Spinning Plates, or The Writing Life

Thank you to my friend and neighbor Susan Cushman for tagging me at Pen and Palette to answer some questions about my writing. If you don’t follow Susan’s blog, go take a look. Susan blogs regularly on writing, mental health, and faith; her post on Shrinking the Monsters discusses her own writing process. Susan is a wonderful supporter of the writing community in Memphis, and we are all grateful for the wisdom and energy she offers us.

My goal today, should I choose to accept it, is to describe my writing life; what I’m working on; and why I do this thing called writing. I tend to mull over these questions a lot so I already have a metaphor (!) for my writing life: the spinning plates in the circus.

I wrote six novels seriatim. Having thrown these manuscripts in the air, I’m now revising them all at once. The novel TRAIN TRIP: LUCINDA MAE’S QUEST FOR LOVE, HONOR, AND THE CHICKENS is the first manuscript to survive this process. Two agents are currently reading the full story (YAY!!!!) while I continue to methodically send out queries.

The next manuscript on the conveyor belt is an amateur sleuth mystery (MODEL FOR DECEPTION: when her model partner disappears, a Memphis fashion model uses her “clothes whisperer” skills to investigate the case, only to discover clues to the murder of her long-lost favorite cousin). This story is currently with the paid editor who is helping me with these revision projects. While the editor works (and I send out queries on TRAIN TRIP) I’m thoughtfully revising IN THE NAME OF MISSISSIPPI (a young documentarian returns to the South to film a historic civil rights reparations lawsuit, but when the case begins to fall apart, the mixed-race young man must examine his own place in the world.) “Thoughtfully,” I say, because even though this novel was a semifinalist in the James Jones First Novel Competition, it was also the first novel I wrote, and I’m taking my time picking through what is on the page.

THE BONE TRENCH—which mixes Mother Mary and Jesus with the private prison industry—is far enough along to have been a Short List Finalist, Novel-in-progress, in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Competition, but it needs more attention . . . as soon as I can give it. I can’t wait to get back to my most-recently-drafted-novel, a Hurricane Katrina story about JAZZY, a young girl who evacuates New Orleans to ride out the storm with her dead dad’s crazy family in Mississippi. If I’m still alive, kicking, and writing, I’ll also revise my tear-jerker 1011 ST. LAWRENCE STREET, which explores the different lives led by two young North Carolina cousins—Casey, the beautiful outcast and Emily, the reluctant family favorite.

As I pursue the novel revisions, I continue to promote my short story collection released in audio which you can listen to at CAIN’T DO NOTHING WITH LOVE. From time to time, I also lead workshops based on my book MAKING CROSSES: A CREATIVE CONNECTION TO GOD (Paraclete Press, 2009). And, of course, I love to slap my thoughts onto this blog.

Spinning plates—I told you.

Why I write—the physical act of writing; the creating; the editing; the sitting down at the computer and banging away—is a question easy for me to answer: I write because it makes time stand still. The passage of time strikes me as the saddest fact of the universe. While writing, I cheat the ever-ticking clock. The harder question for me goes to the issue of the time and energy I’m spending trying to get published, something I pondered about the collective conversation of life.

On a final note, a conversation about my writing life wouldn’t be complete without my mentioning the weekly writing group I co-facilitate, the members of which have all experienced homelessness. I was the editor of the group’s ezine—The Advocate: A Voice of Experience—for three years. I also edited the group’s book WRITING OUR WAY HOME: A GROUP JOURNEY OUT OF HOMELESSNESS, which will be published by Triton Press later this summer. Regardless of whatever else happens with my writing life, if I’m in Memphis, you can find me every Wednesday at 1:00 writing with the group.

For the next entry on this blog tour, I’ve chosen quality over quantity. Next Monday, Marisa Whitsett Baker will be blogging about her own writing journey. Marisa has a beautiful blog at The Unwritten Word. You might catch a funny piece about her unpredictable aching back, an informational piece about gorgeous inks, or a beautiful entry about what she’s learned from her well-examined life. Enjoy.

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

blog tour, PEN AND PALETTE, revising the novel, rewrite, THE UNWRITTEN WORD, THE WRITING PROCESS, why I write

Comments (6)

  • I love this view inside your process–and in your heart. Mostly, I can’t wait to sink my teeth into those novels! They sound amazing. Thank you for the tag and your too-gracious words. I will hold up my end of the bargain next week!

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      Can’t wait to read it – and, in addition to your beautiful words, you do have a visually beautiful blog, which I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned to you

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      It took me a while, Luanne, to discern that I approach my writing life the same way I tackle the rest of my life: put it all in front of me at once and let me have at it. Who knows what type of personality type THAT is!

      • Is it similar to the type of personality that had to get an MA and an MFA at the same time and in the MFA to focus on both poetry and fiction? Because that’s the only way I can accomplish anything is to double it all up. Weirdest thing and have never heard of anyone else “needing” to do that.

  • Ellen Morris Prewitt

    It sounds similar indeed. If I had been in that situation, my thinking would have gone along the lines of, here I am in this crucible of information and knowledge and learning opportunities, and I need all this teaching in front of me at once so I can discern for myself what parts of it I really need to know and take out of here with me. But what a strength of self it took to follow through and do what you did—I’m impressed!

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