The diverse and accomplished Patricia Henley joins us today to share her thoughts on lucky breaks, practice-practice-practice, and how starting a novel feels like falling in love.
Patricia is the author of two chapbooks of poetry, four short story collections, two novels, a stage play, and numerous essays. Her first book of stories, Friday Night at Silver Star (Graywolf, 1986) was the winner of the Montana First Book Award. Her first novel, Hummingbird House (MacMurray & Beck, 1999) was a finalist for the National Book Award and the New Yorker Fiction Prize. Pantheon published her second novel, In the River Sweet, and it was widely praised in newspapers and magazines. In the River Sweet was a Border’s Original Voices selection and was translated into Polish and published in Poland in 2004. Engine Books published Patricia’s fourth collection of stories – Other Heartbreaks – in 2011.
Here’s what Oprah magazine had to say about Other Heartbreaks:
Please welcome Patricia to Write Despite.
1. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Here are two bits of advice. Pay yourself first — that is, write first thing in the morning. After that, everything feels easy. Pursue wordless recreation. This is even more important now than it was when I first read it thirty years ago because we are bombarded with so many more words now than ever.
2. Please tell us your favorite three authors
3. Briefly describe your journey to publication. (How were you first published and how has that led to where you are now?)
I first published poetry in journals around Baltimore in the 1970’s. I started writing fiction in 1979 when I was living in the Pacific Northwest. I submitted a short story manuscript to a contest – the Montana First Book Award. I won, and, as a result, Graywolf Press published my first book of stories in 1986. They made sure it was reviewed nationally and that was my lucky break.
4. Advice for those now on the road to publication?
Don’t stop writing. There are plenty of gifted or talented writers who can’t stick with it. They allow themselves to get distracted when it’s not easy. Getting published is about practice, practice, practice.
5. Do you write every day?
When I’m working on a project, yes, I write every day. Once in a while I take some time off. But a week or two without writing and I begin to feel as if I’m living in a black and white movie. I have to write.
6. What are you writing now? (If nothing, what are you reading now?)
I recently finished a memoir – You Will Be Taught To Fly — I do not have a publisher for it yet. I’m writing a YA novel with Elizabeth Stuckey-French. It’s titled Where Wicked Starts. Engine Books will publish it in 2014. I recently started what I hope will be a novel set in Cincinnati. I haven’t made a firm commitment to it yet, but it’s fun. The first 100 pages of a novel feel like falling in love.