Little chats with Wendy C. Ortiz & Elizabeth Scarboro

Hello, all, and happy September! The fall sessions of my local workshops are officially underway this week, and I’m glad to bring you a little preview of some of the many things we’ll be chatting about with Wendy C. Ortiz & Elizabeth Scarboro at each of their respective upcoming visits to Evenings With Our Authors this fall (on November 5th & December 3rd, respectively). If you haven’t yet registered and would like to join us, drop me an email at rgouirand [at] gmail [dot] com and I’ll be happy to send you the registration form.

aug2014_ortiz-2     A LITTLE CHAT WITH WENDY 

Can you describe the first moment you realized you were working on the thing that would become Excavation?

…I was writing fiction in my early 20s in which a young female character was trying to navigate a relationship with a man much older than her and her response was to start dating women while still in relationship with this man and then the story would fizz out because I didn’t know where to go next with it. The kernel of understanding that I would be writing what would become Excavation was in those first fits and starts in fiction.

Can you describe the book your youngest writer self imagined would be your first book?

…In junior high I was writing what I thought would be my first book, about a girl my age named Ali Milan, who, unlike me, had a stepmother and numerous step-siblings. The book had no real plot but was a vehicle to explore (again, through fiction) how another girl might navigate the kind of relationship I was having that is the subject of Excavation, yet I had no interest in writing ‘memoir’ at that age, so I got to play a lot in that fictive world.

The sentence in Excavation that was hardest to write was:

…actually, a chapter title: WHY I DIDN’T TELL (and then each sentence of that chapter was the next hardest and next hardest). 

 What do you do when you’re procrastinating?

…Wash dishes, watch television, talk about how I’m procrastinating, read, take naps (all of which are pretty productive in my world, so procrastination can sometimes be key).

 What are your favorite ways to move into writing mode?

…Listening to music that somehow relates to the work (if I know what I’m working on). Reading the work of writers I love until I have to stop and move into my own work. Sometimes simply looking at where I left off in a piece of my writing, especially if I felt excitement around it, is enough.


Can you describe the book your youngest writer self imagined would be your first book?

…When I was eleven or twelve I imagined I’d write a spy novel. I was drawn to secrets, and the idea of leading a double-life. I’m still drawn to those things, and they figure into my writing, even if the spies themselves never appear.

Something it took you awhile to understand:

…It took me a while to understand that, for me, part of writing is throwing away many pages of work that at some time I was sure I needed to write. I try to think of it like playing music–the way a musician plays for hours to get a song right before recording it. I think of all those pages in the trash as my practice sessions, so I can feel like the time I spent on them wasn’t wasted.

What do you do when you’re procrastinating?

…I fret about the rest of my life, which often turns into making lists of all the practical things I need to do, like buy a shower curtain, get a new driver’s license. Then I have to admit I don’t want to do any of those things, so I start writing.

What are your favorite ways to move into writing mode?

…In an ideal world, I’d go for a run on a trail, take a shower, make some coffee and sit down to write. I seem to have time for that about once a month. But even a short run, or a walk around a few blocks where I’m not thinking but just taking in the world helps me get where I need to be to write.

What rule do you most enjoy breaking?

…All the little expectations of women writers that we barely notice. I tend to enjoy breaking lots of tiny rules, rather than one big rule. So for me, it’s things like not writing the scene of my first wedding (or my second) in My Foreign Cities. I couldn’t help thinking, no one would expect a male writer to write about his wedding.


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