I wrote The Old House on South Sixteenth Street because my friend, Arleen, couldn’t find the texts she wanted for her ESL classes. The Old House … features adult characters with adult problems in picture-book-easy English. It was really fun to write with the constraint of keeping the language simple, so I wrote two sequels and a second series. Meanwhile, Arleen wrote a series of stories centered on American holidays, explaining many of their oddities. We each wrote six stories. We wrote the drafts independently, then read and edited them aloud, together, so they became joint-efforts. Our process involved lots of cups of tea, dozens of brownies, and pounds of walnuts and almonds. In 2015 we published them under the imprint NoTalking Dogs Press.
How does working as a playwright differ from working as a novelist?
I am finding I do a few of the same things whether writing plays or my current novel. I plunk down some stuff, then I sort out actions on index cards and churn out scene lists and diagrams—a repeating cycle of seat-of-the-pants generating of stuff followed by organizing stints. I think of what a drawing teacher in college told me, “Don’t erase the wrong line until you’ve drawn the right line.” I like to have material on the page which I can erase or embellish.
How does your training as a geologist impact your approach to writing?