A few days ago, author and blogger extraordinaire Caroline Leavitt invited me to participate in the My Writing Process Blog Tour (having been named by fellow author Bill Roorbach).
Caroline is the author of several novels, including the New York Times bestsellers, Is This Tomorrow (2013) and Pictures of You (2011), which was a Costco “Pennie’s Pick.” If you haven’t read any of her books yet, you should remedy that as soon as possible. Here’s my review of Is This Tomorrow, from July 28, 2013. Leavitt also recently published a mini-ebook with SheBooks, The Wrong Sister, featuring the title story and “The Last Vacation.”
Leavitt is also a writing teacher, editor, manuscript consultant, book critic, screenwriter, and mother to a talented young acting student. On top of all that, she has been a good friend and major supporter of this blog.
You can enjoy Leavitt’s distinctive wit and wisdom (mixed with a dollop of Hoboken, New Jersey neurosis) on her blog, CarolineLeavittville at http://carolineleavittville.blogspot.com/.
1. What are you working on?
I am always reading at least two novels, and I write reviews for my blog once or twice a week. And I’m usually working on lesson plans and/or grading for my high school English classes. My other hobby is portrait photography; at the moment I am taking some senior portraits and working on a few other projects.
2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
My blog is unique (to my knowledge), as it is the only one dedicated to literary fiction by women that is written by a man (I know of at least one such blog published by a woman). My purpose is to demonstrate that men can read and enjoy novels and stories by women, that they are not all romance or mystery or other “genre” novels. I reviewed several novels and story collections about the wars in the Middle East written by women partly to drive home that point. (See my reviews of Flashes of War by Katey Schultz, Sand Queen by Helen Benedict, Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman, Stop Here by Beverly Gologorsky, and You Can Tell When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon.)
3. Why do you write what you do?
In the summer of 2013 I began to come across essays on gender bias in the publishing world. This bias was present in what books are published, the cover design and marketing of books by women, which books are reviewed by major publications, and which reviewers are selected to write about those books, as well as the fact that men virtually never read books by women (although women will read books by men).
I realized that 25-50% of the novels I read were by women and that it had never occurred to me that I “shouldn’t” read books by women or that doing so was unusual. I investigated and concluded that a blog in which a man read and wrote exclusively about fiction by women did not exist. My intention was to fill that void and make a small contribution toward balancing this gender bias.
Since June 2013, I have read books by women almost exclusively. (I have read perhaps five books by men in that time.) I doubt that there are many men out there who have read more fiction by women in the last 15 months.
4. How does your writing process work?
As I read, I use Post-It flags and take notes. After I finish a book, I let it percolate for a few days to see how it speaks to me and what is worth discussing in a review. I write a relatively fast first draft and then revise it from one to three times in an attempt to ensure that it reflects my thoughts and feelings and is well-written. Then I cast my fate to the wind and hit “publish.”
For the next stop on the blog tour, I nominate Beth Kephart, another thought-provoking writer of novels and nonfiction, as well as a blogger with a unique and impassioned voice. Her blog, Beth Kephart Books, features essays on the personal and the political, as well as the literary. She is the author of the YA novel Going Over (2014), which was the Gold Medal Winner in Historical Fiction at the Parents’ Choice Awards, an ABA Best Books for Children & Teens, and a YALSA BFYA selection, among many other honors. She is also the author of Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir (2013), which was named a Best Book for Writers by Poets & Writers. Most recently, she published a short memoir, Nest. Flight. Sky. On love and loss, one wing at a time (available from SheBooks). I recommend her blog to you enthusiastically.