Hunger Mountain - Vermont College Journal of the arts

Visiting with Erika Anderson

by Claire Guyton

Bellerophon riding Pegasus, from Mabie, Hamilton Wright (Ed.): "Myths Every Child Should Know" (1914)*

What’s your best “This is how I got that idea” anecdote?

While flying bareback on a Pegasus through a ring of fire. Most ideas come to me when I’m doing the American version of “nothing”—soaping the loofah in the shower, mumbling to myself while walking, contemplating some detail of life on public transport (in my author photo, I’m enjoying a contemplative moment on a train in Slovenia), unabashedly staring at strangers (I somehow escaped socialization), and so on. Yet this boring life of mine is supported by the LA Times article, “Don’t just do something; stand there,” brought to my attention by fellow writer and friend Jodi Paloni.

Tell us about your usual writing process.

Recipe for an Essay

Step 1 Allow muse to implant a title and first …………line.
Step 2 Take thee to a laptop. Blunder through …………a first draft like it’s the last (terrible) …………thing you’ll do on earth.
Step 3 Obsess. Think of nothing else. Read it …………aloud. Rewrite.
Step 4 Let it simmer for days or weeks.
Step 5 Repeat steps 3 and 4 as necessary.
Step 6 Think you’re a genius.
Step 7 Think you’re an imbecile.
Step 8 Repeat steps 6 and 7 as necessary.
Step 9 Send to writerly friends. Request feedback.
Step 10.. Nag writerly friends. Bully if need be. Fear they will be dishonest. …………Fear they will be too honest. Wonder if you’ll ever ‘make it.’ …………Contemplate what ‘making it’ means.
Step 11.. Repeat step 10 as necessary.
Step 12.. Finish the damn thing.

What’s your favorite title?

Though no Maile Meloy fan, I have a sweet spot for the title of her story collection, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It.

Arranging lima beans in my spare time....

Is there a writing rule you never break? One you love to break?

In fourth or fifth grade, I was taught never to begin a sentence with the word “and” or “but.” I thought, “Excellent. That’s exactly what I’ll do.” And by golly, I did.

* Pegasus Photo from Wikimedia Commons. Image in the public domain.

To read Erika’s essay on craft, click here.

For more author visits, click here.

For more craft essays, click here.

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