Get Something on Paper

An interview with former online student Ann Klotz

by Sara Button

 

Although Ann Klotz writes, she has a hard time claiming the identity of “writer” as her own. But she is one—as well as a mother, educator, a huge Naomi Shihab Nye fan, and a whole slew of other interesting personas. I caught Ann for a chat in between her many tasks as the Head of School at Laurel, a girls’ school in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

“As a kid I kept a writing practice faithfully. After a really hard run of infertility, I stopped writing. Now I’m the mother of three children, so stories have happy endings,” she said. But a few years ago, a visit from one of her favorite writers jumpstarted her return to writing.

During poet Naomi Shihab Nye’s Q & A session at Laurel a few years ago, Nye told a student, “Grown ups have a way of talking themselves out of that which they want to do most.”

“I felt like a carrier pigeon had landed on my head,” Ann says. “She said, ‘Write three things every day and write in pencil and small notebooks so you don’t feel overwhelmed.’ And I went home that night, dug out a small notebook, and I have been writing three things every day since Naomi’s visit.”

Ann’s writing has not stayed put in those notebooks, though. She blogs periodically for Huffington Post, and an essay she developed during a Creative Nonfiction boot camp last summer was published in Mothers Always Write, a venue she found through DuoTrope. Two days after she submitted it, the editors replied that they loved her piece. “I felt like I had won the lottery, it felt really exciting.” After a “brief conversation over a semi-colon,” and some fruitful trimming by the editor, it was published in their September issue.

As it happens, lessons she’s learned from writing have influenced her work as an educator. “In this new phase of my writing life, I have been a better teacher, saying, ‘Look, the first draft can be terrible, all you need to go is get something on paper.’ You feel 100% better just that you’ve started.”

Ann starts getting her own words down early in the morning—5ish, usually at their kitchen island--or on weekends sometimes, catching those moments in between like so many others aiming to balance family, work, and a love of writing. “My mom was a big jigsaw puzzle fan, and she would say, ‘The thing about jigsaw puzzles is, it’s sort of addictive. You say, I’m just going to do three more pieces and I’ll get up and do whatever. I feel like that’s what writing is for me.”

Moving forward, Ann has a few writing projects on the backburner: a piece about siblings using war-time family correspondence, another online writing class. She’s also excited about the release of In Fact Books’ forthcoming What I Didn't Know: True Stories About Becoming a Teacher, to which she is a contributor. And in the meantime, she still carries small notebooks and pencils with her daily, sticking to Naomi’s sage advice.

 

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