This is my last installment of The Next Big Thing, this time in the form of a guest post by Jessica Bane Robert, a poet and nonfiction writer who runs the amazing Barred Owl Retreat in Leicester, MA. Take it away, Jess!
The Next Big Thing
This is The Next Big Thing, an ever-expanding circle of writers answering the same (or variations on the same) questions about their next writing project. Thanks for tagging me Ruth Foley. Your blog Five Things That Don’t Suck, makes me feel grateful and gives me a chuckle.
Below, I answer questions about my upcoming projects, and after that you'll find links to the blogs of the writers who have accepted my invitation to participate and links to the answers of writers previously invited.
What is the working title of you project?
Long Ago in a Life of Spiders (nonfiction), Eden Out of Reach (full length poetry manuscript)
The other big project in our lives right now is the Barred Owl Retreat. We bought a new home a year-and-a-half ago and we’re sharing it as a Writing and Learning Center. I’ve been working on the Website, which is where the new Back Yard Blog will be hosted. I started an old blog in an effort to appreciate the place I was at, but it was breaking my heart and making me dream of a new place to call home--one with a stream and a pond, wild life, trees. And guess what? It came.
Where did the ideas come from?
The first project is a memoir about family and living close to the earth; I guess the poetry is about the same. Family and place will aways be my focus and obsession I have a feeling, but both are now being informed by living in a new place--The Barred Owl Retreat. Here, I am reconnecting with the positive aspects of my childhood living off the grid in a cabin built by my father on land that had been in our family since the mid 1700s. Here, I am establishing a renewed relationship with the earth and place.
What genre does your book fall under?
Well, there are three projects: Memoir, Poetry, and Blog.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh boy, that’s a tough one. So my parents are the key players in the memoir (and in some of my poetry). My father has always been interchangeable with Jack Nicholson in my dreams--think The Shining, the tormented artist in isolation. Ya, he’d be an obvious choice. But I just saw De Niro in Being Flynn the other night, and he’d do well too. While I was watching, I couldn’t stop thinking about my father and crying. Listen, you might as well dream big and go A list, right?
For my mother--Meryl Streep. My mother would love that choice too. Streep’s the best and can play anyone.
But, nature is the real star. Of course the birds would play themselves, as would their other feathered and furred foes and friends.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
I like what a Buddhist friend of mine said, “Up the mountain, down the mountain.” My parents chose to climb Sparrow Hawk Mountain--land that had been in my family for centuries--to find something beautiful, to find enlightenment living off the land, but they also found pain and isolation, so we climbed down and searched for new mountains.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? (if this applies - otherwise, make up another question to answer!)
I have friends who have written similar books and will call upon them for help in finding an agent.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
As for the memoir, the first that comes to mind is Debra Marquart’s The Horizontal World, another memoir about place and family.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I was living in the city and had long been removed from my place, Grover Hill, Bethel, ME. My disconnect from the earth had left me lost and depressed. I was raising children and that opened some wounds, and wonders, from my own childhood that I had to process. I had a relative reach out and get me writing again. I found a mentor, Baron Wormser, who is primarily a poet but had just completed a memoir about raising his family off the grid in Maine. Those two fortunate happenings put me on the path of writing memoir as well as poetry. But then I had to dig through the pain of the past to get to the good stuff--how a deep connection with nature, with the earth can heal, can sustain us.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
Honesty, hope, awe, compassion--these are the goals of the book. I struggled with memoir, and autobiographical poetry for so long, the I, I, I, I. Yet, we all have a story and the right to tell it. I’m grateful for the brave stories of others that have helped me figure myself out. A Chinese student read one chapter from the memoir, and moved to tears, said that so much of my story was hers. That moment freed me to write on. That the distance created by continents and generations can be erased with a single, written line, that’s cool. No matter how different we are we have much to learn from each other’s experience.
So that's it from me at the moment. Next week, you can check out the posts of some of my writer friends:
I'll post links to their answers as they get posted.
And here are some previous posts from friends:
Mary Harwood will be writing about getting her novel Deer Apples ready for an agent at her new blog On Writing and Life.
Rebecca Longster will be answering questions about her first novel Shadows Present at Renaissance Woman Ink.
Kathleen Clancy will be talking about Robbing the Dollhouse at her new blog Cartographers of Randomness.