You can read Kerry Guerin's deeply personal essay, "The Boy Who Saved Me" - about how difficult it is to let g0 of rage when your child is the target of bullying and discrimination -in Letting Go: An Anthology of Attempts available now in paperback. The eBook is available for pre-order.
Kerry Guerin has had an interesting, if not terrifying, ride so far but hasn’t published her first novel yet. It’s time now. Besides, she reports, her husband says, “You’re a nicer person when you’re writing.” Another reason to forge ahead. So, that’s her goal – finish and get published. She also began writing poetry last year, under the guiding wisdom of poet Susan Sindall.
Guerin lives in Upstate New York, where she attended Marist College, before completing her undergraduate degree at St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth, County Kildare, Ireland. If she had to choose, she’d do all four years in Ireland. Of course, that was a time in her life before she got sober . . . and eventually met her husband, Joe Muldoon. Between them they have six children. Don’t call after 9:00 p.m. They’re really tired.
Letting Go is an anthology of true stories. As a writer of fiction, did you find it harder to write a nonfiction story?
Yes, I found it incredibly hard to write nonfiction. I have only ever written fiction and poetry, and have just finished writing my first novel (after a total of about five years of writing over 20 years! Motherhood!). I knew it was important to not have the story sound like a laundry list of facts, and also not to let my emotions get the better of me, and use motherfucker as punctuation at every turn. I was writing about a terrible time in my son's life, and in my family's life, and those old feelings of revenge came back and hung around while I was writing, like a piece of annoying hair you can't see to push away, but it's there. What resurfaced was, in fact, the rage I thought I had let go of. So, lesson learned for me.
Apparently I let go in increments. I don't know how long the pieces of that terrible time will remain or resurface. I do know that several years past it, his life and our lives are so much better than they were.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
What I enjoy most about writing is less about joy and more about need for me. There are joyful things in the creative process. There is nothing like a beautiful, authentic line that strikes at the right time from the right character. To be that conduit is spectacular. Truth be told, writing is a release. It's how I deal best with the world even though I am not writing about my world. I am a nicer person when I am writing. I am less of a brooder, a hand-wringing worrier. I am not a multi-tasker, and I hate that word. So, when I am writing, I can only focus on the story, on those characters who have become people, who I run around after and eavesdrop on.
What’s the hardest part about writing for you?
The hardest part of writing for me is being consistent about it. I stop when life gets in the way, and life often gets in the way. I have little discipline to set aside time, put me first, etc. Describe it how you will.- I let it go. It's the last thing I should let go, as I am a nicer person when I do it, per my answer above.
What are you working on?
I have completed my novel Memoirs of a Budding Drifter, and am on the dreaded hunt for an agent - query letter writing. The novel's protagonist is an American college student studying abroad, in Ireland, at a co-ed college attached to Ireland's oldest seminary. Impermanence rules the day. It has humor and devastation. It's Irish.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
I can only give other young/new writers the advice I was so afraid to take - be open to criticism from someone who knows what they're talking about, and for god’s sake don't argue with that person about re-writing.
I used to see rewriting as a chore, and worse, something that would kill the creative juice of the story. What I discovered was there were layers under my story, and my characters.
Rewriting deepens your creativity, and it helps you develop your craft. A craft has to be practiced.
Any writers you like to read to inspire you to write (or if you're blocked?)
I read poetry every day. I don't like everything I read. Not everything I read inspires me, but I read it every day. Many times I am inspired by the succinctness of expression in a poem. I tend to be a minimalist in my writing. Sharp, I hope. Poetry inspires my sharpness. Currently I am reading At Swim Two Birds by Flann O'Brien (Brian O'Nolan). Published in 1938, O'Brien was overshadowed by James Joyce and those lost generation writers (whom I enjoy). It is hysterical. Brilliant, as my Irish friends would say. Two volumes of Seamus Heaney are also near my chair, along with Someone by Alice McDermott. Alice can tell a story. Every couple of summers I read A Movable Feast by Hemingway.
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