Blog Hop: A Writing Q&A
How many blogs can a blog hop hop? I was invited by a talented writer named Ben Black to participate in a “Blog Hop” by taking a moment to write about my writing. I must say that I was hesitant to participate because my creative writing has been on hiatus for some time. Ultimately, I came up with some notes that serve as answers to a few questions about my writing habits.
At the end of the post, I have linked to several other authors’ sites (Xanath Caraza, Maisha Z. Johnson, and Fernando Pujals). Look for their posts next week, since they’ll also participate in the blog hop.
What am I working on?
I am working on research for a novella about Francis Fuller Victor, the only female historian who contributed to Hubert Howe Bancroft’s subscription-based history of the West in the latter half of the 19th century. This history was published under his name, and though many other contributors worked on the book, he does not credit those who worked within his “Literary Industry.” Victor contributed histories of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho – places that I have a personal affinity to, since this region was where I grew up. She is also a fascinating character in her own right. Her strong, progressive opinions on issues such as the Whitman Massacre and women’s rights led to divided sentiments about her historical work and career in the region. Bancroft believed that in the future, the writing of history would come to be developed out of an efficient factory-model of production similar to the one he used to write his history, that involved low-paid wage-based writers. In contrast, Victor saw the importance of taking time to gather the nuanced, multifaceted face of history that is cultivated through the careful collection of personally imparted stories as well as extensive research. Therefore, I’m interested in how Bancroft and Victor came together through their set of related, misguided dreams. Victor was failed poet who succeeded at becoming a highly skilled historian, and Bancroft was a successful businessman who dreamed of being remembered as the great historian of the west, but lost his reputation for exploiting his contributors. My research on this novella is merely in the formative stages.
How is my work different than others in its genre?
While this current novella-length project involves a lot of historical research, part of the research process involves developing an imbedded critique about regional history and historiography in the United States. This critical inquiry will likely shape the form that I work with and guide me towards alternative, creative means to interrogate the notion of provincialism.
My other past work has fallen into different generic definitions and therefore is not really relevant to a question of genre when considered as a whole.
Why do I write what I do?
I’d like to know the roots of my regional language identity better, specifically in relation to the cultural development of the rural, inland northwest. I read from a historian named Hazel E. White that some European immigrants in Oregon were once ridiculed by savvy Californian business men for their web-feet during the gold rush era, which they had supposedly developed in the heavy rain on the Oregon coast. The Oregonians were considered lazy at business and inferior for remaining passive towards the war efforts against the Native Americans. I write to chase a faint glimmer of hope that in the “Wild West” some people merely wanted to harvest crops on their farms rather than to force history. I also have a sense of familiarity towards these people. I feel like I have heard their daily chattering, quibbling, tinkering, and puttering voices. I want to write to dream about them.
I find myself embellishing in the strangest of places in a story, and later, catastrophically, remembering it as truth. Each made-up world is evidence of something. In every project, I’m not only researching the subject itself, but also trying to collect enough evidence to identify the origins of my own delusions. I always suspect I’ve inherited them from some cultural condition that frames our own time. I search for this specific frame. I feel that writing about history must involve healthy doses of embellished dreaming into the past as well as a critical inquiry towards the present.
How does my writing process work?
I take a lot of notes, I read, and I collect anecdotes. I search for hidden scenes, vocabularies, and personages that I would like to embrace in my work. These become the massive dream-network that underlies the scant lines to which I must commit. My writing occurs at the sacrifice of many undefined impressions, moods, and apprehensions. This commitment has increasingly become a burden for me, so I simply take my writing one word at a time. One scene, one phrase, one conversation: sometimes this is all it takes to have the courage to settle into the English language, a formidable place to call home.
Xánath Caraza is a traveler, educator, poet and short story writer. She is the 2014 recipient of the Beca Nebrija para creadores. Caraza is an Award Winning Finalist in the ‘Fiction: Multicultural’ category of the 2013 International Book Awards. Her book Conjuro was awarded second place in the ‘Best Poetry Book in Spanish’ category and received honorable mention in the ‘Best First Book in Spanish, Mariposa Award’ category of the 2013 International Latino Book Awards. She was named number one of the 2013 Top Ten “New” Latino Authors to Watch (and Read) by LatinoStories.com. She has been nominated for the 2013 Pushcart Prize for short fiction. Caraza is the author of Noche deColibríes: Ekphrastic Poems, Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Br ngs,Conjuro and Corazón Pintado: Ekphrastic Poems. Her upcoming book is Sílabas de viento/Syllables of Wind. Caraza writes for La Bloga, US Latino Poets en español and Revista Zona de Ocio.
Maisha Z. Johnson is a writer, an activist, and a troublemaker of Trinidadian descent. She has an MFA in Poetry from Pacific University, and she studied creative writing at San Francisco State University. Through writing and workshops, Maisha lifts up voices of those who are often silenced, including LGBTQ people, people of color, and survivors of violence. Her work has been published in numerous journals and nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize. She explores the relationship between art and social change on her blog, atwww.maishazjohnson.com.
Fernando Pujals lives and writes in San Francisco where he handles the BS, or brand story, at the historic Fly Trap Restaurant (www.flytrapsf.com). He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University.8title.com, or Infinite Title, showcases his personal writing pursuits. Subjects are as varied as form. From personal essay to fiction fragment, oral history to RAP, the titles are infinite.
‘s work has appeared in Harpur Palate, New American Writing, The Los Angeles Review, and Smokelong Quarterly. He recently completed his MFA at San Francisco State University, where he also teaches. His stories have been finalists for the Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Chapbook Contest and the Calvino Award. Find out more at benpblack.com.