This is my first Author Chats post! I debated about which category I should file these under, and settled on Motivation Monday. Future Author Chats will be available on the Author Chats page!
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A few weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing Ethan Rutherford share one of the short stories about to be published in his book The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories.
He read “Camp Winnesaka,” a desperate camp counselor’s tale of how they lost so many campers one fateful year, while attempting to get spirits (and enrollment) up. It was a terribly amusing dark comedy, and once Rutherford mentioned that many of his stories involve ships blowing up, I decided exactly what I’d be getting my husband for his birthday this year.
Since I didn’t actually conduct an interview with Rutherford, I just listened to the reading and then briefly chatted with him about writing, reading, and being an at-home parent, I’m just going to list my notes below in a semi-coherent matter. Note that these are not direct quotes, they are paraphrases. I am no court stenographer.
Read like a maniac and read all sorts of writers.
- Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
- E. B. White, Writings from The New Yorker
- Patrick deWitt, The Sisters Brothers
- Richard Hughes, A High Wind in Jamaica
- Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad
- The Paris Review (Especially manuscripts of writers, to see how much they annihilate their drafts)
Just get the draft out. You don’t know what the story is about until it’s written.
And just try to tell a good story—don’t set out to write some big, deep message.
Write about things that make you uncomfortable.
To students of writing: You ease up on yourself as you get older. It’s easier to write when you aren’t panicking all the time.
About plot and character: Ask yourself, “What kind of person would do X, Y, Z?”
On his process: Rutherford writes in the same place, at the same desk, listening to the same music playlist, to get him ready to write. He also reads up to the point where he stopped before.
Make a list of what gets you creative. (Mine? Reading good literature, especially poetry. Watching movies that inspire me to create new worlds. Listening to my “creative inspiration” playlists. Experiencing life, being human and being around other humans.)
Every writer’s motivation and inspiration ebb and flow in a cycle. Once you go through the cycle a few times, you’ll begin to recognize where you’re at on the cycle, and you’ll know how to get back on top of things. (I like to think of them as “rainy seasons” and “dry seasons”.)
On Being an At-Home Parent / Writer
(I didn’t take notes during our chat, but we came up with the same conclusion:) Once your kid is mobile, good luck.
That’s all I’ve got! I’m filing this under “Motivation Mondays” also, since I’m a bit late in posting, and this fits in both categories. Take some time and find out if there are readings or book signings or author talks in your local area. It’s always a great inspiration to me to hear other people read their own stories and talk about the writing process, because each writer is so different. And don’t forget to fill your heads with different writers by constantly reading new voices. If you can’t make time to read, you certainly can’t have time to write.
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