Thursday, September 3, 2015

World of Writing, interview

-- World of Writing -- 

Our guest today is: Donna Baier Stein - the author of Sympathetic People (Iowa Fiction Award finalist and 2015 IndieBook Awards finalist) and Sometimes You Sense the Difference. An earlier version of The Silver Baron’s Wife won the PEN/New England Discovery Award. Her work has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Confrontation, and many other journals and has earned three Pushcart nominations. She also received a Bread Loaf Scholarship, Johns Hopkins University MFA Fellowship. Find out more about this accomplished writer at:

Q: Tell us about the workshops or events you offer.

A: I teach writing workshops in person in Summit, New Jersey, and Bernardsville, New Jersey… and online through the literary magazine I publish, Tiferet Journal. The courses I offer are Short Story Writing, Where Do I Begin?, Poetry Writing, and Spiritual Writing. I love teaching writers at all stages of their journeys and firmly believe that we learn as we teach. So I am always looking for new ways to present the material and share my own discoveries about the writing life with my students.

Q: What inspired you to write?

A: I’ve written since I was a little girl. One of my first stories was called “Melissa in Book World.” The main character lived underwater in a world of books. I think I was inspired to write by my love of reading. I used to read in the shower, holding a paperback book far away from me. And for some reason, my parents let me read at the dinner table! I loved the way stories engaged me, and I loved seeing what authors could do with language.

Q: How long will we wait for your next book? / What are your current projects?

A: My first story collection, Sympathetic People, was published in December 2013. My novel, The Silver Baron’s Wife, will be out later this year. I’m working on a second collection of stories based on paintings by Thomas Hart Benton and should complete that before the end of this year. I also have a poetry book I want to get in shape for submission, but that’s on the back burner right now.

Q: Do you use any set formula when writing a book?

A: My goal is to write for at least 25 minutes every day. Usually, I’ll for 3-4 hours most mornings. I find that keeping track of my writing time motivates me. I don’t use an outline but write a very rough first draft then start researching to fill out details. One of my favorite things about the writing process is the synchronicity of finding unexpected plot elements through my research.

Q: How do you come up with ideas for your writings and why do you feel you choose some over others?

A: With this second story collection, I’m getting my ideas by looking at paintings. I imagine who the characters portrayed there are and what they are doing in their lives. It’s a fun way to work. My novel is based on a woman—Colorado’s Baby Doe Tabor--whose life has fascinated me since I was a child. I also keep a list of ideas for future stories and novels; there never seems to be a shortage.

Q: What was your path to publication?

A: It’s been a long but steadily uphill one so far! For many years, I only wrote part-time while working as a freelance copywriter and raising my children. I got an MFA when I was 40 and submitted my thesis to the Iowa Fiction Awards. Judge Marilynne Robinson named it a finalist. I was thrilled. I spent the next years revising stories and occasionally sending the manuscript out for possible publication. Most of my writing time was spent writing new stories and poems, most of which were published in literary journals. Some of them won awards. I wrote my first novel, which won the PEN/New England Discovery Award in 1998 and had a top agent at William Morris represent me. We came close to getting an offer from Crown but did not. So I took the book back and rewrote it. Finally I sent my story collection manuscript to a wonderful small press and they said, “Yes”. So much of this writing journey is about persistence in the face of rejection!

Award-winning authors Dave and Lillian Brummet: 

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