Monday, 5 May 2014

The Creative Process Blog Tour



Thanks to Darran Anderson for passing the Creative Writing Blog to me, not least because it revives my somewhat neglected blog. I'm wary of committing answers to these kinds of questions because there always seem to be so many possibilities, but here goes anyway. 

what am i working on
  • Marking student portfolios (feeling quite proud, actually). 
  • Editing my MFA thesis, a novel in stories called No one's from Chicago, about the experiences shared by immigrants across diverse borders, circumstances and time periods. 
  • Taking breaks from the above by trying out a short, mixed genre thing, working title 'Selfie', involving a photo of a drawing of a photo, and a story that's half true, half remembered, half made-up. Make that thirds...
  • A paper for the 13th International Short Story Conference in Vienna this July.
  • A memoir-thing, set in and around LA in the early nineties, working title 'Trying to get myself raped and murdered.'
  • And, I have a nearly complete first draft of a new novel I'm looking forward to getting back to when that lot's done, set in 1980s Dublin, about a girl who wants to box.

how does my work differ from others of its genre

The genre question makes me antsy because I'm not sure my work fits into one genre, or what that genre is. I write non-fiction — memoir, reviews, essays — as well as fiction, and not all my fiction feels the same. I hope my work reflects the books and writers I love reading and aspire towards:  big, American novels like Rachel Kushner's The flamethrowers; slender, terse, translated fiction; structurally fun stuff like Cloud atlas and A visit from the goon squad; Anne Enright, Colum McCann, Deborah Levy, Edna O'Brien, David Sedaris, Alesander Hemon, James Wood, Adam Marek... hundreds more. I don't think of my writing as being 'Contemporary Irish' in the way Colin Barret, Mary Costello, or Donal Ryan's is. Maybe it's something to do with place/setting.


why do i write what i do

Often, I write to challenge myself, on form or theme or subject matter. I wrote Michaelangelos (my novel on submission) because I wanted the challenges of writing older characters, of imagining how my character, Selina (70) would react to a terminal prognosis (she steals a pizza delivery van and crashes it on Dollymount strand), of finding out why Italians emigrated to Ireland and why they opened chip shops, and what it felt like to grow up Italian in suburban Dublin. 

No one's from Chicago, my novel-in-stories and MFA thesis, was another exploration of what it means to belong to a place. Its point of view characters all spend time and cross paths in Chicago, but come from elsewhere: Ireland (1950s rural; contemporary urban), Guadalajara, Tokyo, post-war Germany, Italy.


how does my writing process work

My writing process involves coffee, walks, and Scrivener. In the wise words of Colum McCann, quoting Aleksander Hemon, paraphrasing Hemingway, it's all shit until it's not. I've learned to put up with my 'shit' first drafts, to keep plugging away at them until I have enough written down to work with —  usually about four fifths of the story. The last fifth tends to get written as an extension of subsequent drafts, when theme and tone and voice have started to make sense, not to mention plot.

And now, for my efforts, I get to nominate two others: Andrea Carter and Hilary McGrath, you're up.

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