Summer in Words

Writing Conference

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Jennie Shortridge interview

Jennie Shortridge

Jennie Shortridge is on a roll. Her luminous fourth novel When She Flew, was inspired by true events, and after much research, she let her imagination run wild to create this evocative story of an Iraq war vet raising his daughter in the wild and the single mom/policewoman who breaks all the rules when ordered to separate them, risking everything to help them escape. This story explores the issues of raising children in today’s world, living within the system as opposed to rejecting it, the toll of war on families, and introduces a young heroine raised in the forest who thrives through the worst of circumstances.  Publishers Weekly says, “Examining people willing to sidestep the rules in pursuit of a greater good, Shortridge’s fourth novel recalls Barbara Kingsolver’s Pigs in Heaven…” . Jennie’s appearances and popular workshops are filled with her signature grace, humor, and common sense about crafting stories that linger in a reader’s imagination.
Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?I have been a full-time writer since 1995, and have always found it best for me to write in the mornings, and then do business in the afternoons. During book promotion cycles that goes a bit catty-wampus, of course. It’s like the gym: I’m always trying to get into a good solid routine.
When did you first start writing and what did you write? Well, FIRST first were slews of stories my entire childhood, and poems, and then songs when I was a working musician, and then ad copy and marketing materials when I was in business, and then . . . well, then I became a writer. I started out writing magazine features, but always wrote fiction on the side.
What is the toughest part about being a writer for you and how do you get past it? The actual business of being a published writer is not for sissies.  I’ve developed a Gore-Tex like skin and a circle of writer friends who will drink with me when necessary.
Could you talk about your writing process? From a mechanical standpoint, I take a couple of months to fully develop a story idea that has been floating in my consciousness for any number of years, meaning, I do a lot of writing about the story, about the characters, and as the characters. I do research if necessary, before and during the writing. Once I launch on a draft, it takes me roughly a year to get the story down, which I do linearly, from beginning to end. Then, after I get input and feedback from various readers, I begin revisions, which may take anywhere from three months to another year to complete to my editor’s satisfaction. I write in the mornings when drafting, on my computer, with my email and Facebook shamefully turned on. I get up every hour or so and take a walk around the house or stretch or gaze into the fridge. That pretty much sums it up!
How do you take risks with your writing?Because I know I will most likely write from the same life themes, no matter how many books I write, I endeavor to write completely different characters in unique situations. And because I don’t think a book is worth writing if it doesn’t wring something deep and dark out of your soul, I do my best to go “there,” to expose some kind of emotional and universal truth that doesn’t necessarily get much coverage elsewhere.
What books are on your nightstand?Four books I’ve been asked to blurb, along with The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow and An Alphabetical Life by Wendy Werris. I will get to the first four. The last two may take a while.  What are you working on now? I enjoyed the experience of writing a story inspired by true events with When She Flew, so the next one  springs from a news story as well. A few years ago a man left his Olympia home on a short trip and went missing for six weeks. He turned up many states away on the TV news as a John Doe with amnesia. His fiancee found him and brought him home to begin life anew together, even though he no longer remembered her. I’ve switched genders and have a female character who flees Seattle, ending up in San Francisco with amnesia. Her fiance goes to get her and she becomes almost an amateur sleuth as she tries to remember and unravel what happened to her. As it turns out, quite a lot did!

Jennie is going to be the keynote speaker at Summer in Words