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Tuesday
Apr082014

The Blog Tour: Some Notes on My Writing Process

Molly Sutton Kiefer (whose incredible lyric essay Nestuary is one of my monthly suggested reads!) invited me to participate in a blog tour answering questions on my writing process.

 

1)     What am I working on?

For the past ten years, I've been writing two books, Mysterious Acts by My People and Call Me by My Other Name. Now that Mysterious Acts is published and Call Me will soon follow, I feel like I can finally turn my attention to the forgotten and neglected children, the poems I began during an intense workshop with Karen Brennan during my second year at Utah, and which I've had to put on hold since then. These poems deal with corporeal alterity, queer embodiment, disability poetics. There are many ways to say it, but basically I'm writing about the ways in which having a body affects daily life and the creation of art. Having a fat, disabled, queer body influences all aspects of life. Having several chronic illnesses that cause me a great deal of daily pain (right now I am typing this one-handed because my left hand hurts too much to move) affects how I move through the world and how (and how much and when) I can write, or travel or leave the house, or do all the things I want to do all the time. I'm very interested in the domestic and quotidian, the sphere of life usually relegated (and the negative connotations of that word seem apt) to women. Childrearing, housekeeping. I am engaging a lot with Dorothy Wordsworth and Bernadette Mayer, their work on the domestic daily. The poems I'm writing now explore these experiences of being a DFAB person dealing with chronic pain and a queered body and moving through those quotidian details of life, trying not to be disembodied. I don't write strictly autobiographical poems, so my project isn't limited to my own experience, but it is rooted there.


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

Toni Morrison said, "If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." I wanted to read work about someone with bodies like mine. Of course I'm white, so there is plenty of work out there about white people and even queer white people, but my particular(ly strange) combination of interests, alongside a strong investment with work that has come before means that I might be approaching these ideas in a slightly different angle, and that produces a different result. 


3)     Why do I write what I do?

From my earliest memory, writing was how I best experienced and made sense of the world. I have always wanted to be a writer. I would say it feels involuntary, like breathing, but that negates the incredible amount of hard work that goes into it as well. I write what I do because after devoting twelve years of my life in post-secondary education studying the canon, I wanted to continue the conversation writers have had with themselves, with God, with nature, with their own bodies and minds. I wanted to participate and contribute to that conversation.


4)     How does your writing process work?


Writing a draft daily is very important to me. My rule for myself is that I have to write at least 10 lines. On days when I am in a great deal of pain and can't hardly stand to work, I am more lenient and I occasionally miss a day, but the practice is there. I've been doing this since 2010, and it has kept me fit, my poetic muscles toned and ready. It doesn't make writing any easier, but for me, writing is not a hobby, it is the work I choose. Creating art is a compulsion, but it is also a choice. Every day I don't sit down and write is a day I'm choosing not to practice my art. I tend to work and think in projects. My second book is more of a novel in verse (though more lyric than narrative), and so once I figure out what my project is, I can write poems towards that, verse that contributes to whatever I am trying to accomplish with the overall piece, but until I discover the project, I just write about whatever is currently obsessing me. I've written a lot of poems about ice this winter. Revision takes longer. I finished my second book in 2009, but didn't finish revising the manuscript (which did include writing a few new poems) until 2014. That means I spent just as long writing as revising. I keep a writer's notebook/commonplace book full of ideas to draw on for inspiration as well, and lately I've been collaborating with a few different writers. This keeps my ideas fresh and also gives me a bit of distance from my own work, seeing it through another person's eyes. 

Next up on the blog tour is M. Mack, a poet and co-editor of Gazing Grain Press and Kara Candito, whose excellent second book is forthcoming from The University of Utah Press.

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    Valerie Wetlaufer - BLOG - The Blog Tour: Some Notes on My Writing
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    Valerie Wetlaufer - BLOG - The Blog Tour: Some Notes on My Writing
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    Valerie Wetlaufer - BLOG - The Blog Tour: Some Notes on My Writing
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