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Pen to Paper

A writer is someone who writes. For many reading a good book is a pleasure in itself, but for some, like Gwendolen Gross, their joy comes in the creativity of writing. If writing weren’t enough, Gwendolen is sharing her passion with others through her interactive blog and teaching workshops.

Name
Gwendolen Gross

City / State
Ridgewood, New Jersey

What was your big dream?

To write! I want to keep writing books (and, a subset of that dream—to sell enough books so I can keep publishing more) and to have amazing & incredible adventures with my kids and husband

How did you accomplish it?

I’ve published two novels (with a third coming out this August), and for this third one (I had new babies with each of the other two), I took a course called Buzz Your Book and am trying to be more proactive about book buzz. Fiction generally sinks like a chunk of granite in a spring-fed pond, unless you’re already famous or very lucky. I’m not complaining—I’ve found some amazing readers, I’m just looking for more. Since I love reading fiction (and have a book-buying habit, see below), I’m trying to determine how I find out about the books I’ve loved the most (in childhood: boredom and the library. As an adult: friends) and how to get to those readers.

As for the writing part, I’m always writing. My first novel was my graduate school thesis. I hoped to publish it, and it happened sooner than I’d imagined. In any interim (like when someone rather important told me, seven years ago, “no one wants to read about moms,” so I put THE OTHER MOTHER aside for a while), I just keep writing, thinking about what’s important to me, what stories I want to tell, and identifying the central truths.

Oh, and I want to share the love of writing—it’s such pleasure, when you’re writing and everything else falls away, when you’re bodiless, but have past and invention and all that magic you had a child, when you knew you could do anything, to draw from. And language. Beautiful, voluptuous, sharp-edged, mitered, honed, liquid language to make your own. So I teach in person and online, and have the free writing blog—www.gwendolengross.typepad.com—which is where Rachael found me. Lucky me!

As for the adventure parts: many of my own adventures of young adulthood are retold though characters’ eyes in my first two novels, FIELD GUIDE and GETTING OUT. I worked as a live animal and physical science demonstrator at a science museum—porcupine rash and all. I went caving (and got lost) and studied Spectacled Fruit Bats in the remnant rainforest of Australia.

With my kids, it’s been tamer, but just as rewarding (not sure I want them to take as many risks as I have—but I know they’ll have their own lives and make their own decisions…). We’ve done a lot of day hikes; we’ve camped in the backyard and gone on tree-climbing, peach-picking, and nature-walk expeditions. We’ve learned about walking sticks (both the bug and the useful tree discard) and flowers and trees and leaf-galls. I’m hoping to take them to more extraordinary places as they get older (I have a feeling they’ll hold me to my suggestions)—caving, rafting, backpacking if they want to. And their own kinds of travel (clock museums, anyone?). I’d like to go back to Africa and Australia with them. Asia? Okay, first I have to sell a LOT more books…

Where did you find inspiration to get started?

Writing—well, I always invented things, games, plays, musicals, stories. My parents both have enormous respect for the arts, and we listened to a variety of music (too loud Mahler requiems and Saturday Night Fever alike). My mom always did art projects with us. My dad has an incredible memory and knows lots of stuff—how to build a bike, how to start a fire, how leeches are used…I grew up feeling like I could be anything—at least until puberty.

Plus, I have always loved books, those whole invented worlds. I’ve loved feeling sympathetic and empathetic toward characters. I’ve loved wanted to know what happens next.

What motivated you to keep going?
I put aside writing time every weekday, whenever I can. It’s a pleasure. Since I started writing seriously again (when I was working in publishing I found a writing center—and knew I wanted to be on the other side of the desk), I’ve made writing a practice. Even if I’m not sure what I’m going to make next, I try to keep writing, because it leads me to what’s next. Plus, it’s heavenly to be in charge of things—in a way you don’t get to be in ordinary life.

What’s your next Big Dream?
Just today I was thinking about what a pleasure it was to be in graduate school—I’m not sure I want to go back to school again, but I do feel like I can keep learning, and use what I learn to write more. I would like to stretch, try other forms (maybe children’s books, maybe playwriting). But to be honest, the big dream will always be time to write.

When you were 5 what did you want to be when you grew up?
A doctor, a vet, a writer, and a scientist. My five year old daughter said recently (after listing her desired professions—a doctor, a vet, a singer, a writer, an artist, a mommy), “But Mommy, will I have time to do all my jobs before my babies come?” Ah, the crux of post-modern feminism!

What about when you were 15?
An actress, a singer (I did sing opera professionally for a while, and still sing, though much less), a writer.

Now, what do you want to be when you grow up?
A writer, a mom, a writing teacher, a friend.

What book is on your night stand?
RULES OF THE WILD by Francesca Marciano. A bookseller suggested it—I haven’t started it yet.

What’s your Guilty Pleasure? (Grey’s Anatomy, Peppermint Mocha Lattes)
Buying hard cover books. It’s just too easy with Amazon to preorder and then they come like gifts! I love my public library, but I feel compelled to read new hard covers—and then give them away to my friends.

What song moves you?
“Speaking With the Angel” (Ron Sexsmith wrote it, but Cry Cry Cry recorded it)

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