How did you become a writer?
I’m never quite sure what the word “writer” signifies. I am someone who has written since she was nine—but those early, bloated, watercolored sonnets were hardly works of art. I did not study literature at college. I wrote secret poems. I began to write and publish essays just after my son was born. I was close to forty before I published a book.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
Weather, friendship, Michael Ondaatje, Colum McCann, good memoirists, my students at Penn, history, urban architecture, the news.
When and where do you write?
I run a boutique marketing communications business and I teach at the University of Pennsylvania in the spring; I write essays for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reviews for Chicago Tribune. All of that entails some sort of pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. Months will go by between the occasional other pages that I write, pages that accumulate until they seem like/look like a book.
What are you working on now?
A YA novel, One Thing Stolen, is due out in the spring. A collection of essays about the intersection of memory and place, Love: A Philadelphia Affair, is due out in the fall. I have a YA novel due out in the spring of 2016. The pages that sit and wait for me now are something like (possibly) a novel for adults. Too soon too tell.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
I suffer from a lost faith in my ability to solve hard literary problems. And then I chip away at them.
What’s your advice to new writers?
Read far more than you write. Live even more than you read. Don’t measure yourself against a soul.
Beth Kephart is the award-winning writer of nineteen books of memoir, nonfiction, fiction, a corporate fable, and Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir. She teaches memoir at the University of Pennsylvania and blogs daily at www.beth-kephart.blogspot.com.