Five Questions with Fiction Instructor Chris Belden
1) When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
The short answer is, I don’t remember! That’s how long ago it was. It probably started with reading, which was a big activity in my house, but then no one else became a writer (I’m one of seven kids), so I probably have some kind of defective gene. I wrote stories all through school, but got serious about it in my twenties, after moving to NYC.
2) What do you love most about the writing process?
Some days, nothing. Other days, everything. Right now, I’m revising, which I find weirdly enjoyable. I write (& revise) by hand, which makes it feel almost like physical labor, so that when I finish for the day, it’s like I’ve dug a ditch or some other productive effort.
3) What do you love most about teaching writing?
There’s a lot to enjoy: watching students grow as writers & editors, reading great work, the camaraderie. Perhaps most of all I enjoy watching how, over time, writers learn that they are indeed writers rather than people who just think about writing or consider it a hobby.
4) What are you reading right now?
I just finished Stephen Wright’s 1994 novel Going Native (not Steven Wright the comedian). It’s more of a collection of stories connected by one character who appears, sometimes briefly, in each one. It’s a wild book, full of violence & deviant sex, & written in a florid style that is impossible to copy.
5) What’s your favorite writing quote?
This is not a quote about writing specifically, but I think it applies. It’s attributed to an anonymous Buddhist monk, & I used it as the epigraph for my novel Shriver: “Now that I am enlightened, I’m just as miserable as ever.” To me, it means that, no matter how much we learn, we still have a long way to go—especially if we think we’re there already!
Write For Us!
We’re excited to launch this new blog on our site as a forum to share our writers’ work, introduce our instructors, and share our thoughts on the writing process. This week, I’m thinking about Toni Morrison again since watching the moving documentary about her life as a writer, “The Pieces I Am.” Have you watched it yet? As usual, Toni’s words and novel excerpts caused both inspiration and envy. As the writer Crystal Wilkinson wrote, “Toni Morrison makes me want to both write forever and never write again. And it’s always been this way.”
But I also like what Toni has to say, “People say to write about what you know. I’m here to tell you, no one wants to read that, cos you don’t know anything. So write about something you don’t know. And don’t be scared, ever.” The film is filled with gems like these… and moments where the brilliant author shares how she fit writing into her busy life early on as a mom to two young boys and job as a full-time editor at Random House. Her friends explained how she wrote at traffic stops and whenever she could fit it in. She wasn’t scared, ever.
We hope you’ll submit your writing to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each month we’ll have a theme. Keep your submission to 500 words or less. We welcome any genre or form of writing! This month’s theme is CLIMATE. Deadline is November 1st. Use this theme as a prompt to write something new or look over your works-in-progress to see if something you’ve started could fit within this theme. We’ll begin publishing the work here in November. Stay tuned!