This blog was featured on 04/19/2018
A Q&A with Christina Baker Kline
Written by
She Writes
April 2018
Written by
She Writes
April 2018

Christina Baker Kline is the author of the instant New York Times bestseller A Piece of the World (2017), about the relationship between the artist Andrew Wyeth and the subject of his best-known painting, “Christina’s World.” Kline has written six other novels — Orphan TrainOrphan Train GirlThe Way Life Should BeBird in HandDesire Lines, and Sweet Water — and written or edited five works of nonfiction. Her She Writes University class, Surviving – and Thriving – As a Working Writer is perfect for any woman unsure of whether or not she’ll be able to pursue a writing career amidst a busy life.

SW: Briefly set the scene for your writing habits: Where do you write? How do you write? What's your routine?

CBK: I have an office, but I rarely use it for writing. I write my first drafts on couches, in coffee shops, on front porches. My life is pretty busy (three kids, lots of speaking engagements), so I’ve learned not to be fussy about my routine. The main thing is to get the words on the page, whenever, wherever, however I can. When I’m in the middle of a novel it’s with me all the time; I feel as if I’m living a parallel life. It’s a continuous, ongoing obsession.

SW: What is the first thing you can remember writing?

CBK: When I was four or five, my mother would make blank books for me to fill with stories (construction paper cover, white paper, stapled or sewn together). I learned about plotting and pacing because I wanted to come to “the end” on the last page. I illustrated them and designed the covers. (Where are those “books”? Probably in a box somewhere!)

SW: Describe a moment when your own writing scared you or surprised you.

CBK: My latest novel, A Piece of the World, was terrifying to write. I was afraid until the very end that it wasn’t even a book. It was such an internally driven narrative that it felt more like writing a philosophical mediation on the meaning of life than a novel. It ended up being a breakthrough for me; I learned many things about narrative, character, and plot.

SW: At what point did you begin to truly feel like a “writer”?

CBK: I never felt I could call myself a “writer” until I’d published my first novel. Even then it seemed premature. (That’s just me — other people don’t seem to have that problem!)

SW: What’s one of the lessons in your She Writes University class that you really wish YOU had learned earlier in your writing career?

CBK: I’m excited to teach the SWU class because there are so many things I want to share — hard-won wisdom from my years of ups and downs. At the beginning of the presentation, I wrote this: The only tip that cannot be ignored or denied: to be a writer, you must write. (And be willing to stick with your manuscript until the bitter end.)

SW: Why do you feel it’s important to offer a writing class to other women writers through She Writes University?

CBK: Many women have busy, complicated lives, and writing takes such focus and determination. It’s easy to put it on the back burner, to feel that you’ll never have time or energy to see it through (and that it’s self-indulgent). I have a number of practical suggestions, as well as quotes and ideas that have inspired me over the years, that I think will encourage women to follow their dreams and WRITE.

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