Lorie Adair and I have something very important in common – we are both graduates of the AMAZING MFA program at Antioch University-Los Angeles. No wonder I liked her from the get go. Enjoy her thoughts on writing and promotion today.
My book Spider Woman’s Loom debuted two months ago. Since it is Indie published, I’m learning how to promote and create momentum which is a project indeed. I also have a story in mind which incorporates the carnival in some way. I’m drawn to its empty promises and tawdry nature.
2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?
Books were constant companions and a point of stability in an often chaotic childhood. I certainly could count on Nancy Drew to solve any mystery, and that was a comfort. In fifth grade, I discovered theater and in sixth grade, the power of my writing to move fellow students to react. My wonderful teacher Ms. Jackman wrote encouraging comments in the margins and the connection of reader to writer and an audience got me hooked.
3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?
Monday through Friday, I stumble from bed at 5:15, make coffee, do a few yoga stretches, and begin the process of writing. Some mornings I warm up by journaling; other days I wake up with snatches of dialogue or an image I have to get down before it slips away. I get to writing as quickly as possible since I only have till 6:00 before I have to get ready for my school day as a teacher. On weekends, I give myself at least 3 hours per day to write and summers as long as I wish though it’s important to me to balance family life and hang out with my son and husband, two of my favorite people.
4. Who are you reading now?
I just finished Kerry Madden’s book Offsides published by Foreverland Press. It is a coming-of-age novel and laugh-out-loud funny in several places. I’m working up the courage to begin Excavation by Wendy C. Ortiz. Since I’m a high school teacher at an alternative school for extremely vulnerable students, I know it’s going to be a difficult read.
5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?
Three books that I return to again and again are Tracks by Louise Erdrich, The Beans of Egypt of Maine by Carolyn Chute, and Nabokov’s Lolita. I return to Tracks because the voice of the novel resonates with me for days and experiencing that was a first when I read it in the early 90s; Beans because of Chute’s unsentimental portrayal of poverty in the north-east where I was raised; Lolita because the story is horrible and funny, unapologetic and complex.
6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?
It’s tricky fitting it all in. This summer, I created a schedule of tasks to keep that balance; some weeks I spend more time on drafting new material, sending finished work out, and reading while other weeks are spent mostly on marketing and posting on social sites; I’m still learning how to balance it all within this new paradigm of DIY.
7.What is a typical day like for you?
I wake in the dark, grope for my glasses, write against the ticking clock, and then wake the rest of the household up so we can get to school. I drop my son at his high school while I continue on to mine, where I spend the rest of the day trying to make English relevant to juniors (Let’s call it performance art.). I catch a yoga class after school, carpool my son and his teammates back from pole-vault practice, and prepare a nutritious dinner for my guys, who would prefer to eat pizza and burgers every night.
8. Describe your dream writing space?
I have a great room off of the kitchen with wood flooring (Okay, it’s acrylic but it looks like wood.), pastel green walls, and natural light. I’m surrounded by books, paintings, and pictures of the people whom I love. I have a Tinker-bell doll there, too, because it’s important to play and not take oneself too seriously. Ideally, what I have here would be placed in a screened-in tree-house.
9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?
Years ago, I sent an early draft of Spider Woman’s Loom to an agent suggested by a successful writer friend. The agent let me know in no uncertain terms that she did not find the characters believable. From that point forward, breathing authentic life into characters who felt real to me so the reader could experience the same became a singular obsession.
10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
Claim your vision and do what you must to make it happen. Cliché as the term perseverance is, that really is the necessary ingredient for success however it is you define success. Be open to form, seek out advice, knock on doors, take “no” in stride, and foster a flexible attitude in this ever-changing business of selling your art.
Lorie Adair is the recipient of several Norman Mailer Scholarships and Arizona Commission on the Arts Creative Writing fellowships. Spider Woman’s Loom was a finalist for the SouthWest Writers Award and a semi-finalist for the Dana Award. She has written for NPR affiliate, KJZZ, and her fiction and creative non-fiction have appeared in Hippocampus Magazine, Kindred, Praxis Journal of Gender and Cultural Critiques, and Terrain.org. In addition, she was featured as an emerging artist in Phoenix Home and Garden Magazine. She lived and taught on the Navajo reservation several years before earning an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles. She currently resides in Tempe, Arizona.