Pamela is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob for the magnificent month of May. She has written three amazing books. The floor of the Sky was excellent and now I'm in the midst of her book of short stories called In Reach. Pamela is a masterful storyteller. I had a chance to ask her some questions about her writing life and her books. Read on to find out more.
Tell a Bit About Yourself:
I grew up in western Nebraska, where all my books (so far) are set. The prairie landscape is deeply imprinted on me, as the north woods landscape is for many Minnesotans. I think there’s a yearning in all my books, a little homesickness for a place to belong that reflects my lonesomeness. I’ve lived in Minneapolis a long time, raised our two daughters here, and I love it. Still, even though we are firmly rooted here, there’s something about that childhood place that beckons. My husband recently retired, so we’ve been free to travel more. We have four young grandchildren, and it’s an adventure to see the world new through their eyes. I am a gardener. I quilt. Since my husband retired, I’m no longer teaching at the Loft, but I occasionally read manuscripts.
When did you begin writing?
I’ve always loved to read. In fifth grade, I wrote a story my teacher thought was good, so she had me read it to the class. Still, in the world in which I came of age, no one aspired to be a writer. In my 30’s, I started by writing poems. I went to a writer’s conference to work on poetry, but when I got there, I learned that the poet who was supposed to lead the workshop had died. Instead, I found myself in a drama writing class, which led to my first professional work as a playwright. I wrote six plays that have been produced in the Twin Cities, and I was co-director of a theater company called Role Over Productions. When that venture ended, I decided to pursue writing fiction.
Have you ever been discouraged about your writing? How did you move forward?
Oh, yes. And the discouragement doesn’t stop. After my theater experience, I tried writing a novel. I did write a novel, but I knew it had problems and I didn’t know what to do next. I decided to enroll in Hamline’s MFA program to explore writing prose. I had never taken a writing class, even though I was an English literature major in college. I thought there must be basic skills to learn, and I wanted to be immersed in a writing community. Now, when I’m discouraged, I find that diving into the work is the best antidote.
What is your favorite part about writing?
I have a lot of favorite parts. I love the process of discovery, uncovering some connection or deeper understanding of what it means to be a human navigating this messy and beautiful world. I like words. I like creating an imaginary world and stepping into it, breathing life into it. I even like the solitude—mostly. Once in a while, if you are very lucky, you get to hear that your work has meant something to a reader.
I’ve written plays, short stories, and novels. The form makes a difference in how I approach the work. I start with character, a situation, and curiosity. If I’m writing a story, I don’t want to know the ending when I begin. In something longer, like a novel, you can waste a lot of time going down dead alleys, so at some point, I will sit down and sketch out a very rough path. Even that is subject to change.
What is your favorite spot to write?
I have a second story study in my home with a lot of natural light. Except for the distraction of thinking I should get up and start the laundry, I like working at home. I do enjoy being able to go to my kitchen to make a cup of tea.
What is something you wrote that will never see the light of day?
That first novel I mentioned earlier.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Believing in the importance of it enough to commit hours of time. There are a lot of other pleasures and obligations in life besides writing.
What inspires you to write?
I am moved by story. Not only fiction, but stories that deepen my compassion and empathy. I’m inspired by everyday encounters. I’m driven to write because that’s the avenue that helps me make sense of human experience.
How many books have you written and which is your favorite?
Three books. The Floor of the Sky (a novel), The Plain Sense of Things (a novel told in stories), and In Reach (a collection of stories). My favorite? All of them.
How do you relate to your characters? Do you see yourself in some?
Some people argue that writers reveal themselves in every character, the same way that dream interpreters say we are all the characters in our dreams. I don’t know about that, but I will say this. I love all my characters, even—maybe especially—the difficult ones. I write to teach myself compassion, so I grope to understand human complications and contradictions.
If you would like to win a copy of Pamela's book In Reach, please enter here:
In Reach Giveaway