august

wishing well

I can’t believe that August is almost here!

Because I am so used to the academic calendar, August always signals the end of summer to me. It is that one last gasp of freedom before school starts in September, when we settle into a new routine, celebrate the autumnal equinox, and collectively prepare for fall with remnants of harvest based rituals.

Right now, it is still summer. The days are long, sunny, and hot. We are bare arms and legs. We are breathless nights, clear stars, green trees.

At least, that’s how it has been around here. Free. Lazy. We live day-to-day, without the rigidity of the school schedule. My children hang out with friends, but they do not go to summer camp or anything like that. The hours are erratic at the job I’ve been working at over the summer, and I work some days, some nights. I rarely have to be awake before 9am and I have slowly become more and more nocturnal, my natural state.

Even as an infant, I preferred night to day. In general, sleeping and waking have always been difficult for me. As a child, there was a period of time where I feared sleep. In my adolescence, teens, and early 20s, I suffered from insomnia. Then I had children. As a single parent, my down-time was after the children went to sleep or when I went to work. Anyone who has had children understands that sleep deprivation takes on a whole new meaning after you are a parent.

Now, I welcome sleep. I’m actually thankful for it. But I prefer to stay awake late into the night, and sleep until late morning. I get a lot of things done over the course of the night, when the world is asleep and the house quiet. That is the time I most love to spend writing.

Soon, our schedule will change again. I’ll have to be awake earlier, to see the children off to school. The demands and responsibilities of daily life will change. I feel like my life is all about change, constant change. I keep hoping for that stable leveling out, which I don’t see happening anytime soon. Sometimes I think I experience this continual turning acutely because I do have children. They change every year – physically, mentally, emotionally. As their mother, I have to change in response. So, there is a constant flux of change and growth in my life.

Over the last few months, I have dealt with some painful changes, due to breaking up with someone I had been seeing for several years. I haven’t written anything about it here, and I think it is interesting that the most difficult and challenging times in my life are the times I am most silent in the blog portion of this website. In the past, I sometimes haven’t posted for months, or I have only posted work related things.

There is a part of me that retreats when wounded. And I think that I avoid talking about these kinds of things on the blog because I am aware that this is sort of like a public journal. I share very personal things on the blog, but I try to respect the current relationships and situations I am in by not writing about them, or by referencing them vaguely. I have a very private life, and I’m conscious about what I share on my website and social media sites.

I’ve been thinking about relationships a lot over the last few months. I’ve also been thinking a lot about what happens to the self, and what we accept, allow, and concede in order to maintain a relationship with another person. And why. In retrospect, I’m disturbed by my acceptance of so many things that were red flags telling me that this was not the right person for me. Yet, we stayed together for years. Always with the hope that things would be better in the future. Always with the hope that things would change.

I didn’t want to accept that not everyone wants to grow, not everyone wants to change, and a relationship can’t be contingent on that necessity for change.

In the aftermath, I’ve come to realize that some people place blame on others because it is too difficult for them to face the truth in themselves. I’ve also come to realize that some people will lie to everyone they know to make themselves look better, to elicit sympathy, and to alleviate the pressure of taking accountability and responsibility for their choices, behaviors, and actions. Not everyone wants to grow. Not everyone wants to change.

I feel that a relationship is in many ways a mirror. The closer you are, the more magnified that mirror becomes. But sometimes what the mirror is showing you isn’t an image you want to see. Sometimes the mirror of another is false or distorted. Sometimes the mirror of another is illuminating, crystal clear. We are our own mirrors too. How does a person reconcile something they don’t want to see? How far do some people fall into cognitive dissonance, where they cannot even see their own reflection in their own mirror?

I was talking with someone recently about this idea, and she had mentioned that she felt that older men  in “mid-life crises” seek younger women because they want that mirror. Some women also do this, “cougars” – but this response to aging seems more prevalent in men. They want to feel young. But they are no longer young. They can’t accept the person they see in their own mirror, or the mirrors of those in their peer age group, because they can’t handle the reflection, that glare of truth. They want a false mirror, a distorted mirror.

The only thing that we can change is ourselves.

I think the hardest part about this break up is the way we broke up, the way that things between us didn’t just fall apart, they shattered. I loved this person deeply. I trusted him. I shared my family and my life with him. I was left feeling like Dorothy (and the rest) when the Wizard of Oz was revealed to be not a great and powerful wizard, but just a man behind a curtain.

Did I love an illusion? Sometimes we project things onto other people. We think they are what we want them to be. We see only what we want to see.

Still, there are positives to breaking up. Freedom. The kind of freedom that is dizzying and exhilarating and terrifying. Time. I have more time to write. I’ve been spending time with other friends. I have more time to take care of my self, my needs, my life. My focus has shifted.

Even though it is usually painful, breaking up with someone you have shared a close and intense relationship with can provide an opportunity for change that is unlike any other. Some important aspects of my world have been razed. It is up to me to rebuild. Instead of thinking of what has been lost, it is important to see what has been gained. We can try to understand and learn from our experiences; we can transform our lives. We can grow and expand and develop, and embrace change in healthy and positive ways.

An ending is a new beginning, another opportunity to start again, anew.

And for that, I feel so grateful.

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lariat

The Big Book of Submission: 69 Kinky Tales is now available!

This anthology, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel and published by Cleis Press, contains 69 short-short stories by as many authors. I’m so happy to have my story “Lariat” included in this collection! “Lariat” is linked to another story of mine called “Ring of Fire,” which was published in Best Bondage Erotica 2014.

I had already written “Ring of Fire” when I saw the call for submissions, and I knew that I wanted to submit it.  “Ring of Fire” is about two people in a BDSM relationship who celebrate their anniversary by renewing their vows to each other. At the time, there was also a call for “short-short stories of submission.” I don’t usually write stories under 1k words, but I wanted to do something fun, so I decided to give the characters in “Ring of Fire” a beginning.

I was thrilled when both stories were accepted! Both of these stories are a little more psychological, and a conscious attempt on my part to explore the positive and healthy aspects of committed loving relationships that include hot BDSM play/sex.

Both The Big Book of Submission and Best Bondage Erotica 2014 are available in bookstores and online in all formats. If you are interested in BDSM and erotic stories of immeasurable variations, you will love these anthologies!

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on creating characters

I’ve been wanting to write a post on this topic for some time. The process of creating characters is very interesting to me, and I am always intrigued at how other writers approach bringing their own characters to life.

While looking for a picture that would invoke “character” for this post, I came across so many different meanings and approaches to understanding the term. There are characters in books, but there are also characters in comics and graphic novels, cartoons, drawings/illustrations, movies, television, theater/film/performance, music, dance, and other creative arts. We also refer to the word “character” to define the core of one’s personality, the moral and ethical make-up of a person, the compass that one lives by.

For writers, there are many books dedicated to creating characters. There are lessons, templates, webs and maps, and computer programs intended to help us develop character. Part of the reading and writing curriculum for students of all ages is to identify and understand “character,” and school based worksheets are to be found for children as young as 1st grade.

It is no accident that the term “character” has such deep connotations. When we create character, we are creating sentient beings. If one is writing other people, then it follows that we are following the same guidelines … what makes one’s “character” in life is the same as in fiction.

I like some of the templates for creating characters, especially the ones where you fill in all the pertinent info about the character (name/age/place of birth/physical, socio-economic, and mental characteristics/habits/memories/friends/etc). That’s because I like to make lists. But I confess that I rarely use these templates.

I believe that the essential ingredient to creating characters is deep empathy. I think that people who successfully create characters have an ability to corporealize all of the above information into the character’s thoughts, behaviors, and actions within the story.

It is not the list of information that creates a character; it is knowing where that information affects the character’s motivations and choices. This understanding, this deep empathy, does not judge either, which is why people can create “bad” characters without actually being bad people. It is an ability to step outside oneself and to see with another person’s eyes, to feel with their heart, to know their strengths, their weaknesses, their blind spots, their failures, their successes, their desires, their passions, their memories. It is living in another person’s soul. This is not memoir. This is how a fictional character becomes a living, breathing person.

While looking at quotes on “character,” I compiled a short list.  I feel these quotes say something essential about character, and really get to the heart of what we do when we create character.

“Our character is but the stamp on our souls of the free choices of good and evil we have made through life.”
~ John C. Geikie

“Men best show their character in trifles, where they are not on their guard. It is in the simplest habits, that we often see the boundless egotism which pays no regard to the feelings of others and denies nothing to itself.”
~ Arthur Schopenhauer

“Every thought willingly contemplated, every word meaningfully spoken, every action freely done, consolidates itself in the character, and will project itself onward in a permanent continuity.”
~ Henry Giles

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
~ Abraham Lincoln

“Choices determine character.”
~ Brandon Mull

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
~ Helen Keller

“Character is an essential tendency. It can be covered up, it can be messed with, it can be screwed around with, but it can’t be ultimately changed. It’s the structure of our bones, the blood that runs through our veins.”
~ Sam Shepard

“You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”
~ Ernest Hemingway

“Until a character becomes a personality it cannot be believed. Without personality, the character may do funny or interesting things, but unless people are able to identify themselves with the character, its actions will seem unreal.”
~ Walt Disney

“It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.”
~ William Faulkner

When we create characters, we also are entering the territory where fiction straddles the line between truth and lies, the idea of “the truth inside the lie.” Many times people think that authors create characters from people they know or who they are, especially if the author writes in 1st person.

I have dealt with this sort of identification, which is why I like to come back to these topics every once in a while. I know that many people don’t always understand this part in being a writer.

I’ve had the experience of reading fictional work and having people ask me afterwards, “did that really happen?” Once, after one of my erotic stories was published, someone asked my boyfriend at the time if he was the protagonist in my story! I’ve also had friends ask me if I modeled a character after them, or someone they knew, or if I created a setting from a place they had been. I think the reason for this is because writers do use bits and pieces of real life in their fiction. It is inescapable.

For example, a friend of mine used to live in an apartment in Harlem. The thing I loved most about her apartment was the antiquated, ornate molding where the walls met the ceiling in each room. The apartment house was old and had fallen far from the glory envisioned in the original architecture. The molding was painted over many times carelessly, almost as if trying to erase it under layers of paint, without regard to how beautiful it must have been in its original state.

Let’s just say that aspect of the apartment fascinated me. I thought about it a lot. I began noticing this type of molding in other places. This single detail. Why? I have no idea. I thought it was beautiful and sad and it just struck me. Years later, I had written a story where I used a detail of ornate crown molding in describing the setting of the character’s run-down apartment. My friend picked up on this, and asked if I used her old apartment for my story. No … I didn’t. I actually didn’t even think of her apartment when I was writing the story. But that detail of the crown molding had stuck in my mind.

I consider this to be a kind of “occupational hazard.” Many people seem to think that writers write about their lives and experiences, but non-writers don’t know the difference in process between memoir and fiction. Memoir -is- the I, whereas Fiction is beyond the I. This is an important but powerful difference.

Writing in 1st person pushes this hazard further, even though I think 1st person is the easiest way to really get into a character as a writer. It is a powerful tool, but it is also a double edged sword because the “I” who is narrating the story sometimes becomes fixed in the readers mind as “I” (the author).

No matter how imaginative we are, fiction writers draw from their lives and experiences because we can’t help but be the medium that our work passes through. Even high fantasy contains elements of reality, sublimated with bits and pieces of the author’s experience of being a person in this world. No one exists in a vacuum, and I believe that no matter how successful a writer can be in practicing this kind of deep empathy to create characters, there are always threads to connect the writer to his or her work. Some of the quotes I came across by Kundera address this very eloquently.

“Characters are not born like people, of woman; they are born of a situation, a sentence, a metaphor containing in a nutshell a basic human possibility that the author thinks no one else has discovered or said something essential about.”
~ Milan Kundera

“The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them all. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented. It is that crossed border (the border beyond which my own “I” ends) which attracts me most. For beyond that border begins the secret the novel asks about. The novel is not the author’s confession, it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become.”
~ Milan Kundera

Over the years, I have taken many classes and read many books about the process of writing. I have also taught writing to students at many different age levels. There is always more to learn, more to explore, and more to discover. Writing is a complex art that offers continual paths for growth.

After creating a character, a writer then needs to put the character into the world of the story. Or sometimes, the world of the story dictates the kind of characters that will be created. There is an interconnectedness here. But no matter how the seed idea comes into being, I still feel that deep empathy is the essential component to fully realizing a character.

One of my favorite books about writing is The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri. Next to my encyclopedic dictionary, this is the book I reference most. If I am stuck or feel like I need to revisit the fundamentals, this is the book I turn to. In this book, Egri devotes several chapters to “character.”

Moving forward from how characters are created and into how characters function within a story, I’m going to share an excerpt from Egri’s chapter on character growth:

“Regardless of the medium in which you are working, you must know your characters thoroughly. And you must know them not only as they are today, but as they will be tomorrow or years from now.

Everything in nature changes – human beings along with the rest. A man who was brave ten years ago may be a coward now, for any number of reasons: age, physical deterioration, changed financial status, to name a few.

You may think you know someone who has never changed and never will. But no such person ever existed. A man may keep his religious and political views apparently intact through the years, but close scrutiny will show that his convictions have either deepened or become superficial. They have gone through many stages, many conflicts, and will continue to go through them, as long as the man lives. So he does change, after all.

Even stone changes, although its disintegration is imperceptible; the earth goes through a slow but persistent transformation; the sun, too, the solar system, the universe. Nations are born, pass through adolescence, achieve manhood, grow old, and then die, either violently or by gradual dissolution.

There is only one realm in which characters defy natural laws and remain the same – the realm of bad writing.

A character stands revealed through conflict; conflict begins with a decision; a decision is made because of the premise of your play [or story or novel]. The character’s decision necessarily sets in motion another decision, from his adversary. And it is these decisions, one resulting from the other, which propel the play [or story or novel] to its ultimate destination.”

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Character is an essential tendency. It can be covered up, it can be messed with, it can be screwed around with, but it can’t be ultimately changed. It’s the structure of our bones, the blood that runs through our veins.
Sam Shepard – See more at: http://josephsoninstitute.org/quotes/quotations.php?q=Character#sthash.S27O2Q7Z.dpuf
Character is an essential tendency. It can be covered up, it can be messed with, it can be screwed around with, but it can’t be ultimately changed. It’s the structure of our bones, the blood that runs through our veins.
Sam Shepard, – See more at: http://josephsoninstitute.org/quotes/quotations.php?q=Character#sthash.S27O2Q7Z.dpuf

she

I’m very happy to announce that No Sight for the Saved, a collection of stories and poetry inspired by the art of Niall Parkinson and edited by James Ward Kirk, is now available on kindle! A paperback version of the book is forthcoming.

“Surreal journeys through landscapes of the angry and abandoned, the lost and lonely and the weak and wounded. These are the realms of the Dead End Collective.” The horror art of Niall Parkinson is used for inspiration for the short stories and poetry included in this anthology. This fully illustrated anthology is a wonderful collection of horror fiction inspired by horror art. Seeing is believing, and horror awaits.

My story “She” was inspired by:

“She” by Niall Parkinson

 

My interpretation of “She” became the embodiment of this powerful dark female energy, descended from the mythos of Arachne, and drawing upon “spider-women” in the noir sense, “black widows”, and the femme fatale archetype. This is horror with an erotic edge. Things get explicit in my story, but it is necessary to go there in order to fully encapsulate “She.”

Check out the anthology to see more of Niall Parkinson’s dark, evocative artwork alongside a wide variety of inspired horror stories and poems!

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reading 7/24

calling all literary geeks

I’m very happy to join Rachel Kramer Bussel, Kristina Wright, Tess Danesi, and Emerald for a reading on July 24 at Lotus Blooms in Alexandria, Virginia!

Calling all literary geeks! Join us on July 24th at Lotus Blooms in Old Town, Alexandria to welcome one of the biggest names in erotic fiction, Rachel Kramer Bussel. Boasting an impressive portfolio, Bussel is editor of over 50 anthologies, including The Big Book of Orgasms, Cheeky Spanking Stories, Best Bondage Erotica 2014, Flying High: Sexy Stories from the Mile High Club and more. In this 90 minute meet-and-greet, Rachel Kramer Bussel and guest authors will share excerpts from her highly anticipated new book, The Big Book of Submission: 69 Kinky Tales and one of her most popular compilations, The Big Book of Orgasms. There will be time at the end for a book signing and a short Q&A.

The reading is free, but there is limited seating. Registration prior to the event is required through eventbrite. Please follow this link to register and find out more details about the event. Hope to see you there! x

 

 

 


the fig tree

fig tree with sleeping gnome

The last few months have been very difficult, and I wasn’t planning on planting a garden this year. Since I avoided the garden, I didn’t notice that the fig tree wasn’t coming back to life. It wasn’t until a neighbor said “I think your fig tree died” that I thought about it.

Every year, for almost 16 years, the fig tree had come back to life after winter. And every year, it grew bigger and stronger. It got to a point where I could no longer wrap it during the winter, and I would worry that the weather was too severe for it to survive. New York isn’t the ideal climate for fig trees, but the tree had grown, and had grown strong. I thought we lost it a few years ago, but it came back with a force that seemed to double it’s size.

The tree was a hybrid of two cuttings – one from my friend’s father’s glorious fig tree and one from a local nursery. The placenta from each of my pregnancies had nourished the root. It sat in the corner of my garden, and in truth, it had taken up most of the spot. I had to extend the garden along the fence, because there was no more room in the original garden to plant vegetables and herbs that needed full sun. But I didn’t mind. I loved the fig tree. In it’s shade, I could still plant things that would grow.

The fig tree was the pride of my garden. Every year, I anticipated it’s arrival. Every year, I loved watching it come back to life. People who visited in late summer would leave with a bounty of figs, and there was still enough for all the birds and squirrels. We had families of birds living in the backyard in nests and various birdhouses, some who hung out all day among the branches, singing, and many species who came from far and wide to feast on the fruit.

So this year, when my neighbor told me that he thought the fig tree died, I was upset at the prospect that it really died, but I was also upset that I was so wrapped up in my problems, I had neglected to notice it.

I went into the garden and surveyed the tree. There were shoots at the bottom, new growth. The fig tree had not died completely. But all of the branches, even the strongest limbs, were dead wood. I took a deep breath and went back into the house, changed my clothes, found my saw and a lopper, got a drink of water, and went back outside.

It was hot. The sun beat down as I circled the tree, cutting off each branch and limb carefully, methodically, one by one, down at the base, and then watched, sometimes guided, each one as they fell. Some of the limbs were over 10 ft tall. The air around me began to smell like over-ripe peaches, and it actually became so overwhelming, I wondered where the scent was coming from. Then I realized it was the sawdust and cut wood from the fig tree.

I was sweating, soaked in sweat; my shirt was sticking to me, and drops fell from my skin like tears, burning my eyes. I was thinking of everything. I was thinking of nothing. I wanted to stop. I did not stop. I kept sawing. For a second I wondered if I was crying and didn’t know it, and then I thought that it was as if my entire being was crying, gushing through my skin. I was kneeling on the earth, covered in dirt, taking care of the dead, preparing the way for new life.

When I was done, I stood up. All around me were felled branches and limbs, splayed out in a grotesque circle. My neighbor called out in passing, “that’s a lot of work!” and I muttered back, “it feels like a massacre.”

Then I began the work of chopping each one into a manageable length, sawing first in pieces along the trunk, then lopping each network at the top, organizing them into piles and bundles, to be disposed of and recycled later. By the time I finished completely, hours had passed, and I was numb. I stood and looked at what remained. At the base of the fig tree stood more new growth than I had thought, strong growth, reaching almost 2 ft. The garden gnome on a stake who used to be at the bottom of the tree is now almost at the top. The gnome is climbing up the stake and he has his hand to his mouth, as if he is whispering to the plants beside him, “grow, grow.” And when I saw that, I couldn’t help but smile.

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my writing process blog tour

Many thanks to Kirsten Imani Kasai for inviting me to participate in the “My Writing Process Blog Tour.” Please click here to read Kirsten’s articulate and thoughtful Q&A last week, and to find out more about her amazing work.

 

Q&A with Michelle Augello-Page

michelle augello-page

 

1) What am I working on?

I am currently working on a poetry chapbook which I plan to submit for publication, so my primary focus recently has been creating and revising poems which form a collective arc, a journey, as inspired by the myth of Persephone, the Tarot, and the life/death/life cycle of love relationships. Once the chapbook is completed, I plan on immersing myself in writing short fiction. I have at least a dozen ideas for stories that I put on hold in order to complete the chapbook, and many other stories that are in various states of completion. After the publication of my book Into the Woods a few months ago, I knew that I wanted to move forward and expand even more in my fiction writing. In many ways, a collected publication of one’s work is the end of something. However, I know that the end of one cycle is only the beginning of another. I wanted to take some space from storytelling to wrestle and fall in love with language again in its purest, most distilled form. Poetry was my first love, and it’s the place I instinctively turn for reawakening, renewal, and regeneration. Poetry is the essence, the heart, of all my writing. I’m really happy with the way the chapbook is coming together, and I will be sad when it is completed. But it’s a great feeling to know that after it is completed, there are so many other things  waiting to be written. As much as I love the project I’m working on, I’m always very excited to begin a new writing cycle.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Because I write and publish in different genres, I don’t fit neatly into a box. There are both benefits and drawbacks to labeling oneself in a certain way and keeping within a specific genre. Some of the benefits include fitting into a group or a community who will support your work, keeping a specific focus in your writing, and being able to reach readers who look for new work based on the genre they like to read. Some of the drawbacks to identifying with a certain genre include stagnation, limitation, subscribing to stereotypes, and furthering the hierarchy and misappropriation of all writers through genre.

For example, many people feel that “literary fiction” writers are somehow smarter and more relevant than “erotic romance” writers. Of course this couldn’t be further from the truth. Truly the only distinction between the two genres lies in the way that sex is represented. Some people say that erotica’s biggest crime is that, in this genre, the characters actually enjoy sex. Though I feel there is some truth to that joke, I think that erotica writers are generally much more cognizant about the power sex holds and how this power manifests in our relationships, and they consciously use sex as a lens to explore how we relate deeply to ourselves and others.

Nevertheless, inherent in this bias is the fact that “literary fiction” writers tend to be published in “respectable” (i.e. academic, scholarly, traditional, high paying) journals and receive book deals from more traditional publishing houses (which are able to promote to the public more successfully, giving wider distribution and more money to the writer). They are also more likely to receive associate and tenured professorships, giving them a monetary cushion in academia while they pursue their writing. This is only one example. In some genres, only one gender or race dominates the scene, making it harder for writers in the minimized role to be seen and heard because of the stereotype. This can also apply to writers who are marginalized in the dominant culture, where their “otherness” is directed into genres which only serve to reinforce their outsider status. I see this prejudice and inequality among writers as a problem that seems based directly in genre.

My philosophy has always been to write first, and try to find the “fit” later, because genre really only comes into play when one is trying to publish his/her work and needs to find a way to present it to the world. I have never set out to write a genre-specific story or poem. During the process of writing, I am only interested in the act of creation and bringing ideas, concepts, and images to light through language.

One of the reasons I started Siren is because I wanted to create the type of publication that didn’t exist for me, a place where I would have loved to send my work, a place for writers and artists who were interested in pursing their craft in edgy and experimental ways that didn’t necessarily fit into the mainstream or subscribe to a genre box. My book, Into the Woods, is a collection of dark erotic fiction stories that could have been labeled in a number of different ways. Upon publication, the book was labeled “fiction and literature” because that is a general, all encompassing term. One of the reasons why I was so happy to work with Onerios Books is because they are a genre-less specific publishing collective, interested in quality writing and art that both explores and expands our traditional views about the kind of art we create, the meaningfulness of what we write without regard to finding a box to put it in, and how we publish and share work through new and non-traditional paths.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I feel that this question is really asking, “who are you?” I write the things I do because of who I am, and I’m aware that this answer is both simple and complex. I write to explore my interests, my obsessions, my questions, my world. I write about the things that drive me to write.

There seems to be a very high level of control assumed in this question that I don’t think writers necessarily have. Writers channel dreams and visions into language. It is true that they sublimate real experiences into their work because no writer lives in a vacuum. But when you are dealing with creative and imaginative writing, it is necessary to open yourself up to many things that none of us, and that includes the writer, truly understands. I often say that writing is a type of seeing, more than anything else. I think of “revision” is a literal re-vision, a re-seeing. Writers develop a kind of inner-vision, and in the process of writing they are touching upon something very real that is also very magical and mysterious.

In her Q&A last week, Kirsten Imani Kasai said something that really resonated with me. She said, “Storytelling is a collaborative effort between me and the characters who need to speak – I act as an interpreter of dreams and the hidden world.” Yes.

The way we engage this process is dependent on who we are, and the results are specific to who we are. Throughout my life, I’ve been intrigued and drawn to certain aspects of the world. I have always been drawn to reading. I have always felt a great love for books. This was something within me that I nurtured, but one might also say that it was nurtured because it was within me. I’ve always loved fairy tales, mythology, folk tales – stories of deep archetypal truths that have been carried down from generation to generation. I’ve always been drawn to art that is sensual and erotic, surreal and dark, because I recognize something in myself there. As a woman and a mother, I have a deep feminine consciousness. I am also drawn to writing that is not typically considered “creative” and I love learning and exploring psychology, philosophy, science, history, and religion. All of these things contribute to who I am and what I write.

I know that my entire life has prepared me for the path of being a writer. Yet, I still can’t truly explain why when I walk into a bookstore or a library, or any place where books dominate the space, my entire being goes “ah” … I’m home. This is how I’ve felt from the time I was a child.

4) How does my writing process work?

There are many different ways that I engage my writing process. Probably the first and most important way is by reading. Reading good work by other writers is a great way to immerse yourself in the craft, and to expand and grow in your own work. Reading can inspire and challenge you. Reading teaches you how writing has been done and it shows you the potential that has been reached so far. When I read good work, I am excited, enthralled, invigorated. I am invested in learning. What I get from reading, I bring into my own work, with one eye on what’s been done and the other eye in the realm of what’s next. I am not interested in doing what has been done before or what I already know works. I want to explore further and to push myself further, and reading helps me find inspiration from those who have (or had) similar motivations.

Another part of my process is thinking. I am not the type of writer who does a lot of preliminary writing. I do a lot of preliminary thinking. I’ve noticed that often when I am thinking of a story or a character or a poem or an idea, I tend to draw. Oftentimes, these drawings are very strange maps of my thoughts, almost like a blueprint from the non-verbal side of my mind. Art is essential to my creative process, and I am constantly inspired by visual art, music, and the natural world of the environment. I also write in a journal nearly every day, and I find it both necessary and important. I need the tangible act of writing and drawing with a pen and paper as much as I need the sensory stimulation of typing on a keyboard. Journal writing helps me try to figure out what I am doing with my life and my work, and it is the place where I practice deep, stream of consciousness thinking.

Beyond that, my writing process is simply finding long stretches of time to write. I use short stretches of time for revising, refining, editing, and sending out work. But as far as creating and generating work, there is really nothing like sheer unaccounted-for time to write. Between working for money and carrying the responsibilities of a family, I have to find time to write.  Sometimes I steal time to write. Sometimes I will stay up all night writing, knowing that I will suffer the next day. Sometimes I will ask my kids to give me space, and I’ll be at the computer typing frantically all day on a saturday afternoon. But no matter how I get there, when I am there, I am there. I allow myself to fall into it, whatever “it” is. I am still amazed that I will be working on something and then look at the clock to see that hours have passed. Where was I during this time? What experience has moved through me? Though I am very interested in why and how this happens, I think at this stage I have just completely given myself over to it. I am open and receptive. I am there to discover, to learn. I am there because I have no choice but to be there. It is beyond me. Long ago, I accepted this gift, and it has both blessed and cursed my life. Every day, I accept the gift; I am so grateful for it.

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Next week, June 23, 2014, the “My Writing Process Blog Tour” continues with writers Eric Nash and Lucy Taylor, who will answer these same questions from their own unique perspectives. Be sure to visit the sites below to read their insight into the writing process.

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Eric Nash lives amid chaos in the south-west of England. On occasion, he escapes to his laptop and writes something dark or wicked. He has discovered that he rather enjoys editing and is looking to attend a self-help group to address this issue. Eric’s short fiction has been published in various digital and print anthologies. He is currently writing his first novel. Read Eric’s interview at eanash.wordpress.com

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Lucy Taylor  is the author of seven nov­els, includ­ing Danc­ing with Demons, Spree, Nailed, Sav­ing Souls, Eter­nal Hearts, and the Stoker-​award win­ning The Safety of Unknown Cities. Her sto­ries have appeared in over a hun­dred mag­a­zines and antholo­gies, includ­ing The Mam­moth Book of His­tor­i­cal Erot­ica, The Best of Ceme­tery Dance, Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury Gothic, The Year’s Best Fan­tasy and Hor­ror, and the Century’s Best Hor­ror Fiction. Lucy lives in Pismo Beach, CA, where she vol­un­teers with cat res­cue orga­ni­za­tion, attends Bud­dhist retreats, and plots dar­ing escapes to exotic and fan­tas­ti­cal places. Read Lucy’s interview at darkfantasy.us

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