Anne Leigh Parrish is the author of Our Love Could Light the World, as well as many other things. I appreciate that she took time out of her busy schedule to answer my nosy questions about process, inspiration, and book recommendations. You can find Anne on her website, her Facebook page, and on Twitter @AnneLParrish.
Thanks again, Anne! If you’d like to be interviewed for Creative Ladies, just send me an email at email@example.com.
What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.
Writing has been my main gig for almost twenty-four years – that’s how long it’s been since I stopped working outside of the home in any capacity, a privilege made possible by my very hard-working husband. Of course, into that mix came two children who are now grown and much more on their own. I juggled child care and writing for quite a while. And then my daughter was diagnosed with a tricky chronic condition that required careful monitoring several times a day. A typical day starts for me around 7:30 a.m. My husband and I both work at home. We read the paper, he walks the dogs, and we repair to our respective offices. At that point, it’s a matter of producing new material or editing old material; promoting myself through Twitter – I have over 10,000 followers now – Facebook, Google + groups, and so on. I usually knock off around 3 to 3:30, though my husband keeps it most days until 5:00. He’s a lawyer, and his time is a lot less flexible than mine. Evenings, I’m willing to admit, are spent in front of the television.
What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?
You know, I don’t have a whole lot, to tell you the truth. Sometimes I can be moved to take an enthusiastic interest in my garden, or in a new recipe, or an art exhibit. I do spend a fair amount of time reading, particularly on my Kindle, which I adore. I’m one of those people who reads a book for a while, then puts it down, starts another book, puts that one down, and returns to the first book. Having a Kindle spares me a tower of books on every table in my house, although there are still plenty of books in every room.
What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.
Life, how people overcome adversity, how they make peace with what cannot be changed. Anything beautiful inspires me, particularly flowers, but also manmade things – my home is full of original art I’ve picked up here and there. I’ve gotten more interested in glass – fused glass, in particular, and the way it catches the light. I suppose that’s a function of living at latitude 47! Seattle is very far north, and our winters are dark.
In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.
I try to emphasize elegance, beauty, and balance.
How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?
So often it begins with a scene, two people in a state of conflict or misunderstanding, some sort of strife, real or imagined. From there, everything I write tends to grow organically. I don’t outline. And yes, I stare into space a lot, and play a lot of online solitaire. Then there comes a point of pulling out all the underlying themes and movements in a piece and making sure they’re in sync – or knowing, to my own satisfaction – why they’re not.
What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’d have to say the novel I just finished writing, What Is Found, What Is Lost. It was very hard to write, a lot of details to keep track of, since it spans the lives of four generations of women in one family. And after what I thought I had one solid version, I restructured it completely. I’m happy with it now. I hope my readers will be, too.
Anne’s desk, which belonged to her grandfather and her father before she inherited it.
What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?
Being overeager. I began as a short story writer – and wrote only stories until about 2012. Anyway, the mistake I made was to submit everything I wrote, from the very beginning. This, obviously, led to a huge amount of disappointment, because those early stories weren’t nearly good enough to get published. I was dogged, though, and kept on sending out everything I finished, even as I jumped into another story. The one good thing to that particular madness was that I was able to develop a relationship with a number of editors who took the time to respond to my submissions personally. I learned a lot from their insights.
Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?
I’d have to say Alice Munro. She had no formal education as a writer, in that she didn’t earn the beloved MFA degree (nor did I); she wove writing into the rest of her life, which was largely domestic and consumed with raising children; she took huge literary risks and stretched the reader’s expectations. She was fearless in what she wrote. Unapologetic about her focus on women and women’s lives.
What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I do well right after breakfast. That tends to be a very creative time of day for me. Right after dinner I can be pretty focused, too. I guess I need to have my batteries fully charged in order to be brilliant, or what passes for brilliance in my case.
Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?
I watch a lot of shows on Home and Garden network; anything that has to do with history; old movies. Lots of television, in other words.
What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?
Well, since I just mentioned her, anything by Alice Munro. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Wolfe. Tiger Moon by Penelope Lively. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.
What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?
Know, at the outset, that writing is hard work and don’t expect it to come easily. Focus on the craft first, and later on what you really want to say. If you don’t hone the skill, the message, however fine and essential, gets lost. Also, I’d say don’t worry too much about what other people say – unless they’re talking specifically about craft. Don’t let people make you feel bad about specific artistic choices you make – they’re your choices, after all. As long as you consciously making them, and not just following a habit, or something you’ve learned to do.
What’s your Creative Lady motto?
When life shoves you around, shove it back.