whatever that means for
you. If something fascinates
you, enrages you, worries
you, find a way to put it
Jessica Page Morrell is the author of The Writer’s I Ching: Wisdom for the Creative Life, Voices from the Street, Between the Lines: Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing, and Writing Out the Storm, among others.
Morrell works as a developmental editor and teaches writers through a series of workshops in the Northwest, at writing conferences throughout North America, and at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. She hosts a website at www.writing-life.com, and she’s written a monthly column about topics related to writing since 1998 that currently appears in The Willamette Writer. She also writes a monthly email newsletter, The Writing Life, and a blog, The Writing Life Too. She lives in Portland, where she is surrounded by writers.
Interview conducted by Kelly Nickell
you received over the
course of your career has
had the biggest impact on
About ten years ago when I was discouraged about working as a writer because I’d been dealt a harsh blow, an editor in a publishing house told me that she believed that we (writers) don’t choose writing, that it chooses us. Once I accepted that truth, and that this is the only thing I want to do with my life, it seemed easier to bear the various trials of getting published and writing every day.
yourself repeating over and
over to writers?
Read critically and widely. Last year I was teaching at a conference and was asked to critique manuscript segments written by conference participants. Three of the writers were writing for young adults and all three were retired and in their sixties. The first thing that I noticed was that their stories seemed dated and out of touch with contemporary lifestyles, language, issues, and sensibilities. When I asked each of them if they read young adult novels, they all said no or that they had read them when they were kids—about fifty years ago.
At the same conference I was teaching a workshop on memoir writing. There were about fifty writers in the class and when I asked how many were writing memoirs they all raised their hands. When I asked how many had read ten memoirs, about twenty people raised their hands. When I asked how many had read twenty memoirs, no one raised their hands.
Not only do you need to read the sort of book you’re writing, but also you need to sample all sorts of approaches, genres, voices. Keep asking yourself about the choices