Just like your first love, you never forget the first time you are published.
For me, it happened when I was taking an Advanced Fiction workshop, facilitated by Mameve Medwed, at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. At the beginning of the workshop, Mameve (an excellent teacher and novelist) announced that if anyone had a story published during the course of the twelve-week workshop, it was a tradition to bring in champagne and sparkling cider to celebrate with the rest of the class. I remember thinking at the time: That is what I want to do. I want to bring the champagne. On my third go-round of taking Mameve's workshop, I did indeed bring the champagne: I had a story published in the literary journal, Soundings East. I still remember how excited I felt to get the news—experiencing a tingling throughout my whole body, and a feeling like it was the beginning of something.
After studying with Mameve, I was fortunate enough to go on and study with C. Michael Curtis, senior editor of The Atlantic (a person with incredibly high standards, which translated into us learning a lot), as well as with the late short-story master, Andre Dubus, whose weekly in-home workshop I attended for almost three years. Andre's biggest message was that we really needed to get inside of our characters—to feel what our characters were feeling—a lesson I try to keep with me to this day. Andre used to treat us like his peers—not only by not charging us for the privilege of attending his group, but also by sharing his work with us and soliciting our feedback. What a wonderful opportunity for learning the craft!
If I had to say what first started me writing, I suppose it would be the same thing that starts many writers—reading truly wonderful fiction and being inspired by it. I wanted to be able to do what other writers did (or at least come close). I wanted to be able to express myself, while, at the same time, contribute to our vast world.
This desire to express—this feeling that the urge is "irrepressible," to put it in a word—is the thing that I believe drives many writers, including myself. As cosmologist Brian Swimme put it in his excellent DVD series, Canticle to the Cosmos, everything in the universe is shouting, "Look at me! Look at me! See me!" because we are all a part of something greater that wants to be known. At least, that is what I believe.
One of the things that I like to express in my work is some aspect or other of spirituality, because spirituality plays such a large role in my own life that I want to share it with others. In the case of Big Heaven (which I am thrilled is being published by Savant), my sixteen-year-old protagonist, Mo Proctor, decides that she wants to run away to become a nun. She decides this, in part, because on some level, she is trying to escape her life, since her father is starting to show signs of Alzheimer's disease, and Mo is loath to face this fact. It is through this storyline that I am able to explore a spiritual theme, while, at the same time, tell what I hope is a poignant coming-of-age story.
I really hope you enjoy Mo Proctor's journey as she tries to figure out what is truly important in life, as much as I have enjoyed bringing it to you.
In : Author Introduction
Tags: teen "coming of age" coming-of-age prophesy nun cult spiritual religion