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Writing from the Heart of My Discomfort Zone

By Juliette Fay

I’m a huge baby about anything scary. I have no idea why people go to horror movies or read violent stories. Honestly, it’s like someone telling me they enjoy eating dirt and offering me a spoonful. Seriously? Whatever for?

Clearly there is a part of the human psyche that enjoys the vicarious adrenaline rush of watching or reading about something terrifying. I do not have that part. And I don’t mind, most of the time. It makes it a lot easier to narrow down my viewing/reading options to a manageable list.

Occasionally it’s a liability, though. When one of my dearest friends handed me Little Bee by Chris Cleave, she said, “You have to read this. The writing is so beautiful and the story is unforgettable.”

Little Bee is gorgeously written, completely masterful, immediately engulfing. Which is why when it got to the parts about why the main character, a young girl, was fleeing from Nigeria, and what unspeakable things had happened to her, her sister and her friends, I felt as if it were happening to me. I’m still slightly traumatized by those images.

“How could you tell me to read this?” I asked my friend. “You know I can’t handle that stuff!”

So when I decided that Sean Doran, the protagonist of my new novel The Shortest Way Home, would be a nurse who had tended to the poorest of the poor in some of the most degraded, dangerous places of the world, I knew I was in for a tough time. I would be researching and writing about the worst kind of horror—the suffering of children. … Continue Reading

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The Blind Spot

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By Kathy Crowley

This post originally appeared at Beyond the Margins in April, 20111.

Not too long ago, I opened my laptop at the kitchen table early one Sunday morning, and made significant plot changes to my novel.  Not a big deal.  Writing is really revising, right? Isn’t that the word on the street?  Several things struck me about this experience, however, and the first was that the day I sat down and did it, it was so easy. I kid you not.  The next striking thing: while it only took me a few (Fevered!  Happy! Relieved! Inspired!) hours at my kitchen table to make these changes, it took me years to pull up a chair and sit down.

I do not love revision.  In The Big Picture I know I am improving my novel or story, but in the moment I find it about as enjoyable as dental work.  My recent kitchen-table experience, however, felt more like the gratifying click of tumblers falling into place and a long-locked door suddenly opening. This problem which seemed suddenly so fixable was not new – a reader or two (including my first and best reader) had mentioned it years ago.  Here’s how I responded at the time: I convinced myself it didn’t matter. There were a lot of things right with the book (or so I hoped), maybe this wasn’t even really a problem at all. Looking back, I see that acknowledging this kink was just too hard for me.

From where I’m sitting now (Post Kitchen Table)  I’d have to call it a blind spot. … Continue Reading

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