What Are You Working On?
I had always thought I was going to be more of a novelist than a short story writer, because the first big thing I wrote was a novel back in undergrad. But then I went to grad school and got the life sucked out of me and stopped writing for several years. After grad school (which I left after completing all of my coursework but never finishing my thesis), I finally began living a lot of the life I had missed out on when I was younger. I grew up in a family business and without a great deal of adult supervision and so I always felt the need to prove I was responsible.
But then, BOOM, there I was free and without responsibilities (and without a job) for the first time ever. So what did I do? Ran away with the circus, that's what. I left from Boston on tour with the Cirque du Soleil and began what became a really interesting period of my life. A lot of my material comes from that place of danger and experimentation, when I was living a bit on the edge, a bit on the fringe, but still close enough to the core of myself that I would pull back if things got too scary.
Nothing so exciting. I worked in the box office and worked on the set-up and tear-down crew. I learned how to solder and I set up plumbing lines. Glamorous, no?
As I've become more confident in my writing, I've allowed my true voice to come through -- one which aims to shine the light of honesty on human relations, to say some of things that we all are thinking but maybe never put into words. That's my hope anyway. We'll see if I've succeeded.
My hope is to show women as they truly are or can be. Sometimes we are scared, sometimes we are enraged, sometimes we are filled with light, but all the time we are human.
The other rewarding aspect of working on this project has been the positive reaction I've received from other writer friends. Their constant, unflagging belief in me has been beyond compare.
Always, the biggest challenge for me is the fear and the self-doubt, working my way through it and letting myself believe that I can complete this thing, that I can allow myself to believe in it. Essentially, I'm trying to learn how to be my own advocate. I will fiercely go to bat for other people, but have rarely done this for myself in the past. I have to change that.
I've been writing stories since I was a child, but it's taken me all these years to begin to learn how to convey what I want to in a way I want to, without telling too much, and with knowing when to offer some bit of information or with knowing when to withhold. I've spent the past several years, then, reading as many collections and literary journals as possible. Seeking out those writers of short stories I admire and trying to absorb how it is they do what they do.
I've just signed with an agent who will be submitting my collection to publishers.
A personal essay, "Tobacco Road," published in AGNI.
See more What Are You Working On? interviews.
published 3 May 06 on Too Beautiful. email copyright 2006 Mark Pritchard, Bernal Heights, San Francisco