Fat by Eline Van Wieren

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My stories for Wide Open Writing so far, seem to all start with either coming home or finding a piece of mail on the doormat. Today’s story starts with both. Coming home and finding mail on the doormat. And for some reason, that makes me feel like a cheater. Like I don’t have the imagination to think of something more interesting to start with and so I’ll just go for what I know. But here we are. I come home and I find a package on the doormat.

I take the package in to our living area, where three of my roommates are. One of them is cutting vegetables for dinner at the kitchen table, another is sitting on the other side of the kitchen table, reading the newspaper. The third is laying on the couch, reading a book and listening to music. Coming home to this is something that has become so familiar to me, that I feel like I don’t need to describe anymore details to you.

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The package contains two things. A book and a small cardboard box. The book is written by a woman who I’ve never met in real life. But we follow each other on Instagram and we shared two long phone calls. Short excerpts from those phone calls ended up in the book that I’m now holding in my hands. The title of the book: Knap voor een dik meisje. (Which translates to: Pretty for a fat girl.)

In the cardboard box: a necklace made of gold string and a white ceramic plate. On the ceramic plate, in bold golden letters, is the word: ‘fat’. (In Dutch: dik.)

I laugh and blurt out, ‘Look how cool this is!’

I put on the necklace and show it to my roommates.

‘Fuck yeah,’ says the one cutting the vegetables and puts both of his middle fingers up in the air.

It is now the morning after opening the package. I just had a shower, after which I put on a plain black t-shirt on which the white ceramic and gold letters of the necklace proudly stand out. Fat.

It is also about an hour after I finished reading the book. My body is alive with recognition. This book has put to words some of the thoughts I didn’t even think were worth putting on a piece of paper. And now that they are here, that I can hold them in my hands, something has softly dropped within me. Something, I realize, that I’ve been holding up for quite a while now.

I think of a quote of which the last sentence every once in a while finds its way back in to my mind. Even though I can never really grasp its meaning. It goes like this:

“I explained to Warren the difference between male and female monsters. ‘Female monsters take things as personal as they really are. They study facts. Even if rejection makes them feel like the girl who’s not invited to the party, they have to understand the reason why.’

…Every question once it’s formulated, is a paradigm, contains its own internal truth. We have to stop diverting ourselves with false questions. And I told Warren: I aim to be a female monster too.”

-       From: I love Dick, by Chris Kraus

 I aim to be a female monster too. This sentence has something to do with the thing that just softly dropped within me. It has something to do with the idea of a universal truth. A truth that I am prone to believe does not exist. We all live under different circumstances, with different bodies and different memories. Different things ahead of us.

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It is easy to forget that under all those different circumstances, we long for the same things. Something that is maybe summarized easiest as: wanting to be seen. And the programmed thought that always follows after that undying desire to be visible: I must show less of myself in order to be seen as a complete human being. How weird is that?

How weird is it that I am a writer and that time and time again, I find ways around asking the questions that are most obvious to me? Because I tell myself they are too obvious. Because I’m scared that if I ask them, I will find that everyone but me already knows the answers. Because no one will understand what I’m talking about. Because, because, because.

Reading ‘Knap voor een dik meisje’ has been a fucking grounding experience for me and in my eyes Tatjana, its author, is a true female monster. We need these monsters. We need to come home, once again finding a package on the doormat. Opening it. Carefully looking at its contents. Going out into the world, wearing our necklaces. Writing about it.  

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Orbiting Tuscany

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At each retreat we write, prompted by words and a little bit of magic. Maybe a lot of magic. Sometimes we have the right convergence of souls, energy, landscape and wine. Tuscany holds a particular kind of warm embrace for the light seekers. In this prompt, we were asked to write about our map, our future, our manifesto. Here’s mine.

Space Girl.

Space Girl.

*

My manifesto is this: Chart a course and let space girl fly. Make it so. Embrace my inner nerd, hug that girl who veered off course so many times to protect herself, to insulate herself, to keep from hurting. Did it work? Not at all. I see in my future more mapmaking, more stellar cartography. I’ve already seen the experiences start to make sense, or maybe I’m starting to make sense of chaos, when I put words to page. Let my senses be. I can be happy and sad at the same time. Maybe that’s what wisdom is. I can manifest light. I can dream things into existence. I can be afraid in my haunted house nightmares and still look into the drawer that won’t stay shut. I can drive into the tornado. I can use my special powers when I accept them as they are. I can care about the earth and still love to buy purses. I can be a caterpillar and chrysalis and a butterfly over and over again. I can edit the shit out of that piece. I can stop being scared. I can be grounded and leave the planet at the same time. I can learn to be okay with not being the thing I think other people want to see. I can admit it’s really what I have wanted to see and tried to be, and I can say I’m sorry to myself for judging and rejecting what was already there. I can be here now. I can live without all the answers. I can live with imperfection, or I will learn to, since this is future manifesto, and I will manifest pure acceptance. I will expand my galaxy, I will orbit, spin, love and live.

*

We’re going back to Tuscany Sept. 1-Sept. 6, and there’s room for you. We nurture our creative selves through morning yoga, workshops, writing prompts, comfort/healthy food, wine, breathtaking vistas, and the company of Icelandic horses —a one hour ride is available this year to our retreat attendees. Join us.

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Take me back to Isla Holbox, please/by Eline van Wieren

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It is a Wednesday afternoon and I’m floating in the ocean. My ears have filled up with water. I can only hear the soft beats of the waves against my eardrums. Every once in a while, a piece of seaweed brushes against my calves. My body isn’t weightless, but I’m being carried.

I once read that believing is like being on a train with heavy bags. Once you’re on the train, there’s no need to keep carrying the bags. You can set them down on the floor or place them in one of the luggage racks. The weight is no longer yours to carry. It would even be kind of weird to keep carrying the weight even though there’s a larger vessel to which it makes no difference whether you carry it or whether you leave it to the floor.

Floating in this ocean, I’ve set my bags down on the floor and everything around me is different shades of blue. My belly moves with the water. The sun has put its warm hands on my face. The school of needlefish have accepted my presence here. They come closer. They swim in my shadow.

The moment is spoiled when I start to think. I think: I could keep doing this forever. I could soak all of this up and hold on to it with clenched fists and take it home with me.

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But it’s not possible to turn your backyard in to a sandbank for your morning walking meditation. No matter how tightly you keep your eyes closed. The birds sing different songs here. There are no iguanas on my front porch. I don’t even have a front porch.

A pelican flies by. The pelicans here are different than the ones I saw in the zoo when I was younger. They were soft pink and sat around all day waiting for their next meal, ignoring the constant stream of families walking by and pointing. The pelicans here are brown with yellow feathers on their head and bright white eyes, diving down beak first into the water sometimes lucky enough to catch fish.

I keep my fists clenched all the way home. All through my eleven-hour flight, the two hour train ride, the last ten minutes on the bus, walking up to the front door, opening the front door, standing in the hallway. I open my hands.  

I think: Come on, Mexico writing retreat fairy dust, sprinkle your magic into my daily life. Bring me daily uninterrupted writing sessions. Give me silent breakfasts during which, while I put another piece of buttery soft mango into my mouth, brilliant sentences spring from my toes, rising all the way up through my body, waiting to be put on a page. Beam Dulcie and Nancy to my kitchen table to whisper positive feedback on my newest piece.

Nothing happens. The straps of my backpack are starting to form little pits in my shoulders. I take a deep breath. I take my backpack of and set it on the floor. I take a shower. I get in to bed, under my ocean blue duvet covers.

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Praise/criticism

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We’re in Isla Holbox, Mexico right now with new groups of writers who are exploring, creating, discovering and encountering. Each of our retreats includes a series of prompts, often in question form, designed to get our minds going, to dig deeper and to tap into that river of authenticity that takes us to an open place. We try to write in a stream-of-consciousness kind of way, in a limited period of time. to eliminate the inner editor and just get some words down on paper. In Tuscany 2016, one of the presented questions was ‘What’s my story of praise and criticism?’ Below is my response.

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It’s the thing that goes on, the thing I can’t control in other people’s heads and barely in my own, the one that tells me, Good Lord, Woman, haven’t you learned how to pack a suitcase yet? The wonderment at somehow convincing myself that squeezing all of the air out of a space would make it easier to carry, when, in fact, it’s like that thing they say about the Earth, how if you squeezed all of the air out of everything then the planet would be the size of a soccer ball but still weigh the same. And sometimes that’s what I carry. But these things are no longer the driver, but simply the screaming kids in the back seat. I long to be elegant, to never clatter my silverware or trip over my own feet, and if there are lessons to be learned from these distractions, I don’t know, but that’s all they are, distractions. Because age is good for something, and that’s knowing that most things are silly and that there are no somedays. That all you really have is to be here now, and some years are more prone to remind you that it’s time to use the good china and the pretty linen and to wear that dress. You learn that you can’t avoid the dark, and in fact, it’s long past time to seek it out. You learn that sometimes pain is least painful when you crawl inside it, become it, to find the smallest origin of it and expand inside of it until it bursts. To look under the bed and say, hello, monster, come out and play. You begin to see the beauty in the whole, to understand that painters seek the right kind of light not for the light itself but for the play of light and dark. You begin to dust off that heavy trunk in the corner that carries the carefully folded and preserved statements and lessons passed along for the sake of safety or good intention or not such good intention, the collection of proclamations, yellowed and frayed but very carefully kept, the ways you still convince yourself you’re not enough just as you are. You begin to unfold them and see them as silliness, too. Maybe you actually find something in there that can be spun into silk. You invite the shadow on the other side of the mirror to laugh with you, and maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t but you see it for what it is. You cry for the ones who won’t be convinced but then you let it go. You see the falseness and have no patience for it and maybe now that you’ve unfolded some parchment from the trunk and it’s not so heavy anymore, you start to let your impatience show a little more. You stop hiding your crazy. You start seeing through the veil, you start seeing more clearly what is real, what is life, what is love.

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Cabin fever

Even though the beauty and extremes of winter can inspire me, I’m more than ready to have it gone. Most of us in the wintery states are at that point, and it’s getting to us, and it shows. Sometimes people pause too long in the grocery aisle or linger too long at a traffic light as if they’re trying to remember if they left their keys in a warmer climate. Some people are venturing out in shorts on days that are sunny but far from shorts weather, a fashion protest against the unmoving temperatures.

In a few weeks I’ll be offering a workshop session in Green Bay – the frozen tundra itself – on writer’s block. This is ironic because I am currently blocked. It’s not unusual for me at this point in the year: Where the deep of winter often lets me sink deep into the creative zone, the edge of it does the opposite. I’m restless. I’m waiting for something to happen, and it’s just not happening. I try to force it and the effort just looks ridiculous. I’m talking about on paper but also elsewhere: One recent blizzardy Sunday, when the weather once again foiled my plans, in an impatient fit I decided to cut my own hair. Later in the week I thought better of my efforts and asked my hairdresser to fix it; I arrived at the same time as a four-year-old boy who had done the same thing. Hilarity ensued. Am I still four? Hell, yes. I love the first snow as much as I want it to go away, please, and also, are we there yet?

The four-year-old in me also feels like tearing up my work, balling it up and stuffing it under the mattress. It’s probably not that bad. If I let it sit and looked at it again in a week or two, I’d think better of it. But then, in a week or two, the temperature will change. Sometimes letting things sit a while is the best way to kick-start the work, but the key, I’ve found, is to keep working. Do something else creative. Find what your inner four-year-old needs, which is sometimes a healthy distraction. Do you paint? Try that. Try it even if you don’t. Go to one of those wine-and-painting sessions with your friends. Get a different kind of creative muscle working. Get up and run around the room. Move. Dance. Breathe. Make pottery. Make a snowman. Something.

Think of your character as four years old: What does she need or want? Do a character study or go deeper into one. Why is she like that? What were her parents like? Did she grow up with both parents? What was a significant or turning-point event in her life? What was her childhood home like? Did she make snowmen, and what did they look like when she did—were they made of perfect, meticulously made spheres or did they look like monster blob creatures? What happened to her at four, or later, as a teenager, or as she became an adult? What does she most fear? What does she most want?

 Even if the answer is ‘for winter to go away,’ you’ve got a place where you can begin to melt the freeze and start to let the words flow again.

 

The gods you pray to/by Eline van Wieren

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A few weeks ago I received an email from a friend of mine who I hadn’t spoken to in a while asking if I wanted to become her pen-friend. I find staying in contact with people who aren’t standing right in front of me incredibly difficult, but I love writing letters to whomever and whatever. So I said yes.

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Her first letter arrived in a grey envelope, sealed with a little red heart sticker. In it she wrote about the monastery she’d been to for a weekend to talk about the meaning of mercifulness and what it means to be a good person. How someone asked: If you had to describe God in one word, what would it be? And how she answered: calmness.

I felt so privileged to be reading these words so carefully written down on paper. I felt like I was let in on a secret, something very real, but contained in a different universe. And when she wrote that she realized that instead of praying to God Calmness, she often prayed to God Productivity, I felt it resonate in my entire body.

When I finished reading, I thought about how I’d started taking ballet lessons when I was three years old and fell in love with dancing immediately. I loved the music and how my body flowed along with it, how I got to be different characters from one of the 101 Dalmatians to a witch and even a seahorse. In dancing, I didn’t have to think, because my body would just know.

By the time I was fourteen, I danced twenty-five hours a week. And what I loved about it started to shift. At fourteen, I thought the greatest thing about doing ballet was the control it let me exercise over my body. I was forcing my feet into impossible shapes and it looked beautiful. I was the one who decided what emotion my face displayed and whatever was happening on the inside was nobody’s business.

In the second letter, again sealed with a little red heart sticker, the friend asked how many different versions of me exist. I wrote back: I am an abundance of Elines and that’s something I have mixed feelings about. Like with ballet movements, I’d like to have control over who I am in which situation. Most of my prayers are to God Certainty.

I also wrote her that my favorite Eline only seems to come out in cases of emergency. I only one hundred percent know what to say to someone, when they’re hysterically crying in my arms, weeping the shoulders of my sweater wet. When their emotions are happening so close to my own body that there is nothing else for me to do other than stop and acknowledge what is happening in front of me.

Following my gut, bones or other body parts that could offer any kind of guidance didn’t and most of the time still doesn’t come naturally for me. I like to blame the dancing. But like praying, dancing is just a vehicle. And it’s not the words and movements I carefully formulate but the ones that seem to arise out of nowhere that let the unimportant things crumble and make space for me to be.

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Getting hooked on Mexico

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When I was a kid in rural New Hampshire, I thought Mexico was a place where bandits and cowboys lived.  On the TV shows I watched (where all my most important information came from), Mexicans seemed easy going unless somebody bothered them by eating corn out of their fields or shooting at their dog.  Or stealing their daughters. Then all bets were off as to who was going to go down but somebody was. I loved Mexicans even more than I loved cowboys. 

And that hasn’t changed.

In a few weeks I get to go to Isla Holbox again to do our second writing retreat there. I’ve traveled in Mexico more than I’ve traveled in any other country and it still touches me much like it did when I was a kid. I love the landscape – it looks so old and weathered and full of stories. I love the food, simple and spicy and full of surprises. I love how it feels in my belly.

I love the sky and the air and the water and the dirt.  I feel them as though they are part of me, as though I am part of them. I want to write more when I’m there and, at the same time, I want to be quiet and walk around.  

But maybe most I love the Mexicans. Easy going and generous unless you hurt something that is dear to them. Then, watch out.

So join us if you’re of a mind to.

I promise you’ll be hooked on Mexico.

Sign up here: https://www.wideopenwriting.com/holbox. We have space open the second week, Sunday, March 17-Friday, March 22.

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"Purgery"

The author’s many books, which she’s keeping.

The author’s many books, which she’s keeping.

In middle class America, we have too much stuff, and a helpful Japanese organizer has given us permission to get rid of it. Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” has transmuted into a popular Netflix program in which we get to watch other people get rid of their stuff. Now, thrift stores are getting buried under mountains of our discards.

It feels good to let go. I’ve been a pack rat most of my life, even packing stuff away in a storage unit when I left California to move back in with my parents so I could finish grad school. When I went back for the stuff in 2015, planning to put most of it in a rummage sale and use the proceeds for a volunteer trip to South Africa, this is what I wrote for the Volunteer Forever blog:

It was easier than I thought to let go of most of the things I had packed away. And that made it both easier and more difficult emotionally. …But it was more difficult in the way of getting a sense of how much energy and time and money I invested in hanging on to and accumulating things that didn’t matter.

How much time, energy and money do we put into “stuff” when we could be investing it elsewhere? How many things are useful, and how many things are meant to create a sense of self? Does our “stuff” hinder us or help us? (And can it help someone else?)

Like everyone, I had a lot of hopes and dreams about who I would be and what my life would look like. I surrounded myself with things that I thought fit in that vision, interests I wanted to be associated with, talents I wanted to acquire, strengths I wanted to possess. But opening box after box of unread books, unused items and clothing that wasn’t right for me felt like opening boxes of desire, envy and insecurity.

Still, I brought home a small Penske truck’s worth of goods and, for a short time, it ended up in another storage unit in Wisconsin. Now that I’m in my new small house, I’ve been going through another round of “let’s make it fit,” and it’s been a powerful exercise in learning how much I don’t need, and in what aspects of my life have more space to breathe when dead energy is moved out.

The author, at left, about age 7.

The author, at left, about age 7.

The frequent and fevered question people have is “Do you regret giving anything away?” That fear is a reason why we hold on to stuff in the first place: I might need it later. I might want it later. But the answers can be revealing and powerful: The only thing I ever was sorry to have given up was a pair of tap shoes. And here’s the thing: They were easily replaced—with better, more comfortable, tappier shoes. And more importantly, the loss of those shoes brought me far more wealth: A renewed interest in dance lessons. New kinds of dance. New friendships. Fancy, bright costumes. The thrill of getting on the stage again. And, possibly the most impactful—an important exploration of why I gave up dancing in the first place. Which also gave me important fodder for my writing life.

Purgery: I used this title as wordplay, a twist on the act of purging. But a “purgery” is also a real thing, the place in a sugarhouse in which molasses is drained off maple sugar. A way to the final product, the sweet stuff.

It works in writing, too. Having once or twice dumped a hefty portion of my worldly goods, it’s seemed easier to highlight and delete unwanted or unnecessary lines of text. Working as an editor and reporter honed my sense of what belongs, but releasing “stuff” has maybe added a stronger sense of what has the most impact. Or at least a sense of that whatever you get rid of won’t be noticed or missed.

Still, when I’m editing a novel and taking out big chunks of text, I put them in a file I call a “Holding Pond,” a just-in-case-I-want-it-later file, my own literary junk drawer, so I don’t get distracted by my fear of the lost words. But like real junk drawers, I hardly ever go back and look for what I threw in there. Once in a while, I realize something might fit better in a sequel or a prequel, and I create a special new file for the section of text, giving it the honor and space it deserves.

Keeping things that matter is OK—nobody has to purge everything. Even the Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, who have shared their joy in letting go through their book “Everything That Remains,” say it’s about keeping the things that make you truly happy, curating the most meaningful possessions. In Marie Kondo terms, it’s about what sparks joy.

Like most writers I have a number of works in progress, and I cultivate the ones that I think have potential, letting them simmer and bubble up when the time is right. Recently, I discovered that a long-dormant and partially finished project really belonged integrated into another work-in-progress, a melding of a present-and-future story that became my speculative fiction novella, “The Fledgling.” In February, the manuscript was shortlisted by Brain Mill Press for its novella contest.

With more clarity around each piece, I was able to recognize their strength and power as a congruent narrative and gain momentum on a new and exciting project. And that sparks a hell of a lot of joy.

The author, center, about age 15.

The author, center, about age 15.

Living the bonus/by Eline van Wieren

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When I was about twelve years old, a friend and I were trying to evoke ghosts in the park across the road from her house. We both held three colored pencils in the shape of a U, the ends slightly touching the other persons U. We asked yes or no questions and if there were any ghosts around, they would point the tips of the pencils inward for yes, outward for no.

The ghosts were around and they started answering our questions. In the beginning, both of us were sure it was just the other person manipulating the pencils, but even now I have no explanation for how the pencils kept moving when we laid them down on the park bench we were sitting on.

By the end of the afternoon, a couple of minutes before we were supposed to head back home for dinner, we decided to each ask one secret question. A question we would only think out loud in our heads.

Hearing thoughts and scaring little girls is apparently among the perks of being a ghost and they answered our unspoken questions. I asked the ghosts if I would grow older than twenty. The ghosts said no. Fine, I thought.

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The day I turned twenty-one, I was secretly shocked. Subconsciously I hadn’t really taken the possibility of growing old enough to be an adult into account. Not that it made any difference to the way I organized my life. It looked shockingly similar to what everyone else my age was doing. Studying, going to our favorite café after lectures, having discussions about world issues, laying in bed at night wondering what the hell you’re doing with your life.

I just knew I wasn’t going to have to do this for very long. Thanks to the ghosts, I thought I would one day cross the streets and find myself in a dramatic car accident, being remembered for the rest of eternity by a dent in a tree on the side of the road, and that my parents would eventually forget to bring flowers to it on my birthday.

Turning twenty-one made me realize that the things I did mattered, because I was slowly turning into an adult and there was no telling how long this whole life thing was going to last. And so I had a complete breakdown. I went to a psychologist, who I didn’t tell about the ghosts, just all the other stuff. He told me being twenty-one is hard for everybody, just make sure to get some rest and to go to bed early for the next couple of weeks. So I did.

I started writing out of emergency. I was about to turn twenty-two and I had spent most of the year getting out of bed as little as possible. I woke up one day thinking: I’m either going to start writing or stay in bed until this life ends. I don’t think it actually happened like that, because that would be way too fucking romantic and, also, I knew staying in bed wasn’t a real option. But whichever way it happened, I started writing. Mostly stories in which I was my own main character, setting free all the cows from a nearby farm on the last night of my life.  

This is the deal I made with myself: I was going to apply for a creative writing bachelor’s degree and the goal was to get through the first round of the selection procedure. Anything that would happen after that would be a bonus.

I have been living that bonus ever since.

Since the day in the park, I have only used pencils for coloring and making first drafts of things I know will need revision later. Always making sure to never accidentally lay them down in a U-shape.

Maybe the ghosts revised about my dramatic car accident as well, although in some ways I feel like I did die at twenty-one. Some parts of me are still dying, but that is not a bad thing. They’re making space, becoming soil, for other things to grow. I am becoming more and more rooted in this life. There are still days that I don’t want to get out of bed, but I chose writing, so I’m going to have to stick with it. At least until I turn into a ghost.

Eline van Wieren’s great grandfather founded a truck company. Which led to a great percentage of male members of her family (on her father’s side) working as truck drivers (including her own father). This abundance of truck drivers made Eline wonder if there’s such a thing as choice. To which extent does our environment dictate whom we become? This question keeps popping up in her studies at ArtEZ Academy of the Arts, where it takes different shapes and forms in her work. Eline works as a production assistant for Watershed, where she helps organize the yearly summer program Camp Cushy and other literary events. Her biggest dream is to own a place that is a bookstore, cafe, gallery and theatre all in one, functioning as a safe space for writers, creators and anybody who is looking for a place to belong.

Eline van Wieren’s great grandfather founded a truck company. Which led to a great percentage of male members of her family (on her father’s side) working as truck drivers (including her own father). This abundance of truck drivers made Eline wonder if there’s such a thing as choice. To which extent does our environment dictate whom we become? This question keeps popping up in her studies at ArtEZ Academy of the Arts, where it takes different shapes and forms in her work. Eline works as a production assistant for Watershed, where she helps organize the yearly summer program Camp Cushy and other literary events. Her biggest dream is to own a place that is a bookstore, cafe, gallery and theatre all in one, functioning as a safe space for writers, creators and anybody who is looking for a place to belong.

Q&A with author Melissa Gorzelanczyk

Green Bay, Wisconsin author Melissa Gorzelanczyk’s young adult novel Arrows was published in 2016 by Penguin Random House after capturing the attention of an agent on Twitter during a #PitMad session. Since then, the multi-talented Melissa has continued to pursue her love for a good story, great writing, and authentic living.

Q: What about the YA genre is attractive to you as a writer?

 Mainly I'm attracted to stories. I take them however they come -- YA, adult, non-fiction, poetry and short stories. 

 Q: You recently began the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program -- what was behind your decision to pursue a writing program at this time?

A couple of things -- I want to be a better writer and I want the credential of an MFA. I envision a future with atmospheric writing retreats at my dream cabin in the woods where I can teach and share my love of stories, and maybe my love of yoga, too. I'm excited to see where this new journey takes me. 

Q. What are some aspects of writing that are of particular interest or focus to you right now (i.e. senses, etc.)?

Photo: Stephan Anderson-Story

Photo: Stephan Anderson-Story

 1. Working with images, i.e. creating a movie in the reader's mind. I start every scene with a (laughably drawn) sketch of the characters and setting to help transport myself there. 2. Manipulating tension, including working with close details. 3. Playing with language. 4. Living an artful life.

Q. Tell us more about the idea of playing with language.

My revision process involves printing a scene, reading it aloud, and revising it to strengthen the image, energy, tension, pattern and insight. This eventually brings revision down to the word level and feels like play. It's time-consuming, but more and more I'm convinced that writing is revision. To go deeper into the subjects listed here, read "The Practice of Creative Writing" by Heather Sellers. I've found it to be an invaluable resource.  

Q. What does it mean to you to live an artful life?

To me an artful life is an intentional life. I need to keep reminding myself that no, I don't want to be dumb on my phone, wasting time, staring at it while I walk or when I'd rather be creating. To be a functioning artist requires extreme self-care. I need to nourish all parts of my life to live artfully. Body. Mind. Spirit.

Q.The publishing industry seems in constant flux: What advice would you share with writers who are finishing their projects and looking for an avenue to get published?

I often recommend that writers to make their work the focus, because in my opinion, good books find homes. That said, you have to take action once your book is finished, and make yourself vulnerable to rejection. Again, I recommend learning methods for extreme self-care. To be in publishing is to be rejected, by agents, editors and sometimes readers. Not everyone will love your work. If you can find a way to be okay with that, you'll be much happier to stay in publishing. 

Here's a great post on being a creative that encompasses both art and business. Andrew Kleon delineates publishing from writing, talks about how authors should set themselves up to run their own show, and encourages us to always be a fan. 

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Melissa Gorzelanczyk is a writer who loves owls, coffee, lavender, waves, yoga and the moon. She is pursuing an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her young adult novel Arrows is out now from Delacorte Press. She lives with her husband in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Find her on Instagram @MelissaGorzela or on her website, www.MelissaGorzelanczyk.com.

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