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Writer Waking Up - A Publication Blog

On ambivalence, and its gifts...

In today's post, I present part two of a three-part Q&A series, in which I've asked long-time writing friends for the questions that came to mind when they read A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Rice: A Memoir in Four Meditations. The questions below came from novelist Marian Szczepanski, author of Playing Saint Barbara, and a creative writing teacher at Writespace in Houston and the Writers' League of Texas in Austin.

MS: Have you ever felt conflicted or ambivalent about chronicling events such as emotionally charged or challenging family situations that involve other people, particularly those who are still alive and may read your book?

CH: This is an interesting question because I've been asked many times how family members, etc., feel about the book, but no one has asked me about my own emotional response to writing about real as opposed to imagined people.
When I first realized that I was going to have to write a memoir, I felt sick. By "have to," I mean that every time I sat down to write fiction I found myself writing pages and pages of introspective self-examination embedded in recollected stories about the people and events in my life that confounded me. By "sick," I mean actually nauseated and definitely terrified. But, given the first condition--nothing coming through the writing pipeline but my own intense need to make sense, or try to, of my life to that point, the second condition--discomfort and doubt with the project ahead of me--was simply something I had to wade through day by day at the writing desk. I mean, are there any writers who don't feel that way, at least sometimes, at the start of a writing project, fiction or nonfiction? Read More 
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Launch Amid Life

The three launch events for my just-released memoir were marvelously fun--the result of weeks of planning, networking, and selfless giving by friends and writers. In the span of four weeks I read from and talked about my book amid colleagues and students in southern California at my job in a low-residency MFA program; in my hometown indie bookstore before 40 friends and a wine-and -cheese reception; and, most recently, under the cardboard cutout gaze of Southern iconic writer Thomas Wolfe at the memorial his mother's boarding house has become. At all three events I had my right knee wrapped in a big black Velcro brace. In each case it hurt a little to stand for the required hour or so. At all three events I chose my dress with care and put some effort into hair and makeup (something I seldom do, but for public appearances appearance has always been, for me, part of the program), all while admonishing myself not to care that the ugly brace spoiled the effect.

Three days after the last event and less than a week ago as I type this, I had outpatient surgery to repair a torn meniscus. My days since the surgery revolve around the slow and awkward mechanics of post-operative grooming and thrice-daily sets physical therapy exercises.  Read More 
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