My Writing Process — Blog Tour!

The wonderful writer Kathy Fish tagged me to be a part of the Writing Process Blog Tour. (Also, I’m grateful for Kathy Fish’s flash fiction, which inspires and teaches me, always.)

Now I shall pose some questions to myself— and answer them.

My Peshtigo Fire novel: An Ultrasound

My Peshtigo Fire Novel: An Ultrasound

Q. So, Rebecca. You’ve written two collections of short fiction. What are you working on now?

A. [Laughs] Ha! Everything and nothing! Did you ever have a luxurious pocket of time set aside for writing, and your day job is on hold for the summer, and you’ve got childcare for your kids and daycare for your dog and your spouse is supportive— and all you do is sit at your computer, staring, stopping only to pound your head against your desk?

Already, I’ve written more and better words on this blog post than I have all summer.

That said, my projects include a big, complicated novel set in 1871 Wisconsin, in the months leading up to the Peshtigo fire, which occurred the same night as the Great Chicago Fire. On the side, I’m writing some fairly juicy short stories (telekinesis! maiming! naughty nannies!) and some rather sad nonfiction. Plus, I also blog about writing for Ploughshares.

Q. Interesting. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

A. That’s a great question.

Q. I thought so. [Laughs]

A. To answer your question, the 1871 novel is historical and multi-vocal— lots of characters’ voices and perspectives— and it follows three families whose lives are dramatically changed by the fire (which killed around 2000 people). It’s kind of like Ragtime meets A Visit From the Goon Squad meets Love Medicine, or so I hope.

Plus, there’s a chapter narrated from the point-of-view of a comet.

Q. A comet! That’s genius!

A. I thought so. [Laughs]

Q.  Why do you write what you do?

A.  I’m interested in what’s left unsaid—whether that’s due to a character’s position, self-repression, inexperience, or powerlessness. Vantage points outside of, and overshadowed by, another, larger story. (The Peshtigo Fire of 1871 is an example— it’s often called “the Forgotten Fire.” I mean, have you heard of it?) One of my favorite recent writing experiences was using the language of an 1874 primer to express the pain and escape of girls at an Indian Boarding School. I’ve written elsewhere about the joys and challenges of constraints in fiction. Even in my nonfiction, I’m drawn to moments in my own experience that are the hardest to articulate.

Q. How does your writing process work?

A. Usually, a character’s voice, or a line of dialogue, or a question creates an intellectual irritation. A grain of sand for the oyster. A lost tooth in the gum line. Pick your metaphor; all I know is that I can’t leave it alone until I’ve either made something interesting— or tangled myself into messes too difficult to straighten.

My energy is highest when that irritant is new. Most of the time, the first section or opening lines of a piece fall out quickly and completely. Then, there’s the long, dismal middle of despair, when I have no idea what to do next. This can last for years. [Sighs]

Q. Well, I, for one, feel edified by this conversation. Who’s next on the Writing Process Blog Tour?

A. I’ve asked the following marvelous writers to join the tour. Look for their responses on their own blogs on July 31!

Lisa Mecham writes a little bit of everything. Her work has appeared in The RumpusBarrelhouse Online and Juked, among other publications. A Midwesterner at heart, Lisa lives in Los Angeles where she’s revising her first novel and of course, writing a screenplay. Visit her website here:

Kelcey Parker is the author of LILIANE’S BALCONY (Rose Metal Press), a novella set at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Her story collection, FOR SALE BY OWNER (Kore Press), won the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Award in Short Fiction, and her stories have appeared in Notre Dame Review, Bellingham Review, Santa Monica Review, Indiana Review, Third Coast, Redivider, Western Humanities Review, and Image. She blogs at:



A 500-word slice of my novel-in-progress— now @IndianaReview!

IRI’m thrilled to see my flash fiction, “Mrs. Williamson Winds the Watch,” in the summer Indiana Review— alongside the work of so many fantastic writers. This publication is a triple happiness: it’s a 500-word slice of my Peshtigo-fire novel, it’s a 2013 “Half-K Prize” finalist, and it’s my 3rd story to appear in Indiana Review. (P.S. I love you, Indiana Review.)

My story “Beached” long-listed for Wigleaf’s Top 50 Very Short Fictions of 2014!

Well, what a nice way to start the day. My flash fiction “Beached,” first published in Necessary Fiction, was long- listed as one of the top 200 Very Short Fictions of 2014, compiled by Wigleaf magazine. The annual Wigleaf Top 50 is a list of the best of the best— it’s where I go to learn how to write this thing called “Flash Fiction”— so I’m thrilled to have my work even considered for this collection. Congratulations to the Top 50 writers– please read this collection, they’re fantastic. And thanks to Steve Himmer and Scott Garson and all the good folks at Wigleaf, who read and edit collections of flash—and ignite our aspirations.

“Beached” is also available in Morbid Curiosities, which you can learn more about here.


New today: “The Princess Isn’t Frightened”— My interview with @TheCollagist about how, and why, a princess might swallow a glass piano.

What a pleasure to talk about a really fun flash fiction to write– “The Glass Piano,” about a Bavarian princess with a glass delusion– with the editors of The Collagist. So grateful for their time and interest. The interview is here.

“The Glass Piano” is part of my new flash fiction collection, Morbid Curiosities, now available online and in stores.

Authors, support your local bookstore, and they will support you. And you will support them. And they will…

The circle of support begins here.

The signing table: my place in the circle of support.

Last night, I gave a reading from my new flash fiction collection, Morbid Curiosities. I love giving readings, and this one was a lot of fun (for me, at least). It was delightful to listen to my audience help (as I’d assigned! I had handouts!) to give these stories voice. The reading was at Green Bay, Wisconsin’s The Reader’s Loft, a gorgeous, spacious, independent bookstore with dark wood shelves and plush velvet chairs and two large kittens merrrowing through the aisles. (In the middle of reading, I heard a crash, and immediately thought, “Yep. Kitten-work.”)

This is not a post about the superiority of independent bookstores over chain bookstores. To be clear, as a writer, I was thrilled when my first story collection, Let’s Do, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program. That selection allowed me to read and sign books in nearly any city in the U.S. and resulted in a great web review from the program, as well as my family’s thrill in, say, Springfield, Missouri, to snap a picture of my book on the shelf.

One of the polaroids snapped by the event coordinator at a local Barnes & Noble.

A polaroid snapped by the local BN events coordinator for my reading of Let’s Do.

But when it came to giving readings in my area, it was both the chain bookstores as well as the independent Reader’s Loft that welcomed me with the warmest, most open arms. The event coordinator at Barnes and Noble, Grand Chute, filled the front window with my book, draped a table in gold cloth, and made a pyramid of books on top of it. She gave me polaroids of the display. The Green Bay coordinator wrote a glowing review for the B&N internal newsletter and staged a great event as well.

As a writer, I was grateful for their creativity in promoting my work. As a reader, all of these stores earned a loyal customer. Actually, customers, since my husband and daughters and mother love to read—and buy— books.

On the way out of The Reader’s Loft last night, I asked the out-of-print specialist—a man I love to talk books with every time we stop in— if we sold a lot of copies of my book. Yes, he told me. But also: the event sold a good number of other books. I know this for a fact: my mother came home with the gigantic (expensive!) new Doris Kearns Goodwin tome. My colleagues bought Spring Break reads.

I’m kind of slow, so it’s taken me this long to realize that sometimes, it’s not just about what others can do to sell your book. In fact, it feels equally good to participate in bringing others to great bookstores, engrossing reads, and conversations about reading.

Last night, a friend who’d never stepped foot inside Reader’s Loft marveled, “Wow. This is a beautiful bookstore! I’m definitely coming back with my children.”

Yes, she bought a copy of my book. But better yet, I helped make a wholly different kind of sale.


(You can find my books locally on shelves in The Reader’s Loft, and online in these venues.)

Brand new book seeks hometown welcome! MORBID CURIOSITIES reading at Reader’s Loft!

Morbid - Final CoverfrontWhen: March 14th, 6:30 pm.

Where: The Reader’s Loft, 2069 Central Court, Green Bay, WI.

March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb– and in between there’s MORBID CURIOSITIES! My favorite bookstore, The Reader’s Loft, hosts a reading from my new chapbook. Come hear stories about dreaming babies, vengeful schoolgirls, missing women, a lost Mitt Romney– and more!

Click here for more info!

My story— “Two Weeks After Election Night, Mitt Romney Takes in Disneyland with His Grandkids”—THE MUSICAL!


Michelle McQuade Dewhirst, composer and musician, wrote a magnificent, eight-minute musical piece using the text of my flash fiction story, “Two Weeks After Election Night, Mitt Romney Takes in Disneyland with his Grandkids.” You can hear the piece performed live with french horn, cello, piano, trumpet, clarinet, and soprano vocal here.