The Creative Writing Interviews form a series of interviews with contributors to our Creative Writing Studies list. Find out about their work and approach towards writing.
Frances Haynes writes: Stephanie Vanderslice’s most recent book is Rethinking Creative Writing – our first Creative Writing Studies title. She also writes fiction and creative nonfiction, blogs about writing and teaching at The Huffington Post and on Wordamour.wordpress.com, and directs the Arkansas Writers MFA Workshop at the University of Central Arkansas.
Stephanie, what do you write?
All kinds of prose. I write creative nonfiction and quasi-academic essays about creative writing in higher education, as well as personal essays on a variety of subjects. I’m also working on two books; finishing the revisions on a novel and starting a nonfiction memoir about the “mall” phenomenon of the 1970s and 80s.
Whom do you write for?
I write for people who are incredibly busy and whose attentions are torn in a million different directions; I want my writing to engage the attention of people like me! I also write for change, to advocate new ways of looking at creative writing in higher education in the Anglo-world.
What achievement are you most proud of as a writer?
Right now, I’m proudest of my book, Rethinking Creative Writing. Writing books is incredibly hard. But really, I’m most proud that I’m still here doing this writing thing after starting out as a naive, dewy-eyed novice so many years ago. I always tell my students not to give up in the face of the inevitable adversity and rejection that is the artist’s life. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint; I’m the poster child for that.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
First drafts never get any easier for me. I love, love, love revising – for me, that’s where all the great writing happens; I could tinker with my own writing endlessly, that’s the easy part. The hard part is getting the early words, the rough words, down on the page. There’s a lot of uncertainty in that and you have to be comfortable with that kind of uncertainty, with not knowing where your piece is going yet. Yeats has a great poem called ‘The Balloon of the Mind’, and the lines, “Hands, do what you’re bid./Bring the balloon of the mind/that bellies and drags in the wind/into its narrow shed” sum up writing to me. I’m good once the balloon is in the shed, but getting it there is always a formidable task. It’s different for everyone, I suppose; I know a lot of writers who love the thrill of creation and hate to revise.
What involvement do you have / have you had with creative writing as a university/college subject/discipline?
I have been in dozens and dozens of creative writing workshops, since my undergraduate days through my MFA and ultimately my Ph.D. in creative writing, and now I teach the subject and have made the study of creative writing in higher education a focus of my career. So I’d say my involvement runs pretty deep.
What is your ambition as a writer?
To keep writing. Certainly, I’d like to publish my novel and the subsequent books I’m planning, but writing and publishing are quite separate in my mind and first and foremost is just doing the writing, doing the work. Keeping the writing going in a world that doesn’t always support that work is an achievement in and of itself.
What are you working on at the moment?
As I mentioned earlier, I’m finishing revisions on a novel called The Lost Son, which is set in Europe and America and spans the early part of the last century through World War II, and I’m ready to look for representation for that. And I’ve just begun work on a creative nonfiction book, Malls of America, which is part memoir and part meditation on the history of that consumer phenomenon, modelled after Steve Almond’s Candyfreak. I still have a lot to say about creative writing in higher education as well, although that work tends to arise more organically/spontaneously, and I’ve started blogging about that on The Huffington Post.