My Writing Process Blog Tour is not so much a blog as a kind of Internet chain letter, where writers invite other writers to answer four set questions, and the responses are posted on the writer’s web page. I was asked by Joanna Herman—friend, mentor, talented writer and gifted teacher. I met Jo when she was my professor in a class I took at C.W.E. (CUNY Center for Worker Education), where—with her guidance and belief in fearlessness when making art—I began the journey of my first book. Jo’s terrific collection of stories No Long and Not Yet (State University of New York Press) came out spring 2014. For more information about Jo, check out her website, and her Writing Process Blog Tour.
What are you currently working on? The requirements of my life always seem to get first priority. I am a teacher at a second-chance high school, which takes much time and energy. But I am always, in one way or another, trying to work on my art. I am currently working on a children’s book—Noah and the Boa. The text is written. The book is storyboarded, and I am in the process of doing the illustrations. The images are outlined in a loose Japanese-type style with brush and black ink and then colored with watercolor. It is a lot of fun.
How does your work differ from others of its genre? So far, it’s been more an issue of what I have to say that has determined the genre. My first book, Yo, Miss: A Graphic Look at High School, (Microcosm Publishing, Feb. 2015) is a graphic novel that I wrote and drew, based on the second-chance public high school where I teach English. I did not consider any other genre. I knew there were things that I could only express in drawings, along with a kind of truth that is visual, not verbal. My second book, Lacunae, is a story with drawings and words—but not a graphic novel and not a children’s book. Again, the drawings are integral and convey what I felt I could not convey with words.
Why do you write what you do? In part I write what I do because I’ve had to stay close to what I know. My life hasn’t had a lot of open space and so I’ve tried to work with what I can break down or squeeze into confined blocks and track over time. When I have more space in my life, I will be more risky.
How does your writing process work? I try to get inside whatever it is. And then life pulls me out. And then I try to get back in. And I write. And rewrite. And pull scraps together. And take notes on the subway. And cut and paste. And step back. And get comments from friends. Words are not easy for me.
Passing the torch: Wallis Wilde-Menozzi is my dear sister, and an accomplished writer who has lived in Italy for over thirty years. She was the one who took me to museums and validated my feeling that art was important. She is perceptive, smart and incredibly knowledgeable—a poet, a novelist, an essayist, an editor, a teacher. Wallis currently has two books out: The Other Side of the Tiber; Reflections on Time in Italy published by FSG (paperback 2014) and Toscanelli’s Ray (Cadmus Editions, 2013).Visit her website.