Myfanwy Collins Interview | Being Tenacious

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1. How did you develop a writing practice over the years?

Writing is such a part of me that I don’t think of it as a practice. It’s just me. Well, it is me now. It was always me but it didn’t have the space and the time and air to grow. It grew when my mother died and when my partner gave me the time and the space and the faith in myself to let it fully bloom.

2. Name some memorable risks you’ve taken over the years that felt scary but ultimately paid off in your writing practice or career.

I left my beloved job in hi-tech 2001 just after my mother died. I wanted to quit outright but my wonderful bosses offered me a leave because they were compassionate and they believed in me (I am still so grateful to them for their compassion). I am sure that I would be much better off financially now had I stayed with it and I certainly would have been fulfilled because we were doing cool things and the people I worked with were incredible, intelligent, interesting, trail blazers and they fully accepted me for the weirdo I am.

But I had to leave. I was completely broken. My worst day had happened. My worst moment. The year, the month, the week, the day, the moment, I had been waiting for and dreading all my life had happened and I was broken.

My mother had just died. My life as I had known it had ended just as it was truly beginning. I had this great job. I had this man I loved. But I did not have her. My partner (now my husband) quit his job too and we took off. We traveled the United States and Canada on the blue highways and I started to come back to life and to writing.

If none of this had happened, I’m not sure I would have come back to writing fiction for good. I’m not sure I would have been brave enough. It was what I had always felt I was meant to do and yet I had not given myself the space to do it.

I would and would not change having more time. Having more time means having less time with my family and I do not want less time with my family. It will always be this dance. Forever more.

3. What are your go-to habits for revising a work?

Oh, I’m horrible. I’m a horrible person to ask this of because I often do not practice what I preach to my own students. Please don’t tell them! I tell them they must read aloud in order to truly revise. And I do believe they must as I used to until I knew it in my own head. It takes time.

It honestly depends on the piece I am working on. Each one I treat differently in terms of revision. Read aloud, yes. I still do this but not with the novels. Not all the way through. Certainly the beginning.

What I do know is that changing the look of the piece helps so immensely. Printing it out if I’ve only known it on the screen. Putting it into html and seeing it in a browser. All of it helps. Your mind is trained not to see your own shortcuts. That’s why they are shortcuts.

4. Do you seek feedback from others? Who?

I have my one, true-blue writer friend who is the person I go to first and foremost. She never lets me down. She is honest and compassionate. I am so lucky to have her. She is not my only feedback, but she is my constant.

5. How do you handle constructive critique of your work? (Get straight to work—or take time to digest? Curse the person who delivered it)

It honestly depends on the person and their intention. I’m pretty good at reading intention. You can’t have grown up as I did and be surprised by people still. I’m more likely to be pleasantly surprised, which is a joy. I’m rarely unpleasantly surprised. Sometimes, I am disappointed, but I get over it.

6. What has helped you persist the most through the challenges of a writing life (can be more than one answer)? Who has?

I have had people who have believed in me and helped me forward but no one more than my husband. He has consistently believed in me and encouraged me. He came to our relationship as a musician and from a family of musicians. He understands my compulsion and need. Without him, I’m not sure I would have kept going and now our son who is so completely and utterly proud of me. They have made me believe in myself and I want to make them proud.

7. What are you most proud of about your writing practice?

I am tenacious. I don’t know if I am all that proud of it. It’s more the way I am with life. It’s who I am.

8. What would you not change at all about your writing practice? What would you change immediately if you knew how or had the means?

I would and would not change having more time. Having more time means having less time with my family and I do not want less time with my family. It will always be this dance. Forever more.

Just sitting down to answer these questions I have been interrupted twenty times by my son, my husband, my dog, but I would not and cannot wish those interruptions away. They are what keep me going no matter how annoyed I might be when the interruptions happen, I am aware of the time passing. And it’s okay to be annoyed and to let yourself and your work be a priority but it’s also okay to acknowledge the love. It doesn’t help that I was working in the kitchen when the interruptions happened. What are people and dogs to do when I’m in the hub of the house?

Myfanwy Collins has published a novel, Echolocation (2012), and a collection of her short fiction, I Am Holding Your Hand (2013). THE BOOK OF LANEY is her first novel for young adults. It was published in March 2015. She has also published fiction and essays in The Kenyon Review, The Potomac Review, The Cream City Review, AGNI, Quick Fiction, and other venues. For more information, please visit her web site: http://www.myfanwycollins.com

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JordanMyfanwy Collins Interview | Being Tenacious