Oct 132017
 

Especially since I’ve been a parent, witnessing innocence lost is hard for me.  So much of this loss is tied to small acts of relational or emotional violence, and so much just seems to be where our human natures want to take us.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

I was a science major for the first few years as an undergrad. I found that I was very much *not* enjoying my organic chemistry class, but really loving writing papers for my English class. One of my English professors encouraged me to forget my dreams of being a physician and instead become a writer– which I did, despite my father’s conniptions.  While I may have missed my chance at ever driving a Mercedes, or settling my aging parents in the Keys, I’ve been happily strapped, well-read, and hyper-reflective ever since.

Describe your writing process.

If I’m to get anything done it’s early morning before anyone else in my household wakes up.  I’m also very good at working in tight time spaces when they present themselves.  I’m not a planner–I just get a gut need to put something down on paper and usually get it all out in one or two sittings.  I don’t tend to do significant revisions afterwards.  Just endless tweaks.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

Especially since I’ve been a parent, witnessing innocence lost is hard for me.  So much of this loss is tied to small acts of relational or emotional violence, and so much just seems to be where our human natures want to take us.  It’s heartbreaking as a parent to see these losses, and almost as heartbreaking to think about our own.  It seems to be an endless progression, so the material never stops.

What are you working on now?

For the most part I’ve been spending what free time I have developing a brand of infant nursery care products, which hasn’t left me with much time to write recently.

What was the last great thing you read by another author?

I recently read the novel In the Shadow of the Banyan Tree by Vaddey Ratner.  I’m a huge fan of literary historical fiction, and Ratner’s novel taught me quite a bit about Pol Pot’s regime and the Cambodian genocide based on the author’s semi-fictionalized account of her family’s experiences.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?

Probably John Ashbery

Oct 122017
 

Horses’ gentle but powerful, and seemingly inexplicable, healing influence on humans thrills me. I can’t imagine anything more satisfying than writing on—sharing—a topic that feels almost magical yet is so real.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

As early as I can remember, I was one of those kids with a flashlight under my pillow, writing stories or poems instead of sleeping. My 7th grade English teacher wanted to publish a poem I wrote about Dr. Zhivago’s ice palace. I declined; I disagreed with the two revisions he wanted me to make. Thankfully I grew out of that idea!!

Describe your writing process.

In the past several years, I’ve found I’m nearly always writing in my head—at concerts, doing dishes, on the bus, in bed (still)—and scribbling it somewhere, but mostly I write at the dining table starting during breakfast. I’m afraid I’m a binge sort. I really dislike to stop and start, so love creating long stretches so I can get right into it—hours or days at a time. I’m not sure if what I do is considered outlining per se: I start out just going for it, jot notes of who might do what and when, to get a feel for overall balance, then that suggests new ideas so I change it all, let it happen, and rarely check my early notes. With My View of the Bright Moon I wrote the entire first and penultimate chapters before anything else.

I love fiction you learn something from and authors whose research you can trust. So I spent a lot of time on my own accuracy—from portraying the progress of Alzheimer’s, to the anatomy of horses, to when the spring peeper frogs chorus in Ludington, MI. When writing’s tough for any reason, doing research means the project still progresses.  It helps get past a block and inspires.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

The wisdom and beauty and strength of horses. Years ago in New Zealand I was utterly charmed by researching, then experiencing, then training in equine-assisted therapy. Horses’ gentle but powerful, and seemingly inexplicable, healing influence on humans thrills me. I can’t imagine anything more satisfying than writing on—sharing—a topic that feels almost magical yet is so real. And actually changes lives and outlooks; it’s found in 50 countries and there are versions of it specifically serving veterans and military families.

Growing up with four brothers, seeing how often they struggled to deal with painful issues and relationships, I wanted this story to have a male focus, to possibly reach men—even if it’s initially via female readers. Thus, the fictional brothers, Kyle and Joe, who Waterline listeners will meet on Sunday night.

What are you working on now?

I have two very different novels roughly drafted. ‘What if … ‘ can be described as magical realism in which the Universe very temporarily and very individually offers Earth’s  inhabitants (focused on two best friends in particular) a chance to see the role of gratitude in their lives. The other, ‘Water,’ is the story of the sole survivor of a tragedy who develops a debilitating phobia, what she learns from those who work to bring her back from the trauma, and the ripple effect of that new knowledge.

What was the last great thing you read by another author?

I can’t name the very excellent A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole) because I’m still reading it. So I have to name a tie: The language of Flowers (Vanessa Diffenbaugh) for mixing a heartbreaking story with breathtaking innocence; and The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise (Julia Stuart) for her word choices, quirky characters, and somehow making it both poignant and hilarious.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?

Only one? John Steinbeck first came to mind, but I’d be so intimidated, I’d hide in the kitchen. So I’d ask Barbara Kingsolver to discuss anything she’s ever written or Vicki Constantine Croke because I’ll never forget Elephant Company.

Oct 112017
 

I think writing just evolved from being a visual artist. I began using words in paintings then books as sculptures and eventually words as poems.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

I think writing just evolved from being a visual artist. I began using words in paintings then books as sculptures and eventually words as poems. In the beginning, poems were coming to me either when I was trying to sleep just before waking. I never studied writing so I am still learning by reading, listening and writing. I am fairly new to writing since I started when my children were in high school, college and married. I am still discovering.

Describe your writing process.

I write whenever or wherever I can on any scrap of paper I find if I don’t have my notebook. Much of my writing is done in the car while my husband drives, in waiting rooms or while the TV is on. I do not outline. For me, the poem would lose a lot if I did. I often ask questions in my poems. Sometimes in life, there are no answers. I think all forms of art should in some way cause a person to think. I try to do that.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

Perhaps not specific to each poem, but overall, much of my work is about memories from my childhood. Some is inspired by nature and placing oneself in the position of another creature. Also, many of my poems are about grief, loss and the different ways in which we cope with them.

What are you working on now?

I am putting together a small book of feminist poems and plan to get back to a novel I started. Also, I am always writing more poems and experimenting with new ideas and styles.

What was the last great thing you read by another author?

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?

I would have trouble choosing just one. Annie Dillard and Maya Angelou, very different personalities, but we could have really interesting conversations.

Oct 102017
 

…but I saw how the poems moved people who read them, especially cute girls. When I discovered that I could affect other people with my writing, I knew I was a writer.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

I didn’t know I was interested in poetry until I started experimenting with writing it in high school. I always had a novel in hand, but I discovered poetry anthologies that were aimed at high school students when I started working in my high school library. The books had a lot of contemporary poems and I was hooked. I tried writing some myself and they weren’t great, but I saw how the poems moved people who read them, especially cute girls. When I discovered that I could affect other people with my writing, I knew I was a writer.

Describe your writing process.

I’ve never figured out the magic formula. I use a lot of writing prompts, and I sometimes take creative writing classes. I am in a local writing group with some talented, supportive, and kind poets. All of these things help keep my brain focused on writing.

I don’t write on a regular basis, but when I am working on a few poems, I add lines to notes in my phone or scraps of paper until I get a first draft. After that, I start revising them until they are done or I put them away so I can get some distance, and eventually, clarity. Feedback from my writing group and other readers, as well as reactions from audiences at open mics or other venues help me to sharpen the poems as well.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

The poems were all written in the last few years, and most of them are semi-autobiographical.

What are you working on now?

I’m interested in writing a series of poems about lesser known historical events and people. I just have to find some that capture my interest.

What was the last great thing you read by another author?

I have a rotating list of favorite poets, but I don’t know if I can pinpoint one recent poem. Some of my favorite poets include Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux, Ted Kooser, Billy Collins, Stephen Dunn, Natasha Trethewey, Philip Levine, Gary Soto, Kim Addonizio, and many others.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?

I am always impressed with writers like Stephen King or Billy Collins. They are both best selling, accomplished writers in their own right who are undervalued by the larger literary community. I would love to pick both of their brains about writing. Besides, I think either would be a  funny, interesting dinner guest who would have tons of great stories and jokes to share.

Oct 092017
 

I have recently started to write with pen and paper, as opposed to composing on a computer. I do little research and never outline. I simply ask myself, “What is it that needs to be said in this moment.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

When I was applying to business school many years ago, I wrote the application essays with a depth and passion I had not sensed in myself prior to that. When I gave the essays to two English teachers for editing, I expected them to tear the essays apart. They were, instead, very complimentary. That was the first time I understood what writing might become for me.

Describe your writing process.

If a writer is someone who simply must write, I am not a writer. Instead, there are times when an idea or topic occurs to me and I feel the urge to get that idea, topic or question on paper. I have recently started to write with pen and paper, as opposed to composing on a computer. I do little research and never outline. I simply ask myself, “What is it that needs to be said in this moment.”

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

I am reading from my book “Questions That Matter.” I love questions because they open us to new ideas, rather than leading us down paths we have often traveled with results we already know. I am intrigued by questions that nudge me into the unknown.

What are you working on now?

I continue to be haunted by ideas about the future of the species in relation to the biosphere. I am not a futurist, but I have tried many times to try to explain what I see. So far, I have not had much success.

What was the last great thing you read by another author?

I do not read much fiction, but my daughter, an educator in Washington DC, challenged me to read “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. I found it to be very powerful.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?

Dee Hock, who wrote “Birth of the Chaordic Age,” is one of the most deeply philosophical people I have ever met. He writes with great clarity and wisdom.

Sep 152017
 

 

Every story really happened, but many are stranger than fiction. The longest is about a book challenge to a Kurt Vonnegut book in my classroom, an event that caused Mr. Vonnegut to write a letter to me about censorship.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

A student in my education class at Monmouth College suggested I put into writing an inspirational story I’d told in class about the teaching profession. Telling and writing are two different processes entirely, and I was doubtful about the latter. However, I decided to try. After nervously editing “War and Remembrance” about fifty times, I sent it in to Teacher Magazine. They contacted me in two days and bought it. That was 2006. I thought, “Wow! It can’t be this easy.” Of course, it wasn’t after that. I self-published the teaching memoir of fifteen stories that began with that early one because publishers of education topics wanted textbooks. However, I say with a smile on my face, that this memoir has paid me a nice royalty check every quarter since September 2010. After that, I decided to move to fiction and write mysteries. My Endurance Mysteries were picked up in two weeks by Five Star Publishing (Gale/Cengage), and I’ve been writing mysteries ever since. So, I believe—finally—that I am a writer.

Describe your writing process.

Referring to my mysteries, I usually begin with an idea and spend several weeks thinking about it, making decisions, and solving problems. I also do a great deal of initial research since my mysteries often involve technical research such as mitochondrial DNA, cold case files, various kinds of wounds, blood spatter, etc. These, of course, are topics I never learned about while teaching high school English. I often interview people who can help me, especially coroners, doctors, and police detectives. I am an outliner, and I feel I must be so to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. The more detail in my outline, the easier it is for me to write and the less revision necessary later.

Generally, I write a chapter at a sitting, and chapters usually run around 2,000 words. I write best in the afternoon. After teaching for 44 years at 8 a.m., my mornings in retirement are slooow. I often edit as I go along, and I do a great deal of editing and proofreading at the end. When I finish writing each day, I make a list of what I will write about tomorrow. I have never had writer’s block, and that is why. I try to write every day, sometimes in my office and sometimes in my living room. Despite that statement, I don’t always manage to write every day because some days I play duplicate bridge. I must keep my priorities straight.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

The Education of a Teacher (Including Dirty Books and Pointed Looks) is a series of fifteen creative nonfiction stories of students who came into my life and changed the way I thought or taught or viewed the world. It tells, chronologically, over four decades, true stories that are funny, poignant, interesting, and filled with ethical choices that teachers make. Every story really happened, but many are stranger than fiction. The longest is about a book challenge to a Kurt Vonnegut book in my classroom, an event that caused Mr. Vonnegut to write a letter to me about censorship. It is now framed and resides on my living room wall. The story I’ll read is the only one from my college teaching years. It is the final story, the period at the end of the sentence, the event near the end of the career. Every time I remember that night, I smile.

What are you working on now?

I just finished my fifth mystery tentatively called A Death at Tippitt Pond. I sent it off to my editor two days ago. While it takes place in the present day, it concerns a murder that happened in the early 1970s.

Click here for more information about Waterline’s September event.

Sep 152017
 

 

…Now I write when something–and it could be ANYTHING–captures my attention. I have learned not to try to control the poem too much but to let it have its way.  I am aware of an inner muse who leads the band, and I try not to get in her way.”

How and when did you decide, or discover, that you were to be a writer?

I always had a nudge to write. However, being raised in the 50’s, most women didn’t aspire to be writers as gender roles were pretty specific: teacher, nurse, secretary. So, I became a teacher. I taught Creative Writing, among other classes, as East High School (Rockford) for many years. During that time, I enjoyed doing the assignments with my students. Eventually, the nudge to write became a burning desire, which led to sabbaticals in which I honored the writer in me. I spent a year working with Lucien Stryk at Northern Illinois University and later another year at the Vermont Writers’ program working with Lynda Hull. They were both inspirations in different ways. Working with Lucien taught me to be more concise and tight, while working with Lynda taught me to be more lyrical and expansive. I navigate poetry both ways, depending on subject and mood.

Describe your writing process.

My process has become more spontaneous after decades of writing. When the burning desire first took hold, I wrote every day in the wee hours of the morning. It seemed like I was drawing from a bottomless well. After writing furiously for several years, things tapered off a bit. Now I write when something–and it could be ANYTHING–captures my attention. I have learned not to try to control the poem too much but to let it have its way.  I am aware of an inner muse who leads the band, and I try not to get in her way. I used to revise so much that I sometimes took the life out of the poems, but now I tend to trust my own process and revise just a little here and there. I am more aware now of shaping poems rather than rewriting them altogether. Since nature informs my work, I do enjoy learning Latin botanical names, which in themselves are remarkably poetic. I don’t outline my poems, but I do outline my books, and see groupings that seem to fit together thematically. I write at home.  For many years I had to use long hand for the kinesthetic sensation that went along with the poem, but gradually I have grown more comfortable at the computer.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

I was inspired by a newspaper article on Oppenheimer many years ago. Travel and aging are inspirations as well as politics. Sometimes they all spin together.

What are you working on now?

I am excited about my book just released–Wild Fruition. I am looking forward to readings.

 

Sep 142017
 

 

I’m a great believer, especially with poetry, in grabbing the moment. Often poems arrive as if dictated and it can be critical to capture them. Dangerous too in the event you happen to be driving.”

How and when did you decide, or discover, that you were to be a writer?

From the time I was a young child, I was an eager reader and was also lucky to be encouraged by my father who read to me from Shakespeare, the Odyssey, Dickens, Kipling, Scott, etc. I began to write my own little stories. I think I always knew I would be a writer. In my day jobs, I’ve worked as a journalist, editor and teacher of writing, so it was always a focus.

Describe your writing process.

Process is such an individual thing that I don’t know that one person’s experience is valuable to another. I’m a great believer, especially with poetry, in grabbing the moment. Often poems arrive as if dictated and it can be critical to capture them. Dangerous too in the event you happen to be driving. I advise pulling over, but confess to scribbling down the gist of a poem while haphazardly steering. I tend to be rather prolific so generally I write daily. Of course, much of what one writes is expendable, so it is also important to put a piece on ice for a while before exercising one’s critical judgment.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

The inspiration behind the Carnival poems was engendered by memories of the many carnivals and fairs that afflict our towns and counties every summer. After writing the first one the rest came in a rush. I already had a potential chapbook manuscript that I’d been working on which I was calling Invented Histories, poems that projected the futures of literary or mythical characters. Renaming that Sideshows made is conceivable to partner it with Carnival and then conclude with some circus poems.

 What are you working on now?

I have a new book that won’t be available in the U.S. till January, 2018–the publisher, Presa Press, has a contract with a U.K. distributor that gives them a 6 month exclusive. The book is called Her Heartsongs–I have my contributor copies already and I have brought along some drafts of the P.R. that is going out.

Sep 132017
 

I spent a lot of time outlining an entire novel, and when it was finished I didn’t want to write it. I already knew what would happen, so it bored me. I prefer to discover what will happen bit by bit as the story progresses.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

In elementary school I started writing stories and plays. In sixth grade I wrote, directed, and starred in a play that was performed before the entire school. What a way to live your life, doing something fun to produce something that people like to read or watch! My mother taught me to read before I went to school, and my father always encouraged me to write my stories.

Describe your writing process.

There’s a process? Much of my work takes place in my head before I begin putting words on paper. Trained as a journalist, I am always watching, listening. Often I start with an overhead phrase, a scene, a character observed. Then I see them in other circumstances and the story forms around them or their words. I don’t outline. I spent a lot of time outlining an entire novel, and when it was finished I didn’t want to write it. I already knew what would happen, so it bored me. I prefer to discover what will happen bit by bit as the story progresses. There’s an anecdote regarding Flannery O’Connor where someone asked her when she knew a man would beat another man with his prosthetic leg. Her answer was, “When he did it.” I have the same process. I rewrite as I go, re-reading the entire work before I start the next day. As a short story writer, this is possible. As a novelist, it is impractical. Perhaps that is why I am a short story writer.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

I remember reading a writing prompt about change, and I thought about how people count out change from a cash register. Not many people do that anymore; they just look at the readout on the register and put it all in your hand at once. The Spanish word for grandmother, abuelita, resonates with me because of two lovely songs titled “Abuelita” that I play often.  Richard Shindell’s song of a fierce and protective grandmother who stands and waits to catch a glimpse of her grand daughter stolen when she was a baby, and Caroline Herring’s song of a woman sitting under a tree in Costa Rica inspired this piece. The story, “Nibbling at the Bloodstains,” had a working title of Abuelita. However, since there’s no grandchild in the story, I changed it.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a stage play and and more short stories. I’ll be reading at the Dundee Library in East Dundee on September 21 at 7 p.m., and at the Other Words Literary Conference in Tampa, Florida, October 14.

May 192017
 

… I am sure that the reading of great classic and modern literature through the years, as well as–surprise!–the study of grammar in elementary school–gave me a feel for the language, not only the sound of good poetry but the balanced construction of phrases and ideas.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

I was always a voracious reader and a good writer in school . I loved my English classes, but by the time I got to college and grad school, academics and music eliminated any time or thought for creative writing. Later, as a high school English teacher, first in Chicago, then in the suburbs, I was assigned to teach Creative Writing, I would write with my students, and they taught me a great deal as we exchanged daily critiques in the classroom.

Describe your writing process.

I don’t have a specific writing process, but I am sure that the reading of great classic and modern literature through the years, as well as–surprise!–the study of grammar in elementary school–gave me a feel for the language, not only the sound of good poetry but the balanced construction of phrases and ideas. My study of Latin, French and Italian also gives me a feel for unusual syntax and vocabulary, which helps me draft a poem, then edit and revise it many times before submitting it to editors of literary journals.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

The inspiration behind my writing at Waterline is people! For some reason, important people in my life, both the living and the dead, have been circling me lately, and I’m giving them voice and tribute in this reading.

What are you working on now?

My seventh book of poetry, EDGES, was just published a few months ago, so I am working on spreading the news, and am grateful to Waterline Writers for giving me the opportunity to do just that, both through readings and also my blog, donnapuccianipoet.wordpress.com.