Roz Kuehn received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. She is the author of a novel, Various Stages of Undress (loosely based on six years as an exotic dancer in Washington, D.C., which was runner-up for the Faulkner-Wisdom Competition, and a finalist for both the Breadloaf Bakeless Prize and Bellwether Prize. She has also received numerous Delaware State Arts Council fellowships, including a $10,000 Master of Fiction fellowship, as well as a Barbara Deming Memorial Award for feminist writing. Her memoir, Losing Glynis, is about a coterie of well-meaning girlfriends who swoop in and make a royal mess of a close friend’s dying days. She acted as fiction editor for The Washington Review for four years and currently works as a legal secretary in a New York City firm. Roz Kuehn can be reached at email@example.com
You can read Roz Kuehn's essay, "Commencing Being Fearless" in Letting Go: An Anthology of Attempts.
"I love the nuts and bolts of 'getting black on white' – getting words on the page – and then proceeding to polish and tinker. It’s like unpacking a crate of furniture and then arranging and rearranging, adding a picture or a vase of flowers, until the room is to your satisfaction."
Letting Go is an anthology of true stories. As a writer of fiction, did you find it harder to write a nonfiction story?
Actually, it was much easier. It relieved me of the burden of plotting and wondering if people will believe me. So other aspects of writing were able to blossom, particularly the narrative voice and tone.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
The idea of recording an experience for future reference and delight. Life just keeps moving along, and writing for me is like taking that telling snapshot and sticking it into an album and forgetting about it. Then you’ll take the album out one day and be so glad you recorded the moment. It will transport you back and give your life story an arc and meaning. It’s also really fun to paint your own experience so vividly that other people will travel your journey vicariously and understand you and feel as you felt. Aside from that, I love the nuts and bolts of “getting black on white” – getting words on the page – and then proceeding to polish and tinker. It’s like unpacking a crate of furniture and then arranging and rearranging, adding a picture or a vase of flowers, until the room is to your satisfaction. I don’t actually enjoy writing. But I LOVE having written. The editing/building-up process once I have the raw material is the most fun for me.
What’s the hardest part about writing for you?
That worry of taking a false step and ending up in no-man’s land. I always need to remind myself to “free-write,” “get black on white,” “write poorly” for the first draft. Even if the first draft is ugly and nonsensical, you’ll have something to work with. Also, since what I’ve written so far tends to be at least semi-autobiographical, I would hate to hurt a loved one’s feelings. Thankfully, my books remain unpublished!
Where do your ideas come from?
Usually from a strong emotion – a feeling of poignancy or longing or anger in connection with something I’ve witnessed, and then my need to wrangle the emotions into something I can read in story form and make sense of.
How much time each week do you devote to writing?
I tinker at least a little bit most every day.
What are you working on?
A mystery – totally new genre; I’m flailing about but can see it taking shape.
What has been the most surprising about learning your craft?
How much the unconscious mind and personality quirks and traits play into what comes out on the page. Especially during “free writing.” Also, how writing has been hammered out of us in school. Most people aren’t good writers because when they confront a blank page, they put on their “Writer’s Hat.” The hat makes them sound like a pompous stranger.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write as though you’re writing an email to someone who totally gets you and loves to hear from you.
Do you think workshops have helped you become a better writer?
Yes, very much. My writing teacher, Martha Hughes, always asks her students to follow these guidelines:
Tell us any secret rituals you have for getting started each day.
I like to sit in bed with a laptop and have “Chopped” reruns playing at a low volume. I often get up for snacks while debating a character’s next move. I find nothing wrong with writing in spastic snippets.
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