The ABCs of a Writer's Life

An interview with online student Belinda Shoemaker

by Sara Button

 

Balancing a writing life can be tough, especially when you have a demanding feline editor-in-chief. Belinda Shoemaker knows this well. Hope, her Calico, “helps” with revision on a regular basis, she tells me from her California home.

But Belinda tries to follow what she calls her ABCs of a writer’s life, a pyramid she encourages others to try.

“What is the Art portion of my day going to be? What is the Business segment? Finally, what am I doing to hone my Craft? Am I reading about writing in general, or am I just reading and analyzing what I’m reading and taking notes?”

A 2007 graduate of Antioch’s low-residency MFA program, Belinda enrolled in one of CNF’s classes a few years ago to help her with a project she’d been working on. “I found I was getting so depressed being alone writing. People kept saying, ‘Oh, have you had anything published?’ It can drive you insane. I had to find something to keep mind and spirit going during this long process.”

So she decided to enroll in Advanced Memoir, and found the support and motivation she needed. Her instructor’s feedback helped her hone and re-envision the work. “It changed the complete way that I wrote the opening chapter to this book. But I was also able to turn it into a standalone essay,” which she has now sent out for consideration to literary journals.

Deciding where to send submissions is its own process. She goes through journals she likes, then checks whether they have theme issues or other upcoming deadlines she might have something written for or would want to tackle. “I saw that CNF have a theme on childhood coming up, so that’s on my whiteboard behind me as something I might want to write about,” she tells me.

So far, her work has appeared in places like Damselfly Press, an online venue for women’s writing; Brevity’s blog; and Avalon Literary Review, just this June.

“One of the most fun things is going back and withdrawing [simultaneous submissions] because they’ve been accepted!” Belinda laughs.

Looking forward with those ABCs in mind, Belinda is working on organizing a writing group, and plans to revise an essay she just finished in her second course with CNF, Experimental Forms. Right now, she’s letting it sit in the “fermentation drawer,” where she stores the hard copy of a piece while considering revisions.

And she’s still hard at work on the memoir she started years ago. Her editor-in-chief is making sure of that.

 

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