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Writing 800px-Bartholomeus_van_der_Helst_-_Regents_of_the_Walloon_Orphanage_-_WGA11346Writers love to write about writing. It’s not surprising. It’s our passion.

So when I was invited to participate in a blog-hopping writing process tour, I jumped at the chance to talk about one of the great loves of my life—writing.

The first to invite me was the lovely Rebecca Koonst, a new blogger at Mom’s So-Called Life. She writes about the pleasures and struggles of being a mom, a woman, and a wife, in a light-hearted, heartfelt way.

Author Kelly Hand also tagged me. Or maybe I tagged her. Let’s just say we got caught up in a game of tag, and we’re featuring each other in our Writing Tour posts. She wrote the Au Pair Report, a novel I loved about childcare and politics in Washington DC.

In turn, I’ve invited three other blogger-writers that I admire to join the tour on June 23: a novelist from Australia, a poet from Canada, and a fellow blogger who writes about the creative process. I hope you will hop over to their blogs next Monday. There’s more about them and links to their blogs below.

So, first question, what am I working on?

Well, it’s a bit of a jumble. I have four writing projects in various stages of completion.

From the Far Ends of the Earth, a novel: I’m in the final stages of editing this, which has gone through several sets of beta readers. It’s about what happens when the mother who has been holding together a hopelessly dysfunctional family mysteriously disappears. It’s told through the perspectives of the three family members left behind—a cranky graduate student, a heroin addict, and their emotionally distant father. How they cope with the mother’s disappearance, learn to reconnect with each other, and forge new relationships in her absence, create the heart of this novel. I wrote more about this book in a blog post celebrating the completion of my first draft, and also in the post When Things Go Missing, which includes a link to a short story based upon one of the chapters.

A Play of Dark and Light: a short story collection. I’m also working on a collection of short stories, many that I wrote long ago—getting them dusted and polished and out to literary journals. Four have been published so far. You can read more about them, with links to the stories here:
13 Ways of Looking at Dying, Just Before and the Moment After; Us, Ancient; When Things Go Missing, and Looking for Bobby.

The Adventures of La Gitana, a series for middle graders. I have the first book completed in what I envision as a series for middle-graders about a family that sails around the world, based loosely on our own family’s experience. I’ve put this on hold until I get the literary novel out to agents. You can read more about this adventure series on my writing website at www.djbrasket.com

Living on the Edge of the Wild, my blog. When I began blogging, I saw this as something I needed to do to be a serious writer, as a means toward an end. Now it’s become an end in itself, as important to me as the other writing. It’s a way to explore ideas and share them with others. It’s part memoir, part reverie, part reflection, and partly a way to share my love of art and literature with others, as well as things I’ve written and am writing (like today’s post!).

How does my work differ from others in its genres?

If From the Far Ends of the Earth differs from other literary novels, it may be in that one of the main characters, the mother at the center of the story, is absent. Apart from the prologue, which is written from her perspective, the reader only comes to know her through the eyes of the people she leaves behind. And through the photographs she mails her son, and the messages she leaves on her daughter’s answering machine. Otherwise, she remains an enigma, as I believe we all remain in the end to a large extent. This is one of the main themes of the book, how we see each other subjectively, filtered through our own desires and fears, memories and misconceptions. While the “truth” about each other remains largely a mystery.

My short stories may be unique in how they explore psychological states of mind. While they have plots—things happen–what’s of interest to me, and I hope the reader, is what’s going on inside their heads and hearts, what makes them tick, or not tick. There are some elements of magical realism:

Fine and Shimmering tells the story of a young woman in a bad marriage who feels she’s not quite real, but lightly tethered to earth by a fine and shimmering cord.
In Tamara in Her Garden, the daughter of a Jeffry Dahmer-type mass murderer recognizes traits of her father in herself and retreats from her lover and analyst to her garden which becomes a metaphor for the beauty and brutality she sees rolled up together in the world and others.
The Man in the Attic is about a woman who has become so hyper self-conscious she believes she is being constantly watched by a romantic admirer who eventually takes up residence in her attic.
On the lighter side is Joshua’s Tea Cup, the story of a young autistic man who sees galaxies floating among his tea leaves.
And Petite Marmite is love story about an habitual liar and his gullible wife with an O’Henry style ending.

These are just a few of the stories in my collection so far.

The middle-grade series may be unique in that I’ve yet to encounter a book written for that age group about children growing up while sailing around the world.

I’m not sure if my blog is unique. My readers will have to answer that question.

Why do I write what I do?

As I’ve written here about my blog, I like exploring the edges of things, the borderlands between states of consciousness, and states of reality—the social and psychological, the human and more-than-human, the physical and spiritual, the known and unknown, the world we know outside ourselves and within our own minds–and how they overlap and re-create each other. I see the creative arts as existing on that fringe, the thing that helps us negotiate the borderlands and translate one to the other. Writing is my point of entry.

All this is true for my novel and short stories and blog. But for the sailing adventure, I’m writing that to preserve for myself and my family, what it was like to live at sea, and to share that adventure and my love of the wild with others, especially children.

I could say much more on the topic of why I write, and have. But I will spare you here and refer you to the following posts if you want to know more about why I write and how: Writing, A Leap of Faith; Wabi Sabi Writing.

How does my writing process work?

A lot of my writing springs from my reading. Stories and poems and other blog posts trigger a new line of thought, and off I go off in that direction, allowing it to take me where it will. I think of it as “riffing” on other’s works, as jazz musicians will do when they jam together. The same happens when I engage with nature, go for walks or hikes, or merely sit on the patio taking in all the sights and sounds around me. Thoughts and images will spring to mind, and I’ll grab a notebook and start writing.

I usually start writing in the morning, sometimes in long hand while sitting in bed with my coffee. Then I’ll go to my office and type what I’ve been writing into a word document, revising as I go. Most of my revising is done on the computer. But I’ve printed out my novel to revise as I read it, as well.

I keep a writing log, setting weekly goals, and tracking my hours. This has helped a lot, because I can get pretty scattered and off-track otherwise.

Who’s Up Next?

Don’t miss the next installments of the Writing Process Tour on June 23. The following bloggers will be sharing their writing process.

Author Nikki Tulk, Shadow, Wings & Other Things – Niki loves” to write, dream, read, learn and make art in many different media from theatre and music, to making up her family’s next weekend breakfast menu.” She is also the author of the lovely and lyrical book Shadows and Wings, which I highly recommend.

Poet, Jeremy Nathan Marks, The Sand County – Jeremy’s blog is “an exploration of the natural world, our relationship with it and the necessities that govern life on Earth. Here you will find a little bit of everything that brings us to that interface of human dreams, desire, repose and the wisdom, austerity and sublime power that the natural world offers.” Jeremy also writes some amazing poetry that he shares on his blog.

Writer, Kim Hass, The Art of Practice, The Practice of Art – Kim blogs about “Creating Mindful, Joyful, Compassionate Moments of Being.” She writes about the creative process and “what makes a Writer with a capital W–no credentials needed.” I love that!