Tag. I’m it.

Written By: sherridaley - • •


I’ve been asked to take part in a game of writers’ tag where one writer answers a set of questions, posts the results, and then tags another unsuspecting writer.  My co-editor of WHAT WE TALK ABOUT (the book will be out this month and I expect you all to buy several copies) tagged me… and I am targeting the next victim.

Here’s mine:

How did it all begin?

I don’t count writing for the high school newspaper a beginning, or writing soppy poetry in college, or unsent love letters when I thought I was a grown-up.  I believe it all began when the man I was in love with committed suicide in 1982.

It was like something was torn asunder and there was no way to repair it. I know that if I had not been a new mother at the time, I would not have survived the insurmountable grief.  I could say that there were no words to describe it, but there were. There always are words.

I didn’t want him to be dead, so I started writing down all the wonderful and awful moments from the day I met him in 1976. It helped.  I felt like I had made him immortal, because each vignette made him alive again.

But it had to be read by someone else other than me, so I took the stack of writing to Gordon Lish, the editor of my favorite writer, Raymond Carver. I dropped it off at Alfred Knopf on my way to work.

Lish called me at 9:05AM.  Said he’d been on his way to wastebasket with it when he read the first line and decided otherwise.  I sold the collection of vignettes as an unfinished manuscript at WW Norton within two weeks. I was rich & famous (in my estimation!) for a little while, but it wasn’t about me; it was about keeping that man alive.  And even now, if anyone ever finds HIGH COTTON at a yard sale, on Amazon, Alibris, or some musty library shelf and reads it, he’s alive – over 30 years after his death.


What’s my writing process?

That depends on what I’m writing.  Nowadays, I mostly write for magazines and I am deadline-driven.  I have to work in my office at home. My brain knows I am at work when I go in there. I think it’s pretty great that I can get paid for writing.

People ask me why I haven’t written another book like HIGH COTTON and I tell them that I haven’t another dead boyfriend to write about. I’m like Margaret Mitchell, maybe.  One book in me.  I content myself with freelance work.


What am I working on?

I just finished co-editing a collection of writing from women over 60. My old college roommate asked me to work with her on it, and I think it’s a wonderful book of things we all talk about. In fact, that’s the name of the book WHAT WE TALK ABOUT, a title I stole from my idol Raymond Carver’s iconic short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”

Other than that, I write for magazines about anything they want me to write about. Gives me a chance to write about anything from Buddhists to motorcycles.  Love it.


How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I like to think that I have a distinctive voice among magazine journalists. I like to think that.  Slightly tongue-in-cheek, sometimes self-deprecating, always respectful of my subject matter, and sometimes, when the moon is full, downright hilarious.  Or so I’m told. When I have an assignment, I have three goals: to educate, entertain, and motivate.


How does my writing process work?

I have no process, but I cannot write an article or a blog entry or in my journal until I have an opening line. I write in my head for days before I type one word. Then I often write the whole article in one sitting.  I can’t, however, maintain that focus for much more than two hours. White wine helps. And having one cat on the desk, swatting her tail over the keyboard. Something about cats.

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