Story #33- Teacher Writers

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Correspondence taken from an e-mail interview for The Advocate, a student-run newspaper based in the school I teach at.

STUDENT: Hi Ms. Rosewater, I am writing an article for the Advocate on teacher-writers, and was wondering if you would like to answer some questions for me! Here are the questions: 

How did you find the time to write the book? How long did it take you?

I actually started writing my current novel back in college. It was my busiest semester, but somehow, I set around twenty minutes aside every night before bed and wrote paragraph by paragraph until my first draft was finished. While the writing turned out to be terrible, it gave me a canvas to work with. Over the years I’ve paused on writing, wrote plays instead of novels, turned to writing my graduate thesis, and even wrote another manuscript last spring. But now I’ve returned to this one. So it’s taken me around six years thus far, though past drafts have won a few scholarships and contests, as well as received full requests from seven agents and one major editor. So not all six years have been lost entirely.

Did you find it difficult to balance school work and your writing?

When I taught English I found it very difficult to split my brain between the writing of my students and my own writing. My editing eyes were often completely spent on marking papers. That is probably one of the reasons I decided to start a new manuscript last spring. I wrote it in about a month, and I hope to return to it for edits next spring. Now that I’m teaching drama, it has become easier to have a teaching hat and a writing hat. I write whenever I have time. Whenever. I’ll take my mini-laptop everywhere I go. Right now it’s in an Ashland cafe with me as I’m finishing the latest version of chapter 8.

Was it difficult to keep yourself motivated throughout the process?

It’s incredibly difficult to stay motivated as a writer. So many people have given a name to the tiny voice in the back of your mind that tells you you’re a fraud and will never create anything of value. Since I’m currently writing a book that features the devil, I’ll call this little voice a demon voice. It strikes at all hours, and loves to ride on the coattails of a great writing session. “Everything you just wrote is terrible,” it whispers the next day, after the high of productivity has worn away. I’m constantly waving a stick at the voice, telling it to stay away, trying to not strike myself in the process. I already let the voice win before, when I decided not to be a creative writing major in school, because I thought I wasn’t good enough. I’m trying my best to win round two.

Were there other difficulties that you found with writing your book, such as with finding a publisher or with the editing process?

As far as outside difficulties have been, yes, it’s awful to be in the trenches of querying. The gatekeepers (agents and editors) are meant to butt us out of the industry. When they do bet on an author, their own reputation is at stake, so they tend to pass on manuscripts when unsure. I should say I’m not yet in the magical world of published novels. I’ve had a short play of mine published and performed on the Boston stage as well as in several North East high schools. But as a middle grade writer I’m still crawling through the mud. The best way I can describe moving forward is like going out into an ocean. As the wave recedes, I try to walk out as far as I can. I know that the wave is going to eventually come in and try to take me down. But I stand my ground, let the force of wave knock into me, as every rejection does, and when the pain of the wave recedes, I walk forward again.

What was the best part of writing your book?

The best part of writing a book for me is connecting the pieces. I love it when the plot not only works, but is engaging and twisted and flowing with aspects that connect all the characters and their desires. In middle grade fiction, my chosen genre is mystery and dark fantasy. So I really love when a good twist works in my favor. The second best part of writing is hearing back from a CP (critique partner) that your last section was fantastic! That it made them grin, or sigh, or hurt. Critique partners offer a tiny taste of what having true readers would feel like.

Would you recommend this process to other teachers? Or to the general public?

Would I recommend writing to others? Oof. I’m going to pass along some harsh words: If you can get away with not writing, then don’t write. You do it because you love it, you have to do it, and because you have a story to share. If you’re looking for a hobby, there are lots of wonderful activities that won’t claw your heart out.

Credit to The Advocate.

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