1. Describe what you consider to be the perfect writing environment (real or imagined).
It's just me and my dog in a simple beachhouse on Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket or some island like that. The beach is right in front of me and I can feel and smell the ocean air any time I want. I have an unlimited supply of cigarettes and white wine, which I consume all day into the night. I write each morning and each late afternoon. In between, I might walk the beach, sketch, or read a book. I am drinking and smoking whenever and where ever. Around dinner time I hear a voice or respond to a knock on the door and it's poet Mary Oliver or writer Natalie Goldberg, who happen to live down the beach. We drink and smoke together before and after a light dinner of cheese and fruit with sesame crackers and Peet's Italian Roast coffee.
Wow. Here's the truth: long ago I read about a woman who started her life over, out of necessity, by holing up as I have described. It struck me then as an opportunity for unleashed romantic literary freedom and I still have that idea in my head--even though I know, for me, drinking and smoking can't be akin to good writing. Not to mention I would be miserable without access to the people I so dearly love. (P.S. I stopped drinking and smoking 18 years ago and I would be in a fine and predictable mess if I went anywhere near this fantasy.)
2. If you could have a getaway home anywhere in the world, where would it be and what would it look like?
Easy question: it would either be an oceanfront simple beachhouse with large windows and white driftwood walls, probably in Provincetown on Cape Cod, perhaps in Sarasota or some other coastal area I'm not aware of yet; or it would be an apartment in Montmartre in Paris. Either place would be simple and uncluttered. It would have ample books, Ces' artwork on the walls, and a small sweet kitchen with an interesting window scene. The space would be cozy. It could easily be a one room studio with a pull out couch.
3. What is your writing process like?
I'm kind of schizophrenic unless I'm strict about a schedule and stick to a certain project. In any given week, I'm writing poems, short stories, revisions for my self help book, re-reading the first draft of the NaNo novel, and putting posts on my blog. I usually write late at night or early mornings because I'm one of these people who likes to work before I play. I have daily doses of telephone talking with my best friend which could be distracting but instead is inspiring. These days I am am writing as freely and randomly as ever, but I am holding myself to preparing and mailing 5 queries or submissions a week. After a year of free form writing, it's time to take steps to get published. That's not true for everyone who writes, but it's important to me.
I don't really know what I'm going to write before or while I write. It just spills out, and I let it. I tend to go back and strengthen the words--the verbs especially--at least once, sometimes twice, before I finish. I sometimes start with an idea: for example, I'm writing a story about the loving special friendship between Casey and Izzy--two characters I just adore--and I know I want to write about Izzy's distain for mental health (which happens to be Casey's occupation). I will just write and let them provide the dialogue and guide the story, which they will do with non-stop chatter and tender humor.
4. In what way has your dog, Stella, changed your life the most?
Well, I should start by saying I am a dog person and my dog Rosie, who died at 14 three years ago, was the love of my life. When we got Stella, she was so fearful and withdrawn, even though she did everything she could to be obedient. JB and I were on pins and needles trying to help her relax until we had a one hour phonecall with a dog communicator (aka dog "psychic") who "spoke" to Stella and told us to lighten up and stop talking about her abusive past. During that call, Stella also "asked" for more chicken. Laugh if you want but after that call, all three of us had remarkably changed.