Thanks to Stephanie Friedman for inviting me to participate in the blog tour about process #MyWritingProcess. I shall answer the following four questions with as little feebleness as possible.
Question #1: What am I working on now?
I finished a draft of my novel, The Worship of Storms, last October, while I was on a one-semester sabbatical from the School of the Art Institute. I sent the manuscript to my agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh of William Morris Endeavor, at the end of the month. Sheesh, I just Googled JRW and really, having my humble manuscript in her hands is like gaining a visit with the Queen. She's a rock star, people, who never comes off as one. I trust her so completely, and her feedback was right on the mark: thoughtful, unrushed, and totally doable. So I am back in revision mode, hoping to have the novel tidied up by the end of the summer.
My life, Chicago 2014. The only selfie this year.
I'm also at work on a personal essay about friendship/sexual assault/travel/bigotry. That range of topics tells you that it's a sprawling out-of-hand mess right now. But it might get there.
Question #2: How does my work differ from others of its genre?
It's always thorny to call "literary fiction" a genre, but that's what I write. How to define it? Try this. Lord help me if I get slotted into the Women's Fiction genre again. Male writers get called literary with great automaticity, whereas women who write about relationships, domesticity, or LOVE, get elbowed into that ubiquitous realm of Women's Fiction, which ranges from romance novels and chick lit to Oprah-redemptive stuff, but also includes the work of Nobel laureates (Toni Morrison) and National Book Award winners (Louise Erdrich). I haven't read the work of Jennifer Weiner personally, but I love this piece by Rebecca Mead in the New Yorker about Weiner's mash-ups with Franzen and her struggle for legitimacy.
Because literary fiction is not formulaic, I can't say how my work differs from others of its genre; rather, I can say which authors I strive to emulate: Margaret Atwood, Charlotte Bronte, Ricki Ducornet, Flann O'Brien, Dostoevsky, etc.
Question #3: Why do I write what I do?
Figuring out "why" I write what I do feels like a chore. Such an act of self-analysis or self-psychologizing makes me nervous. Sitting down to write requires a leap of faith, a leap into the unconscious. That's why answering the question, "What do you write about?" or "What's your new novel about?" makes me squirm. I can't sum it all up in two sentences, and sometimes I just want to say, "I don't know what it's about! You tell me!" Actually, don't tell me, because the whole writing business is this massively vulnerable act, and you'll probably tell me something about myself that makes me feel embarrassed, and the only way I can avoid self-censorship is to pretend that none of this has anything to do with me and that no one will actually ever read it, and if they do I'll just don a fake mustache and Groucho glasses and go out to smoke a cigar. And, hey, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!
Question #4: How does my writing process work?
My writing process goes in fits and starts. Sometimes I'm rocking and rolling on a near-daily basis, with word-count requirements and great vats of coffee. Other times it's completely stalled by student papers, reading books, too many compulsive Facebook and email checks, having to pick up children from school, bagging half-sandwiches, switching loads of laundry, shoveling, napping, snack breaks, phone calls, Fresh Air, text messages, gossip about the local park, and having to keep up some semblance of a blog presence, like I'm doing right now.
Phew. Here are two writers whom I've invited to join this tour...still waiting to hear from the third (I'll add if she gets back to me).
Christine Sneed is the author of the short story collection Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry and the novel Little Known Facts. She lives in Evanston, IL and teaches for Northwestern University and the low-residency MFA program at Pacific University. She is the visiting writer at Columbia College Chicago this spring semester, 2014.
Her website is www.christinesneed.com/blog
Laura Durnell's fiction has appeared in Fifth Wednesday Journal, The Antigonish Review, ACM (Another Chicago Magazine), Room of One's Own, and Journal of Experimental Fiction. In addition, it has won awards and fellowships from the Mary Roberts Rinehart Foundation (National Fiction Award), Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and Playboy. Currently, she works as an assistant editor at Narrative magazine and teaches at DePaul University, where she was recognized as a 2013 Women of Spirit and Action by the DePaul Women's Network, and Wilbur Wright College. She can be followed on Twitter and connected with on LinkedIn
Patricia Ann McNair
Patricia Ann McNair has lived 98 percent of her life in the Midwest. She’s managed a gas station, sold pots and pans door to door, tended bar and breaded mushrooms, worked on the trading floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and taught aerobics. Today she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Creative Writing of Columbia College ChicagoMcNair’s short story collection, The Temple of Air, was awarded Book of the Year in Traditional Fiction by the Chicago Writers Association, Southern Illinois University’s Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Prose, and a finalist award in Adult Fiction by the Society of Midland Authors. It was called “violently creative” by the Chicago Sun Times, and “plainspoken yet imaginative, complexly unnerving” by Booklist. She is currently at work on a novel, Climbing the House of God Hill. Find her at