Saturday, July 26, 2014

The (Magical Mystery) Blog Tour 2014

Thanks to poet Carey Taylor, who lives and writes in Puget Sound, for the blog tour invitation. The tour is an opportunity to write about writing by answering four questions. Please visit Carey’s blog to read some lovely poems and her answers to the following questions.

My responses:  

1-What am I working on?

I work as an editor for “Good Letters” (Image Journal’s daily multi-author blog) and in shaping my own writing for my blog or to send to literary journals with hopes of being published. I enjoy rewriting for consistency and clarity, the precision in punctuating, paragraphing, and selecting the perfect word.

Writing first (and subsequent) drafts for me is play, especially when I write with a pen and paper, which removes the technology-driven temptation to make each word and sentence perfect.

I’ve been playing with writing while house painting and weeding. Hands busy, I conjure essay and short story ideas.
Painting a bridge from deck to garage rooftop turf

Extreme weeding on a hillside

Right now I’m playing with the second half of a short story I began about a ventriloquist whose mother is reincarnated as a parrot! I wouldn’t have imagined the scenario on my own: it came from “The Writer’s Toolbox” used as a prompt in the Amherst Writers & Artists method writing group I participated in on Bainbridge Island.

The absurd plot leads me to consider more absurd possibilities, but I want the circumstances and characters to feel true, real, and affirming (like Lars and the Real Girl for cinematic example). 

2-How does my work differ from others in its genre?

A better question might be, “How does my work add to others in its genre?” because I’m keenly aware of how I’ve been influenced by the written word, from the moment my mother began reading to me, to this day.

In so many aspects of life we focus on our differences in ways that can lead to isolation and misunderstanding, feelings of superiority and fear. I long to be part of, not set apart from, community and conversations about the things that matter most to humans: creativity, identity, and meaning.

My own modes of expression—poetry, essays, short-fiction, even the occasional song lyric—are as varied as my moods.

I’m a writer who is Christian, but not necessarily a “Christian Writer.” (You can read about my search for a faith-based writing community that allows for doubt and secular concerns here).

I may choose a broad genre to write in—fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction—but never follow a formula. If my writing is to be truly authentic, it must unfold rather than reach a predetermined conclusion.

3-Why do I write what I do?

I write to make sense of the world and my place in it. To find that my creative expression resonates with another human being inspires me to continue writing, even though it seems self-indulgent at times.

I write to vent frustrations, work out problems, pray, dream about the future, and uncover new insights.

I usually write about my faith and spiritual experiences with poetry, and my book of poetry, Burnt Offeringsis a compilation of my spiritual poetry written over fifteen years. 

I’m inspired at retreats, conferences, and occasions when I’m exploring ideas with others. I frequently use scripture, images, and metaphor and “write them slant” in the words of Emily Dickinson.

Companions in Ministry 2 Writing Group San Antonio TX 2010

If I’m feeling more direct, philosophical, or analytical, I’ll write a personal essay, usually for my blog, usually less than 1000 words.

When my aim is more story-oriented, I might write “pure fiction” or a snippet of memoir. Sometimes I’ll take an element of real experience too slim for a story, or too close to current events and people, and incorporate that moment into fiction.

4-How does my writing process work?

Creative Nonfiction students at SPU MFA Whidbey Island residency 2010

When I lived in California I wrote at a desktop computer in my own home office. When I was working on my MFA at SPU (2008-11), I turned off my email and I didn’t go online while writing.
MFA Graduation
Now I don’t have a routine. My schedule changes daily, so when I write fluctuates, as does where, and how. I’ll click away to answer an email, or check a fact and find myself wasting time on Facebook.

I most often write alone, but love to write with others and share new work aloud. I enjoy experimenting with form and content, especially from prompts chosen by someone else—something about the surprise, time limit, and inspiration jumpstarts my imagination.

I usually write poetry longhand, and I’m left-handed, so fancy journals are wasted on me, as I smear the ink. I write in a plain spiral notebook or composition book, then type and revise.

I almost always compose first drafts of essays and short stories on my computer, unless I’m at a writing group.

Since moving to Washington, I write on my laptop in a recliner. I love having my feet up, but it’s tough typing with both a cat and computer in my lap!

When I return to in-progress work onscreen, I always start at the beginning to reread and revise before moving on. Thank goodness I’m not writing a novel.

I try to keep a paper and pen by my bed. When my head hits the pillow my creative mind lights up, especially if I’ve been to an evening writing group or event. I often dream-write, but when I awake, the elegant wording evaporates and I’m left wishing for a Pensieve (from Harry Potter) to extract the thoughts from my brain.

Up next on the tour are Angela Doll Carlson and Nancy Nordenson.

Angela’s memoir, Nearly Orthodox, releases on July 31. A poet and essayist I know virtually from her guest posts at “Good Letters,” she blogs as Mrs. Metaphor and at “Nearly Orthodox.”

Medical Writer and essayist Nancy Nordenson is an SPU MFA alumna, the author of the book Just Think, Nourish Your Mind to Feed Your Soul, and of the forthcoming Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure. Her blog is titled “Just Thinking.”



  1. Cathy - It was great reading this and I really enjoyed having the opportunity to read about your process and background. I love the intentional changes you are making in your life, your ability to risk take, and the continual reflection on the big questions. Thanks for being part of the tour.....Carey

  2. Thanks Cathy! I've got my post up today finally. It's been a weird morning.