It is my pleasure to welcome author Laura Stanfill as my guest on Writing Between the Lines. I was delighted to discover Laura through her blog, which she uses to inform and inspire our global writing community. As bloggers, this is a community that you all belong to. But Laura’s message goes deeper than that. Today she is addressing The Importance of Community. She will also tell us about her newest book, Brave on the Page. How can any writer not love a book with that title! Check out her website, and better yet, since today is her release day, check out her new book!
The Importance of Community
By Laura Stanfill
Creative people feed off other people’s creative energy. Or at least I do. Visiting a museum will get me thinking about green, a slash of color across the canvas of my mind, and days later, I will write a paragraph about a girl leaving a room, and that slash of color will become a glimpse of her skirt as she shuts the door on my protagonist, a young boy lying in bed, afraid he’s dying because that glimpse of skirt set his heart beating way too fast.
My relationship to other writers is more direct, more immediate. Back when I was in my twenties, I used to joke about being the “writer in the corner” at parties, or in other environments when I felt different from the people around me.
“Don’t mind me, I’m a writer.” That was a joke I told back then, but it was also a comfort to be able to cite a reason for not fitting in with the suit-wearing political types in the D.C. metro area.
And then, in 2001, I moved to Portland, Oregon, and met my writing kinsfolk. Our tribe, Liz Prato terms it in her interview, which is included in my new book, Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life. Liz writes beautifully about how, when in the throes of story-making, we think about our characters all the time. People who don’t exist suddenly take up as much brain-space, or more, than what we’re actually doing in the real world.
Harold Johnson, whose poem “When I Am in My Write Mind” is part of Brave on the Page, and Laura Stanfill, the editor of the collection, visit during a mid-August writing party. Photo courtesy of Brian Biggs, another Pinewood Table writer.
“When you’re doing something that crazy—and undervalued, in a culture obsessed with poorly behaved celebrities—you need a tribe,” Liz writes. “We keep each other sane, and we give each other a hand whenever we can.”
My writing community—my tribe—is centered around the Pinewood Table, a seminar-like writing group taught by Stevan Allred and Joanna Rose. I met them soon after moving to Portland, and after the initial nerves wore off, I knew I had found my home. I loved sitting around a table for four hours a week, reading my own work aloud and listening to others’ voices dip into quiet or grow fast in anticipation of sharing a certain hard-earned passage. Talking about the finer points of the craft. Using language in our own particular ways, and learning how to use it better by studying each other’s words on the page. On those afternoons, several years of them, I grew as a writer. I grew as a person. And—five or ten pages at a time—I grew two complete novels.
Martha Ragland, Julia Stoops, Jackie Shannon Hollis and Laura Stanfill attended a women’s writing retreat in May 2011. Flash essays by Martha, Jackie and Laura are included in Brave on the Page, and Julia is featured as an interview subject.
I was no longer the writer in the corner. I was the writer at the table. The Pinewood Table. And my writer-friends didn’t just know me by my appearance or my career or what I liked to eat for lunch. They knew the people I carried around in my head. The ones I thought about when doing dishes or driving to the community I covered as the editor of a small-town newspaper.
Brian Biggs listens to the discussion during the second annual summer potluck.
This summer, when I came up with the idea of publishing a book of the Seven Questions interviews I post on my blog, laurastanfill.wordpress.com, it didn’t take me long to realize I wanted to feature Oregon authors. I asked everyone I could think of, not just my Pinewood Table brother and sister writers, and the result is a mix of styles, genres and backgrounds, from bestselling narrative nonfiction author Lauren Kessler to Gregg Townsley, who just started writing westerns because, in the last few years, as an ex-pastor and martial arts instructor, he fell in love with reading fiction.
Brave on the Page, which is being released on Monday, October 8,features fifteen interviews and twenty-seven flash essays about who, what, when, where, why and how we write. The collection is a 200-page meditation on craft and community. I am truly inspired by every heartfelt word, and am so honored that these amazingly creative people shared their time and talents with me for this project. Just as exciting, I now have a great reason to voice my admiration of these authors—and their dedication to the craft—by talking about Liz, and Stevan, and Joanna, and Lauren, and Gregg, and all the others, in forums such as these. Thanks for the opportunity, Naomi!
Laura’s Bio: Laura Stanfill is a novelist, knitter, coffee-drinker, amateur photographer, the editor of Brave on the Page and the founder of Forest Avenue Press, which strives to publish quiet novels.