Tag Archive: Susan Tepper

Following on from last week’s (first ever) guest blog and continuing with the wonderful “My Writing Process” series, I now present you with a guest blog from Bonnie ZoBell who gives us an wonderfully honest insight into her writerly world!

Bonnie ZoBell: My Writing Process: Blog Tour

And now I hand you over to Bonnie herself, enjoyToday I’m taking part in the #MyWritingProcessTour. It’s so interesting and instructive to see how other writers go about their work. I was nominated by my friend, Susan Tepper, writer extraordinaire. Be sure to get a copy of Susan’s latest book, The Merrill Diaries, beautifully written and a thought-provoking romp through the U.S. and parts of Europe.

The awkward part about writing this blog post is that at the moment I don’t have much of a writing process because besides teaching, I’m in the process of birthing my newest book, What Happened Here: a novella & stories. I’m doing everything I can to ease her passage into the world, making sure she’s nurtured in every possible way, and giving her a good wholesome introduction with the hope people will be as good to her as they’ve been to me. At the moment, it’s on pre-release and available only on my site, but she’ll be officially launched on May 3rd. What I’ll do here is write about my process when I’m writing. I warn you: This process isn’t entirely the healthiest for children and other living things, in other words younger writers. Don’t show this to your students.


What am I working on?

I’ve gone back to an old novel, most recently called Animals Voices—which I worked on for many years—because I think I’ve finally figured out a solution to a problem I was having. The story starts out with some young kids, the boy very curious about the unusual girl, after he gets over her strangeness and the way all his friends make fun of her, because she can communicate with animals. They grow up and marry and he is diagnosed with AIDS in the early years. Communication is difficult when no one will acknowledge the disease, probably even more so than communicating with owls. Then I’m going to go back to another novel that I also spent years on called Bearded Women, about a woman who goes to an electrologist because she’s hirsute. There are class issues between her and the electrologist, and it comes down to the main character needing to pluck other parts of her persona as well.


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’d call what I write literary fiction, though I’d like to write more magical realism. Oh, give me anything to read that contains beautiful language and a good story, and I’ll devour it. Perhaps mine differs because of my love of setting. I’m thrilled going back to Animal Voices, getting the chance to revisit the southern part of Del Mar in San Diego, land filled with an estuary, all kinds of unique crawly life, and the magnificent Torrey Pine trees. These gnarled pines grow crooked because they’re on the bluffs right above the ocean and therefore get a lot of strong winds. They’d be creepy if they weren’t so beautiful.

I’m no minimalist, though I try to be as spare as I can. I like to think that sometimes I’m successful at writing beautiful, in-depth descriptions that let you see images in life in a unusual way without going overboard.

I’m whimsical.


Why do I write what I do?

I write because I love language and because writing fiction helps me figure out the world. I’d be lost without it.


How does my writing process work?

This is the unhealthy part: I’m a binge writer. I can go for days, weeks, even a couple of years and do nothing but write. I ignore my husband and animals, my hair gets dirty, my bills don’t get paid, and I wear clothes that should have been recycled some time ago if I get really passionate and possessed about what I’m writing. But it takes a toll. So after doing this for a while, it’s hard to allow myself to go back there—there’s so much deprivation. Unfortunately, the other side of it is that I can also go for a long time not writing at all. That’s where I am right now while I promote and regroup from my collection. But I’m daydreaming about those Torrey Pine trees.


My tags

I’m tagging three of my favorite writers who will take the baton next and telling you about their writing process:

Myfanwy CollinsLives on the North Shore of Massachusetts with her husband and son. She has published her début novel Echolocation, a short fiction collection I Am Holding Your Hand, and her YA novel The Book of Laney is forthcoming.

James ClaffeyJames’ collection Blood a Cold Blue was published earlier this year. His writing has appeared in numerous journals, magazines and anthologies, and he is currently working on a novel based on his childhood in Ireland.

Tamara Linse – Writer, cogitator, recovering ranch girl ~ broke her collarbone when she was three, her leg when she was four, a horse when she was twelve, and her heart ever since. She lives in Wyoming, and just released her collection, How to Be a Man.


About Bonnie ZoBell:

Bonnie ZoBell’s linked collection, What Happened Here: a novella and stories, will be released by Press 53 on May 3, 2014. She’s received a NEA fellowship, and currently teaches at San Diego Mesa College. Visit her at http://www.bonniezobell.com.


When I asked Guilie Castillo Oriard and Susan Tepper to participate in this writing process interview, Susan stated that she unfortunately doesn’t have much of a chance to maintain a blogging space these days… But why should that stop us?!

So, in a first for scribblingsimmons we have a guest blog!

But enough dilly-dallying! I shall now hand you over to Susan!


What am I working on?
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Why do I write what I do?
How does my writing process work?


There is nothing I enjoy more than actual writing. Second in line is discussing writing and the writing life. I’ve been doing it for 20 years, both fiction and poetry pretty much simultaneously.

Right now I’m working on several new projects. One is a large project, it’s a three act play that I’ve written with a partner. A zany comedy and we have had a blast writing it. I’m also working on a poetry collection of linked poems revolving around a small room. I also have several novels written that haven’t been published yet, and one in particular (a road novel) that is dark and funny, that I hope to place this year or next.

Susan Tepper - The Merrill Diaries

Susan Tepper’s “The Merrill Diaries”, published by Pure Slush, July 2013

How does my writing process work is a good question. Because I don’t have a process. I’m a sporadic person who goes by whim and whimsy in all matters of life. If I get an idea, and it won’t let go, I sit down and turn it into a story or poem. I have a nifty new space all done up pretty and cosy for writing, but I still can write anywhere and I do. All last year I wrote ‘on the road’ in cafes, trains, planes, hallways, hospital rooms: wherever life led me. It was pretty exciting working this way, I made believe I was a journalist imbedded with the troops. It makes life more interesting to have an imaginative life (provided you know it is all imagination)! When I interviewed the poet Dennis Mahagin regarding his book Grand Mal, I was sitting in a hallway next to a large trash barrel of raw garbage. I mentioned this to Dennis and he wrote back: Susan you’re tough. I liked hearing that. You need to be tough in this business, you need a hide made out of steel.

Thanks for reading about my writing process.

For next week, I’d like to nominate the uber-talented writers Gay Degani, Gloria Mindock, and Bonnie ZoBell.

Susan Tepper is the author of four published books of fiction and a chapbook of poetry. Her recent title “The Merrill Diaries” (Pure Slush Books, 2013) is a Novel in Stories. Tepper is a staff editor at Flash Fiction Chronicles where she conducts the author/book interviews UNCOV/rd. Her new column “Let’s Talk” appears at Black Heart Magazine. Additionally, her reading series FIZZ has been running sporadically at KGB Bar, NYC, these 6 or 7 years. http://www.susantepper.com/

I also tagged Guilie Castillo Oriard to take part in this writing process interview! Take a peek at her answers here: http://guilie-castillo-oriard.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/mywritingprocess-youve-been-tagged.html

If you enjoyed this and want to jump on to the #MyWritingProcess tag, please! Yes! Do so! Next Monday (or whichever Monday works for you), answer these four questions on your blog and tag another one, two or three writers to post their answers the following Monday. Why not leave a comment below letting me know when and where your post will be up so I can visit and tweet and Facebook and G+ and, you know, share it everywhere! Us writers must stick together 😉

My Writing Process is a series of blog posts in which authors ‘tag’ each other to answer some questions about their work. Gill Hoffs asked me to take part. She also asked Matt Potter to take part, you can read his answers here: Matt Potter: Writing tag – My Writing Process Q & A

About Gill Hoffs:
Gill Hoffs grew up on the Scottish coast, studied Psychology, Biology and English Literature at the University of Glasgow, then worked with children with a variety of needs (ASD and/or EBD, mainly) throughout the UK. She married her best friend and they now live in Warrington in the north of England with their son Angus. She can be found blogging here: http://gillhoffs.wordpress.com/

What am I working on?
I’m now down the last of my five stories for “2014 – A Year in Stories“. It’s an ambitious and rather exciting project from the mind of Pure Slush’s Matt Potter and it goes like this…

“2014 – A Year in Stories” is a twelve volume anthology. Each volume is devoted to one month of the year, and therefore named “January Vol. 1”, “February Vol. 2”, and so on.

Each writer involved is contributing one story per month, and each of these writers is taking one day of each month – the 5th, the 13th, the 21st, for example – and setting their stories on that same day of every month. (So, for example, a writer takes the 10th – Friday 10th January, Monday 10th February, Monday 10th March, Thursday 10th April, etc – throughout the year.)

It was a great thing to get involved in and it’s allowed me to develop much more as a writer than any of my other dabbles!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I really am not sure about that one. Do I have a ‘genre’? When it comes to ‘style’ of writing I’d say that over the last year or so I’ve veered away from taking myself, and what I pen, too seriously. When I first started getting involved with other writers I made the assumption that to be taken seriously you had to write seriously (all very low-key and maudlin). But now I’ve allowed my wings to unfurl a little as I feel a little more comfortable in my own writerly skin, and this approach has been allowed to come to fruition with my stories for the “2014” project. I like to write about people and their inter-personal interactions. Human beings do, think and say the strangest things when you look into it deeply. They’re mostly odd, quirky, absurd creatures, and they become the way they are for different reasons. I’m really quite interested in translating the human psyche with all its foibles into (hopefully) humorous but ultimately touching stories.

Why do I write what I do?
What else would I do with the ideas that come to me during the day, when I’m stuck on a bus, when I’m at work and (nearly always) when I’m trying to go to sleep?! It’s simply another outlet, a way to somehow ‘leave something behind’.

How does my writing process work?
Process or habits? These two things often are at little blurry at my end. To start with, I jiggle things around mentally for quite a while before putting down any words. It was quite quirky to see Susan Tepper (a fellow ‘2014’ comrade) state that one of my ‘2014’ stories (March) played out like the opening scene of a BBC drama, because I often see everything as visuals, as if I’m watching it on TV or as a play. I place myself in the scene and crazily move things around, working out just what characters are saying and doing as the scene plays out. This mental rewinding, editing and playback can go on for days, weeks, months, even years with certain things I’ve worked on. I’ve also realised that I quite naturally pay a lot of attention to my surroundings. My job brings me into (far too much!) contact with the public and it’s quite amazing what you can get just from overhearing strange conversations. So many people’s lives are infused with tension, drama and often unintentional humour! The possibilities for inspiration and dialogue are simply endless when you have circles and people around you. I don’t write much at home… I’m too easily distracted! Nearly all my scribbling, editing, corresponding tends to happen in coffee shops after a shift at the day job. The caffeine, munchies, bland background music, uncluttered surroundings, it all seems to help me keep my focus. And believe me, that’s where the true challenge lies!
Thanks for reading about my writing process!

I nominate the following writers’ to share their own approaches with us next week:

Guilie Castillo Oriard – Guilie is a 41-year-old Mexican writer currently exiled in the Caribbean island of Curaçao, where she lives with seven rescue dogs and a very, very patient Dutch man. Guilie can be found blogging here: http://guilie-castillo-oriard.blogspot.co.uk/

Susan Tepper is the author of four published books of fiction and a chapbook of poetry. Her recent title “The Merrill Diaries” (Pure Slush Books, 2013) is a Novel in Stories. Tepper is a staff editor at Flash Fiction Chronicles where she conducts the author/book interviews UNCOV/rd. Her new column “Let’s Talk” appears at Black Heart Magazine. Additionally, her reading series FIZZ has been running sporadically at KGB Bar, NYC, these 6 or 7 years. http://www.susantepper.com/

2014: A New Year

Well, I’ve been a bit quiet of late, but I thought I’d come back with a little post about Pure Slush’s mammoth anthology, ‘2014: A Year in Stories’!

Some of you may already be aware of the premise of the project. One story for every day of 2014 penned by thirty-one writers, each with one set date to flow their story on throughout the year (mine is the twelfth, so my stories take place on January 12th, February 12th, March 12th, etc). And one man, Matt Potter, is pulling all these stories together.

January‘ and ‘February‘ are already out there in print and eBook, and I was happily given my copies for Christmas!


So, how did I get involved?

I’m not the best at getting myself ‘out there’. Mid-2012, Gill Hoffs, whom I’d come into contact with through the Glasgow Writers Group, suggested I submitted a piece to Pure Slush for their upcoming ‘real’ anthology. After much nail-biting and brainstorming, I gave it a go. Remember, at this point I’d had limited contact with the writing community, barely shown anyone my scribblings and most certainly never got in touch with a publisher, let alone contemplated doing so. But I did it, and that put me in touch with Matt Potter (whom I had previously ‘met’ at the book launch for Gill’s ‘Wild’ anthology, but was so intimidated by his sheer confidence and outgoing personality that I shied away from making conversation!)

Roll forward a few months from the publication of ‘real’ (which contained my first published piece, “A Curious Fellow”) and I noticed the call-up for an upcoming Pure Slush project through a Facebook post. After finishing up at the day job I took myself to the café in Waterstones bookstore on Argyle Street, Glasgow, pulled out my laptop and began drafting ‘January’ and ‘February’ there and then.

And then I got nervous and started doubting whether I could pull off twelve pieces of fiction. No really, up to that point I could count on one hand the stories I’d barely completed to first draft level, so I was genuinely unsure of myself. It’s an ongoing theme in my life.

So I saved the drafts and left it a little while before I plucked up the courage to message Matt. And sure enough, I’d missed the boat.

But a few months later I got an email inviting me to get involved as there’d been a drop-out. The drafts from earlier in the year were still sitting on my laptop, so I pulled them out and gave them a dusting down before passing them onto Matt. I was given the ’12th’ as my date, which was odd as it was the date I’d pencilled in when I originally looked to get involved (the 12th is my birthday and I consider it a ‘lucky’ number, in the loosest terms of the word ‘lucky’…)

I didn’t have all twelve pieces planned out, so I began sketching in the ideas for them. As Matt and myself began editing each story on a one-by-one basis, I found myself somewhat glad that I hadn’t constrained myself (or the overall story) by locking in any plans. I’ve always preferred having a vague idea that fleshes itself out as it grows in its ‘own’ direction.

As we worked through one month’s edits, the next month would begin to shape itself in my mind and on the page. One thing I like about writing this way is that, as the writer, there is still an element of surprise in it for me. Knowing from the word ‘go’ exactly what twists and turns are coming up unfortunately bores me to tears. I’ve always wanted to enjoy the writing experience as a reader, by not quite knowing what’s next around the corner… Even if I am the one at the driving wheel.

And now that the first stories are out there I can reveal a few things about my contribution to this project!

Most of the stories are based in South-East London, the place I was born and lived for the first twenty years of my life. Despite living in Glasgow for over twelve years I can clearly picture many a street which the characters find themselves on as they’re only few minutes from my childhood home!

Sandra’s flat is that of an ex-friend of mine (the ex-friend was even more complicated than Sandra is!) It was a place where much discussing, eating, drinking and over-emotional moments occurred. Sandra herself as a character is an imagined amalgamation of various people I have known or simply heard about through others. She’s a very fun character to write due to her dramatic nature and she’s quite the polar opposite of the unnamed protagonist of the stories. Wherever she goes she brings with her a touch of soap-opera!

One thing that I’ve not mentioned before is that some of the characters have been with me for many years, and that elements of the back story come from ideas I’ve played with for well over a decade. I find it rather satisfying that these characters and their stories are coming to light for a very interesting project indeed, and my only hope is that I can finally do them justice!

But that’s all I’ll say for the moment… There’s another eleven months to go!


2014 – A Year in Stories

For a taste of each month, click on the links below:

a taste of January 2014 Vol. 1

a taste of February 2014 Vol. 2

a taste of March 2014 Vol. 3

a taste of April 2014 Vol. 4

• a taste of May 2014 Vol. 5 

2014 January Vol. 1 – Print
2014 January Vol. 1 – eBook
2014 January Vol. 1 – Kindle

2014 February Vol. 2 – Print
2014 February Vol. 2 – eBook
2014 February Vol. 2 – Kindle

Contributing writers are as follows:

1st Guilie Castillo-Oriard

2nd Townsend Walker

3rd Derek Osborne

4th Gloria Garfunkel

5th John Wentworth Chapin

6th Lynn Beighley

7th Andrew Stancek

8th Rachel Ambrose

9th Gill Hoffs

10th Susan Tepper

11th Jessica McHugh

12th Shane Simmons

13th Michelle Elvy

14th Len Kuntz

15th Michael Webb

16th James Claffey

17th Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz

18th Stephen V. Ramey

19th Gay Degani

20th Sally-Anne Macomber

21st Mandy Nicol

22nd Margaret Bingel

23rd Darryl Price

24th Teresa Burns Gunther

25th Matt Potter

26th Gary Percesepe

27th Nathaniel Tower

28th Kimberlee Smith

29th Vanessa Weibler Paris  (11 stories)

30th Joanne Jagoda  (11 stories)

31st h. l. nelson  (7 stories)

Stephen V. Ramey is reading and reviewing each story on a day to day basis on his blog! http://stephenvramey.com/2014-2/