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Seré Prince Halverson: Why Do I Write?

February 22, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[ In Seré Prince Halverson’s revealing Q&A, the debut author of The Underside of Joy claimed: “I became a writer because I loved to write, and I was blessed with an utter lack of any other talent.”

Today, the author digs even deeper and shares precisely why she writes. ]

Why do I write?

This question, Why do I write?, comes to me about a month after my debut novel, The Underside of Joy, was published and about twenty years after I began writing my first novel.

No, that is not a typo. That “twenty” should not have been a “two.” Although, believe me, for many years, I thought it should have been.

So if it took me twenty years to get published, you might—quite understandably—get the impression that I was a terrible writer who had no business trying to write a novel, or that I must have been playing at writing and not really working that hard at it. Or that I simply had really rotten luck.

It’s true that my writing has improved over the years, but looking back at my earlier efforts, I don’t immediately cringe or race to throw all of them into the woodstove. Before I began my first novel, I had been taking workshops and writing short stories and studying craft. I was serious about this writing thing. I got feedback from professional writers who both praised my efforts and made valuable suggestions. I subscribed to Poets & Writers and literary magazines. I read books upon books. My boys were three and six years old at the time, and I began getting up at 4:30 in the morning so I could write before their little pajama-clad feet hit the ground running.

At that time, literary magazines frowned upon simultaneous submissions, and so I mailed my short story manuscripts out one by one (in stamped manila envelopes and SASEs for return, if you’re old enough to remember those), waiting months and months before I received another rejection letter. I remember when C. Michael Curtis, the fiction editor at Atlantic Monthly, wrote me a note on a rejection slip, and I jumped around the house in glee. My first husband said, “But I thought it was a rejection.” And I said, “It is, it is! But he wrote me a note!”

I kept on writing in the wee hours of morning, through the rejections and a divorce, years as a single mom, a long-distance relationship, another marriage with two young stepdaughters—as my sons’ little pajama-clad feet grew into size thirteen basketball shoes and football cleats and a couple of smaller, daintier feet donning tap and soccer shoes joined them.

There had been one awful, very long dry spell, during and after my divorce, when I didn’t write fiction, but I kept a journal. There were times when my novel sat on the back burner simmering while I met advertising copywriting deadlines, but I’d still scribble notes about characters or plot as I tried to focus on writing a headline or tagline. I wrote three and a half novels. I got my first agent. I spoke to editors interested in my work. I had a lot of very close calls. But still, no one said Yes.

And yet, I still said yes to writing. Why?

Why do I write? Do I write so I can have my work published? Of course I wanted to be published, but if that were the primary reason, I suppose I would have quit writing years ago. Is it beyond gratifying to have my work out in the world, to receive notes from readers instead of rejection slips, to experience a dream realized? Yes, yes, and yes.

But I wrote for twenty years without all that, without a yes, and I still loved writing, even needed it, and felt lucky to have it. I never said, “That’s it! I’m outta here.” (Well, I may have said it, but I was only bluffing and my writing knew it. You could almost see the manuscript smirking, could almost hear it say, “She’ll be back.”)

So why do I write? (“Tell us, already,” I can hear you mutter…But you see, I had to write all this to find my truest answer…)

Writing takes a lot from me, but it gives more. Man, does it give. There is an optional something more that each day offers us, but we have to be willing to step across the threshold in order to receive it. For me, writing is my entrance into that more. For some, music is the doorway. For others it is the swift pounding of feet on a track or across a stage, the in and out of the breath during prayer or meditation, the rhythm of expert stitches sewn along a stretch of silk or into a human heart. For me, the doorway is the scratching of pen on paper and the tapping of my fingertips on keys. For me, that’s how the light cracks through those dark early mornings, the light that allows me to see and feel and sometimes even give that something more.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Seré Prince Halverson’s debut novel The Underside of Joy — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 8:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winner will be announced here tomorrow.

The Revealing of Seré Prince Halverson

February 09, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

According to debut novelist, Seré Prince Halverson: “I became a writer because I loved to write, and I was blessed with an utter lack of any other talent.”

If true, what a gift the author’s one talent is as it shines through her recently released The Underside of Joy. A one sentence description of the book notes:

Set against the backdrop of Redwood forests and shimmering vineyards, Seré Prince Halverson’s compelling debut tells the story of two women, bound by an unspeakable loss, who each claims to be the mother of the same two children.

Deservedly earned glowing praise:

“Halverson’s gloriously down-to-earth novel is so pitch perfect that as readers reluctantly reach the last page, wanting more, they will have to take it on faith that this really is her first fiction.”–Library Journal, Starred Review

“…As she mines the family secrets her characters hold close and how those affect their relationships with one another, Halverson proves she’s a wordsmith and a storyteller to keep an eye on.”–Bookpage, Fiction Top Pick

“A poignant debut about mothers, secrets and sacrifices…Halverson avoids sentimentality, aiming for higher ground in this lucid and graceful examination of the dangers and blessings of familial bonds.”–Kirkus Reviews

“Halverson paints a lovely picture of small-town life and intimate family drama…Nuanced characters and lack of cliché make for a winning debut.”–Publishers Weekly

“Halverson’s debut novel marks her as a strong new voice in women’s fiction…this would make an excellent book-club choice.”–Booklist

The Divining Wand has scheduled a return visit from Seré Prince Halverson on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 but — in the meantime — let’s meet the author through her “official” bio….in her own words.

I am from a lot of places, but I now live in Northern California and it feels like home. I worked for 20 years as a freelance copywriter while I wrote fiction and raised kids. My husband and I have four grown children. I’m a mom and a stepmom, and I have a mom and a stepmom. The Underside of Joy is my debut novel.

Piqued your interest? Let’s get to know Seré even better:

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. This crazy plot finally seems to be working.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. Never, never, never, never give up. (Via my dear friend Elle Newmark, via Winston Churchill)

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. I don’t think the most genuine happiness is perfect. Hence, the title of my book! That said, my yellow Lab, Stuart, seems to experience pure, perfect happiness when chasing a tennis ball. And I feel something close to it when watching him.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. The same as any mother’s fear.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. I love many different places, but I feel most at home right here in the writing studio my husband and family recently built for me, overlooking a forest and vineyard.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. I enjoy reading journals and biographies of writers. No matter their gender, or the time period, I can almost always identify with some aspect of their lives and struggles. John Steinbeck’s Journal of a Novel, for one.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. I stand in awe of teachers.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. Just, Very, Um, So, Wonderful. I know! Really? Really! And then a couple of the four-letter variety, which I just really should stop saying.

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. Oh, to be able to sing and to speak several languages! My novel will be published in 13 languages, and I’m thrilled because that’s the closest I’ll ever come to being multi-lingual.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. The Underside of Joy. And my kids. (I don’t think I “achieved” them, but I’m very proud of them.)

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. Disorganization: My purse, my closet, my desk, my computer, my mind. My kitchen cupboards, however, aren’t bad. I have no idea why they’ve escaped the madness.

Q. What’s your best quality?
A. Empathy

Q. What do you regret most?
A. That I wasn’t able to publish my novel before my dad died. He would have gotten such a kick out of this.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. I like being me, even though it can be, shall we say, challenging.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. I don’t think there’s any one thing…but I do smile a lot.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Cal/Calliope in Middlesex

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. The Grinch. I know that’s not very literary sounding, but he’s my favorite.

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. Joe Montana. “Hi Joe, you look just like my husband’s Joe Montana Christmas tree ornament. Are you up for surprising your biggest fan?”

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. The toilet seat thing. Left up afterward or down during and—ugh—wet afterward. Come on, guys. And drivers who tail too closely, especially on dark, rainy, twisty roads with deer crossing signs posted everywhere. Back off. And please click down your brights. Thank you very much.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Reading or going for a walk.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. Other than being a novelist? Singer/Songwriter

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Honesty, compassion, and a sense of humor.

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Dungeness crab. Fortunately, my husband likes to go crabbing. That’s if you mean only one ingredient. If you mean one type of food, I’d say sushi. I get serious, debilitating sushi cravings.

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. Five is an impossible number. I have so many favorite songs. I might have to slip in an extra and hope you don’t notice.
2,000 Miles by The Pretenders
This Must be the Place by Shawn Colvin (Talking Heads cover)
Closer to Fine by Indigo Girls (Almost anything by the Indigo Girls.)
Anchorage by Michelle Shocked
I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You by Tom Waits
Circle Game by Joni Mitchell

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. Again, only five? You use the word “five” loosely, right?
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (When I was nine, I went to Green Gables, the home where L.M. Montgomery wrote, and I bought the book in the gift shop and still have it.)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard

Genuinely warm and wonderfully honest, Seré is a gorgeous storyteller. Discover more of these truths by becoming a friend on Facebook, visit her blog Who Moved My Buddha?, sample an excerpt from the book’s Chapter One, and then continue reading The Underside of Joy.

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Announcement: The winner of Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters is: Janel. Congratulations! Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address.

AND

The winner of Julianna Baggott’s PURE is: Candice. Congratulations! Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address.