Sunday, February 23, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

February 24, 2014 I’d like to thank Diane Lefer, for inviting me to take part in the Writing Process blog tour, where I’m asked by a writer, Diane in my case, to answer four questions about how and why I write, and then I ask other writers to continue writing on their blogs about their process: I’ve just enjoyed reading two of Diane Lefer wonderful novels—Nobody Wakes Up Pretty and The Fiery Alphabet—as well as her award-winning short story collection California Transit Lefer is one of the few fiction writers in the U.S. capturing our contemporary writing, and her work is tremendously exciting to read. After reading Nobody Wakes Up Pretty about the gentrification of a neighborhood the heroine is living in the upper west side of Manhattan, I became aware how exiled I feel when my Hollywood neighborhood is undergoing gentrification and was inspired to write a long poem. Diane blogs: 1) What am I working on? I just finished a novel about a young woman going to Berkeley in the 1960s showing her transformations from shy, bookish girl to getting arrested in a civil rights sit-in, going to jail. and falling in love. The novel is about first time falling in love during the Vietnam War and also getting pregnant when abortion was illegal. The novel is about transformations, love, politics—and the death of the first friend your age. I also just finished my sixth book of poetry about my brother and mother’s lives as well as my brother’s fourteen year struggle with Parkinson’s and my mother’s growing frailty in her eighties. The poems talk about how my brother is a great father despite his disease and how a family survives the ineptitude of a failing health care system. I’ve written 1/3 of a seventh book of poetry about life and love in 2013-2014 when my college get shot up, when grifters try high technological electronic stealing of one’s identity, and when one can feel exiled when living in a neighborhood undergoing rapid gentrification. I’ve written my first sonnet, a love sonnet. 2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? Many 1960s novels were written in the 1960s or soon after, but mine is written many decades later, so is more concerned with love than with anger. I also write in 3rd person, not first person, and accept my young naïve heroine does make mistakes but learns from her mistakes. Though she has a central conflict with her father, sometimes he is more right than she is. I grew up with a grandmother who loved Tolstoy and Dickens, she taught me to love them too. Though I have, of course, been influenced by early 20th century modernism, I am also inspired by the 19th century novelists like Tolstoy and Dickens who combine personal stories with writing about history or politics. My fifth and sixth books of poetry show the influence of my Whitman and Neruda as I wrote long poems. Most poets these days seems to write short lyrics, but I often have written longer narrative poems often in a chronological sequence as the whole book of poetry is a story in verse in my last three books. My fifth book of poems What Were They Like was inspired by Whitman’s Civil War poetry in “Drum Taps” poems, and I’m in the small minority of U.S. poets to write about the wars of the 21st century. While most poets in the U.S. just write personal lyric poetry, my new poems are not just personal lyrics but try to capture what life is like in 2014 exploring how the personal life is impacted by larger impersonal economic/technological structures. 3. Why do I write what I do? Often to celebrate the life of a person I loved. My first book of poetry was written after my grandmother’s death to celebrate her life and the lives of her remarkable generation of immigrants’ right before World War I. Carl Sandberg asked, “Who do you owe your freedom?” Often the poems try to answer that question, as I certainly owe my freedom to my grandparents, and I wish to rescue their lives from clichés and obscurity. As for the novel, I always wanted to write about the 1960s in order to celebrate the community I felt at Berkeley in the 1960s and which I miss now. Also I was fascinated by dance for decades, and I enjoyed having the heroine develop into a serious dancer/choreographer exploring a path I did not take. From my first book of poetry I’ve been concerned with Camus’s exhortation to neither be a victim nor an executioner (or a silent partner to an executioner). Also I have been inspired by Hannah Arendt’s ideas in Eichmann in Jerusalem that even average humans in evil times can act in ways to recreate a moral world and that the poems attempt to recreate that moral world. I think poetry as well as other arts like jazz or dance can create utopian possibilities to counterpoint to our reality and to imagine a free space in which to live. 4) How does your writing process work? Writing a novel is different than writing a book of poetry. When I’m teaching, and I have been teaching either part-time or full-time the last 24 years, I can write poems in spurts in the odd free hours during the week. Or I’d blogged every Friday morning during the years 2004-2007. Only when I’m pulling the book of poetry together do I make myself work day after day until I’m done. If I am not teaching and am working on a novel, I start work at 9 am, take a short break, then work until lunch, take a lunch break, then work until about 3:00. I like to stay with the characters in the novel almost as if I was living with them day after day. After I finish the manuscript—whether of poetry or fiction—I like to put it away for a while and do something else—chores, see people—totally forgetting about the writing, so when I go back I to the manuscript I can see the writing with new eyes. On March 3, 2014, Vicki Nikolaidis will participate on the Writing Process Blog tour. Vicki Nikolaidis grew up in Iowa but when she realized there were so many warmer places to live in the world, she started traveling. Now she lives on Crete, her dream of an island paradise. After studying writing in Crete, she recently submitted a novella titled Path to Transcendence to The Malahat Review 2014 Novella contest. The novella is the first in a series of three about two characters who have intersecting lives although one lives in the contemporary world and one is from the ancient Mediterranean world. She describes “using the novellas to invent an unknown ancient religion based on creation, not destruction.” She will be participating in Writing Process Blog Tour on March 3 on her blog on Red Room: On March 10, 2014, poet Lyle Daggett will participate on the Writing Process Blog tour. Lyle Daggett has been writing poems for 45 years. He is the author of seven books of poems, most recently All Through the Night: New and Selected Poems (published 2013 by Red Dragonfly Press). His poetry is influenced by Whitman, Neruda, and Tom McGrath, and he is one of the few U.S. poets who can write a brilliant long Whitmanesque poem. He has worked for a living mostly sitting in cubicles, talking on the phone and typing on computers. His political activities began at age 14 when he gave a speech against the Vietnam War in his ninth grade English class. His blog is A Burning Patience:,

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