NOTE: Anna also has a recent piece at The Huffington Post about writers’ schedules. Read that by clicking HERE.
We’ve participated in a blog hop before, and we were happy to be tagged for a new one—twice. Because we’ve been tagged by two different writers, we’re doing two different posts as part of My Writing Process, one today and the other, next Wednesday. While we write together a lot, we also each have individual writing projects. So two posts allows us, for a change, to each to have our separate say at Lofty Ambitions.
Patricia Grace King tagged us. She is the author of two award-winning fiction chapbooks, The Death of Carrie Bradshaw and Rubia, both of which we saw in draft as part of our writing group. You can find Patricia’s post about her writing process on her Facebook page or at Paulette Livers‘s website HERE.
Emily Gray Tedrowe also tagged us. She’s the author of the novel Commuters and the forthcoming Blue Stars. We met Emily during our Ragdale residency, and we’re represented by the same literary agent, Alice Tasman. Emily’s blog hop post is at Tumblr HERE.
Anna’s up first, with her thoughts on her poetry writing process.
What am I working on?
Since we started this blog in 2010, we’ve spent a lot of time on weekly posts and on nonfiction related to Lofty Ambitions. That slowed down my work on poems for a while, but I never stopped writing poetry. After a couple years of not paying attention to how many or few poems I was drafting and revising, I ended up with a bunch, some of which drew from subject matter we’ve also covered on the blog, including astronomy, space exploration, cancer, and nuclear weapons development.
Over the past year, we’ve had two residencies at the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony. While there, I carved out substantial time for poetry and focused on writing and revising poems at least loosely related to science. Since returning home in January, I’ve been honing a new poetry book manuscript.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’ve been pegged as a science poet since Constituents of Matter was published. The science content in that book is not nearly as driving a force as the autobiographical content, but scientific terms and metaphors work as a frame—and maybe a deflection—that I found important. Readers find that layer distinctive and unifying, too.
Allison Hawthorne Deming wrote about the relationship of science to poetry in a way that meant a lot to me when I was thinking about these issues several years ago. My new book manuscript feels as if it does an even better job—more integral, more sweeping, more mature—than my first book in blending science, history, and personal experience. I’ve had a lot of fun figuring it out all over again.
Why do I write what I do?
In fourth grade, I wrote a haiku about a hamburger that was read on the radio. Maybe that first external validation nudged me toward poetry, but I continue to write in different genres and am delighted that my essay in The Pinch was a Notable in The Best American Essays 2013. That external validation makes me want to write more creative nonfiction, though that essay also does some blending of science, history, and memoir that I see in my newer poems.
When we first started writing Lofty Ambitions, I wanted to double-dip, to write blog posts and poems about the same stuff. I wanted a short cut or two-for-the-price-of-one, even though I know connections take time. It took me a couple of years and a couple of workshops—SciWrite and Launch Pad—for me to figure out which language, concepts, and metaphors from astronomy and nuclear science could help me say what I wanted to say as a poet.
How does my writing process work?
That question makes it seem as if a person’s writing process is akin to a recipe that can be followed exactly and come out pretty much the same every time. Instead, my process feels as if I’ve been craving asparagus all day, but I go to the kitchen and there’s none there. Or more likely, it’s become soft and smells, probably gone bad by just a day, because I had a late class last night and sustained myself with peanut butter on crackers between tasks. Will I savor the asparagus more if I have to wait and plan for it, or will I be craving something else tomorrow?
I write poem by poem, knowing that I’m often really interested in a few subject areas for a given stretch of time. Then, once I have a somewhat coherent critical mass—and numerous other poems that don’t belong—I focus and play off what I’ve accumulated. Once I’ve generated more than enough pages for a book (or chapbook) manuscript, I revise and order the poems, pushing some out of the way. The edited collection Ordering the Storm is a good reference for ways to order a poetry manuscript. Several weeks ago, I exchanged manuscripts with Nancy Kuhl; we’re good readers for each other at the manuscript stage. Shearsman has since accepted Nancy’s manuscript for publication, and I’m ready to test the waters myself.
Who’s next in My Writing Process blog hop?
Doug will be up next Wednesday right here at Lofty Ambitions! Then, the following week…
Amanda Niehaus at www.easypeasyorganic.com
Amanda Niehaus is a science writer, blogger, and mother. In 2008, she was diagnosed with breast cancer when her daughter was eight months old. She began “researching all the ways to make my family’s life healthier and happier” and began her blog as a result. She also contributes to magazines and other blogs.
Leslie Pietrzyk at www.workinprogressinprogress.com
Leslie Pietrzyk is the author of two novels (Pears on a Willow Tree and A Year and a Day) and has published short stories in many journals, including Gettysburg Review, Shenandoah, and The Sun. She teaches fiction in the graduate writing program at Johns Hopkins University and is on the core faculty at the Converse College Low-Residency MFA Program. You can read recent short fiction by her at http://rkvryquarterly.com/i-am-the-widow/.
Stephanie Vanderslice at wordamour.wordpress.com
Stephanie Vanderslice, M.F.A., Ph.D., most recently published Rethinking Creative Writing. She writes fiction and creative nonfiction and directs the Arkansas Writers MFA Workshop at the University of Central Arkansas. She also writes “The Geek’s Guide to the Writing Life” column at The Huffington Post. Stephanie is represented by Anne Bohner at Pen and Ink Literary.