I first met Jennifer Luitwieler on Shawn Smucker’s blog when she and I disagreed, quite categorically, about Annie Dillard’s statement about promotion on her website. We’ve been friends ever since. She’s smart and wise, a kind listener and a talented writer . . . and I’m thrilled to have her hear today.
1. Tell me about your latest project.
Seven Days In May is my first novel, and it’s set against the Tulsa Race Riot. I was inspired to write it after learning about the riot. But moreso, I was curious as to why the riot is so little known. In addition, we hear a lot of the city founders, but not a lot about the women behind the men. I was curious about what life would have been like to live with a member of the Klan, or to be a child living on the wrong side of the city. So, I did my research, and tried to find that world.
2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?
I can’t remember not reading. My parents always had books in hand. Always. Before any family trip, we would go the library or the bookstore, or both, and lug out as many books as our bags could carry. My dad is a pastor, and I loved watching him hand write his sermons every week, and my mom was always telling me about books she read. My mom and I still share good books, and text each other excepts of books we love.
3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?
Haha. I’m sort of loose about it. I used to be an organizer, but that was compelled by fear and perfectionism. Now I’m a staunch imperfectionist. I don’t like to be tied up by a schedule. But I also discovered that I do better writing after I run. Since I don’t usually run until all the kids are at school, or doing what they’re supposed to be doing, I don’t usually get to writing until just after lunch. I like to shift up my writing places. Last summer, I worked exclusively at my desk. This winter, I’ve tucked myself into a chair in the corner of the living room. I almost always write on a computer, but will often scrawl notes out in one of a million journals littered around my house.
4. Who are you reading now?
I’m reading Their Eyes Were Watching God. I had started reading it because one of my daughters was assigned ti for school. Now I find that it is roughly around the same year that my novel is set, though in a different part of the country. I’m reading Moon Over Manifest with another kid, and The Book Thief with the third. Finally, I’m reading The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris. I also must confess that I read sports news daily, and sometimes that takes the place of books. I am a sucker for sports stories.
5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is hilarious. I love her wit and social satire. I think that gets overlooked a lot in lieu of the love story. Don’t get me wrong. Mr. Darcy is all that, but the wit is my favorite part. She’s wicked.
To Kill a Mockingbird is as near to perfect a book can be. The pace, the story, the characters, and the set up are so rewarding, so expertly staged. The last two pages will take your breath away.
It’s been a while since I last read it, but East of Eden by Steinbeck struck me as exquisite. Probably need to haul that one out again. I tend to drift toward stories anchored in real events.
6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?
Platform building is a necessary evil. I do not perform this evil very well. I tend to use social media and my blog for things I’m interested in, rather than focused on marketing a specific idea, like this Tulsa story. However, I have seen a change in the ramp up to the novel release. I recognize the importance of finding a variety of ways to leverage the information I’m hoping to share. That means that I have a few presentations ready: one for younger school kids, one for high schoolers, and one for adults. I try to share photos and tidbits about the riot that those who don’t know about it will be compelled to learn more.
7.What is a typical day like for you?
I don’t really have typical, but I run or work out every day, do homeschool with one kid, write, research, interview, network, pick up kids from school and act like Mom.
8. Describe your dream writing space?
I can write anywhere. Anyone with kids (or pets who make noises) has learned the skill of blocking out noise. At cafes, the background noise of people is like a soundtrack. Although, sometimes, eavesdropping distracts me. 🙂 BUT! If I had my druthers, and a million dollars, there would be a sweet little shed in the back yard with lots of windows and and AC unit (it’s hot here) and no one could go in there but me.
9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?
Someone once said that when I started writing about women’s issues, I sounded bitchy. That kind of made me mad. The critique was from a man, and I honestly think that women would hear it differently. I am passionate about certain subjects, and that’s one of them. He said I was preachy and bitchy.
10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
Writing is hard, and lonely and weird and fun and thankless. But, when we make the choice, when we decide to wear the mantle of writer, we assume those things. Therefore, we must learn to be gentle with ourselves. Golden spun words don’t just appear.
Jennifer Luitwieler (pronunciation guide: LOOT-why- ler), was raised in the steel valley of Pittsburgh, PA, where she acquired her love of pro sports and a B.A. in English Lit from Chatham College (now Chatham University). She writes, runs, reads and lives in Tulsa, Ok with her husband and their three children. She has a keen interest in how history shapes art and culture. Her favorite things to do are running, knitting, sewing and laughing with her family, because they are silly. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.