The library’s current Writer-in-Residence Naomi K. Lewis recently took time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for the Nook. Remember that if we didn’t ask the questions you might have asked her, there’s still time to submit a manuscript and book your own one-on-one consultation. Now here’s our little interview…
To get some nuts & bolts out of the way… when, where, and with what do you write best?
I write in fits and starts, especially when it comes to fiction. For long periods, I’ll have a few projects I’m thinking about. I write in a notebook when ideas occur to me, and do research, and let things brew at the back of my mind while I’m doing other kinds of work – the kind that pays the bills. Then I’ll become obsessed with one of the ideas I’ve been thinking about and will work on it eight to twelve hours a day for a few weeks, dream about it, wake up every morning and run to my computer to keep working.
Who are your favorite writers? What are your favorite books?
This changes for me all the time. I love short stories and I read a lot about psychology and philosophy. My favourite novels, that I never seem to get sick of, are probably Pale Fire by Nabakov, and Invisible by Paul Auster. I also love Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Unconsoled, which most people seem to hate. But my own writing is nothing like those, really. I’m probably not smart enough to write something that resembles my favourite books.
You’re stranded on a deserted island with only one book to keep you company, what is it?
Wilderness Survival for Dummies, of course. And a blank notebook with pen, so I can make notes for the book I’ll write after I’m rescued.
If you are working on fiction for a long time do you find it difficult to go back to a non-fiction project? What about non-fiction to fiction?
No, I don’t find it hard to switch between genres. I like to have multiple projects on the go, so when I burn out on one, I can work on something else. I like them to be as different as possible. That said, I actually find that writing non-fiction is remarkably similar to writing fiction – though much easier. In a way, I don’t really care what I’m writing, as long as it’s something I can sink my teeth into. Coming up with ideas is always much harder and agonizing for me than actually doing the work.
Click here for the library's Writer-in-Residence program.
Click here for Naomi's homepage.
As a teacher, editor, consultant, ghost-writer, and of course, writer (and Writer-in-Residence at the library), I was wondering if you might have any time management tips for the busy writer?
I think everyone’s different in this respect, but I find it helpful to write down what I’m going to do every day and take regular breaks instead of trying to power through. I need plenty of exercise, or I get anxious and spend hours staring at my screen in a panic. I have a close friend who’s a professor and so also very self-directed, and we often start our days by setting goals together over Skype. Sometimes, when one or both of us is having trouble focusing, we set 20-minute goals and keep reporting back to each other.
Here at the ‘Nook, I like to say that Writers’ Block doesn’t exist, because the cure is the library – a place for research, inspiration, and guidance – but hypothetically, if writer’s block does exist, how do you handle it?
Work on something else. For a couple of years, I was trying to write my second novel and had terrible writers’ block – but in the course of procrastinating, I wrote enough short stories for a collection, and ghostwrote a memoir. It’s funny, because the whole time I was miserable, saying things like, “I’ll never write again,” because I wasn’t working on that one project I’d decided was going to make or break me. I’ve never experienced an inability to write anything at all, but if I did, I’d see at as a sign that I needed a break. Maybe I’d get a job doing something else for a while, and try not to worry about it. I know a lot of people say you just have to force yourself to keep producing, but I really believe we’re writing even when we’re just thinking, or walking, or staring into space. If you’re not actually putting words on paper, your brain’s just gearing up, chewing things over, somewhere in its recesses.
What’s the best advice you can offer to Calgary’s aspiring writers?
Read a lot. Write a lot. Listen. Carry a notebook. Go to places where writers hang out. Take a creative writing class. Don’t expect to ever make any money at writing. But especially, read a lot and write a lot. This seems obvious, but I think it’s worth saying repeatedly – the more you write, the more skilled you’ll become.
Click book cover to find Cricket in a Fist in the library catalogue.
Upcoming Writer-in-Residence programs & events:
November 5: Bringing Your Characters to Life: Teen Writing Workshop
November 8: Tuesday Night Write: Stretching your writer's voice
November 17: Finding Your Voice (Workshop)