1) When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I always loved stories and would write and illustrate (not very good) stories for fun as a kid. In fifth and sixth grades, some friends and I would get together to write (really, awfully bad) song lyrics and poems, too. Then, in seventh grade, my class read This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald. By the end of the first chapter, I had decided I was going to be a novelist, my prior terrible writing attempts notwithstanding. Of course, by the time I got to college, I was much more practical, so I didn’t actually begin writing until many years later when I realized that this writing obsession wasn’t going away and no other work would be nearly as satisfying. I tried just being a hobbyist for a while, then finally admitted to the world that I didn’t want to do the expected thing and follow all the rules, so I went back to grad school for my MFA and my writing/teaching career began.
2) What do you love most about the writing process?
Part of what I love about writing is the problem solving. While it can be infuriating at times to figure out the right structure or just why something isn’t working and how to fix it, I love the mental exercise of it. The other part of writing that I love is the discovery. Michael Ondaatje has said, “As a writer, one is busy with archaeology.” I love that quote and it sums up why I write. I need to always be learning and discovering things about places, times, people, myself; always digging deeper to understand things on a new level. I would pretty quickly get bored with any other work I’ve done. When writing, I never get bored.
3) What do you love most about teaching writing?
I love that my job is to talk about writing with other people who care passionately about writing. It’s like getting paid to be in a book club with very keen, highly skilled readers. Plus, teaching really helps me to learn the craft of writing on another level. Explaining something to another person always helps you to learn it more deeply yourself.
4) What are you reading right now?
A Book of American Martyrs by Joyce Carol Oates. She’s so good at storytelling and inhabiting characters. I’m only a chapter in and I’m hooked.
5) What’s your favorite writing quote?