Seré Prince Halverson: Why Do I Write?

Seré Prince Halverson: Why Do I Write?

[ 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.

* * * * *

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.

34 thoughts on “Seré Prince Halverson: Why Do I Write?

  1. It’s nice to hear about the joy in the long journey to becoming a published author. I think sometimes we forget to find happiness in what we do. Good luck with “The Underside of Joy”, Sere!

  2. Enjoyed the post. Thank you so much for the giveaway! I’ve been wanting to read this!


  3. I just finished The Underside of Joy and LOVED it! It is interesting to read about your journey to publication and love for writing – thanks for sharing!

  4. Enjoyed the post, gives an insight into the author herself. I’d love to win this as It sounds my kind of read

  5. I’ve heard a lot of great things about The Underside of Joy, so it was a delight to read your lovely post here at one of my favorite hangouts.

    “Writing takes a lot from me, but it gives more.” = EXACTLY.

    Love your post!

  6. I think those of us that love to read would all love to write our own novel. I would love to see the fruit of your long labor, and I am sure it will be a delight to read. I have a writing degree, but I am in advertising sales. I love to read new authors! I appreciate everything that you have put into your book. It is just like another one of your children, something that frustrates you at times, but they mean the world to you. Add, frustrate you many times, and that is just the terrible two’s. Did I forget female teenage years and facebook? I could go on and on. Good luck!

  7. Nice insight into an author’s mind. Must be kind of a hard one to answer though. I keep hearing good things about this book, thanks for the chance to win a copy. BTW is there a way to subscribe to your blog by email? I couldn’t find one so I went the Facebook route.

  8. Loved reading about your journey as a writer, especially as someone who hopes to write something one day even if it takes 20 years!

  9. Loved this. It’s always encouraging to hear stories of those that stick with it through thick and thin. Not to mention comforting. I can’t wait to read your debut!

  10. I admire the fact that you stuck with it for so long. Whenever some knucklehead questions why someone should stick with it for so long, I always refer them to the fact that The Tale of Edgar Sawtelle, one of my all time favorite novels, took 15 years to get published.

    And beyond that….you’re answer is enough. You write because you want to.

  11. I have been wanting to read this book, even more now having more insight into the author! I am glad that you did stick with it & look forward to more!

  12. “I became a writer because I loved to write, and I was blessed with an utter lack of any other talent.”

    I argue that you posess more than a talent for writing. You posess insight, wisdom, perseverance, and courage. You have succeeded in doing what so many work to achieve!

  13. Thanks to Larramie for having me on her very special blog, and to all of you for your kind, generous comments! I’m truly touched. And, get this: my anti-spam word on this comment was “dreams.”

  14. I have been hearing a lot of great things about this book, and the premise is interesting. Whether or not I win a copy, I will definitely be reading this.

  15. “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.”

    I died from reading this!

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