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    Words: The Write Stuff

    By Michele Karlsberg

    Michele Karlsberg: Why did you decide to become a writer, and what is your process?

    Ann McMan: It’s no irony that I refer to myself as an “accidental author.” It retrospect, it shouldn’t be surprising. I’ve always had stories to tell—or to re-tell. I am fascinated by the anecdotal tales people freely share with great eloquence in the commonest of places: in line at the post office, growing old in the waiting room at the DMV, or wrangling their kids while navigating scores of frozen chicken nuggets at the grocery store. Everyday people in everyday places—describing in wonderfully colloquial terms, the simple richness that informs their daily lives. Little things that end up being big things because they combine to form the pastiche of experience that binds us all together like patchwork on a quilt. 

    So, I write. By accident, at first, but now by design. It has become my calling and my craft. I rise early every morning, carry my coffee back to my studio, and write until the sun is up and shining and until the rest of the day, with its attendant obligations, roars to life. My goal is to complete a thought—usually a scene—before I quit and resume My Regrettable Day Job™.

    My trusty iMac has become my profoundest co-conspirator—although I do sometimes (because I’m an unrepentant Luddite) write longhand with pen and paper. As a writer, I owe a solemn and profound debt to the great Doris Betts, who once explained that her most important job was to “pay attention.” So, I do my best to heed her advice. 

    Ann McMan is the author of seven novels including her new release, “Goldenrod” (Bywater Books), and two collections of short stories. She is a 2017 recipient of the Alice B. Medal for her body of work, a four-time winner of Golden Crown Literary Society Awards, a Lambda Literary Award finalist, the recipient of a Silver Medal in the Independent Publisher (IPPY) Awards, and the recipient of the 2016 Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Book.


    Alan Lessik: Writing for me has always been based on inspiration. When I get an idea, I mull it over in my mind for days or weeks, just letting it ferment. This period is the most crucial for me as a writer, and I don’t write anything down yet. At some point when my brain can’t contain it any longer, I will sit down at my computer and let the words flow. I write until I have nothing more to say.

    When I wrote The Troubleseeker, that was six weeks, five to seven hours a day. For smaller pieces, it might be three or four hours. I have a full-time job leading a non-profit school and job training program, so fortunately for me, the evening is my most productive time to write. 

    Writing so quickly and intensely means the first draft is quite rough. I love the editing and rewriting process as I begin to shape the narrative and discover how to transform the raw material into a compelling story. Even my shorter pieces might go through seven to ten drafts. During this time, I always have some outside readers take a look at what I am writing to see what they find compelling or confusing. Of course, if I am working with an editor, their comments will usually push me further than I think I can go. Then one day, I realize there is nothing more to say, no more words need to be changed and I am finished.  

    Alan Lessik is a writer, a zen practitioner, amateur figure skater, and LGBT activist and non-profit leader. His debut novel, “The Troubleseeker,” was a finalist for the Publishing Triangle’s 2017 Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBTQ Fiction. His non-fiction works include news articles published in “The Advocate,” “San Francisco Bay Guardian,” and “Frontiers.” His contribution to KQED Radio Perspectives, “Judge Not His Death” (, was one of the most commented on in 2014.

    Michele Karlsberg Marketing and Management specializes in publicity for the LGBT community. This year, Karlsberg celebrates twenty-eight years of successful book campaigns.