TUCKER SHAW is a writer and editor whose latest novel, When You Call My Name, follows two gay teenagers as they navigate the complex world of New York City in 1990.
Tucker is one of the speakers for our YA Symposium, The Young and the Reckless: Writing for Teens.
Q1: What life experiences have shaped your writing most?
Reading. Listening. Friendship. Heartbreak. Falling in love (again).
Q2: Were you a young writer, a late bloomer, or something in between? What advice would you give to others who took up writing at a similar life phase?
I was a young writer, in the sense that I always loved the puzzle of sentence-building and the rhythms of language. It wasn’t until much later –much later – when I trusted that I actually had something worthwhile to really write about. My advice: No matter what phase of life you’re in, start writing and never stop. Even if you don’t know what to write about. Always play with words, always make sentences. Keep the muscle loose for that moment when you really know what you need to write.
Q3: How do you deal with emotional impact of a book (on yourself) as you are writing the story?
The only way through is through, and while it’s important to keep a check on your health (physical and mental) as you write, you must also find the courage to walk into the fire. Sometimes you have to dig fairly deep to find it. It can feel lonely in the fire, disorienting, sometimes painful. And there are moments when you’ll wonder why you’re doing this. Remember your goal. Remind yourself that you are in charge. If you can write your way into the fire, you can write your way out of it, too. Trust yourself. You’ve got you.
Q4: What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to the writers attending the symposium?
The best time to write is right now. Don’t be precious about when and where you write. Sure, it’d be nice to have a perfect little cabin in the woods, or a perfect cottage overlooking the sea, or a perfect artist’s studio in the city. But even if you have a perfect place, always be willing to write anywhere, anytime, with no warm up. Even just a sentence, or a phrase, or a slapdash description. Inspiration rarely follows your schedule, but when it shows up, it’s always on time. (It’s also fickle, and may not come back for a while, so grab it and run, as far as you can, for as long as you can.)
Tucker’s lecture for the symposium is titled: Writing from Personal Experience (Without Making it All About You)
What does it mean to “write what you know?” What does it look like to dig into your personal history for inspiration? How do you assess what’s valuable for your story, and what’s best saved for another day? My latest novel, while fiction, takes place in a time and place that I once inhabited and know well. But to make my personal experiences work in a book that would resonate with others, I had to edit and re-cast my memories, without sacrificing what makes them personal to me. So can you.
Learn more about Tucker Shaw
Web site: www.tuckershawwrites.com