry for more.

BIO: Erika Robuck self-published her first novel Receive Me Falling. Her second novel, Hemingway’s Girl, will be released by NAL/Penguin on September 4, 2012. Erika is a contributor to popular fiction blog, Writer Unboxed, and maintains her own blog called Muse. She is a member of the Maryland Writer’s Association, The Hemingway Society, and The Historical Novel Society. She spends her time on the East Coast with her husband and three sons.

If you’d like to say hello to Erika, give her a wave on Twitter (@ErikaRobuck) or Facebook.

 

 

Writerhead Wednesday: The New Season Launches Next Week

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.


Although I refuse to admit that summer may be heading to a close in just a few short weeks, I am happy to announce that the fall season of Writerhead Wednesday will launch next Wednesday, August 29, with none other than (drum roll, please)…

Erika Robuck

Erika’s second novel HEMINGWAY’S GIRL is due in bookstores during the first week of September. You, lovely readers, will be lucky enough next week to tiptoe into her writerhead.

See you next Wednesday!