Author Angela Belcher Epps explores what happens when a mother walks out on her children in her compelling novella, Salt in the Sugar Bowl. (Main Street Rag, $10) Epps, an English teacher at an alternative high school, explores the complexities of life— including love, family relationships, loss and abandonment in her work. See her website and her blog to learn more about her writing adventures http://www.thewritingclinic.com/
Please welcome Angela to Write Despite.
1) What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
I took workshops with Zelda Lockhart who said I have to be willing to work as hard for my writing job as I do for my supervised job. This was a milestone in my writing life because a part of me was always waiting for some break to happen to give me more time. So I started to push myself harder to have a complete writing career while juggling the job and life I had.
2) Please tell me your favorite three authors.
J. California Cooper, Amy Bloom, and (at this moment) Junot Diaz. But Raymond Carver always comes to mind whenever I’m asked.
3) Briefly describe your journey to publication.
I have written since I was in third grade and wrote for school papers and such. Then I majored in creative writing in undergrad, but I cared nothing about publishing. I only wanted to write. I finally started submitting stories to small literary journals when I attended NYU’s graduate creative writing program and became a more disciplined writer. E. L. Doctorow was my thesis advisor, and he told me he laughed out loud when he read one of my stories, so I gained confidence and submitted to NYU’s literary journal. That was my first real publication. Since then, I generally take a long time writing and revising until a piece feels complete. Salt in the Sugar Bowl, my new novella, features many fictional characters that I have been in relationship with for a long while. An editor heard me read an excerpt about one of these characters at an open mic and invited me to submit my novella; they accepted it. Also from time to time I am inspired to write a nonfiction article, and it usually comes from a deep place that is rather emotional. I usually have successes with such pieces.
4) Advice for those on the road to publication?
Don’t be self-conscious. That was always my personal demon because it caused me to rethink and censor myself. Write for yourself, and forget about the people who could be looking over your shoulders and chastising you for telling your truth. Get lost in your own voice, and forget about being safe. Your readers aren’t your family, so grow all the way up and be yourself. Then be diligent about rereading and revising your work. Be ruthless in self-editing. Be honest.
5) Do you write every day?
I don’t work on my projects every day, but writing grounds me, so I journal or write something every day—even if it’s a log of what I did, an elaborate “To Do” list, or goals I plan to meet. Tonight I was talking to my husband in a restaurant, and I’d had a glass of wine and was feeling pretty self-righteous and gloating about my sense of integrity. I said that public figures that fall from grace should have to “figure it out or get the fuck out.” I fell in love with the line as it slid through my lips, and I wrote it down when he went to the toilet. Trust me; some character will be expressing that sentiment very soon. Writing is always going on in my head.
6) What are you writing now?
I’m writing a sequel to my Salt in the Sugar Bowl novella because whenever someone has read it, they ALWAYS say, “I need to know what happened to …….” And that is extremely motivating. It is tentatively called Out for a Ride. I don’t know exactly where it’s going, and sometimes that’s a good thing.