I have always hated chain-mail (not the kind knights wore during the Crusades though I imagine it was quite heavy and itchy). The kind I’m talking about is what used to be passed around in the back of Jr. high classrooms on lined paper (yes, I’m old), and then got its foothold during the rise of the email (yes, I said “the” email…that’s how it felt when it first started). Now it’s kind of a joke or can be debunked by snopes.com but you still sort of like to read it to know what exactly will make you die and/or lose everything in epic Job-style if you don’t pass it on.
This is not that kind of chain-mail.
My friend and fellow writer, Amy Peterson, recently tagged me in this uplifting “round robin blogging tour” prompt. This is fun. And you won’t die from it. At least not directly.
Below, I will answer a few questions about my writing process. It makes me sound like a fancy writer. So I like it.
But before you read my answers, check out Amy Peterson’s blog about her writing process. She is writing a book. I’ve already read some of it and it’s going to be awesome.
1. What are you working on?
Well, my body is currently in the process of creating a human person. What more do you expect from me?
Seriously, though, the muse flits about where it wills-between poetry, YA fiction, music, and essays. Which is probably why it’s been a while since I’ve written anything longer than 2,000 words. Recently, though, I’ve forced the muse into a computer screen hoping it will inspire me as I write a non-fiction memoir about spiritual lessons I’ve learned since moving to an intentional community on a farm five years ago.
I’ve started with lessons about death.
Nowhere to go from here but up.
2. How does your work differ from others in its genre?
Truthfully, I’m not sure yet what genre I’m writing in: spiritual memoir, Christian non-fiction, fantasy with undertones of reality…
I do think that what makes my current project unique is that it’s set on a farm and an intentional community. There are lots of farming memoirs, a few even in the Christian genre. But I’ve seen very few authored by women and even fewer that include the crazy element of intentional community.
I’m hoping the craziness works in my favor. Or else putting up with it for five years will have been worth nothing.
Kidding. I love my neighbors.
3. Why do you write what you do?
In general, I write to articulate meaning. Through writing, I am able to better understand my own narrative and the stories of others.
I write poetry because it’s like prayer for me. There’s a special inner focus, a meditative sort of streamlining that happens when I start to write a poem. Hearing the sounds of the earth, seeing the differing shades of green in spring, watching my children learn the world…that is a focus that helps me remember our Creator and be thankful for all the beauty and messiness of the world.
I write music mostly for worship with our small band of brothers and sisters in community. I am on the music team and I’ve been able to teach some of my songs to the congregation. This, for me, is the most selfless form of my writing because it is for the church and all the pleasure I get from it comes when we sing the songs together in worship.
That’s not totally true, though, because I would like to be a famous folks singer ala Joni Mitchell. But only if I don’t have to perform onstage.
Fiction for young adults is my first writing love. My novel Rising Star is set in a small Texas town where the children can fly. To tell you anymore would be spoiling…unless you are an agent or publisher. In that case, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll tell you all about it. I’ve written 2.5 novels in the genre (I will finish the .5 novel when the first one in the series is published and they beg me for the sequel…still waiting).
As for the current non-fiction memoir, I’ve been writing about life in our community ever since we moved but I didn’t get the sharp focus for this book until I began to face my own spiritual understandings of death.
4. How does your writing process work?
This is different with everything I write. When I was writing my first YA novel, I was single and living overseas. My life is very different now. To actually get pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, I have to steal moments when the kids are outside, during nap time, or hire a babysitter to get writing done.
My process for poetry usually begins with an image or metaphor. The image can appear when I’m at the creek with my kids, lying on the grass under the maple tree, or differentiating bird calls. This word-picture is the beginning of a poem and I write it whenever I have paper nearby. Then I edit and edit and edit.
Writing music is similar except sometimes it begins with a short set of notes hummed together that become a song with paper, a guitar, and the right key.
As for writing longer pieces, it’s mostly about reading the smart things other people say, then sitting my backside down in front of the computer and writing until something relatively good comes out.
The current manifestation of this non-fiction book I’m writing is due in large part to the encouragement of the ladies of my amazing writer’s group and the inspiration they gave me recently at a writer’s conference. Having writerly friends has been essential for the days when you feel like lying back on the couch and watching hulu instead. Just reading their words and hearing them speak not only about the writing process but about their lives encourages me to keep at it.
Also, my husband and family believe in me. So that helps.
And here goes the final part: the chain. I’m tagging two writer friends so they can also answer these questions and populate the world with more art and beautiful words.
D. L. Mayfield is an inspiring writer and friend whom I am so glad to know. She and her family recently joined a Christian order amongst the poor in the Midwest. Check out her blog where she writes about refugees, theology, gentrification, and Oprah. She has also written for McSweeneys, Geez, Curator, and Conspire! and most recently, Christianity Today.
Kelley Nikondeha is a writer, reader, and deep thinker. I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting her and talking about recipes, Walter Brueggemann, chickens, and the song “How I love a rainy night.” With her unique perspective as a woman who has been adopted and has herself adopted two children, Kelley is writing an upcoming book about the theology of adoption. She is a SheLoves and Deeper Story contributor.