Interviews

Where You’ve Been, What You’ve Seen: A Conversation with Gay Degani

The lovely Gay Degani is joining Nancy and me for Create in Costa Rica in January. We’re so excited to work with her and everyone! (Note: Though it’s filling up, some spaces in the Costa Rica retreat are still available.)

Hi,Gay. You’re joining us in Costa Rica in January to write, commune, rest, explore in an exotic space. We can’t wait! Can you talk a little about how you honor your writing time and your creative life in other ways? (it’s okay to talk about how you struggle with this too if that’s the case!)

2017 was a difficult year for me and I don’t think I’m alone in my reaction to the political situation, the number of shootings (my daughter was at the Las Vegas concert), and the sexual harassment revelations. Also for me, my desire to write another novel has made me come up against my own brand of angst.

However, being part of the online writing community has been a writing “life-saver” for me. It saved me in 2007 and it’s saved me in 2017. What I’ve tried to do to counter my lack of productivity last year is to make certain the same thing doesn’t happen in 2018 by signing up for classes on-line and retreats like the one you and Nancy Stohlman are putting together. With a Barrelhouse class and one with One Story completed, I’m already hard at work in 2018. It’s important, I think, to surround myself with as many like-minded people as I can, and writers make up my tribe.

Respond to this quote from Natalie Goldberg:

“Writing practice brings us back to the uniqueness of our own minds and an acceptance of it. We all have wild dreams, fantasies, and ordinary thoughts. Let us to feel the texture of them and not be afraid of them.Writing is still the wildest thing I know.”

I love Natalie Goldberg. Her books and tapes (yes, back then it was audio-tapes) gave me permission to be a writer. For so long I believed being an writer was a god-given gift and if you had that gift, you couldn’t help but write, no matter the odds.

Spending time to write always felt selfish to me. Something I would, of course, make myself do if I had that “GOD-GIVEN GIFT.”

But I always had other things on my agenda and they seemed so much more vital to my everyday life–kids, a husband, lists of errands–and I did them. The result was very little time to write, and since I didn’t feel irresistibly compelled to put words down, I thought I must not have that “GOD-GIVEN GIFT.”

But this concept is so so wrong. Yes, a person does need some amount of natural talent, but so much of developing that talent is believing you have a right to spend time honoring it, letting it breathe, and accepting that what you write doesn’t need to be perfect the first time around, and that it’s okay to let the act of writing take up chunks of your life.

Natalie Goldberg helped me see how to negotiate around my two great lacks–of confidence and of craft–by doing “morning pages.” Performing this early communion with myself allowed me to wrestle with questions on paper rather than in my mind where I could so easily push them into a dark corner. I owe as much to her as I do to the on-line writing community.

What is your favorite flash you’ve written (not “best” or “most successful” necessarily, but the one you love the most) and why?

I don’t know if I can really answer this. Each one that finds itself written is a little piece of my heart and my life. They are like children, some easily delivered and others full of pain.

And I never know what will resonate with others. Some of my pieces I feel are struggling so hard to grow up and I worry and nurture and almost give up, but then they do something to make me proud–like getting published. The ones I sense will go out there and slay dragons come back defeated. Like many mothers, I can’t pick favorites. Each feel special to me in their own way.

Is there something we probably don’t know about you that you’d like to share?

I feel as if my life is an open book. If you read my stories, you will glimpse many different aspects of “me,” though none of those are all of me. You are what you believe in, where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, what’s hurt you, what’s made you stronger.

peace-retreat-costa-rica1
A jungle walk ends at the ocean in Costa Rica
Oh, I love that. It’s so true and wise. What are you most looking forward to in Costa Rica?

You, Kathy, and Nancy, and being with other writers on the trip. This is what I need and crave. What most writers need and crave: To be with their tribe, if only for a short period of time.

Gay Degani is the author of a full-length collection of short stories, Rattle of Want (Pure Slush Press, 2015) and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum Press, 2016). She’s had four flash pieces nominated for Pushcart consideration and won the 11th Glass Woman Prize. She blogs at Words in Place.

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