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Yeah, this is where I go to school. I'm in a low-residency PhD creative writing program at Bath Spa University in Bath, England. I get to go there once a year for residency. Poor me, right! I wasn't surprised to see the campus is housed in this Downton Abbey type of house in Corsham.

Yeah, this is where I go to school. I’m in a low-residency PhD creative writing program at Bath Spa University in Bath, England. I get to go there once a year for residency. Poor me, right! I wasn’t surprised to see the campus is housed in this Downton Abbey type of house in Corsham.

Today is my day on The Blog Tour, where writers and authors answer questions about their writing processes. Last week, Elizabeth Gaucher posted about her work: http://essediemblog.com/2014/03/10/mywritingprocess/

I came across Elizabeth when I first started my blog and was trying to build a network of writers. Her blog was one of the first I noticed. Elizabeth is very good at being part of the writing community, both on her blog and on Twitter (@ElizGaucher)! Elizabeth is pursuing an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) degree from West Virginia Wesleyan College. Learn more about her work at www.elizabethgaucher.com

My four questions:

What am I working on now?

Only recently have I figured this out! I’ve been a little cagey on answering this question lately, and it comes up a lot, especially when I’m invited to speak about my memoir published in 2013. People always want to know what writers are working on now!

My newest project is both new and not-so-new. It’s something I’m working on for my low-residency Ph.D. program in creative writing through Bath Spa University in Bath, England. The project stems from my master’s thesis I wrote in 2004 for my degree in history.

My thesis examined the life and death of Camilla Hall, a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1973-74. The SLA made headlines when it kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst. Hearst and the other SLA members robbed a bank in April 1974, and on May 17, 1974, six SLA members, including Hall, were killed in a shootout with Los Angeles police.

The thesis was more academic in tone, and ever since it was published I’ve been interested in reworking the story into a more narrative format.

Camilla Hall.

Camilla Hall.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Though this project will be a biography, I intend to approach it from a couple of different angles. I’m interested in exploring the use of first-person narration in biography, in essence making myself part of the story. In that way, it may be a memoir/biography hybrid. I also may blend in other strands to make it more of a lyric or braided narrative.

Why do I write what I do?

I work exclusively in nonfiction. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, I’ve always been drawn to nonfiction, both in reading it and writing it. This goes back to when I was a child. My family watched the TV news every day, both the national news at 5:30 p.m. and local news at 10 p.m. My dad brought home a couple of newspapers each day. I loved to read, and these were the days before the Internet and other distractions, so I read newspapers to stave off boredom, especially on long summer days when I was stuck at my house in the country. I grew to love true stories.

I majored in journalism in college and spent seven years as a newspaper reporter and copy editor. I was steeped in nonfiction from an early age and never got a chance to practice other genres. So because I’m intrigued by true stories, and not experienced in writing other genres, I stick with writing nonfiction.

I wrote my memoir because I thought I had a unique story to tell, that of a young girl who was the daughter of a gravedigger. I’m working on my current project because I’m fascinated by the life of Camilla Hall and I think she also has a unique story to tell.

My book cover.

My book cover.

How does my writing process work?

I don’t have a firm writing routine. I feel constrained by routine so a dictate of writing so many hours a day or so many words a day would fail. Something would come up, and I wouldn’t be able to write that day, and then I would feel like a failure for falling short. Frankly, some days I don’t feel like writing, so I don’t want the pressure of feeling like I have to write. That’s one way to quickly kill the joy.

My writing process for a book is rather unscripted and organic. I write and write and write until I think I have enough to form a loose manuscript. Then I go through and see what gaps remain. From there, I write more to fill in the gaps and start to make connections between what can seem like disparate parts. I continue that process of writing and connecting for a while, at the same time revising what has already been written. When I feel like I have something more solid, I’ll take a look at the work as a whole and revise. Each cycle of revision is shorter than the one before because I’m always getting closer to my end goal.

But in writing memoir and creative nonfiction, the journey of discovery occurs on the page. I really have no idea where the work is going until I’ve written it through. I hope the reader feels like he or she has gone on that journey of discovery with me, that he/she is seeing revelations at the same time that I’ve seen them. I hope that keeps the work “fresh.”


I’m excited about next week’s talented bloggers! They have amazing things in print and in the works—you will surely be seeing their names regularly!

Kirstin Cronn-Mills is a writer and teacher in southern Minnesota.  Her second young adult novel, BEAUTIFUL MUSIC FOR UGLY CHILDREN, won the 2014 Stonewall Award from the American Library Association.  Her third novel, ORIGINAL FAKE, will be released in early 2016.  Find her at kirstincronnmills.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter @kirstincm.

Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Shelley Tougas’ book, Little Rock Girl: How a Photo Changed the Fight for Integration, won several honors, including two starred reviews, School Library Journal’s Best Books of 2012, Booklist’s Top Ten Editor’s Choices for Nonfiction Kids Books in 2011, a gold medal in the 2012 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, and VOYA’s 2011 Nonfiction Honor List. Her first middle-grade novel, The Graham Cracker Plot, published by Roaring Press, will be on bookshelves in the fall of 2014. Shelley blogs at http://shelleytougas.wordpress.com/

Shelley Tougas

Shelley Tougas

I invited Kirstin and Shelley on this blog tour because they are dear friends and compadres in my writing group. I’ve known Shelley for almost 20 years (!) and I’ve known of Kirstin almost as long, but didn’t get to know her well until about six years ago. These two and the other members of my writing group have been instrumental in helping me shape my memoir and other work.

I also invited Kirstin and Shelley because they are becoming quite well regarded in the young adult and middle grade literary communities. You can see the wonderful news Kirstin has just received regarding the Stonewall Award and the recent acceptance of her third novel. Shelley’s middle-grade novel is sure to be a success! I’ve read most of it in manuscript form and I can vouch for its creativity and humor. Watch for more from these two literary stars!

Kate Hopper writes primarily about motherhood (the good, bad, and the ugly!). She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Minnesota, where she taught literature and creative writing. She teaches a variety of classes at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, and she teaches Motherhood & Words® online. She is the author of two books: READY FOR AIR: A JOURNEY THROUGH PREMATURE MOTHERHOOD and USE YOUR WORDS: A WRITING GUIDE FOR MOTHERS. Find more at www.katehopper.com, which includes a link to her blog, where she writes about issues related to motherhood.

Kate Hopper

Kate Hopper

I invited Kate because we are “sisters” in that sense that both of our memoirs were published by the University of Minnesota Press. If you are looking for books about motherhood or writing/motherhood, you won’t find better information than what Kate has to offer. I’m not a mother, but I sense that writing about motherhood is not easy, yet Kate does it in a way that avoids sentimentality or myth. She delivers a special honesty that is sure to connect with everyone who reads her work. I look forward to getting to know Kate better.

And I look forward to seeing how these three writers answer the #MyWritingProcess questions on March 24!