Success as a writer can be measured in many ways, from a publication credit to simply achieving whatever goals you had when you took your very first Writers’ Program workshop. For former student Eric Angle, her most recent success comes in the form of something that many aspiring writers dream of… a completed novel!
Erica took Writing Your First Novel during our Writers Studio, an intensive 4-day workshop each February that draws students from around the world. She gave the great news to her Studio teacher and former instructor, Mark Haskell Smith:
“I wanted to tell you how much your class helped me finish my novel. I had this sort of gestalt thing happen to me during the third or fourth day, and suddenly the process made sense to me. I guess I just needed the nuts and bolts.”
We asked Erica to share more about her process in writing the book.
WP: You’ve completed the final draft of your young adult novel. What’s the book about?
EA: In Dee’s Licious Pies, Gluten Free, Moxy Madden is a teen who prays that she hasn’t inherited the crazy-gene that runs on both sides of her family. She spends her time blogging, trying to coax her pothead mother off the couch, and waiting for her rodeo clown father to text her. When Moxy gets shipped off to her Grandma Dee’s Texas home, she doesn’t consider it a punishment but an opportunity to be a part of a real family. But everything about Dee just isn’t quite right—the strange taste of the minced meat pies she sells, her non-standard English, and all the cats that keep appearing—then disappearing—in the house. All Moxy wants to do is survive the week and salvage what’s left of her sanity.
WP: Tell us a little more about your process in writing it.
EA: I came to the Writers Studio with a completed outline for my novel and a few chapters. The class turned out to be a great critique group, and the instructor was witty and insightful. It wasn’t long afterward that I completed the novel.
WP: What has been the most surprising aspect to you in writing a novel?
EA: The business aspect of it—namely, that “good” writing does not necessarily give you a competitive edge in finding a literary agent. Duh, right? Agents are (rightfully) less concerned about whether your book will win literary prizes than whether it will be marketable, especially if you’re a first-time novelist.
WP: What’s the best piece of advice that you took away from your Writers’ Program class?
EA: My A-ha! moment happened when, during the Writers Studio, the instructor said, “Novels are made up of scenes and summaries.” There was something about the simple truth of that statement that made me go, “Ah, so that’s how you do it!”
WP: How has taking classes helped you in your work as an aspiring novelist?
EA: Well, first off, the classes are fun, which reminds me that writing doesn’t always have to be about slamming my fist against my head. Second, being around other writers and talking about writing after class over a glass (or two) of wine is my muse.
WP: Anything else you’d like people to know?
EA: I’m still pretty new at this, and I’m learning as I go. I’ve had my share of rejections, and I don’t know how many more will come my way before I hear a literary agent say, “Your story kicks ass, and I’d like to offer you representation.” Until that moment, which happens to be a condensed version of my lit-agent-calls-me-at-home fantasy, in case you’re wondering, I’m just happy that I have a full-time job and a family that allows me the alone-time that I need to write.
Mae Respicio is the Program Representative in Creative Writing (Onsite).