Iowa Writers Workshop

I’ve been tagged

I don’t think I’ve been tagged before; if so, I must have missed it. Something about it feels odd, but also sort of flattering. Kate tagged me. Kate writes beautifully, and I do wish she did more of it publicly, or Internetly. I also wish she would keep her promises. She keeps promising to visit, but hasn’t shown up since leaving Buenos Aires a while back.

It’s called a blog hop, which also seems odd, don’t you think? Like a dance craze from the 50s. Do the blog hop, do dah. Kate was tagged by someone she knows named Rebecca Brooks, who has exceptionally nice hair. I am asked to tag some others, but actually, I don’t know any other writers, or at least none who wouldn’t think me crazy for “tagging” them, so I’ll skip that part. She proposes four questions, and here are my four answers.

What am I working on/writing? What I hope will be, if I can manage to figure out how to end it, my tenth novel. It’s called “Erasing Rose,” with Rose being, or discovering herself to have been, the child of one of the Disappeared from Argentina’s “Dirty War” between the late 70s and early 80s. She is in the story a self-destructing adult, unable to make a life going forward while brutally tethered to the reality of her history. It takes place about half and half in San Diego (where she escaped to from Buenos Aires) and Baja, Mexico, where she escapes to from the troubles of her life in southern California. About 75,000 words are good enough to keep, but I keep floundering around the end, after about two years work. Being right now in awkward transit between Mexico City and Rome, I’ve not been able to give this work the mental energy all writing demands. That’s about it. At my age, this could be my last novel, so I feel more than compelled to finish it, but to finish it well and good.

How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre? Well, let’s see. I don’t know that I write within a genre. My previous published novels are, with the exception of the first, which was called a psychological thriller (to my dismay), are usually categorized as literary fiction. Is that a genre? I can’t answer this question because I don’t really understand it.

Why do I write what I do? I write what I read. I mean, I write in something of the manner of the kind of novels I have always read, which are more or less referred to as literary fiction. I don’t think I have ever read a novel that fits squarely into one of the usual genres. I don’t read romances or spy stories or thrillers or detective mysteries … . Whatever else, I can’t think of. I do read travel non-fiction a bit, and a lot of political and historical works, especially essays. I like a limited range of memoirs. In other words, the short answer is that I write what I know from what I read and have read, in that style and that manner.

How does my writing process work?  Um … I would answer that quite differently at different periods in my writing life, which has now been ongoing steadily for almost fifty years. There would be me as the novice in my late teens through mid-twenties, when the compulsion to write damn near all the time was strong; then the me of undergraduate and graduate school (in philosophy) who was overwhelmed by the necessities and parameters of serious academic writing; the me of Iowa years, when artsy-craftsy writing and writerly socializing dominated; then the me of the professor years (thankfully brief) when I hardly wrote a creative word because of the demands of professing on a daily basis; finally the aging me, post-50, settling into a natural work rhythm, with few mind-distractions, writing most days for as long as I felt like it, and with, at that time, already five or so published books, off the pressure-to-publish treadmill wheel, when I learned how to write entirely and exclusively for myself and my own desires and demands (which dramatically improved my work, while at the same time dramatically decreasing my ability to be published) so that I could indulge myself as a writer … and now, when I can go weeks without writing a creative word, not worrying too much about it, knowing there will be those fine days when it is nothing to come out with two or three thousand words in a morning. I do, by the way, only write in the mornings. I am a morning person, I relish the light hours and hibernate in darkness. I have never written anything much post-lunch.

There it is. Are you happy, Kate. (You are missed!)

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2 replies »

  1. Don, As you already know I am one of your biggest fans. I thoroughly enjoy all of your books. I have sort of come to think of you as a friend. I love hearing about you and Holly’s travels. And the pictures you post are so interesting. They show places I would love to go but know I never will get to so I’m seeing them through your eyes. Thank you.