My Writing Process — A Blog Tour

My writing pal, Betsy Morro invited me to participate in this Blog Tour that’s making the rounds these days and I’m honored that she did. Betsy’s writing an exciting book right now, Casualties, and I’m lucky enough to get to read parts of it most weeks. You can find out more about Betsy’s process at her site: elizabethmorroblog.com.

The Blog Tour wants participants to respond to four questions about their writing process. So here goes.

#1 What am I working on?

These days I’m about hip deep, maybe deeper, in my newest book, WILD WOMEN, WILD VOICES, which will be published by New World Library in February 2015. So in this post, I’ll speak only to my writing books.

photoThis new book has its roots in a series of Wild Women writing workshops I’ve given over the last fifteen years. The workshops themselves came in response to this quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her book, Women Who Run With the Wolves. “No matter by which culture a woman is influenced, she understands the words wild and woman, intuitively.”

The book’s subtitle is Writing from Our Authentic Wildness. It’s a guided journey through different aspects of women’s lives and invites readers to respond to questions, writing prompts and exercises writing from their authentic wild voice.

#2 How does my work differ from others of its genre?

WILD WOMEN, WILD VOICES is my fifth writing book, and my first written exclusively for women. (You can see my previous books here.) It differs from others in that it is as much a book of self-expression and exploration as it is about writing. While there are sections about the craft of writing, it’s not a craft book. And while it’s not an anthology, it will include selections of prose and poetry from published writers as well as writings from women who have participated in the Wild Women writing workshops. I hope it will be evocative for women who want to discover, uncover, or recover their authentic wild voice.

#3 Why do I write what I do?

All of my writing books have come out of workshops I ‘ve developed or groups I have led. In my classes and groups, I’ve witnessed beginning writers undertake a writing practice that allows them to find their voice, and more experienced writers respond to the work in exciting ways; exciting for them and for me. I’ve seen writers grow in skill and technique, and maybe more importantly, self-confidence. I’m amazed at the risks they’re willing to take and the perseverance they muster to write their stories and memoirs. I wanted to put the “live” workshop material into printed form so more who were called to the kind of writing I teach, would have access to it.

Over the years of leading the Wild Women Writing Workshop, I’ve had requests from women all over the country to bring the workshop to them. WILD WOMEN, WILD VOICES, is my way of responding.

#4 How does your writing process work?

messy workWhen I first begin a new project, I go mad for research. Because I’ve already taught much of the material in my workshops and groups, I have some structure for the book, but I generally need to add more material since much of what happens in workshop is spontaneous and live. This is especially true for my current WIP. I buy yellow pads by the dozens and scrawl and scratch notes and ideas. I keep a journal for the project, too, and free-write my thoughts and ideas; I ask myself questions and respond in the journal. I’m a list maker.

Though I can’t exactly say why, I write first drafts of my nonfiction books on my computer; fiction first drafts are always hand-written. For the first time, I’m using Scrivner, which is a very cool software program for writers. It allows me to keep my notes and my rough drafts, my comments and questions and more in easily accessed files. I’m pretty sure I’m only using about ten percent of the program’s capabilities. But it’s a boon for organization.

With this project more than any of the others, I am taking the actual writing away from home. I work in cafes alone and with others and at friends’ homes, at the library and a friend’s art gallery. I begin work mid-morning and work for several hours, sometimes coming back to the work in the evening. I’m certain, as I get closer to deadline, there will be many, many late nights. As I write this I’m at a cabin in a small mountain community in Southern California, where I’ll ensconce myself for all of next month.

I wish I weren’t such a perfectionist.

This Writing Process Blog Tour is a tag-team project and I’m delighted to introduce two fine writers who I have invited to follow me.

J. Dylan Yates has just published her first book, A BELIEF IN ANGELS. She’s hip deep (or deeper) in marketing and working on a sequel. You can find Dylan here.

Sylvia Mendoza is an award-winning novelist, journalist, editor and generous supporter of women. She’s one authentic Wild Woman. Read Sylvia’s post here.

A Moveable Feast, of sorts

Home isn’t always the best place for me to get serious writing time in. I’ve heard this from other writers, too—the audible sighing of the refrigerator wherein goodies lie in wait, the laundry that rustles in the hamper, the skittering of dust bunnies under the bed. And these days, when the deadline for my new book (Wild Women, Wild Voices) looms over me like the leggy philodendron on my bookshelf and I need to get some serious work done, I’ve been loading up my laptop and hitting the road. In the past two weeks my writing and I have encamped in so many different locations, it’s beginning to feel like a moveable feast, except it’s more like a feast that’s in early preparation stages, all potatoes to peel and lettuce to wash.

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Speak, Shadow

One of the sections in my Wild Women Writing Workshop is “Light & Shadow.” In it, we investigate the magical, the mystical, “intimations of extraordinary realities,” as Deena Metzger names them in her book, Writing for Your Life. We also explore our shadow side, that darker aspect of ourselves that is often repressed and usually thought to be unacceptable. But this shadow self also has spontaneity, creativity, and imagination. Creativity often derives from what might appear as socially unacceptable ways of seeing and interpreting the world, maybe a little dangerous, certainly nonconforming. But there’s great energy in this uncontrolled, uncensored creativity and it’s exactly here we might find traces of our wild, authentic voice.

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