This blog was featured on 11/27/2019
An Exclusive Interview with Diane Wald
Written by
She Writes
March 2019
Written by
She Writes
March 2019

She Writes caught up with Diane Wald author of Gillyflower about how she hones her craft, her first job and the way she supports women writers. 

Share your writing routine.

I always feel a bit embarrassed when I’m asked this question, but at the same time I think I speak for a lot of other writers who’ve been conditioned to think that a writing routine is essential for success. I don’t have one! I’m great with routines for some things, like exercise and feeding the cats and watering the plants, but I’ve never been able to have a writing schedule or a writing “place.” Nevertheless, I think I’m very alert to ideas and inspiration and the need to just sit down for a while and put things on the page. I apologize to all the writing teachers and mentors out there who stress the need for routine and practice. I’m the student you’d hate to meet! But don’t get the idea that I’m undisciplined. I take endless notes whenever I need to. I praise the invention of the iPhone and its Notes app, which I use just about every day. It makes ideas fun. You can capture them on the fly, and go back later when you have that “sit-down-and-write” feeling and mine them for all the gold they contain. I find that writing is an indispensible part of my life, but one that I can’t schedule.

What’s the first/worst job you ever had?

My first job other than babysitting (ugh!), was as a chambermaid in a motel on a highway near my home in New Jersey — not too far from New York City. I was sixteen. I was clueless and shy and innocent: a “good girl” virgin from a strict Catholic home and school. I had no idea what kind of shenanigans people would engage in and what kind of detritus people would leave in motel rooms! I was shocked, but I persisted because I needed the money and because the actual cleaning part wasn’t hard. The rest of it was hard, but extremely educational!

Describe your writing style in three words.

Colloquial, surprising, amused

What is the first thing you can remember writing?

I sat on the back steps of my house on a summer day. I was probably about ten. Our Irish Setter, Red Mist, was asleep next to me. I had one of those grainy-paper fat paper pads with wide lines and a ballpoint pen, and I wrote a little story about her and how she’d had a bunch of puppies. I loved her totally. I don’t recall what

happened to that little story, but I know I enjoyed writing it. (The paper pad had sections of different pastel colors: yellow, pink, blue, green — remember those?)

When did you start to feel like a writer?

I fantasized that I was a writer early on, but it wasn’t until I met a terrific, understanding teacher as an undergrad that I felt “official.” He was generous in his assessment of who I was or could become. It was a great gift. Many teachers treat creative writing students like little sponges who have to soak up their brilliance. He didn’t. He was democratic and humble. He was a terrific writer himself.

Was there something about the publishing experience that surprised you?

I had published a lot of poetry, including three full-length collections, before this novel, but I think poetry publishing is another kind of animal. What surprised me about publishing Gillyflower with She Writes Press was the quality of the support I received both from the staff and the community of writers associated with the press. This support greatly enhanced the exquisite excitement I experienced seeing my first novel in print. The depth of this excitement really does surprise me. After all these years, I think this is the book I was always waiting to write.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Never give up. It’s hard and it takes a long time — a really long time. Don’t give up; keep trying. Listen to all the advice you can get, but then go with your gut. Otherwise you will never be happy with your work.

What do you do to help develop your craft?

For me, it’s imperative to take in all the literature, film, visual arts, and music that I possibly can. And nature. I need to stay open to all of it. I think this is not only important for your own craft, but it keeps you young.

Why is it important for women to share their stories?

It’s critical that women share their stories! We have been silenced for too long, both in public and in private. It’s a responsibility and a privilege that women cannot ignore, no matter how difficult it feels.

What’s your favorite way to support other women writers?

Buy their books! It sounds crass, but it’s important. If you can’t afford to buy them, pester your library to buy them and tell all your friends about the books you like.

About Diane

Diane Wald was born in Paterson, NJ, and has lived in Massachusetts since 1972. She holds an MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She has published more than 250 poems in literary magazines since 1966. She spent two years on a fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and has been awarded the Grolier Poetry Prize, The Denny Award, The Open Voice Award, and the Anne Halley Award. She also received a state grant from the Massachusetts Council on the Arts. She has published five chapbooks and won the Green Lake Chapbook Award from Owl Creek Press. Her book Lucid Suitcase was published by Red Hen Press in 1999 and her second book, The Yellow Hotel, was published by Verse Press in the fall of 2002. WONDERBENDER, her third collection, was published by 1913 Press. She lives outside of Boston with her husband, Carey Reid, and their charismatic cats.

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