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    Writing = Challenges

    writingMichele Karlsberg: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

    Pamela Sneed: For myself and many writers, the challenge is going deeper into our work, getting beyond the first and second draft of a piece and exposing its core truth, purest language, or that place where the work just sings and sings. It’s difficult because, as humans, we like to be in control rather than delve down into that place where we feel exposed and vulnerable. Inside of each work is an explosion; I work to find it and let it out.

    When working, sometimes I ask myself what am I hiding or afraid to say and have I written it? That’s where the work is dangerous and exciting. The other challenging element of writing is time and how to balance having a social life and work life with a writing life. I always tell people, “Don’t wait for time to write because it rarely comes.” You have to do it however you can, wherever you can, for whatever amount of time you can. An artist I know said recently, “Make it happen by any means necessary.”

    The same goes for getting the work out there. A lot of us are waiting for some big break, and while that happens for some, in reality we have to make it happen for ourselves, to push to get our work out there, to be as brave and as bold as we can, by getting it out to agents or by self-publishing.

    (Pamela Sneed is a New York based poet, writer and actress. She is the author of two collections of poetry, Imagine Being More Afraid of Freedom Than Slavery (Henry Holt, 1998) and KONG And Other Works (Vintage Entity Press, 2009). Her amazing and empowering chapbook called Lincoln (Imagine Productions) was just released. Her recent publications include work in Best Monologues from Best American Short Plays, Future Perfect, and LIU Teaching Narratives with upcoming work in Ping Pong Magazine and Cutbank Magazine.)

    Joan Opyr: I’m not a visual writer because I’m not a visual thinker. It might have something to do with being terribly nearsighted—I’ve always been an aural learner. I find writing descriptive passages challenging because I don’t much care what characters look like, what brand of sneakers they’re wearing, or what kinds of plants they have growing in their gardens.

    When I’m reading, and the author has a character stand in front of a mirror and assess herself from head to toe, my eyes tend to roll back in my head. Some readers like those descriptions. They want to know those things. I don’t. I’m interested in interactions and conversations. I don’t write what I see; I write what I hear. When I’m drafting a story, I hear the characters talking to one another. I’m not saying that I hear voices—well, I am, but they’re voices of my own creation.

    I don’t hear the voice of God telling me to stick a sparkler in my ass and walk naked down Main Street. The voices I hear belong to my characters, and I only hear them after I have a good idea for a plot and am well into my research. When the voices become loud, constant, and insistent, that’s when I begin to write. That’s a terrific moment. I might have trouble figuring out what a character’s hair color is or what she’s wearing, but I know exactly the pitch and timbre of her voice. I’m not so much a writer as an eavesdropper.

    (Joan Opyr is a writer, an expatriate Southerner, a psychiatric nurse, and the author of three award-winning novels. Idaho Code and Shaken and Stirred are published by Bywater Books. From Hell to Breakfast is published by Blue Feather Books. All are available in paperback and eBook format.)

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