A few weeks ago, writer Kristen M. Ploetz wrote an article called “Nine Questions I Wonder About Writers,” where she invited other writers to answer some questions about their own writing. Some of my blogging friends, Nina Badzin, Rivki Silver, and Rebecca Klempner followed through on their respective blogs with extremely insightful answers to Kristen’s questions. I read and enjoyed their ideas, and commented on their blogs.
I briefly thought about following suit on my own blog, but wasn’t sure whether I had enough material in my conscious mind to respond coherently to many of the questions.
Anyway, today I decided to stop overthinking, and to formulate Kristen’s answers on screen, thereby sharing my process with you.
Here are Kristen Ploetz’s questions in bold, followed by my answers:
1. Do you share your work with your partner or spouse? Does it matter if it’s been published yet?
Yes, I often share my work with my husband, usually before I submit to online or print magazines. I print out hard-copies of the drafts and he goes through them with his pen, circling and commenting on material that he thinks is not working My husband is an avid reader of sci-fi and math books so he knows what does or doesn’t work clarity-wise! He also tells me if he thinks something is not ethically okay to write. I don’t share my blog posts with him, though. Those I just write, edit myself and post! Now I’m thinking maybe I should share some of those with him too before publishing…hmmmm.
2. How much of your family and/or closest “friends in real life first” read your stuff…let alone give you feedback about it?
My mother is my biggest fan and reader of my blog and other material. Not kidding! When I first had my book published, I was told she went into the local stores and made sure my book was prominently displayed. Ha ha. A mom’s job! But seriously, some friends and family follow my blog, read my posts and often comment. Others don’t and that’s just fine. I write for a weekly print magazine, Binah Magazine, and I often get spontaneous comments from people whom I meet out and about, telling me they enjoy my writing. Regarding feedback, I generally go to my husband for that, even published stuff, because I trust him to tell me the truth.
3. What do you do with the pieces that continually get rejected–post on your blog? Trash? When do you know it’s time to let it go?
Usually, after a piece is rejected, I just put it aside. I can’t deal with it right away, because I’m too close to the situation and topic at that point and I’m kind of tainted in my opinion of the piece initially. But I keep it in a file and then sometimes come back to it, edit and tweak it, revise, and then often resubmit, with success. Sometimes I put a condensed version of it (if it’s too long) on my blog, or use parts of it later for other pieces.
4. Are there pieces you write for one very specific place that, once rejected, you just let go of, or do you rework into something else?
With one particular site, I’ve submitted different pieces repeatedly over time, and have been continually rejected. I’ve been told my style doesn’t speak to them. I tried reworking the rejected pieces into other forms or styles, and written completely new pieces. But so far no luck there. Something tells me it’s time to let that one go already, and realize that it’s not meant to be.
5. What is your main source of reading-based inspiration (especially you essayists)? Blogs? Magazines? Journals? Anthologies? Book of essays by one writer?
I like self-help books, blogs, magazines, and novels. I don’t enjoy anthologies (of myriad writers in the same book) so much. I generally get through half the book and then stop, or pick out the few writers whose writing I can relate to. I enjoy Jewish non-fiction and biographies also. Regarding essayists, I enjoy humor writers. When I was a kid, I read a lot of Erma Bombeck’s books. I also like articles on writing, such as William Safire’s work, and satirical writing by Russell Baker.
6. What tends to spark ideas more for you: what you see/hear in daily life or what you read?
When I read other people’s blogs, I get sparks of ideas from my own life for future writing. But most of my ideas come from my own experiences in life as a mom, mother-in-law, daughter, friend, etc. When I have an inner conflict or some issue in a relationship, I try to figure out what went wrong, and to find some insight and humor in it. Then, when I have clarity I write about it. Incidentally, the material for my book came about, after I experienced bumps in my new role as mother-in-law and then grandmother, and wrote about those experiences.
7. Who have you read in the past year or two that you feel is completely brilliant but so underappreciated?
There is an author, Riva Pomerantz, who writes books, magazine articles and online material for the Jewish Orthodox audience, and is completely brilliant, in my opinion. I love her stories, characters and also the dialogue she writes. I could never write such perfect and natural dialogue! (not yet, at least!).
8. Without listing anything written by Dani Shapiro, Anne Lamott, Lee Gutkind, or Natalie Goldberg, what craft books are “must haves”?
I started a book by Elizabeth Berg, which was very helpful to me. I need to go back and finish that. Someone recommended William Zissner’s “On Writing Well” as a must have. I once wrote a post about improving our writing craft. So now I’m going to re-read that post and start to follow my own advice!
9. Have you ever regretted having something published? Was it because of the content or the actual writing style/syntax?
I think the longer I write, the more I regret writing stuff. I think it’s because I become more honest in my storytelling. and venture into areas that may have felt unsafe for me to touch in my earlier writing years. Recently I published a piece for a certain magazine and went back and forth in my dilemma while I was writing it, whether to submit or not. Even after I submitted it and it was accepted, I worried that I would regret it. I recall emailing the editor and asking her if she felt it needed tweaking. (True story). When they sent me the final draft, I toyed with some phrases, trying to reword to make it more p.c. But in the end, I just left it as is. And my husband backed me (he’s my reality check!) Anyway, now that it’s published, I’m trying to let it go and realize that it’s important to tell a story as is, even if it feels raw to do so.
So there you have it. My 9 questions answered. Thank for reading, and thank you, Kristen for writing up these questions for all of us to answer!
Happy writing and reading to all!